FEBRUARY 2000 NEWS
His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, updates II
Future of Shangri-La
The Great Escape
Karmapa To Concentrate on Studies
Escaped Karmapa lama leads New Year prayers
Tibetan Lama Says Freedom Necessary
'There Was No Other Alternative';
Worries over Chinese crackdown
An impromptu address given by Gyalwa Karmapa
Bumbler on the Roof of the World
Beijing's heavy hand ensures that Tibetan separatism will grow stronger
By ISABEL HILTON
TIME Magazine, JANUARY 24, 2000
There were reminders, in the 17th Karmapa's escape, of the Dalai Lama's flight across the mountains to India in 1959. Then, too, the Chinese government had broken some promises. Then, too, China's first reaction was that the fleeing lama intended no disrespect to the Communist Party or treason to Beijing. The Dalai Lama, the Chinese said in 1959, had been "kidnapped" by imperialists. The Karmapa, they said last week, had gone to get his hat.
It is, admittedly, a very important hat. But why would he risk his life on such a dangerous journey to fetch it? China could not explain. No doubt the story was meant to imply that the teenager, Beijing's key trophy lama, had no quarrel with the government and would soon be back. Not likely.
The explanation offered by those close to the young Karmapa -- that he wanted more contact with his teachers -- is highly plausible. Advanced spiritual masters are thin on the ground in Tibet, a direct result of Chinese attrition over the years. It is also reasonable to assume that the Karmapa did not like the regime under which he had been living. Last year, for instance, he was taken to Tashilunpo monastery in Shigatse to greet the heavily guarded child the government has endorsed as the 11th Panchen Lama, after the Dalai Lama's choice was made to disappear. The boy is widely perceived in Tibet as a Chinese-imposed fake. As a religious leader with rather better credentials, the Karmapa perhaps resented having to pay homage to a Chinese policy error.
What is striking about his departure is that it didn't have to happen. Closer contact with the Karmapa's exiled teachers, after all, would have posed no danger to the Chinese state. Had Beijing displayed a modicum of sensitivity and intelligence, it could have been spared the humiliation of the Karmapa's flight, and his devotees in Tibet would still have the consolation of his presence.
The Karmapa's residence at his historic monastery in Tsurphu was perhaps the biggest success of China's Tibetan policy. The process of finding and recognizing the boy had several remarkable and encouraging aspects, though a quarrel over a rival candidate did create a schism in his Kagyupa order. That the Karmapa was recognized as authentic by both the Dalai Lama and Beijing gave him spiritual as well as temporal standing. Enthroned at Tsurphu, he received thousands of devotees and embodied the restoration of a tradition even older than the Dalai Lama's Gelugpa order.
Had Beijing handled the affair more deftly, it would still be able to point to warm relations with the Buddhist sect that had ruled Tibet before the Dalai Lamas and that has, since 1959, built up a large and wealthy worldwide following. Even if he had no greater value than to refute, by his presence in Tibet, the charges of religious oppression China routinely faces, the Karmapa was worth his weight in sutras to Beijing. Instead, China has been humiliated. And worse. Several years ago, Beijing seems to have decided that time would eventually solve the Tibet problem. The Dalai Lama is 64 years old. The end of his reproaches was in sight. But now there is a young and charismatic alternative. Instead of becoming his substitute in Tibet, the Karmapa is now the Dalai Lama's ally in exile.
How the Karmapa spends that exile will be crucial. No doubt he will get back to his books and teachers, for a few years at least. But he has the potential to become a figurehead for the next generation, as the Dalai Lama has been for his. The Dalai Lama's position as Tibet's secular ruler is gone forever, as he often points out. Today what matters is that someone embody Tibetan religious identity and national aspirations -- and be a focus for Western sympathies. If the Karmapa continues to demonstrate the courage and charisma he has shown so far, he could prove a formidable symbol of resistance to China's occupation of Tibet.
With no religious beliefs themselves, China's party chiefs find it difficult to handle those who have faith. Remove the element of belief, and no doubt one maroon-robed figure looks much like another. Perhaps the leadership is genuinely puzzled by the Tibetan insistence that only the right lama will do. Beijing seems to be trying to manage Tibetan Buddhism as it would a slightly deviant party branch: if the regrettable necessity of a purge arises, another leader can be substituted. And if the branch resists, simply disband it and start again.
