refer to Mr Tashi Wangdi's (minister of religious and cultural affairs,
exiled Tibetan government) statement in the Times of India on 14th of
August, 2001. We respectfully disagree with his statement, which says
that "there should be no controversy at all about the 17th Karmapa
and head of the Kagyu sect, Urgyen Trinley Dorje."
We disagree with it because of the pretension the Tibetan exiled government
can brush aside any contention or opposition created as a result of its
machinations. We oppose it because it seeks to accuse both Thaye Dorje
and Dawa Sangpo of duplicity and sham while offering no proof or explanation
as would be prudent and appropriate in a pronouncement of this importance.
In consequence to statements such as this, a climate of suspicion and
confusion has been created and perpetuated by the exiled government. On
numerous occasions we are forced to make corrective statements to the
exiled government's statements in order to clarify our positions, statements
that are open to verification any time.
With regard to Dawa Sangpo, he is recognised and supported by the Sikkimese
Sharpa community as the Karmapa. Although Mr. Wangdi equates Dawa Sangpo
with Thaye Dorje, he obviously neglects to mention an important point
of reference that would have made this equation invalid, namely: that
position is at variance with the tradition of the school to which this
particular community claims he belongs, i.e. to-date, he has not been
recognised or accepted by either Shamar Rinpoche or Situ Rinpoche according
If history means anything at all, Mr Wangdi has conveniently dispensed
with it by taking the Karmapa's recognition completely out of context
by limiting it to a mere question of the 'prediction letter'. But if tradition
is any guide for human conduct, then it is worthwhile for Mr. Wangdi to
note that, by Karma Kagyupa tradition, the Shamarpas have always been
the recognition or enthronement of the historical Karmapas: only when
the Shamarpa is indisposed would Situ Rinpoche step in to fill the gap.
Because of Mr Wangdi's statement and limited, albeit chosen perspective,
it is appropriate to remind the reader that the history of Karma Kagyu
tradition can be freely verified by anyone interested: all he or she needs
to do is to refer to any of the major reference libraries in the USA,
China, the Himalayan countries or India.
But, since Mr Wangdi has elected to narrow down the reincarnation issue
to the 'prediction letter', at the expense of the Dalai Lama's perceived
authority, one might add, it would be pertinent to recall the Tibetan
exiled government's earlier insistence on the Dalai Lama's final word
on the Karmapa issue. Is the complexity of reincarnation issues too much
for Mr. Wangdi? His has been such a patchwork and arbitrary presentation
of 'the relevant facts' that one is tempted to wonder if the minister
is just incompetent in his job or he has another agenda. In any case taking
a broader view of the complex
intertwining of Tibetan politics and religion might provide a better insight
about the purpose and activities of the exiled government and, by implication,
its bold disregard of public perception whenever it changes tack to suit
One possible account is that: As the majority of Tibetan youths outside
Tibet grows up in India and Himalayas, in a secular environment and goes
to schools run by the exiled government, the traditional attachment to
the identities respectively of the four religious schools is now replaced
by a single national Tibetan identity represented almost exclusively by
the Dalai Lama
and his exiled government, to the extent that the time-honoured distinctions
of the Four Schools are no longer relevant in their lives.
The other possible account is: As idealistic and western disciples and
followers of the Dalai Lama have now fatefully wedded their utopia to
adistant Tibet and Tibetans dispossessed of their country, the majority
of westerners would gladly identify the ideal of compassion and enlightenment
in Tibetan Buddhism with Tibetan freedom and the Tibetans' 'natural' goodness.
And since the Dalai Lama would have been an important head of state as
well as a 'sacred' Buddhist monk (if Tibet were independent), westerners
would also tend to regard the Dalai Lama implicitly, like Popes used to
be, as supreme, infallible and perfect.
This then explains the boldness of the exiled government's ability and
success to always put itself beyond the reach of critical examination.
It is unfortunate that this should be allowed to happen at all, especially
in face of the fact that the US Library of Congress had spent millions
of dollars in past decades to gather and purchase extensive collections
of Tibetan texts, both religious and secular, from India and Tibet, and
deposited them in libraries across the country: Yet today, these ancient
documents are just so
much 'waste paper', because when it is time to study these records for
better understanding of current Tibetan problems, few if any have taken
the trouble to do it.
Lastly we are obliged to correct Mr. Wangdi's statement which, apparently,
refers to our "allegations that the Dalai Lama was supporting Urgyen
Trinley Dorje" was " 'due to financial reason' ", etc.
We never said that the Dalai Lama's support of Urgyen Trinley was due
to financial reasons. But we did say that it was for political reasons
that the Dalai Lama supported Urgyen Trinley as the Karmapa incarnation,
and that it was completely out of character with our Karma Kagyu tradition.
Nonetheless, now that Mr. Wangdi, as minister of religion and cultural
affairs, has changed tack again by saying that "a Karmapa is always
chosen by the previous Karmapa, and according to a letter written by the
16th Karmapa¦.",etc., we will perhaps agree with him. To give
him the benefit of the doubt, his statement appears to be in agreement
with our tradition. Adherence to tradition is what we have repeatedly
demanded in the past, namely:
1) if there is no letter of prediction, then the principal
leader or leaders of the Karma Kagyu school will recognise or approve,
as the case may be, the new Karmapa;
2) if, however, there is a letter of prediction, then
the new incarnation should be recognised in accordance with the letter's
If the letter of prediction produced by Situ Rinpoche in 1992 is proven
to be genuine, we would follow it without question to the end, and no
doubt the Karmapa controversy would then be resolved peacefully. In any
case we should be most appreciative if the exiled government would refrain
from interfering further with our Karma Kagyu School. We should be most
appreciative if the exiled government would respect our rights to our
own affairs, and not to change the direction or the tone of dialogue again.
International Karma Kagyu Organisation
15 August, 2001