What’s this about someone murdering Jamgon Kongtrul?

Picture of Jamgon Kongtrul the old man instagramed to illustrate this episode of Pulp Buddhism in which the Naropa Prairie Dog Players discuss the response to Rinpoche’s untimely death and the role it played in shaping what we today think of as the Karmapa controversy…

Jonathan begins.

“I was actually there, in India, at KIBI when the shit hit the fan.”

Allen replies.

“I remember.”

Allen adds.

“You were working on developing a digital font for Tibetan script at the time.”

Jonathan replies.

“Somebody had to do it.”

Sally replies.

“It is my understanding that the Karmapa controversy was about Situ and Shamar Rinpoches not being able to agree about who was to name Rangjung Rikpe Dorje’s successor as 17th Karmapa.”

Jonathan replies.

“I had to return to the States.”

Allen replies.

“You weren’t safe.”

Jonathan replies.

“That was the thinking at the time.”

Allen adds.

“All we knew was that Jamgon Kongtrul had died under suspicious conditions related to identifying the 17th Karmapa.”

Jonathan replies.

“I was told that Shamar Rinpoche had him killed.”

Sally replies.

“I’m new to all this but that seems like a bit of a stretch.”

Allen replies.

“Jamgon Kongtrul was supposed to travel to occupied Tibet and confirm Situ Rinpoche’s choice for 17th Karmapa.”

Jonathan replies.

“That’s the story.”

Allen continues.

“On the eve of his departure he died in a car wreck.”

Virginia replies.

“Rinpoche died behind the wheel of the vehicle.”

Sally replies.


Virginia replies.

“Rinpoche didn’t drive.”

Sally replies.

“I have never heard any of this before.”

Allen replies.

“It was a thing at the time.”

Virginia replies.

“We don’t talk about it.”

Sally replies.

“Perhaps we should.”

End scene. Fini.

Another episode of Pulp Buddhism brought to you by the Naropa Prairie Dog Players and by viewers like you, thank you for your support.



Filed under Buddhism

3 responses to “What’s this about someone murdering Jamgon Kongtrul?

  1. Yeshe

    Eh stopp to iffuse all this odd rumor – there was as much reason for the other side to kill Jamgön Kongtrül, as he would immediately seen that Apo Gaga (Ogyen Trinle) was not the Karmapa, so he was an hindrance for Situ and Akong. But better think he died in a car accident then accuse each other in the way differnt sicilian clans are hostile to each other. They accused Topga to have murdered general secretary Damchö Wangdu and this I have personally veryfied with his nephew – complete NONSENSE . Thats the level of gossip Mick Brown engages in as well. And Lea Terhune is worse…. Bad Karma…

    • Caroline replies.

      “Never talk about another person’s karma.”

      Virginia replies.

      “So says Sharon Salzberg.”

      Caroline continues.

      “She’s right.”

      Jonathan replies.

      “Tibetans think what happened to Jamgon Kongtrul is none of our business.”

      Caroline replies.

      “That’s their problem.”

      Caroline continues.

      “It happened, though.”

      Sally replies.

      “This is part of our history.”

      Sally continues.

      “Why shouldn’t we discuss what happened?”

  2. Chronology:
    * March 19, 1992: Meeting of the four Tulkus Shamar, Situ, Jamgon Kontrul and Gyalstab Rinpoches. Tai Situ disclosed the story with the supposed letter claiming Apo Gaga to be the posssible successor to the 16th Karmpa. The four tulkus agree to keep silent about the letter and the dispute between Kunzig Shamarpa and Tai Situpa.
    * March 26: Tai Situ writes an open letter in Tibetan. He mentions the supposed “prediction letter” and announces that a search party will start soon to pick up the child described in the letter. An inthronisation may take place Oct. 11 in Tsurphu. (Source: “Karmapa Papers”, document T21 in the attachment)
    * Just a few days later, between March 30 and April 8, a search delegation with Lama Tsomo from Tsurphu leaves for Eastern Tibet in order to find the Karmapa candidate described in Tai Situpas letter (i.e. Apo Gaga, the later Karmapa claimant Ogyen Trinley).
    * April 26 (approx. three weeks later): Car accident kills Jamgon Kontrul Rinpoche and two others – a few days before Rinpoche was about to leave for Tibet.

    You may see: The role meant to Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche’s was NOT that of a “door opnener”, but more that of a statist to Tai Situpas foul play. The plot was already underway. The rumors, he and his attendants were killed for a bit more of drama are simply tasteless.

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