The Karmapa's defection poses difficult questions for China. Its attempt to eradicate Buddhism in Tibet in the 1950s and '60s was a failure. Isn't the lesson that oppression tends to strengthen religious belief rather than weaken it? If so, what is to be gained by continuing to alienate Tibet's religious leaders? Within China itself, where is the advantage in picking fights, as the government has, with the Falun Gong meditation group, the Vatican and the house church movement?
As China continues down the path of liberalization, party influence will inevitably decline and other mechanisms -- the elements of civil society -- will need to arise to keep the social fabric from fraying. Religion is one aspect of society that, on the whole, promotes desirable behavior rather than the opposite. The party has tried to extirpate religion, only to have it blossom more vigorously than before. Time, surely, to try for peaceful co-existence.
Isabel Hilton, a London journalist, is the author of "The Search for the Panchen"
Future of Shangri-La
Anand K. Sahay on the Tibetan question
The Hindustan Times, January 29, 2000
No matter how the Karmapa Lama tangle is eventually resolved, India is unlikely to make its China policy hostage to the question of Tibet.
Although important in its own right, the Tibet issue is not a direct bilateral concern between the two countries, though an independent Tibet will undoubtedly bolster the security of India's northern frontiers by establishing a buffer. But plainly Beijing is not about to let go a prize it has held in its grasp - loosely or with brute force - for more than two and a half centuries. Big powers armed with nuclear weapons are not apt to act with such meekness. After all, Britain fought Argentina in the Falklands/Malvinas half a world away just to protect its sheep pastures. And Tibet is no grazing yard, given its strategic geographical location in High Asia which is astir with intense international economic and political rivalry on account of its impressive gas finds.
Among the reasons for which China has traditionally coveted Tibet - and from time to time occupied it, as now - is the consideration to deny the use of this huge territory to a potential adversary. If this implied Russian or British imperial interests in the past, today Beijing will be wary of the US. India, of course, is in no way placed to excite Chinese concerns within these parameters. Nevertheless, China is unlikely to drop its guard vis-a-vis Indian actions in respect of Tibet because this country, on account of its historical and religious associations with Tibet, actively proffered refuge to the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual and temporal head and symbol of its cultural, religious and political unity and existence, when he escaped from Chinese persecution 40 years ago. In the intervening years India has also come to host a fair-sized and active Tibetan community who have constituted for themselves a government-in-exile.
The presence on Indian soil of Tibetan institutional entities has always worried Beijing even though in 1980 it did replace its earlier policy of repression in Tibet with a "policy of leniency" aimed co-option. For all that, communist China's 50-year occupation of Shangri-La lacks legitimacy in the eyes of the world, and concerns about human rights - civilisational, not just political - are often raised. If a mutually satisfactory accommodation between China and legitimate representatives of Tibetan interests ever becomes possible, or alternatively if Tibetan independence beckons, no matter how remote it may seem now, an Indian interest in such denouements is clearly foreseeable.
It is this which gives India a modicum of leverage in its intercourse with China, though the balance easily lies with Beijing as it occupies Indian territory to the north, does not recognise Sikkim's accession to India, and raises territorial questions in Arunachal Pradesh. The recent Karmapa Lama episode causes concern here, for it has mischief potential in Sikkim in case the fleeing boy Lama is actually a part of a Chinese game plan. As is well-known, the seat of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism of which the Karmapa is the high priest now lies at Rumtek in Sikkim and commands wide following in that state.
Recognising that Sino-Indian relations, which are far from being steady, have the potential to flower in many directions. China now has the opportunity to move toward greater cooperation with this country if it is able to shed past baggage and move on a positive path at least on the issue of Sikkim. After nearly a dozen rounds of border talks in the last six years, the technical aspects of settling the boundary issue are well understood. Only the political will now needs to be displayed by Beijing for a satisfactory solution to be approached.
Indian diplomatic skills will lie in determining how this matter is broached in the intriguing backdrop of the Karmapa's flight from Lhasa. The two countries can quickly put the whole episode behind them if China can summon the necessary political will. That will certainly make for a higher-path relationship.
