7th July 2004
International Karma Kagyu Buddhist Organisation
B 19-20 Qutab Institutional Area
New Delhi 110016
Dear Karma Wangchuck
Thank you for your letter of June 2. Some misunderstandings seem to have arisen on your side concerning me and my book The Dance of 17 Lives. I would like to set the record straight. You state in your letter that I have been ‘a student of Akong Tulku at Samye Ling in Scotland for decades’. I notice that you repeat this assertion on your web site karmapa-issue.org. This is incorrect. I am not, and nor have I ever been, a student of Akong Tulku. Nor am I a member of the Samye Ling community. For the record, I have met Akong Tulku only twice, both times in the course of researching the book. Nor am I a student or devotee of Tai Situ Rinpoche, a you imply; nor of any other Tibetan Buddhist lama or teacher. Actually, I am not a Buddhist.
You further state on your web site that my book was written ‘after Mr Tashi Wangdu, a minister within the Tibetan Government in Exile, approached Bloomsbury publishing to take on the project’. Again, this is simply not true. There were no discussions between Bloomsbury and Mr. Tashi Wangdu prior to Bloomsburry commissioning me to write the book; nor in the course of my writing it, nor since. The book was solely the product of discussions between Bloomsbury and myself, and had nothing whatsoever to do with any official or agent of the Government in Exile, nor any other organisation or individual. I hope this is clear, and I would be grateful if you would correct these inaccuracies on your web site.
Naturally, I am saddened that you regret having decided to co-operate with me in writing the book. My object in writing the book was not, as you suggest, to propagandise on behalf of any party or individual, but simply to present an independent and objective account of the Karmapa story, as I found it, for a general readership. To this end, I was very glad to be able to able to speak at considerable length with Shamar Rinpoche, Khenpo Choedrak, Thaye Dorje and others, and grateful for the courtesy and co-operation that was extended to me. I have endeavoured to represent all of these encounters and conversations accurately and fairly in the book.
I felt it was particularly important that Shamar Rinpoche should be given the opportunity fully to state his position and make clear his views on all the salient points of the story: the authenticity or otherwise of the prediction letter; Rinpoche’s relationship with the 16th Karmapa; his own position in the Karma-Kagya hierarchy; his discovery of Thaye Dorje; his contention that the recognition of Ogyen Trinley constitutes an attempt by the Dalai Lama and the Gelugpa to take over the Karma Kagyu school; his conversations with the Dalai Lama and so on. All of these points, and more, are covered extensively in the book. I have also taken great care to ensure that Rinpoche, like everybody else interviewed for the book, is quoted accurately and in context. In this regard, you state in your letter that Rinpoche ‘has also never suggested that any tests be conducted on (Ogyen Trinley]’: my taped conversation with Rinpoche-as your copy will corroborate-clearly states that he was considering naming the lama whom Rinpoche says holds the 16th Karmapa’s true instructions if ‘two procedures’ were to go ahead: ‘To disclose his name, first Situ Rinpoche’s letter should go into forensic science test, number one. Number two, Ogyen Trinley should have bone-marrow test.’
On the subject of Rumtek, it was never my intention to explore in depth the issue of the ownership of the monastery-the book would have been a third as long again if I had done so. I also felt it was important to wait until the court had passed its own final verdict on the case before writing more on this particular subject. But I hope such information as I have given in the book will allow readers to make up their own minds about the legality or otherwise of the take-over of Rumtek by Tai Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches. I intend to report more fully on the background and detail of the case, for the paperback edition of the book, when the court delivers it’s final ruling. To this end, I would welcome the opportunity to interview the original trustees of the KCT at that time.
Like you, I hope the wounds within the Karma Kaygu are soon healed. As an interested outsider, it seems to me that the continuance of this dispute brings no benefit to anybody. Of course, you must feel free to disseminate your letter where you please. I trust you will afford me the courtesy of giving my reply equal circulation, and of correcting the misinformation that has been circulating about the book, about Bloomsburry, my intentions and me.