Open letter from H.H. Shamar Rinpoche to Mick Brown

Posted on Posted in Letter

Date: 28 March 2005

Mr. Mick Brown
c/o Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 38, Soho Square London
WID 3HB United Kingdom

Dear Mr. Brown:

I refer to your letter dated 12th December, 2004.

You said in your letter: ‘the focus of this book is quite clearly the story of Urgyen Trinlay and the controversy’. Yes, it is quite clearly that, but only as if everything you say was self-evident and could not be otherwise. All of this no doubt is to give yourself the vantage point from which to steer the story so that your book will ‘make(s) quite clear who was in control of Rumtek…. the circumstances around the take-over of Rumtek….the court-case that resulted from this.’ In other words what is so abundantly clear is the simple and obvious fact that Urgyen Trinlay is used a priori in your book to put a shine on the ‘empirical’, which then doubles-back to reinforce the a priori . That in short is the logic of your book from back to front!

Prior to your letter we had complained that your report was biased for marginalizing the court case at Gangtok, the reasons for which being crucial to the understanding of the controversy. I had explained this to you at length in Delhi , so what has prompted you now to say that you ‘intended to write more [italics added] when the court had made its final ruling’, as if you had so much to say on the court case all this time?

But clearly, yours is not a question of writing more or writing less about the court case. The fact is, you have written nothing at all – nothing beyond a perfunctory mention. Naturally, you would feel compelled to use the court case’s pending status to justify your outright dismissal of it – now that we have complained. But even if you had thought non-publication of material impinging on a pending court case was the judicious thing to do at the time, questions remain as to why you then thought it all right to publish – upon mere hearsay – just that kind of incriminating stories like Topga Rinpoche (the man was conveniently dead by then) had master-minded a plan to seize Rumtek Monastery and have it handed over to me?

Doesn’t an ‘independent journalist’ have the duty not to flaunt material that may be prejudicial to a pending court case? But no, quite the contrary, you managed to prize – for publication – just this sort of material out of one Tenzin Namgyal without even considering whether the man or his testimony would stand up in a court of law!

Therefore, allegations and innuendos abound in your book and they are nothing if not prejudicial to the on-going court case at Gangtok – never mind that they are just ‘anecdotes’ that you have ‘absent-mindedly’ littered here and there with the pretense that they are precisely what is needed to string and shore up the ‘story of Urgyen Trinlay’ from head to tail – a story which might otherwise be too slippery to land!

But the truth is, if you had wanted to play safe you would not have published anything at all because, in a nut-shell, the court case is the entire controversy!

You also tell of Topga Rinpoche’s brushes with the law when he allegedly tried to smuggle gold into India in 1982 – fully ten years before the controversy had even started and the Kagyu sect was at peace with itself. So what bearing does this story have exactly on either side of the controversy? Though the incident occurred well before the controversy, you would tag it to the Karmapa issue. And though it was discharged, you still insist that it was only due to intervention by the Royal Family of Bhutan but not to clarification by competent authorities of the relevant documents in the Indo-Bhutan Treaty – because the ‘intercepted’ shipment was for Bhutan . No matter, but as far as Urgyen Trinlay the star of your book is concerned, this is a non-issue. So the question is, why did you have to dig ‘deep’ and drag it in when clearly it is irrelevant?

Rights and wrongs apart, but do you really think that all these juicy gossips will help launch Urgyen Trinlay to the world? It is bad enough to have a disagreement in the lineage, but is it really necessary to hang dirty linens everywhere and, on top of it, publish a book? Clearly by sparing no one you debase what you set out to glorify.

That is not the end of it. Another of your own brushes with Topga Rinpoche is provided by the unfortunate occasion of Mr. Damchoe Yongdu’s sudden death. Here, you attempt to link Topga Rinpoche to Yongdu’s death, but for a start your report dispenses with important witnesses present at the time of Damchoe Yongdu’s death – Yongdu’s brother Mr. Lekshey Drayang; hence, by the same token you dispense with the witness’s crucial statement that Yongdu had died of a heart attack but not of poisoning. Had you been willing as a reporter, you would have let duty prevail and direct you to the family of the deceased in the first instant. But for strange reasons you preferred bending over backwards to consult, who else but Tenzin Namgyal, who was not even in the same country when Yongdu died. Yongdu died in Bhutan .

But, even before the ink was dry as it were, you bent over backward yet again to recant: ‘The book makes quite clear that there was no evidence of foul play, or of Topga Rinpoche being involved…’. That being the case, the question again is why did you have to drag in Topga Rinpoche? In view of this kind of double-talk and unsubstantiated allegations one cannot but warn readers that the intention to smear Topga Rinpoche’s good name cannot be entirely ruled out.

In view of what I have said above, correction to the ‘facts’ in your book is wanting and imperative.

On a personal note, however: There is something I would like to reflect on regarding the modern and perhaps reputable notion of ‘Journalistic Independence’ or ‘Freedom of Speech’ as it is practised in say, Britain. Call them democracy if you will, but these grand-sounding jargons are often just licenses for reporting insinuations on basis of mere conjecture: for example, that Princess Diana’s fatal accident might be premeditated; and from there allegations that the Queen is behind a conspiracy to get rid of the crowned princess are an open invitation in the newspapers and books.

Rumour-mongering may have become a specialized trade these days: but does this sleight-of-hand of the trade really give you the right then to export these high-minded notions to third-world nations and there to spread fear and insecurity, to accuse innocent people whether they are commoners or privileged royals? Is freedom free of morality and decency? Or is it so self-righteous and myopic that it has no patience for anyone or anything?

Finally, with your last paragraph in mind I would like to summarize as follows:-

The controversy started when Situ Rinpoche surrendered our Karma Kagyu rights to the Tibetan government-in-exile, a decision which I disagree with. Clearly, as such a decision involves Karma Kagyu, this is a matter which only I and Situ Rinpoche as leaders of the school can resolve. Unfortunately we had to invite the court to mediate between us.

Therefore, I would respectfully say to you that there is no need for you to look for a solution for us. As for your reporting, whatever you write will be welcome by us as long as you are objective and telling the truth – and I am sure Situ Rinpoche would not mind that either – otherwise you would only stir up more trouble just when feelings on both sides have been pacified.

Yours truly,

Shamar Rimpoche