Winds of Change, by Naomi Levine,

published on Jul 14, 2011, Elephant Journal

The Dalai Lama and the Karmapa at the Kalachakra in Washington DC

When the Dalai Lama made his entrance, the Karmapa walked forward, and the two bowed gently towards each other in a Tibetan gesture of mutual respect and affection. The symbolic image of these two great Tibetan spiritual leaders on a world stage, with the Washington Monument behind them and the U.S. Capitol in front, may have been lost on those unaware of Tibetan politics.

(read the complete article on Elephant Journal)



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No Sting in the Monk’s Tale by Hartosh Singh for Open Magazine caused quite a lot of comments on Facebook. I wrote to Hartosh Singh about my concerns and received his reply.

Dear Hartosh,

Hope you are well. You may remember we met in Sarnath when you were researching this story.

I have to question you on two points:

The bar on Tai Situ was subsequently removed through the intervention of senior members of the NDA Government, but Indian intelligence agencies remain suspicious of his ability to maintain contact with the Chinese. His recent bids to forge close links with Indian Members of Parliament (MPs) along the entire Himalayan belt have also come in for scrutiny.

Where does this information come from?

FYI the Shamarpa (who is the regent who has opted out of the lineage by presenting his own candidate for Karmapa) planted these stories about Tai Situ Rinpoche being a Chinese spy mostly in the Indian Express in the late 90’s. The trouble for the Tai Situ has been on going ever since. Again, where is the evidence of “recent bids to forge close links with Indian MP’s along the entire Himalayan belt?”

At  least you should have asked the Tai Situ to comment on that so he has a chance to make a statement because it is not a well known or accepted fact and if true it would be a major story.

The second thing is the assumption that the Karmapa will don the mantle of the Dalai Lama in the course of time. Again, it is important to clarify this by asking the Karmapa himself if this is his intention or if he has any interest in doing so.

What no journalist seems to understand is that the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa are entirely separate in their lineages. One doesn’t replace the other and never has in the course of history. The Karmapas have no need to don the mantle of another leader. The Karmapas are simply the Karmapas, the activity of the Budddhas. It’s much more vast and global than just the leader of the Tibetans. The Karmapas activity has to do with all of humanity. In the Karmapa’s own words:

“I have the responsibility of being the spiritual leader of a lineage and I don’t need extra responsibility. I cannot do beyond what a human being can do. The name "Karmapa" means the one who takes responsibility for all the buddhas’ activities. This is overwhelming enough. I don’t need more.” The Guardian, December 1, 2010

The Karmapa has also said recently that the Dalai Lama is the sole leader of the Tibetans, meaning he is not going to share this role as the standby. OK, let’s make it even clearer. There can only be one Karmapa. There can only be one Dalai Lama. Their roles are clearly defined and quite separate. There is no crossover. The Dalai Lama is the leader of the Tibetans and until his reincarnation appears after his death, there can be no other leader of the Tibetans.

many thanks for your patience in reading this.
kind wishes and in all, a good article,



Dear Naomi,
Am well, tks for the queries.
1.) In the article I make it clear that this is what the IB believes (and no one from the IB will actually be quoted on this !), which is not to say that it is true. This is an explanation for what was going on, not a justification.
2.) I think the article makes it clear that the lineages are separate (and I have no reason to be unclear on this after the time I spent in Sarnath), which is why it points out that after the Dalai Lama there will be an interregnum till the next reincarnation actually attains the maturity needed to don the mantle. The Tibetan movement cannot live with that vacuum for twenty years. There is no other conceivable figure who could take his place as a symbol for an entire people. That ahs nothing to do with the tradional roles of the Dalai Lama and the Karmappa, I do not mean replacing him in the traditional sense but in the sense of what he today symbolises to the world.
I hope that helps answer the queries you have.

How a blundering shoot-first-think-later accusation by Indian authorities nearly made an enemy of a very influential Tibetan

No Sting in the Monk’s Tale, by Hartosh Singh

Open Magazine, April 7th 2011

When I was leaving Tibet, you must appreciate I was leaving everything behind… India was the land of the Buddha, a place where wishes were fulfilled. I told the people who came with me, as we turned to India, that even if we are caught and killed after taking just three steps towards India I would not have an iota of remorse, that was the amount of faith and hope and affection I had for India. After 11 years here this should now be clear. Yet such an unwarranted accusation has been a source of tremendous hurt, it is difficult to forget it in my lifetime.

