“KIBI, March 20th, 1994 “
“Important is Karmapa’s Ability to Maintain the Quality of the Kagyu Lineage”
“What gave you the confidence that the boy is actually the rebirth of the 16th Karmapa?” The boy has already been known for some years. He himself was looking for monks from Rumtek or Tsurphu Monastery but nobody came at that time. Many people knew that he was waiting for those monks. But of course this was not the only reason we decided that he is the Karmapa. One of the first of us who saw him said that many things about the child reminded him of the 16th Karmapa; things like his sitting posture, etc. At first he wanted to sit next to the child, but he couldn’t help but to sit lower and make offerings. Even earlier the boy declared himself to be the Karmapa and wanted to visit the cousin of the 16th Karmapa. He said that he wanted to stay in that house and wait for someone. Also, his parents waited for someone to come. When the boy in Tsurphu was later recognized, the family went back to Kham. His father made sure that Karmapa stayed at home a lot because he was afraid that the boy would talk too much with people.
That’s a little bit of the background of the history. “Didn’t Karmapa become very well known in the area where he lived? ” Yes. Everybody knew about him. But when the other “Karmapa” appeared, people started having doubts. All who met him had the feeling that he is the Karmapa. But nobody can really know that for sure. And since Situ Rinpoche is also an important lama and says something different, many people have doubts and cannot decide. “Is Karmapa informed about the difficult political situation surrounding him? Is he interested in the development of that situation? Does he ask questions about it? ” Yes, he knows precisely, but doesn’t make specific comments. Once he said to Yeshe that there is not much to do about the situation in Rumtek, because the people there don’t listen and simply do what they please. But he is not very interested in the situation. He says, “Just let them do their thing, they will never allow themselves to be told anything.” “We have heard that the boy in Tsurphu must be the right Karmapa for the following reason: The enthronement which took place in Tsurphu was so powerful that the boy would have died if he wasn’t the Karmapa.
What is your opinion about that? (Tradition says that sitting on the Karmapa’s throne is so powerful that only Karmapa himself can survive it).” Yes, we also think that he won’t be able to stay on the throne. That is the way it is said traditionally but nowadays in Tibet everything is probably different. The original throne doesn’t exist anymore, the original temple doesn’t exist anymore – nothing but ruins. I think the whole power and the blessing is gone. Everything was destroyed, then partly rebuilt. So, now everything could be possible. One can sit on the throne and wait to see what happens – nothing will happen. I heard that some Tibetan monks tried that after Karmapa fled from Tsurphu and the cultural revolution started. They put on Karmapa’s robes and sat on his throne, just to see what would happen. They were shaking the Mahakala statues saying, “Come on, kill me.”
Since nothing happened, they thought everything they had believed in was a superstition. Without samayas and trust nothing can really function. Many lamas told Shamar Rinpoche that Karmapa should not go back to Rumtek because all the samayas and bonds were broken there. We have to rebuild everything new. Otherwise, his activity would be less strong and less successful. Many lamas, not Kagyus but from other lineages, say at the moment, that we should not go back to Rumtek even if we could. Even if we went, we couldn’t undertake anything without many preparations. Without preparations, it would be as if Karmapa was behind a wall of obscurations from broken samayas. We have to prepare ourselves in the right way. All teachings emphasize the importance of preparations. That is why we do Ngondro, Guru Yoga, and so on. Without the right preparations nothing happens. My perception is that people without trust have nothing at all.
The Chinese say however, that Buddhism is “blind faith”. But blind faith alone doesn’t lead to anything because you have to search for the why and the how intellectually in order to get results. Also in Buddha’s time, there were people who had no trust in him and there were people who noticed his qualities immediately and followed him. One cannot treat the recognition of the Karmapa like a Buddha statue which you exchange because you like the other one better. Many people say that they feel a strong at- traction to the child in Tsurphu, others feel more for our Karmapa, others again don’t feel anything. I think one has to check for oneself what those feelings mean. For instance, when somebody sees a Buddha statue and knows nothing of the qualities of the Buddha, he doesn’t feel anything special, he just sees a round face and so on…Why should he like the statue? But, if we know who the Buddha was and what he taught, then we have a good feeling when seeing the statue. Our view, nor- mally, has a lot to do with our judgments and attachments. “Therefore , what we feel towards Karmapa, doesn’t really mean much? ”
Naturally, personal feelings are important for everybody, but they are irrelevant in regards to Karmapa’s qualities. It also doesn’t mean much if one feels good or bad. If someone gives us a lot of attention we like him, otherwise we don’t. All those are just passing and temporary views often appearing from outer influences. The quality of a person might be very different than our judgment of them. “In Germany, people say that Karmapa had earlier been recognized as a Gelugpa Tulku. Do you know anything about this? ” No, but Karmapa’s brother is a quite important recognized Gelugpa Tulku. “What do you recommend to people who are uncertain as to whether Shamar Rinpoche or Situ Rinpoche are correct? ” Just wait. One cannot treat the recognition of the Karmapa like a Buddha statue which you exchange because you like the other one better. Regarding the Karmapa one has to be totally clear. I think that the conduct that led to the recognition of the boy in Tsurphu was not clear at all. Everything was done very secretly and so quickly that we lost confidence. I not only think, but really hope, that Karmapa shows himself distinctly.
