Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche’s Message to the International Karma Kagyu Conference, March 16th 2001, Kathmandu, Nepal.

by H.H. the Shamarpa


Venerable Rinpoches, Respected Khenpos, Dear members of the Karma Kagyu Sangha, Very distinguished guests,

We have reached a crossroads in our effort to preserve the authentic transmission of the Karma Kagyu lineage. The individuals behind the secret design to split and ultimately take over the Karma Kagyu lineage have today emerged at the forefront of the controversy.

In my meeting with H.H. the Dalai Lama in Washington in June, 2000, I emphasized that the Karmapa and the Shamarpa had for centuries exercised authority over the Karma Kagyu. I declared that in 1994, I alone had identified and recognised Thaye Dorje as the 17th Karmapa in accordance with our traditional methods.

H.H. the Dalai Lama had previously involved himself in the Karmapa matter and he appeared to have taken a side. He also mentioned that there could be more than one Karmapa; I accepted his position and asked him to reveal it publicly. Since Urgyen Trinley was installed in Tsurphu, I proposed that Tsurphu naturally continued to be his seat. Thus, he would be the Karmapa for China and Tibet. In return, Thaye Dorje would be supported as the Karmapa for India and as head of the monasteries there.

I put forward this compromise in my genuine desire to solve the conflict which has split the Karma Kagyu in half. However, the Dalai Lama rejected my offer. I was informed in writing that, in fact, His Holiness had recognised Urgyen Trinley as the authentic Karmapa. The Dalai Lama’s recognition was carried out not only on the basis of Situ Rinpoche’s so called “prediction letter” but also because of his own private indications. This was a total departure from the karma Kagyu practice and tradition. The Dalai Lama was forcing himself into a position of religious arbiter, endowed with spiritual powers and authority to deliver the Karmapas. A move was set afoot to convert the Kagyu school to the Gelugpa order!

I could not accede to such a scenario!

I then came forward with yet another compromise, that, if implemented, could have won us back the unity of the lineage and installed a Karmapa all his followers could accept. I proposed that the issue of the Karmapa be solved by the Karmapas themselves. Accompanied only by their parents, Urgyen Trinley and Thaye Dorje would meet and themselves arrive to a satisfactory solution. I could have no possible personal gain from any such offer and had only the lineage’s benefit in view. I was also convinced that my proposal would best serve the boys’ interests. Again my offer was not appreciated, this time by the Dalai Lama’s favourite political group in Sikkim (Joint Action Committee).

What logical conclusion can one draw from these constant rejections? The answer wich comes to mind is that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is against the growth of Karmapa’s activity and has engaged in a “divide and conquer” policy. How else to interpret the broken promises, behind the scenes plotting, the infringing upon our centuries old tradition, the creation of new religious customs.

I am sharing this information with considerable concern and much regret. Is the Dalai Lama still driven by his old personal animosity to the late 16th Karmapa and to the then Rumtek administration? The late 16th Karmapa, undisputed leader of the Karma Kagyu school, confronted Dharamsala’s ambition regarding the four schools. By creating a successful counterbalance to Dharamsala’s policy, H.H. the 16th Karmapa gained no friends within the exiled government. It seems that old rivalries die hard and today the Karma Kagyu school has come under fire at it’s most vital point.

We have reached a turning point. If we lose the right to recognise the Karmapa our lineage will cease to fonction as an autonomous transmission that has been preserved for nine centuries. I am asking your opinion and seeking your advice. Do we fight for our independence? Or do we submit to another lineage? If we should fight, what is there to fight for? What constitutes the uniqueness of the Karma Kagyu school that is now in imminent danger of disappearing?

Is it Rumtek monastery that lies at the centre of the Kagyu legacy? The answer is no. According to the Buddhist sutras, a place where the Sangha have been split and have engaged in a fight – described in the sutras is one of the five limitless negative actions (Tsam Meapa Nga) – loses its blessing, is devoid of spiritual merit and, in fact, becomes spiritually polluted. To restore its unequalled qualities, the warring sides must be brought together and fully reconciled; moreover, a Yen-dum (conciliation) Stupa must be erected on the site, else no spiritual activity there is possible. If Rumtek is to once again function as a Buddhist place, if a practitioner is ever to develop and accumulate merit there, whoever resides at Rumtek has to bring the Sangha together as well as construct the conciliation Stupa.

