The Panama Papers are but the tip of the iceberg for the Karma Kagyu sect

Dear readers,

Hindsight being 20/20, thanks to the Panama Papers we can now see that neither Situ nor Shamar Rinpoches were a profile in courage during the interegnum, known to us in the West as the “Karmapa Controvery,” their dispute over who got to name the 17th Karmapa.

It turns out neither did.

What in fact happened was the following.

After the 16th Karmapa passed away in 1981 the Chinese Government reached out to Thrangu Rinpoche with the opportunity to repatriate his Karma Kagyu sect from exile and re-establish itself in its traditional role vis à vis the rulers of China in exchange for his recognition of China’s occupation in Tibet.

All the while Situ and Shamar were bickering over who got to name the 17th Karmapa, through Chen Li-an, a Taiwanese Buddhist in support of the unification of Taiwan and Mainland China, the government was secretly pouring money into the Karma Kagyu sect, enough to make it the richest sect of Tibetan Buddhism today.

The Panama Papers are just the tip of the iceberg, but one of the off-shore accounts used by the Karma Kagyu sect to hide these funds.

If the Guardian was able to document a billion dollars in verifiable assets we can only imagine how much money China has transferred to the Karma Kagyu sect over the decades in a quid pro quo for allowing China to make Ogyen Trinley Dorje 17th Karmapa.

When China claims the right to be the arbiters of succession for all sects of Tibetan Buddhism, which it does, including any future Dalai Lama, they have the precedent of their approving the enthronement of Ogyen Trinley Dorje as 17th Karmapa at Tsurphu Monastery to support said claim.

A supporter of Shamar Rinpoche here attempted to take Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s demise as 17th Karmapa to claim that this is proof that his side of the “Karmapa Controversy” was right about Situ Rinpoche.

This is my response, which I submit to you for your consideration.

The petty bickering of Situ and Shamar Rinpoches over who got to name the 17th Karmapa had nothing to do with what has happened.

Neither Rinpoche saw what was really at stake, the future of a Free Tibet.

Both were equally played by the Chinese government in this matter.




Filed under Buddhism

10 responses to “The Panama Papers are but the tip of the iceberg for the Karma Kagyu sect

  1. Gary

    This is wonderful sleuthing, Bill.

    If the exposure of this ridiculous state of affairs of both the Situ and Shamar encampments, as well as the Cold War politicking of Thrangu Rinpoche leads the western Kagyu sangha to give these Tulkus a break- including the entire Tulku industrial complex- all the better.

    I suppose Situ’s present day sneaking around the US is to try and consume the leftovers of this horrid war. Any thoughts on that?

    • Gary,

      In light of what we know today thanks to the Panama Papers, that while Situ and Shamar bickered Thrangu Rinpoche sold out the Tibetan people for untold billions of dollars hidden in off shore accounts we will never get to the bottom of, it turns out that neither Situ Rinpoche nor Shamar Rinpoche were the players we previously thought them to be.

      Oh how the mighty have fallen.

      I say, regarding Situ Rinpoche, let us relegate him to the dustbin of history, where he belongs.


      • Gary

        Nicely said!

        At least the lavish pomp and glory of Thrangu Gompa can be seen for what it is, a shameless display of wealth obtained in a hasty attempt to best the rest of the Tibetan Buddhist world by colluding with the Chinese Government.

        Alas, what a complete disgrace. We should count ourselves lucky to have never been those western dharma folks who gathered around the gilded empire of Thrangu Rinpoche and the waring princes of who you so accurately name the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rikpe Dorje, the last Karmapa.

  2. Dhrama


    With this in mind:
    “When China claims the right to be the arbiters of succession for all sects of Tibetan Buddhism, which it does”
    …Are there lineages that you see are less corrupt that one might look into upon knowing that refuge is the answer, but questions the Kagyu lineage for such devotion? The current state of affairs could be fortunate/unfortunate from certain perspectives other those determined to take refuge. The real question is whether or not the current leader should dictate opinions regarding the validity of the sect. This website sure did appear at the right moment…?karma¿

    • Dhrama,

      Any sect of Tibetan Buddhism that availed themselves of the opportunity to rebuild their respective home monasteries in occupied Tibet in the 1980’s as did the Karma Kagyu sect has been compromised by the Chinese Government as such.

      It is important to distinguish between sect and lineage in this regard, to not throw out the baby with the bath water.

      Inthe late 1980’s I first became aware of that my guru, Khenpo Karthar, a creature of Thrangu Rinpoche was collaborating with the Chinese when he made his first “pilgrimage” to his home monastery, Thrangu Monastery, in Qinghai Province.

      I knew something up.

      This was unprecedented.

      Personally, I’m not down with collaborating with occupiers.

      It’s a French thing.

      On the other hand I figured who am I to judge my guru in such a manner.

      I still feel that way thirty years later.

      According to Traleg Rinpoche, “Just because we believe somebody is behaving improperly doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing anything wrong.”

      As far as my relationship to my guru’s lineage, my working relationship with Khenpo Karthar, that he collaborated with the Chinese Government as he did was between himself and his fellow Tibetans as such.

      If you are already in a guru-disciple relationship with a Karma Kagyu Rinpoche that your guru has collaborated with the Chinese will come as no surprise to you.

      You have already come to terms with the fact that your Rinpoche isn’t perfect and all that comes with realizing that this is so.

      For someone who is not in a guru disciple relationship with a Karma Kagyu Rinpoche I can only recommend that you trust your gut, and proceed accordingly.

      At issue, the corruption of which we speak, is spiritual materialism, the trap we all are at risk of falling into if we fail to do our due diligence before entering into a guru disciple relationship with a teacher, regardless of the sect they call their own.


  3. Kate A

    I wouldn’t call it petty bickering. Shamar Rinpoche had warned about what was at stake from the beginning but he was vilified in the “Tibetan Buddhist” community for being straight-forward and speaking the truth. In his response letter to Robert Thurman in 2006 Rinpoche refers to himself as the “soft voice of a lamb trying to sound a warning among howling crafty coyotes.”

    “The general outrage surrounding the whole Karmapa controversy is starting to resemble the howling of crafty coyotes so enthralled by their hunt that nobody can hear the soft voice of a lamb trying to sound a warning.”

  4. Gerry


    Is this why the previous Jamgon Rinpoche committed suicide?


  5. Maurice

    Time to abandon the whole Tibetan obsession with real estate.
    Here in Australia we have lost our gar (Namgyalgar South) to pander
    to Taiwanese Buddhist tourists, up at Coloundra Sunshine Coast Queensland (Namgyalgar Nth).
    Not just this mob, but Lama Choedak (Sakya) building yet another retreat centre, in New South Wales, when SIBA (Victoria) is struggling to maintain the property, with the compliant sangha, at its wits end struggling to maintain the property.
    Why does Tibetan Buddhism systematically denigrate the pratyekabuddha
    path, a vehicle endorsed by Shakyamuni himself? This may be the most appropriate way for Westerners, especially now since there are a number of liberated Westerners.
    These Tibetans are psychopaths, who have the ability to switch on and off empathy to suit their grandiose plans.
    We should all go out on strike, and refuse patronage of these psychopaths,
    to wake us up, and them also!

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