Karma Triyana Dharmachakra {KTD} in Transition: A Closer Look. ~ Alex Garden

Via elephant journal
on Aug 30, 2010
get elephant's newsletter

Two weeks ago, elephant journal’s Bill Schwartz broke the story of the parting of ways of Bardor Tulku Rinpoche and Karma Triyana Rinpoche, the Tibetan Buddhist center and Western seat or home of the Karmapa that Bardor Tulku Rinpoche had helped to build with his own hands. At that time I explained that while Bill had solid sources for the sad story, it was a complex story, and Bill’s post was intended to be an “op-ed”—opinion piece—not a piece of journalism. Bill, backed up by myself, appealed to those in the know to contribute more information and context.

I received the below note followed by another take on the situation. Hopefully this will go a long way toward clarifying any confusion about events. ~ Ed.

Dear Waylon and Editors,

The attached article is a response to Bill Schwartz’s August 20, 2010 blog titled “Karma Triyana Dharmachakra bans Bardor Tulku Rinpoche?” I spoke with contacts at KTD and in the Karmapa’s Office of Administration who provided a much different view of what happened with the resignation of Bardor Tulku Rinpoche.

Click below image for Bill Schwartz’s piece:

The 17th Karmapa is one of the most fascinating spiritual leaders of our times—combining the passion of youth with the wisdom of his Buddhist teaching lineage. You may know that the Karmapa is already making a name for himself by instituting strong environmentalist measures in the Kagyu monasteries in the Himalayan region. Maybe you saw him teach in 2008 on the environment in Boulder [yes, I met him and was honored to present him with a copy of elephant magazine ~ WL]

Bill’s blog piece elides critical points about the Karmapa’s role in the Woodstock situation. I follow the Elephant Journal and know that you make a genuine effort to balance passion and resources. I also know that in this particular case, you expressed some misgivings about the lack of more journalistic research, and that Bill himself expressed concerns about his ability to offer much more than his personal take on the situation.

Below, I made an effort to document everything in endnotes and sourced most of the article to publicly available information. I am also happy to answer questions you or the community may have [in the comments section below].

With respect,

Alex Garden

Karma Triyana Dharmachakra {KTD} in Transition:

A Closer Look at the Changing of the Guard in Woodstock.

~ Alex Garden

Bill Schwartz in his August 20th blog entitled “Karma Triyana Dharmachakra [KTD] bans Bardor Tulku Rinpoche?” provides a view of recent events at KTD. Having been involved in Karma Kagyu Buddhism for many years, I recently spoke with Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche and a representative of the Karmapa about the situation at KTD. Here is my unofficial take.

Two Karmapas Visit America

In 1980, a year before he passed away, on his third and last visit to America, His Holiness the 16th Karmapa purchased a parcel of land on the top of Mead’s Mountain in Woodstock, New York.

Over the next 30 years, KTD—a monastery and surrounding monastic complex—would be built there for the Karmapas, heads of the Karma Kagyu lineage. The 17th Karmapa, His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje, was finally allowed to visit KTD in 2008, ushering in a new era of a Karmapa’s spiritual presence in America. To fully support the activity of this young and dynamic 17th Karmapa, KTD would have to change.

At the time of the visit, the leadership of KTD was vested in a Board of Trustees that had been appointed by the 16th Karmapa in the late ‘70s. The three active members included Tenzin Chonyi, President and the most visible administrator. However, equally involved in all decisions were Bardor Tulku Rinpoche and Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, who for over 30 years had been partners in the stewardship of KTD. Moreover, Bardor Tulku Rinpoche’s influence had increasingly grown as Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, the third Trustee, now 80 years old, dedicated himself primarily to presiding over the three year retreat facility owned by the Monastery in Delhi, New York, 90 minutes away from Woodstock.

Shortly after the visit, dissatisfaction with the capability of the current KTD leadership to meet the organizational challenges of the KTD’s expanding activity came quickly to a boil. In October 2008, Bardor Rinpoche offered his resignation. In response to the opportunity for administrative reconfiguration, the 17th Karmapa personally and through his Office of Administration took practical actions in accord with current American systems of organizational governance.

In November, 2008, a meeting was held at KTD, involving key KTD and KTC staff, members of affiliate centers and other valued supporters. Important issues were aired, and His Holiness spoke to the conference participants by telephone. The Karmapa promised to send a representative to KTD to thoroughly review the administrative situation.

In May of 2009, Karma Chungyalpa, Deputy General Secretary in His Holiness Karmapa’s Office of Administration, flew from India to KTD. He conducted a thorough multi-week review of the administration of KTD, interviewing the staff, surveying the workings of the programs, inspecting the books and becoming familiar with operations. He provided this detailed information to His Holiness and made recommendations.

