Join our Mailing List

"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

The Karmapa story: Right intentions, bad accounting

February 2, 2011 [Tuesday, February 01, 2011 08:50]
The young, extremely bright Karmapa should teach his staff proper
accounting ways, advises Claude Arpi

Tibetan exiles hold portraits of the Karmapa Lama during a candlelight
vigil in New Delhi/Reuters
It made headlines for 'news breaking' channels when the Himachal Pradesh
police seized foreign and Indian currency worth Rs 4-5 crore, stuffed in
four large metal boxes, from a room of the Gyuto Monastery, the seat of
Ugyen Trinley Dorje, the seventeenth Karmapa. The monastery is located
near Dharamsala, the seat of the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan
government-in-exile. Shakti Lama, a person working in the monastery, was
arrested following the police raids which came a day after Rs 1 crore in
cash was found in a vehicle intercepted in Una district bordering
Himachal Pradesh (a Dharamsala-based businessman, KP Bhardwaj, has been
arrested in connection with the cash and an alleged land deal with the
Karmapa's Trust).

Soon after the raids, HP Director General of Police DS Manhas declared,
"The police have nothing to say about the institution. We are only
concerned about the illegal cash recovered after the searches."

Because the currency notes seized from the monastery were from nearly 20
countries, including China, the media started speculating, "Is the Dalai
Lama's successor a Chinese agent in India?"

According to some reports, the 26-year-old spiritual head of the Karma
Kagyu sect, had spent large amounts of money last year on the people
affected by the cloudburst in Leh and landslides in Himachal Pradesh.
The media immediately extrapolated that the Karmapa was a Chinese agent
trying to spread China's influence in the Himalayan belt.

One report said that 'Delhi' (who is Delhi?) sees this "as part of a
plan to spread Chinese influence in the Indian Himalayan region much the
same way as Beijing has done in districts along the India-Nepal border
where the Chinese have opened 17 China study centres."
In the meantime, the Karmapa's office issued a statement refuting
allegations about the China link, terming them 'grossly speculative'.

"We would like to categorically state that the allegations being leveled
against the Karmapa and his administration are grossly speculative and
without foundation in the truth. We categorically deny having any link
whatsoever with any arm of the Chinese government," said the statement.
The office of the Karmapa explained that the cash was "offerings
received for charitable purposes from local and international disciples
the world over. Monasteries across the world receive offering from
devotees in various forms. There is nothing surprising, new or irregular
in this."

The cash found in the monastery probably partially comes from
donations/offerings received during the celebrations to mark the 900th
year of the birth of Dusum Khyenpa, the first Karmapa: "Nine hundred
years ago, amidst the snow-capped peaks of eastern Tibet, there was born
a spiritual master whose compassion for beings would shape the future of
Buddhism in Tibet. This great being was the First Karmapa, Dusum
Khyenpa, who instituted the practice of intentionally reincarnating in a
way that disciples could recognise him."

Ugyen Trinley, the successor of Dusum Khyenpa, presided over the two-day
celebration held in Bodh Gaya, attended by thousands of followers from
India, Tibet, China and the West.

The statement added, "Any suggestion that these offerings were to be
used for illegal purposes is libellous. All our dealings across the
world are honest and completely transparent, anything else would be
contrary to the Buddhist principles that we live by."

However, were proper accounting procedures followed? Were the monks
aware of the intricacies of the Foreign Exchange Management Act?
Probably not.

One explanation for this huge amount of cash is that since January 2000,
the Karmapa has been temporarily accommodated on the top floor of the
Gyuto Tantric Monastic University near Dharamsala.

The Tibetan government-in-exile admits that the Gyuto monastery was in
the process of acquiring a piece of land at Sidhabari to build a new
monastery. A Tibetan official told the press: "For this, the Himachal
Pradesh government was also approached to get clearances."

The problem is that it is practically impossible for non-state subjects
of Himachal Pradesh to purchase land in the hilly state. Was the
Karmapa's office planning to use these 'offerings' to get this piece of
land? It is possible.

Penpa Tsering, speaker of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, told the
press, "I think all this happened mainly because people don't know the
law. It is not like we are doing this because we want to break the law.
Many people send large amounts of money to the Lama as a token of
respect. If anybody is trying to talk of any conspiracy, it is totally

The speaker of the Tibetan Parliament also said: "there is no basis of
media speculations linking the Karmapa Lama with the Chinese government".

The lack of knowledge in accounting is in itself a serious offence, but
it does not imply that the young Lama is a Chinese agent.