Beijing can fruitfully recall that the India-brokered 17-point Tibet-China accord of 1951 became a nullity on the ground when China activated its vigorous pacification and assimilation programme shortly after its armies invaded Tibet. In its spirit the accord dealt with religious and cultural freedoms, and Tibetan functional autonomy in the temporal sphere. Not long after, prevailing conditions made the Dalai Lama's continued stay in Lhasa impossible. But before his 1959 flight, India did reach a border trade agreement in 1954 with China in which the Dalai Lama's domains were referred to as the "Tibet region of China". India did not at any point deviate from this restricted position to regard Tibet, as an "integral part of China", though Beijing would certainly have liked that. Indeed, the 1954 agreement lapsed in 1962 before the India-China hostilities broke out, and was not renewed.
While in practice India continues to be alive to Beijing's sensitivities in respect of Tibet, there exists a vacuum as far as the paper work is concerned. To fill it needs a new perspective on both sides; otherwise all options will necessarily remain open theoretically, including that of Tibetan "independence", even though of late the Dalai Lama has shown signs of resigning himself to the thought that his country has now practically become a part of China. If he is shown satisfactory accommodation by Beijing, other issues can also plausibly head in the direction of resolution. These will necessarily include the India-Tibet border question - hanging fire for over a century - which is at the heart of the Sino-Indian boundary talks in the eastern sector.
The twentieth century has offered Tibet little reprieve. While imperial China, which faded out in 1911, had for two centuries asserted only suzerainty rights over Lhasa, during its brief republican interlude, the Chinese dragon claimed the right of sovereignty, though it was too weak to effect it. Indeed, precisely in the three and a half decades between the advent of Sun-yat Sen and the emergence of communism, it was Lhasa that began to exercise de facto independence. Cartographers ceased to show Tibet as part of China.
In 1911 Chinese government representatives were even expelled from Lhasa. They could only return in 1933 under the guise of a condolence mission following the demise of the thirteenth Dalai Lama, the present leader's predecessor. They stayed on, but were expelled again in 1949! But the show was over for Tibetan independence once the red star rose over China.
Whatever Tibet's proper status, even in Beijing's eyes it is not the same as that of Hong Kong, Macao or Taiwan which Beijing regards as its very own. That is why it refuses to offer Lhasa the same terms of reconciliation as it does to these. Doesn't this show that Tibet is not really China, but only a conquered part of the old empire which could one day want to break free?
In his introduction to Tibet in Pictures, Lama Govinda has said, "Tibet's was a great and ancient civilisation which flourished with unbroken vitality for more than a millennium, right up to our time, when it met with total destruction by the conquering hordes ... this happened exactly at the moment when humanity was on the verge of becoming conscious of its essential oneness and its future common fate." Has that moment passed?
The Great Escape
The CIA did not whisk him away. Nor did Beijing plot his departure. Tibetan exiles reveal how and why the Karmapa lama fled to India
By AJAY SINGH Dharamsala (ASIAWEEK, Feb. 4, 2000)
Down through the ages, since at least the 12th century, Tibet's 17 karmapa lamas have drawn much of their religious mystique from a single hat that devotees call "the precious liberating black crown." Said to be made from the hair of 100,000 dakinis, or fairies, it symbolizes the karmapa's awakened mind and is supposed to be inseparable from him and his sect. So profound is the connection between Tibetans and this fabled hat that the great Buddhist sage Padmasambhava once said "people who see, hear, remember or touch [it] will be born near exalted beings after departing from their present life."
It was therefore no surprise that when the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, fled to India following China's annexation of Tibet in 1959, the hat was among several holy relics that he took along. Since his 1981 death from cancer at 57 in a Chicago hospital, the hat has been kept in the safe confines of the Dharma Chakra Center, founded by the lama in India's northeastern state of Sikkim. The passage of the black hat to a foreign land, however, posed a problem: Tibetans believe Rigpe Dorje was reincarnated in Tibet as Orgyen Trinley Dorje, which meant that the 17th Karmapa did not have access to the symbol of his power. So when 14-year-old Trinley Dorje recently showed up in the Himalayan town of Dharamsala, surprising His Holiness the Dalai Lama and practically the entire world, the official word from China was that he had come to collect his hat and a religious musical instrument. Beijing said the boy, the only Tibetan lama recognized by both China and the Dalai Lama, had not betrayed the motherland or the Chinese Communist Party and that he would soon be back.
