We refer to Mr Tashi Wangdi’s (minister of religious and cultural affairs, exiled Tibetan government) statement in the Times of India on 14th of August, 2001. We respectfully disagree with his statement, which says that “there should be no controversy at all about the 17th Karmapa and head of the Kagyu sect, Urgyen Trinley Dorje.”
We disagree with it because of the pretension the Tibetan exiled government can brush aside any contention or opposition created as a result of its machinations. We oppose it because it seeks to accuse both Thaye Dorje and Dawa Sangpo of duplicity and sham while offering no proof or explanation as would be prudent and appropriate in a pronouncement of this importance.
In consequence to statements such as this, a climate of suspicion and confusion has been created and perpetuated by the exiled government. On numerous occasions we are forced to make corrective statements to the exiled government’s statements in order to clarify our positions, statements that are open to verification any time.
With regard to Dawa Sangpo, he is recognised and supported by the Sikkimese Sharpa community as the Karmapa. Although Mr. Wangdi equates Dawa Sangpo with Thaye Dorje, he obviously neglects to mention an important point of reference that would have made this equation invalid, namely: that Dawa Sangpo’s
position is at variance with the tradition of the school to which this
particular community claims he belongs, i.e. to-date, he has not been recognised or accepted by either Shamar Rinpoche or Situ Rinpoche according to tradition.
If history means anything at all, Mr Wangdi has conveniently dispensed with it by taking the Karmapa’s recognition completely out of context by limiting it to a mere question of the ‘prediction letter’. But if tradition is any guide for human conduct, then it is worthwhile for Mr. Wangdi to note that, by Karma Kagyupa tradition, the Shamarpas have always been responsible for
the recognition or enthronement of the historical Karmapas: only when the Shamarpa is indisposed would Situ Rinpoche step in to fill the gap. Because of Mr Wangdi’s statement and limited, albeit chosen perspective, it is appropriate to remind the reader that the history of Karma Kagyu tradition can be freely verified by anyone interested: all he or she needs to do is to refer to any of the major reference libraries in the USA, China, the Himalayan countries or India.
But, since Mr Wangdi has elected to narrow down the reincarnation issue to the ‘prediction letter’, at the expense of the Dalai Lama’s perceived authority, one might add, it would be pertinent to recall the Tibetan exiled government’s earlier insistence on the Dalai Lama’s final word on the Karmapa issue. Is the complexity of reincarnation issues too much for Mr. Wangdi? His has been such a patchwork and arbitrary presentation of ‘the relevant facts’ that one is tempted to wonder if the minister is just incompetent in his job or he has another agenda. In any case taking a broader view of the complex
intertwining of Tibetan politics and religion might provide a better insight about the purpose and activities of the exiled government and, by implication, its bold disregard of public perception whenever it changes tack to suit its convenience.
One possible account is that: As the majority of Tibetan youths outside Tibet grows up in India and Himalayas, in a secular environment and goes to schools run by the exiled government, the traditional attachment to the identities respectively of the four religious schools is now replaced by a single national Tibetan identity represented almost exclusively by the Dalai Lama
and his exiled government, to the extent that the time-honoured distinctions of the Four Schools are no longer relevant in their lives.
The other possible account is: As idealistic and western disciples and followers of the Dalai Lama have now fatefully wedded their utopia to adistant Tibet and Tibetans dispossessed of their country, the majority of westerners would gladly identify the ideal of compassion and enlightenment in Tibetan Buddhism with Tibetan freedom and the Tibetans’ ‘natural’ goodness. And since the Dalai Lama would have been an important head of state as well as a ‘sacred’ Buddhist monk (if Tibet were independent), westerners would also tend to regard the Dalai Lama implicitly, like Popes used to be, as supreme, infallible and perfect.
This then explains the boldness of the exiled government’s ability and success to always put itself beyond the reach of critical examination. It is unfortunate that this should be allowed to happen at all, especially in face of the fact that the US Library of Congress had spent millions of dollars in past decades to gather and purchase extensive collections of Tibetan texts, both religious and secular, from India and Tibet, and deposited them in libraries across the country: Yet today, these ancient documents are just so
much ‘waste paper’, because when it is time to study these records for better understanding of current Tibetan problems, few if any have taken the trouble to do it.
Lastly we are obliged to correct Mr. Wangdi’s statement which, apparently, refers to our “allegations that the Dalai Lama was supporting Urgyen Trinley Dorje” was ” ‘due to financial reason’ “, etc. We never said that the Dalai Lama’s support of Urgyen Trinley was due to financial reasons. But we did say that it was for political reasons that the Dalai Lama supported Urgyen Trinley as the Karmapa incarnation, and that it was completely out of character with our Karma Kagyu tradition.
Nonetheless, now that Mr. Wangdi, as minister of religion and cultural affairs, has changed tack again by saying that “a Karmapa is always chosen by the previous Karmapa, and according to a letter written by the 16th Karmapa¦.”,etc., we will perhaps agree with him. To give him the benefit of the doubt, his statement appears to be in agreement with our tradition. Adherence to tradition is what we have repeatedly demanded in the past, namely:
1) if there is no letter of prediction, then the principal leader or leaders of the Karma Kagyu school will recognise or approve, as the case may be, the new Karmapa;
2) if, however, there is a letter of prediction, then the new incarnation should be recognised in accordance with the letter’s instructions.
If the letter of prediction produced by Situ Rinpoche in 1992 is proven to be genuine, we would follow it without question to the end, and no doubt the Karmapa controversy would then be resolved peacefully. In any case we should be most appreciative if the exiled government would refrain from interfering further with our Karma Kagyu School. We should be most appreciative if the exiled government would respect our rights to our own affairs, and not to change the direction or the tone of dialogue again.
International Karma Kagyu Organisation
15 August, 2001