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BUDDHA'S NOT SMILING: UNCOVERING CORRUPTION AT THE HEART OF TIBETAN BUDDHISM TODAY

by Erik D. Curren
2006 by Erik D. Curren
Book Design: Pat Gibson

"In Tibet, the only dharma left is superficial teachings, so it is not worth your trouble to save it." -- The 10th Karmapa

***

During the next three days, the new Rumtek administration of Situ and Gyaltsab pressured the monks who had not fled or been arrested to sign a document affirming that they accepted Ogyen Trinley as the seventeenth Karmapa. On August 5, the police returned, again accompanied by Bhandari's party toughs from the Gangtok market. While the monks were assembled in the dining hall, the bullies and police entered. A group of the street toughs pulled the cook out of the kitchen and smeared chili powder over his face. They told him never to cook for the monks again. Then they put up a large framed photo of Ogyen Trinley and addressed the monks.

The leaders of the gang of toughs told the monks to perform prostrations in front of the photo as police looked on. "At gunpoint we were forced to accept Ogyen Trinley of Tibet as the one and only Karmapa," said Omze Yeshey. "We had to swear an oath on our acceptance. We were told that anybody who dared to say otherwise would face legal consequences." The intruders brought tape recorders to capture each oath. Then, the gang leaders drove the young monks into the kitchen and made them pick up the kitchen knives. They had to pose in menacing positions while the police snapped photographs, apparently to allege later that they were fighting. The police would create bogus criminal files for each monk.

Several of the street toughs carried knives and demanded keys to the monastery's prayer rooms and shrines. Just as they had refused to surrender the main temple keys three days before, so now the Rumtek monks would not yield the keys. This led to another stand-off. for six nerve-racking hours, the monks stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the door to the main shrine room, while Bhandari's bullies took up positions several feet opposite them, taunting the monks and periodically threatening to attack. The Sikkim police looked on without trying to stop the bullies or defuse the situation.

The stand-off was broken only by the appearance of more police officers at about five o'clock in the afternoon, this time elite security forces of the Sikkim Armed Police. With Situ and Gyaltsab leading the way, the soldiers chased the Rumtek monks to the back of the monastery. The monks locked themselves in a small storeroom. The soldiers and street toughs together broke down the locked door and began beating the monks, injuring twenty in the process.

Three Sikkim government officials -- Police Inspector General Tenzing, the fearsome Officer Suren Pradhan, and another policeman known as Kharel -- made a speech to the monks. They warned that unless all the keys were handed over, anything could happen. In response. the monks insisted that a monastery was a private religious institution protected by India's constitution from state interference. The government officials were not impressed with this argument, and they insisted on the keys. Finally, seeing that it was the only way to avoid further bloodshed, the monks handed over the keys to the police officers.

Officer Kharel then unlocked the main temple door and announced that from now on, Situ Rinpoche would control Rumtek. Later. the Sikkim home secretary handed over all the keys to Gyaltsab Rinpoche in exchange for a signed receipt.

Finally, the police arrested more monks. "A considerable number of our monks was illegally detained and locked up in police custody for several days," said Chultrirnpa Lungtog. Monks who were not arrested fled the monastery to take refuge in the surrounding forest. After the week was out, about a hundred monks, or ninety percent of Rumtek's original monks before Situ started bringing in outsiders in 1992, left Rumtek rather than accept Ogyen Trinley as the seventeenth Karmapa.

"We were no longer allowed to enter the monastery, so we had to find somewhere else to stay," said Omze Yeshey. "This is why we had to seek refuge in Shamar Rinpoche's residence, where we could be close to the Dharma Chakra Center. He himself wasn't there. No preparations or earlier arrangements had been made. In fact it was very difficult. The house isn't that big, and we were a considerable number of monks. So we had to contend with numerous problems in terms of our accommodation."

"It is deemed strange," wrote the Hindustan Times, "that pro-China Situ Rinpoche, who has never in the past taken up any responsibilities at Rumtek has suddenly chosen to muster the Sikkim Chief Minister's support, to execute a coup d'etat, while regent Shamar Rinpoche is abroad." [4]

-- Buddha's Not Smiling, by Erik D. Curren

Do not accept my dharma merely out of respect for me, but analyze and check it the way a goldsmith analyzes gold, by rubbing, cutting, and melting it. --  Sutra on Pure Realms Spread out in Dense Array

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