Thursday, May 26, 2011


The Mystery of the Karmapa

Rumtek Monastery has a problem.  They have two instead of one Karmapas.  How could such a crazy thing happen?  That’s what I have been trying to figure out my self. Here is how the situation is presented by the members of the current Rumtek Dharma Chakra Center communities (resident monks). 

One Karmapa was appointed by the Dali Lama and is considered by the monastery lamas and monks as their real religious leader (Ogyen Trinley Dorje).  The other (Thayer Dorje) was appointed by some mysterious person or body and considered a ‘fake’ by the Dali Lama and the Monastery members.  The Karmapa considered legitimate by the monastic community stays in Dharmsala with the Dali Lama, while the other is at a monastery in Delhi.  The one considered ‘fake’ was supposedly appointed is said to by a mysterious Rampoche.  The ‘fake”, Thayer Dorje is said to be of Tibetan or Sikkim origin depending on to whom you talk.  While the one supported by His Holiness, the Dali Lama is definitely from Tibet.

Until this situation is straightened out, neither seems to be allowed at the monastery. There are soldiers guarding the monastery who say they are there to protect a tourist mecca, while the monks say the soldiers are there to protect the monastery from the bad (Thayer Dorje) Karmapa. 

I ask one of the lamas who was in an official capacity about the situation, and he would not talk about it; He was totally noncommittal.  He said he did not know who appointed the other Karmapa.  There are calendars and signs throughout the monastery with the picture of Karmapa Trinley, who was supported by the Dali Lama, stating ‘bring our Karmapa home.’  I actually have one of the calendars.

What is the real story?  Dump ta dum dum!  Dum!!!!!  Actually during a brief Internet research I found out the real the answer.            

After his escape from Tibet in 1959l, the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Ripe Dorje built Rumtek Monastery as a home and religious center for his Black Hat order of Mahayana (Tibetan) Buddhism. The monastery was set up as the ‘Karmapa Charitable Trust.’ When the 16th Karmapa died in 1981, per his wishes, trust board members ‘assumed the management of Rumtek.’

Second-ranking Lama, Shama Rampoche of the of the Trust was entrusted with finding and recognizing the late Kamarpa’s rebirth which is part of the Tibetan tradition dating back to the 12th century.  Before Shama Rampoche found the re-incarnation of the 16th Karmapa, two other Rampoches stated they had found the real Karmapa, a nomad boy, Orgeyn Tinley, from Tibet.
HH Dalai Lama as well as surprisingly, the Chinese Government also backed this child. 

Historically, each of the four autonomous schools of Tibetan Buddhism are responsible to elect their own leader, which means even though the HH Dali Lama is considered the overall head of Tibetan Buddhism, he has the spiritual authority over only his own Gelugpa school.  This means he has no religious authority over the other three schools.

After much legal wrangling, both at the monastery and through India’s court system, the case finally went to India’s Supreme Court.  The courts backed the ‘Karmpa’s Charitable Trust, which means the monastery monks/lamas and HH Dali Lama’s candidate Ogyen Thinley lost.  The winner, considered the ‘fake’ Karmapa, Thayer Dorje is the by Indian law, the legal Karmapa, but unacceptable by the Rumtek religious community.

Note:  Reference – Indian Supreme Court decision on Rumtek -07/22/04

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