Flight of a Karmapa, directed by Yoichi Shimatsu

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Flight of a Karmapa, directed by Yoichi Shimatsu

Postby admin » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:35 am

Flight of a Karmapa -- Illustrated Screenplay
directed by Yoichi Shimatsu
© 2001 Hong Kong: Nactvision

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AND

Politics of Reincarnation -- Illustrated Screenplay
directed by Yoichi Shimatsu
© 2001 Hong Kong: Nactvision

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Re: Flight of a Karmapa, directed by Yoichi Shimatsu

Postby admin » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:44 am



Flight of a Karmapa, directed by Yoichi Shimatsu
Hong Kong: Nachtvision, 2001

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Tibet-Nepal border at Mustang

[Man] There comes a truck,
which belongs to a, I think, Tibetan traders,
which brings goods from the Tibetan side.

[Narrator] One of the remotest areas of the Himalayas. A young lama escaped from Chinese-controlled Tibet in January, 2000.

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This monk was no ordinary refugee, for he claims the title of “Karmapa,” the third highest ranking leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

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For more than a year, our reporting team retraced his 1,000-mile trail across the barren Mustang plateau and over the Annapurna range and into India.

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This is a story of his journey into exile.

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FLIGHT OF A KARMAPA

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[Narrator] Dharamsala. The Dalai Lama’s monastery sits serenely in the mountains of Northern India.
On January 5, 2000, the calm of this sacred place is disrupted.

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[Car Horn Honking]

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[Narrator] The Karmapa comes unexpectedly and unannounced. He is here to find refuge with the Dalai Lama.

[Car Horn Honking, People Milling About]

[Narrator] His escape to freedom from Tibet.

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Beijing is stunned by the news:

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“Ogyen Trinley is loyal to China.

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He is a living Buddha, a patriotic lama. But now he has gone over to the Dalai Lama.”

[Reporter] Can you say something?

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[Ogyen Trinley] [Says nothing]

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[Narrator] The peaks of the Himalayas, the abode of the gods and bodhisattvas. Tibet is a land of miracles, where according to legends, high lamas possess the amazing powers of becoming invisible and flying through the clouds.
How else could Ogyen Trinley Dorje have succeeded in crossing these vast mountains in the deep of winter, or slip past Chinese checkpoints while chased by soldiers on his 900-mile trek?

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[Tenzin Donyo, Tibetan Exile Security Official] Of course, he maybe traveled down the mountains from the snow, like Himalaya mountain snow. There’s lots of snow.

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But he is different than human beings. So I think that while he is walking from the Himalayas, although there are many Chinese army in the Himalayas, because of his, like, you know, religious like practice, and like because he’s higher than a human being, I think they didn’t notice him.

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[Narrator] While the world’s media accepted this miraculous account [!!!], other Tibetan exile officials told us of their doubts about the escape story.

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[Samdup Lhatse, Tibetan Exile Govt. Spokesman, Nepal] There are, you know, inside Tibet there are many checkposts.

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He could not have actually escaped.
I don’t know why the Chinese could not have stopped him.

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This is a question to the Chinese administration in Tibet:

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Why he was allowed to go?

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[Narrator] Then there is a problem of distance: 900 miles in 8 days.
That’s an average of 110 miles a day.
A senior monk in Dharamsala admitted the Karmapa actually took a different route.

[Man] To come very fast from Nepal, what should people do? How can they come?

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[Badro Lama, Dharamsala] It’s a secret, yes.

[Man] Secret?

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[Badro Lama, Dharamsala] They came a secret way because it is very dangerous now. With the Chinese, many things are dangerous. And it’s very secret.

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[Narrator] Gyaltsen Lama, better known as the tall Manangi, guided the Tibetan youth through Nepal.

***

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[Narrator] At that time at Tsurphu Monastery, did Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, give you ANY suggestion that he was unhappy in China?

[Gyaltsen Lama, the tall Manangi] No.

[Narrator] Do you think he was happy there? He was okay in China?

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[Gyaltsen Lama, the tall Manangi] Okay.

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[Narrator] So then religious persecution by the Chinese was not a factor.

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Ogyen Trinley was selected by Tai Situpa, leader of a rebel faction in the Kagyupa, or black hat school of Tibetan Buddhism.

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Tai Situ convinced BOTH the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government to support his young candidate in Tibet.

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What can’t be ignored here is the controversy over this appointment.

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The Kagyupa second-most senior lama, the Shamarpa, was against Ogyen Trinley’s nomination.

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Instead, he supports Trinley Thaye Dorje, who lives in France and India.

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The Shamarpa strong opposes the Dalai Lama having any say in this decision, because the Kagyupa have always picked their own leaders.

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The two schools: the yellow hats and the black hats, have been bitter rivals for many centuries.

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But Ogyen Trinley was a rising star of Tibetan Buddhism ...

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since he is the only Tibetan leader approved by both the Chinese and the Exile Government.

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Whoever controls this young lama controls the destiny of Tibet.

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Therefore, even Ogyen Trinley’s faction had reasons to distrust the Dalai Lama.

***

[Narrator] You knew at the time he was going to go to Dharamsala? You knew that at the time? They told you, “we are going to Dharamsala?

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[Gyaltsen Lama, the tall Manangi] No.

[Narrator] They didn’t say that?

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[Gyaltsen Lama, the tall Manangi] They said, “India.”

[Narrator] That’s all?

[Gyaltsen Lama, the tall Manangi] Yes.

***

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[Narrator] If his original aim was NOT to join the Dalai Lama, then WHERE was Ogyen Trinley planning to go, and why?

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[Gyaltsen Lama, the tall Manangi] My guess is that in Lhasa there are many Gelugpa.
Karmapa was becoming high (powerful), and they don’t like that.
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Re: Flight of a Karmapa, directed by Yoichi Shimatsu

Postby admin » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:45 am

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[Narrator] The only way to find the answers was to re-trace the Karmapa’s path.

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This took a year-long search by our reporting team which included a Nepali environmental writer,

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a Japanese-American journalist,

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a Hong-Kong-based radio correspondent,

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and our pony guide, Lobsang Gurung.

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We discovered a FAR DIFFERENT STORY than the one reported by the media.
We learned that Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s journey was NOT AN ESCAPE TO FREEDOM.

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His real intention was to gain possession of the mystical black crown in Sikkim,
and bring it back to Tibet as the UNDISPUTED KARMAPA.

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When his secret plan failed, he went to the Dalai Lama,

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because he had nowhere else to turn. [Rather, delivered to the Dalai Lama by the CIA?]

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Prakash Khanal picked up the Karmapa’s trail ...

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in the walled town of Lo Manthang,

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home of the traditional king of Mustang.

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Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista (Nepali:जिग्मे दोर्जे पलवर विष्ट) (1930-2016) was the unofficial King of Mustang (Tibetan: Lo rGyal-po, Nepalese: Mustang Rājā) between 1964 and 2008, until Monarchy, Semi-Monarchy, Vassals and Titular Kingship were abolished in Nepal. He was descendant in 25th generation of King A-ma-dpal bist (1440–1447), who was founder of the Lo (Lo-Manthang) dynasty.
Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista was born in Lo-Manthang Palace in Upper Mustang in the Himalayan Range of Nepal. He was the third son of Colonel H.H. Sri Sri Sri Raja Angun Tenzing Trandul, King of Mustang, by his wife, Kelsang Choeden. He was educated privately at Shigatse, Tibet. He was appointed as the Heir Apparent recognised by the Nepal Government in 1959 A.D. He succeeded as the Head of the Royal House of Lo and to the title of Lo-rGyal-po and King of Mustang upon the death of his father in 1964 A.D and elder brother in 1958 A.D. Bista is the title given by King of Nepal which means Distinguished Baron in the Nepali language and not the Nepali family name Bista. He was a member of the Raj Sabha between (1964–1990) and a Lieutenant Colonel of Nepalese Army (1964).

He married a noble lady from Shigatse, Tibet, H.H. Rani Sahiba Sidol Palbar Bista in the 1950s.[2] He had one son, Angun Tenzin, who died at the age of 8, and he later adopted his nephew, Zingme Singhe Palbar Bista (b. 1957). The last heir is his nephew whom resides in the United States, the grandson of Raja Angun. He is married to a Bhutanese princess and they issue two children, a daughter and a son. They are believed to be residing in San Francisco. [3]
-- Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista, by Wikipedia


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Lomanthang [Lo Manthang] (Nepali: लोमन्थाङ) is a rural municipality situated in Mustang District of Gandaki Province of Nepal. It is located at the northern end of the district, sandwiched between Tibet Autonomous Region of China in north and Dalome rural municipality of Mustang District in south. The total area of the rural municipality is 727 square kilometres (281 sq mi) and total population of the rural municipality according to 2011 Nepal census is 1899.

-- Lo Manthang, by Wikipedia


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[Narrator] Although inside the boundaries of Nepal, the people of this arid, wind-swept plateau,

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are Tibetan Buddhists, and keep strong ties with Tibet.

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Few outsiders have been allowed to visit this restricted area.
Even fewer meet the King. And none so far have ever been permitted to go to the border with Tibet.

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It was a great honor then to have an audience with the King and Crown Prince of Mustang.

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[Zingme Singhe Palbar Bista, Crown Prince of Mustang] 2000 January 1st …
That night they walked to Lo Manthang and stayed in the house of a local lama named Tulku Bista.

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A lot of smugglers from Manang were seen around here. They posed as businessmen and brought lots of money and a satellite phone, too.

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Now we know they were here to guide the Karmapa.

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The Manangi smugglers came three times.

The prince who wanted to save his kingdom: Jigme Singh Palbar Bista, Heir to a Himalayan dynasty
by Vanessa Dougnac
La Croix
November 29, 2917

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For the villagers of Mustang, Nepal, Jigme Singhe Palbar Bista remains their king. It is heir to a lineage that goes back to the XIV th century, at a time when the former Buddhist kingdom opens to the world.

The Crown Prince Jigme Singhe Palbar Bista, whom the villagers call "the King", savored in his palace a cup of po Cha, Tibetan tea salted with yak butter. Wearing an anorak and cap screwed on his head, he is the direct descendant of the great warrior Ame Pal who founded the kingdom of Mustang in 1380 and erected the fortress of Lo Manthang, in this Nepalese enclave of the high Tibetan plateau.

Nestled in a grandiose labyrinth of desert mountains, the last fortified capital of the Himalayas has passed through the centuries out of sight. Annexed by Nepal in 1790 for 100 pieces of silver and a horse, the Mustang kept the right to keep its monarchy and remained banned from foreigners until 1992. Since then, only a few hundred tourists visit the legendary country each summer, subject to a permit of 500 dollars (420 €). The kingdom has emerged at the dawn of XXIth century as an open-air museum, a medieval unspoiled Tibetan culture.

Today, "Jigme" is a king without a crown, in a valley upset by modernity. In 2008, a democratic regime overthrew the monarchy in Kathmandu. In Mustang, his uncle and adoptive father, King Jigme Dorje Balpar [Palbar] Bista, had to abdicate to limit himself to play a cultural role. Added to this is the first road built from the Chinese border, which will soon close the Mustang to the rest of the world. In the villages, jeeps and motorcycles make their appearance and men's dresses are bartered for jeans "made in China".

With the broad smile that often illuminates his face, Jigme Singhe Palbar Bista defines himself as "a simple Mustang man". And he finishes his tea, in a kitchen with cracked walls, in the heart of a crumbling and deserted palace. His father, the last king, died last December at the age of 86, leaving him as a legacy his palaces in ruins. And the blows of the spell did not help. The earthquake that devastated Nepal in 2015 damaged Lo Manthang's palace, and the large herd of royal yaks was decimated in an avalanche.

Residing in Kathmandu, Jigme Singhe Palbar Bista embodies the transition. Father of two, he married a noble of Tibetan origin after completing studies in political science. Breaking with the paternal style, he became both entrepreneur and Mustang cultural spokesperson. It still does justice in inheritance cases or land disputes. Because if some communist graffiti are drawn on the walls of Lo Manthang, the villagers maintain a great respect towards the royalty, guardian of their traditions.

Jigme learned to ride at the age of 7, but he also willingly accompanies his guests by helicopter to try to attract investment. He has just built a beautiful hotel in Lo Manthang. "I see all the villagers leaving the Mustang looking for work," he says. I would like the hotel to help create local jobs. "

In the meantime, he tries to promote education among a poor and rural population. Thanks to donations, he has set up 16 reception centers and an institution that supports 65 children. "My dream would be to see the new generation in school," he says. He also hopes to save his palaces. Two of them are abandoned and that of Lo Manthang has been consolidated in extremis thanks to the intervention of a German foundation. As for the monasteries, archaeological treasures, their restoration is faithfully ensured by the American Himalayan Foundation.

"But since 1992, the government has collected a lot of money on our backs by taxing tourists," says Jigme Singhe Palbar Bista. Where are bridges, hospitals, schools? Finally, the authorities build a road. It's good for development, but it's not good. "

In the immediate future, foreign trekkers who crisscross the steep paths with impressive teams of mules, porters, tents and cooks, are a little confused by discovering bulldozers in the heart of the mythical kingdom. "We must rethink our future, while having the fear of seeing modernity crumble our culture, admits the king. But I want to try, until my death, to help the Mustang. "


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Manang (Nepali: मनाङ) is a town in the Manang District of Nepal. It is located at 28°40'0N 84°1'0E with an altitude of 3,519 metres (11,545 ft). According to the preliminary result of the 2011 Nepal census it has a population of 6,527 people living in 1,495 individual households. Its population density is 3 persons/km2. It is situated in the broad valley of the Marshyangdi River to the north of the Annapurna mountain range. The river flows to the east. To the west, the 5,416-metre (17,769 ft) Thorong La pass leads to Muktinath shrine and the valley of the Gandaki River. To the north there is the Chulu East peak of 6,584 m (21,601 ft). Most groups trekking around the Annapurna range will take resting days in Manang to acclimatize to the high altitude, before taking on Thorong La pass. The village is situated on the northern slope which gets the most sunlight and the least snow cover in the winter. The cultivation fields are on the north slope with terraces.