That is unlikely. And despite conspiracy theories - that Beijing deliberately let the lad go in an attempt to divide the exiled Tibetan community, that the CIA flew him out in a helicopter - it appears that the Karmapa left of his own accord, for his own reasons. Tibetan sources tell Asiaweek that the trip was meticulously planned. A few days before his flight on Dec. 28, the Karmapa announced to his Chinese security detail that he was entering a religious retreat and would not see anyone but his tutor and cook. The night of the escape turned out to be fortuitous, say exiles. Two of the Karmapa's guards were on leave and most monks at the Tsurphu monastery, some 60 km north of Lhasa, were watching television.
Shortly before midnight, the Karmapa apparently jumped from his bedroom window and was whisked away in a car, along with his 24-year-old sister, who is a Buddhist nun, two aides and three monks. The group of seven drove non-stop for some 36 hours, foll owing almost the same escape route that the Dalai Lama had traversed on horseback 40 years before.
The car stopped ahead of security checkpoints, where the Karmapa alighted, circled around the barriers and rejoined his comrades on the other side. When the road came to an end near unmotorable mountains bordering Nepal, the party began a trek.
About 12 hours later, the Karmapa and his comrades entered Nepal. Getting past the porous Indian frontier was no problem. Because of a long-standing friendship and trade treaty between New Delhi and Kathmandu, the nations' mutual border is manned by officials from the Indian customs and excise-tax department, not immigration. From Nepal, the group boarded a bus to the northern Indian town of Gorakhpur. >From there, the Karmapa and his aides caught a train to Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh state, just a few hours away. From Lucknow, two taxis took them to New Delhi and then onward to Dharamsala in about 20 hours.
The Dalai Lama Had No Clue
The Dalai Lama's office appears not to have had a clue about the Karmapa's seven-day odyssey. It was only when officials of the government-in-exile received a phone call from the travelers after they checked into Dharamsala's Bhagsu Hotel on the frosty night of Jan. 4, that the Dalai Lama's personal limousine was dispatched to pick up the Karmapa. His Holiness broke a lengthy retreat to meet the boy-monk - the first-ever encounter between the two. News of the Karmapa's arrival spread through the Himalayan resort town like wildfire, sparking widespread excitement. A policeman who guarded the boy during the first three days, says the Karmapa spent a lot of time laughing and playing boisterous games with his aides. But the Karmapa would snap out of "play mode" when approached by Indian officials, who grilled him through an interpreter. "The Karmapa knew only one English word - 'thank you,'" says the guard. "And he used it frequently."
Shortly after his dramatic arrival, the teenage Karmapa applied for asylum. Clearly the prospect of being united with the precious hat was hardly the reason that had prompted his flight. Tibetan sources in Dharamsala say the Karmapa pleaded to be allowed to stay in India, birthplace of Buddhism, because Beijing's repression in Tibet was making it difficult for him to pursue religious studies and maintain Tibetan culture.
Although the asylum application did not say whether he would return to his homeland after the training, few Tibetans believe the Karmapa will go back as long as Tibet remains under Chinese rule. "He has come here to stay," says one leading scholar in Dharamsala who does not wish to disclose his name for fear of antagonizing the Indian government. "Period."
India is a vital destination for the Karmapa. His main guru, Tai Situpa, lives there and has deep ties with the karmapa lineage. As a disciple of the 16th Karmapa - and himself the 12th reincarnation in a line of teacher-monks associated with successive karmapas - it is Tai Situpa's duty to train the sect's present spiritual leader. The boy also stands to gain tremendous knowledge and support from a number of leading lamas, including the Dalai Lama, who have made India their home. For the followers of the Karmapa sect in India, there could be no better news than the presence of their holy leader. Most Karmapa followers are devotees of the 14-year-old boy from Tibet and dismiss claims to the sect's leadership by a 16-year-old rival, Thinley Thai Dorje, who resides in Sikkim.
The Karmapa's journey to the birthplace of the Buddha is a highly sensitive matter for Tibetans as well as for China and India. Three high-ranking lamas are now outside Tibet - the other two being the Dalai Lama and the young Panchen Lama he chose in 1995, who is believed to be under house arrest somewhere outside Tibet. (Beijing has appointed another boy as its Panchen, whom the Dalai Lama does not recognize). On Jan. 17, in a move that reaffirmed China's aim to control Tibet through local people, Beijing approved a two-year-old Tibetan boy, Soinam Puncog, as the seventh reincarnation of the Reting Rinpoche, an important and controversial lama. The Dalai Lama's government-in-exile rejected Beijing's candidate. What all this means is that Beijing has no visible religious authority who is also a political figure in Tibet. And given the ever-present tension in the region, Beijing will likely crack down harder in the short term.