The Karmapa acted decisively. He set the acting number of Trustees at five and appointed three new Trustees. These changes shifted Board control away from those Trustees who had been in charge almost exclusively for 30 years. His Holiness also established a new executive director position to take over day-to-day leadership of the administrative activities of KTD, so that the President and other Board members could focus on large picture issues.[i]

New appointments do not by themselves bring change. Yet, the restructuring created substantial opportunities for a significant shift in the management of KTD activities, in a manner aimed to provide a smooth transition to the new structure.

Bardor Tulku Rinpoche Resigns

Why did Bardor Rinpoche offer his resignation?

The August 20th blog by Bill Schwartz focuses on events involving lawnmowers and disputed staffing. These features of the situation are of much less significance when looking at the bigger picture, which can be drawn from the statements and actions of the Karmapa, the Board of Trustees and Bardor Tulku Rinpoche himself.

In 2000, Bardor Tulku Rinpoche started the Raktrul Foundation and a meditation center, Kunzang Palchen Ling in Red Hook, New York, a few minutes’ drive from Woodstock. Over the following years, he devoted increasing amounts of his time and resources to building this multi-million dollar center and foundation headquarters. KTD also had its own multi-million dollar building project underway at the same time, involving the building of the monastic center a few miles away in Woodstock.[ii]

Spiritually, KTD represents the Karma Kagyu lineage and focuses on preserving and offering the teachings of the Karmapas and their Kagyu lineage. Bardor Tulku Rinpoche’s center and foundation are dedicated to preserving a different lineage of teachings, which Bardor Tulku Rinpoche has described as a combination of the Barom Kagyu and certain Nyingma lineages.[iii] The Karma Kagyu and Barom Kagyu teaching lineages are known as two of the “Four Great Kagyu Branches.” The Karma Kagyu and Barom Kagyu maintain a line of distinct teachings, even though both were established by two disciples of the great 12th century master Gampopa: Dusum Khyenpa, the First Karmapa, started the Karma Kagyu order; Barom Darma Wangchuk founded the Barom Kagyu. [iv]

The Kagyu teachings from Karmapa were passed down orally from “mouth to ear,” that is, from the oral teachings of the First Karmapa to his student (who then becomes a lineage holder), to that teacher’s student, and so on through the 17th Karmapa. Indeed, “the Karma Kagyu tradition has remained strong and successful due mainly to the presence of an unbroken reincarnate line of the founder, the successive Karmapas. All the successive incarnations of the Karmapas are well known in every part of Tibet and among all Tibetan Buddhist practitioners for their accomplishments in meditation, scholarship, and the activities of benefiting beings.”[v]

The Barom Kagyu teachings were transmitted differently. Bardor Tulku Rinpoche has explained that for the span of 13 generations, the Barom Kagu teachings were not available, until revived by Terchen Barway Dorje, the first Bardor Tulku Rinpoche, who rediscovered them as concealed teachings in the 19th century, a form of transmission known as terma lineages.[vi]

For centuries, the lineages of the Barom Kagyu and Karma Kagyu have not been mixed. Lineage teachers take these commitments seriously, as we would wish. No one claims otherwise. Indeed, Bardor Tulku Rinpoche has himself publicly stated that while working for the Karmapa, he felt bound not to teach Barom Kagyu texts:

“You might wonder why I have never talked about the Barom Kagyu. My root guru was the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, and because of great devotion for him and great faith in him for more than 36 years I thought only of the service to his teachings, service to his activity, and service to his particular lineage. Out of devotion for my root guru I never mentioned the Barom Kagyu, even by name.”[vii]

Bardor Tulku Rinpoche seems to have come to a point in his life where he felt that his responsibilities to the teachings of his incarnation lineage called him away from his years of selfless service to His Holiness Karmapa.

Anguish of his students at such a parting is understandable. Tibetan Buddhism is still new to us, and as the Buddhist teachings take root in America they will no doubt transform into shapes yet unrealized. It is critical for the authentic transmission that the lineage holders of the Karma Kagyu remain free to teach the Karma Kagyu teachings, the holders of the Barom Kagyu free to teach their own lineage, and the students remain free to study what they wish. Freedom of religion is for everyone.

Transition in Context

In this context, events are cast in a new light.

The 17th Karmapa visited Kunzang Palchen Ling in August of 2008. Within a few months, Bardor Rinpoche resigned from KTD.[viii]

His Holiness Karmapa met personally with Bardor Tulku Rinpoche and Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, where Bardor Tulku Rinpoche personally submitted his resignation letter to His Holiness. His Holiness Karmapa further took the actions outlined above, restructuring the administration.

