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"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 breaks his silence

May 24, 2009

Anand Sankar
Business Standard (India)
May 23, 2009

New Delhi, May 23 -- Ogyen Trinley Dorje hopes to
get a university education, but will the
government allow it? Anand Sankar wonders.

In the Dalai Lama, both Tibet and Buddhism have
their poster boy, though a triad governs the
spiritual leadership of Tibetan Buddhism with the
Gyalwang Karmapa and the Panchen Lama as
important pivots. The last Karmapa, usually
resident in Gangtok’s Rumtek Monastery, passed
away in 1981, and the search for his successor
and the 17th Karmapa ended, like the Dalai Lama
before him, in Tibet, from where he fled to India
in January 2000 as a young boy barely
14-years-old. Trapped in the cross-fire between
Chinese restrictions and accusations that he
might be an indoctrinated “imposter” — part of
the sect had recognised Trinley They Dorje as its
Karmapa, while the larger view is that the
spiritual leadership rests in the shape of Ogyen
Trinley Dorje, with a few intellectuals
suggesting that more than one Karmapa can
manifest himself — Ogyen Trinley Dorje has
remained out of the range of media glare while
studying scriptures, science and psychology at
the scenic Gyuto Monastery near the town of Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh.

Yet, he looks remarkably fresh and has a sense of
relaxedness about him as he ushers me in with a
firm handshake. He’s grown since he was presented
before the world’s media in 2000 after the
arduous trek from Tibet, his face sunburnt, his
feet blistered. As leader of the large Karma
Kagyu sect and the highest Tibetan spiritual head
in exile in India after the Dalai Lama,
speculation refuses to die away that he will fill
the political void when the Dalai Lama passes away.

Nine years after his flight to India, the Karmapa
lives under tight security and access to him is
watched closely by the Indian government, which
has granted him political asylum. No one is
allowed to photograph him, or record an interview
electronically, on orders from the home ministry.
But conditions have been relaxed to allow him to
travel to monasteries in India, and he made a maiden visit to the US last year.

The People’s Republic of China recognises Ogyen
Trinley Dorje as the Karmapa and for long tried
to woo him, especially as a child. They showered
him with toys — his favourite, apparently, was a
remote-controlled lorry — but he says he left
China because his education was being restricted,
and also because he was under constant
surveillance. He can understand English but
prefers to speak in Tibetan, and has picked up a
smattering of Korean and Vietnamese. He also
takes a keen interest in current affairs, as was
obvious during this too-brief interview.

How would you summarise your nine years in India?
There is more than one reason for thinking that
much has been received. There is the ability to
interact with many Rinpoches (Buddhist spiritual
heads). The prime achievement is the opportunity
to interact with people from different countries.

What interests you apart from spiritual studies
and how do you plan to further your education in that field?
All my background education is traditional.
Lately, I have made an endeavour with psychology
and environmental studies. So far, I have been
able to attend a few conferences but there has
been no real opportunity to pursue serious study
in these subjects. I want to study modern science
in the near future and I hope to enroll into a
university for formal education. Modern science
and Buddhist philosophy are complementary and beneficial to each other.

Are you able to get messages from your family
back home in Tibet? It is said your parents are unwell.
At random, yes, I do get messages. My parents are
in good health and occasionally they do send me messages.

You have maintained a distance from political
activities in support of the Tibetan struggle.
How long do you see yourself keeping to that stance?
It is difficult to say [since] one is not
affiliated with politics. It is very much a part
of life. The possibilities are there and a time
might come [to engage more actively with
politics]. I might engage in giving directives. I
don’t want to be a politician though. I want to
be involved with matters of society.

At 23, you are in the age bracket of today’s
Tibetan youth. How do you want to engage with them?
 From a very young age I have had a straight and
direct connectivity with younger people. They
also feel close to me, we have a close
relationship. I find myself as a bridge between
older times and modern times. We must not be
carried away by the impact of modern times. We
need a pure and pristine understanding of both times.

After coming to India, you said you felt
restricted due to the government not allowing you
to travel. How do you feel after your trip to America?
It was a very short trip, but a big opening of
the door. It was relaxed and happy. I hope more such opportunities come.

What is your view of the many ongoing crises in the world today?
The world faces economic crisis and conflict,
especially wars. Behind all this is man, his
behaviour, of which we need to take stock. But
these issues are less serious than the
environmental crisis. Controlling population is a
solution, but, again, the solution depends on behaviour.
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