Historically, Beijing's Tibet woes have rubbed off on India, which is home to some 125,000 Tibetan exiles. Officials of the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile say they have been instructed by Indian authorities not to make any statements regarding the Karmapa's escape. That the injunction is taken seriously by just about every prominent Tibetan exile shows just how much is at stake. Not since the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 has such an event rocked the collective worlds of Lhasa, Beijing and New Delhi. Consider the impact. For Tibetans, the Karmapa's escape casts a powerful spotlight on the question of their homeland's independence. For Beijing, the young monk's flight is an acute embarrassment at a time when it is battling the Falungong spiritual movement - and also raises concerns about the boy's future ability to mount a challenge from Indian soil. New Delhi, well aware of the loss of face China has suffered, does not wish to take any hasty steps toward granting the Karmapa asylum. Yet the Indian government cannot afford to reject the request for asylum when, as one Tibetan official puts it, "the whole world is watching." As it is, New Delhi has been widely perceived as weak in capitulating to the demands of militants linked to the Kashmir insurgency, who recently hijacked an Indian airliner. Asks the Tibetan scholar: "Can India really afford to lose face again?" In fact, New Delhi has fudged the issue, saying only that the boy is welcome to stay.
Indian Officials Weigh Conspiracy Theories
Indian officials are not quite sure how to treat the various conspiracy theories doing the rounds in the capital. Foremost among them is the view that Beijing deliberately let the Karmapa flee in the hope that his presence in India would divide the Tibetan exile community because, traditionally, the karmapa is the third-most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. However, many Indian officials dismiss the idea that the Karmapa's flight is a Chinese ploy. "It was a genuine defection," says former foreign secretary A.P. Venkateswaran. "Would you keep living in Tibet if you were a religious head?"
Perhaps the most compelling reason for the Karmapa's decision to flee is the fact that Beijing was grooming him to be a quasi-political figure - someone the Chinese could use to control Tibet. This, Tibetan exiles say, is what the Karmapa resented most. As a political figure, they say, he would have been required to denounce the Dalai Lama, as other lamas have been forced to do.
The boy-monk had been put through communist re-education programs that hindered his religious pursuits, say exiles - even as Beijing showered him with Lego toys and put limousines at his disposal. No amount of expensive gifts, it seemed, could make the teenager love China. On the contrary, say Tibetan sources, monks at the Tsurphu shrine were so angry at Beijing for lavishing the Karmapa with gifts that they threw stones at Chinese officials on several occasions. "The Karmapa was feeling like he was living in a gilded cage," says Jamyang Norbu, a director of Dharamsala's Amnye Machen Institute.
The Karmapa is currently housed in the Gyuto Rampoche monastery, an imposing three-story building in the tiny town of Sidhbari. Set against lush mountains and overlooking terraced rice fields, the shrine is about a half-hour drive from Dharamsala. At the order of Indian authorities, the teenager is confined to the top floor of the building, which is guarded round the clock by some 18 police and 10 of the Dalai Lama's security guards. Only senior lamas are allowed to meet the Karmapa; interviews with the press are strictly forbidden. Every day, small crowds of Tibetans gather outside hoping to catch a glimpse of the religious authority, or of receiving a blessing. The vigil invariably ends in disappointment - the Karmapa's living quarters are camouflaged by two brown sheets tied to the pillars of a balcony.
Aside from high lamas and Tibetan officials, only a handful of people have met the Karmapa. The Tibetan scholar who wishes to remain unnamed is one of them. According to him, the slim teenager is a little less than two meters tall, with brilliant brown eyes and considerable poise. "He reminds me of his predecessor," says the scholar, "who was a very charismatic man." For Tibetan exiles, many of them disillusioned with the Dalai Lama's lackluster leadership, the Karmapa's coming heralds the hope that, despite his youth, he will one day bring more direction to their struggle for independence. "A guy who can outwit his Chinese handlers has a certain degree of maturity," says Indian academic Kanti Bajpai. "He could be a troublesome 4-year-old, or an unpredictable one." No one understands that better than the jittery leadership in Beijing.