On 12 August, 2009, the new board officially accepted the resignation of Bardor Tulku Rinpoche, thanking him for his long service to Karmapa. The KTD Board’s acceptance letter stated:

“We appreciate that you now must dedicate your efforts to fostering and teaching the termas of the Terchen Barway Dorje, and to establishing a center for those teachings at Kunzang Palchen Ling.”[ix]

In recent remarks at the last day of the North American Monlam, held at KTD, presided over by Thrangu Rinpoche, His Holiness addressed KTD via video-conference, naming in particular “Thrangu Rinpoche, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche and KTD President, Tenzin Chonyi” and pointedly omitting Bardor Tulku Rinpoche, even though he was in attendance at the Monlam.[x] This statement was understood at KTD as His Holiness’s confirmation of Bardor Rinpoche’s resignation. His Holiness has handled these changes as a principled parting of the ways.

Those in the Kagyu sangha troubled by this will find their footing again, and all the lineages of the Kagyu will continue to benefit from the Karmapa’s activity.

[i] The new Board signed the letter to Bardor Rinpoche published at the Kunzang website, at http://www.kunzang.org/assets/btr/btr_biography/ktd_to_btr.pdf. The new executive director is noted at http://www.kagyu.org/ktd/contacts.php.

[ii] According to the center’s home page, the Kunzang Palchen Ling is now seeking an additional $900,000 to engage in further development to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy. http://www.kunzang.org/.

[iii] For Bardor Tulku’s own explanations of these teachings, see the transcript at the Kunzang Palchen Ling blog, at http://kunzang.org/kplblog/2010/03/23/the-lineage-and-treasures-of-terchen-barway-dorje-and-the-lineage-of-barom-kagyu/ and http://kunzang.org/kplblog/2010/06/27/the-barom-kagyu-continued/.

[iv] For more details about Kagyu lineages, see Gene Smith, Among Tibetan Texts at pp. 39-46 (Wisdom 2001) and Kagyu Office website at http://kagyuoffice.org/kagyulineage.html. The other two of the four main Kagyu branches are the Phaktru Kagyu and the Tsalpa Kagyu. According to Smith, of these, the Karma Kagyu has been a significantly more active lineage.

[v] See Kagyu Office website page referenced in note iv. See also the explanation of the meaning of “Kagyu” and the short histories of the “Golden Rosary” of the Karmapas and lineage heirs students in the transmission lineage starting at http://www.kagyuoffice.org/kagyulineage.goldenrosary.html.

[vi] http://kunzang.org/kplblog/2010/06/27/the-barom-kagyu-continued/. A terma lineage involves teachings that are deliberately concealed and then rediscovered, sometimes centuries later, by enlightened masters. Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, Hidden Teachings of Tibet , (Wisdom 1986, 1997). The teachings may be unearthed written texts, visionary transmissions, and other modes; terma transmissions are distinguished from the “mouth to ear” historical transmission from teacher to student. Terma lineages are far more prevalent among the Nyingma order, but Kagyu masters have incorporated some Nyingma terma lineages into their traditions as well. Thondup at 167.

[vii] Transcript of teaching by Bardor Rinpoche, Kunzang Palchen Ling blog, at http://kunzang.org/kplblog/2010/06/27/the-barom-kagyu-continued/

[viii] Letters to the Karmapa and his General Secretary are posted at Kunzang Palchen Ling’s website, at http://www.kunzang.org/assets/btr/btr_biography/letter-to-hhk-eng.pdf and http://www.kunzang.org/assets/btr/btr_biography/letter-to-gs-eng.pdf.

[ix] See the letter of the Board to Bardor Tulku Rinpoche, referenced in note i above.

[x] Noted at http://www.kagyumonlam.org/English/News/Report/Report_20100717_1.html.

Alex Garden stumbled upon Rumtek and met the 16th Karmapa while travelling around India during the late ‘70s. That led to a lifelong connection with the Karmapa’s Buddhist lineage. Though her passion is the history of central Eurasia, she decided early on to make a living through a law career. She enjoys trekking, reading and Buddhist yoga. Her work in NYC keeps her occupied most of the time, but she remains available to the lineage when it seems she can be of service.


About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive. Questions? info elephantjournal com


62 Responses to “Karma Triyana Dharmachakra {KTD} in Transition: A Closer Look. ~ Alex Garden”

  1. Linda says:

    This is a more sane article on the Kagyu split. It helps and makes more sense to understand the already existing divisions of the Kagyu than to blame it on a spat over an unmowed lawn! Goodness! I have great respect for both Khenpo Kartar R. from whom I received a most powerful Marpa Empowerment, and for Bardo Tulku and his years of service at KTD. May equanimity prevail! This is not a popularity contest to see who should get voted off the mountain! Everything changes. Let go and relax.

