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Karma Paljor
Thursday , February 03, 2011 at 16 : 02

16th Karmapa gave me my name


He gave me my name. The 16th Karmapa has long gone, but he has always been my spiritual guide. I can recall almost all of our visits to his monastery in Rumtek, Sikkim. And I can never forget his warm smile and laughter from my first memory of the Karmapa as a 5-year-old child.

He used to have an aviary, where many rescued and donated birds were kept. My father - who belonged to the animal husbandry department in the government - used to volunteer in looking after the birds and cattle of the monastery. Once on my visit to the monastery, I was amused to see a tiny little bird resting on Kamapa's hand. A monk later told me that all dead and dying birds are brought to him for special prayers... "They die in peace in his hand," the monk had told me. I never saw Karmapa perform miracles or magic, and he used to laugh at people who asked him to predict their future. Yet, there was magic all around him. He always told people to practice dharma, the dharma of kindness and giving.

Once I was told that my grand uncle, who once bought a lottery ticket in his younger days, prayed to His Holiness and kept the ticket next to his picture so that he won the lottery. But he never won, so the lottery went to the bin, alongwith a much abused picture of the Karmapa. His next audience with His Holiness followed soon, and I was told that a very amused Karmapa kept asking my uncle if he felt let down by him.

On a bright sunny day (Dec 20th 1981) we said goodbye to the 16th Karmapa, in Rumtek. It was also a day when we saw a rare rainbow around the sun, just as his funeral pyre was lit. It was shot by some American filmakers.

It took a long time for the monks to locate the next reincarnation. Good news came in the form of Ogyen Trinley Dorje, born to a nomadic family in Eastern Tibet. After a thorough selection process, he was enthroned at the Tolung Tsurphu Monastery in Central Tibet on September 27, 1992.

At the age of fourteen, and after a few years of training, the 17th Karma escaped Tibet and arrived in India on January 5, 2000. The love and devotion I feel for my spiritual guru has made me follow his every step with my enthusiasm, with a hope that he will return to Rumtek monastery once again. There he will be with his people, people who truly love him.

The recent turn of events around the Karmapa have disturbed me and the people around me no end. As a journalist I am supposed to have a balanced outlook, a pragmatic approach to 'news'. But faith shakes you sometimes, and makes your response an emotional one. I questioned every story, every leak from the so called, "intelligence sources". But news is news. I have fought with my editors, questioned my reporters... But again, news is news.

The News

Ogyen Trinley Dorje was fourteen years old when he reached India. And the police claims, especially those made by Himachal DGP Minhas, of the Karmapa's alleged Chinese links seems straight out of a spy thriller. The Chinese must have a fantastic indoctrination system to make a 14-year-old believe in their plans and then send him to India to create unrest. If you have watched Angelina Jolie's, Salt, then you will know what exactly I am talking about.

The Karmapa has been in India for 10 years now, and his every move has been documented. Even the details of his meetings with foreigners are noted down for future reference. If he indeed had links with the Chinese, then I have a question to ask the police. Why did they take such a long time to find this out? They are clearly incompetent. If he indeed is a spy, then all his followers, all the people who support him from Ladakh to Sikkim to Arunachal, must be jailed for treason.

The careless leaks have only damaged and dented the deep trust and angered the peace loving Buddhists living in the sensitive border area with China. Please visit Sikkim, the one gateway to China and witness the anger and sadness within every individual. Every unsubstantiated allegation is only taking the people further away. They ask, "Would the government of India have raided a temple or a mosque?"

"No one cares about the sensitivities of the hill people, they are an unattractive vote bank!" The most clinching evidence the police claims is the 11 lakh Chinese Yuan, "fresh and serially numbered". They say the money was passed on possibly by the Chinese to buy property. The Chinese, who the DGP thinks so advanced to be able to indoctrinate a 14-year-old into their spy network, would certainly have a better plan than passing on 11 lakh in Chinese Yuan to their secret agent, knowing very well that this is not an accepted currency in India.

Would they really have been so careless? Do other religious institutions not receive donations in serially numbered notes?

It is a well known fact that the Karmapa's monastery had sought government permission to receive foreign exchange from FCRA as foreign donations. During this time they also declared offerings in foreign currency they were holding.

The alleged land deals which are being reported are also shrouded in mystery, there is very little information on where all this land is spread. But it is a well known fact that the Kagupa monastery sought land from the Himachal Pradesh Government to build a monastery. There are documents to prove this. There was even a joint security inspection by the police and the Tibetan government in exile.

The trouble is with the too many allegations that are flying around, most of which are unsubstantiated. I just hope sense prevails, and the Karmapa can finally return to his home in Sikkim.

The Facts:

The headquarters of the Karma Kagu office has compiled a list of answers to the allegations that have been made. The official website of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje is maintained by the Kagyu Office. www.kagyuoffice.org

Fact 1: The Karmapa Office of Administration has been seeking to deposit its donations in foreign currency for years. Under the Indian law, foreign currency can only be deposited in a bank by a trust or other registered institutions that have received government permission to do so, known as FCRA permission. The Karmapa Office of Administration created a trust called the Saraswati Charitable Trust, which repeatedly applied for permission but was never granted the same to deposit foreign currency. It thus created another trust, Karmae Garchen Trust, whose application for FCRA permission to deposit foreign currency was submitted last year and is still pending. With no legitimate means of depositing or exchanging this foreign currency, the money was left to pile up over time, awaiting the day when it could be legitimately deposited.