Karmapa To Concentrate on Studies
By LAURINDA KEYS Associated Press Writer
DHARMSALA, India, Thursday February 3 (AP) -
The teen-age Buddhist lama who escaped from Chinese-controlled Tibet last month will probably not participate in the Buddhist New Year celebrations this week, preferring to concentrate on his religious studies, an official of the Dalai Lama's administration said Thursday.
The 14-year-old Karmapa might participate with other high lamas of Tibetan Buddhism in a Feb. 18 celebration of the 60th anniversary the Dalai Lama's enthronement.
If so, it would be his first appearance in public since fleeing across the Himalayas a month ago in a daring escape by road, horseback and foot.
The Dalai Lama himself has been in a two-month retreat and will not make his traditional predawn rooftop appearance to give New Year's blessings on Sunday.
Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the administration, said the Dalai Lama would appear in public for the enthronement anniversary ``because the 60th anniversary is of great significance to the Tibetans.''
``Important lamas are going to be present,'' he said. The Karmapa ``may be there, or he may not be.'' After a period of rest following his escape from a monastery in Tibet, the Karmapa is ``getting on with his religious studies,'' he said.
The Karmapa, who heads one of the largest sects of Tibetan Buddhism with a wide following among Buddhist converts in the West, has been secluded in a monastery near Dharmsala, the Indian town where the Dalai Lama established his seat in exile after fleeing Tibet in 1959.
In the last week, high lamas of the Karma Kagyu sect have gathered from the United States, Nepal and India to consult their young leader about his future.
Breaking from his meditations, the Dalai Lama has written to the Indian government asking that the Karmapa be permitted to stay in India. Samphel indicated there has been no reply.
More than 2,000 Tibetans a year make the dangerous trek across the world's highest mountain range. Most are quietly allowed to register as refugees and remain.
Escaped Karmapa lama leads New Year prayers in Dharmsala
DHARAMSALA, India, Thursday, February 3 (AFP) -
The 14-year old Karamapa lama, one of Tibetan Buddism's top spiritual leaders, gave his first audience to foreigners here Thursday since his dramatic escape to India one month ago.
The Karmapa, who heads the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, appeared several times on the terrace of the Gyodo monastery in Dharmsala, where he also received monks and well-wishers ahead of the Tibetan New Year on February
Around 100 devotees, including a dozen foreigners were allowed into the monastery after passing through two separate security checks.
Several armed Indian paramilitary troops, as well as officers from the Tibetan government-in-exile's own security department, were positioned around the monastery.
The devotees were ushered into the main hall of the complex where the Karmapa -- seated on a raised platform, led a five-minute prayer session, and gave out New Year blessings.
Until now, the Karamapa had only made fleeting public appearances, with audiences reserved for special invitees.
The 17th Karmapa arrived in the northern Indian hill town on January 5, after a dramatic trek out of Tibet across the Himalayas.
The Karmapa's importance lies not only in his position as the head of the Kagyu sect, but also in the fact that he is recognised by the Chinese government, as well as the Dalai Lama.
His escape from Tibet has been a major embarrassment for China, which insists that it allows religious freedom in Tibet.
His arrival in India has also placed New Delhi in a difficult position, as it seeks to balance its traditional support for Tibetan exiles against a desire to improve relations with Beijing.
India is home to some 100,000 Tibetans.
Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama recently warned that India would be making a serious error if it did not allow the Karmapa to remain here.
"It will be a terrible mistake, both for India's image as well as in substance, if the Karmapa is not allowed to stay on in India," the Dalai Lama said in a letter to former parliamentary speaker Rabi Ray.
Tibetan Lama Says Freedom Necessary
By LAURINDA KEYS Associated Press Writer
DHARMSALA, India Friday February 4 (AP) - The teen-age Buddhist lama who escaped rom Chinese-controlled Tibet last month said during an audience with foreigners Friday that freedom is necessary to practice Tibetan Buddhism's most important teaching - compassion.
The 14-year-old Karmapa began meeting non-Tibetans through public audiences on Thursday, twice daily in a stark white concrete hall at the Gyuto monastery, 20 miles south of Dharmsala, the headquarters of the Dalai Lama.
Only a handful of foreigners joined Tibetan pilgrims in a crowd of about 40 people to see the lama on Friday.
``The most important tenet of Tibetan Buddhist teaching is compassion,'' the Karmapa said through an interpreter. ``But to try to practice this, one has to be free.''