  2. Lilith says:

    That does not shed a new light on anything. I took refuge under BT but I consider myself Karma Kagyu. I have no idea what Barom Kagyu teachings are about. This explains what they've done but the larger issue of lack of consideration for the general sangha members still has not been shown to be present. All of these decisions were made by those in position of powers. Your article actually proves that they made these decisions as political motivations without consulting or considering the welfare of the sangha members. It's nice that all of the powerful figures talked about our interests without haveing someone there to represent our own interests. Your article just proves this even more. Nothing indicates that they ever polled the sangha members or even requested their opinion in any regard.

    But, most importantly, never expressed so much as a bit of sympathy or explanation in how that should be received by the sangha members.

    Am I now Barom Kagyu because I took my refuge under BT? Or, Karma Kagyu because I took my refuge at a KTD center?

  3. Rita Ashworth says:

    I dont know isnt KTD big enough to contain both lineages? Did Gampopa envisage all this splitting off of various factions when he was teaching way back -why were the teachings 'hidden' for so long -dont know that really sounds funny to me, like stuff remains hidden for 800 years -do people believe that? After thirty-one years at KTD – why now the decision to resign?

    Yes I agree the whole sangha should have been voicing their views on this matter as they are the ones that are keeping KTD afloat. Is what is happening Tibetan politics?

    More articles on the whole thing Waylon -especially interviews with people in the sangha and BTR himself -think he would speak even though the interview might be courteous as the resignation letter hinted at his attitude to people at KTD -you can put up the resignation letter. Waylon try to get BTR to do an interview with Elephant -it would reveal lots of stuff about politics in Tibet society.

    Also Waylon you are the journalist and you have put up an article written by a lawyer and it reads like a lawyers article too -cant we not have a proper journalistic piece?

  4. Ghassan says:

    Thank you for the much needed better researched article on this matter. While perhaps something even more is needed examining and explaining this issue, this is a great start.

    I agree with many of the above comments, regarding this issue and how it came about in regards to how it affects the sangha. Of course, it is well known and stated by one of the first lamas in the West, Trungpa Rinpcohe, that Tibetan Buddhism is "not a democracy". So, we cannot expect the Trustees of KTD to involve the sangha in such a decision.

    However, it does present difficulties to those of us who never felt, nor currently feel, that a choice needs to be made between these obviously separate lineages. My initial reactions to first learning of this situation included confusion, disgust, and anger. I took refuge with BTR, and I took Bodhisattva Vows with KKR. My refuge name begins with Karma, denoting that I took refuge under the lineage of the Karmapa. However, the Ngondro I attempt to practice is of the Barway Dorje lineage, a lineage tree which includes the Kagyu lineage masters and the Karmapa.

    I always recognized the separation of the Karma Kagyu and the Barway Dorje lineages. I also recognized the similarities. There is a great beauty in both. It is difficult for those of us who feel a connection to both lineages, and there have been many throughout the ages who have felt similar multiple-connections. Indeed, even in the Karma Kagyu, there has been a rich history of tertons (treasure revealers), who often hold the Kagyu and Nyingma, or other lineages, simultaneously.

    Not to say that us lazy Western students are even close to doing the same as the tertons. But, if one has devotion for Shakyamuni, Samantabadhra/Vajradhara, Padmasambhava, or any other manifestation or emanation of buddhas, and feels that their teacher is the embodiment of those buddhas, then the worry over choosing sides or lineages becomes pretty pointless.

  5. Waywuwei says:

    Thanks Alex for a very well researched piece. There is a lot of valuable information here.

    However, I think this just skims the surface and completely ignores the Tibetan politics that are at work at KTD. Even the title "the changing of the guard" leaves me with a cognitive disconnect. What guard are you referring to? The one person who has been at the center of all the negative karma at KTD is still there and is still fully in control.

    In your piece you state:

    "In November, 2008, a meeting was held at KTD, involving key KTD and KTC staff, members of affiliate centers and other valued supporters. Important issues were aired, and His Holiness spoke to the conference participants by telephone."

    Here is Khempo Rinpoche's recollection of that same meeting:

    "So, when Bardor Tulku Rinpoche held his conference at KTD in November 2008, I felt it was like a public inquisition, like a Communist government action, aimed at punishing one person. During that time Bardor Rinpoche brought many people together against Tenzin-la and I couldn't take it, especially when I remembered the expression of his Holiness the 16th Karmapa, and the words His Holiness had said to me. So it is that I and Tenzin-la worked together for KTD and are working together now. "

    Alex, you cannot ignore the fundamental cultural disconnects here. If Khempo Rinpoche was so upset by that meeting which most of the Westerners felt was long overdue imagine how Tenzin felt, Tenzin who is an upper class Tibetan and who is not used to having anyone question him? He lost face in that meeting something extremely important to an oriental. Consider what the tack taken by the Western sangha to institute a larger board had as it's objective: the reduction of Tenzin's powers. And can you guess who won that battle? Tenzin has been hatching this plot for over a year. In one fell swoop he got his revenge on Bardor Tulku and he fired a shot across the bow of any Americans who think they can challenge him.

