Statement Regarding the Holy Religious Items of the 16th Karmapa in Rumtek

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Despite the illegal takeover of Rumtek Monastery by Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche and their followers during August 1993, the Karmapa Charitable Trust under the loyal leadership of Shamar Rimpoche succeeded to protect most of the precious religious objects of the late 16th Karmapa until today. This extremely positive result was achieved despite numerous conspiracies of Situ Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpoche and their associates, who tried again and again to bring all the late Karmapa’s properties into their hands. Their plan was to bring all the relics, including the Black Vajra Crown to Tsurphu in Tibet.

During the lifetime of the 16th Karmapa there were 4 groups of monks and laypeople who were appointed by the Karmapa himself to take care and to protect the holy relics, such as the Vajra Crown of Gyalwa Karmapa, thankas, statues, old Chinese silks for religious ritual purposes of the Vajrayana tradition and scriptures of the Kayupas. After the 16th Karmapa had passed away in 1981, these specially appointed guardians continued their responsibilities properly for another 11 years, now under the instructions of the Karmapa Charitable Trust.

In August, 1992, following the critical developments around the recognition of the 17th Karmapa the secretary of Gyalwa Karmapa’s monastery in Leh, Ladakh, came to Rumtek. He told that people had started speculating about that the Vajra Crown of Gyalwa Karmapa had been stolen. A meeting was organized with the monks where they decided to take over the said responsibilities from the 4 groups, since it was now doubtful that everybody carried out their duties faithfully. The monks had the rooms and boxes locked and sealed that contain all precious holy objects including the Black Vajra Crown. The local Police Chief was present as a witness and a guard from the government was put there to protect the locks. When Situ Rinpoche discovered that this farsighted move to protect Karmapa’s precious objects was irrevocable, he pretended to be the one behind the initiative of sealing the different rooms. He even appears on a video in front of a sealed door saying “I locked it”.

Following this Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches, with the support of the then chief minister Mr. N.B. Bhandari tried to get access to the relics in various ways. The most convenient was that the two Rinpoches would be in full control of the monastery.

In November 1992, under the pretext of a so-called International Kagyu Meeting and without the support of the legitimate KCT board of trustees they therefore made an attempt to bring the KCT under their personal control. With false accusations and the active support of the Sikkim state government they succeeded to prevent Shamar Rimpoche, Topga Rinpoche and Gyan Jyoti to visit Rumtek in Sikkim for the event. Further more the Sikkimese members of the KCT were severely intimidated and threatened not to act in accordance with their actual duties and to prevent them from taking any legal action.

According to Indian law one can gain the property-right of a place, in this case the monastery, by occupying it unchallenged for a period of 12 years. By preventing the loyal members of the KCT to file a court case against the illegal occupancy of Rumtek monastery in Sikkim they would win the automatic property-right of the monastery and its assets under Indian law.

The Indian central government was, however, approached by the KCT with the request to protect the relics verystrictly, and the illegal take-over had to be abandoned immediately after the central government of India intervened.

In August 1993 Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches, still with the help of the then chief minister Bhandari did manage to throw out the legitimate monks of the monastery and temporarily take it over. In spite of that, the central government, however, kept protecting the religious items so nobody could break the locks without doing a criminal act.

Thus most of the holy items could be saved from disappearing into illegal hands. But in 1995 it was discovered that some of the boxes hade been broken up and things disappeared. Some say that it went to the monastery of Thrangu Rinpoche and Tenzin Namgyal. Others say that things went to Gyaltsab Rinpoche’s monastery in Ralang, but there was no evidence for either. The KCT, however, immediately made a report to the Indian government about the missing objects and the protection was again increased.

With the exception of above cases, we believe that most of the very holy objects are still in Rumtek monastery. Shortly before the illegal takeover of the monastery by Situpa and his men, the loyal monk’s community succeeded to establish a complete inventory list of all the precious religious objects of the monastery. The inventory list was handed over to central

Government and an official receipt obtained. This receipt is kept by the KCT in a secure location. This list was completed for the central Indian government upon request of Shamar Rimpoche after it became evident that these items were in acute and grave danger of disappearing. Although the Sikkimese state government of N.B. Bhandari was still on the payroll of Situpa and his supporters, they had now no option but to follow the explicit instructions of the central Government and thus had to protect the inventory against their own secret interests.

Finally in July, 1998, the KCT succeeded to file the court case. In that connection special requests were again made to protect the holy items and the court was informed about the existing inventory list. Suddenly the stolen things started to reappear and recently a statement by Tenzing Namgyal saying that everything is there, indicates that whatever might have been missing has now been brought back! Clearly embarrassed they now try to make it look as if they are the ones who protected the holy items (see recent article in “The Week”).

Another development was that Gyaltsab Rinpoche made a rather absurd claim to the ownership of all Karmapa’s properties in court. He argued that he automatically is the new owner because he is the reincarnation of the “Gyaltsab” (meaning “regent”) who served as the regent of the 10th Karmapa for a period of four years. This claim has not yet been withdrawn. At the same time, some contradictory allegations have been brought against Shamar Rinpoche accusing him of wanting to steal all the property of Karmapa and at the same time blaming him for being behind the sealing of all the important relics.

Early 2000 Ugyen Thinle arrived to India, supposedly staged by Situpa, Gyaltsab and Thrangu Rinpoche and maybe with Chinese cooperation. Apparently he was meant to go directly to Rumtek to collect the Vajra Crown and other religious items and then bring them back with him to Tsurphu.

Last month the DNST and loyal disciples of Karmapa Thaye Dorje succeeded with their application to maintain the status quo and additionally to replace the previous Sikkimese guards at the monastery with policemen who only follow the orders from the Central government of India. This positive development surely provides additional security to the monastery and it’s contents and is therefore highly welcome.

Due to the farsighted protective measures taken by Shamar Rimpoche and the KCT the very important, religious objects, presently stored in Rumtek monastery, are now very safe in the custody of the central government of India. Nothing can be taken out from the monastery anymore! Because of the complete inventory list, which was established and registered with the Indian government very shortly before the illegal takeover of Rumtek monastery by Situpa and his party in 1993, also any theft, which may have occurred during the illegal occupation, can and will be detected and dealt with at the time when Rumtek monastery will be returned to the rightful caretakers, the Karmapa Charitable Trust. We are confident that the verdict of the presently ongoing court case will be given soon.

Karma Wangchuk
International Karma Kagyu Forum