His Holiness the 17th Karmapa  


   His Holiness the 17th Karmapa has fled to India
    'Living Buddha' a Chinese adjective to Karmapa
   Wrangle Over Black Hat
   Chinese warning
   India under pressure
   China Still Has Panchen Lama
   How did it happen?
   A Lama's Flight

His Holiness the 17th Karmapa has fled to India   

January 5, 2000
Source: www.kagyu.org

His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche today confirmed that His Holiness Karmapa, Ugyen Trinley Dorje, has left Tibet and arrived safely in Dharamsala, India on January 5, at 10:30 in the morning Dharamsala time.

He is currently with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche in Dharamsala.

His Holiness Karmapa left Tolung Tsurphu Monastery with a handful of attendants. The flight from Tibet took seven days on foot.

From Dharamsala, His Holiness is likely to spend some time at Sherabling, His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche's monastery, before journeying to Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre in Sikkim.

'Living Buddha' a Chinese adjective to Karmapa  

Jan 11. 2000

'Living Buddha' a Chinese adjective to Karmapa

Source: Times of India

Mcleodganj: The "Tibetan government in exile" Tuesday came out strongly against the usage of 'Living Buddha' adjective before the 17th Karmapa Ugyen Trinley Dorji saying it was a terminology used by the Chinese government to undermine the supremacy of the Dalai Lama. "It is not an accurate description. It is a Chinese terminology to undermine the supremacy of the Dalai Lama. The Communists in China have no concept of Buddhism," a visibly annoyed Thubten Samphel, who describes himself as the information secretary of the Tibetan government in exile, said.

The Karmapa heads the Kagyu sect, one of the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism. Samphel said "you cannot classify his hirerary either" in response to the Karmapa being projected as the third important Lama. The other three sects are Nyingma (meaning the oldest), Sakya and Gelug (to which the Dalai Lama traditionally belongs).

Wrangle Over Black Hat   

Reuters (1/11/00)

Tibet Lama's Exodus Revives Wrangle Over Black Hat

Who is the rightful owner of the black hat? The flight of a 14-year-old Tibetan boy lama over the icy Himalayas to India has rekindled a tussle between Tibetan Buddhist monks over the ownership of a triangular hat, which rightly belongs to the leader of the divided Kagyu sect.

China and the Dalai Lama, Tibet's supreme leader, both recognize the boy monk Ugyen Trinley Dorje as the Karmapa Lama. But some of the sect's monks question the status of the boy, who supporters say came to India to escape religious repression and Beijing's refusal to grant him an exit visa. Chinese official reports say he traveled to India to collect holy relics, including the hat and musical instruments.

"The hat is very important for the Kagyu sect as only the Karmapa Lama can wear the hat and people in the Himalayas recognize him by it," said a spokesman for the faction which challenges the boy monk now in the glare of the world's media. BLACK HAT IN HIMALAYAN MONASTERY

"A Karmapa Lama already exists in India and has been here for the past five years," the New Delhi-based spokesman added. "We will not hand over the hat." The black hat in question has been kept in the Rumtek Monastery in the northern Indian Himalayan state of Sikkim ever since it was taken there by the former Karmapa Lama from Tibet in 1959, when he fled from Chinese communist rule. "There were vague rumors for about a month that the boy lama was coming from Tibet to get the hat," the spokesman said. "But we were very surprised when he appeared suddenly."

As the only Tibetan Buddhist leader recognized by both Beijing and the government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, the Karmapa Lama represented China's best hope as a sympathetic substitute for the 64-year-old Dalai Lama after his death. In 1995 Beijing and Dharamsala each chose a different boy in the search for the Panchen Lama, Tibet's second-highest lama. The Nobel Prize-winning Dalai Lama's choice, now 10, and his family have not been seen in public since and are believed to be under house arrest. Beijing's choice was installed in Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Shigatse, but is regarded by many Tibetans as a fake.

There are four main sects, or lineages, of Tibetan Buddhism. The Gelugpa sect is considered more academic and its leader, the Dalai Lama, is considered both the spiritual and temporal head of Tibetans. Kagyu, on the other hand, stresses meditation and its leader, the Karmapa, is purely a spiritual figurehead. All lineages, despite the complex political intrigues and philosophical approaches which divide them, are united in their opposition to Chinese control of Tibet.