    It would be nice if we could all just have total faith in the Karmapa and that everything is just going to be fine, but it is already too late for that.

    Alex, I came here to Woodstock 4 years ago to spend the summers here and be closer to KTD and to see and attend teachings by my teacher Khempo Karthar Rinpoche. The first two years were basically uneventful, but I found that being too close to KTD (I was volunteering there) was too difficult. There were many very dedicated and very wonderful people there, but they were all exhibiting the signs of people who were living with constant intrigue and drama and whose effectiveness was constantly being drained by the negative atmosphere there. Last summer after the events of the previous winter, I made a decision to give KTD a year to see if it could make some strides to improve the way it was being run and bring about a more positive and more dharmic atmosphere. I continued to support KTD as a member. When I returned this June I found that in effect nothing had changed if fact things had deteriorated from the previous fall. Then the other shoe dropped and what we are now dealing with is as bold a statement as one could expect, that KTD will always be a purely Tibetan institution, it will be run autocratically by one man in concert with his other relatives who control the Karmapa and our shattered illusions about the dharma in America have been laid to rest. In truth the only thing monastic about KTD is the word monastery attached to the name. It has never been a real monastery although in the early 80's it showed some real possibility.

    So I want to say this first of all: we have no right to expect that because we built a building for the Karmapa that we would have any say in how it was run. If they want to run it their way we have no real recourse except to vote with our feet. That is what I have chosen to do. This situation has presented us with some unwelcome choices. I have chosen to support my refuge lama: KKR and Bardor Tulku Rinpoche and reject KTD. Others have made different choices. It is sad that such choices have been foist upon us, but that is the reality of the situation. In the end I see this as a positive situation because it will shake a few of the senior American students into taking up the mantle of the dharma and trying to bring it to life here in America and that was the purpose of KTD.

  6. Rita Ashworth says:

    yeh waylon -thanks for the feedback and the donation page! yes I would supplicate for an interview as the issues are quite important as to how dharma institutions are run around the world and the delegation of power to sangha members aswell – I just dont know how you could not get a better story about the teachings than this. Dont think any of the shambhala media will touch it -its too divisive and of course you too may not get that interview but at least you will have tried -and thats what I did too in NS with all the patronage politicians up there. You know read one article in the former Daily News in NS actually praising patronage -jeez!

    Anyway still in the UK exploring stuff journalistically and art wise too -have not given up the ghost on this in this present nutty age -well best to you Rita Ashworth

  7. Lilith says:

    I'm not offended. This is a point about the obvious fact that there is an American way that was completely disregarded and now it is threatening an extremely valuable opportunity for Buddhism in America. It's ridiculous to me. It's no secret. Our ancestor's fought bloody wars for these rights and independence and for good reason.

    We are not Tibetans. Why do I have to act like a Tibetan when I am an American? I don't even get that whole idea of us having to behave and practice like Tibetans just to get the teachings. I don't know why we've agreed to humor them anyway. We are not Tibetan and no matter how long we "do as we're told" we will never fully grasp a Tibetan form of Buddhism – because we are American.

    This is an opportunity for us to make this point clear. We can work together and we can demand respect that allows our interests to be served as well. BT probably would have resigned anyway but we have a right to address how poorly this was handled. This is America. We made sure of that.

  8. Shelli Meyers says:

    Thanks Alex for this chronology, it was just what those of us who were so initially confused were looking for. Thanks too to Elephant for trying to do right by the initial confusion.

  9. JimWilton says:

    In case you haven't read it yet, Bardor Tulku's resignation letter to HHK17 (link in footnote viii above) in the form of a poem has to be the greatest resignation letter ever.

    I have never met him — but suddenly I like him a lot.

  10. Bill Schwartz says:


    I was told about the unmoved lawn by Bardor Tulku Rinpoche's personal secretary who responded to my request for an interview. We have statements from both Bardor Tulku Rinpoche and Tenzin Chonyi at the time of the incident which prompted BTR's resignation. He resigned over Tenzin-la firing yet again an American staff member over the objections of both BTR and my guru Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche.These are facts, not conjecture.

    According to BTR's personal secretary when Rinpoche resigned he told HHK17 that he would never teach at KTD again as long as Tenzin-la was president of KTD but that he would continue to teach at the KTC affiliate centers which he did here after his resignation which he did. In October 2009 here in Chicago I received an empowerment from Rinpoche from his terma. My wife took refuge with him. These are facts, not conjecture.