Words of dismay, but understandably so. For any Tibetan to be called a Chinese spy would always be a source of consternation, but the young man speaking at the press conference in Delhi was no ordinary Tibetan. On any other day his anguish would have made headlines, but it was also the day Osama’s death became public. In the ensuing frenzy, the story of the quiet withdrawal of a bizarre charge has not received the attention it deserves.

read the complete article on

At 4 pm on March 23, an entourage of monks walked slowly through the Deer Park in Sarnath, the site where the Buddha first turned the Wheel of the Law after attaining enlightenment. We all gazed at the unmistakeable outline of HH Karmapa, as he walked rhythmically towards the deer. A golden parasol was held aloft to shade him from the sun’s rays. The deer leaped into the air and frolicked excitedly in anticipation, as he tossed some carrots into their enclosure.
Then he sat on a throne with a canopy of garlands around it facing the huge stone edifice of Dhamekh Stupa, built by King Ashoka, and made prayers for auspiciousness. All the monks and followers sat on the grass enjoying precious moments of tranquillity. HH Karmapa did several circumambulations of the stupa, then walked slowly towards the main temple containing a relic of the Buddha. Inside the temple he sat down on the floor in front of the huge golden Buddha, while the recitations continued.

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It’s like I should be thanking the earth and sky.
HH Karmapa, Sarnath 2011

In the famous cave paintings at Ajanta there are frescoes of street scenes in India during the Buddha’s time: courtesans, beggars, kings, romantic couples, animals. There is a sensuality about these scenes completely different to the idealism of Tibetan tangkha paintings. Not even the famous bodhisattva Padmapani is sitting on a white fluffy cloud. Thousands of years ago the Buddha was out on the streets with the ordinary people of his time, sharing the human condition in all its colourful display. In a memorable close up he is standing next to his wife and son. The image is striking because the Buddha is shown as a gigantic figure next to two very tiny people. He walks the earth like everyone else but his spiritual greatness makes him tower above everyone.

The teachings in Sarnath reminded me of these paintings. The Karmapa was admittedly not in top form for the first day. It seemed like the vicious attacks from the press had naturally affected his spirits. “On the first day I felt like I was talking in my sleep”, he admitted. “So I didn’t feel like I taught you the dharma. But maybe I should thank time. It’s the kindness of time that it always changes. We had four days and so I would like thank time for continuing to change.

As the days moved along, the teachings started to come out through the engagement of the listeners. The first question was about maintaining equanimity in the face of lies and adversity:

Read the rest of this entry »

On the third day of Losar HH Karmapa performed a special Guan Gong Puja (Tsurphu Protector) in the evening outside in front of Vajra Vidya Monastery. At the end he donned a black ceremonial hat to the delight of the onlookers. The evening concluded with a burst of fireworks which seemed to amuse His Holiness, and were loud enough to terrify the demons of the entire chiliocosm.

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Happy Losar from all of us at Vayra Vidya Institute in Sarnath


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Actor Kabir Bedi takes the Indian establishment to task over the Karmapa incident.

The Karmapa is an icon, he deserves more respect, by Kabir Bedi

Times of India, Feb 27th 2011

Almost everyone knows of the Dalai Lama. But not many Indians had heard of the Karmapa Lama before he made news recently, after being accused of having Rs 7.5 crore in foreign currencies, attempting benami land deals near Dharamshala and, worst of all, being a Chinese spy. So why are the Tibetan refugees themselves so angered by these accusations? Tenzin Tsundue, a leading Tibetan activist, says, “This country that we are so grateful to is alleging the Karmapa is a spy for China. And we can’t understand that at all.” Many question the motives of the Indian intelligence agencies in leaking this allegation against the Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, ever since he came to India as a refugee in 2000.

Who exactly is the Karmapa? In a word, after the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa is the most important Tibetan Buddhist leader today. In Christian terms, the Karmapa would be like the Archbishop of Canterbury or the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, second only to the Pope. But the over-500 Kagyu centres of the Karmapa across the world vastly outnumber the Dalai Lama’s Gelug centres —most impressive for a 25-year-old who left Tibet barely 11 years ago.

read the complete article on

His Holiness Karmapa leaving Gyuto Monastery for his spring trip to Sarnath


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