-- Manang, by Wikipedia


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[Narrator] The good news is that Prakash gets the go-ahead for the border.

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The guides point out some local homes there built into caves.

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After the Karmapa crossed the border, a gang of people-smugglers took him to a cave owned by the King’s estranged nephew, Subarna.
Subarna’s brother had a large role in organizing the illegal border crossing.

Candidates in Mustang pledge to open Korala
by Binod Tripathi
The Kathmandu Post Money
May 7, 2017

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Lo Manthang

Gyanendra Bista has worked as the secretary of the village development committee at Lo Manthang, Mustang for 32 years. Now he is vying for the post of chairman of the village council in the local election scheduled for May 14.

A nephew of Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista, the last king of the former Himalayan Kingdom of Mustang, he is representing the CPN-Maoist party.

“I if win the election, I will help the development of the district,” he said during an election rally. One of his key election pledges is the development of the Korala border point on the Nepal-China border.

“I will open Korala Pass to connect our area with our ancestral lands.” If the pass comes into operation, a lot of infrastructural problems in Mustang will be solved, he said. “The pass will bolster Mustang’s education, health, transport and businesses, among other sectors.”

Likewise, almost all the candidates vying for different posts in the local election have promised to construct a road connecting the northern neighbour in their attempt to attract votes.

Another candidate for the post of village council chairman in Lo Manthang is Indradhara Bista, who is also a nephew of the late king of Mustang. He is the in-charge of the fair in Korala which is held twice a year. The residents of Upper Mustang trade daily essentials at the fair.

“In order to make Lo Manthang an important hub for trade and business, it is important to open the Korala Pass,” said Indradhara Bista who has joined the election as an independent candidate.

Subarna Kumar Bista of the Nepali Congress, another candidate for the post of chairman, also has been luring voters with his agenda to open the pass to develop Mustang.

The race for the chairmanship is close, and candidates have been trying to lure voters with their development plans and ideas rather than just presenting their party’s ideology. There are 1,700 voters in Lo Manthang.

Gharap Jhong is another important village in Mustang whose importance is highlighted by the fact that the district headquarters of Jomsom falls under this region. The electoral race here too has heated up. Candidates have been talking about developing the Kali Gandaki Corridor, one of Nepal’s national pride projects, which connects the northern and southern border points.

A 225-km road linking Gaindakot and Baglung and another 190-km road linking Baglung and Korala along the corridor will be the shortest route connecting India and China.

Nepali Congress candidate Bijaya Hirachan said that he would lobby with his party to open Korala Pass. “I will make sure that the pass is built at the earliest,” he said, adding that the pass was not only Mustang’s pride, but also of the country.”

Bishal BK of the CPNMaoist stated that the pass should open, and trade should be conducted in a full-fledged way through this pass.

This village with 1,468 voters usually sees a tough clash between the three major parties.


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[Subarna’s Brother] Yes, he came in a vehicle to the Nechung Custom’s Post.

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[Man Translating] I am standing at [inaudible] border marker between Tibet and Mustang.

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Behind me is the Chinese border post, a large military base outside the Tibetan town of Takil.

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[Narrator] The border guards inside the base were watching Prakash’s every move.
Nothing passes on this road without being spotted.

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Trucks owned by Tibetan merchants haul rice, canned food, lanterns, pots and pans,

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every necessity of life from the Chinese side.

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The Karmapa was supposed to be smuggled through aboard one of these trucks,

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and then sent by helicopter to the Nepali capital of Kathmandu.
But something went wrong with the plan.

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The Chinese border guards at the Takyu Checkpoint were stunned to see two landcruisers rush past in the darkness.

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Four miles into Nepal the road splits at the Customs Post, but the driver takes the wrong turn right into a stone wall.

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Using a radio phone, the Karmapa’s group of five monks contact the Smugglers ...

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who arrive and take them to safety in the darkness.
What happens next astonished the local people.

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On the next morning, the Chinese police came back.

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The doors to the Toyota had been left unlocked and the keys were still in the ignition.

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The Chinese drove the Karmapa’s landcruiser a short distance into Tibet, and then they demolished the vehicle as if trying to destroy evidence.

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What happened to the second landcruiser?

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It seems to have vanished into thin air!

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This second car belongs to one of the richest Tibetan merchants in Lhasa, who happens to be the world’s biggest dealer in Pashmina wool.

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He, and this Toyota, resurfaced in Lhasa ten days later.

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According to the Press in India, this merchant is a secret agent of China’s Public Security Bureau.

The Indian government had other charges against Tai Situ. New Delhi was investigating Situ's followers for organizing smuggling rings throughout India, Nepal, and China. Indian intelligence was particularly interested in a group of Khampa businessmen in Lhasa associated with Situ and headed by Bhu Chung Chung, a member of the Chinese Bureau of Public Security. New Delhi police found that Chung and his associate Ogyen smuggled $2.5 million worth of shahtoosh wool into India for sale in the city. The endangered Tibetan antelope must be killed to yield the wool. Therefore an international treaty banned all trade in shahtoosh in the 1970s. Possession of shahtoosh is a crime in India, China, and other countries, and those who try to move it across international frontiers to meet the demand of unscrupulous dealers face stiff penalties. Police arrested Ogyen, but Bhu Chung Chung escaped.

-- Buddha's Not Smiling: Uncovering Corruption at the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism Today, by Erik D. Curren


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LHASA, TIBET

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[Narrator] The landcruiser was a gift from officials in the Tibetan Autonomous Region,

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who eagerly supported his plans ...

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to return the Black Crown to Tibet.

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Ogyen Trinley Dorje was, and still is, the darling of the Regional Government.

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He was pampered like a prince by the Tibetans and the Chinese.

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At the age of four, this son of poor fur trappers ...

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was thrust into the limelight ...

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when a powerful Kagyupa monk named Tai Situpa chose him as a successor to the 16th Karmapa.

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His enthronement in Tsurphu monastery outside Lhasa, was nationally televised.
It was a powerful symbol of the unity of Tibet with the People’s Republic of China.

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The decision to leave wasn’t made on the spur of the moment.
It was planned well in advance.

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As early as September – four months before his departure,

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Ogyen Trinley’s attendant sought permission for retreat ...

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in these meditation chambers above the monastery.

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That was a good way to explain his absence from Tibet.
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Re: Flight of a Karmapa, directed by Yoichi Shimatsu

Postby admin » Thu Nov 28, 2019 7:09 am

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Ogyen Trinley left Tsurphu monastery on Christmas, and not on the 28th as claimed,

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because by the 27th the police were already searching for him in Lhasa.

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They drove away on the brand new road that was built by a wealthy supporter, Chen Lu-an, who is one of Taiwan’s top politicians.

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The road led to the Qinghai Tibet Highway.

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Somewhere along the way he linked up with another landcruiser owned by the Tibetan merchant.

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The Merchant’s security clearance got them past military bases and police checkpoints.

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Then they took the Trans-Tibet Highway that leads to sacred Mt. Kailas.

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According to officers at this Royal Nepal Army base, Ogyen Trinley’s border crossing attempt was spotted by both ...

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the Chinese and ...

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Indian armies.

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A Toyota landcruiser with VIP license plates is worth its weight in gold in Tibet, and Ogyen Trinley wanted to park it in a safe place.

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So his men in Mustang rented two Russian built MI16 helicopters inside Nepal to airlift the vehicle deeper into Nepal’s Dolpa region.

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The Russian helicopters came too close to the border and were detected by radar on the Chinese side.
The big Chinese army base at Purang[?] put the border guards on alert.

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The Indian Security forces picked up the Chinese alert and figured that Ogyen Trinley was attempting a border crossing. India sent hundreds of armed policemen to the Tinkar Pass on the Nepal border to intercept him.
With two Asian superpowers now on alert, Ogyen Trinley’s secret border crossing was blown.
There was only one course left: a mad dash into Mustang.

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At 1:00 in the afternoon on December 29th, a Kathmandu monk named Gyaltsen Lama received an urgent phone call.

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He had visited Tsurphu two years earlier, to pledge his support for this Karmapa.

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Now was his time to come through.

***

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[Narrator] Tell us what you said on the phone.

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[Gyaltsen Lama, the tall Manangi] We bring the Karmapa here. You help.

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We don’t know where we can go.

***

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[Narrator] The lanky 6-foot tall monk, better known as “The Tall Manangi,” was the right man for the job.
He drove to Pokhara and then took a plane to Jomsom in Lower Mustang.

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He hired horses from Pony Guide Kancha Gurong [?], and they rode up the Kali Gandaki River far into the night.

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On the next morning at 5:00 a.m., they rendezvoused with Ogyen Trinley, his monks from Tsurphu, and Chawang Lama, the brother of Subarna Bista, the main escape organizer in Mustang.

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They rode through snowfall.

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Ogyen Trinley didn’t realize he was passing through a land that was once the base for Operation Shadow Circus, the CIA’s secret war in Tibet.

Chapter 11: Mustang

Well before the parachute drop at Markham, the seeds of a new Tibet strategy were germinating. The impetus for this had come from NVDA [National Volunteer Defence Army/Chushi Gangdruk] chief Gompo Tashi and from Lhamo Tsering, Gyalo Thondup's able lieutenant in Darjeeling, who watched with concern as thousands of able-bodied Tibetan men were siphoned from Indian refugee camps and channeled into road construction gangs to help offset mounting aid costs. Some 4,000 ended up in Sikkim alone, where they were overseen by a special relief committee headed by Princess Kukula. [1]

Dispersing Tibetan manpower in this way put the two leaders in a quandary. Although having the refugees work on road construction was better than letting them languish in camps, employing large numbers of men as laborers sapped energy from the dream of retaking their homeland. Many of the displaced still clung to the hope of a resurgent NVDA, particularly older partisans who itched for the chance to take up arms one more time.

Although neither Gompo Tashi nor Lhamo Tsering were opposed to the idea of a reborn guerrilla army, there was a serious geopolitical hurdle to overcome. To properly refit any irregulars, they needed a secure staging area. Given Nehru's continued desire to refrain from provoking the Chinese leadership, use of India for this purpose was out of the question. Similarly, Bhutan and Sikkim were too firmly under India's thumb to consider their territory as host for a significant paramilitary endeavor.

By default, that left Nepal. A lone Hindu kingdom in the Buddhist Himalayas, Nepal was a study in selective nonalignment. For the first eight years of India's independence, Kathmandu had tempered its neutrality with a pro-Indian bias. At the same time, Nepal liked to think of Tibet (with considerable hyperbole) as a kind of vassal and not as part of China.

But in 1955, with the death of mild King Tribhuwan and the rise of bolder son Mahendra, change was in the air. In an attempt to break what he saw as overdependence on India and to diversify the kingdom's foreign policy, the new king established diplomatic relations with the PRC in 1956 and signed a Sino-Nepalese trade agreement that same year.

Although Kathmandu had moved a small step closer to Beijing -- and now recognized the PRC's hold over Tibet -- Gompo Tashi and Lhamo Tsering still had good reason to see Nepal as an attractive stepping-stone into their homeland. First, transportation difficulties and sharp ethnic differences meant that Kathmandu's grip barely reached outside the capital. Second, Nepal was already home to a large number of recent Tibetan arrivals. Estimates placed the number of refugees at 20,000 during the first two years of the Dalai Lama's exile. Of these, many were from the western reaches of Tibet and sought sanctuary in Nepal's most remote border areas, where Kathmandu's writ was rarely heard, much less acknowledged. [2]

Third, one corner of Nepal -- the enclave of Mustang -- was for all intents and purposes part of Tibet. The highest kingdom in the world (with an average altitude of 3,758 feet), Mustang encompassed 1,943 square kilometers of arid gorges and cliffs centered along Nepal's northern border. Surrounded on three sides by Tibet, its population and culture were entirely Tibetan Buddhist. It had never been conquered by Nepal and, located north of the Himalayas, intuitively should have been incorporated under Lhasa's control. But after an eighteenth-century debt swap among highland royalty, Mustang passed to Nepal as a loose tributary. [3]

Nepal could be forgiven for hardly noticing its new territorial addition. Led by its own line of kings dating back to the fourteenth century, Mustang consisted of just twelve large villages and the walled capital of Lo Monthang [Manthang], where a modest palace was centered in a maze of temples and homes for 800 residents. Though it had once been prosperous -- thanks to its command over the salt trade into western Tibet -- Mustang had degenerated into a backwater after competing principalities to the south broke that monopoly in 1890.

Despite its impoverishment, Mustang retained something more important: its autonomy. Even when Kathmandu insisted on the disbandment of other royal fiefdoms within its borders, Mustang alone was allowed to keep its king. In return for a token annual tribute of two horses and forty-five British pounds, Lo Monthang [Manthang] enjoyed near complete leeway in running its own affairs. [4]

Besides its quasi-independence, there were other reasons for Lhamo Tsering and Gompo Tashi to favor Mustang. First, it was there that the Lithang Khampa team had fled in late 1959 after its abortive mission to Nam Tso; in messages sent back to Darjeeling, the agents had reported that their ethnic kin were generally supportive. Second, the border between Mustang and Tibet did not have any high passes blocked by snow in winter. Third, although its climate was dry and the land largely infertile, there was a handful of valleys with enough tree cover to camouflage a guerrilla encampment during the summer. Fourth, its remote location kept it out of range of foreign visitors; only one Western interloper had ever set foot in the region as of 1960. And if that were not enough, a divination arranged by the two leaders confirmed the choice of Mustang as a good one. [5]


Although Gompo Tashi and Lhamo Tsering (who, it was understood, carried Gyalo's consent) were swayed that Mustang was a sure bet for a guerrilla sanctuary, the United States had to be convinced. Traveling to Calcutta in February 1960 to meet with CIA liaison officers, the two lobbied for support of their Nepal plan. At the time, Washington's relations with Kathmandu could only be described as cool and proper. This was largely due to King Mahendra's engagement policy of playing off the major powers, milking aid from all but not endearing himself to any. Had the United States requested permission from Mahendra to use Mustang, it is unlikely that it would have been granted. [6]

But the question was never asked. Just as Gompo Tashi and Lhamo Tsering had calculated, poor transportation and communication networks severely curtailed the Nepalese government's extent of control. "Most ministers had never seen their own country," noted one American aid worker who served there in 1960." [7] Concluded Ralph Redford, the CIA station chief in Kathmandu, "The king's permission was not necessarily required." [8]

Once word of the pitch from the two Tibetans reached Washington, the CIA's task force officers quickly concurred that a modest guerrilla operation staged from Mustang had merit and would not irreparably harm U.S.-Nepal relations. Gompo Tashi was given approval in March to begin the process of identifying candidates to lead the paramilitary force.