He sat on a small stool beneath a giant portrait of the Dalai Lama, the most important spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. He hoped that with the blessings of the Dalai Lama, ``all the people of Tibet will soon be able to win their freedom.''
The Karmapa's address had been unexpected. Officials of the Dalai Lama's administration had said he would not be making any statement or public appearances during the Tibetan's most festive celebrations, the New Year, which began Friday night.
He fled across the Himalayas a month ago in a daring escape on horseback and foot. His presence in India is a political problem for the New Delhi government in its relations with China. India has not made any decision on the lama's status.
More than 2,000 Tibetans a year make the dangerous trek across the world's highest mountain range. Most are quietly allowed to register in India as refugees and remain.
The controversy around the young lama - and divisions within his own sect - prompted stringent security for him.
An Indian soldier stood next to the Karmapa as he spoke, and audience members were searched.
The Karmapa leads one of the oldest, largest and most important sects of Tibetan Buddhism.
A rival faction within his Karma Kagyu sect, however, claims that another teen-ager is the rightful Karmapa. In the past, the conflict over succession has led to violent clashes.
Newsweek: Teenage Karmapa Lama Planned Escape From China-Controlled Tibet After 1998 Attempt on His Life; Aid From Devotees Included Helicopter Flight Over Rugged Area
Dalai Lama on Karmapa's Escape: 'There Was No Other Alternative'; Says Both Will Return to Tibet Someday With 'Degree of Freedom'
NEW YORK, Sunday February 27, 2000 (PRNewswire) -- The 14-year-old Karmapa Lama, No. 3 in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy, whose escape embarassed the Beijing government in January, had been planning his flight for more than a year, Newsweek reports in the current issue. His resolve to leave grew firmer after being increasingly cut-off from followers and tutors and a 1998 incident in which two Chinese intruders were found in his Tsurphu monastery with knives and explosives. ``It was obviously a plot to harm the Karmapa,'' says a source close to the lama, ``and then to blame it on the Tibetans.''
When the Karmapa met the Dalai Lama in India, an eyewitness says they held each other ``as if a father was meeting his dear on after a long separation,'' report Correspondent Sudip Mazumdar and Beijing Bureau Chief Melinda Liu in the March 6 Newsweek International cover story ``Turmoil Over Tibet'' (on newsstands Monday, February 28). In a recent audience with 60 schoolgirls and some Westerners, also attended by Mazumdar, the Karmapa instructed them, ``Don't forget your . . . homeland. You must study hard so that you can help protect and preserve Tibetan religion and culture.''
The Karmapa's alienation from officials in Beijing followed years of good treatment and preparation designed to counter the political power of the exiled Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan freedom struggle. The Dalai Lama tells Newsweek's Mazumdar, in a separate interview, that the Karmapa had ``no other alternative except escape'' from Tibet. He says, ``Superficially, there is some religious freedom'' in Tibet. ``But there are restrictions on serious practice. The Chinese want religious people to be patriotic toward the Communist Party. The communists destroyed Tibetan Buddhism. A religious person should be faithful towards the destroyer of religion? How can that happen?''
He says that he and the Karmapa will return to Tibet someday. ``I think the day of our return with a certain degree of freedom will definitely come. I will definitely achieve that within my lifetime, I think.''
The Newsweek report recounts the Karmapa's eight-day flight to freedom, which included a ride in a commercial helicopter chartered by two Kagyupa lamas. On Dec. 28, the Karmapa slipped out of his bedroom, and sped away in a Mitsubishi four-wheel-drive vehicle with two aides and two drivers. Once inside Nepal, they abandoned the vehicle, and began a trek through the forbidding upper Mustang region on foot and horseback, aided by devotees who helped with food, money and assistance. Then came the helicopter ride over lower Mustang region, Newsweek reports.
Dalai Lama government worried over Chinese crackdown after lama escape
NEW DELHI, March 1 (AFP) - The Dalai Lama's exiled Tibetan government expressed concern Wednesday over a Chinese crackdown following the flight of a senior Tibetan monk to India earlier this year.
Tashi Wangdi, minister for religion and culture in the exiled Tibetan administration, told AFP from the northern Indian hill resort of Dharamsala that Beijing had launched "severe measures" after the escape of the Karmapa Lama.
The 14-year-old lama -- who heads one of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism -- arrived in Dharamsala on January 5 after escaping from his monastery in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.
