Let Shady Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s complicated relationship with the truth speak for itself



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  1. Steve

    Statement of HH Shamar Rinpoche regarding the recognition of HH the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Trinlay Thaye Dorje

    October 14, 1999

    To: The Kagyupa Members,

    In my capacity as the Shamarpa, traditionally the second highest Karma Kagyu spiritual leader, I write to explain some of the circumstances surrounding the reincarnation of His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.

    Following the centuries-old spiritual practices of the Karma Kagyu school, I recognized Trinlay Thaye Dorje as the genuine reincarnation. He took birth in 1983 as the first son of the 3rd Mipham Rinpoche as his father and Dechen Wangmo as his mother who are from Dzakhog in eastern Tibet. After he and his parents escaped from Tibet in March 1994, I formally recognized him as the 17th Karmapa in a welcoming ceremony in New Delhi.

    Since the death of the 16th Karmapa in 1981 until my recognition of the17th Gyalwa Karmapa Trinlay Thaye Dorje, many lamentable and unnecessary obstacles have arisen in the recognition process. In essence, they have been of a political, not a spiritual nature. I have long advocated the separation of politics and religion in Tibetan culture. The intrusion of politics, on both a human and a national level, can only lead to the corruption of spiritual values and traditions. History has repeatedly proven this to be true.

    In my humble opinion, the root cause of the turmoil surrounding the identification of the reincarnation of the late Karmapa ultimately can be traced back to his relentless challenge to the policy of His Holiness Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile to unify all the different religious schools of Tibet. While agreeing with the policies for political and ethnic unification, the late Karmapa, and many other Tibetan religious leaders, however, feared that the religious policy would extinguish the rich, meaningful diversity of Tibetan spiritual life. The late Karmapa’s leadership role in opposing this policy subjected the Dalai Lama to considerable pressure.

    As a result, it is understandable that the Tibetan Government in Exile would want to use the recognition of the 17th Karmapa for its political benefit to avoid any possible future challenge from a strong, independent spiritual leader like the 16th Karmapa. Without going into the complicated details behind the competing and fraudulent claims for Urgyen Thinley in Tibet as the reincarnated Karmapa, I regret to inform you that since 1990, Mr. Juchen Thubten, Senior Minister in the Tibetan Government in Exile together with several Karma Kagyu lamas, especially Situ Rinpoche, conspired with the government of China to identify a reincarnated Karmapa in Tibet. In this way, the new Kamarpa would be under Chinese control and hence pose no possible threat to the Tibetan Government in Exile while at the same time allowing Situ Rinpoche to be in a dominant position in the Karma Kagyu sect outside Tibet. The intention of these actions was to deprive the Buddhist communities in the Himalayas from access to the Gyalwa Karmapa and also to undermine the administration of the late Gyalwa Karmapa in Rumtek, Sikkim. I can understand the Government in Exile’s actions against the administration of the late Gyalwa Karmapa. However, I cannot understand why several Rinpoches from the Kagyu Lineage who supported the late Gyalwa Karmapa while he was alive, betrayed his policies and religious ideals after his death.

    I ascribe pure intentions to the Dalai Lama and so cannot believe he was behind Mr. Juchen Thubten’s actions. However, he did publicly consent to the recognition of Urgyen Thinley, all the while realizing that he would be under the control of the Chinese government. I find this an ironic contradiction, since the Dalai Lama opposes the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama in Tibet who like Urgyen Thinley is subject to Chinese authority.

    Since the parinirvana of the 16th Karmapa until now, I have avoided trying to provoke a feud with the Dalai Lama, and I went out of my way – now in retrospect, perhaps too far out of my way – to cooperate in the search for the reincarnated Karmapa. Indeed, in May 1992, on Tulku Ugyen Rinpoche’s request and out of respect for the Dalai Lama, I gave my initial consent in favour of Urgyen Thinley.

    After the Karmapa controversy began in May 1992, I met His Holiness the DalaI Lama several times and requested him not to get involved and to remain neutral. He gave me a favourable response, but the politicians below him were not so accommodating. I hold His Holiness the Dalai Lama in high regard, but not so some of his officials.

    In the interest of maintaining harmony within the Karma Kagyu school, not only did I give my initial consent in favour of Urgyen Thinley, but I also abandoned my demands for a forensic test of the handwritten prediction letter that Situ Rinpoche desperately produced in March 1992, claiming that the late 16th Karmapa had written it to convey instructions for identifying his reincarnation. I did so on the condition that Situ Rinpoche would not cause any further trouble. Although he did not fulfill his promise to keep the peace in the Dharma community, I have kept my promise until now. I harbor no ill will toward Urgyen Thinley and indeed, offer him support and prayers that his efforts to spread the Dharma will benefit his nation and all sentient beings.


    I have recognized Trinlay Thaye Dorje as the genuine reincarnation of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. This is in keeping with the Karma Kagyu tradition and the spiritual authority it has invested in the Shamarpa over many generations. The Shamarpa’s previous roles in recognizing the Karmapa can be corroborated in the Golden Lineage History of Karma Kagyu written by the 8th Tai Situpa Choeki Jungney, copies of which can be found in China, Tibet and other libraries all over the world. Situ Rinpoche’s Palpung Monastery even has the original wood blocks for printing this famous text.

    My deepest prayers are to the Triple Gems in order to wipe out the evil attacks during recent years that were aimed at destroying the Karma Kagyu tradition through money, power and malicious methods. I also fervently hope and pray that the Karma Kagyu tradition is restored along with peace, that politics be divorced from religion, and that selflessness replace some lamas’ greed for offerings. Only in such an atmosphere will the genuine teachings of the great Buddha flourish.

    My special prayer is to eliminate all contradiction and bitter tension that has occurred between the late Karmapa’s side and His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s side. We must work to rebuild a genuine friendship and to unite dharmically for the spread of Buddhism and the betterment of all sentient beings.

    I remain yours faithfully in the practice and spread of Dharma.


    …How true that this link, especially from Pg 5, and published 15 years later in May 2014 echoed Shamarpa’s message…..

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