-- The CIA's Secret War in Tibet, by Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison


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[Narrator] After Ghami, they took the steep path over Nyi La Pass, through Syanboche, and then Samar and [inaudible].

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It was 9:00 p.m. at night when they reached the most dangerous part of the trail.

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The locals say a lot of horses and porters have fallen to their deaths here.

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With flashlights in hand, the porters led the horses across the pass, one at a time.

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In the next village, Chele, lodgekeeper Gyanuma Gurung[?] was preparing a meal for her special guests.

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[Lodgekeeper Gyanuma Gurung[?]] After the meal, the pony guide, [inaudible] became angry at the Tamang from Manang. They were arguing outside.

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[Pony Guide] I’m still angry at that Manangi. I told him that my horses weren’t going any further. They were tired and freezing.

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[Lodgekeeper Gyanuma Gurung[?]] He calmed down and they rode off.

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[Narrator] They turned to the east.

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At 6:00 a.m. in the morning, freezing and hungry, they took a chance and knocked on the door of a total stranger.

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[Woman] I heard people knocking on the door saying, “Lamas. Lamas. Let us in.”

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They were shivering, so I made a fire inside the room.

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I asked if there was a big lama with them, but they said “No.”

[Narrator] After drinking tea and eating noodles and biscuits, they left without blessing or even thanking their host.

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[Woman] You see, I wanted a blessing for my deceased husband, and for the baby. But they wouldn’t give us one.

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I can’t die in peace now. Where was his compassion? How can that young lama call himself the Karmapa?

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[Narrator] They got on their horses again, and faced the biggest challenge yet.

***

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[Narrator] We’ve reached the summit of Thorong La Pass, more than 5, 400 meters altitude.

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That’s 700 meters taller than the highest of the alps.

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It’s so cold up here in winter that few porters dare attempt the crossing,

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and those that do risk loss of a limb or death from frostbite.

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[Gyaltsen Lama, the tall Manangi] I’ve climbed Thorang La Pass 15 times in my life. But this time was the first time with no problems.

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[Narrator] They reached the summit at 10:00 a.m. in the morning, and then proceeded downhill toward Manang.

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Ahead of them lay the 8,000 meter peaks of Annapurna, and majestic Machapuchare, Fishtail Peak.
How did they cross this impassable natural barrier?

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[Narrator] This is a helipad where the Karmapa was picked up by one of two helicopters owned by a company allegedly connected to the CIA.

***

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[Narrator] The Tall Manangi was flown to a resort north of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu.
From there, he would organize a border crossing into India.

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But Ogyen Trinley was sent in a different direction: to Pokhara.

***
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Re: Flight of a Karmapa, directed by Yoichi Shimatsu

Postby admin » Thu Nov 28, 2019 7:10 am

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[Narrator] The Karmapa was airlifted through Nepal in January aboard this helicopter, an Ecureuil high altitude helicopter [Fishtail Air] used for air rescue missions in the Himalayas.

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According to the Pokhara Airport Security Office, Fishtail Air made two flights on that day.

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But when we checked with this office, we found that the flight records for that critical day were missing.

***

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[Narrator] The young Tibetan monk was spotted at this lakeside resort.

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It was here, at a lakeside restaurant in Pokhara [Lhasa Restaurant] ...

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that the sister of the Karmapa had lunch three weeks before his escape. In early December, she was seen eating lunch here with a Tibetan professor from Germany and another monk.

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[Man] Then, finally he told me that he was here with the sister of the Karmapa. A nun, he said.
And I told him there are two Karmapas. Which one, I asked.
He said the one from Tibet.

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She looked very unique, very strange, not an ordinary person …

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the shape of her head. And she was very serious.

A pause one floor below the Karmapa’s quarters. “You wait here while I take these people inside,” says the policewoman to me. She and her colleagues are the ones who are obviously in charge of the Karmapa’s time, and whom he meets and doesn’t. A young nun writing laboriously in a notebook is pointed out to me. It is Ngodrup Palzom, the Karmapa’s sister. Palzom is learning English. Smiling, she reads out from her book, whose pages she has filled with her beautiful cursive handwriting: “I look like my mother.” It makes me think of the families torn apart by conflict all over the world. Like the Karmapa’s. And of the little boy in the guesthouse.

-- New Body, Old Mind, by Swati Chopra, Tricycle, Spring, 2002

***

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His Holiness' sister, Ngodup Pelzom, at Institut Karma Tengyal Ling yesterday. (Kamalashila Institut is at Buddhistisches Institut Karma Tengyal Ling. September 5, 2015, Stechlin, Germany)

-- Karmapa KTD, by Facebook.com

***

I found the following comment from Chodron regarding Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s relationship with his sister worth submitting for your consideration here.

“They are a couple. Furthermore, she has a baby with Orgyen Tobkyal, the name of this child is tulku Urgyen. She is pretty dumb, she asked me to teach her the alphabet in the period she was taking care of her baby in Bir.”

Which prompted the following response from Ana.

“Ngodrup Palzom is not OTD’s sister, she is his fuck buddy. She had a baby with Orgyen Tobkyal: tulku Ugyen.”

This must of been how the Roman Catholic Church must have operated before the reformation. With impunity. Whoever this young woman is Ogyen Trinley Dorje is passing her around like a pack of cigarettes in prison. Talk about unenlightened. So much for my Guru’s religion. Thanks, but no thanks Rinpoche. The 16th Karmapa had one foot in the past with the other in the future. He was a great man. As 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje clearly represents a step backwards for the Karma Kagyy sect into a past when in which such behavior was acceptable.

-- Why is Ogyen Trinley Dorje passing this young woman around like a pack of cigarettes?, by Bill, tinfoilushnisha.wordpress.com, May 24, 2016

***

What are we to make of the allegation that Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s “sister” is not his biological sister but instead a young woman he has been having an ongoing sexual relationship since 2002 according to Ana’s comment posted to this blog the other day?

“I suspect Orgyen Trinley doesn’t or didn’t know about her sleeping with others. I think it is probable 16th Karmapa had same sister arrangement and companion arrangement. By the way, the amrita they drink in monasteries (the monks) is sperm from the guru. At least in Tashi Jong…. I caught them in bed together in 2002. Furthermore, they had a type of spousal fight on my doorstep.”

As a senior disciple of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche my interest in this matter pertains not to the details of what happened as such, shit happens, especially when it comes to adolescents and sex, Ogyen Trinley Dorje was still a teenager in 2002, but what this specific allegation says about my guru’s sect as a religion and what appears to be its misrepresentation of its leader, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, as being a Buddhist monk in good standing vis à vis his presumed celibacy.

-- What are we to make of the allegation that Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s “sister” is not his biological sister?, by Bill, tinfoilushnisha.wordpress.com, May 26, 2016

***

After the reception, His Holiness was driven to a campus building dedicated to religious life. In a café in the basement, students were hosting a spiritual open-mike night. He sat at a table in the corner, with his translator and his sister, Jetsun Ngodup Pelzom, a wary-looking woman in a long gray skirt and a pink fleece.

-- Karmapa on Campus, by Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, May 4, 2015

***

One unfortunate aspect of the Karmapa’s escape is the disappearance of people suspected of helping him. At least one monk and a security guard were arrested and not much is known about their fate. The Karmapa’s family, who were living in Lhasa, were moved back to their nomadic pastures in Lhatok, where they are kept under surveillance by the authorities. A visit by a maternal relative of the Karmapa, namgyal Rongae, who claimed to represent the Chinese, painted a darker picture when he told the Karmapa’s sister Ngodup Palzom in May 2000 that the authorities in Tibet would retaliate against the parents in an effort to get the Karmapa to return.

-- Karmapa: The Politics of Reincarnation, by Lea Terhune

***

His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Drodul Trinley Dorje, arrived in the United States at around 4:20am at Newark Liberty International Airport adjacent to New York City. His Holiness and his sister, Ngodup Pelzom, were first received with greeting scarves by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Principal Organizer of Karmapa in America ’08, and by Kalon Tashi Wangdi, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Americas.

-- Karmapa Arrives @ Newark Airport, Thursday, May 15, 2008, by The Karmapa, kagyuoffice.org

***

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His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje with his elder sister, Jetsun Ngodup Pelzom at Karma Thegsum Chöling, Shamong, New Jersey, America, 5 April, 2015

-- HHK – Sister, by justdharma.com


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[Narrator] What was his sister Ngodrup [Pelzom] doing inside Nepal three weeks before Ogyen Trinley’s own arrival?

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Well, she was traveling with a party of 18 Tibetans who then took airplanes all the way to the Eastern border of Nepal.

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There in late December, she was set to join Tai Situpa, Ogyen Trinley’s mentor,

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who had traveled to this town, Siliguri, on the border of Sikkim.

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From there they had planned to go to Rumtek Monastery to claim the Black Crown of the Karmapa ...

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for the coronation of Ogyen Trinley.

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[Narrator] China has never given official recognition to the Indian takeover of Sikkim. And this is why nationalist politicians here support a Karmapa who has received the blessing of China.

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The very thought of an alliance between Sikkim and China is frightening to India, which has already fought two major wars with China in the Himalayas.

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And this is why India will not allow him to come to Rumtek Monastery.

A Kingdom Disenchanted

We entered Sikkim through the town of Rangpo, coming up from West Bengal. Sikkim is India's second-smallest state, larger than Rhode Island but smaller than Connecticut and with a population of about half a million. At a couple of tourist offices just over the state line, we arranged for the permit that all foreigners need to enter the former Buddhist kingdom.

Only in 2005, a year after our visit and thirty years after India annexed Sikkim in 1975, did India's northern neighbor China officially recognize that the place was legally a state of India. To signify this, before 2005, Chinese maps continued to depict an independent Sikkim. China's attitude made the Indians nervous about who entered the state. Indeed, after fighting two border wars with China in the sixties, the Indians still consider all the states along the line of the Himalayas to be sensitive for national defense, and they like to monitor and limit foreign visitors, to keep out spies or agents provocateurs.

The Indians had good reason to be nervous. In the sixties, the Indian army clashed with the Chinese in the Chumbi Valley, just a few dozen miles from Rumtek. The military restricted access to the whole area and tourists could only visit Sikkim for a few days after obtaining a special permit. In the last few years, as tensions with China have decreased, the government has relaxed its restrictions. Today tourists can easily visit Sikkim for a couple of weeks with a free pass granted in a few minutes at the state line. But India still keeps a close eye on threats to its peaceful control of Sikkim, foreign and domestic.

Once inside Sikkim most travelers to Rumtek pass through the state capital Gangtok. Disappointingly for the visitor, the town's traditional mountain architecture has mostly given way to gimcrack concrete boxes built in the seventies and eighties. Yet, the otherwise charmless city of 50,000 at an elevation of 5,480 feet is notable not only for its spectacular views over the steep valley of the Rangit River, but also for its cleanliness.

In an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the Sikkimese after annexation, the Indian government has lavished subsidies on the local administration and tax breaks on businesses. This has given Sikkim, which competes with the neighboring kingdom of Bhutan for the tourist slogan "the Switzerland of the Himalayas," a prosperous feel missing in the areas of India and Nepal that also border it. Gangtok, like other towns in Sikkim, boasts newly paved streets with sidewalks, spacious shops, and a conspicuous absence of street-people and beggars.

From Gangtok, the drive to Rumtek takes about forty-five minutes on steep, winding roads in reasonably good repair by Indian standards. Like the main highway connecting Sikkim with the rest of India, most local roads in Sikkim also benefit from generous support by the Indian central government. This creates jobs and keeps Sikkimese drivers happy, perhaps buying some loyalty for India. But New Delhi also views good mountain roads as part of its military deterrent near the contested frontier with China. India makes it clear that it can speed troops and equipment into defensive positions along the Sikkimese-Tibetan border on a few hours' notice.

-- Buddha's Not Smiling: Uncovering Corruption at the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism Today, by Erik D. Curren


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[Narrator] The plan was to fly Ogyen Trinley from Kathmandu to Dharan, and then smuggle him in a jeep to Sikkim. Then, flush with new wealth and with the mystic Black Crown, he would return to China as a national hero.
But that didn’t happen.

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Before Tai Situpa and the nun Ngodrup could enter Sikkim, lamas from Tibet got into an argument with Tai Situ’s monks over who was in charge of the crowning.

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A fight broke out and one monk was fatally stabbed.

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When the Indian police arrived, Tai Situ had fled back to his Sherabling monastery,

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and Ngodrup went into hiding.

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The Indian security forces now knew that Ogyen Trinley was on his way from Tibet.

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The Black Crown was now out of his reach.
His journey to Rumtek was over.

An agent provocateur (French for "inciting agent") is a person who commits or who acts to entice another person to commit an illegal or rash act or falsely implicate them in partaking in an illegal act, so as to ruin the reputation or entice legal action against the target or a group they belong to. An agent provocateur may be a member of a law enforcement agency acting out of their own sense of duty or under orders, or other entity. They may target any group, such as a peaceful protest or demonstration, a union, a political party or a company....

An agent provocateur may be a police officer or a secret agent of police who encourages suspects to carry out a crime under conditions where evidence can be obtained; or who suggests the commission of a crime to another, in hopes they will go along with the suggestion and be convicted of the crime.

