An open letter: Reply to Tashi Wangdi's Statement regarding the Karmapa Issue
Rebuttal of May 2, 1994 TIME Magazine Article "Battle of the Future Buddhas"Written by David Van BiemaReported by Patrick E. Cole/Los Angeles and Jefferson Penberthy/New DelhiKhenpo Chodrag Rinpoche, Chief Abbot, and the Junior AbbotsKarma Shri Nalanda Institute, Rumtek Monastery, and Karmapa International Buddhist Institute, New Dehli
This rebuttal responds to the many misleading and inaccurate statements as well as biases contained in the Time magazine article written by David van Biema and reported by Patrick E. Cole in Los Angeles and Jefferson Penberthy in New Delhi. [A copy of the article is attached.] Although not provided with this rebuttal, documentation refuting and correcting the errors in the 11 statements quoted below is readily available.
a) His recognition was spiritually and officially based on the findings of His Holiness Shamar Rinpoche;
b) The traditional divinations and findings were totally authentic to our lineage;
c) His recognition was not biased or politically motivated. For example, his family was not personally known to any of the spiritual leaders within the Kagyu lineage. 2/ Assets worth $1.2 billion . . . This figure is still, to our knowledge, totally unfounded and false. All of Karmapa's assets and accounts are controlled by the Karmapa Charitable Trust.
The trustees have never had assets or properties totalling this amount. Since the death of the 16th Karmapa in 1981, every transaction has been strictly accounted for and recorded. We were all very surprised by this purported figure, as it certainly could not have come from anyone with accurate knowledge of the Trust. Whatever the value of the assets of the Karmapa, they cannot be sold for anyone’s personal gain. Further, many of the assets are of a spiritual nature, sacred to our lineage, and with absolutely no tangible or cash value. Therefore, this dollar figure that Situ, his supporters and many Westerners dream about is totally irrelevant. Despite this, we suggest that the reporters should have checked this alleged figure with the Trust members since they are the actual legal trustees of Karmapa. Unfortunately, long after this article was printed, this fabricated figure still remains in the minds of many people.
The spiritual leadership of Tibet has changed over the centuries depending on the country's political ruler. Different rulers favoured different schools. But this does not mean that the leader of a school in political favour had actual spiritual control over the other lineages. On the contrary, each lineage has continued to carry out its own duties and obligations under the guidance of its own supreme spiritual leader. One only needs to look at historical documents to see that the bloody battles mentioned in the article were actually instigated by the Gelugpa administration. In his bid to gain spiritual power, the 5th Dalai Lama invited the Mongolian warlord, Gushri Khan, to Tibet. With his troops, Gushri Khan succeeded in destroying the Tsangpa Dynasty which was the ruling government at the time. He slew Tsangpa, the political ruler, and proceeded to attack many of the Karma Kagyu monasteries, turning them into Gelugpa monasteries by force.
This was not a spiritual revolution as some would like to think, but a horrific bloody battle fought by the Mongolians on behalf of the Gelugpas. Gushri Khan then made the Dalai Lama the ruler of Tibet, and the 5th Dalai Lama officially acceded to the throne. To ensure they did not loose power again, his ministers passed extremely harsh laws against the Karma Kagyu School. Their imposition of religious restrictions caused conflicts, which in one instance resulted in the 10th Karmapa having to miraculously flee for his life from Tibet. The TIME article makes it sound as if the process of choosing an incarnate is regularly a violent occurrence within the Karma Kagyu School. This is completely false and quite damaging to the Kagyupa lineage. We can only assume that the reporters were referring to the events surrounding the 5th Dalai Lama's takeover. They did not do their homework and misrepresented the facts by weaving Tibet's historical and political events into the spiritual story. Perhaps this made the story more intriguing for readers; however it certainly has nothing to do with the history of the Karma Kagyu lineage or the recognition of Karmapa.