Also Buddha and the first Karmapa made themselves known. Nobody appointed the first Karmapa as Karmapa. The protest banners held by the Tibetans that attacked KIBI after the ceremony also referred to the Dalai Lama. Now, after the presentation of the authentic Karmapa, do you think that the Dalai Lama will react in any way? A few days ago his office stated that he no longer has time to deal with the recognition of tulkus (consciously reborn beings). Those people did the Dalai Lama a lot of harm. Some time ago he himself said that there might be several Karmapas because the Dalai Lama always makes an effort to make everybody happy. By referring to the Dalai Lama’s words the attackers degrade them. Since the Dalai Lama is being used by so many people he doesn’t want to decide anything. Maybe he trusts everybody and does not check carefully, maybe there is also a political background I don’t know exactly.
But in my opinion a mistake was made right at the beginning, there were miscalculations, control was lost and it was necessary to go that way. Looking closely at the situation one has to state that also the Tibetan cause is suffering from that. The mistakes were not just made now but centuries ago, and led to the loss of the country. Many people in the West think that everybody in Tibet was wise, and they wonder why Tibetans lost Tibet. But when one looks objectively one finds that mistakes like those led to the loss of Tibet and will lead to the loss of the freedom of Tibet in the future. If we Tibetans continue on like that, we will never reach Tibet’s independence. Not only that, but we will also lose our culture and our religious qualities, everything will be lost… So China wins in the end. This is not only my opinion but one can see it in everything that happened since people mixed religion with politics and got engaged with China.
The problem is not the communist system in China, but the basic problem with the Chinese / Tibetan relations. When one looks closely, it is easy to recognize. The future is very dangerous because we’ve lost almost everything, We have hardly any qualified lamas and they all try to hide; like cats that cover their excrement with clean soil, when you step in it, you still get dirty – that’s how we Tibetans are. Everybody tries to appear nice, but is more and more entangled in politics, harming themselves more and more. Some betray, like politicians in their speeches. People lose more and more confidence in them and they have to continue to hide their mistakes, otherwise they lose their position. That’s the way they lose their qualities. Maybe not qualities like the ability to study texts and things like that, but the understanding of practice. Earlier, one would talk about the “golden rosary of the Kagyu Lineage”; today it is almost totally gone. The Chinese idea finally won- without a fight. People lose more and more trust and get further away from the Dharma, in that way China wins more and more and Tibet loses. If this continues, Tibet only has a few years left. “Do you see a real threat for the Kagyu Lineage – that something has really been lost? ” Yes, I think so, but not totally lost. There are still a few capable people. But it is dangerous in the sense that when one does not have pure thoughts and actions, trust and samaya will not function.
In Vajrayana we talk about “pure view” and “ordinary view.” With ordinary view the wood of this chair is nothing special. When you develop the pure view more and more, it can turn into a wisdom aspect. That is why we do the appropriate practices. But if we do them with the ordinary view, the quality slowly gets lost. Right now, the question about Karmapa and Sharmapa’s security is important because the lineage will extinguish if something happens to them. Yes, I think so as well. The essence of the lineage would be lost, only an empty form would exist; a kind of faith like in Christianity. Everyone feels that there is something there, but the essence is gone. The 16th Karmapa said something like that to Gendun Rinpoche. He said, “You should go to Europe and establish the Dharma.” Gendun Rinpoche asked Karmapa what will happen in Tibet and Asia, and Karmapa said, “Only the outer form of Dharma will continue to exist there, and it will be very difficult in the future to maintain the essence.” He didn’t say that it would be totally gone but it would not be like before. “Would it be safer for Karmapa if he lived in Europe? ”
There are two good reasons for Europe: Karmapa’s safety and the samayas are better in Europe. In most European countries, except England, not many samayas were broken. Here and there, by a few people, but not by the majority. Here in Asia, there is a lot of damage on both sides. Everything has become political. We saw after the ceremony how two Kagyu factions were fighting each other, which is very inappropriate for Buddhists. The same thing also happens in Tibet and elsewhere in Asia. In America the main places are also heavily damaged. In Europe however, till now, fewer samayas were broken. “Were other Kagyu Rinpoches invited to the ceremony on March 17th? Did they know about it? ” They knew about it but we did not invite them, because this invitation would have put them in a difficult position. And if the wrong people would have come, great damage could have occurred. We just let it run it’s course; people with good connection came, others might come later. Some Rinpoches came secretly before the ceremony, because they are all afraid right now. They have to live with the kind of people like those who threw stones yesterday. Many of them also have students in Tibet. Imagine if Germany was a communist country like China and you wanted to run a Dharma center; then you would always have to watch out that you and your friends don’t make a mistake and get into trouble. In the beginning, each one of the Rinpoches probably had a pure mind and tried to create harmony in the best possible way. Now this is no longer possible since they set so much in motion already and everything became worse and worse. Some maybe went along because they wanted to help people. But once one is in a certain position, one is pressured by people and has to act exactly as negatively as the others.