The Kagyu sect - of which there are two sub-sects - was founded by the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193), who is said to have started the lineage system of incarnate lamas. When a lama dies he is believed to be reincarnated in a newborn. The search for the reincarnation can take years. Kagyu was the prominent school of Buddhism in the area until the 17th century when it was overtaken by the Gelugpa school. Many monasteries were converted to that of the Gelugpa school, and now only two Kagyu monasteries remain in Tibet. But the row within Kagyu's Karma sub-sect over the rightful ownership of the hat is a recent one. It erupted when the 16th Karmapa Lama died in 1981 and a committee of regents started searching for a reinarnation of the lama.

Shamarpa Rinpoche, Kagyu's second highest leader, backed 17-year-old Thaye Dorje, who is believed to be in France but whose support base is just outside Sikkim in India's West Bengal. Ugyen Trinley Dorje was chosen by Situ Rinpoche, who ranks third in the order of Kagyu monks. "After having studied all evidence, his holiness (Dalai Lama) came to the conclusion that this boy was the real Karmapa Lama," said Tashi Wangdi, the Tibetan minister for religion and culture.

But the Shamarpa Rinpoche faction says the Dalai Lama is only the spiritual leader of his own Gelugpa sect and his recognition of an incarnation of the head of another sect has no meaning. "This is the first time in history that the Dalai Lama has done something like this," said the spokesman. "It is like non-Catholic Christians appointing a Catholic Pope."

Chinese warning  

China Warns India Against Giving Spiritual Leader Political Asylum

BEIJING, Jan 11, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) China Tuesday issued a veiled warning to India not to give political aslyum to the 14-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader who escaped to India last week. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao indicated that any political asylum granted to the Karmapa Rimpoche would violate the "five principles of peaceful co-existence" which form the basis of bilateral relations between New Dehli and Beijing.

"China and India have stated in explicit terms that they will develop and improve bilateral relations and on relevant issues the India side has made commitments," Zhu said at a routine briefing. "We hope that the Indian side will strictly observe their commitments so as to further improve and develop China-Indian relations."

The Karmapa arrived in Dharmasala, India, last week after an arduous week-long trek over the Himalayas. He had previously pledged allegiance to Beijing's rule and was recognised by both China and the Dalai Lama's exiled Tibetan government in Dharamasla. His daring escape is seen as a damaging blow to Beijing's religious policy in Tibet, as it had tried to push forward the Karmapa as an alternative to the exiled Dalai Lama, Tibet's supreme spiritual leader. China's central government has routinely viewed the granting of political asylum to domestic opposition figures as "interference in its internal affairs." Non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries is one of the five principles that lay the foundation of relations with India.

"The Indian side has said in explicit terms that it recognizes Tibet as an inalienable part of Chinese territory and that the Dalai Lama cannot engage in political activities in India. I think the Indian side is well aware of this," Zhu said. Indian officials Monday said no request for political asylum had been made by the Karmapa, although Tibetan officials in Dharamsala said they hoped that such an offer would be made. They also said the boy was destined to become a top leader of the Tibetan movement. Zhu reiterated the Chinese government's official view, stated last week, that the Karmapa had gone abroad to collect a "black hat and Buddhist musical instruments," referring to the Black Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism. "It is reported that he (the Karmapa) is now in India, but we haven't yet had any confirmation from the Indian side," he said.

India under pressure   

India under pressure to give asylum to boy lama

By David Graves in Dharamsala (The Telegraph 1/11/00)

PRESSURE mounted on India yesterday to grant political asylum to the 14-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader who has fled China across the Himalayas as the Chinese began reprisals against his supporters. Tibetan officials said Chinese security police had raided the 800-year-old Tsurphu monastery, 30 miles from the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, from where the Karmapa fled last week, and arrested at least two monks. The officials also disclosed that the Dalai Lama had made a personal appeal for the Indian Foreign Ministry to grant the Karmapa asylum. New Delhi had replied that the third most important spiritual figure in the Tibetan hierarchy should have applied for sanctuary in Nepal, which he crossed to reach India.

In an effort to resolve the impasse, Julia Taft, the American assistant secretary of state with special responsibility for Tibetan affairs, met members of the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, north India, where the Dalai Lama is based. Officials accompanying her said India had a "long and distinguished" record of granting refuge to Tibetans fleeing Chinese rule and America "saw no reason why this honourable record should change in relation to the Karmapa". Earlier, Miss Taft met Indian Foreign Ministry officials in New Delhi to discuss the future of the Karmapa, who is the spiritual leader of five million Kagyu Buddhists worldwide. A decision on whether to grant asylum is expected this week. It is expected that Washington would grant sanctuary to the Karmapa if India refused, although US officials said they considered that "very unlikely."