Furthermore, Rumtek – or any other monastery for that matter – is a building designed to accomodate the monk community so they can perform the necessary rituals and practices. The late 16th Karmapa chose Rumtek for his headquarters and the cloister had well served that purpose until the 2nd of August, 1993 when he came under attack from and was subsequently occupied by Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoche’s supporters going hand in hand with the Sikkimese armed forces on order from bribed officers. The attackers committed one of the five limitless negative actions described in the sutras. Furthermore, for all its beauty and auspicious location, a building alone cannot aspire to the spiritual status of the Kagyu’s unique heritage. In spite of this, every effort is still under way to recover Rumtek and return it to its rightful occupants.

The holy relics stored at Rumtek carry the blessing of the lineage. However, those are moveable artefacts wich, luckily, had been placed under lock and keys as early as Septembre 1992 by the farseeing Rumtek monk community. They were later sealed on order issued by the District Magistrate and can be recovered once the court comes down with a ruling. Even Karmapa’s famous black crown – adorned with the precious ruby – is not indispensable for the functioning of the lineage. The crown was offered to the 5th Karmapa by the Tai Ming young Lo, emperor of China. However, our lineage had flourished no less successfully without the crown’s presence than when it was endowed with its physical existence. Besides, neither Urgyen Trinley nor Thaye Dorje may be able to obtain the black crown unless they reach a mutual agreement.

What then constitutes the Karma Kagyu’s unequalled transmission which should be preserved at all cost? First and foremost our right to recognise the Karmapa, the undisputed spiritual leader of our lineage. The Dalai Lama’s attempt to force the Kagyu school into the Gelugpa order must be stopped in its tracks. Regrettably, Situ together with Trangu Rinpoche, closely followed by Gyaltsab and Bokar Rinpoche gave in to the Dalai Lama’s intrusion and in doing so they have created a crisis of unprecedented proportions in Karma Kagyu history. Their short-sighted and self-serving deals with the Communist Chinese and their sheepish submission to the Gelugpa school’s authority have put the independence of the lineage in total jeopardy.

Second, we must preserve the teachings and methods written and handed down by the Karmapas and the Kagyu masters wich make up the uniqueness of this school. The main source of the lineage are the founding fathers: Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa. The transmission encompasses profound Vajrayana teachings such as the essential instructions given by Dysum Khyenpa; the Six Yogas of Naropa, taught for the first time in written form by the 2nd Shamarpa; the profound commentaries to the tantras, extensively given by the 3rd and 8th Karmapas along with the 4th Shamarpa. The Kagyu transmission also encompasses the vastness of the sutras such as the Madhyamaka, the Abhidharma, the Prajnaparamita, the Vinaya and the Tsema explained in complete detail by the 7th and 8th Karmapas. Finally the transmission contains both Sutra and Tantra within the profoundness of the Mahamudra, written, explained and taught by the 9th Karmapa and others. Additionally, the Karma Kagyu transmission includes the Nyingma teachings, called Karma Nyingtik, incorporated into the lineage by the 3rd Karmapa as well as the Termas of Jatson Nyingpo and Karma Chagme.

We are at a turning point in our history. Indeed, it would be great loss to the Buddhist world if our transmission were to disappear in favour of another ambitiously expanding lineage. I am once again asking you the crucial question. Do we fight for our lineage or do we surrender? We must come down with a binding decision during this conference. If we yield, we will lose the treasure of the Karma Kagyu transmission. If we wish to continue our struggle, we have no choice but to oppose the Dalai Lama. It is his interference and his “divide and conquer” strategy that is the primary threat to the integrity of our Karma Kagyu today.

If we together decide to defend the lineage, we would need everybody’s help and support. It is our common house we are protecting. We are struggling for the very survival of the Karma Kagyu blessing; our aim is to preserve the Buddha’s unparalleled methods for helping beings achieve enlightenment. They must not disappear today due to corruption from within and agression from without.

In order to function as an efficient body, under today’s challenging circumstances I would propose the following: The establishment of our Karma Kagyu headquarters in New Delhi, India and set up two administrative centres, one in Washington, DC, USA for the West and one in Hong Kong for the East.

Shamar Rinpoche