Open letter from Neeraj KC to Mick Brown

Posted on Posted in Letter

Dear Mr. Brown:

I wish to draw your attention to several misstatements that you made in your book from your meeting with H.H. Shamar Rinpoche in New Delhi.

At the time, I was a student of Karmapa International Buddhist Institute and was working for Shamar Rinpoche’s office. You contacted Rinpoche to request an interview for a book you were doing for Bloomsbury about Orgyen Trinley and the Karmapa controversy. You said that you wanted to include points of view from both sides in your book.

Shamar Rinpoche told me that it would be fine to meet for one interview but that the Karmapa controversy was too complicated to cover in that time. Therefore, to help you, Rinpoche offered to introduce Mrs. Tina Draszczyk, an editor of The Karmapa Papers, as a resource to offer you more detailed information. Rinpoche explained that he would not have more time for further interviews and that Mrs. Draszczyk would be available to answer your future queries.

Mrs. Draszczyk was now running a Dharma center in Vienna. In response to your question, she explained that there were two centers in Vienna, one run by Lama Ole Nydahl and one run by her husband and herself, directly under H.H. Karmapa. So when you implied that Mrs. Draszczyk was a student of Lama Ole, you made an error.

Since the electricity at KIBI had been intermittent all week, Rinpoche invited you to join a lunch at the Hyatt Regency that had already been planned for the next day with Rinpoche’s disciple Hans Luehrs from Hong Kong. Rinpoche also invited Mrs. Draszczyk to this lunch to meet with you.

The next day, as planned, before the lunch, Rinpoche met you in the Hyatt Regency’s lounge for an interview.

In response to your questions about how the controversy began, Rinpoche explained the whole story from beginning to end, particularly about the forged letter and the takeover of Rumtek by Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches and other outside people. Rinpoche also explained how the Karmapa Charitable Trust operated and how Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches were from a different administration than Gyalwa Karmapa’s, so that they had no rights by tradition or by law to interfere in the affairs of Rumtek, the monastic seat of the late Karmapa.

Rinpoche also explained how, since all three rinpoches, Shamar, Situ and Gyaltsab, were part of the Karma Kagyu, each had the authority to suggest Karmapa candidates. However, none had the authority to confirm any candidate – only the Rumtek administration could do this. Rinpoche made this point very clear to you.

Finally, you asked Shamar Rinpoche to respond to Situ Rinpoche’s claim that the reason he handed Orgyen Trinley over to the Chinese authorities was because the boy was born on Chinese soil, in Tibet. Shamar Rinpoche replied that if Orgyen Trinley was to be the official Karmapa, then the only office with the authority to decide whether he was the genuine Karmapa or not, where he would live and other details of his official role, would be the office of Rumtek Monastery.

When these subjects were finished, Rinpoche took you along with Mrs. Draszczyk and myself to his lunch with Mr. Luehrs. During lunch an informal discussion started about the problems in the relationship between H.H. Dalai Lama and the late 16th Karmapa.

As a secretary of Shamar Rinpoche at the time, I was very surprised to see that when your book came out, you reported very little of what Shamar Rinpoche had said in your interview. Instead, you focused on the casual lunch conversation, reporting comments about H.H. Dalai Lama and Shamar Rinpoche’s informal observations about his uncle the late Karmapa. You reported little of the information that Rinpoche had given you earlier concerning the Karmapa controversy. That was supposed to be the main topic of your meeting with Rinpoche, yet you obviously found the casual lunchtime talk more interesting.

And unfortunately, you implied that Rinpoche was staying in the hotel and that he had come down from a hotel room for the interview, which is untrue. We had already informed you that Rinpoche was simply meeting you at the hotel for the interview. You made another mistake too – you described Rinpoche as drinking coffee. However, everyone who knows him is aware that Shamar Rinpoche never drinks coffee, but sticks strictly to tea for his hot beverage of choice.

Finally, Mr. Luehrs, the host of the lunch, answered all of your questions about how he had met his wife, how they had three children, and how old they both were and so on. So you made another misstatement, apparently intentional, when you said that Mrs. Luehrs appeared twenty years younger than her husband, making an unpleasant implication.

In conclusion, when I analyze how you report your meeting with Shamar Rinpoche, it appears to me that you must have some kind of agenda. It appears that you intentionally take many details out of context while getting other details wrong. This allows you to portray Rinpoche as a kind worldly lama – more a businessman than a spiritual teacher – with Mr. Luehrs as a business partner, rather than a student. You even knowingly seem to imply that Mrs. Luehrs is a kind of trophy wife, which I suppose is what you think worldly businessmen have.

To me, your words could not be more inaccurate in spirit. Here, I will not try to convey to you my own feelings for Shamar Rinpoche.

What I will say is that this kind of petty misrepresentation seems very disrespectful to people who have done much to spread the Dharma in the West. Your language demonstrates clear bias. Given that this bias is as evident in the major points of your argument as it is in these small details, I cannot see how you can claim that your book is balanced journalism. Instead, it seems to be little more than propaganda for Situ Rinpoche and his allies.

Neeraj K.C.

Read also the response to this letter by Mick Brown