The Karmapa, who is the only senior lama to be recognised by the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government, had been used by Beijing as a symbol of Communist authority in Tibet and of its so-called "encouragement" of Buddhism in the disputed region. Both American and Tibetan officials insisted that Miss Taft's visit "was totally unconnected" with the Karmapa's escape and had been planned for months. But she was expected to see the Dalai Lama, who is on a two-and-a-half-month retreat, and possibly the Karmapa himself. He is now under tight security at a monastery 10 miles from Dharamsala. A spokesman for the Dalai Lama said he had no plans to break his retreat to meet Miss Taft. But the American envoy is staying at a guest house owned by the Dalai Lama's brother and the two were expected to meet, possibly in secret, to discuss the Karmapa's future.

China has been severely embarrassed by the most significant Tibetan defection since the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 and would want the Karmapa to return; and India has recently been trying to thaw the frosty relations between the two regional superpowers. China's official Xinhua news agency said only that the Karmapa had left a letter saying he had gone to India to get musical instruments and black hats used by previous reincarnations of the Karmapa Lama.

There has been speculation that the Karmapa may eventually take up residence at Rumtek monastery, in the mountain state of Sikkim, which was annexed by India in 1975 and where his predecessor settled after fleeing Tibet in 1959. The black hat, which is a symbol of his authority and which his followers believe is woven from the hair of female deities, is in Sikkim. But the monastery is run by a regent who has appointed a rival Karmapa, and Tashi Wamgdi, the exiled Tibetan minister for religion and culture, said it was "very unlikely" that the young Karmapa would go there. Any move to Sikkim would cause additional complications for India, because China has never recognised Sikkim as a part of India and could provoke clashes between the rival Karmapas.

As the Dalai Lama made his diplomatic overtures to New Delhi it was confirmed that the Karmapa, who suddenly moved from a guesthouse in Dharamsala on security grounds early on Sunday, had been taken to the Gyoto monastery at Sidhbari, overlooking the snow-capped Dahuladhar mountains. The monastery was opened by the Dalai Lama in 1996. The Karmapa was seen yesterday on a balcony outside his fourth-floor room talking to Tai Situ Rimpoche, his elderly spiritual adviser, who met him when he arrived in Dharamsala last Wednesday after his nine-day trek to freedom.

China Still Has Panchen Lama   

China Still Has Panchen Lama (AP) January 8, 2000

BEIJING (AP) - China's struggle to win over Tibet's people suffered a severe blow with the flight of the 17th Karmapa, and Communist leaders are now left with only one major Buddhist figure within their control: a 9-year-old boy shrouded in controversy.

The government intervened four years ago to supervise the selection of the 11th Panchen Lama, the second most important lama in Tibetan Buddhism. Tibet's clergy were forced to snub the Dalai Lama's candidate and appoint another boy in an attempt to diminish the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's traditional ruler and a Nobel Peace Prize winner living in exile.

Tibetans across China disparagingly refer to Gyaincain Norbu as "the Chinese Panchen" or Chinese President "Jiang Zemin's Panchen."

Tibetan spiritual leaders are believed to be the reincarnations of their predecessors and are found using special rituals while they are young children.

Chosen in 1995, the Panchen Lama has spent most of his time being educated by tutors in a suburban Beijing compound, not in Tibet. He returned with dozens of armed guards last June to Tashilhunpho monastery, the traditional seat of the Panchen Lamas in Shigatse, Tibet's second-largest city.

Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the boy named by the Dalai Lama, has not been seen in public since 1995. Human rights groups call the boy, now 10, the world's youngest political prisoner. The government refuses to disclose his whereabouts.

China's Communist leaders ventured into the politics of reincarnated lamas in an attempt to assert their claim to Tibet. They backed the 10th Panchen Lama when their soldiers marched into independent Tibet in 1950.

Communist media hailed the Panchen Lama as a patriot for not going into exile with most ranking Buddhist clerics in 1959, although he later spent 14 years in prison or under house arrest for criticizing Mao Tse-tung's policies in Tibet.

The 17th Karmapa, who is 14 years old, is Tibet's third most important lama and was being groomed by Communist leaders as an alternative to the Dalai Lama. He crossed into India on Wednesday to join the Dalai Lama in exile.

