Open letter from Michael den Hoet to the “TIMES OF INDIA”

Posted on Posted in Letter

Sikkim awaits Delhi’s word on Karmapa – TOI, 20.05.03

Date: 29.05.03
Dear Mahendra Ved, dear Ladies and Gentlemen of the editorial staff of the TIMES OF INDIA,

With great interest we read your article on the Statement of Chief Minister Pawan Chamling concerning the Monastery Rumtek in Sikkim, the main exile seat of the 16th Karmapa.

You mentioned that there are “500 odd Kagyu centres all over the world”. We want to let you know that more than 450 of these Buddhist centres world-wide consider H. H. Trinley Thaye Dorje to be the genuine Karmapa. He was discovered and recognized by H. H. Shamar Rinpoche, the lama traditionally responsible for the search of H. H. the Karmapa’s authentic reincarnation.

The candidate mentioned by Mr. Chamling, Ugyen Trinley, was promoted as the Karmapa titleholder by authorities clearly outside the Karma Kagyu tradition, e. g. the Tibetan government-in-exile of H. H. the Dalai Lama or the Communist Chinese Bureau for Religious Affairs.

And what caused this interference? The answer is simple: politics.

The Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim rightfully belongs to the bodies of the Karma Kagyu lineage itself, and should not be considered as an object of political ambitions. Currently there is a court case pending on the possession of Rumtek: The “Karmapa Charitable Trust” (KCT) – installed as the administrative body for Rumtek by the former Karmapa himself – against the Union State of Sikkim. The background: In August 1993 the KCT was violently driven out of the seat by militant supporters of the alternative candidate. The State government (at that time under Chief Minister N. B. Bandhari) did neither stop them nor did he allow the KCT to return afterwards. We are eagerly awaiting the decision and would highly appreciate if His Excellency Mr. Chamling respected the independence of judiciary, instead of publicly taking sides.

We highly regret that the Karmapa title, belonging to one of the most important reincarnated Tibetan Buddhist Lamas, had been abused for political purposes for many years. The aims of the Karma Kagyu lineage – one of four completely independent branches within Tibetan Buddhism – are purely spiritual. Only by consequently keeping out of politics was it possible for the Karmapa and other high reincarnated Lamas to maintain the precious spiritual heritage of this Buddhist tradition for centuries.

Yours sincerely
Michael den Hoet
German Buddhist Association “Buddhistischer Dachverband Diamantweg” (BDD)

Press Speaker International Affairs

The German Buddhist association BDD and its affiliated Kagyu organisations represent about 20.000 Westerners practising Buddhism in more than 400 centres and groups of the Karma Kagyu tradition world-wide.


Here’s the original Article:

Sikkim awaits Delhi’s word on Karmapa
By MAHENDRA VED, Times Of India, May 20, 2003

GANGTOK, Sikkim (India) — Playing host to a large Tibetan population from the other side of the Kanchenjunga, Sikkim has decided to stand behind the Union government in dealing with the delicate issue of who should head the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre, the headquarter-in-exile of the Karma Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism.

Chief Minister P K Chamling had in the recent past lobbied with the Centre for an early resolution of the issue. But now his uppermost concern is that the monastery, one of the richest of the 500-odd Kagyu centres all over the world, remains peaceful.

With positive signals emanating from Beijing in the wake of defence minister George Fernandes’ talks with the Chinese leadership and the impending visit by Prime Minister Vajpayee, he appears to have adopted a neutral stance so as not to embarrass New Delhi while it talks to Beijing.

“The lamas are fighting. I am concerned about the law and order situation at Rumtek, which I shall maintain at all cost,” Chamling told a media team here.

Conscious of the fallout on the Sino-Indian relations, he says: “I am too small a fry to comment on it. My responsibility as CM of a strategic border state is to abide by the government’s policies.”

An uneasy calm prevails at the monastery, 24 kilometres from here, as it awaits a Karmapa to head it. Security was stepped up after the 9/11 terror attacks in the US and on Parliament in New Delhi on December 13, 2001. A strong CISF posse keeps a watch on the tourists.

The monastery’s secretary says Rumtek is awaiting New Delhi’s decision on the Karmapa. “It is only a matter of time.”

Rumtek has been without a head since 1981 after the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, who had fled Tibet in 1959, died. The task of Chamling, as also his predecessors, has been made complex by the presence of a contender in Sikkim and factionalism among the regents, split into two groups in 1992 and a year later, engaged in violent clashes at the monastery complex. The state government intervened, stationed armed police and banned entry of the rival contenders.

The arrival of Urgyen Thinley, who fled Tibet in January 2000, has fuelled the decade-long succession row among the Rumtek regents. Chamling, and the Dalai Lama himself, have lobbied for Urgyen Thinley, who now lives in Dharamshala. But New Delhi would like to ensure that he is not a “Chinese agent”, as alleged in some quarters.

There have been reports of the twin issue figuring alongside an Sino-Indian understanding on Sikkim’s merger during the Vajpayee visit. When Vajpayee came here last month, the Rumtek issue did figure. Representations were also made. But the PM, officials here say, maintained a studied silence. It is far from clear whether his Beijing visit would prove conclusive on this score.