Dear Ms. Hilton,
I have recently read your March 12th New York Times Magazine article about the flight of Ugyen Trinley from Tibet to Dharamsala. In it you have written about a very complicated series of events, which to understand and express accurately requires careful research and investigation. In numerous places you have made statements that are inaccurate or misleading, and therefore, have negative ramifications for the Karma Kagyu lineage. I would like to bring several of these to your attention:
1. You mention Chogyur Dechen Lingpa’s prophetic dream in the 19th century about the 21 Karmapas that has been made into a painting which survives today. Regarding this dream, you state that in the section of the painting referring to the 17th Karmapa, the landscape “… bears a striking resemblance to the landscape in which Tai Situ Rinpoche has built Rumtek, his monastery in Sikkim.” His Holiness 16th Gyalwa Karmapa built Rumtek Monastery in 1962 on land given to him by the King of Sikkim. Situ Rinpoche was 9 years old at this time and living in Darjeeling. Situ did not come to Rumtek to study until after it was completed. Regarding the meaning of Chogyur Dechen Lingpa’s dream: There have been many interpretations, the one most commonly accepted is that the scene depicted had already occurred many years ago.
2. Later in the article, you refer to a “row” which began at Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche’s funeral in 1992. There are several problems with this paragraph.
A) The “regency” of the four senior lamas was dissolved in 1984. Therefore, addressing the remaining three as regents in 1992 is inaccurate and misleading.
B) Problems began long before the funeral. At a meeting on March 19, 1992 of ShaMar Rimpoche, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche, the dubious prediction letter was presented. (See point 3 regarding authenticity of this letter.) Because of questions about letter, the four lamas agreed that Kongtrul Rinpoche should go to Tibet to investigate the boy, and no public announcement would be made for eight months. Sadly, before this could happen Kongtrul Rinpoche died in an automobile accident and Situ Rinpoche unilaterally violated the agreement by prematurely declaring Ugyen Trinley to be Karmapa.
C) You say that at the funeral, two lamas backed Ugyen Trinley and one disagreed. Obviously if Kongtrul Rinpoche was to go to Tibet, he must have shared ShaMar Rinpoche’s doubts. However, it doesn’t matter if one or one hundred disagreed. All doubts could have been assuaged, had Situ Rinpoche allowed the letter to be forensically tested. (See point 3.)
D) In your references to His Holiness ShaMar Rinpoche and his efforts to find and enthrone the authentic Karmapa, you introduce him as the nephew of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa. This is true, however it is also inaccurate by omission. ShaMar Rinpoche was recognized and enthroned by H. H. 16th Karmapa as the 13th Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche. By tradition and practice for last nine hundred years, and corroborated by the 16th Karmapa himself, ShaMar Rinpoche is second only to the Karmapa in spiritual authority within the Karma Kagyu and has the sacred responsibility to protect and lead the lineage. This is the driving force behind his efforts to find the true spiritual leader of the lineage, Thaye Dorje, not his family ties to the former Karmapa.
3. You state that H. H. ShaMar Rinpoche called Situ Rinpoche’s prediction letter a forgery, but you do not explain why. The many specific reasons, such as the smeared signature, misspellings common to Situ Rinpoche, errors in the predicted year of birth, etc., have been well documented in books and are easy for you to research. However, the main point is that ShaMar Rinpoche made the simple request that forensic testing authenticate the letter, and Situ Rinpoche has consistently refused to allow this. Situ maintains that this is a holy document and should not be subjected to testing. This reason is transparent and totally against Buddhist teachings. The Buddha himself told his followers to examine, analyze, and question everything; not to accept something on faith alone.
4. You state: “Despite the Dalai Lama’s endorsement of Ugyen Trinley, Shamar never abandoned his own candidate’s claim.” We, the Karma Kagyu have never looked outside our own lineage or requested that H. H. the Dalai Lama confirm or endorse a Karmapa reincarnation. In fact, before H. H. the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje was found by the Karma Kagyu, the son of one of the Dalai Lama’s ministers was recognized by H. H. the 13th Dalai Lama. This boy was rejected by the Karma Kagyu administration at Tsurphu Monastery, the seat of the Karmapa in Tibet, and the Dalai Lama accepted this decision and withdrew his recognition. It is very important to the future of the Karma Kagyu lineage that the Karmapa is recognized from within the lineage by traditional methods. H. H. ShaMar Rinpoche and many other Rinpoche’s and lamas from all the lineages are very concerned about maintaining the independence and integrity of the lineages, and not allowing a precedent be set that requires outside approval, be it by H. H. the Dalai Lama, the Chinese Government or anyone else.
5. You state: “Today, he (ShaMar Rinpoche) and his supporters continue to battle through the courts and in the press for control of Rumtek monastery and its treasures.” This implies that H. H. ShaMar Rinpoche’s motives are to control the monastery and its wealth. In fact, the true treasure is H. H. Karmapa Thaye Dorje, the authentic Karmapa Bodhisattva and true spiritual leader of the lineage. It is important that Thaye Dorje has been recognized by traditional means. It is also important that he reside at his own seat, Rumtek monastery, and continue the work started there by H. H. 16th Karmapa. It is humorous to think that ShaMar Rinpoche will control either the Karmapa or His property. H. H. Karmapa is not a child, as you will find out when you meet him. He will control his own assets.
6. You quote an anonymous source as saying, “There is no security problem in Sikkim. But Shamar has some influence in some of the Indian intelligence services, so questions are asked.” This is very misleading. These “questions” have been asked for many years by the Indian Government. There has been so much hard evidence that the backers of Ugyen Trinley have engaged in of anti-Indian activities, that the government has taken extraordinary counter-measures–first banning Situ Rinpoche from the country, and then after lifting the ban, severely restricting his movements within India. Additionally, what proof is there that H. H. ShaMar Rinpoche has close ties to Indian intelligence? People can say anything, but that does not make it true. As this is not true, you should have delved into the matter more deeply, or confirmed it in your meeting with ShaMar Rinpoche before you linked him in such a conspiratorial way to Indian intelligence.
I hope this has helped to clarify some of the issues. It is very important to our lineage that this issue is presented accurately. Thank you for your time.
Bodhi Path Buddhist Center