also on page 51, Brown uses the term “heart
sons,” quoting Lama Yeshe saying that Karmapa was like the father
and the four young rinpoches were like his sons:
gave all of them the best education; rooms for themselves and
for their attendants,” remembers Lama Yeshe. “He was like a
father with his sons. The four of them were like brothers.”
But in fact this was not the case. Shamar Rinpoche lived with Karmapa
because he did not have his own labrang. And because Shamar Rinpoche,
his elder brother Jigme Rinpoche and Topga Rinpoche were close family
as well as members of Karmapa's labrang, Karmapa did support them
and act as a surrogate father.
the other three rinpoches, Situ, Gyaltsab and Jamgon, all stayed
with Karmapa only as guests during their childhood, cared for by
Karmapa in his role as head of the Karma Kagyu order. Since these
young boys had lost their monasteries and administrations in Tibet,
they had no choice but to rely on Karmapa in this unusual situation.
these three guest rinpoches, Karmapa simply gave the transmission
of the Kagyu lineage teachings and initiations just as he did to
other refugee lamas at Rumtek. To them Karmapa did not act as any
kind of father-figure nor did he offer financial support. Situ,
Gyaltsab and Jamgon Rinpoches were supported by their own administrations
as were other guest lamas temporarily staying at Rumtek. Khenpo
Chodrak Tenphel was among the other students at Rumtek at this time,
was a classmate of these four rinpoches, and can verify this story.
Travels for Medical Treatment
page 76: Brown says that by 1980 it was clear that Karmapa's
health was worsening, that doctors thought he had cancer and that
he flew to Singapore where part of his stomach was removed:
1980, however, it was clear that his health was worsening. He
had lost weight, and his physicians began to suspect that he
was suffering from cancer. He flew to Singapore, where a gastrectomy
was preformed and part of his stomach removed. A pathology examination
confirmed that he was suffering from cancer.
again, Brown just doesn't have his facts straight. On November 28,
1979 the late Karmapa was in New Delhi conducting a ground-breaking
ceremony for the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute. He got
sick early in the morning at 2 am and his nephew Shamar Rinpoche
was sleeping in the next room. Shamar heard that his uncle was vomiting
and so came into assist him. It came out that Karmapa was vomiting
blood and did indeed have stomach cancer, but until that night he
had shown no symptoms. At 8 am the ceremony was due to start under
the president of India. Though he was totally exhausted, through
the power of his will, Karmapa managed to go through the ceremony
very well. Afterwards, in private, he collapsed, and was taken the
All-India Medical Institute in New Delhi for an immediate operation
on the stomach. HH Karmapa never had any operation in Singapore.
Showing Rumtek Relics
page 77: everything that Brown reports here from Jamdrak/Lama
Yeshe is incorrect. Brown says that Karmapa returned to Rumtek and
had boxes built to store relics and especially the Vajra Crown.
Then he called in the “four heart sons”—the spurious term used by
supporters of Orgyen Trinley to refer to Shamar Rinpoche and three
other lamas, Situ, Gyaltsab and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoches—and said
told them that if they wanted to see the relics, now would be their
returned to Rumtek, but his condition continued to worsen. Now
he ordered craftsmen to construct a number of wooden and metal
cases, to store the monastery's most precious treasures, including
relics which had been passed down from the ancestors of the
lineage, Naropa, Tilopa, Marpa and Gampopa. Among them was the
most precious relic of all – the Vajra Crown.
“He knew that he was going to die,” says Lama Yeshe. ‘He called
the four heart sons and told them, ‘If you want to see the relics
you must see them now.' The treasures were placed first in wooden
cabinets; in turn these were placed in cabinets made of steel.