Tibetan history is dotted with tales of power-hungry clerics backing rival candidates as the reincarnations of high lamas. The 17th Karmapa's predecessor, the 16th Karmapa, was only chosen after a rival mysteriously fell to his death from the rooftop of a monastery.


NETFRIENDS OF TIBET welcomes Ugyen Trinley Dorje, H.H. Karmapa, and wishes him Good Luck on his journey through the Western Samsara.

We also wish that the split within the Kagyu lineage will be seen as a very unfortunate result of the Chinese interference in Tibets internal affairs. It is understandable that China wants to split Tibetans, but it is very unwise to act as the Chinese wish.

"The hat is very important for the Kagyu sect ".
Isn't the Dharma and the Tibetan future more important than a Black Hat?
Symbols are of course important to some degree, but the Tibetan situation is not symbolical. The suffering is as real as the Chinese occupation.

We hope that the wise lamas of Kagyu will avoid to realize the Chinese wish for a deep split between the two candidates.
It would be a lot better to see this as a political opportunity to unite the 4 Tibetan lineages against their common oppressor.

If the problems cannot be solved in Tibetan manners, it might be good to use a traditional democratical tool - namely election - to decide which of them should be the leader for the Kaguy linage.

We also hope that the journalist who now shout very proudly about the Chinese loss and shame should concider the fact that there are still a lot of Tibetans living under the Chinese oppression, and that these tibetans will pay for the Chinese shame.

This is not an occasion to celebrate a triumph, and this is not a soccer game either, so please lower your tone and protect the Tibetans who pays for your joy with their bleeding bodies.

Stockholm  Jan 12th 2000
Dechen Palmo
Netfriends of Tibet


Karmapa Escape': India asks China, how did it happen?

Hindustan Times
New Delhi, January 14

IN A neat diplomatic manoeuvre, India today passed the ball on to China's court, so to speak, by asking it to explain how the 17th Karmapa Ugyen Trinley Dorje managed to travel the long arduous route to Dharamsala.

"The Chinese side has been asked to share with us specific details regarding his departure from Tibet, the route taken and other relevant details," the official spokesman for the External Affairs Ministry said.

The request to share China's knowledge about the sensational arrival of the third highest ranking Tibetan Buddhist monk in India was made when Chinese Ambassador Zhou Gang called on Joint Secretary (East Asia) T. C. R. Rangachary in the Ministry.

The prolonged period of introspection by India thus came to an end today with a substantive move. Ever since the story of the great escape broke, the Ministry had endeavoured to stay away from elaborate statements by sticking determinedly to a single-sentence reaction saying that it was inquiring into the circumstances of the boy-monk's arrival.

This impressively circumspect position was maintained even in the face of a veiled threat issued by China that granting political asylum to the Karmapa would be violative of the Panchsheel. New Delhi simply refused to be drawn into a verbal encounter with Beijing.

By asking for an explanation of how the 14-year-old boy, by all accounts a highly prized instrument in Beijing's hands, managed to escape from his virtual confinement in a severely secured and inhospitable country, New Delhi has introduced a new phase into the episode.

The implications of the seemingly innocuous Indian request are obvious: since the Chinese position is that the Karmapa has not escaped but gone merely on a pilgrimage in search of "the musical instruments of the Buddhist mass and the black hats used by the previous Living Buddha," Beijing should be in the full know of the circumstances in which his journey was undertaken and its purpose. In that case, there should be no inhibition on its part to share such information with New Delhi.

India's next move will now await the Chinese response to the request for the relevant information. To that extent, it has gained valuable time and space for further manoeuvering. In short, the Karmapa episode is not in for a quick and easy conclusion.

The Ministry spokesman said that in response to a request made by the Chinese Government, the Ministry today informed it that the Lama, accompanied by six others, arrived in Dharamsala on Jan. 5.

"He and his entourage are currently at a monastery near Dharamsala," he said. "They are in good health. The Lama has been provided appropriate security cover."

India and China also noted with "satisfaction" the sound momentum in the bilateral relations and the process of improvement and development of these relations "on the basis of the Panchsheel (the five principles of peaceful coexistence) by the concerted efforts of the two countries," the spokesman said.