    Regarding Karma Kagyu chops, if this is the subject. I was present for HHK16's parinirvana. I accompanied his body from the funeral home in Zion, IL, to O'hare Airport. I've been a disciple of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche since I took refuge with him in 1981. I received from him the very same Mahamudra transmission that he, Trungpa, and Thrangu Rinpoche received from Khenpo Gangshar before they were forced to flee the Chinese invasion of Tibet. These are facts, not conjecture.

    The KTD board talking points reported here are what prompted a representative of BTR to respond last month to a an interview request. An American, he felt compelled to get in front of this lie. Yes, it's a lie, which is appropriate in Tibetan culture, especially when dealing with Americans. Khyentse Rinpoche has written about the contempt Tibetans have for us and our culture. These are facts, not conjecture.

    This is a rebellion, not a popularity contest. Those of us that have dedicated our lives to the Karma Kagyu lineage, not just ten years, have had enough of Tibetans putting their interests ahead of our own. HHK17 sent a representative to investigate BTR's resignation and an assembly of graduates from the three year retreat at Karme Ling to Drupon Rinpoche we wanted more transparency and accountability. These are facts, not conjecture.

    I have heard people complain about this problem with how KTD is organized with a Tibetan noble with no accomplishment other than his birth as president for life. Yet in this repetition of KTD board talking points there is no mention of these facts. Instead we are told once again that this is a Tibetan matter, as we were in 1985 when Situ and Shamar Rinpoche couldn't agree on which child to choose as the next Karmapa. These are facts, not conjecture.

    Why did KTD ban BTR from continuing to visit the afilliate KTC centers? According to BTR's representative, to scapegoat Rinpoche for the imminent financial failure of KTD. I was forwarded copies of letters from donors to HHK17 withdrawing their support of KTD. I was told gifts in the amount of millions of dollars needed to keep KTD operating are involved. These are facts, documented facts, and not conjecture, none of which are addressed in the KTD board's feeble response.


  11. Bill Schwartz says:


    I applaud Waylon for allowing the KTD to respond with their talking points, none of which I had not already received from my source representing KTD before posting my original column on this subject.

    There is nothing new here other than documentation of why BTR's personal secretary broke with Tibetan Tradition and responded to my request for an interview on the subject.

    This is a lie, or what Tibetans call, skillful means if you prefer. The rebellion of 2010 is about the one person not mentioned here, KTD president for life, the son of a noble family, Tenzin Chonyi.

    When BTR resigned he told the Karmapa directly that Tenzin-la must go, and to make it clear how strongly he felt about the subject said he won't teach at KTD again until he was replaced.

    What was KTD's response, a sectarian lie that it is all about keeping the Karma Kagyu pure, despite the fact that BTR's KPL was formed in 2003 at the request of HHK17 and Situ Rinpoche.

    This so called chronology is a total fabrication. There is no "transition" going on at KTD. According to my sources KTD mortgaged the monastery to complete it before HHK17's visit.

    They can't make the payments, thus the crisis. It's about money and years of questionable management practices and not the dharma.

    I have been a devoted disciple of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche since I took refuge with him in 1981 and I remain so. We disagree on this matter,and have for over twenty years.

    This has nothing to do with the dharma, so our sacred commitment as guru and disciple remains unbroken. I know my guru, and his commitment to HHK16's deathbed instructions to him.

    I honor and respect his commitment, as un-American as they are to me. He's a Tibetan, and I would expect nothing less from a Tibetan.

    His commitment is not to us but to the survival of Tibetan tradition. When he was sent here by HHK16 the very survival of this tradition was at risk.

    Today in India the Tibetan tradition has flourished in exile beyond any expectation commonly held thirty years ago. Furthermore, Tibetans don't need us like they did back then.

    The money is in Asia, not America. Tibetans can pull in more cash from a single dinner with benefactors in Taiwan without even teaching a single word of the dharma there.

    If you are confused, that's something for you to sort out for yourself. I'm sorry the facts confuse you. I've been part of this argument going back to the very beginning.

    I have no such confusion, nor do my fellow American Karma Kagyu that first welcomed Tibetans to this country, and dedicated their lives to the lineage, only to be betrayed by Tibetans taking care of Tibetans.


  12. Waywuwei says:

    One element that has been reverberating in the many discussions about KTD has been the notion that we should put our faith in the Karmapa and he will resolve this for us. Many attempts have been made to get communications through to him in the past with the thought that if he knew what the situation was he would resolve it. This has not happened.

    In my opinion, we should not be looking to the Karmapa for help in this but instead should be asking ourselves how we can help the Karmapa. We have this notion strongly supported by his Tibetan disciples that he is some kind of superman, able to put handprints in rocks, see the future, read minds, etc. But the fact remains that 10 years after his daring escape from the clutches of the Chinese in Tibet, he is still a virtual prisoner. It is as if he escaped the frying pan only to land in the fire. Now he is surrounded by Tibetans, Indians and Chinese with Western disciples adding another bit of chaos to the mix.

    When the Karmapa visited KTD, one thing he said really stopped me because it was straight from the heart. He said that for the first time in his life he felt freedom. The truth is incarnate lamas have a lot of stuff projected on to them by their supporters, but they are also just people who because of karma have wound up in positions that often are extremely difficult. We should have deep compassion and realize that maybe they do need our help. Now I know that recently after 10 years of dealing with the imprisonment of the Karmapa in India, many Western disciples started an internet movement to put pressure on the Indian government to allow him to travel. The Karmapa and the Tibetans were taken by surprise at this, and they pushed back at this effort, but this served an important purpose and that is to let them know that we are not just a bunch of powerless minions waiting to be saved. No matter what the Karmapa says (we can not be sure he speaks publicly his true feelings) we as a sangha have to take a more independent tack and try to push to get the situation resolved. We should not do this to be saved, we should do this to give the Karmapa the precious gift of freedom he deserves.

  13. Ronald says:

    This reply states:

    "Bardor Tulku Rinpoche seems to have come to a point in his life where he felt that his responsibilities to the teachings of his incarnation lineage called him away from his years of selfless service to His Holiness Karmapa."

    It is a lie to suggest that BTR resigned in order to devote himself more to his incarnation's lineage teachings.

    He states clearly in his resignation letter that

    "Those who've accompanied me for so long are displeased
    From the mandala of mind, the dharmadhatu wisdom,
    I pray that I may gracefully depart.

    I don't want this job: it causes me suffering.
    Others don't want me to have this job, it causes them suffering too.
    Since no one wants me to have this miserable job,
    Please lovingly permit me to resign."

    Alexa's reply also fails to address the issue of the banning of BTR from teaching at KTD and its affileates

    That BTR has a particular lineage is used as an excuse to ban him, as he has had this lineage all his life(s) and taught at KTD with out any problems for 30 years.

  14. brach says:

    "many Western disciples started an internet movement to put pressure on the Indian government to allow him to travel."

    What site was this? Was a petition started on change.org or somewhere?

  15. Don says:

    Could be worse. Karmapa could still be a prisoner of the Chinese like the new Trungpa, who should have followed his original idea of reincarnating as a Japanese businessman.

  16. Chris says:

    I posted this on the other thread re: Bardo Tulku:

    Could the officlals of KTD explain their machivellian politics which has Akong Rinpoche, high lama of KTD, meeting with high Chinese Officials for the last five years or more, making deals, with the prerequisite of accepting Tibet as part of China, or "the motherland", while bilking Westerners out of billons for a "Free Tibet", alienating China and letting ordinary Tibetans and monks and nuns get their heads bashed in?

    The Machiavellian politics of these lamas is beyond our imagination.

    In other words, Bardor Tulku is banned for siding with the Westerners, but Akong Rinpoche's machinations with the Chinese is fine?

    Looks like China and environs is going to be much better "pickins" for them, when the America and the West, finally wake up.

  17. Chris says:

    I agree, practical politics, What is not kosher, is that they are not transparent about these oriental politics . I do not think most Westerners understand exactly how practical Tibetans are.,and I do not think they would be sympathetic to this realpolitik of lamas, as they have made lamas "holy men."
    . Its not about good guys and bad guys, as you say, but that is exactly the myth lamas subtly and not so subtly perpetuate about themselves and the Chinese – i.e. we are the "good guys" and over here are the "bad guys." this keeps the sympathies of Westerners and their donations flowing . So it is the disingenuiness of it all. The Machiavellian survival politics going on in the backstage, and the continued pretense that they are not doing this, that they are holy men.. And the root problem is: this has nothing to do with the Dharma. We just have to start separating the wheat from the chaff, i.e. the Tibetan cultural overlay from the Dharma and it will be a great teaching, maybe not the "teaching" they had in mind for us, but a great teaching nevertheless.

