The controversy of the two Karmapas has caused considerable dissension within Tibetan Buddhism, not to mention confusion in the outside world. In this letter, I humbly explain the reason for my position in the matter and respectfully propose a convenient way to solve the problem that should be satisfactory to all concerned.
In late 1991 and early 1992, Situ Rinpoche and the government of the People’s Republic of China jointly selected Urgyen Trinley to be installed at the Tshurphu Monastery in Tibet as the Karmapa. In March 1992, the Chinese government sent Situ Rinpoche to India for the purpose of inviting me and some other Rinpoches to attend the ceremony. I was informed of this subsequently by the Chinese embassy.
Because Situ realized that I would not accept this invitation, he did not actually invite me. Instead, he met with me and produced a suspicious letter reputedly conveying the 16th Karmapa’s instructions for finding his reincarnation. Afterwards he used this letter to deceive Your Holiness and to confuse the Karma Kagyu lamas. In addition to this, he curried the favor of Sikkimese politicians in order to persuade the government of Sikkim to support the Chinese decision to recognize Urgyen Trinley as the Karmapa.
In June 1992, the Chinese government officially announced the recognition of Urgyen Trinley. Your Holiness formally consented to this decision. Your consent however, did not amount to a “recognition” of Urgyen Trinley as the genuine Karmapa. Because I was never consulted nor informed beforehand of the identification of Urgyen Trinley as should have happened according to Karma Kagyu religious customs, there was little that I could do about this fait accompli. I tacitly accepted Urgyen Trinley as a Karmapa in Tibet. Nonetheless, because I wanted to maintain the spiritual purity of the Karma Kagyu lineage, I continued my search for the genuine Karmapa.
His Holiness The Dalai Lama
June 20, 2000
As you know, the Karmapa and the Shamarpa for centuries have alternated in exercising authority over the Karma Kagyu. In 1994, I alone identified and recognized Thaye Dorje according to traditional spiritual practices, and I arranged for his and his family’s escape from Tibet. His recognition did not directly or indirectly involve any intervention by the Chinese government.
Ever since the recognition of two different Karmapas by different leaders of the Karma Kagyu School, there has been a spiraling series of charges and countercharges. After Urgyen Trinley escaped from Tibet to India, the controversy has escalated, and the government of India, which is the host of many Tibetans, has been placed in a difficult bind.
Previously, you have stated that there can be more than one Karmapa. I accept this position and accordingly as that you publicly state that you accept both Urgyen Trinley and Thaye Dorje as Karmapas. If you issue such a statement, I will follow suit.
The Tshurphu Monastery has been and should remain the legitimate and sole seat of the Karmapa, just as the Potala Palace is your seat. Urgyen Trinley was installed in Tshurphu, and so this naturally should continue to be his seat. Thaye Dorje will forever renounce any right to this seat in Tibet. In return, I propose that he be publicly supported by you as the Karmapa for India and head of monasteries there, including Rumtek.
I humbly pray that you see the wisdom of this compromise and accept it.