A Suitable Boy

Mar 24, 1999

Category: Trinley Thaye Dorje

Shamarpa Rimpoche, one of four regents charged with running the Rumtek monastery, says he has found the correct re incarnation of the 16th Karmapa and will produce his candidate in March. The move, heralded by Shamarpa's disciples around the world, is certain to bring the conflict within the great Tibetan religious order to a new head.

Speculation about the boy's identity is intense. One rumour has it that he was brought out of Tibet only in January, via Hong Kong, using travel documents that cost US$30,000. Shamarpa says only that his candidate is a boy about 10 years old "from the Tibet area" (which could include parts of Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan or India's Ladakh region).
Shamarpa says the boy is now staying "in the New Delhi area" under the Indian Government's protection. "There are a lot of threats to his life from the other side," he says. "They are very aggressive."

The boy first came to the attention of Buddhist notables at age four. "He was obviously a very special person. Even then he already started telling people that he was Karmapa," says Shamarpa. "He memorised a lot of Buddhist books, and read from them smoothly to the people. Also he gave very clear instructions about Buddha's teachings."

The late Karmapa had left clues pointing to this boy with a very senior disciple, says Shamarpa. "I cannot say who right now, but he is ;; a lama nearly 70 years old, living in India."
Shamarpa, 41, is a nephew of the late Karmapa, who picked him as a disciple of high distinction even before he was born. From a large executive-style office, he presides over a branch monastery of the Karmapa school in a New Delhi suburb. The massive concrete building is painted in the bright colours of traditional Tibetan temples and its comfortable dormitory brims with serious-looking Westerners. A new Mercedes-Benz with Bhutanese licence plates is parked outside the transport of an aunt of Bhutan's king.

Shamarpa denies he is attempting to retain or gain control of Rumtek's assets. "The monastery cannot be controlled by any one person, but by the board of trustees. All assets fall under the trust." Shamarpa alleges, however, that rival re gent Tai Situpa has formed an unholy alliance with the Chinese on one hand and Sikkim Chief Minister Nur Bahadur Bhandari on the other.
The plot as Shamarpa sees it is that China wants to promote a religious leader within Tibet who might rival the Dalai Lama, while Bhandari wants to restore Sikkim's independence and needs help. Tai Situpa, he says, has become the "messenger" between these two sides.

Somewhat bizarrely, a senior figure in Taiwan's government has also strayed into the controversy. Last year, Chen Li-an, head of the Control Yuan and former defence minister, made an unpublished visit to Rumtek. One newspaper, Indian Express, painted Chen's visit as a serious intelligence lapse.

Shamarpa says Chen has been "misled" by "wrong people" who were likely to seek money from him. However, Chen, a devout Buddhist, maintains he went to Rumtek for worship and did not meet Bhandari, as the Express alleged.

Once he reveals his candidate, Shamarpa's next step to enthroning the boy as the 17th Karmapa will be to wait for Chief Minister Bhandari to be toppled by the opposition Sikkim Democratic Front. Of the Dalai Lama's confirmation of the other boy, Ugyen Thinlay, as the 17th Karmapa, Shamarpa termed the move "very surprising to me." But, he notes, there is no tradition requiring the Dalai Lama's consent. "It may be a good compromise," Shamarpa says. "You wanted a Karmapa in Tibet, it's all right. But we will make our own way."



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