Whither the Karmapa?

Police in Himachal Pradesh, India formally charged the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, along with some of his aides, with crimes related to a putatively illegal stash of foreign currency which was discovered nearly a year ago. I had perhaps naïvely thought this story had quietly gone away. A number of questions arise: is the Karmapa going to be arrested? Since these are serious charges, is there any question of his being sentenced to prison time? It seems virtually impossible that things would get to that stage (if somehow every other avenue failed, I imagine the president of India could pardon the Karmapa to avoid the public relations disaster of trying to imprison such a high-profile foreign guest). But it is possible that today’s developments signal a stepped-up harassment of the Karmapa by hostile elements in the Indian government. Exactly what their motivation for doing that is has always been unclear to me. It could be related to the Shamarpa/Tai Situ controversy, but I have never had the impression that the Shamarpa has that much influence in the Indian government. It could be that elements in Indian government are actively trying to make sure the Karmapa never has any political ambitions that would cause friction between India and China; or, they do want him to have political ambitions, but they want to be able to control him.

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What is India’s Karmapa policy? (an interview with the Karmapa)

guardian.co.uk recently ran an interview and analysis piece by Norma Levine about Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s current situation. He makes his most straightforward so far about not playing a political role in the government-in-exile in the future, rightly pointing out that there is a already a procedure in place in their constitution to choose a regent for the Dalai Lama. Levine writes compellingly about the restrictions the Karmapa faces living in India. Some questions were raised in the comments about the reliability of the translation of what the Karmapa said and about the accuracy of the conclusions Levine reaches, but this article is definitely thought-provoking.

What is India’s Karmapa policy?

Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa (photograph by Prince Roy)According to this story in the North India Times, the Indian security services have recently been limiting the movements of Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje even more tightly than before.  Since escaping into exile from China in 2000, the Karmapa has been living in Himachal Pradesh at a Gelugpa monastery not far from Dharamsala.  All along, the Indian government has kept an unusually close eye on him: he is constantly guarded by government security personnel, he travels in India only with permission, and he has not been allowed to leave India at all except for a brief visit to the United States in 2008. Now, according to the news story, the restrictions have been tightened further: his visits to Dharamsala are limited and he is largely prohibited from leaving Sidhbari, the town where he resides. Continue reading “What is India’s Karmapa policy?”

“My job is too big for one man”

That was the sentiment expressed by the Dalai Lama in a recent speech, as reported by the Independent.  As Andrew Buncombe describes it:

In a speech that underscored the pressures he has had to bear during his life serving as both a spiritual and political leader, the Dalai Lama has said there is no need for his successor to perform the two roles.

Now, the Charter of the Tibetans in Exile, which is basically the constitution of the government-in-exile, specifies that the Dalai Lama is the chief executive. This is not a figurehead position, since it is given broad executive powers and a veto over legislation. So, we’re talking about amending the Charter to remove the Dalai Lama’s powers? It seems like that would be politically difficult to do if the incumbent Dalai Lama doesn’t suggest it explicitly. So, is that what he is suggesting?
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