This is why he demanded that before any recognition of the Karmapa was announced, the letter’s authenticity should be tested by forensic methods. This is something that Situ Rinpoche totally has refused to do up to this very time. The TIME reporters failed to mention one critical verse in the poem that seriously casts doubt on the document. This verse stated the Tibetan year when the Karmapa was supposed to be born. The translation of the year mentioned is Earth-Ox, which occurs every 60 years according to the Tibetan calendar. The 16th Karmapa passed away in 1981. When the dates in the letter were worked out in accordance with the Tibetan calendar, it showed that the 17th Karmapa either should have been born in 1949 or would not be born in until 2009. One year of course was 32 years before the 16th Karmapa passed away, and the other was 28 years after he passed away. The 16th Karmapa would have never made such an obvious mistake in his prediction letter. Hence the authenticity of the letter is extremely doubtful. The controversy surrounding the letter is one of the main causes of the split within the Karma Kagyu lineage. Since the appearance of the dubious letter, other issues have come to light. But overall, had the letter been tested when first produced by Tai Situ, the entire controversy swirling today could have been avoided.
a) How the information was given to the Dalai Lama and his first response;
b) the Chinese Government's involvement;
c) the Dalai Lama’s second statement;
d) the prophetic dream and affirmation; and,
e) the recognition of a Karma Kagyu incarnate. a) Transmission of news to Dalai Lama and his initial response On the 6th of June, 1992, when the funeral pujas for Kongtrul Rinpoche were being held, Situ Rinpoche and his friend Gyaltsab Rinpoche suddenly disappeared from Rumtek monastery. In fact, they rushed to Dharamsala to tell the Dalai Lama their "joyous news." The Dalai Lama however, was not there at the time, as he was attending a meeting in Rio de Janeiro . Hence, Situ Rinpoche had to be content with calling him on the telephone. He told him over the phone that he had found the authentic instructions of Karmapa and had found a boy in East Tibet. After speaking with Situ Rinpoche, the private office of the Dalai Lama issued a statement on the Dalai Lama’s behalf on the 9th of June, 1992. It is here where the TIME journalists were highly misleading and inaccurate. What they neglected to report is the Dalai Lama’s actual statement. He did not affirm Urgyen Trinley as the Karmapa. He said that if the selected boy were suitable for the incarnation and only if all the lineage leaders, and everybody within the Karma Kagyu School inside and outside of Tibet agreed, then he would support the decision. Far from having this support, at that time Situ Rinpoche had not even informed Shamar Rinpoche about the boy. Nor had he tried to contact Shamar Rinpoche or even locate him. Yet he informed the Dalai Lama that everybody was in agreement. The Dalai Lama then issued his first official statement.b/ Chinese government’s involvement On the 25th of June, 1992, the Chinese government issued a statement confirming that it would now officially recognise Urgyen Trinley as the next Karmapa. Even before this, in late May they had sent eight land cruisers to Eastern Tibet to invite Urgyen Trinley and his family to Tsurphu monastery, the historic seat of the Karmapa in Tibet. To fully understand the implications of this timing, we must go back to a meeting on March 19, 1992, when Situ Rinpoche first showed Shamar Rinpoche, Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche the dubious prediction letter. Because of Shamar Rinpoche’s misgivings about the authenticity of the letter, the four Rinpoche’s agreed that no announcement would be made for eight months, during which time Kongtrul Rinpoche would travel to Tibet to search for the boy. Sadly, on April 26, 1992, before this trip could take place, he died in an automobile accident. Shortly thereafter, his 49-day funeral puja began. Because of the funeral, no other suitable person was nominated at this time to take Kongtrul Rinpoche’s place in the search for the boy. How then was he found in less than one month, and who found him? How could the Chinese government invite him and his family to Tsurphu in late May? It is clear to us that even before the so-called "prediction letter" was shown to the Rinpoches, Situ Rinpoche had made a secret agreement with the Chinese government about the identity of the child. In fact, as it has been subsequently discovered, Situ Rinpoche had already found Urgyen Trinley during his stay in Eastern Tibet in the summer of 1991. Thus, this whole process was obviously politically motivated. c/ Dalai Lama’s second response A few days after the Chinese