Chronological Report No. 2 on the Rumtek Court Case submitted by the International Karma Kagyu Buddhist Organisation

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According to reliable sources, on 18th of June, 2002 the High Court had fixed the date for the inventory at Rumtek Monastery. At the same time, it ordered that no one was to be allowed at the premises of the Monastery during the inventory except the following:
2 representatives and the lawyer for Defendants Nos. 3 (Gyaltsab Rinpoche);
1 representative for Defendants Nos. 1 and 2 (State Government of Sikkim and the Ecclesiastical Department of Sikkim).
2 representatives and the lawyer for the Karmapa Charitable Trust (KCT), the Plaintiff.

The Commissioner appointed by the Court (Regional Director of the Reserve Bank of India).

The Defendants’ representatives are: Tenzin Nyamgyal, Phuntsok Lama, and N. Dorje (Secretary of the Ecclesiastical Dept.)

The Plaintiff’s representatives are: T.S. Gyaltsen and Gyan Joti (senior Trustees of KCT). Due to T.S. Gyaltsen’s age and illness and Gyan Joti’s age, the KCT requested the Court to allow Dron Nyer Ngodrup and Khenpo Chodrak Tenpel to substitute for these two senior Trustees. But the Court stood firm on its original decision.

Then on 8 and 9 of July the Commissioner (Mr. V.K. Sharma) came to Rumtek and was met by the representatives of all the parties. In the event, T.S. Gyaltsen was unable to attend for the reasons explained above, so the Commissioner permitted S.S. Hamal (Sikkim based lawyer for KCT) to take his place.

The inventory, which was based on the list submitted by the Plaintiff (but not the Monastery’s own inventory list, which was kept at the Monastery’s office but effectively inaccessible to the Trustees due to the Sikkimese’ Government unlawful ban on the Trustees to enter the Monastery), started with the main shrine hall and there all of the 1000 Buddhas statues, which were commissioned by the late 16th Karmapa in 1975, were accounted for. It was followed by the inventory of holy books.

Several ancient and original copies were found to be missing. In the inventory of the Karmapa’s personal ritual objects, 5 items – including a very fine and antique ritual bell (which the Defendant there and then said that it had been given to Urgyen Thrinlay at Dharamsala), were found to be missing. On 10th of July the inventory of over 300 antique ritual costumes (for the Lama Dance) made of Chinese silk brocades and dated from the Yuan and Ming dynasties were taken. In the course of the inventory Gyan Joti (KCT) pointed out to the Commissioner that many new ritual costumes were mixed in with the old ones, and he managed to identify 20 pieces of them.

Tenzin Namgyal then tried to point out to the Commissioner that the hats that were used for the Lama Dance should be counted as well as the costumes. The lawyer of the KCT (S.S. Hamal) objected to it by reason of the fact that those were only hats used with the brocade costumes; and besides, the hats appeared to have been made of new Indian fabrics but not antique Chinese brocades. Failing to convince the Commissioner of his ‘reasons’ after several attempts, Tenzin Namgyal finally had to back down.

At the end of the count, it was confirmed that over 200 antique ritual costumes were missing. This part of the inventory lasted until 11th of July, 2002. On 12th of July the Commissioner proceeded to the most important part of the inventory, which was the shrine room (located on the first floor of the monastery) that contained the famous Karmapa Vajra Crown and a big collection of very rare Buddhist statues of ancient Indian origin, which belonged to the previous Karmapas.

Included in this inventory was also Situ Rinpoche’s alleged letter of recognition of the 17th Karmapa reincarnation. It was deposited in a golden box holding the 16th Karmapa’s holiest relics. The door to the shrine room was supposed to have been kept under lock and seal since 1992 by the original body of Rumtek monks (before they were thrown out of the Monastery by the Defendants on 2 August 1993). Tenzin Namgyal told the Commissioner to the same effect when they arrived at the shrine room. But Gyan Joti (KCT) said that the seal would need to be examined carefully. His reasons being:

1) In all the nine years after the original monks and the Trustees had been thrown out of Rumtek, they were stopped unlawfully by the State Government of Sikkim from entering the Monastery, so that it was impossible for the Plaintiff or the Plaintiff’s party (the original monks body) to inspect the lock or the seal.

2) In the first two years after the illegal eviction of the original monks body the suite of rooms adjacent to the shrine room was continuously occupied by Situ Rinpoche until March 1995.

3) The knotted cloth used for making the seal looked too new for the ten years of use and exposure to the humid weather at Rumtek.

N. Dorje (Sikkim Govt.) said the shrine room was put under guard all this time by the Sikkim Government, to which P. Agarwal (KCT lawyer) countered that for all this time the shrine room was in fact guarded by the same people (State Government of Sikkim) who actively helped the takeover of the monastery by Defendant No. 3, who threw out the original monk body and Trustees from the Monastery, “so how can you be trusted to guard the shrine room and protect its valuable objects?”

Finally, it was agreed to compare the seal on the lock with a sample of the original. It was found that the two seal marks did not match. On 13th July it was discovered that the key of the lock could not be found, so it was necessary for the Commissioner to break the seal and lock in order to opened the door to the shrine room. The lawyer (Mathur) representing Defendant No. 3 pointed out to the Commissioner his observation that the shrine room was in fact dusty and full of cobweb in the ceiling, and therefore concluded that the room could not have been opened since the seal was applied in 1992 by the monks.

Pervin Agarwal (lawyer representing KCT) retorted by saying that dust and spiders web could accumulate in just two or three years in a closed room; and besides, Situ Rinpoche had lived in the adjacent rooms from August 1993 until the end of 1994 and therefore he could have opened the shrine room anytime during this period and that could still have given enough time for cobwebs to develop inside it. At the end of the inventory that day it was confirmed that 26 antique holy statues and the golden relics box (containing Situ Rinpoche’s alleged letter of prediction) were missing from the shrine room.

Attached to the box containing the Karmapa Crown was a knotted-cloth-and-wax seal. Tenzin Namgyal said the seal was applied by the late 16th Karmapa himself. Gyan Joti, however, demanded that the seal had to be examined. When the seal was matched with an imprint of the late 16th Karmapa’s seal, the two did not match. Then the Commission asked Tenzin Namgyal if he was sure that the Crown was indeed inside the box.

Tenzin Namgyal replied that now he could not be sure; whereupon the Commissioner scolded him by saying: “How then could you represent Defendant No. 3?” In the evening of the same day, the Commissioner decided to suspend the inventory for the time being until further decision of the Court, i.e. that the inspection of the Vajra Crown and the contents of a few other rooms should be postponed.

Meanwhile he would submit a report on what he had done so far. Now, three new locks were put on the shrine room door by the Defendants and the Plaintiff, respectively. The keys were sealed in an envelop by all parties plus the High Court, and subsequently deposited with the High Court. The Commissioner reminded both Defendants and Plaintiff that until the inventory was completed and officially confirmed, no one should reveal the result of the proceedings taking place at Rumtek Monastery.

On 25th of July, 2002 the Commissioner submitted the ‘interim’ report to the High Court.