The locks were sealed with wax. The Karmapa instructed that
they should not be touched by anyone, and should be opened only
by his next incarnation.
is wrong for many reasons. First, Lama Yeshe was not there to witness
this supposed event, since would he have been in Woodstock, NY secluded
in retreat at this time. So his account, as before, is entirely
hearsay. Further, the four rinpoches Yeshe refers to were not at
Rumtek either. For example, Shamar Rinpoche was also in Woodstock,
though not with Lama Yeshe. Situ Rinpoche had left Rumtek seven
years earlier and was settled near Kashmir, not in Rumtek.
did happen was the Karmapa did indeed have boxes made and he did
seal the relics in them and lock them. But the people he called
to witness were not the absent rinpoches, but the senior officials
of his administration.
After packing the relics, Karmapa locked the cases and handed the
keys over to the two senior Dron Nyers, the caretakers of relics.
Assembling to be with Karmapa
page 78 Brown says that just before his death, Karmapa
flew from Hong Kong to Chicago for medical treatment:
Kongtrul had accompanied him from Hong Kong; Tai Situ had come
from England where ha had been giving teachings, and Shamar
Rinpoche also flew to America to be at his side. Of the four
heart sons only Gyaltsab Rinpoche was absent; the Karmapa had
instructed him to remain in Rumtek, to take care of things in
are a few mistakes here. First, Jamgon Kongtrul did not accompany
Karmapa from Hong Kong, but Shamar Rinpoche and his brother Jigme
Rinpoche did. They flew from Nice to Hong Kong to be with Karmapa
before he ever went to Chicago. From Hong Kong, Shamar and Jigme
Rinpoches flew together with Karmapa on the same flight to Chicago.
The only reason we can think of for Brown to confuse Shamar Rinpoche's
travel schedule this way is to cast doubt on his devotion to the
late Karmapa, and thus impugn Shamar's character.
then says that only Gyaltsab Rinpoche was left at Rumtek to take
care of things at this time. But there would have been no need for
this. Karmapa had an extensive administration at Rumtek with a large
monk's body under general secretary fully authorized to manage Rumtek
in Karmapa's absence and quite experienced in doing so with no help
from outsider lamas like Gyaltsab. Gyaltsab's business was managing
his own labrang, not interfering in Karmapa's affairs at Rumtek.
as far as the lamas gathering to be with Karmapa before his passing,
this is what happened.
Rinpoche and Akong came from Europe to meet Karmapa in the hospital
in Chicago, but reluctantly and only in response to entreaties from
Jamgon Rinpoche saying that Karmapa was dying. Situ was originally
reluctant to come because he had just visited Karmapa in Hong Kong,
and once having flown back to Europe, did not want to leave the
program he was about to put on in Brussels. But when Jamgon said
that Karmapa was dying and that he, Jamgon, did not want to be responsible
for Situ being absent at Karmapa's death, Situ finally acquiesced
and agreed to come to Chicago, but for two days only, according
to Shamar Rinpoche, who overheard Jamgon talking on the phone to
Situ calling from the hotel suite in which they were staying.
Death of the Late Karmapa
of page 80 appears to be devoted to promotional material
for Akong Tulku, who Brown unaccountably refers to as Akong “Rinpoche.”
There, Brown talks about the days before the death of the late Karmapa:
these last days, a succession of senior lamas from the Kagyu
order made the pilgrimage to his bedside. There was unfinished
business to settle. In the years since they had been together
at Samye Ling, the discord between Akong Rinpoche [ sic
] and Trungpa Rinpoche had festered. Trungpa had published
a revised edition of his autobiography, Born in Tibet ,
in which he had talked about his disagreements with Akong at
Samye Ling and made disparaging remarks about his old friend.
Others had encouraged Akong Rinpoche to reply.
Now, in his last moments, Karmapa called them both to his bedside
and told them there should be no more disputes between them.
“He said, ‘I consider both of you as my sons,'” remembers Akong.
