His Holiness the Dalai Lama need to reassert or denounce his anointment of Ogyen Trinley Dorjee as the 17th Karmapa.
The Karmapa controversy is now a three decade old one. After the death of the 16th Karmapa in 1981, high-ranking monks Tai Situ Rinpoche, Shamar Rinpoche and Gyltsab Rinpoche had started a search for his successor. Tai Situ Rinpoche proposed Ogyen Trinley Dorjee as the successor, while Shamar Rinpoche favoured Trinley Thaye Dorje. The third monk did not agree with either.
Since then, both Ogyen Trinley Dorjee and Trinlay Thaye Dorje have been enthroned as the 17th Karmapa and have been independently performing ceremonial duties. Albeit, to quote Thinlay Topgay from his recent article The fallacy of Karmapa’s Chinese links, “the monasteries which dot the Himalayan region from Arunachal to Sikkim, West Bengal, Uttaranchal to Himachal Pradesh & Ladakh belong to different sects of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. There is no homogeneity as each of the four schools have their own spiritual leader and are not dependent on each other. However, all schools by and large owe allegiance to the Dalai Lama, the supreme spiritual and temporal head of Tibet.”
Arunachal has a large Buddhist following belonging mostly to the Geluk sect known widely as the “Yellow Hat Sect” (headed by the Ganden Tri Rinpoche). Sikkimese owe their allegiance to the Karmapa lineage since the 12th Karmapa, Changchub Dorji (1703-1732) built two Karma Kagyu monasteries in Sikkim. In Darjeeling there are monasteries belonging to the Drukpa Kagyu, Nyingma, Sakya, and the Karma Kagyu schools. Other monasteries in Uttarachanchal, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh profess the Tibetan Vajrayana tradition.
An overwhelming number of people in these monasteries have an opinion about Tibet, China and the Buddism. But not one of them over last hundreds of years has ever sheltered any anti-India element. They are a peace-loving, compassionate lot and proud to be part of the story called India.
The reaction to the recent allegations against Karmpa of being a Chinese spy has not gone unnoticed though. Hundreds of articles have been written and rallies organised.
In one article 16th Karmapa gave me my name Business Editor at CNN IBN, Network 18, Karma S. Paljor counts his options on the parameter of faith and facts. Read the article and it benumbs and boggles you about the way conclusions are being drawn by the security establishment and the media. Himachal Pradesh Director General of Police D.S. Manhas told a news channel in Delhi that ‘the whole fight between the two anointed people is basically over property’. Many in the current Indian administration believe him to be China’s “strategic asset”.
To deny Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorjee his sanity and faith in India is to deny India her own sanity. If Ogyen Trinley Dorjee is a Chinese agent so would be His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Because it is he who recognised Ogyen Trinley Dorjee as the 17th Karmapa despite China also recognising him. How can the government trust HH Shamar Rinpoche either who says that Tibetans in Tibet are happy?
Indian government has been altering its hospitality towards HH the Dalai Lama as per the cues it gets from China. The foreign ministry under Pranab Mukherjee and S. M. Krishna has displayed no shamelessness in adopting uncharacteristic hostility towards the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan movement. No wonder that during Beijing Olympics then Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee warned the Dalai Lama against any political activity damaging India’s relationship with China (India sends warning to Dalai Lama).
The controversy is in part due to the uncomfortable relationship between the Indian state and the Tibetans in India. India accepted the refugees when they had to flee China but generations after that it never accorded the Tibetans full rights of citizenship. This despite the fact that the current generation of Tibetans in India are born here.
“Many typical transactions, from buying land to depositing foreign currency in Indian banks, are either illegal for Tibetans or a bureaucratic nightmare — and, in no small part, an explanation for why Dorje’s monastery held onto the various funds it had amassed from donations”, wrote the Time in an article Why India is Investigating a Reincarnated Tibetan Lama.
It is natural for anybody who heads a global sect to have donations from across the world let alone China. That doesn’t mean that the person is anti-India. It is ironical that the security agencies have handled this issue with such little attention to the sense and sensibilities of the large following that the Karmapa enjoys.
A sad development
While the controversy of who the real Karmapa is would be best left to the Buddhist community, the government would do well not to let its security establishment fiddle without evidence. The Dalai Lama has himself called for investigation and the security agencies would do well to limit themselves to their job without giving sound bytes.
The ongoing allegations in the backdrop of an already raging controversy of “Who will wear the black crown” is a sad development on the part of Buddhist community in general and Tibetan in particular.
The success of the struggle for an autonomous Tibetan homeland is interlinked with the staying together of Tibetans on the issue of their religion. It becomes all the more important when an autonomous Tibet is not going to be realised in near future. Even if Tibetan homeland is never realised, it’s important for the identity of not only Tibetans but all those who believe in any form of Buddhism to settle the Karmapa controversy amicably.
The institution of Karmapa or Dalai Lama will come to an end sometime but the community would do a service to the great ancient tradition by letting prevail the impression that the fight is over money. The onus lays upon the Buddhist community, including all the heads of various Buddhist sects and of course the other claimants to the throne of 17th Karmapa to resolve their claims amicably and rally behind one or two Karmapa (s). His Holiness Shamar Rinpoche in a recent interview to iSikkim.com expressed hope of a cordial solution to the controversy.
It’s time HH the Dalai Lama intervenes to settle this issue once and for all.