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Interview: Karmapa Lama wishes to return to Tibet someday

April 20, 2009

Thaindian News
April 19, 2009

Dharamsala (Himachal Pradesh), April 19 (IANS) --
Like the Dalai Lama who escaped from Tibet in
1959, the second highest Tibetan monk, the 17th
Gyalwang Karmapa, secretly arrived in India
nearly 10 years ago as a teenager. But his desire
to return "one day" remains provided Tibetans are
able to live with "full religious and other freedom."

Though the boyish looks are now changing into
those of a young man, Ogyen Trinley Dorje,
popularly called Karmapa Lama, is readying
himself to take on the responsibilities
associated with the high seat in Tibetan religion and tradition that he holds.

Not regretting his flight to freedom from the
Tsurphu monastery near Lhasa in Tibet to arrive
here in the winter of January 2000, the Karmapa
says he would like to go back to Tibet, but only
if the situation is conducive for their return.

"If you ask about going back, the answer is yes.
Everyone has the right to go back to his own
country. We are struggling for that opportunity
(to go back). One day, this wish will come true,”
the Karmapa told IANS in an interview at his
temporary abode at the foothills of the
snow-covered Dhauladhar Himalayan range at the
Gyuto Tantric University and monastery at Yol Cantt near here.

"Tibetans have seen 50 years of suffering after
they had to let go their country by force. They
are stateless and homeless. Even after 50 years,
Tibetans would like to go back but that will
happen only if the situation is ideal to go back.
The issue that arises is whether they will be
able to live like Tibetans with full religious and other freedom."

Everyday, scores of people, mostly foreigners
from Western countries, Australia, Japan, Taiwan,
South Korea and others arrive at his monastery to
seek blessings from the 24-year-old Tibetan religious leader.

Among them last week was Hollywood superstar Richard Gere.

Surrounded by tight security of Indian Army
trained Tibetan commandos and Himachal Pradesh
Police at all times, the young Karmapa clearly
seems to have gained in confidence and has become
more assertive from the time when he was first
revealed to the world after his arrival here in 2000.

"The main purpose of coming out (of Tibet) was to
have the opportunity to pursue important
religious study and get the necessary
transmission of religion. I have received that
transmission now," he said through a translator.

Though he knows English, he prefers to use
translators for media interaction - giving
replies patiently and after weighing his words.

His tours have to be cleared by the union
ministries of external affairs and home affairs.
In recent months, the Karmapa has toured the
United States and Hong Kong and some parts of
India. His entry to Rumtek Monastery near Gangtok
in Sikkim, though, is still banned by the central government.

In the Tibetan exile circles based here and other
parts of India, the future role of the Karmapa as
the leader of the Tibetan community is
acknowledged as the Dalai Lama, 73, is ageing.

"I would like to think of myself as a person of
substance. Even though I am a Tibetan, I hold the
name of the Karmapa which is an important
responsibility. I have to uphold the history of
900 years of the institution of the Karmapas. If
a situation arises, I will have to address it as
the Karmapa," he replied indirectly when asked
whether he was prepared to lead the Tibetan community after the Dalai Lama.

"In Tibetan religious tradition, monks are not
supposed to eat meat. But given the harsh
conditions in cold mountains, where vegetation is
also not there, they have to adapt to eat meat to
survive. Similarly, if a situation arises, I will
adapt to it accordingly," he added with an analogy.

Referring to the recent decision at a meeting of
high lamas (monks) held here in March in which it
was decided that a law be brought to have all
future reincarnations of top lamas from within
the exiled Tibetan community only, the Karmapa justified the decision.

"In free Tibet, the earlier system (of choosing
re-incarnations) worked very well. Now the
situation is different. The Tibetan community is
split into those living inside and outside Tibet.
So the system needs upgrading according to the
prevailing situation. Some of the earlier things
(on selecting reincarnations) are not relevant now."

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)
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