July 16, 2010

India denies Karmapa visit to US

Denied permission to travel to Europe earlier this year, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa and most prominent member of the Kagyu lineage, has again faced travel restrictions. If all had gone well, he'd have arrived in New York this week but was denied an exit visa in what appears to be a concession to Chinese interests. The India Times reports:

"The Karmapa was scheduled to attend prayer sessions being organized by Karma Triyana Dharamchakra center in Woodstock in New York that began yesterday (Wednesday), but Indian authorities refused to grant him permission to visit there," Gompa Tsering, Karmapa's secretary, said.

In 2008, he paid an 18-day visit to the US, visiting New York, New Jersey, Boulder, Colorado and Seattle.

thaye dorje, karmapa, shamar rinpoche, shamarpaOgyen Trinley Dorje's legitimacy as Karmapa is contested by Thaye Dorje, who also has assumed the title. While China and the Dalai Lama recognize Ogyen Trinley Dorje, Shamar Rinpoche (the Shamarpa) has identified Thaye Dorje as the much beloved 16th Karmapa's successor. The Shamarpa is considered to be the emanation of the Buddha Amitabha, and wears a red replica of the Karmapa's black hat. "The Shamarpa" translates literally as "the one with the red crown," which symbolizes his closeness to the the Karmapa. The Indian government has ruled in the Thaye Dorje camp's favor.

Coincidentally, I ran into Shamar Rinpoche here in New York's Chelsea district today. Warm and friendly, he extended his arm in welcome. I'd met him once before at a friend's home last year, although this time we had time for only a brief chat. (Tai Situ Rinpoche, who has recognized the competing Karmapa, contributed a piece to the current issue of Tricycle. In it, he offers his views about what it will take to establish a truly Western dharma. You can read "It Takes a Saint" here.)

It's always awkward when either Karmapa is mentioned in the magazine; it's a sensitive issue and one difficult to present without, understandably, offending one or the other of the parties involved. It's an issue the Tibetans themselves will resolve, and until then, we'll remain on the sidelines. There have been contested incarnations in the past, so this is not unprecedented, although the prominence of the incarnation makes it a particularly thorny issue.

Images: Ogyen Trinley Dorje (r); Thaye Dorje (l)

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wideawake's picture

One is good; two may be better. Seems they both could have plenty to offer. We certainly could use all the help we can get.

Eduardo RaN's picture

The more boddisatvas exist the more sentien being will be happy, two Karmapas would be wonderful!

Eduardo RaN's picture

The more boddisatvas exist the more sentien being will be happy, two Karmapas will be wonderful!

Tricycle » Massive Rally In Support of Karmapa To Take Place's picture

[...] Ogyen Trinley Dorje has been denied permission to visit Europe and the US, so while the rally is specifically aimed at gaining him access to [...]

Dave's picture

I agree with the idea of letting the Tibetans handle this thorny issue. The good news is that Shamarpa and the Dalai Lama recently met in India to discuss ways to resolve this issue:


May peace prevail on Earth.

Helen Lhamo's picture

I really do not think it is the Sharmapa who is preventing HH Karmapa from traveling. Will someone please investigate the "Gyalwang Drukpa"? If I am wrong, I am wrong. But, please investigate.

I am not a Sharmapa student. I have no "investment" in defending him. I am not defending his behavior at all.

Can you trust a "Gyalwang" who wears a wig???

Scroll down page and view all pictures:

Compare with:

I think we have been side-tracked by this "Sharmapa-Karmapa" controversy for too long. I think, unbelievably for some, those two sides are coming closer together. Remarkable as it is, I think this problem is almost over...but, for the "Gyalwang" with the wig...I don't know.

smile's picture

"95% of Kagyu lineage can be wrong, Nechung most trusted oracle also wrong, Tutor of Shamar, Tai Situ, Gyaltsab Rinpoche, and Jamgon Kongtrul also wrong"
it's the reason we're really in the dark age of degeneration

J. Gilbert's picture

Right, the one Shamar paid for, sigh....I won't say anymore, shouldn't have said this much. And of course, 95% of Kagyu lineage can be wrong, Nechung most trusted oracle also wrong, Tutor of Shamar, Tai Situ, Gyaltsab Rinpoche, and Jamgon Kongtrul also wrong. Believe me I already know about feud, have cried about Gelug rewriting of history.
I'm just sorry that you will never meet true holiness.

Edward J Hall's picture

@J Gilbert
Shamar Rinpoche was not officially recognised for I think only a couple of incarnations due to a sensitive political situation, or one could say Gelugpa interference. Nevertheless he was recognised and trained by the Karmapa in secret.
It is disingenuous, therefore, to imply that this change in his recognition *by the Gelug government* confers any less spiritual authority on this *Kagyu* incarnation line.
For more information on the feud between the ex-ruling school (Kagyu) and the current ruling school (Gelug) I recommend Erik Curren's book "Buddha's not smiling".