Everyone remembers how the 15-year old Karmapa, in a Bollywood-type
escape, reached Dharamsala in January 2000 after crossing the highest
Himalayan passes in the midst of winter. The Indian government was
initially reluctant to grant him refugee status.

At that time, some believed that he had been 'planted' by the Chinese
government to create confusion over the Sikkim issue (Beijing
'recognised' the state as a part of India only a few years later).

Things became more complicated when a dispute erupted with another
'Karmapa' claiming the throne of Rumtek monastery in Sikkim. The
previous Karmapa, 16th of the lineage, was one of the most revered Lamas
of his generation. A powerful yogi, he impressed all those who
approached him with his profound wisdom and an aura of strength and peace.

When he passed away in 1981, he left his monastery of Rumtek in Sikkim
as well as hundreds of Dharma centres in India and abroad in the hands
of four regents who were to provide spiritual guidance to the Karmapa's
followers, until his 'return'.

When Situ Rinpoche, one of the regents, discovered a letter of
prediction said to have been written by the old Karmapa prophesying his
rebirth in eastern Tibet and giving the time of birth and the name of
his parents, a dispute erupted between Situ and another regent, Shamar
Rinpoche, who did not approve of Ugyen Trinley Dorje's selection.

The bitterness between the Rumtek regents took an ugly turn in 1992-93,
when serious law and order problems occurred on a few occasions and a
petition was filed in the Sikkim high court praying for an injunction to
stop the recognition of the 17th Karmapa. More infighting was reported
in 1994 when Shamar enthroned his own Karmapa, Thaye Dorjee.

In the meantime, after conducting the necessary tests, the Dalai Lama
gave his seal of approval to Ugyen Trinley Dorje. About the same time in
Beijing, the Chinese leadership -- who by then had the boy in their
hands -- also decided to recognise him as the 17th Karmapa. It was the
first time in the history of a Communist regime that a 'reincarnation'
(called 'living Buddhas' by Beijing) was officially recognised.

 From the day the Karmapa arrived incognito in Dharamsala in 2000, many
Indian officials have been convinced that he had been 'planted' by the
Chinese intelligence to create some mischief in India, particularly in

In July 2010, the Karmapa, who was scheduled to attend functions
organised by the Karma Triyana Dharamchakra centre in New York, was
refused permission by Indian authorities to leave the country. Earlier
in 2010, the young Lama had already been denied an exit visa to impart
religious teachings in nine European countries.

At that time, there was a lot of speculation that the Shamar camp had
exercised pressure on Delhi to cancel the visits. Dharma centres are big
business in the West and Shamar is not ready to abandon the lucrative
opportunity for his protege. Many speculate that he did tip off the
police about the cash kept in Dharamsala.

The Karmapa's foreign followers, in their enthusiasm, did not exactly
help in alleviating the suspicions of Indian agencies. A petition
originating from some Dharma centres in the US, circulated in April
2010, was addressed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

"We believe the Indian government's actions in this situation are
inequitable and unjustified. The broader issue, which we address, is one
of the Karmapa's basic human rights," stated the petition. It spoke of a
blatant abuse of his freedom for religious expression and requested the
government of India to address the unlawful confinement of the Karmapa.

Fortunately, the office of the Karmapa later rectified the wrong
impression given by these Western disciples.

Another complicating factor is the media (Indian and foreign), which
often tries to project the young Lama as the Dalai Lama's political
successor. The media forgets that the present Dalai Lama has ceaselessly
worked from the early 1960s to introduce democracy in the exiled
community. To have a 'political successor' would negate all these years
of hard work. Would a 'political successor' prevail over an elected
prime minister whose election is due in March? Tibetan democracy would
then become a laughing stock.

During a visit to Rumtek (Sikkim) last year, I asked the caretaker of
the monastery, "Why does the Karmapa have to go through all these
unpleasant problems?"

He philosophically answered: "Don't worry, he will go through them, but
it is a very old, very ancient karma that he has to unknot; these things
take time. It can't be solved in one day."

In the meantime, the young, extremely bright Karmapa, who is deeply
devoted to environmental issues in the Himalayan region, should teach
his staff proper accounting ways. Spiritual pursuit cannot absolve
anybody of more worldly laws.

The police on Sunday questioned the Karmapa and also arrested two more
persons in connection with the seizure of foreign currency worth over Rs
7.5 crore from the offices of a trust backed by him.

The Karmapa denied any Chinese links and said the charges against him
were 'grossly speculative and without foundation'.