“'Now you have to promise there are no more bad feelings between
you, only friendship.'” He told Trungpa to remove the references
to Akong in his book, and made Akong promise never to speak
of it again. “So we both agreed. And Karmapa was very happy.”
appears that according to Akong, that Karmapa acquired quite a large
family just before his death! Well, if Akong is now adding himself
and Trungpa Rinpoche to the four “heart sons” that Brown mentions
whenever he can, then it appears that Karmapa now had six honorary
sons. From the standpoint of Akong, this must have made quite a
bad for Akong that it never happened. There are so many obvious
lies here that is is difficult to know where to start. First, Karmapa
never called Akong and Trungpa to his bedside. Akong was such a
minor lama that Karmapa never would have been concerned about his
squabbling with Trungpa in any event. He was like Trungpa's servant.
most importantly, Karmapa could never have said this because his
cancer had spread so completely by the time he was in the Hong Kong
hospital a month earlier that he had lost his ability to speak.
Brown says that Karmapa sent Shamar Rinpoche to be Karmapa's representative
at the conference organized in Belgium, because he wanted Situ to
be by his side. However, the conference had no connection to Karmapa,
and was organized totally under Samye Ling's jurisdiction at Situ
and Akong's initiative. As proof, this event receives no mention
in the records kept at Rumtek. In fact, administrators of his labrang
will testify that Karmapa didn't even know the Brussels event was
and Akong were not like family to Karmapa. But they were like family
to each other. They shared a hotel suite in Chicago and seemed inseparable.
Akong had even started serving as Situ's private secretary.
Rinpoche says, of this period, “Only After Situ and Akong arrived
did I realize that much political maneuvering had occurred already.
I was very naïve then.”
two rinpoches from the late Khamtrul Rinpoche's monastery in Himachal
Pradesh near Dharamsala, Dhodzong and Chogyal Rinpoches, arrived
in Chicago to see HH Karmapa. They wanted to get a confirmation
that a boy they had located was the reincarnation of their guru.
Shamar informed Karmapa about this request, and Karmapa, who could
not speak reliably, was able to communicate wordlessly with hand
gestures and expression to confirm that the boy the rinpoches had
recognized was corrrect.
Rinpoche, Jamgon Rinpoche and an Indian doctor had flown with Karmapa
from Sikkim to Hong Kong and thence with Shamar and Jigme Rinpoches
from Hong Kong to Chicago. Dhodzong and Chogyal Rinpoches asked
Shamar to request Karmapa to give instructions about his own reincarnation.
If it would help, they offered to join Shamar in presenting this
request to Karmapa.
any case HH Karmapa could not speak much. The next day, Dr.
Mitchell Levy informed everyone that HH Karmapa s condition
was completely hopeless. Dr. Levy said that Karmapa would live
for 12 days more at most. He suggested that if the lamas were
going to ask about the reincarnation according to tradition,
now was the time to do so.
hearing this portentous news, the assembled lamas held an
impromptu meeting about how to talk to Karmapa about his reincarnation.
In Tibetan tradition, this is very important. Along with myself,
there was Situ, Jamgon, Topga, and Trungpa Rinpoches along
with Lama Karma Trinley Rinpoche who had just arrived. Topga
Rinpoche suggested that it would be better to ask if
Your Holiness plans to live longer, then please show us some
signs of your return to good health. Otherwise, now is the
time to give us the time to give us the instructions where
your reincarnation will be born. He thought that was
the appropriate way to talk to ensure good omens. He did not
think we should say anything like now the doctor has
confirmed that you will die within two weeks &
This would not be appropriate. But because we could not agree
on the way to approach him, the lamas did not talk to Karmapa
afternoon all the assembled rinpoches went to Karmapas room
in a line. I led followed by Jamgon, Situ, Trungpa, Topga
and several others. I was the agreed spokesman. I asked Karmapa
for instructions about his next incarnation, but Karmapa was
only able to speak one nearly unintelligible word and make
hand gestures indicating that a monk would be coming from
Rumtek. We should tell him not to. He was able to say nothing
about his next reincarnation.