A political organization or government may use agents provocateurs against political opponents. The provocateurs try to incite the opponent to do counter-productive or ineffective acts to foster public disdain or provide a pretext for aggression against the opponent.


-- Agent Provocateur, by Wikipedia


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Instead, he was bound for the headquarters of his old foes, the Gelugpa order of the Dalai Lama.
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Re: Flight of a Karmapa, directed by Yoichi Shimatsu

Postby admin » Thu Nov 28, 2019 7:10 am

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That night he stopped in Lumbini, the birth place of the Buddha,

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but it was too dark to see anything.

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Aided by Tibetan smugglers shown here,

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he crossed into India with false United Nations refugee papers.

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His last stop was Dharamsala.

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[Yapo S. Yongda, Sikkim supporter of rival Karmapa] There is no need for His Holiness the Dalai Lama to come and interfere with this matter, this Karmapa incarnate matter. This is purely should have been left with the Karmapa [inaudible] schools.

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[Narrator] After his arrival in Pokhara, the Karmapa stayed at this hotel compound [Hotel Mount Annapurna]...

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in the home of the manager who is a high ranking member of the Dalai Lama’s Government-In-Exile.

Fallout from the Bangladeshi operation was swift. The CIA lodged a protest against the RAW over the use of the Tibetans in Operation EAGLE. Director Kao hardly lost any sleep over the matter; with U.S. financial and advisory support to the SFF all but evaporated, the agency's leverage was nil. Bolstering his indifference was the diplomatic furor over deployment of the U.S. aircraft carrier Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal during the brief war. Although Washington claimed that the vessel was there for the potential evacuation of U.S. citizens from Dacca, New Delhi suspected that it had been sent as a show of support for the Pakistanis. Bilateral ties, never good during the Nixon presidency, ebbed even lower.

More serious were the protests against Operation EAGLE from within the Tibetan refugee community. In this instance, it was Dharamsala that was under fire, not the RAW. Facing mounting criticism for having approved the deployment, the Dalai Lama made a secret journey to Chakrata on 3 June 1972. After three days of blessings, most ill feelings had wafted away.

As this was taking place, John Bellingham was approaching the end of his tour at the Special Center. He had just delivered the second installment of rehabilitation funds, which arrived in Nepal without complication. With this money, two Pokhara carpet factories had been established, and construction of a hotel in the same town was progressing according to plan. Another carpet factory was operating in Kathmandu, as was a taxi and trucking company.

By the summer of 1973, with one-third of the funds still to be distributed, the CIA opted not to deploy a new representative to the Special Center. Because Bellingham had moved next door as the CIA's chief of station in Kathmandu, and because he was already intimately familiar with the demobilization program, it was decided to send him the Indian rupees in a diplomatic pouch for direct handover to designated Tibetans in Nepal. Although this violated the agency's previous taboo against involving the Kathmandu station, an exception was deemed suitable in this case, given the humanitarian nature of the project.

The money was well spent. That November, ex-guerrillas formally opened their Pokhara hotel, the Annapurna Guest House. Bellingham and his wife were among its first patrons.


-- The CIA's Secret War in Tibet, by Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison


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[Narrator] Why did the Dalai Lama’s Gelugpa order make such an effort to intercept Ogyen Trinley after he crossed Tharong La Pass?

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While back in Tibet, the Kagyupa leader publically supported the Beijing-backed Panchen Lama instead of the Dalai Lama’s own candidate.

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This threatened the very existence of the Exile Government and of an aging Dalai Lama who is outside of Tibet.

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Who is to decide on the reincarnation of powerful lamas?
Should it be the Dalai Lama,

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or the Beijing Government?

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Or should the choice be left to each school of Tibetan Buddhism?

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Riding aboard the helicopter that had plucked him off a Himalayan mountain,

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Ogyen Trinley flew right past the meditation cave of Milarepa.

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Milarepa is the patron saint of Tibet who lived more than 1,000 years ago.

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[Lhakba Lama, Caretaker of Milarepa Cave] Today, our lamas ride around in expensive cars in the big cities, and people pay money to receive religious titles.

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We have lost our way from the path of the Buddha, which we call the Dharma.

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This is why there are two Karmapas, and two Panchen lamas, and even the Nyingmapa is divided.
The Dharma is broken.

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REPORTING & VIDEO:
Susanna Cheung
Prakash Khanal
Yoichi Shimatsu

TIBET VIDEO
Makalu Gau

EDITORS
Clifford Parker
Ming Kawaguchi

MAPS
Hanamiyo Productions

SPECIAL THANKS
New California Media
Journalism & Media Studies Centre at The University of Hong Kong

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NACHT VISION
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Re: Flight of a Karmapa, directed by Yoichi Shimatsu

Postby admin » Thu Nov 28, 2019 7:10 am

THE POLITICS OF REINCARNATION

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[Narrator] No Dalai Lama before this one has ever decided who should lead the Kagyupa School. Leadership decisions have always been left to each of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism to decide on their own.
Yet on the 3rd of June, 1992, the Dalai Lama took the unprecedented step of endorsing a candidate to succeed the 16th Karmapa.

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His choice of Ogyen Trinley Dorje, he says, was based on a dream.

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[Dalai Lama, from the film “Living Buddha, by Klemens Kuby] I do not rely on just one or two of such tests. If I receive something of my usual method regarding choosing the reincarnation, then that indication is positive, so then I decide it, “It's okay, that’s good.”

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I got some kind of dream of the location, the area where he is born.

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One valley, the stones and lawns, it looks like high altitude, and then facing the south there are some small beautiful streams. And that’s the main picture. There is someone there that told me, actually without a form there is someone, some source telling to me, “Oh, this is the place the karmapa is born.”

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[Narrator] That description, of course, could apply to nearly every valley in the Himalayas.

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S. Yongda [Yapo S. Yongda leads campaign to save Sikkim’s Buddhist heritage], who heads an organization that protects the Buddhist heritage of Sikkim, says that the Dalai Lama’s dream was the beginning of a campaign by the Gelugpa order to take over and eliminate their ancient rivals, the Kagyupa school.

Chapter 3: An Ancient Rivalry

Religious Schools Compete to Rule


Religious conflict was commonplace in old Tibet. In a violent battle for supremacy, the original religion of Tibet, Bon, was replaced as the dominant faith in Tibet by Buddhism after its arrival from India in the eighth century. [1] Beginning in the eleventh century, Tibetan Buddhism developed four schools that shared many beliefs but ran their own monasteries and passed down their own lineages of oral teachings: the Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu. and Gelug. Over the centuries, Bon continued to maintain followers and incorporated many Buddhist elements, effectively evolving into a fifth school of the Vajrayana. Devotees of each school respected the tenets and historic masters of the other schools and frequently took teachings from lamas of different schools. But it would be naive to believe that these schools coexisted peacefully under an official regime of religious tolerance.

Though Tibetan culture was imbued with Buddhism at every level, history belies the Shangri-La image of Tibetan lamas and their followers living together in mutual tolerance and non-violent goodwill. Indeed, the situation was quite different. Old Tibet was much more like Europe during the religious wars of the Counter Reformation than a neighborhood in Berkeley, California where synagogue, mosque, church, and dharma center make cozy neighbors. During the European religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, forces of Protestant kings and princes fought armies of Catholic rulers or troops of the Church itself. Likewise, for hundreds of years in Tibet, lay followers of each religious school sometimes clashed with each other for control of the government of Central Tibet or rule over provincial areas. Lamas often had to defend their monasteries and other landholdings from supporters of the other schools.

Tibet before the Chinese invasion was not a unified country under a single government. Instead, like medieval France or Italy, it was a large area inhabited by people loosely connected by language, customs, and religion but ruled by local aristocrats or religious leaders. For the last few centuries, until 1959, Tibet consisted of three main areas, Central Tibet, Amdo, and Kham. As we have seen, Central Tibet was governed since the seventeenth century by the Dalai Lamas from their capital at Lhasa, and it included the provinces of U and Tsang plus the dry areas of western Tibet. Aside from Lhasa, its major city was Shigatse, on the Tsangpo River. The Tibet Autonomous Region created by the Chinese in the 1960s corresponds approximately to the area claimed by the old Central Tibetan government.

Amdo occupied the borderlands with China in the northeast, and was a sparsely populated area of grassland and desert. Here, the current Dalai Lama was born in 1935 to a family of subsistence farmers, and his early childhood was rustic, as depicted in the film Kundun. Nomads thrived in Amdo's lonely expanses. Today, Amdo is divided between the Chinese provinces of Gansu and Qinghai.

Finally, Kham was sandwiched between Central Tibet in the west and both the nation of Burma and the Chinese province of Sichuan in the east. For centuries its dozens of small feudal principalities were ruled by local kings and nobles who fiercely guarded their independence from each other -- and from the Dalai Lamas and the Chinese emperors as well. Three great rivers emerge from their high mountain sources and pass through the lush, tree-covered gorges of Kham to water the fertile plains of Southeast Asia: the Yangtse, the Mekong, and the Salween. Verdant valleys nestled between haughty peaks hosted a rich farming area that gave Tibet its greatest warriors, bandits, and saints. For centuries Kham was the stronghold of the Karma Kagyu, hundreds of miles and a world apart from the Dalai Lama's capital at Lhasa. In the 1950s and 60s the Chinese incorporated most of Kham into the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan.

Much of Tibetan history is the story of how the rulers of Central Tibet tried to extend their rule into the border areas of Amdo and Kham, or how the different religious schools of the Tibetan plateau came to rule the central provinces of U and Tsang. After the Bon kings began to convert to Buddhism in the ninth century, each of the four Buddhist schools controlled the government of Central Tibet, one after the other in succession. The sects either ruled directly, with their chief lama sitting on the throne, or indirectly, serving as priests to secular kings. And while some schools proved to be kinder, more tolerant rulers than others, each school used its political influence against its religious rivals from time to time.

The oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism is the Nyingma, or "First Wave" school, deriving from the original Buddhism brought by the Indian missionary Padmasambhava in the eighth century. He opened Tibet's first Buddhist monastery, Samye, in 779 A.D. The Nyingma is known for its homeless ascetics and "crazy yogis" who perform advanced tantric practices in caves and wander the countryside giving blessings though the lineage also boasts significant monasteries. Modern lamas including Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Sogyal Rinpoche, and the American Lama Surya Das have made the Nyingma teaching of Dzogchen, an advanced form of meditation, well known in the West.

The earliest Buddhist lamas of Tibet, whose lineages later became the Nyingma school, exercised strong influence on the dynastic families that produced the first royal patrons of Buddhism in Tibet, the three "Dharma Kings" Songsten Gampo, Trisong Detsen, and Ralpachen. These kings worked to spread Buddhism and, at times, to repress the native Bon religion on behalf of Buddhist lamas during the often turbulent period of early Tibetan Buddhism.

Three hundred years after Buddhism first came to Tibet, three Sarma, or "Second Wave" schools appeared. The first of these was the Sakya school. In 1073, Khon Konchog Gyalpo founded Sakya monastery and the Tibetan Buddhist school of the same name. Perhaps the least=known Tibetan Buddhist school in the West, the Sakyas are renowned among Tibetans for their advanced scholarship of Buddhist philosophy and formidable skill in dialectics and debate.

A non-celibate order, the Sakyas pass along their succession from father to son or uncle to nephew. The Sakyas were the first lamas to make fruitful contact with the Mongols, who would prove so important in Tibetan history. In 1247 Kunga Gyaltsen, known as the Sakya Pandita for his knowledge of Sanskrit, met with the Mongol Prince Godan at his camp north of Tibet in the region of Lake Koko Nor, located in the present-day province of Gansu in northwestern China. Godan summoned the Sakya lama to preach to his people and, since the lama was also the most powerful political leader in Tibet, to surrender his country to Mongol rule and thus save it from a devastating invasion. For this the Sakya Pandita went down in history as a wise statesman.

Despite his role in history, to Tibetans the Sakya Pandita is less famous as a shrewd political leader than as an accomplished spiritual master, scholar, and man of letters. He is the author of the Sakya Lekshe, a handbook of ethical behavior for lay people that became a perennial classic, held up as a model of elegant Tibetan prose style. [2] The Sakya Pandita became the spiritual advisor of the Mongol chieftain.

A few years later, in 1251, Prince Godan appointed the Sakya Pam1ita's seventeen-year- old nephew Phagpa as Mongol viceroy of Tibet. Standing out in the country's history, Phagpa came to be known for his religious tolerance. Later, when Kublai Khan became Great Khan, he asked Phagpa to create an alphabet for the vast Eurasian empire of the Mongols, then at its peak, stretching from Russia to southern China. He also urged Phagpa to merge the other schools of Tihetan Buddhism into the Sakya school. However, as Tibetan historian Tsepon W.D. Shakabpa has written, "Phagpa insisted that the other sects be allowed to practice Buddhism in their own way. This brought Phagpa the support of many of the Tibetan priest-chieftains; however, the presence of several different sects in Tibet was to weaken the power of the Sakya ruling family in the years that followed." [3] For more than a century the Sakya lamas ruled Tibet as agents of the Mongols until replaced by followers of the Kagyu school.

Meanwhile, back to the eleventh century -- around the time Kon Konchog Gyalpo founded Sakya monastery and a century before the Sakyas would take over the Tibetan government -- the Kagyu or Oral Transmission school began in Tibet. The founder of the school, a stoutly built householder named Marpa the Translator, brought the teachings of the famously unconventional Indian yogis Tilopa and Naropa over the Himalayas from India. Marpa's most gifted student, Milarepa, became the greatest yogi of Tibet. A murderer who later devoted himself to ascetic practice in caves, Milarepa authored hundreds of songs that became classics of Tibetan literature.

The largest of the so-called "four great and eight lesser" sub-schools of the Kagyu, the Karma Kagyu, began when the first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa founded Tsurphu monastery in 1185. The school became known for the inspirational power of its most advanced teachers, principally the Karmapas. The next chapter discusses the origin of the Karmapas, and their most famous ritual object, the Vajra Mukut or Black Crown of enlightened action.

