Open letter from Shamar Rinpoche to Mick Brown

Posted on Posted in Letter

Answer to a letter by Mick Brown

Date: 23.08.2005

Mick Brown
c/o Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
London W1D 3QY
United Kingdom

Dear Mr. Brown:

Thank you for your letter of July 19 of this year.

I did not enter into your exchange of letters with Neeraj about the Rumtek court case and Topga Rinpoche. But my letter to you of March 28 of this year challenged the points you made in your letter to Neeraj, so actually, you have not replied to the substance of my points on these two subjects.

On the donation in question, you will recall that in your book The Dance of 17 Lives, on page 103, you write that Shamar “also had a gift for raising funds. One Western devotee recalls being with him in New York, in an apartment on 5th Avenue, with a wealthy sponsor, ‘and he extracted this $25,000 donation, just like that. He had enormous charm and personality. It was just his way.”

I have asked you to present your evidence for this alleged donation. In your letter, you refuse to do so and you present an explanation that, with all respect, seems rather elaborate to me: “On the question of the donation, I spoke to a number of people on both sides of the controversy and also to disinterested parties, who wished, for their own purposes, to remain anonymous. As I am sure you will appreciate, I am duty-bound to honor the assurances I gave them.”

It appears that you conducted much research to verify such a small donation. Today, Tibetan lamas receive donations of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more on a regular basis, and so a donation of only $25,000 would be regarded as only moderately newsworthy. Yet, you were able to locate at least three witnesses—one on each side of the controversy and one “disinterested”—perhaps including the donor him- or herself? I have to admit that your finding so many witnesses for such a small gift sounds highly improbable to me.

I also find myself at a loss to deduce any possible motivation why that donor, as well as the witness you claim to have on “my side” of the controversy, would not be willing to take credit for their claim. What’s the shame in making a donation to a lama? I thought that people were supposed to be proud of something like that, and not ashamed. In any event, I cannot imagine why your alleged witness on “my side” would be afraid to back up your story.

Indeed, Mr. Brown, I am tempted to place a classified advertisement in the New York newspapers asking the donor to come forward. I would like to thank this donor, make sure his or her funds were properly received and accounted for, and verify that the donor received a receipt to deduct the charitable gift from his or her taxes. If this donor does not show him or herself, then I will take this as confirmation that your story about such a donor was invented.

If so many people are witnesses, as you have written, how could this donation and the “wealthy sponsor” still be hidden? It should be quite easy to locate this person with such a crowd involved, but yet it still seems that nobody really knows except you. Therefore, Mr. Brown, with all due respect again, I must be very frank with you. On this issue of the donation, your explanation sounds like Lady Macbeth, and I fear that you “protest too much.” For me, your claim of having so many witnesses—on each side and in the middle—for such a small matter puts your veracity in question.

To clear your reputation, I would like to ask you one final time to present some acceptable evidence for this donation or else to issue a public apology for making a claim that you cannot support. This should not become a major issue of saving face, Mr. Brown. This point is not even crucial to your book’s argument. If you were misled by one of your informants, I would encourage you to admit your mistake and move on.

Regarding your misstatement about the identity of the Black Crown that the sixteenth Karmapa brought from Tsurphu to India in 1959—a misstatement that was challenged by Thubten Gyaltsen as you acknowledged but also by Khenpo Chodrak Tenphel (which you did not mention)—this is an issue between the three of you. But as I am the chief executive of the Karmapa Charitable Trust it is my responsibility to take your statement seriously. To me, such a statement, casting groundless doubt on the Black Crown at Rumtek, sounds like part of a cover-up for those who may have perpetrated some crime involving the crown. It is possible that the Rumtek administration of Situ and Gyaltsab has either stolen the original or has damaged it. If this is true, your book would, then, in essence, serve as an “alibi” to cover up their mischief, which would make you an accessory to any crime your statement intentionally attempts to obscure.

The Karmapa Trust has been worried for years, because we have received many indications that something may have happened to the crown under the care of Situ and Gyaltsab. In any case we have initiated a legal case on this issue in India. I should now take this opportunity to inform you that you should prepare to show us in court the “previously published material” that you refer to in your letter. I cannot imagine that this “material” was Lea Terhune’s poorly researched book Karmapa: The Politics of Reincarnation, since her volume was published the same year as your book, if a few months earlier. Given timelines in the publishing industry, it is unlikely that you would have had time to review her published work before finalizing your own manuscript, unless of course you collaborated with Ms. Terhune before her book was published. In any event, Terhune presented no evidence for this claim in her book, so I cannot imagine that a responsible journalist would have trusted her assertion without double-checking it. I will look forward to hearing what other source you will cite for this misinformed claim about the Black Crown.

I must point out that I notice a contradiction in what you say in your letter on the Black Crown. On the one hand, you say that “All my information about the history of the Crown, the existence of a replica and the uncertainty over which Crown had been brought from Tsurphu was drawn from previously published material.” But then, on the other hand, you say that “I am sure that confirmation that it is the original Crown will be welcome news to many of the devotees I spoke to—some of whom are quoted in the book—who witnessed His Holiness the 16th Karmapa perform the Vajra Crown ceremony.” So I am quite confused. You say that you did not talk to anyone about the history of the crown, but then you say that people you spoke to will be happy to hear that the crown is the original one. If you did not speak to anyone about the history of the crown, how do you know that devotees were concerned that the crown wasn’t the original?

Regarding your July 2004 letter in response to Neeraj KC, the IKKBO experienced a technical problem which caused the link to your letter, as well as a variety of other documents, to disappear temporarily from the site. I have requested the IKKBO webmaster to post your letter back online along with these other documents at I have also instructed the webmaster to leave these documents online indefinitely.

Thank you,

Shamar Rinpoche


Answer to a letter by Mick Brown

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