Why would a Karmapa even want to visit Sikkim?

Dear readers,

The 16th Karmapa put Sikkim behind him when he chose to pass into Parinirvana here.

There is denying this fact.

After the 16th Karmapa left Tibet he never looked back.

It happened.


Why would a Karmapa take two steps forward only to turn around and reverse course?

There is no reason for a Karmapa to do so.

At least no reason that has anything to do with the dharma.



Filed under Buddhism

13 responses to “Why would a Karmapa even want to visit Sikkim?

  1. When the 16th Karmapa lived in Sikkim, it was difficult for Western students to get there. When they were lucky enough to fetch a permit they usually were granted only a few days of stay. The travel to this fortress in the sky wasn’t easy, either.

    As a place of the 16th (and undisputed) Karmapa Rigpe Dorje Rumtek was and probably still may be a tremendous powerfield. A disputed 17th Karmapa, however – after all the turmoil, political fuss and damaged samayas: he would only be a shadow of his (supposed?) predecessor there.

    By the way: The supporters of the Karmapa/Karmapa-claimant Orgyen Trinley Dorje are not the rightful owners of Rumtek Monastery. After many tough years in the Indian judical system, High courts decided in 2003 and 2004 that the place belonged to the Karmapa Charitable Trust (KCT), which was once established by the 16th Karmapa himself. See e.g.: http://karmapa-issue.org/politics/court_case/page01.htm (and follwoing pages) and http://karmapa-issue.org/arguments/indian_supreme_court.htm
    The KCT had always supported Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche and considered Trinley Thaye Dorje as the rightful 17th Karmapa.

    However, after the history of the Karma Kagu schism since 1992 and after the does not have the impression to be welcome in Sikkim, Karmapa Thaye Dorje never put much energy behind taking his seat there: Saying, he is not interested in getting entangled in politics, his activity is wanted in other parts of the world. He has approx. 900 centres in 69 countries.

    Due to the China-friendly past of some doubtful supporters, Karmapa/Karmapa-claimant Ogyen Trinley Dorje unfortunately still can not act as a free person and is restricted in his movement. I consider the loud call of his followers to “conquer” Rumtek after so many years as an expression of defiance. I can imagine that many things would become easier in his life, when Karmapa/Karmapa-claimant Ogyen Trinley Dorje gave up his claim for Rumtek. The political game could be over within a short time.

    Therefore it would be the best if Rumtek was made a museum. Open to followers of both Karma Kagyu branches, it would help tourism in Sikkim much better than the never-ending, embarrassing political struggle we’ve had during the last 24 years.

    And, yes: The demise of the 16th Karmapa in the West may have been a finger-pointing that an important part of the future Karma Kagyu activities lie in the West. or at least in creating a connection between East and West. Let’s bulid brigdes, and not claim fortresses!

  2. Rolf

    Why would anyone consider it important that the Karmapa takes his seat in Rumtek?

    Well, quite generally, one aspect needed for the recognition of any tulku is a major religious figure (usually of the tradition) that identified the tulku. However, that alone is not enough. This first requirement is fulfilled by both, Thaye Dorje and Orgyen Trinley. The second requirement is that the tulku indeed takes over the monastic seat of the predecessor, which means that the consent of the monastic administration of the predecessor is needed. When several prospective tulkus were found by different dignities in the past, there was not always an immediate consent about the reincarnation. In such cases, different groups could struggle for supremacy – and we all know from the last decades what that means. In the end, whoever got accepted by the monastery of the predecessor, was considered the authentic reincarnation.

    The Tibetan exile was of course a game changer for this system. The Karmapa’s traditional main seat was Tsurphu, but due to the 16th Karmapa’s exile, this status was transferred to Rumtek. Since the 16th Karmapa had left Tsurphu behind and established himself at Rumtek, taking the seat in Tsurphu had only a symbolic meaning, but not more than that. Only the candidate who finally takes the seat in Rumtek would be considered as the rightful Karmapa.

    The monastic body of the late Karmapa at Rumtek decided to not accept Situ Rinpoche’s choice and to follow Shamar Rinpoche’s advice to stay neutral for the time being and let the Rinpoches find a settlement first. It was in this situation that the alleged forceful takeover of Rumtek occurred, probably in order to install a willing monastic body. Given that the court case drags on, but so far seems very devastating for Situ Rinpoche’s side, the recent development would be understandable. One could see it as an attempt to create a fait accompli since the legal way is out of reach.

    Personally, I do not really mind who gets enthroned there. At this stage, it will not make a difference for either group as every side stands firmly behind his or her Karmapa. Look at yourself. Would it make you change your own mind if the Karmapa that you consider being the wrong choice would be enthroned there? If it does not make a difference for you, why should it make a difference for someone on the “other side”. Personally, I believe in freedom of religion. Hence, I also believe that everyone has a personal right to follow a Karmapa of his or her choice. If everyone involved indeed only wants the best for all and to benefit all sentient beings, there is no need for anger, agitation or violence. Both groups are well advised to get over the issue fast and move ahead. Live and let live.

    • Dear Readers,

      In other words there is no reason that has anything to do with the dharma for a Karmapa to visit Sikkim.


      • Warrenz

        Well as far as we know, Karmapa has not actually made public any desire to visit Sikkim at this time. It’s been all a call from the Sikkimese. There’s been nothing from his usual sources about it that I have seen. Although he would probably like to have all restrictions on his travel removed, I’m sure.

        However, visiting to minister to his students in Sikkim would constitute a valid Dharma reason to go there, would it not?

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