the afternoon, I returned to my hotel. Situ came to talk to
me. He had been begging me to go to Brussels to spend three
days at the conference that he had organized for his students
in Europe. Situ explained that if he himself went back for
the event, since he was its organizer, he would not be able
to leave until it was concluded, he would be required by contract
to stay for the whole event. This would mean that he would
miss the chance to return to spend time with Karmapa before
his passing. But since I was not involved, Situ told me, I
would be able to go, make a quick visit, and return to Karmapa s
bedside in three days.
that time, I was Situ s best friend. So I felt sorry
for him and was willing to do him this favor if I could indeed
return to Karmapa s bedside before his passing. So I
asked Situ to do a mo (a traditional Tibetan divination) to
see if the Karmapa would live beyond the three days that I
would be gone to Brussels. He cast the dice, consulted his
book of interpretation, and told me that his mo predicted
that Karmapa would not die in my absence. Jigme, Topga and
Jamgon Rinpoches were also there to witness this scene.
weakness has always been to jump in quickly to help my friends
in their time of need, even against my better judgment. So,
after being reassured that I could return to Karmapa in time,
I agreed to help Situ. I immediately left for Brussels for
three days. This trip turned out to be for naught.
arriving in Brussels, I discovered that in fact there would
have been no difficulty for Situ himself to have come for
three days and then leave. Later, Trungpa Rinpoche told my
brother Jigme that Akong Tulku had developed this plan as
a pretext on Situ and Akong s part to get me away from
Karmapa. And as it turned out Gyalwa Karmapa did die the second
evening of my unfortunate absence. This was my first experience
of being betrayed by being tricked into helping a friend.
It was an important experience, pushing me toward maturity.
did Situ and Akong want to get Shamar away just at the time of Karmapa's
death? Was it some kind of cruelty born out of jealousy at the close
relationship that Karmapa had always had with Shamar?
believe that Situ's motivation was more practical. Situ, Akong and
others had already planned to say that they had gotten a prediction
letter from Karmapa just before his death. Without Shamar there,
then Situ would be the ranking lama and could pass off any story
about Karmapa's passing, including saying that he had received a
prediction letter, without anyone to challenge him.
unfortunately for his plan, there were too many witnesses around
Karmapa before his death who saw that he gave no prediction letter
to anyone. So that meant that Situ and Akong would have to find
a future opportunity to introduce their bogus prediction letter.
Brown implies that Shamar was somehow amiss in absenting himself
from Karmapa's deathbed. But of course, this is quite the opposite
of the true state of affairs. Karmapa wanted Shamar to be with him,
and Shamar had planned to remain in Chicago. But Shamar's soft heart
proved his undoing here, leaving him open to the intrigues of Situ
was truly the principled one here?” Shamar asks. Was it Situ who
made Shamar leave Karmapa's deathbed on a contrived pretext or Shamar
who went to Brussels to help his friend, thus missing the passing
of the late Karmapa? The answer seems clear. And perhaps worst of
all, instead of repaying Shamar's kindness with gratitude, Situ
and Akong use Mick Brown as a mouthpiece to cast aspersions on Shamar's
dealing his dealings with Situ and Akong, it appears that for Shamar
no good deed goes unpunished.
never had a chance to say goodbye,” Shamar explains. “HH Karmapa
didn't even know that I had left and he was expecting me to return
the next morning. After my departure Jamgon and Jigme Rinpoches
informed Karmapa that I had left. Karmapa did not say anything.
In reply, he just smiled wryly. My mistake was listening to Situ's
request. He took advantage of my kind and naive heart and betrayed
me. In any case, it is indescribably sad to see a holy rinpoche
give into the lowest human emotions of greed and ambition. I believe
that Situ suffers not the slightest guilt over betraying me, his
old friend. This is a great disappointment and makes me very sad.”
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