A Lama's Flight   

A Lama's Flight:
"Time for Chinese Rethinking About Tibet"

January 12, 2000
International Herald Tribune (IHT)
By Sunanda K. Datta-Ray

CALCUTTA - The flight of Tibet's third ''living Buddha'' to India could have serious implications for 6 million Tibetans under Chinese rule, for the 100,000 Tibetans in exile and for slowly improving Chinese-Indian relations. But the 14-year-old Karmapa Lama's dramatic eight-day trek in deep winter through 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) of high mountains and icy blizzards also creates an opportunity for President Jiang Zemin, who holds that peace in Tibet is ''crucial to the success of reforms, development and stability throughout the country.'' Mr. Jiang should consider whether the late Deng Xiaoping's astute one-nation-two-systems formula holds the key to China's vexed Tibetan question.

If Mr. Jiang can bring himself to rise to his predecessor's diplomatic stature, he would find an ally in the 14th Dalai Lama. Mr. Deng stated that ''except for the independence of Tibet, all other questions can be negotiated.'' The Dalai Lama responded by dropping the independence demand and saying he would be content with ''a self-governing, democratic, political entity in association with the People's Republic of China.''

Such moderation alienated younger Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama's youngest brother, Tenzin Choegyal, a former Indian army paratrooper and a hawk among the exiles.

''China only understands the language of violence,'' declared Mr. Choegyal, when he learned that the Karmapa Lama had abandoned Tsurpu monastery near Lhasa and reached the Indian hill town of Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile is based, last Wednesday. ''I definitely think that it's time that the Tibetan movement took a military approach, and that India took an active interest in it.''

The Dalai Lama escaped to India in 1959 when he found that the Chinese were reneging on all the promises of regional autonomy and religious and cultural freedom that they had made when they overran his country in 1950.

Buddhism's second-highest figure, the 10th Panchen Lama, whom Beijing tried to use against the Dalai Lama, suffered jail and re-education before he died in 1989. The still unresolved wrangle over his successor exposes the weakness of China's control of what it calls the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Beijing drew up a list of 28 candidates, but as soon as the Dalai Lama recognized the 6-year-old boy who headed the list, the Chinese spirited him away and installed another child, the son of registered Communist Party members, as the Panchen Lama. He has had to be kept closeted since then ''for security reasons.'' When the Chinese do put him on parade at the Tashilhunpo monastery, the Panchen Lama's official seat, Tibetans pointedly boycott the ceremonies.

Beijing and the Dalai Lama agreed in 1992 that 7-year-old Ugyen Trinley Dorje, a Chinese national, was the incarnation of the dead 16th Karmapa Lama. That also made him heir to the rich Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, which had been his predecessor's headquarters since he, too, fled Tibet, although the boy lama must wait until he is 21 to take over.

According to the Chinese, the Karmapa Lama, who left behind an explanatory letter, is only visiting India to collect ceremonial hats and drums. He himself has given no reason for leaving Tsurpu surreptitiously, with his older sister and five attendants. The Dalai Lama's office is being close-mouthed. So are the Indian authorities. Between them, the Indians and the Tibetans escorted the boy on Sunday from the Dharamsala guest house to a monastery outside the town.

With China-India relations on the mend and India-Pakistan ties at an all-time low, no one in India, save hotheads like Mr. Choegyal and some younger Tibetans, wants to provoke Beijing. Whether the Chinese will appreciate that is another matter. For if the Karmapa Lama's successful journey indicted their security system, the flight itself indicted their rule.

His flight is a reflection on the ''patriotic education'' campaign which two years ago swept through 1,780 Tibetan monasteries considered hotbeds of revolt, covered 46,000 monks and nuns, and forced people to remove portraits of the Dalai Lama from their walls.

It should remind the Chinese that the Karmapa Lama, like the late Panchen Lama, refused to turn against the Dalai Lama, just as ordinary Tibetans would not be coerced into ceasing to worship their god-king.

If an official puppet were appointed Dalai Lama, the 500-year-old institution, which is today the most poignant and potent symbol of Tibet's distinctive identity, would forfeit public support. Tibetans would then look for other totems to which to rally.

Rather than risk the emergence of populist leaders like Mr. Choegyal with the potential of guerrilla resistance, a China that has absorbed Hong Kong and Macau in relative harmony should be confident enough to deal with Tibetans on the same basis. The Dalai Lama says he is waiting for ''positive signals'' from Mr. Jiang.

The writer, a former editor of The Statesman in India, contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.

WTN-L World Tibet Network News 




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