The Gelug school was the last of the four major schools of Buddhism to appear in Tibet. A charismatic scholar and preacher named Tsongkhapa founded the Gelugpas in the early fifteenth century. His successors as head of the school became the Dalai Lamas, and they, in turn, with Mongol assistance, came to rule over the government of Central Tibet in the seventeenth century, just as the Sakya lama Phagpa had done three centuries earlier. The rise of the Gelugpas led to a political rivalry between them and the Karma Kagyu school of the Karmapas that would last five hundred years and continue after the lamas went into exile in 1959.

This rivalry forms the background for the current Karmapa controversy, so we will learn more about it later in this chapter. Now, et us return to the Middle Ages and see how the Kagyu school came to rule Central Tibet and how they set the country on the path towards becoming a modern nation-state.

The Kagyu Takes its Turn

While four reincarnations of Karmapas built up the Karma Kagyu school, the Sakyas continued to rule the government of Central Tibet. At the time of the fourth Karmapa Rolpe Dorje (1340-83), Sakya rule ended and secular kings under the tutelage of the Kagyu school seized power. When the Mongol Yuan dynasty began to wane in China, the Mongols were no longer able to support their surrogates, the Sakya lamas, in Tibet. Knowing that Mongol cavalry would not ride to the rescue if the Sakya Lama were attacked, various subordinates began to contend for the throne.

The last of these, Wangtson, came to power by murdering his predecessor in 1358. He was never able to consolidate his hold on power, and later the same year he was overthrown in turn by a regional governor named Jangchup Gyaltsen. In a vain attempt to preserve the appearance of imperial rule over Tibet, the last Yuan emperor Shundi hastily conferred approval on Jangchup's coup and awarded him the imperial title Tai Situ (He should not be confused with the Tai Situ Rinpoche of the Karma Kagyu; "Tai Situ" was a common title in the imperial bureaucracy, equivalent to "chief secretary.") Jangchup Gyalrsen's line became the Pagmotru dynasty, the first of three royal dynasties to rule under the tutelage of the Kagyu school. The Pagmotru ruled until 1435. Afterwards, four kings of the Rinpung dynasty ruled in succession from 1435 to 1565, followed by three Tsangpa kings who ruled from 1565 until 1642. The Tsangpa kings were followers not only of the Kagyu school, but were personal devotees of the Karmapas. Playing a careful game of diplomacy with the deposed but still troublesome Mongols as well as with the new Ming dynasty (1368-1644) rulers in China, these kings governed Tibet relatively free from foreign control. Under the influence of the Kagyu school, Tibet enjoyed a three-hundred-year window of independence and peace between two periods of domination by the Mongols.

The Gelugpas Rise and Struggle for Power with the Kagyus

As we saw earlier, the last Buddhist school to appear in Tibet was the Gelug order of the Dalai Lamas. Tsongkhapa (1357-1419)was a skillful debater and charismatic preacher who lived at the same time as the fifth Karmapa Deshin Shegpa of the Kagyu school. Tsongkhapa founded the Gelug school when he established the Monlam Chemno, or Great Prayer Festival, in Lhasa in 1409. Known informally as the "Yellow Hats," the Gelugpas were famous for their skill at scholarship and debate, like the masters of the Sakya school.

But unlike the Sakyas, the Gelugpas placed great emphasis on celibate monastic life. Many writers have claimed that the Gelugpas were a reforming school of Buddhism, seeking to clean up the lax morality said to have infected the other schools. By analogy, the Gelug rise would be like the Protestant Reformation in Europe a century earlier, and Tsongkhapa would be Tibet's Martin Luther. [4] Other historians have disagreed, however, claiming that Tsongkhapa and the early Dalai Lamas placed no special emphasis on monastic discipline compared to the other religious schools. In any event, under Tsongkhapa's dynamic leadership, the Gelug school grew in political influence and established large monasteries in Central Tibet that began to rival those of the Karma Kagyu.

Tibetan historian Shakabpa has claimed that the popularity of Tsongkhapa, the first Dalai Lamas, and other Gelugpa teachers threatened the dominance of the Kagyu. [5] In response, the Tibetan royal governments who followed the Kagyu suppressed the rising Gelugpas to protect the Kagyu from spiritual competition.

The major traditional histories of Tibet, including the fifth Dalai Lama's own account of these years, contradict this claim. [6] During Tsongkhapa's lifetime, the Pagmotru dynasty of kings, patrons of the Kagyu school, ruled Central Tibet. The Pagmotru kings were succeeded by the Rinpung dynasty in 1435, whose kings followed the Kagyu school as their predecessors had, and in addition took the Karmapa as their personal spiritual advisor, as we have seen. The fourth Shamarpa Chokyi Drakpa Yeshe Pal Zangpo (1453- 1524) even served a term of four years as regent during the minority of one of the Rinpung kings, and was known by the royal title Chen Nga initiated by the Pagmotru kings.

Near the end of the fifteenth century, monks from a nearby Gelugpa monastery sacked a temple that the seventh Karmapa Chodrag Gyatso (1454-1506) had begun in Lhasa. This angered the Rinpung king. In response, in 1498 the king forbade the Yellow Hats from participating in the annual Monlam prayer festival that their own founder had inaugurated ninety years earlier.

Meanwhile, a Gelugpa lama who was an energetic evangelist, Sonam Gyatso, attracted the attention of the Turned Mongol chief Altan Khan. After the fall in 1368 of the Mongol Yuan dynasty, which controlled both China and Tibet, the Mongols split up into numerous warring bands. Their leaders competed with each other to seek influence among the nations of Inner Asia, including Tibet. There, Mongol leaders adopted prominent lamas as their spiritual advisors. In 1578 Altan invited Sonam to his camp to preach. There, he offered the lama the title Dalai, "Ocean" in Mongolian, and gave the patronage of his Mongols to Sonam Gyarso's Gelugpa order. Retroactively, the lama's two previous incarnations were recognized as Sonam's predecessors, making Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588) the third Dalai Lama.

When the grandson of Altan Khan was recognized as the fourth Dalai Lama Yonten Gyatso (1589-1617), the alliance between Altan's band of Mongols and the Gelugpas was complete. Altan' s forces pledged to defend the Gelugpas against any enemies that might arise in Tibet. The first Dalai Lama had established a monastery near the royal capital of Shigatse, but later Dalai Lamas settled in Lhasa and established three monasteries in and around the city that became some of the largest and most powerful in the world: Drepung, Sera, and Ganden. These monasteries came to be known collectively as "The Three Seats." They would exert enormous political power over the government of Central Tibet in the coming centuries.

When the Dalai Lama settled in Lhasa, the Gelugpas became involved in regional politics, which escalated the tension between the Gelugpas and the Kagyus. While the Dalai Lama on the one hand, and the Karmapa and Shamarpa on the other, apparently tried to maintain cordial relations, their supporters -- monks, regional rulers, and dueling bands of Mongols - - found numerous occasions to clash. Under the rule of the three Tsangpa kings (1565-1642) this tension reached a boiling point.

The Dalai Lama Seizes Power

Under the previous dynasty, the Rinpung, the central government had become weak. This allowed regional rulers, particularly the depas or warlords of various states, to gain a high level of autonomy. Local leaders waged continuous low-grade warfare for decades with their neighbors for larger and larger holdings.

When he assumed the throne, the second Tsangpa king, Karma Phuntsok Namgyal (ruled 1611-21)sought to end this fighting by uniting the petty states of Central Tibet under a strong central government. He developed a plan for "Unification under One White [Benevolent] Law" that in many ways was ahead of its time. [7] The plan called for a federal system where cabinet departments at the national level would implement policy for defense, agriculture, education, and taxation. Numerous small states would be united for mutual defense and free trade.

King Phuntsok Namgyal upgraded his army and began a campaign, through force of arms and diplomacy, to unite the duchies of Central Tibet one by one into a single, larger Tsangpa state. He succeeded brilliantly and by the end of his campaign, only the city of Lhasa, under the rule of Kyichod Depa Apel, the Duke of Lhasa, resisted incorporation into the new unified Tibetan kingdom. The duke wanted to avoid paying taxes to the Tsangpa king and saw no benefit for himself to joining a larger Tibetan state.

To defend his autonomy, in 1616 Duke Kyichod Apel made an alliance with Drepung and Sera monasteries, which by this time had thousands of monks each. These included hundreds of specially trained dopdops or "fighting monks" who were skilled in Tibet's native martial arts and served as private armies for each cloister. By this alliance, the duke particularly hoped to gain the support of Mongol bands that patronized Gelugpa lamas. According to the fifth Dalai Lama, Apel made a gift of a large statue of Avalokiteshvara to the Turned Mongol chief Tai Gi. [8]

The statue was a national treasure of Tibet, brought from India centuries earlier by King Songsten Gampo for his personal devotional practice. Apel's family had acquired it earlier through questionable means from the Potala Palace. The Lhasa Duke presented it to the Mongol chief to forge an alliance with Tai Gi and enlist his band of Mongols for an attack on the Tsangpa king. Perhaps this would have been something like, for example, Confederate President Jefferson Davis capturing the Liberty Bell and giving it to the British to induce them to attack the North during the Civil War.

The treacherous duke was successful, and with his new Mongol allies, he and his successors in the Kyichod family fought the King of Tsang for the next two decades. This war of attrition took a hard toll on the Tsangpa kingdom as it did on the duke's own small realm.

Finally, after years of alternating victories and defeats, Duke Kyichod's successor Sonam Namgyal saw his chance to free himself of the Kyichod family's old foe by invading the heartland of Tsang itself. The duke gained ambitious advisors of the fifth Dalai Lama as his allies. He convinced them that the Tsangpa king was about to send a massive force against the main Gelug monasteries; if the monasteries did not act quickly, the Gelugpas would be wiped out. Tibetan historians say that the duke's claim was false, and that the Tsangpa king was not planning an attack on the Gelugpa monasteries. But the duke's word carried the day with Gelugpa leaders and their Mongol allies, who were eager to fight.

The Dalai Lama's minister Sonam Chopel was particularly eager for war and he invited the Qoshot Mongols under Gushri Khan to attack Tsangpa forces before getting the Dalai Lama's approval, as the Dalai Lama describes in his own Autobiography. Interestingly, the Dalai Lama seemed to take an exceptionally respectful and deferential tone with his minister, who effectively controlled the government of the young lama-king:

At the time, there were many rumors that the king [Gushri Khan) had already left Tibet and returned to his homeland. Others said that he would soon arrive with new cavalry. Zhalngo [respectful title for minister Sonam Chopel) told me that "the Tsangpa lord and his ministers have always distrusted the Gelugpa in the past and have always tried to harm us. If we remain neutral in this conflict, then Ganden Phodrang people [those of the Dalai Lama's lab rang] will say that we are siding with the Tsangpa. Now, when we have the opportunity to do so, if we do not take the chance to liberate ourselves from the Tsangpa lord with the help of the king, then we will never get free of oppressive Tsangpa rule. Therefore, I have already sent a message to the king with the messenger Gendun Thondup asking him to attack the Tsangpa lord."

"That was a rash act," I replied. "It would be better for us if the Mongols just withdraw from Tibet. It would be best to intercept the Mongols at Damjung [before reaching Tsangl and stop the outbreak of war. If you yourself do not find it convenient to do so, then I would be willing to go myself. Stopping the king would be 'good in every way -- for our reputation and for our future success."

Then, Zhalngo asked me to do a mo [prediction]. I threw the three dice of Palden Lhamo Dmagzorma [deity of war). The result was that war against the Tsangpa would indeed bring us success in the short run, bur that this war would ultimately be harmful for the future of Tibet.

"Well, good," Zhalngo said. "There is really no problem then. If we are successful now, that is enough. What happens long after we are dead is not our concern."

In this way, Zhalngo would not allow me to stop the war. [9]


After the hasty action of his short-sighted minister, the Dalai Lama appeared to have no choice. Since war with Tsang had begun, he had to ask for Gushri Khan's help to win it, or else face retribution from the Tsangpa king that may have threatened the future of the Gelugpa. Thus, reluctantly, the fifth Dalai Lama sent his own plea to Gushri to invade Central Tibet and drive all Tsangpa forces from the area around Lhasa. The Mongol chief answered his lama's call and sent cavalry against Tsangpa forces. In 1638, the Mongols routed the Tsangpa army and secured Lhasa and the surrounding province of U. They placed the Dalai Lama on the throne as Mongol viceroy.

Having gained control of Lhasa, the Dalai Lama was now ready to stop the war. But his Mongol allies were not. So, yet again against the Gelug leader's wishes but at the urging of his zealous prime minister, Sonam Chopel, the Mongol armies escalated the conflict.

In 1642, Mongols overthrew the Tsangpa ruler Karma Tenkyong Wangpo (heir to King Phuntsok Namgyal, who nearly united Tibet into one centralized nation-state, as we have seen) and went on to forcibly convert nearly a thousand Nyingma and Karma Kagyu monasteries throughout Central Tibet to the Gelugpa school. The Mongols killed seven thousand monks and beheaded many of their abbots. [10] Gushri Khan proclaimed himself king of all Central Tibet and, as before, he made the fifth Dalai Lama his viceroy. The new administration became known as the "Ganden Phodrang," -- named after the Dalai lama's residence at Drepung monastery -- thus signifying the identity of the government in Lhasa and the Gelugpa school.

Using the pretext of a revolt in Tsang later in the year, Gushri Khan executed the Tsangpa king, and forced the tenth Karmapa to flee to Yunnan province in China. The Karmapa's monastic seat at Tsurphu was not converted to the Gelugpa order, but the new government decreed that the monastery could ordain no more than three monks per year. As Tibetan historian Dawa Norbu put it, "When the Dalai Lamas came to power in the seventeenth century they began to expand their own sect, Gelugpa, using the state power at their disposal and often converting other sects, especially the Kagyupa monasteries, to their own sect." [11]

The Karmapa had the chance to retaliate, but he apparently decided against violence. The aged fifth Tai Situ Chnkyi Gyaltsen Palsang (1586-1657) offered to bring about his own death so that he could be reborn as a prince of tile newly installed Chinese Qing dynasty; then, he could grow up to lead a Chinese invasion of Tibet that would restore the power of the Karma Kagyu. The Karmapa rejected Situ's offer, saying that "everyone knows me as the man who won't even hurt a bug."