J. Gilbert's picture

It is a pity that something like the so called "Karmapa Issue" has gone on for so long. Sharmapa has not been officially recognized for hundreds of years. Even in the old days in India he had too much pride. HH's the Dalai Lama and the 16th Karmapa decided he should be given this chance in this lifetime. So now he can be called the Gyalwa Sharmapa by some, gets money from China, and the Tibetans think he only wants to get the Dalai Lama's job. It is rare for HH the 14th Dalai Lama to make a mistake, also the 16th Karmapa made few. However, we are in the dark ages Guru Rinpoche predicted. Sharmar's pride has led not only him, but his poor students to some pretty bad samaya. I only hope he lays his crown at HH Urgyen Trinley Dorje's feet before he dies. For the good of his next life. Indian politicians may like him, however Maha Dev disapproves. Me? I used to admire him, now I just pity him.

Helen Lhamo's picture

Does the money come "from" Bhutan, or does it come "through" Bhutan?

See: Selling the Dragon

See also the comments:

Helen Lhamo's picture

Quite a photo opt for his dog!

Is he promoting “equal rights” …or is he using “equal rights” to promote himself?

See also: The Meaning of Jetsunma.

Helen Lhamo's picture

I think it is the "Gyalwang Drukpa" who is more politically motivated these days than the Sharmapa.

Does GD (perhaps he would like the "O") wear a toupe? Is the hat more important or the hair?

Scroll down to photo:

And compare with:

Mick Brown's picture

Pamela Gayle White -

Thank you for the kind mention of my book The Dance of 17 Lives. Might I just add that it is not told simply from the point of view of Karmapa Ogyen Trinley supporters, but that as an independent journalist, and not a Buddist practitioner nor devotee, I talked to both sides in the dispute. Thanks

Ed Worthy's picture

I applaud the balanced and neutral approach that Tricycle and James Shaheen take in the current "Karmapa controversy." Buddhist practitioners should focus on the Dharma, not religious politics.

Carmen Riera's picture

The second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, predicted that in the future he would manifest in two forms: as Bodhisattva of the black hat and Bodhisattva of the red hat.

The fifth Karmapa had specified that the Shamarpa and the Karmapa are two beings who are spiritually inseparable and that their mind is undifferentiated in essence, but that their activities are different for the benefit of all beings.

So, if they have inseparable as well as undifferentiated minds and the Karmapa recognize himself, there is not need from a another lineage holder different from the Kagyu to said so, nevertheless the Chinese government.

For me, it is pretty obviuos who is the 17 Karmapa, time would show the reasons why this happened.

Meanwhile we can make wishes that both may benefit countless sentient beings.

sharon gamsby's picture

as a long time student of Shamar Rinpoche, I have always been impressed and gratified that in his Bodhi Path centers, this has been a non issue, and Rinpoche has never encouraged his western students to engage in politics. I have been able to confidently go forward with my practice and devotion, not at all clouded by this "controversy" and know that as the karma kagyu lineage holder Rinpoche has been unstained and clear throughout. May both Karmapas be free in the world to help beings.

Carole Bishop's picture

Meanwhile Theye Dorje seems free to travel to the Western World at will while Ogyen Trinley Dorje is virtually a prisoner in a run down monastery in Norther India, occasionally allowed out for dharma events within India.

Pamela Gayle White's picture

Thank you so much for presenting both sides of a very touchy subject. Those who would like to read more about the controversy can try Mick Brown's Dance of 17 Lives or Michelle Martin's Music in the Sky, both told from the point of view of Karmapa Ogyen Trinley's supporters; and Sylvia Wong's new The Karmapa Prophesies or Eric Curren's The Buddha’s Not Smiling, both told from the point of view of Karmapa Thaye Dorje's supporters. The wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karmapa_Controversy
is also very informative and offers links and references.

James Shaheen's picture

@ Sebastian - Agreed, and nicely put.

James Shaheen's picture

@ Otto - Point well taken. As I'm sure you know, multiple incarnations in the past have been resolved, but never by popular vote. In fact, it IS clear that succession is not a democratic decision. It is not a secular matter and no one is required to follow one or the other.

I have no idea how this will be resolved, but I do know that Tricycle will not be resolving it. By "standing on the sidelines" I mean that we do not take sides here and offer both our respect and good wishes.

Otto Kerner's picture

"It’s an issue the Tibetans themselves will resolve, and until then, we’ll remain on the sidelines" doesn't sound right to me. Doesn't the Karmapa have devotees from many nations, not only from Tibet but also Mongolia, India, Japan, the Western countries, and the Chinese-speaking world? Are the Tibetans more equal than the others?

My first impulse was to say that this should be for all of the Karmapas devotees to decide, but, on second thought, it's not clear that it is or should be a democratic decision. The Shamarpa has said roughly that it should be for him to decide, since he is the highest-ranking member of the community other than the Karmapa himself. I find myself a bit more sympathetic with the opposing view that it is best decided by a consensus of the major Karma Kagyü lamas. I personally am none of these things (Tibetan, devotee, major lama), so I guess I am for sure on the sidelines, an interested observer.

(The traditional view, of course, is that the Karmapa identifies himself. But, of course, this doesn't really settle things because ... what if two young both identify themselves as the Karmapa?)

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Sebastiaan's picture

Its really a great obstacle that the politics has overtaken the potential that both these young men have to offer practitioners everywhere. May it be resolved quickly for the good of all.