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Espionage accusations leveled against Buddhist leader: The Church of England Newspaper, Feb 4, 2011 February 8, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Buddhism, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.

The 17th Karmapa Lama

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

India is in the midst of a media frenzy over speculation that the third highest Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Karmapa Lama, is a Chinese spy.

Speaking to reporters last week in Bangalore, the Dalai Lama defended his likely successor as political leader of Tibet in exile, saying he was “an important lama, a spiritual leader. People from different parts of the world including many Chinese, come to seek his blessing and offer money.”

However, the 25 year-old Lama, Ogyen Trinley Dorjee, had been unwise, the Dalai Lama conceded, saying the cash discovered by police “should have been deposited in a bank and not kept in cash at the monastery.”

In the two-day search of the Karmapa’s Gyuto Tantric monastery in Dharamsala last month, police found approximately £500,000 in cash in half a dozen currencies, including 110 million Chinese yuan—in wads of notes with consecutive serial numbers.  The Karmapa Lama was questioned by police for several hours over the source of the undeclared funds and over his ties to China, and his accountant was arrested.

Citing unnamed government sources, the Indian press has reported the Lama is suspected of being an agent of influence for the Chinese government.

The Karmapa Lama is the spiritual leader of one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, ranking only behind the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama.  As head of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, the Karmapa is believed by devotees to be a living Buddha.  He is also the first high lama to be recognised by China’s communist government.

The search for the 17th Karmapa Lama began in 1981 when the 16th Lama died.  In 1992 the Dalia Lama had a vision of where the new high lama could be found, and a search team sent to Eastern Tibet found the 7-year old boy, a nomad’s son.  The Dalai Lama gave his blessing to the selection and on June 27, 1992 the Chinese government endorsed Ogyen Trinley Dorjee as the 17th Karmapa Lama.

In December 1999, the Karmapa Lama escaped from Tibet to India, crossing the Himalayas by foot.  Some Tibetan Buddhists believed the boy’s winter flight across the mountains was suspicious and suspected he had been sent to India by the Chinese government.  A rival group anointed another monk, Trinley Thaye Dorje, as the 17th Karmapa Lama.

Indian police, intelligence services and tax authorities are currently investigating the affair.  However, the Lama’s aides have denied any wrong doing.  The cash had been “received for charitable purposes from local and international disciples from many different countries wishing to support His Holiness’ various charitable activities. Any suggestion that these offerings were to be used for illegal purposes in libelous,” the statement said.

“The allegations being leveled against the Karmapa and his administration are grossly speculative and without foundation in the truth,” the Lama’s aides said, and they “categorically deny having any link whatsoever with any arm of the Chinese government.”

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