The king of nearby Li Jiang also offered his forces to aid the Karmapa, but he rejected the king's offer as well. "Now is the time of the Kali Yug, the age of darkness," the tenth Karmapa said. "In Tibet, the only dharma left is superficial teachings, so it is not worth your trouble to save it."

Later, historians, scholars, and even the fifth Dalai Lama himself would criticize Sonam Chopel and the other self-serving officials who stoked this avoidable conflict into flames of war. Yet, once he had ascended the throne in Lhasa, the Dalai Lama had to continue fighting to consolidate his rule.

The current Dalai Lama has made himself an internationally famous spokesman for nonviolence. But the example of the Great Fifth Dalai Lama shows that nonviolence was not always the policy of his predecessors. After a dozen years as ruler of Central Tibet, in 1660 the Dalai Lama was faced with a rebellion in Tsang province, not yet pacified and still the stronghold of the Karma Kagyu. The Gelugpa leader again called on his Mongol patron Gushri Khan, this time to put down the insurgency in Tsang. In a passage that may sound to modern ears more like that other Mongol Khan, Genghis, than an emanation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, the Dalai Lama called for harsh retribution towards the rebels against his rule:

[Of those in] the band of enemies who have despoiled the duties entrusted to them;
Make the male lines like trees that have had their roots cut;
Make the female lines like brooks that have dried up in winter;
Make the children and grandchildren like eggs smashed against rocks;
Make the servants and followers like heaps of grass consumed by fire;
Make their dominion like a lamp whose oil has been exhausted;
In short, annihilate any traces of them, even their names. [12]


In a few months, Gushri Khan quelled the unrest in Tsang and helped the Dalai Lama establish the Gelugpa as the undisputed spiritual and temporal rulers of Central Tibet. This marked the beginning of four hundred years of political rule by a religious leader, and the definitive end of the dream of the Tsangpa kings to transform Tibet into a unified secular state.

Until at least the early twentieth century, the Dalai Lama's government would hold an annual commemoration of its defeat of Tsang. In the 1920s Sir Charles Bell, a British diplomat who spent nineteen years in Tibet and became close to the thirteenth Dalai Lama, witnessed this ceremony, where three men from Tsang province were compelled to climb to the roof of one of the buildings at the Dalai Lama's Potala Palace in Lhasa. Then, they slid down a rope two hundred and fifty feet long into a courtyard. "This annual event, provided and paid for the by Lhasan Government, refers to Gushri's defeat of the King of Tsang, and is intended to prevent the Tsang province from ever gaining power again." [13]

After the fall of Tsangpa rule, Karma Kagyu followers retreated to Kham in eastern Tibet, out of the control of the Dalai lama's new hostile government. There, they reestablished their activities at such imposing monasteries as Palpung, the seat of the Tai Situs.

Meantime, after the Karmapa fled -- eluding the Mongol forces, according to tradition, through miraculous means -- the fifth Dalai Lama put his cousin, the fifth Gyaltsab Drakpa Choyang (1618-58), in charge of Tsurphu. Thus, the Dalai Lama signaled that he would not forcibly convert the Karmapa's seat into a Gelugpa monastery, as he had done with other Karma Kagyu cloisters. With Gyaltsab as regent, Tsurphu would remain in safe- keeping for the Karmapa's return.

The fifth Gyaltsab died in 1658. While in exile, the Karmapa, one of two who lived as a married householder, recognized the sixth Gyaltsab Norbu Zangpo (1659-98) and adopted him as his own son. When the Karmapa returned from thirty years of exile in the 1670s and resumed control at Tsurphu, he removed Gyaltsab from the Tsurphu labrang and gave him his own administration. Since that time, the Gyaltsabs have run their own labrang and have had no official responsibilities in the Karmapa's administration. A later Gyaltsab, in the nineteenth century, would even sue the Karmapa's labrang over a property rights dispute, a suit which would only end after the Chinese invasion of Tibet in the 1950s. Thus we see a historical precedent for high Karma Kagyu lamas taking each other to court over property, as they would in India in the case over Rumtek monastery in the 1990s.

The Karmapa's followers never regained the power they had lost to the Gelugpa in 1642. The two schools continued as rivals for centuries to come. In the following centuries there remained a close tie between the Dalai Lama's government and his own Buddhist sect. The new Lhasa government used its power to expand the Dalai Lama's school at the expense of the Kagyu and the other two Buddhist schools, the Nyingma and Sakya, as well as the Bon, the original pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet.

But some powerful Gelugpa lamas, especially the second-ranking master of the school, the Panchen Lamas, contended with the government as well. The ninth Panchen Lama Chokyi Nyima (1883-1937) quarreled with the thirteenth Dalai Lama over Lhasa's tax bite on the Panchen's monastery Tashilhunpo and its attached estates. The conflict led the Panchen to flee Tibet in 1923 and set up a "Field Headquarters" in eastern Tibet from which he feuded with the Dalai Lama and his government until his death in 1937. [14] At that point, Lhasa again quarreled with the Panchen's administration when each side supported a different candidate as the tenth Panchen Lama.

Sixty years later, finding the next Panchen (the eleventh) Would create trouble for the current Dalai Lama as well. The tenth Panchen, overweight and stressed from a lifetime of persecution by the Chinese, died in January 1989 at his home in Shigarse, the old Tsang royal capital, at age fifty-three. Both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government were eager to rind his successor, since the next Panchen stood to become the highest-profile spiritual leader for Tibetans once the Dalai Lama would die. In addition, the next Panchen would probably recognize the next Dalai Lama, as many of his predecessors had done. The stakes to control the lama were thus very high and each side feared being sidelined by the other in announcing the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama.

In the early 1990s the Dalai Lama and the Panchen's administration -- who were on the same side this time -- carefully worked out a secret agreement with the Chinese to recognize the incarnation of the eleventh Panchen Lama together. Then, in 1995, the agreement collapsed. On May 14, the Dalai Lama announced his own choice, six-year-old Gendun Chokyi Nyima, without giving prior notice to Beijing or to officials of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), the Chinese government of Tibet in Lhasa. The Chinese were furious. Within days, they whisked the boy off to house arrest in Beijing and started a crackdown on the Panchen's monastery. At the end of November of the same year, Beijing and TAR officials held a lot-draw in the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa to choose their own Panchen, Gyalrsen Norbu, the son of a Communist Party cadre.

The troubled history of the Panchen Lamas shows how the highest lamas contended with the Dalai Lamas for political power in old Tibet, and how in recent decades, lamas became pawns in the struggle between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese for control of hearts and minds in Tibet. We will encounter both of these themes in the rivalry between the Gelugpas and the Karma Kagyus that underpins our story. Later, we will see how this conflict played out in a contest between the Dalai Lama's government and the Shamarpa at the end of the eighteenth century. But first, we will return to the early days of the Karma Kagyu, before the dawn of the Gelug. There, we will find the origin of the Karmapas, the first tulkus of Tibet.

-- Buddha's Not Smiling: Uncovering Corruption at the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism Today, by Erik D. Curren
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Re: Flight of a Karmapa, directed by Yoichi Shimatsu

Postby admin » Sun Dec 01, 2019 2:01 am

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[Yapo S. Yongda] The Karma Kagyu school is independent right from its inception. And no political power or interference by other schools of Tibetan had to enter into this. It was left independent. His Holiness the Dalai Lama does not have the lineage to transmit the empowerment and initiation blessings to Karma Kagyu followers, as well as the Nyingmapa followers. Because His Holiness the Dalai Lama has received only the Gelugpa school’s transmission, lineage, and empowerment. So he is not the religious authority as far as the Karma Kagyu, Nyingmapa, as well as Sakyapa, these three schools. Each has got its own root master, and these root masters are well qualified and they have been initiated properly by the previous lineage holders.

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[Narrator] Shamar Rinpoche, the second highest lama of the Kagyupas, said that the Dalai Lama tried to centralize all of the Tibetan Buddhist schools under his authority in the early years of exile.

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[The 14th Shamarpa Mipham Chokyi Lodro] The 16th Karmapa opposed to H.H. the Dalai Lama’s policy of unification of five schools, four schools or five schools: one is the Bon religion, and the other four are Buddhist.

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So he tried to unify them.

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And then at that time, the 16th Karmapa and all the Nyingmapa religious leaders joined together and opposed it. Since that the unification never happened. And at present, Nyingmapa, Sakyapa, they didn’t agree yet to unify. So why do we have to do it? So I opposed it.

The Dalai Lama and his ministers had just lost their country, Central Tibet. In exile, they wanted to create a unified Tibetan community that included not just their former subjects in Central Tibet and their allies in the Gelugpa, but also Tibetans from areas never governed by Lhasa and from all the religious schools. Thus exile leaders hoped to create a pan-Tibetan community that would be stronger to oppose the Chinese and perhaps speed the arrival of the day when the exiles could return home to a free Tibet. In the early days in exile, liberating their homeland was the shared dream of all Tibetans.

To realize this dream, exile government officials saw Tibetan unity as more urgent than preserving Tibet's regional or religious diversity. Indeed, the presence of a common enemy created a new Tibetan nationalism, a sense that Central Tibet, Kham, and Amdo were essentially one country though historically, they had been governed separately. Such pan-Tibetan nationalism had never existed before in Tibetan history. "In order to maintain the unity of the emigre community after the Dalai Lama's flight across the Himalayas in 1959, his exiled administration developed the idea of a giant, theoretical Tibet ... Its focus was the idea of 'Po Cholkha Sum,' the unity of the three historic regions of ethnic Tibet: Amdo, Kham, and U-Tsang. People who had previously identified themselves with a particular region now became consciously Tibetan," Patrick French wrote in his book Tibet, Tibet. [1] The same went for Tibetan religion. No longer would Tibetans be followers of the Kagyu or Gelugpa schools; instead, they would be followers of Tibetan Buddhism.

In 1964 the Tibetan Government-in-Exile introduced reforms that it said would help the Tibetan community retain its coherence, with refugees scattered around India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sikkim. The Dalai Lama's brother Gyalo Thondup led this initiative, and he formed an organization called the United Party to carry it out. [2] By pooling the resources of emigre Tibetans towards economic and social development, the United Party was intended to create a new political unity out of the diversity of the exile community, and strengthen the Dalai Lama's ability to face off the Communists. Tibetans abroad understood that the party had the full support of the exile government.

The United Party's platform was broad and ambitious. At the same time that the insane Cultural Revolution in Tibet was rooting out the "Four Olds" (old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits), the United Party proposed a much more rational-sounding platform of economic, social, and religious reforms for Tibetans in exile.

The unity initiative set up branch offices in Tibetan settlements throughout India and began to establish handicraft centers and even agricultural communes similar to the new collective farms in Communist China. But the most ambitious leg of the United Party's platform was religious reform that called for merging the administrations of the four Buddhist schools, along with the pre-Buddhist Bon religion, into one body under the new Department of Religion in Dharamsala, under direct control of exile government officials and the Dalai Lama.

It is unclear whether the initiative would have subordinated all the schools to the Dalai Lama's spiritual leadership, or, whether the plan would have respected each school's traditional autonomy while increasing opportunities for cooperation. Gyalo Thondup was known as a modern thinker who believed that church and state should be separate. But others in the young Dalai Lama's exile administration thought that secularism was heresy and seemed to believe that Tibetans' only hope lay in reining in the religious schools outside of the Gelugpa, to which most exile ministers belonged.

In any event, when word of the United Party's religious reform got out in 1964, the exiled government was unprepared for the angry opposition that leaders of the religious schools expressed. To them, this unification plan appeared not as a benefit to Tibetans, but rather as a power-grab by the exile administration. Some critics charged that the plan was only a thinly disguised scheme to confiscate the monasteries that dozens of lamas had begun to reestablish in exile with funds they had raised themselves.

Though headed by the Dalai Lama, the exile administration's work was mainly secular in nature. It opened offices to start schools, to receive refugees, and to deal with foreigners, but it did not generally finance or build monasteries in exile. Instead, the dozens of transplanted monasteries built by the mid-1960s in India, Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan were the result of private initiative. "Lamas would go begging for donations to build monasteries," according to historian Dawa Norbu. "Rich Tibetans, out of piety and social prestige, made large donations towards the construction of monasteries. The same goes for the propagation of Tibetan Buddhism in the Western world. There is not a single meditation center abroad started by the Dalai Lama's exiled government." [3]

The United Party plan reminded some lamas outside the formerly ruling Gelugpa of harassment by the government back in Tibet before 1959. Even worse, the exile government's push for unity seemed uncomfortably similar to post-1959 Communist propaganda about uniting all Tibetans back home under the similarly named United Front in loyalty to the "socialist motherland" of China.

Accordingly, leaders of the Nyingma and Kagyu schools, along with lay families who followed each school living in thirteen refugee settlements around India and one in Nepal, banded together to protect their monasteries. To rally their supporters, they chose the most charismatic leader they could find -- the sixteenth Karmapa. They formed a counter-party called the Tibetan Welfare Association which came to be known as the Fourteen Settlements group. The Karmapa agreed to serve as spiritual leader of this group, and its members elected a layman, Gungthang Tsultrim, as political leader. Dozens of other lamas, including Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who later became one of the best known Tibetan Buddhist teachers worldwide, also joined the group. Dilgo Khyentse had been close to the Karmapa at Tsurphu, had fled Tibet with the Karmapa's party, and had spent much time at Rumtek after coming into exile.