A team of state police officers put nearly 50 questions to Karmapa Ogyen
Trinley Dorje at Gyuto Monastery at Sidhbari but he feigned complete
ignorance about the foreign currency and other documents recovered from

The police said they had given him the set of questions pertaining to
the recovery of money and functioning of the monastery. But he
completely dissociated himself with the developments and maintained that
the affairs of the trust were managed by Shakti Lama and Gompu Tshering
and his role was only confined to 'preachings' as a religious head.

The team, led by Additional Superintendent of Police, Una, K G Kapoor,
gave the questionnaire that was in English and he replied through an
interpreter, Inspector General of Police P L Thakur told PTI. Thakur
said investigations were going on and the Karmapa might be questioned
again after more information and inputs were available.

Karmapa denied all allegations and said the money was donated by
devotees, who come from all over the world and belonged to the trust.

Dharamsala-based businessman K P Bhardwaj and Manager of Ambala branch
of the Corporation Bank D K Dhar were arrested on Saturday night
following raids conducted at the residence and hotel of Bharadwaj and
clues provided by him during questioning with regard to the money trail,
the IGP said.

With this, the number of people taken into custody has risen to five.
Backing the Karmapa, the Dalai Lama told reporters in Bengaluru, "He
(Karmapa) is an important Lama" and demanded a thorough probe into the
seizure of foreign currency.

Apparently explaining the huge Chinese currency haul, the Dalai Lama
said, "The Karmapa has many devotees including from China.. Some money
would have naturally being received by him. There has been some
negligence. (It is) better now to have a thorough investigation."

Tibetan exiles weep during a candlelight vigil in support of the Karmapa
Lama in New Delhi Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters
A statement by the Karmapa's office said, "We categorically deny having
any link whatsoever with any arm of the Chinese government and like to
state that the allegations being levelled against the Karmapa and his
administration are grossly speculative and without foundation in the
truth as everyone who knows the history of our lineage and struggle is
surprised by the allegations."
The replies of Karmapa were identical to the contents of the statement
issued by Karma Chungyalpa, deputy general secretary and spokesperson of
the Karmapa Office. Karma said, "Repressive measures including pressure
put by China on Tibetan spiritual and temporal head, the Dalai Lama,
were the reasons for the Karmapa's escape from Tibet."

He further said, "Monasteries across the world accept offerings from
devotees in various forms and there is nothing surprising, new or
irregular in this. A representative of Dalai Lama's office underlined
this yesterday and the cash in question under the current investigation
by the police is offerings received for charitable purposes from local
and international disciples from many different countries wishing to
support Karmapa's various charitable activities and any suggestion that
these offerings were to be used for illegal purposes is libellous."

Referring to the recovery of Chinese currency, the statement said,
"About the Chinese currency, we can say that his Holiness has a large
following of Tibetans who make donations in Chinese currency. The fact
is that the Karmapa has millions of followers around the world, who hold
him in the highest esteem and reverence. All our dealings across the
world are honest and completely transparent and anything else would be
contrary to the Buddhist principals that we live by."

On the two arrests, the IGP said Bhardwaj had claimed that the Rs one
crore recovered from the vehicle was paid by the Karmapa's trust for
buying buy land near Dharamsala.

He said Bharadwaj had told the police that the bank manager had issued
an 'authorisation letter' that the money was meant for some land deal.

The police arrested two persons -- Ashutosh and Sanjay Dutt-- on January
26 after the alleged recovery of Rs 1 crore. They later nabbed Shakti
Lama, a key functionary of the Karmapa backed trust, who was remanded in
police custody for nine days.

The residence and office of monastery functionary Gompu Tshering were
raided on Saturday and foreign currency in US dollars worth Rs 4 lakh
was recovered. The sleuths of Intelligence Bureau, Enforcement
Directorate and Income Tax Department have also joined the probe.

"The police have so far not reached any conclusion about the source of
the money and all documents including the computer of Karmapa are being
thoroughly scanned," Thakur said, adding that the police had never said
anything about 'Chinese links' of the Karmapa.

Karma said, "His (Karmapa's) very escape and arrival in India exposed
the Chinese misrule in Tibet and confirmed what the world believes --
that the Tibetans and Tibet were under suppression and were not happy.

"When he came to India, his immediate act was to rush to the Dalai Lama
to seek his blessings and to offer his allegiance and loyalty to him and
also give unquestioned support to his struggle for the Tibetan people,"
he said.

"He assured me he has never done anything in any way to undermine the
interest of India, to harm the interest of India. India is his second
home. He is happy here and he looks forward to India becoming a powerful
and prosperous nation. And he has no intention in any way of undermining
the interest of India," the spokesman said.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank