Category: Urgyen Trinley Dorje
CHINESE hopes that the Tibetan issue will disappear after the death of the Dalai Lama are fading, as a star emerges from the ranks of reincarnated lamas at the top of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Karmapa Lama, the boy monk who rocked Beijing in a daring flit across the Himalayas at the end of 1999, yesterday offered a tantalising glimpse of an articulate opponent of Chinese rule in his homeland as he described his escape to freedom to international reporters.
Frustrated by his inadequate teachers and suspicious that the Communist Party was planning to use him as a pawn, the Karmapa slipped of out a window of his closely guarded monastery in the dead of night.
It was a momentous decision for a young man who was then 14. He left behind his parents and now has no idea if they are suffering terrible consequences.
He said: "The decision to leave my homeland, monastery, monks, parents, family and the Tibetan people was entirely my own - no-one told me to go and no-one asked me to come to India."
In the dying days of 1999 the Karmapa Lama, who ranks third after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama in the hierarchy, then undertook a gruelling eight-day journey by jeep, foot, horseback and helicopter to Dharamsala, the heart of the Tibetan community in exile.
He had told his Chinese guards that he was embarking on a four-day tantric mediation during which he would not emerge from his cell. With a driver and two close associates of his predecessor, who fled Chinese rule in 1959, the Karmapa dashed north-west to the border with Nepal.
He boarded a helicopter in the Nepalese town of Mustang before trekking across the hills and rivers that separate the isolated kingdom from India.
Days after crossing into India, the Karmapa Lama was welcomed to Dharamsala by the 64-year-old Dalai Lama, eager to embrace a dynamic young monk whose actions were reminiscent of his own early struggle to lead his people.
In the intervening months, the Karmapa has kept a low profile while pursuing his studies and waiting for the Indian government to defy Chinese pressure by granting him residency.
While avoiding an outright attack on Chinese activities in Tibet, the Karmapa said he would join with the Dalai Lama in defending Tibetan religious and cultural traditions from the brutally repressive regime run by Beijing in his homeland.
"I have heard it said the Chinese government wanted to make use of me. I was certainly treated as someone very special," he said.
"But I came to suspect that there might have been a plan to use me to separate the people within Tibet from His Holiness, the Dalai Lama."
The Karmapa Lama also ridiculed China's face-saving explanation that he had arrived in India to collect his Black Hat and other symbolic trappings for his position as head of one of the main branches of the Tibetan religion.
"I left because I had consistently and repeatedly requested permission to travel internationally but I had never received it. I did not mention the Black Hat - and why would I want to retrieve that from India and bring it back to China?" he said, referring to Chinese claims that he had left only temporarily.
"The only thing that would be accomplished by doing that would be to place that hat on [Chinese President] Jiang Zemin's head."
The exiled Tibetan movement accuses the Chinese of a systematic campaign designed to obliterate the religious culture of the territory they effectively annexed 50 years ago this month. A spokesman for the government in exile said yesterday that 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed under Chinese occupation.
There are dozens of reports each month of torture, persecution, looting of temples and harsh discrimination by the Chinese in Tibet.