Open letter by Lunrig Gyatso in response to Mr. Paine’s reply

Posted on Posted in Letter

Date: 10.08.2004

Reply by Jeffery Paine from the Washington Post Book World Sunday, August 1, 2004:

Jay Landman’s charges about the Dalai Lama and especially about the forged letter are exhaustively refuted not only in Mick Brown’s The Dance of 17 Lives but also in the other major books on the subject, Michele Martin’s Music in the Sky and Lea Terhune’s The Politics of Reincarnation.

Mr. Landman represents the position of Shamar Rinpoche, whom, unfortunately, all three books paint as doing the Tibetan cause harm in order to secure the profits from the Karmapa’s holdings for himself. I hope, and would like to believe, that there are honorable motives for Shamar Rinpoche’s actions that all three books have overlooked.

August 2, 2004

Attn: Author Jeffrey Paine

500 Fifth Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10110

Dear Mr. Paine:

Let me introduce myself. I am one of the chief administrators of the Shamar Labrang and am writing this open letter to you on behalf of supporters of Karmapa Thaye Dorje. We have read your reply to Jay Landman’s response to your review in the Washington Post Book World of August 1, 2004. There you say that the major points of the our position—that Situ’s Karmapa prediction letter is fake and that HH Dalai Lama has no jurisdiction to recognize Karmapa—are invalid because three books have already been published which “refute” these points. You further add that these three books cast doubt on Shamar Rinpoche’s character and motivations, but that you personally hope that they are not correct in this.

Firstly, I thank you for your good hopes and for keeping an open mind.

However, I wish to beg your indulgence to say that in my opinion, passing along such character aspersions does you no credit. Even with the qualifications you added, this was a very low blow. I am very surprised that a scholar and writer of your position would resort to debased personal attack. This sort of gutter rhetoric is more appropriate to a political campaign than to a sober discussion of the unfortunate controversy over our Buddhist lineage. Mr. Landman’s letter was indeed critical, but it was respectful and stuck to the issues. Your response however attempted to nullify everything Mr. Landman said by passing along very serious criticism of Shamar Rinpoche that is, despite what these books may say, completely unfounded.

I do not need to defend Shamar Rinpoche’s character and motivations here. Let it suffice to say that ample documentary evidence is available from the Indian court system as well as public records on file with government agencies in India to demonstrate how Shamar Rinpoche has worked only to protect the Karma Kagyu lineage from betrayal by Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches, which is the role of the Shamarpa. In addition, anyone who knows Rinpoche knows that personally, his lifestyle is modern but simple, he enjoys few comforts and works tirelessly only to spread dharma and to protect the purity of the Karma Kagyu lineage.

So shame on you Mr. Paine! I am sure that you could have done better. And I do hope that this kind of statement doesn’t mean that you think that nothing we say has any value because three books support Orgyen Trinley as Karmapa?

Well, now I hope you will allow me to discuss the facts of these three books with you. Then perhaps you will have more information to decide if you really feel that they are credible enough to have “refuted” our points.

It is true that there are three books published that support Orgyen Trinley, but even by your own logic you are wrong to claim that all three of these books “refute” us. Only two of them in fact deal explicitly with the Karmapa controversy: Lea Terhune’s Karmapa: The Politics of Reincarnation and Mick Brown’s The Dance of 17 Lives.

You should not count Michelle Martin’s book Music in the Sky: The Life, Art & Teachings of the 17th Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje as “refuting” our points, since hers is strictly a hagiography of Orgyen Trinley without much discussion of the issues of the controversy. Her treatment of the controversy is limited to a couple of sentences and one footnote, where she explains that Shamar Rinpoche initially doubted the prediction letter. Otherwise, Martin proceeds as if the whole controversy did not exist and as if everyone agreed that Orgyen Trinley was the Karmapa.

For this reason, we have not made any criticisms of her book. She does not engage in debate here but simply celebrates Orgyen Trinley. We have no desire to reduce anyone’s devotion to the boy, and Martin has every right to pen a tribute to her guru. She may even believe what she has written about Orgyen Trinley, so we cannot criticize her intentions.

That leaves two books that attempt to refute our position, the books by Terhune and Brown. I could understand it you felt that two books disagreeing with us versus no books supporting us makes a pretty strong argument.

But you should be aware that there are also books published in English, predating Terhune and Brown, that support Thaye Dorje: The Buddha Cries (New Delhi, 2000) by Hindustan Times journalist Anil Maheshwari and The Karmapa Papers (France, 1992) and The Siege of Karmapa (New Delhi, 1999) by our group. However, since these titles were not published in the USA or the UK, but instead in Europe and in India, perhaps you do not think they are credible.

Since the books of Terhune and Brown have been published so close together, we have not yet had a chance to publish our own rebuttals in book form in the USA or the UK. We are working on this at present. In the meantime, we have published our responses online, at Our forthcoming book will contain ample documentary proof truly refuting all the major claims of Terhune and Brown, using respected third-party sources like official transcripts of courts of law.