Fact 2: The Chinese Yuan represents less than 10 per cent of the total amount of foreign currency seized. The Chinese Yuan is the national currency used in Tibet and across mainland China. Tibetans from Tibet generally leave donations in Chinese Yuan. So do Buddhists from mainland China. The Yuan seized by police include Chinese Yuan notes ranging from 1 Yuan notes to larger bills, reflecting that they come from multiple individual sources.

Fact 3: The Chinese Yuan was only one of over 20 different currencies found. The presence of donations in Yuans as well as other currencies reflects His Holiness' status as a world spiritual leader with a diverse international following that includes Tibetans and Buddhists from mainland China, whose national currency is the Yuan. It is customary for groups to pool their money and make collective donations. In Chinese culture, it is especially common to offer new notes when making donations to high abbots and senior spiritual leaders.

Fact 4: Written records of all cash donations are maintained. Donations made by devotees are placed by his attendants in a donation box. At regular intervals, the box is opened and the cashier and a group of other office staff sort and count the donations. The cashier carefully notes the total in each denomination, and painstaking records are kept of the amounts. The cashier opts to store the foreign currency openly in a dormitory room he shares with other monks, rather than in the office, which receives a larger footfall.

Fact 5: Millions of international disciples regularly leave unsolicited donations in the currencies of their home country when they come to see His Holiness the Karmapa. HH the Karmapa is the revered leader of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and the object of devotion and trust of millions of followers from all over the world. During December 2010 alone, His Holiness granted personal audience to thousands of devotees from 44 distinct nationalities, including American, British, German, Japanese, and Chinese. It is customary to leave donations of gifts such as fruit, incense or cash, as symbols of devotion to His Holiness the Karmapa, and as a means of supporting his many charitable activities.

Fact 6:HH's role is to lead the sect spiritually and he has no role in the day-to-day management of the sect. The Karmapa reincarnation lineage has a 900-year-old history of engaging in a vast range of spiritual activities, from teaching 'dharma' to rigorous meditation to composing philosophical texts. HH is completely and utterly uninvolved in the handling and management of cash. The Tsurphu Labrang, known now as the Karmapa Office of Administration, has existed for hundreds of years to allow the Karmapas to devote their time and energy to their role as spiritual leaders. It manages all the worldly affairs of the Karmapa, including handling the donations and administering the finances. In this way, the Karmapa has been left free to fulfill his solemn duties as a spiritual guide to countless followers and leader of a large Buddhist order.

Fact 7: The Indian government was fully informed of the plans to buy land in Dharamsala to build a monastery for HH the Karmapa. HH has been hosted in a temporary residence in Dharamsala by another Tibetan Buddhist sect since his arrival in India in 2000. The Karmae Garchen Trust was seeking to purchase the land in its own name for the purpose of building a permanent residence and monastery for His Holiness, whose current living quarters measure 15'x15'. When the Karmae Garchen Trust identified suitable land near His Holiness' current temporary residence in Dharamsala, it informed the office of the District Collector of Dharamsala and sought their approval to proceed with the purchase.

Fact 8: The Indian government had granted preliminary approval of the land purchase. Under the Land Reform Act, any non-Himachali and non-agriculturist requires sanction by the state government before purchasing land. The Karmae Garchen Trust sought and was granted preliminary approval by the relevant state government offices. The application was accompanied by a strong letter of support from the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. They obtained both - an essentiality certificate and a no-objection certificate - from the Town and Country Planning Department of the Himachal Pradesh government, indicating state government approval to proceed with the plans to purchase the land.

Fact 9: The INR 1 crore (approx. $ 215,000) seized in the car of an Indian hotelier belonged to the seller of the land, rather than the Trust. The two men were arrested in a car with the money. The two men were agents working for the land seller, who had been given a partial payment due for the land. These agents had accepted payment in Delhi and signed a receipt from Rabgay Chusong, the monk who handles the financial matters for the Karmapa Office of Administration. Currently, only Rabgay is in custody and will be in remand until the February 5, after which we will post bail.

The seller demanded payment in cash for the land, which is legal and commonly practiced for various other capital assets as well in India. Since the Karmae Garchen Trust did not have such cash on hand, cash donations in Indian rupees were gathered from donations made during the Kagyu Monlam in Bodh Gaya, and delivered to Delhi by the Karmapa Office of Administration.


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More about Karma Paljor

Karma Paljor has been a journalist for over 11 years. Having started with The Times of India in Mumbai, he moved to CNBC TV18 in 2001. Apart from covering national and political stories for the channel, Paljor also anchored the breakfast show on CNBC TV18. He bagged the Chevening scholarship for Broadcast journalism in 2004. A keen aviation watcher, he loves flying his model aircraft when not reporting about trouble in the skies. Paljor also did a half-hour programme on the problems plaguing the aviation sector in India in 2006, following which the civil aviation ministry suggested several changes including, an overhaul of infrastructure at Air Traffic Controls across India. Paljor, who has anchored every possible show on CNN-IBN, is an avid aeromodeller when time permits.