government’s announcement, the Dalai Lama issued a second statement regarding the reincarnation of the Karmapa. It was based on a letter presented to him by Situ Rinpoche. In his statement the Dalai Lama said that the boy whose parents are Dondrup and Lolaga is acceptable as the Karmapa in accordance with the prediction letter. This is certainly not affirming an incarnate of the Dalai Lama's own choice. What he did in actual fact was to agree with a decision that somebody else had already made. d/ Dalai Lama’s prophetic dream and affirmation In his prophetic dream, the Dalai Lama did not say that Urgyen Trinley was the correct boy. All he said was that he (the Dalai Lama) was walking alone in a remote valley where two rivers flowed. He then heard sounds that the Karmapa was there. The reporter made it sound as if this dream specifically affirmed Situ Rinpoche’s choice. In fact, the dream also supports Karmapa Thaye Dorje. Although this valley could be any number of places in Tibet, it describes the exact area where the original home of Thaye Dorje’s parent is located. It is in a remote valley where two famous rivers flow. His parents returned from Lhasa to live there for a short period, the very time when the Dalai Lama had his dream.The Dalai Lama's dream certainly does not affirm a specific incarnate. The recognition of an incarnate is an intricate process involving different methods depending on each particular lineage. A basic way of explaining just one aspect of this process is that someone spiritually recognises an incarnate from profound meditation or an analysis of objects formally owned by the previous incarnate. From there, additional information is researched, and various tests are submitted before any confirmation is made. The Dalai Lama's dream was clearly only a guide, since it did not contain definite details, nor did it indicate that the boy Situ Rinpoche had selected was in fact the Karmapa. e/ Recognition of a Karma Kagyu incarnate The recognition process of Karmapa is solely the responsibility of the spiritual leaders within the Karma Kagyu Lineage. From the time of the 2nd Karmapa to the 16th, this process has never been given to any other lineage, institution or government. It is also against the Karma Kagyu tradition to rely on Tibetan oracles. The TIME reporters made it sound as if it was the Dalai Lama's right to affirm any reincarnation choice. They assumed, along with many people, that the Dalai Lama has the final say over the Karma Kagyu Lineage as well as other schools. With all respect to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, this is definitely not the case. As previously mentioned, all the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism have their own supreme spiritual leaders, and their own methods of finding and verifying incarnations. This information is clearly recorded in hundreds of documents and books. Also, one has to wonder why, if the letter was authentic, Situ Rinpoche felt it necessary to seek the unprecedented approval and backing of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government.
Apart from lending credence to the false "militant" accusation, what was the point of the reporters mentioning an ex-boxer? The choice of words was highly manipulative.As previously mentioned, the fighting was instigated by Situ Rinpoche's people. Stones and other objects were thrown by them, damaging property and injuring people at the Institute. Staff from the Institute retaliated by sending empty coke cans and objects back at them. Had the TIME journalists been less biased, they would have reported that it was the foreign students who actually stopped the fighting between the Institute's staff and Situ's group. They physically held our staff back while the Indian police managed to subdue Situ Rinpoche's supporters and keep them outside the gate.
The Hindustan Times, among other sources, has photographic evidence to support this. Overall, the reporters had little understanding of the situation and of Buddhism. Their "militant school" statement was slanderous. In the past, monks of various religious traditions have had to learn how to defend themselves from attacks. However, we can assure you that it has never been the way of the Karma Kagyu School. The reporters’ words might have been comical had they not implied that these people had undergone some sort of "Buddhist" military training. That is a complete fabrication.
The TIME article was based on speculation and misinformation and does not reflect the results of good research. It also omits key facts and makes erroneous statements. Its bias and errors have contributed to undermining the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu Lineage. Prepared June 2000
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