The group went on to organize protests, write open letters, and publicize their arguments to preserve the historic rights of the five religious schools. They called on exiled Tibetans to reject Gyalo Thondup's plan. The Tibetan exile administration tried to meet this opposition with open debate, but also, reportedly, with behind-the-scenes maneuvering. In 1972 Gyalo Thondup asked the Indian Home Ministry to relocate twenty-eight prominent members of the Fourteen Settlements group to far-flung areas of India, based on unsupported charges that they posed threats to law and order.

Accordingly, the Indian government issued notices ordering the twenty-eight refugees to move. When two recipients of relocation orders, Sadhu Lobsang Nyandak and Gungthang Ngodrup, challenged their relocation orders in the Delhi High Court, these notices were withdrawn. This court victory marked the turning point in the campaign against the increasingly unpopular unity initiative. In 1973, the United Party closed down its branch offices, broke up its farming communes, and turned over its handicraft centers to the Home Department of the exiled Tibetan government.

All through this period, the imposing sixteenth Karmapa served as the highly visible rallying point for the Fourteen Settlements' opposition to the United Party. In the wake of the plan's defeat, the Tibetan exile community ended up deeply divided, just the opposite of what the Dalai Lama and Gyalo Thondup were trying to achieve. And against the Tibetan leader's pleas to forget old quarrels, apparently some officials in his exile administration in Dharamsala developed a resentment of the dissenting leaders.

On March 13, 1977, Fourteen Settlements political head Gungthang Tsultrim was shot several times at point-blank range while walking in his backyard in Clement Town, in the northwestern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Simultaneously, the electricity was cut to the local area, allowing the shooter to escape. When apprehended in Kathmandu, the murderer, Amdo Rekhang Tenzin, told the Royal Nepalese Police that the Tibetan exile government had paid him three hundred thousand rupees (about thirty-five thousand dollars) to assassinate Gungthang. [4]

Even more shocking, the hit man claimed that Dharamsala offered him a larger bounty to kill the sixteenth Karmapa. Nepali authorities handed the murderer over to India, and he repeated his story under interrogation there at a maximum-security prison in Lucknow.

When news of this assassination and the plot against the sixteenth Karmapa came out, large groups of angry demonstrators from the Fourteen Settlements group filled the streets of Dharamsala to protest against the exile administration's potential involvement. Meanwhile, back in the still quasi-independent kingdom of Sikkim, the location of the sixteenth Karmapa's seat at Rumtek monastery, the royal government provided the Karmapa with eleven armed bodyguards.


It is unclear what role the Dalai Lama himself played in the resurrection of the rivalry between his government and the Karma Kagyu school in India. Only twenty-four years old when the Tibetans fled to India in 1959, he relied heavily on the counsel of his advisors. The experienced ministers of his administration had their own views on how best to preserve Tibetan institutions in exile, and their counsel must have carried weight with the inexperienced lama-leader. Many of these ministers continued to see the religious schools outside their own Gelug as rivals, and sought ways to defend against them.

Perhaps as a peace offering to lamas of schools outside the Gelug, shortly after Gungthang's murder, the Dalai Lama invited Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, a leading lama in the Fourteen Settlements group, to become one of his teachers. After this, Dilgo Khyentse became closely associated with the Tibetan leader, and later went on to teach in Southeast Asia and in the West.

Tibetans who follow the Nyingma, Sakya, and Kagyu schools and the pre-Buddhist Bon religion have claimed that some exile government leaders still harbor dreams of expanding their influence at the religious schools' expense. For his part, the Dalai Lama has sought to restrain the enthusiasm of his ministers for partisan politics. Every few years the Tibetan exile leader has had to use his good name to put down the most fractious schemes of his administrators by threatening that unless all Tibetans could work together, this would be his final reincarnation.

-- Buddha's Not Smiling: Uncovering Corruption at the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism Today, by Erik D. Curren


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[Narrator] The death of the 16th Karmapa in 1981 removed the main obstacle ...

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to the Gelugpa plan to take over the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
The first step in carrying out their plan was to split the young leadership of the Kagyupa school.

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And the second step was to install a friendly Karmapa who would overturn the policies of his predecessors ...

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and accept the authority of the Gelugpa order.

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Shamar Rinpoche supports another candidate for Karmapa, one who is less known to the world. His name is Trinley Thaye Dorje, and he splits his time between India and France.

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Thaye Dorje also claims to be the 17th Karmapa

[Trinley Thaye Dorje] From my point of view, I guess it’s more like people who want power, focusing on power who are doing this, I think.

[Man] What do you think about politics and religion? Do you think the two are separate things, that they should be kept separate? What do you think?

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[Trinley Thaye Dorje] I think they should be separated. I think they are two different things. For myself, the practitioners, I think, it is better in their life to have dharma, it’s more important, and then they will have a very clear view on everything. When it’s mixed, then somehow the politics is not pure, and the dharma is not pure, and both sides are not good.

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[Narrator] This soft-spoken student of the dharma reminds us that power corrupts and absolute power can corrupt absolutely.

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While pursuing the story of the two karmapas, our reporting team discovered to our great surprise, that there could also be two Ogyen Trinleys.

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One of them was a 14-year-old boy at the time of the escape.

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And the other is an impostor, a full-grown adult at least 24 years of age when he was welcomed by the Dalai Lama.

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The mysterious 10-year difference in age came to light during a medical checkup at one of India’s most reputable hospitals [Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research]

[Man] You are a medical reporter?

[Ravi Sharma, Reporter, Chandigarth, India] Yes, a medical reporter.

[Man] You have reported on the case of Karmapa, the age of Karmapa. Actually, you are the one who broke this story. Can you please give us some briefing about how did you find out this?

[Ravi Sharma, Reporter, Chandigarth, India] Actually, there was some confusion about the age of Holiness the Karmapa.

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Some of the lab technicians were not sure he was just 14 years.
X-rays were there, some biochemical tests were there.

[Man] What in your opinion could be the reason for this? Did you get any pressure from the government, or anything else like that?

[Ravi Sharma, Reporter, Chandigarth, India] I will say that at that time, the Karmapa was a hot issue, and I guess, there could have been some political pressure or some instructions from the government of India, as the things were being handled by the Ministry of Home Affairs, as we learned. So there could have been directions to this institute that there should be no statements on this issue.
I talked to the director of this institute, and he officially confirmed all of the reports.

[Man] What is the name of the doctor?

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[Ravi Sharma, Reporter, Chandigarth, India] Dr. Surendra Kumar Sharma, the director of PGI.

[Man] You talked to him?

[Ravi Sharma, Reporter, Chandigarth, India] Yeah, I talked to him.

[Man] And he categorically confirmed your information that he was over age?

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[Ravi Sharma, Reporter, Chandigarth, India] Yes, he said that he can't be termed a child, that he's crossed the age that he can be termed a child.

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He said that we can’t confirm whether he is 21 or 27, but surely he has crossed the age of 14.

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[Narrator] The PGI Medical findings indicate that this individual was born between 1973 and 1979.

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That’s at least three years before the death of the 16th Karmapa.
That automatically disqualifies him to claim the title, because a person cannot be reborn before he dies.

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If he’s not Ogyen Trinley Dorje, then who is he?
Perhaps an older relative from the same village?
Tai Situ Rinpoche would know. But he refused to talk to our reporter Prakash Khanal.

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The identity switch took place in 1997 when this 11-year-old went into retreat for several months.

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He went in as a small boy of only 4 feet in height.

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Yet, in a space of just a few months a 6 foot tall adult emerged, claiming to be the same Ogyen Trinley.
There were some similarities in appearance, yes.

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But his nose is wider, and his chin is more prominent,

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and he had the facial hair of a grownup.

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All the personnel at Tsurphu monastery were transferred during this retreat, and replaced by new people.

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Adding to the mystery, the two lamas of Tsurphu most familiar with the young Ogyen Trinley, died untimely deaths in the same year.

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Why did the switch take place?

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Sources inside Tsurphu monastery told us that the young Karmapa was suffering from frequent blackouts ...

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and had a learning disorder that prevented him from memorizing the sutras.
In other words, he had to be kept away from public view.

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Where is the little boy now?
Perhaps hiding with his sister Ngodrup, or maybe receiving therapy in a foreign psychiatric institution. That is, if he is still alive.

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The whereabouts of the real Ogyen Trinley Dorje ...

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is the deepest, darkest mystery that will haunt Tsurphu monastery and the Tibetan Exile Government for years to come.
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Re: Flight of a Karmapa, directed by Yoichi Shimatsu

Postby admin » Mon Dec 02, 2019 2:18 am

Ogyen Trinley's Publicity Coup [Excerpt], from Buddha's Not Smiling: Uncovering Corruption at the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism Today
by Erik D. Curren

Ogyen Trinley's Publicity Coup

We have spent much time with Shamar, Situ and Gyaltsab, and the Rumtek monks. Now, it is time to return to the young man at the center of the Karmapa dispute. While the case for Rumtek was progressing, in January 2000, Ogyen Trinley suddenly appeared in India, having fled Tibet. His surprise arrival elevated him to instant celebrity status, and hundreds of articles were published in the international press saying that his departure from Tibet, allegedly against the wishes of the Chinese government, struck a heroic blow for Tibetan freedom comparable to the Dalai lama's own escape into exile four decades earlier in 1959.

The four books on the Karmapa published in 2003 and 2004 -- by authors Michelle Martin, Lea Terhune, Mick Brown, and Gaby Naher, respectively -- all retell the story of the lama's flight from his point of view, so there is no need to repeat it in detail here. But to summarize, after his enthronement in June 1992 at the former monastery of the Karmapas, Tsurphu, in Chinese Tibet, Ogyen Trinley reportedly began the traditional training of a Karmapa, under the direction of Situ Rinpoche. The Chinese government allowed him to pursue a religious education, but they also used him for propaganda. Officials in Lhasa and Beijing regularly corralled the young reincarnate into photo ops and publicity events to show his loyalty to China.

Later, in a news conference he gave in April 2001, a year after he arrived in India, Ogyen Trinley would claim that the Chinese began to restrict his access to Tai Situ and his other teachers during the late nineties. For the young tulku, it became increasingly difficult to be a Karmapa in China. Finally, he realized that if he stayed he could not perform his religious duties. So he made a secret plan to escape from Tsurphu for exile in India. In late December 1999, under cover of night and dressed as a layman, the fourteen-year-old lama left Tsurphu with half a dozen attendants. A week later, passing Chinese checkpoints undetected and crossing mountain passes successfully, Ogyen Trinley arrived safely in Dharamsala in India, the headquarters of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. There, he was welcomed warmly by the Dalai Lama.

On his arrival in India in the early days of January 2000, Ogyen Trinley did not talk directly to the press. He would not do so until his press conference in April 2001. But in the meantime, officials of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile told reporters that the young tulku had walked most of the way from Tsurphu near Lhasa in Tibet, over the Himalayas, and into freedom in Nepal and India.

Western journalists widely reported this story at face value. "He completed the last week on foot, crossing mountain passes in heavy snow, before arriving at Dharamsala at 10:30 am on Wednesday," reported the London Telegraph in a typical report.
[6] Arthur Max wrote in the San Francisco Examiner that "The arrival of the 17th Karmapa, leader of the Karma Kagyu sect, has given exiled Tibetans a new and tangible leader they can embrace alongside the 64-year-old Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of all Tibetans. They wonder whether the tall 14-year-old with the engaging smile and mature demeanor will go beyond his spiritual role and join the Dalai Lama in the struggle against China's harsh rule of their homeland." [7]

The Indian media was less willing to accept the young lama's story that he had covered nine hundred miles on foot in eight days, all in the middle of the harsh Tibetan winter. This would have meant walking an average of 112 miles per day in temperatures well below freezing and crossing Himalayan passes higher than 15,000 feet covered in snow and ice 8 feet deep or more. In particular, once he reached Nepal, the tulku would have had to cross the Thorang-La pass: At an elevation of 17,599 feet, the pass is higher than the tallest peak in the Continental United States or in the whole range of the Alps. Few trained porters attempt to cross the treacherous pass in winter for risk of losing a limb or suffering death from frostbite.

After Indian journalists began raising doubts, Ogyen Trinley's spokespeople changed their story, admitting that the young tulku traveled most of the way from Tsurphu by jeep. But the Indian press remained skeptical that Ogyen Trinley escaped from Tibet without the Chinese government knowing or even helping. "Did China's 14-year-old Karmapa Lama flee repression in Tibet, or did Beijing stage a defection as part of larger designs?" asked the Hindustan Times. "Preliminary official investigations do not show that the boy-lama and his entourage slipped through the heavy Chinese security cover. On the contrary, the investigations suggest that they had a fairly smooth passage out of their Chinese-occupied homeland, indicating that Beijing may at least have acquiesced in the departure." According to the paper, Indian Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani said that the boy had arrived in India in "mysterious" circumstances and he doubted that the young lama could have evaded the elaborate security arrangements made by the Chinese authorities to prevent his escape. [8]


Indications of a Fake Escape

Strong evidence that Ogyen Trinley's escape was staged with the help of the Chinese government came in 2001, with the release of a film called Flight of A Karmapa. The film was made by a team of four journalists from Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Nepal to investigate whether Ogyen Trinley's escape was staged with the assent of the Chinese government. "We discovered a far different story than the one reported by the media," said director Yoichi Shimatsu in the film's narration. "We learned that Ogyen Trinley Dorje's journey was not an escape to freedom. His real intention was to gain possession of the mystical Black Crown in Sikkim and bring it back to Tibet as the undisputed Karmapa. When his plan failed, he went to the Dalai Lama, because he had nowhere else to turn."

Shimatsu, a writer for the Japan Times based in Hong Kong at the time he made the film, told me he began his investigation because "the Karmapa news was a huge story in China and Hong Kong, obviously, since the Chinese government had invited journalists to meet 'their' Living Buddha, the term the press even in Hong Kong used to describe him." An avid hiker, Shimatsu was also stunned by Ogyen Trinley's original story.

