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

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This is the ninth article in a series of responses to Mick Brown’s The Dance of 17 Lives: The Incredible True Story of Tibet’s 17th Karmapa (Bloomsbury , 2004).

Date: 22.11.2004

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

As I did not get any reply to my letter dated 12th July 2004 I am now writing to you once again. In your book, page 103, you wrote regarding me that: One Western devotee recalls being with him in New York, in an apartment on 5th Avenue, with a wealthy sponsor, ‘and he extracted this USD 25,000 donation, just like that. He had enormous charm and personality. It was just his way.’

This is only one of the numerous false allegations against myself and Topga Rinpoche in your book. Indirectly there are many wrong allegations against H.H. 16th Karmapa as well. The sources of these false allegations are mainly unnamed Tibetan refugees from different places, unimportant to the specific issues. As you often present the allegations by simply saying that “someone” said so, I believe that you are deliberately choosing this way of reporting to prevent yourself from being sued. As your style of presentations includes this deliberate method it is not true that you wrote the book as an unbiased journalist.

Let us as an example select one topic, namely the issue of Rumtek’s take-over by the party of Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches, on August 2, 1993. In your book you write a lot about the Tibetan Labrang (administration) system. Therefore you know very well that both Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches have had their own separate Labrangs for hundreds of years. You also know exactly what rights they have and which ones they don’t have. Twelve years had already passed since the demise of H.H. 16th Karmapa when his monastery was violently taken over by Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches. During all these years Karmapa’s own administration had taken care of his monastery.

As a journalist you should have at least checked the identity of Karmapa’s legal administration. With a minimum of research you would have found out that The Karmapa Charitable Trust administered Rumtek since His Holiness had passed away. This is no secret and well recorded! Therefore it would have been beneficial to your readers if you had contacted all trustees and obtained first-hand and correct information about what exactly happened when the monastery was taken over. This would have enabled you to correctly report the facts in your book. However, you avoided any contact with the senior trustees, appointed by the late Karmapa himself and thus you are deliberately misleading your audience by twisting the truth and by presenting an completely false report of the events. By doing so you are intentionally covering up the wrongdoings of Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches.

Some time ago the IKKBO had asked you why you did not contact The Karmapa Charitable Trust at all. You replied that you did not do so in order to prevent your book becoming too voluminous. This is not true. The main two topics of the Karmapa controversy are: The disagreement between myself, Shamarpa, and Situ Rinpoche regarding the recognition of the 17th Karmapa and the determination of the rightful administration of Rumtek monastery. It would have been much better for you to consult both Situ Rinpoche and myself about the reincarnation issue first and then to make your own conclusions based on your findings. Regarding the question of Karmapa’s administration it would have been correct and fair to contact both the administrators of Karmapa’s seat at Rumtek from 1981 to 1993 and the group, which took over the monastery in 1993. Such an approach would have given you a better basis for your own analysis.

If you had based your book on facts and true information it would not have become too thick a book, perhaps only 80 pages. If, however, you wanted more pages than that, you could have gone into the historical records or made interviews with more peripheral parties. Instead you went astray from the main topics of the Karmapa issue. Your description of the brief meetings with myself in Delhi and with Khenpo Chodrak at one time are only designed to give your readers the illusion that you informed yourself properly. However, your book proves that our interviews were just stage-managed. You never asked us to explain or even comment about most of your accusations, which allegedly unidentified persons had passed on to you. On the other hand you deliberately include long, fabricated stories from people like Tenzin Namgyal and Bokar Ngodrub.

My conclusion of the above is that your book is not an unbiased journalistic presentation at all, which you pretend it to be, but a book written in support of Situ Rinpoche’s malicious activities. In fact it is nothing more than a collection of gossip. Despite all your efforts your book does not benefit anybody. First of all you deliberately misinform your readers. Secondly, because of all the stated lies, your book does not even serve Urgyen Trinle’s wish to go to Rumtek. Last but not least, it also does not help Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche to win their pending lawsuit. On the other hand your book does stir up the Kagyu controversy once again and thus it creates even more fighting between the different administrations, families and people.

In your book you also cleverly indicate in a convincing way that the late Topga Rinpoche might have poisoned the General Secretary Dhamcho Yongdu. In this incident you say that Tenzin Namgyal informed you of this. However, Dhamcho Yongdu’s own brother Legshe Dayang has meanwhile revealed the truth concerning his brother’s death. He was personally present and witnessed his brother’s death from a heart attack! Dhamcho Yongdu did not die from poisoning. Still you mislead your readers in order that they believe that a highly respectable person, who has previously been proven innocent, may in fact be a killer. Your slander naturally creates irreparable hate between the families of Tenzin Namgyal and the late Topga Rinpoche.

In brief, your allegation on page 103 is obviously only another example of what I have explained in this letter. I never received a donation of USD 25.000 from any person living on 5th Avenue in my whole life. Nor did I ever induce anyone on 5th Avenue or anywhere else to hand over USD 25.000 to me. Since you are reporting about my life, I am certainly entitled to ask you to provide me with the source of this particular allegation. I am asking you once again to disclose to me the name of the person who supposedly told you this story. However, if you do not want to name your source you should at least have the courage to prove your point to me yourself. If you cannot prove your story, you should definitely not have written such a slanderous accusation in your book. By doing so you went far beyond any acceptable standard of ethical behaviour.

Yours sincerely
Shamar Rinpoche