the illegal takeover of Rumtek Monastery by Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab
Rinpoche and their followers during August 1993, the Karmapa Charitable
Trust under the loyal leadership of Shamar Rimpoche succeeded to protect
most of the precious religious objects of the late 16th Karmapa
until today. This extremely positive result was achieved despite numerous
conspiracies of Situ Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpoche and their associates,
who tried again and again to bring all the late Karmapa’s properties into
their hands. Their plan was to bring all the relics, including the Black
Vajra Crown to Tsurphu in Tibet.
the lifetime of the 16th Karmapa there were 4 groups of monks
and laypeople who were appointed by the Karmapa himself to take care and
to protect the holy relics, such as the Vajra Crown of Gyalwa Karmapa,
thankas, statues, old Chinese silks for religious ritual purposes of the
Vajrayana tradition and scriptures of the Kayupas. After the 16th
Karmapa had passed away in 1981, these specially appointed guardians continued
their responsibilities properly for another 11 years, now under the instructions
of the Karmapa Charitable Trust.
August, 1992, following the critical developments around the recognition
of the 17th Karmapa the secretary of Gyalwa Karmapa’s monastery
in Leh, Ladakh, came to Rumtek. He told that people had started speculating
about that the Vajra Crown of Gyalwa Karmapa had been stolen. A meeting
was organized with the monks where they decided to take over the said
responsibilities from the 4 groups, since it was now doubtful that everybody
carried out their duties faithfully. The monks had the rooms and boxes
locked and sealed that contain all precious holy objects including the
Black Vajra Crown. The local Police Chief was present as a witness and
a guard from the government was put there to protect the locks. When Situ
Rinpoche discovered that this farsighted move to protect Karmapa’s precious
objects was irrevocable, he pretended to be the one behind the initiative
of sealing the different rooms. He even appears on a video in front of
a sealed door saying "I locked it".
this Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches, with the support of the then chief minister
Mr. N.B. Bhandari tried to get access to the relics in various ways. The
most convenient was that the two Rinpoches would be in full control of
November 1992, under the pretext of a so-called International Kagyu Meeting
and without the support of the legitimate KCT board of trustees they therefore
made an attempt to bring the KCT under their personal control. With false
accusations and the active support of the Sikkim state government they
succeeded to prevent Shamar Rimpoche, Topga Rinpoche and Gyan Jyoti to
visit Rumtek in Sikkim for the event. Further more the Sikkimese members
of the KCT were severely intimidated and threatened not to act in accordance
with their actual duties and to prevent them from taking any legal action.
to Indian law one can gain the property-right of a place, in this case
the monastery, by occupying it unchallenged for a period of 12 years.
By preventing the loyal members of the KCT to file a court case against
the illegal occupancy of Rumtek monastery in Sikkim they would win the
automatic property-right of the monastery and its assets under Indian
Indian central government was, however, approached by the KCT with the
request to protect the relics verystrictly,
and the illegal take-over had to be abandoned immediately after the central
government of India intervened.
August 1993 Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches, still with the help of the then
chief minister Bhandari did manage to throw out the legitimate monks of
the monastery and temporarily take it over. In spite of that, the central
government, however, kept protecting the religious items so nobody could
break the locks without doing a criminal act.
most of the holy items could be saved from disappearing into illegal hands.
But in 1995 it was discovered that some of the boxes hade been broken
up and things disappeared. Some say that it went to the monastery of Thrangu
Rinpoche and Tenzin Namgyal. Others say that things went to Gyaltsab Rinpoche’s
monastery in Ralang, but there was no evidence for either. The KCT, however,
immediately made a report to the Indian government about the missing objects
and the protection was again increased.
the exception of above cases, we believe that most of the very holy objects
are still in Rumtek monastery. Shortly before the illegal takeover of
the monastery by Situpa and his men, the loyal monk’s community succeeded
to establish a complete inventory list of all the precious religious objects
of the monastery. The inventory list was handed over to central
and an official receipt obtained. This receipt is kept by the KCT in a
secure location. This list was completed for the central Indian government
upon request of Shamar Rimpoche after it became evident that these items
were in acute and grave danger of disappearing. Although the Sikkimese
state government of N.B. Bhandari was still on the payroll of Situpa and
his supporters, they had now no option but to follow the explicit instructions
of the central Government and thus had to protect the inventory against
their own secret interests.
in July, 1998, the KCT succeeded to file the court case. In that connection
special requests were again made to protect the holy items and the court
was informed about the existing inventory list. Suddenly the stolen things
started to reappear and recently a statement by Tenzing Namgyal saying
that everything is there, indicates that whatever might have been missing
has now been brought back! Clearly embarrassed they now try to make it
look as if they are the ones who protected the holy items (see recent
article in "The Week").
development was that Gyaltsab Rinpoche made a rather absurd claim to the
ownership of all Karmapa’s properties in court. He argued that he automatically
is the new owner because he is the reincarnation of the "Gyaltsab"
(meaning "regent") who served as the regent of the 10th
Karmapa for a period of four years. This claim has not yet been withdrawn.
At the same time, some contradictory allegations have been brought against
Shamar Rinpoche accusing him of wanting to steal all the property of Karmapa
and at the same time blaming him for being behind the sealing of all the
2000 Ugyen Thinle arrived to India, supposedly staged by Situpa, Gyaltsab
and Thrangu Rinpoche and maybe with Chinese cooperation. Apparently he
was meant to go directly to Rumtek to collect the Vajra Crown and other
religious items and then bring them back with him to Tsurphu.
month the DNST and loyal disciples of Karmapa Thaye Dorje succeeded with
their application to maintain the status quo and additionally to replace
the previous Sikkimese guards at the monastery with policemen who only
follow the orders from the Central government of India. This positive
development surely provides additional security to the monastery and it’s
contents and is therefore highly welcome.
to the farsighted protective measures taken by Shamar Rimpoche and the
KCT the very important, religious objects, presently stored in Rumtek
monastery, are now very safe in the custody of the central government
of India. Nothing can be taken out from the monastery anymore! Because
of the complete inventory list, which was established and registered with
the Indian government very shortly before the illegal takeover of Rumtek
monastery by Situpa and his party in 1993, also any theft, which may have
occurred during the illegal occupation, can and will be detected and dealt
with at the time when Rumtek monastery will be returned to the rightful
caretakers, the Karmapa Charitable Trust. We are confident that the verdict
of the presently ongoing court case will be given soon.
Karma Kagyu Forum