"In college in the United States, I had studied science for three years and always in my journalism I look at the scientific basis for news reports, by habit. I noticed that Ogyen claimed to walk from Tsurphu to Dharamsala in eight days. Not knowing where Tsurphu was, I looked on a map and noticed the vast distance of nearly a thousand miles. Since I do a lot of trekking as a hobby, I realized the impossibility of this claim, which was repeated uncritically by BBC, CNN, etc." So he assembled his reporting team and "went with a digital video camera, which was pretty new then, still using hi-8 tape, to Jomson and Manang [in Nepal], the first of a half dozen journeys. And the adventure began."

To investigate Ogyen Trinley's story on his escape route, Shimatsu recruited Susanna Cheung, a Hong-Kong based radio reporter for BBC radio and writer for the Hong Kong Economic Times; Prakash Khanal, a Nepali environmental writer who was a former editor with the prestigious Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology and contributor to the Economist and other European magazines; and Makalu Gau, a Taiwan-based photographer and mountaineer who survived the expedition that attempted to summit Mt. Everest in 1996. Gau escaped the disaster with his life but lost his fingers and toes.

In Nepal, the crew shot interviews with Ogyen Trinley's main guide as well as people who met the lama during his travel through Tibet, Nepal, and India. Situ, the Dalai Lama, and Ogyen Trinley himself have all claimed that the young man left Tibet to escape religious persecution by the government and to study Buddhism and receive tantric empowerments: "These I could only receive from the main disciples of the previous Karmapa, Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche, who were predicted to be my teachers and who reside in India," Ogyen Trinley told his press conference in April 2001. Yet, the guide, a lama from Tsurphu called Gyaltshen who was known as the 'Tall Managi," explained that Ogyen Trinley's true motivation for leaving Tibet was not religious persecution or lack of opportunities to study with his teachers. When asked if the young tulku was unhappy in China, the Tall Managi said, "No, he was OK in China."

So what was his motivation? After completing their research, the reporters concluded that the young lama intended to enter Sikkim, collect the Vajra Mukut -- the Black Crown of the Karmapas -- and return to Tsurphu. He would have to cross into India secretly, because he knew that the Indian government would not welcome a Chinese-supported tulku in the disputed state of Sikkim:

The plan was to fly Ogyen Trinley from Kathmandu to Durang and then smuggle him in a jeep into Sikkim. Then, flush with new wealth and with the mystic Black Crown he would return to China as a national hero. But that didn't happen. Before Tai Situ and the nun Ngodrup [Ogyen Trinley's sister] could enter Sikkim, lamas from Tibet got into an argument with Tai Situ's monks over who was in charge of the crowning. A fight broke out and one monk was fatally stabbed. When the Indian police had arrived, Tai Situpa had fled back to his Sherab Ling monastery and Ngodrup went into hiding. The Indian security forces now knew that Ogyen Trinley was on his way from Tibet. The Black Crown was now out of his reach. His journey to Rumtek was over. Instead, he was bound for the headquarters of his old foes, the Gelugpa order of the Dalai Lama. [9]


Though he wrote a letter on his departure from Tsurphu saying that he was just leaving for a short visit to India to collect the Vajra Mukut, after arriving in India, Ogyen Trinley claimed that the letter was intended only to deceive his Chinese handlers. He has consistently denied that he intended to return to China with the Black Crown, saying that would only mean putting it "on Jiang Zemin's head."

"Tai Situpa's camp was trying to follow our every move, and revised their story as we discovered one fact after the next in the interviews," Shimatsu told me. "Dalai Lama camp, ditto. Representatives of Chinese President Jiang Zemin were eager to get the video and were overjoyed at the fact that they could get the real story. They admitted the episode was mysterious, that the Tibet Autonomous Region was blocking the President's inquiries about the affair. But they also said that the video was much too explosive for broadcast in China." Many journalists requested copies and television stations in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and elsewhere in Asia aired excerpts from the film.

Shimatsu's team discovered that a helicopter that picked up Ogyen Trinley in Nepal was owned by a company that had previously done work for the United States CIA, Fishtail Air. Even more suspicious, the Fishtail Air office had lost all flight records for the day of Ogyen Trinley's pickup. "When Susanna Chung and Prakash Khanal broke the story of the Mustang escape route and the Fishtail Air helicopter pickup at Thorang-La, I rushed the story and video to the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong Internet news department," Shimatsu told me. "Their news producers were very excited and promised me five thousand dollars."

"Then we had to clear the story through editors of the print version of the newspaper. We were greeted by three editors. They were female, and I suspect two of them were MI-6 (British intelligence) agents. They killed the story with totally bogus questions, all of which were proven on tape and in notes. They wanted to know who our key contact was in Mustang (a businessman) but I refused to disclose his identity, since he could easily be killed by the Manang smugglers involved with the Karmapa escape." So the South China Morning Post killed Shimatsu's story.

Outside of East Asia, Shimatsu's film got little attention, and he attributes some of that to government influence and some to media bias. He claims that the United States government had an interest in Ogyen Trinley, perhaps because of lobbying by Tibetan rights groups in Washington who support the Dalai Lama. Shimatsu singled out the American Himalayan Foundation in particular, funded by San Francisco real-estate billionaire Richard Blum, husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein from California.


"Plus, most Western journalists, including Chinese journalists in Hong Kong, are pretty brainwashed by the 'human rights' nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), since they wrongly assume that these NGOs are honest little guys fighting for truth and justice," rather than groups with their own biases -- often in favor of Western governments -- that cause them to paint a one-sided picture of alleged rights abuses. Shimatsu felt that by making his film, he was striking a blow for press freedom. "This media monopoly made it all the more important to produce an independent documentary using portable DV mini-cameras, so Flight of A Karmapa was one of the first documentaries using this new media."

Two Ogyen Trinleys?

Shimatsu's team went on to make a further claim in a short video released at the same time as Flight of A Karmapa in 2001. In Lost Child the reporters claim that not merely was Ogyen Trinley's escape staged, but that the boy who arrived in India in 2000 was a different boy from the one who had been enthroned at Tsurphu monastery in 1992. To outsiders, this story may sound too ridiculous to have any merit. However, after hearing the evidence that Shimatsu's team has presented, the theory of two Ogyen Trinleys is much more compelling. In the film, Shimatsu narrates:

While pursuing the story of the two Karmapas, our reporting team discovered to our great surprise that there could also be two Ogyen Trinleys. One of them was a fourteen-year-old boy at the time of the escape and the other is an impostor, a full grown adult of at least twenty-four years of age when he was welcomed by the Dalai Lama. The mysterious ten-year difference in age came to light during a medical check-up at one of India's most reputable hospitals [The Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research at Chandigarh].


An Indian medical reporter, Ravi Sharma, told Shimatsu 's colleague Prakash Khanal that x-ray and chemical tests showed that the young man was older than the fourteen years he claimed. According to reporter Sharma, the hospital's trustee Dr. Surendra Kumar Sharma (no relation) "said that he could not term [Ogyen Trinley] as a child, he's crossed the age that he can be termed a child. He could not confirm that he is twenty-one or twenty-seven but surely he has crossed the age of fourteen." But Dr. Sharma would only speak to the reporter off the record. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs had given instructions that the story should not get out, since the Karmapa had become a contentious issue in India after Ogyen Trinley's arrival the previous year.

In his book on the Karmapa, Mick Brown wrote that he interviewed a hospital official at Chandigarh who denied the story. "I had checked with the Chief Administrator of the hospital in Chandigarh and had been told that the story was completely untrue." [10] In turn, Gaby Naher mentioned Brown's research in her book as proof that the theory about Ogyen Trinley's age must be false. To Naher, this demonstrated that attempts to discredit Ogyen Trinley as Karmapa seemed to have "become more shrill and less credible." [11]

Shimatsu replied to me that he was not surprised that an administrator at the hospital (was it Dr. Sharma? -- Brown did not say) would refuse to speak on the record now, since Dr. Sharma had spoken only privately when the film was made in 2000 and 2001. "Also Prakash met another younger doctor who was directly involved in the medical examination of Ogyen, who said that the definitive (unmistakable) medical evidence was in the x-rays of Ogyen's bone structure. At the joints of the arm and legs, teenagers have soft-bone growth areas but 'Ogyen' was fully developed. The examining doctor estimated his age as between twenty-four and twenty-seven years old. By saying he was a 'grown man,' the doctor implied that Ogyen's genitals were fully developed as well."


Based on interviews with Ogyen Trinley's attendants who had come from Tsurphu, Shimatsu's team put together a theory about the switch:

The identity switch took place in 1997 when this eleven-year old went into a retreat for several months. He went in as a small boy of only four feet in height. Yet in a space of just a few months a six-foot tall adult emerged claiming to be the same Ogyen Trinley. There were some similarities in appearance, yes, but his nose was wider and his chin more prominent and he had the facial hair of a grown-up. All of the personnel at Tsurphu monastery were transferred during this retreat and replaced by new people. Adding to the mystery, the two lamas of Tsurphu most familiar with Ogyen Trinley died untimely deaths in the same year.

Why did the switch take place? Sources from inside Tsurphu monastery told us that the young Karmapa was suffering from frequent blackouts and had a learning disorder that prevented him from memorizing the sutras. In other words, he had to be kept away from public view.


Where is the little boy now? Perhaps hiding with his sister Ngodrup? Or maybe receiving therapy in a foreign psychiatric institution? That is, if he's still alive. The whereabouts of the real Ogyen Trinley Dorje is the deepest darkest mystery that will haunt Tsurphu monastery and the Tibetan exile government for years to come.


Perhaps no amount of evidence can make such a story sound credible to an outsider. In the West, we usually assume that secret plans and covert operations are well-planned and convincingly executed, the work of clever strategists. This story, by contrast, may sound less like a plot by Ian Fleming or John Le Carre than an episode out of Peter Sellers' Pink Panther spy-satires. Shimatsu told me that Ogyen Trinley's escape story has not convinced many in the Tibetan exile community or the Indian press, but that Westerners believe it because they are most vulnerable to the Shangri-La stereotype of Tibetans. And, Westerners generally do not question the Dalai Lama. "Foreigners are gullible and will believe anything, since Tibet is a place where all rules of logic and science are suspended, levitated," Shimatsu said.

Lest we dismiss Shimatsu's claim as exaggeration, we should review some of the bizarre beliefs and airy stereotypes that Westerners have held about Tibetans for the last four hundred years. Martin Brauen's book Dreamworld Tibet catalogs many of these, complete with illustrations. Let us take a quick sample: The first Jesuit missionaries, Father Antonio de Andrade and Father Manuel Marques, traveled to Tibet in the seventeenth century, as they believed, to reestablish contact with an isolated pocket of Nestorian Christians who had been brought into the fold by the mythical Prester John and place them under the umbrella of Rome. In the nineteenth century, the Theosophists of Madame Blavatsky claimed to have received secret teachings on Occult Science, delivered on an astral level by a Brotherhood of Masters living in Tibet.

More to Shimatsu's point, a Frenchwoman named Alexandra David-Neel went to Tibet in the 1910s and 1920s and claimed to have seen flying monks there. In 1925 the surrealist poet Antonin Artaud, who like many outsiders writing about Tibet never bothered to visit, nonetheless addressed an impassioned plea to the thirteenth Dalai Lama:

We are your most faithful servants, O Grand Lama. Grant us, grace us with your wisdom in a language our contaminated European minds can understand. And, if necessary, transform our minds, make our minds wholly oriented towards those perfect summits where the Human Mind no longer suffers ... Teach us physical levitation of the body, O Lama, and how we may no longer remain earthbound! [12]


James Hilton's 1936 Lost Horizon (which introduced the term Shangri-La to English readers) and the bestselling books of Cyril Henry Hoskins, a British plumber who wrote such titles as The Third Eye (1956) and Doctor from Lhasa (1959) under the name of T. Lobsang Rampa, brought twentieth-century readers the ideas that Tibet was a place where one could live forever or where fantastic special powers, such as the power of flight, could be gained by spiritual adepts.

Western Tibet-worship had its dark side too. Before World War II, the Nazis set up an office called the Abnenerbe (Ancestral Heritage) within the personal staff of Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler that was fascinated with Tibet, sending several expeditions there in the thirties to establish a racial connection between the two "Aryan races" of Tibetans and Germans. Some of these expeditions were said to be searching for esoteric knowledge to "place the Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers [of the Tibetans] at the service of National Socialism and to support the planned mutation that should signal the birth of the new race of supermen." [13]

Neo-Nazism followed Nazism into the eccentric when Chilean Fascist Miguel Serrano pronounced that Hitler was a bodhisattva or tulku who was able to duplicate himself during his own lifetime and take incarnation in several people, including Benito Mussolini and the pro-Japanese Indian revolutionary Subhash Chandra Bose.

This quick survey shows that it would be difficult to exaggerate just how receptive Westerners have always been to bizarre notions about Tibet. It would not be surprising if many outsiders who heard of Ogyen Trinley's escape believed that he evaded the Chinese through miraculous means -- as a security officer of the Tibetan exile government actually suggests in Flight of A Karmapa.
"But he is different than a human being," according to the officer, Tenzin Donyo. "So I think that while he was walking from the Himalayas, though there are many Chinese soldiers in the Himalayas, because of his religious practice and because he's different, higher than a human being, I think they didn't notice him."

Shamar Rinpoche has on occasion called for a bone-marrow test of the young tulku to determine his true age. Not surprisingly, Ogyen Trinley's supporters have balked at this, as they have balked at Shamar's calls to test Situ's Karmapa prediction letter. But the evidence collected by Shimatsu's team of reporters, combined with Ogyen Trinley's own changes in his escape story, make the nomad boy -- or young man -- look suspicious. To date, neither he nor his followers have addressed the doubts raised about his revised escape story by the Asian press and the Indian government. Needless to say, they have not addressed the issue about his age either. Meanwhile, the Indian government has continued to restrict Ogyen Trinley's movement, despite pleas from many supporters and allies, especially the Dalai Lama, to let him move freely, and especially to let him go to Rumtek.
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