c/o Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
38 Soho Square
London WID 3HB
am writing to thank you for your letter
of 7 July 2004. I appreciate your kind response to my open letter
to you of June 2 concerning your book The Dance of 17 Lives. I realize
that your time is valuable, and I appreciate the effort you generously
invested in your reply to me.
have no wish to involve you in a protracted exchange of letters.
I just have two points in response to your reply that I would like
to share with you here.
Relationship with Akong Tulku
write that you are not a Buddhist and that you are not now and have
never been a student or devotee of Akong Tulku, the head teacher
at Samye Ling Tibetan Centre in Scotland. I appreciate you clarifying
as a reader of your book who is familiar with the biography of Akong
Tulku, I cannot help but remark that your text seems to exhibit
a sympathy with Akong more appropriate to a devotee than to a journalist.
I wonder how closely you checked the facts of material you got from
Akong Tulku. To anyone who knew the late Karmapa well, Akong’s
account of events in his life is highly implausible. In particular,
Akong’s story of Karmapa’s attempt to reconcile him
with Trungpa Rinpoche (p. 80 of your book) sounds like pure fiction.
It was well known that Akong was a very low-ranking lama, merely
the attendant of Trungpa Rinpoche. His role at Samye Ling did not
change his status in Karmapa’s eyes. Simply put, the late
Karmapa would never have called Akong and Trungpa to his deathbed
to reconcile them and would certainly never have said, as you quote
Akong, “I consider both of you as my sons.”
relate dozens of other episodes from Akong that seem just as off
base as this one. This makes me wonder why you rely so heavily on
Akong Tulku and his brother Jamdrak (later known as Lama Yeshe)
as sources for the life of the 16th Karmapa, given that these two
men are hardly informed sources on the late Karmapa. They spent
little time with him and were never on close terms with the 16th
Karmapa. And Akong in particular had at best an ambivalent relationship
with the Karma Kagyu leader. You could have found dozens of other
sources who were much closer to the late Karmapa and could have
given much more authoritative accounts of his life.
of these things together make us think that you must have some reason,
besides journalism, to quote Akong and his brother so extensively
and to portray Akong in such a positive light. It is difficult for
us not to surmise that you sympathize with this lama and are trying
to help him advance his career at the expense, of course, of the
objectivity of your own narrative.
Omission of the Rumtek Case
your letter, you write that it was never your “intention to
explore in depth the issue of the ownership of the monastery-the
book would have been a third as long again if I had done so.”
I could comprehend this rationale if the issue of who legally owns
Rumtek were a minor point incidental to the Karmapa controversy.
this is not the case with Rumtek. Rumtek is not just a building.
It is a place charged with symbolism for Karmapa followers. Both
sides in the controversy know that the boy who sits on the throne
of the 16th Karmapa and wears his Vajra Crown will be, in the minds
of many, the real Karmapa. Your approach seems akin to writing a
book about the French Revolution and not mentioning the Bastille.
you did not have space to write about the issue of who has the right
to occupy the seat of the Karmapas, then I wonder why you wanted
to write a book about the Karmapa issue at all?
possession of Rumtek has been the most important issue since this
unfortunate controversy began. Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches put much
effort into taking over the monastery in 1993, preparing the groundwork
for months or even years in advance. Since then, their group has
fought hard in the Indian courts to gain legal sanction for their
control of Rumtek. At each stage, they have been unsuccessful. Indeed,
they appealed the verdicts against them all the way up to the highest
appreciate your fair-minded offer to write about Rumtek once the
case is finished in the courts. Fortunately, you will now have your
chance. On July 5, the Supreme Court issued its verdict, finding
against Orgyen Trinley’s group. So, we do hope that you will
be as good as your word and devote the attention to this issue that
it deserves. As to your wish to interview the trustees of the Karmapa
Charitable Trust, I would encourage you to contact the Trust directly.
am grateful for your good wishes for our troubled lineage. I thank
you for joining our prayers that the divisions that have afflicted
the Karma Kagyu are soon healed. In the spirit of fairness, I will
honor your request and post your letter on our website once sufficient
time has passed for this letter to reach you by postal mail. In
addition, I will post this response along with any reply you care
to send us as well.