Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tibetan Monastery Money Scandal

The discovery of more than US$750,000 in foreign currency equivalents in the administration office of the 17th Karmapa Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s third highest religious leader, threatens to tarnish what heretofore has been a heroic golden story and could put the future leadership of the Tibetan religion in doubt.

Many see the Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorjee, as a living Buddha as well as the next world Buddhist leader and political successor to the Dalai Lama. The latter defended the 25-year-old lama, telling reporters in Bangalore that “The Karmapa is 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 Tibetan leader said, “The foreign and Indian currency should have been deposited in a bank and not kept in cash at the monastery.”

Officials in Dharamsala held a press conference Sunday to say the money, in nearly two dozen different foreign currencies, was given by the Karmapa’s followers in connection with a land deal with an Indian businessman. Reportedly a Dharamsala-based businessman is being questioned after Rs10 million (US$217,800) was found in his possession. An official said the money was a payment made by the Karmapa’s trust to buy land near Dharamsala. However, even if the money came from followers, there are questions whether the foreign currency violates India’s foreign currency laws.

Indian intelligence officials quizzed the Karmapa for hours, seeking details of the source of the foreign currency. Reports have emerged that he was questioned over whether he has connections with the Chinese government as a large part of the currency seized was in Chinese yuan, in wads of successive serial numbers.

Despite his escape from China in 1999 and his subsequent acceptance by the Dalai Lama as the true Karmapa Lama, Ogyen Trinley Dorjee has always been suspect to a portion of the Tibetan Buddhist community. Another monk, Trinley Thaye Dorje, 28, was enthroned independently as the 17th Karmapa Lama by a minority of the Karma Kagyu monasteries and lamas.

In December 1999 the then-14-year-old Dorjee, who was anointed by the Chinese government as the true Karmapa, pretended to go into seclusion but instead slipped out a window of the Tsurpu Monastery in Tibet with a handful of attendants. He began a daring 1,450-kilometer winter trip across some of the most forbidding terrain on the planet by foot, horseback, train and helicopter to Dharamsala, making world headlines and embarrassing Beijing. He was given refugee status by India in 2001.


Anonymous said...

50 years of trust has been betrayed. Today all Indians are asking why are we tolerating the Tibetans and Dalai Lama.