Yet for now, Situ Rinpoche and his group have two brand new books in the USA and in the UK and we have none. I would like to ask you, however, Mr. Paine, do you think that having two books in itself makes someone right? What if these are bad books that may be proven wrong in the near future, and may even be under litigation now? And what if these books contradict judgments already given by law courts and ignore decades of public records on file with government agencies?

Against the two biased books, we would offer more reliable sources: the verdicts of three courts in India, including the Supreme Court. These courts have all ruled against Situ Rinpoche and his group and in favor of Shamar Rinpoche’s position. The full text of their decisions can be found at

Thus, I would submit to you that Terhune and Brown do not refute our position at all. Their motivation is not to inform but to persuade, and as a result their information is bad and their presentation is biased.

We believe that Martin’s goal may really be to support Orgyen Trinley and so we wish her well. But this is not true for Terhune and Brown. We think they actually don’t care about convincing anyone that Orgyen Trinley is Karmapa. Instead, Terhune and Brown write for much worse reasons.

To be very blunt, Terhune and Brown write only to help hide the crimes of the lamas they sympathize with, Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches and the others who have seized the seat of the Karmapas, Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim. They seized this cloister purely to get their hands on its valuable antiques and to gain prestige for themselves.

We believe that Terhune and Brown thus employ a version of Josef Goebbels’ famous propaganda technique known as “the Big Lie.” Under this technique, if you yourself have committed a crime, you should protect yourself by accusing your opponent of exactly the same thing. Then you should repeat your accusations over and over again until the public is convinced that these false charges are true. Thus, Terhune and Brown accuse Shamar Rinpoche of the exact crime that their lamas, Situ and Gyaltsab, are guilty of- causing trouble in the Karmapa lineage purely for their own personal gain, as you boldly state in your answer to Mr. Landman’s letter in the Washington Post.

We will prove all of this legally in court shortly. Meantime, perhaps you do not know that the Indian courts have determined that Situ’s group is illegally occupying Rumtek? Situ and his followers seized Rumtek by force from the administration of the Karmapa Charitable Trust on August 2, 1993 and shortly afterwards the Karmapa Trust began legal proceedings against them to regain the monastery. Perhaps you do not know that supporters of Orgyen Trinley have lost all their appeals in this case, all the way up to the Indian Supreme Court? Perhaps you also do not know that the courts have determined that while occupying Rumtek, Situ’s group has removed valuable objects from its treasury as well?

We have heard that Situ and his group are afraid of criminal prosecution in India for these thefts. Therefore, we believe, their group has enlisted Terhune and Brown to put out books that will confuse the issue with the public and cover for the crimes of those who seized Rumtek. These books were clearly rushed to print in anticipation of some ugliness for Situ and his group in criminal court. Perhaps these lamas hope that such a propaganda effort will help them to avoid prosecution or at least help them maintain the support of their followers once prosecution begins?

Terhune and Brown are no more than mouthpieces for Situ’s group. And we cannot emphasize enough that this group does not really care if Orgyen Trinley is recognized as Karmapa in the long run. What they care about is avoiding criminal prosecution and punishment in the short run for Situ, Gyaltsab and others.

With such an ignoble goal, it is not surprising that Terhune and Brown draw from poor quality sources. Their main sources are either biased ones like Situ Rinpoche and Tenzin Namgyal, or uninformed ones like Akong Tulku’s brother Jamdrak or, worst of all, sources who are both biased and uninformed, like Akong Tulku himself. At the same time, these authors ignore well informed and trustworthy sources like the trustees of the Karmapa Charitable Trust appointed directly by the late 16th Karmapa, the records of the Trust since the death of the late Karmapa and of course, the decisions of the Indian court system. It is true that Brown spoke with three sources from our side, Thaye Dorje, Shamar Rinpoche and Khenpo Chodrak Tenphel Rinpoche. But as Mr. Landman wrote to the Washington Post, Brown used little information from these sources. And why did Brown not consult the other highly credible sources, like the court verdicts and the public records?

If you lack all this knowledge, then we can understand how you might have been convinced by Terhune and Brown. But it is difficult for us to believe that you would be so poorly informed on these issues. Your being brave enough to endorse Brown’s book as trustworthy in a major US newspaper without any independent investigation of your own seems naïve at best and dishonest at worst.

Regarding Lea Terhune’s book, we have already filed a defamation case in the High Court of New Delhi because many of the lies in her book are very serious, including charges of theft and murder. These lies are also obvious and easy to detect. Under Indian law her text is open to legal challenge because accusing someone of such serious crimes in writing can greatly injure the character of the person so accused. It would then not fall into the category of protected free speech, but instead into the category of character defamation. And if the accusations turn out to be incorrect, then Indian law concludes that the accuser herself is at legal fault.