One then has to lie and so on whether one likes it or not. “It looks like the secret Chinese plan is not to openly supress the Tibetans but to create problems within the religion and between the tribes. The way back must be very difficult for those Rinpoches? ” Yes, they have to continue. There is only one possibility for them: to give everything up and go into the mountains. Then they would be free. But otherwise – if one lives in a monastery and has to deal with one’s students, or if one has friends in Tibet – one has to continue this way. I think they have no other choice. “Some of those Rinpoches are coming to Europe this summer and many of us have strong connections with them. How should one behave toward them? ” There are two possibilities: one is to stay away from them so you don’t break any samayas. Earlier, one had trust in them and they also in the people. In order not to get a wrong view of them is better to stay at a distance. Like I already said, they are not free. In order to be free, they would have to leave their monasteries. The other possibility only functions if one has a lot of devotion and strong character; then one can get involved.
In the Kagyu tradition there is a saying: “When the Lama says that fire is water and water is fire, then one accepts that from him.” Of course fire cannot be water but you accept everything a Lama says without judging it. If one is not able to do that, it is better to keep some distance before wrong ideas appear in the mind. With distance one does less damage. But if you are very strong, you can see everything those Rinpoches do with the pure view. That goes for me as well: I make an effort to keep a pure view of Situ Rinpoche and to leave it at that. On the one hand, I see that he wants power and influence, has become somewhat worldly, on the other hand I think that he still has the bodhisattva mind. Sometimes, even with a bodhisattva, temporary obscurations can arise. But in his next life it might be better again – I hope. It is not necessary to shoot at each other. But at the moment it is better to avoid each other and have no points of contact. I think, Situ Rinpoche was first on the good course and then surrounded himself with the wrong structure, from which he now cannot escape. To be free he has to give everything up and go into the mountains like Milarepa. But this is also dangerous, because nowadays they [the Chinese] would find him and finish him off. When the Panchen Rinpoche began to really help Tibet, he died right away.*
Situ Rinpoche is in a position where he cannot simply go into the mountains, since he involved himself with those kind of structures. Other Rinpoches are not as strongly involved and hope to do something for Tibet. There is an old example that says that Tibet destroys itself always through hope, and China always through mistrust. In China, everyone mistrusts each other and becomes enemies. In Tibet, they are always full of hope and they still lose everything in the end. “Wasn’t it a smart tactic by the Chinese to allow the Tibetans to go back to Tibet so that they would have control over them? ” Yes, I heard that in Dharamsala (the seat of the Tibetan government in exile) they found out, that the Chinese made a very secret decision- they want to destroy Tibet not through fighting but by dividing the religion and the tribes. In Tibet there are different tribes with different lifestyles, mentalities and cultures. For example, one speaks of “Kham” (East Tibet) and “Bo” (Central Tibet) as being different countries as Germany and France. Within Kham and Central Tibet, there are again different kinds of people. It is easy to bring them to the point where they destroy each other.
It looks like the secret Chinese plan is not to openly suppress the Tibetans but to create problems within the religions and between the tribes. This is a very smart tactic for the destruction of Tibet. In Dharamsala, they learned about this secret plan and they told me about it in Switzerland. They got a warning there from Dharamsala that they should watch out, but they did not know exactly what to do. Many Tibetans are very smart on one hand but very stupid at the same time. They want Tibet’s independence and at the same time they support the powers that prevent it. That is why the situation around Karmapa is so delicate. I think that Karmapa should not get involved in Tibet’s affairs, and therefore he will have more time to show his authentic activity. Karmapa’s position in Tibet is not important. Important is his ability to maintain the quality of the Kagyu lineage. With a high position in Tibet he would have to get involved in many things, he couldn’t reject them. Maybe this is all a skillful method of Karmapa – one, we will only understand in twenty years. “Recently, it was said that the enthronement would take place in Rumtek at the end of this year. Can one rely on that? ” We don’t know yet. Many non-Kagyu lamas, mainly Nyingmapas and Sakyapas say that Karmapa should not go to Rumtek immediately since it is totally infested with broken samayas. To go there would not be healthy for Karmapa’s activity.
The samaya pollution is worse than a nuclear contamination, because the damage is not only physical but is also in the mind. That is why the lamas say that at least he shouldn’t go right away, but that one has to do a lot of purification pujas. Normal people think that Karmapa should go to Rumtek quickly, but wise people say, he should not go right away.
* The tenth Panchen Lama, second only to the Dalai Lama in Tibet’s spiritual hierarchy, became a pawn in China’s political games almost from the time of his birth, and was under Beijing’s control until he died at 51. Just before his death, in a public speech he denounced, the destruction China had wraught on Tibet