Wangdi said sources in Tibet had reported the Karmapa Lama's aged parents, Karma Dhondup and Loga (Eds: one name), had been expelled from Lhasa to the eastern Tibetan prefecture of Chamdo.
He said they had been kept under tight security and added two officials in charge of security at the monastery from where the Karmapa Lama had escaped had been arrested.
"We are obviously concerned about their condition. We hope that the Chinese authorities would not take reprisals on the family members," Wangdi said.
"It is unfortunate that these people are being subjected to these kind of restrictions and difficulties. In the long run it does not help. It does not lead to any solutions and can only antagonise the people and aggravate the situation."
According to the London-based Tibet Information Network (TIN), the Karmapa Lama had been the target of an attempted assassination in the summer of 1998, which could have prompted his escape.
Two Chinese men were found with knives and explosives in the library of the monastery, near the room which housed the Karmapa. They apparently admitted being paid money to kill the lama but were soon released by Chinese authorities without trial, TIN said.
The Karmapa's escape has severely embarrassed Beijing and put New Delhi, which gave asylum to the Dalai Lama and about 100,000 Tibetan refugees but wants better ties with China, in an uncomfortable position.
The Karmapa is recognised by both China and the Dalai Lama, and many Tibetan exiles feel he could succeed the Dalai Lama as head of the Tibetan freedom movement.
An impromptu address given by Gyalwa Karmapa on 19 February during the performance of traditional Tibetan folk dances at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, Dharamsala, India. This is an English translation of his speech:
"The nectar body of Protector Avalokitesvara, Liberator from the Worldly Life, All-knowing and Great Caring Being, took birth in the snow land. He then ascended the snow lion-supported radiant golden throne in the Potala. To celebrate the anniversary of this enthronement, spiritual figures of different religious sects, ordained and lay Tibetan populace, and the kalons and staff members of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile have gathered here. I would like to extend my greetings to all of you.
"Generally speaking, many parts of the world suffer from strife and deprivation of freedom. In the particular case of our snow land of Tibet, Buddhism and Buddhist system flourished there in the past. However, over the last two or three decades, Tibet has suffered great losses. Tibetan religion and culture have reached the point of complete destruction. I pray that the Tibetan people achieve happiness as a result of the efforts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Boddhisattva motivation of the great spiritual beings of all sects, and the common merit and prayers of the Tibetan people themselves.
"I am actually an ordinary refugee from Tibet. But I have now become a famous refugee in this Arya land of India. This is due to the grace of the Indian leaders and people, great efforts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the concerns of the great spiritual beings of all sects. I wish to thank the Tibetan people in different parts of the world and the media persons for showing interest in my case.
"Today, I was invited to the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts and given the opportunity to witness performances here. I consider myself very fortunate to have got this opportunity. I pray for the spread of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts' fame throughout the world.
"I pray that the life of the great Tibetan leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, remain like that of the Buddha of Life. I pray that the great spiritual beings of all sects enjoy the vajra-like long life. I pray that the Tibetans in Tibet and exile enjoy happiness, sound health, non-violence and peace. I also pray that the media persons are able to travel round the world with cameras in their hands.
"May all of you enjoy happiness, well-being and prosperity on this auspicious day.
Ogyen Trinley Dorjee endorsed 17th Karmapa
DHARAMSALA, AUG. 19. (The Hindu) - The third international Kagyu dharma conference at Gyuto Monastery near here today unanimously endorsed Ogyen Trinley Dorjee, who had fled from Tibet in January this year, as the 17th Karmapa.
The conference, attended by delegates from different countries, expressed concern over the controversy raised by Shamar Rinpoche and a few others causing harm to the Kagyu sect and called for immediate steps to end it.
The copies of the letter written by Shamar Rinpoche to the Dalai Lama, stating that Ogyen Trinley Dorjee was selected by Situ Rimpoche with Chinese help and the selection of Thaye Dorjee was made by him and so both the Karmapas should be accepted, were also distributed at the conference.
The Dalai Lama rejected the theory of two Karmapas and asserted that Ramtek Monastery was the real seat of Karmapa. And Ogyen Trinley Dorjee should be handed over the charge of the monastery.
The speakers asserted that under these circumstances there was no confusion about the real Karmapa.
The conference also decided to move a resolution reposing faith in Ogyen Trinley Dorjee and making an appeal to the Indian Government to grant him political asylum.
WTN-L World Tibet Network News