  18. 5th September, 2010

    Dear Dharma Friends,

    Instead of flagellating our collective “Western” selves, or non-selves about the variety of situations in Tibetan Buddhism, which conflate the religious and the political powers, we should take an even Bigger Picture View, and look at the History of All Religions, in general. It is of the nature of all transmissions systems, of whatever religion or spirituality, to manifest what I call ‘The Branching Archetype.” And why not? Writing here from Johannesburg, in the Province of Gauteng, which has as its Motto: “UNITY IN DIVERSITY.” Usually, when these transmission splits take place, as in all processes of grafting & pruning, there is a bit of pain & suffering. As one of the first people [the first in the Southern Hemisphere, I think] to be ordained as a Full Gelong by H.H. 16th Gyalwa Karmapa – in Copenehagen, Denmark, in 1975 – I have observed the effervescent of these nodal growths, from the margins. The Teachings continue regardless. The seeming chasm between Oriental and Occidental modes of operation, only exists when we overlook our common humanity. Tibetans are not perfect merely because they are Tibetan. There should be a dual flow of compassion and understanding – as in all accelerating confrontations between diverse cultures in this multi-polar world. As Western Buddhists perhaps we too need to descend from our Ivory Towers of spirituality and contribute to the discourse of creating an enlightened society and not merely a smoothly running Buddhist Centre.

    Yours in The Dharma,

    Samten de Wet

  19. Anonymously says:


    First of all, Akong Rinpoche is NOT "high lama of KTD", he used to be abbot of Samye Ling center in the Borders of Scotland, near Eskdalemuir and Langholm, not anywhere near Woodstock NY I'm afraid. Khempo Karthar Rinpoche is abbot of KTD in Woodstock NY. Lama Yeshe is leading Samye Ling (where Chogyam Trungpa founded it together with Akong Rinpoche), where it continues as a vibrant community I might add, with gorgeous Tibetan sculptures and classes of all kinds. http://www.samyeling.org/

    Akong Rinpoche has met with the Chinese for the purpose of working with them to better the conditions of the Tibetan people, which the Chinese refuse to do with the Dalai Lama. Without Akong R. keeping connections there would not be such a bridge to benefit Tibetans in Tibet, they would be completely at the mercy of the Chinese overlords, and they are much worse than any so-called Tibetan "overlords" we might have at KTD. So let's not jump on the bandwagon with the "Machiavellian survival politics" ho-hum. Your loud assumptions belie your actual knowledge and point to the fact that you are really not interested in the truth, but only in stirring up the "pot" of anti-Lama sentiment for your own purposes. Try to get a bit of understanding and then constructively point out the problems rather than ranting.

  20. Chris says:

    The problem:

    Orientalism on the part of Westerners, that has allowed them to be "Enthralled" instead of waking up.

    Narrowminded racism on the part of most Tibetan Lamas, that cannot think beyond preserving "this thing of theirs."

  21. Anonymously says:

    I do see a problem with some Americans, and some Tibetans, who have done advanced Vajrayana Buddhist practices, and tend to lack common courtesy, instead can be rude and uncaring and seem to have forgotten that compassion and loving-kindness are equal parts of the path along with knowledge of "emptiness". They appear to use the practices to bolster their inflated sense of self rather than using them to look at their minds and actions directly. It is this attitude of certain Lamas and advanced students that I would have to say scares me into believing that the Buddha was right in predicting that one of the downfalls of Buddhism would be the pride of the ordained. Doing Vajrayana practices without a real sense of compassion, humility, and desire to see through the veil of ego is just dangerous. The real Lamas have all warned about this, but I think there should be much more emphasis on doing compassion practice before, during, and after the practices that they all think of primary importance, and not simply repeating that one is doing them "for the sake of all sentient beings" in a rote manner.

  22. Anonymously says:


    Just because the three-year retreatants come out appearing to be the same as when they went in does not necessarily mean that they are not changed. But lasting change does take time; and retreat is but a large stepping stone, not an end in itself.

    I am disappointed in the reactions of some from time to time, I will have to admit. We have been told by our Gurus that the Vajrayana is a dangerous path just because of the pride it can engender. We have also been told by them that we can only judge the results of our own practices by the qualities they bring out, specifically those of increased loving-kindness and compassion; and if those have not increased after a time, then we're not doing something right.

    You state that three-year retreat only "serves the purposes of preserving Tibetan tradition…", a "huge sacrifice to make for a set of robes and a clergy card". These are serious statements to make. You have not done three-year retreat so you don't know what positive effects it could have had on you if you had done it. The retreatants learn The Six Yogas of Naropa, among much else, which were the vehicles of enlightenment for the Gurus of the Karma Kagyu lineage. I doubt that they would pass them on if they were not convinced of their worth.

    Therefore it is important to keep these practices alive with the warmth of love and compassion, head and heart together. So I would not say they are only practiced to "preserve Tibetan tradition but nothing for the retreatants themselves as people". They are the Vajrayana, and the Gurus have luckily appeared to teach them to us.

  23. […] note — The article below was originally drafted as a comment to Alex Garden's recent "Karma Triyana Dharmachakra {KTD} in Transition: A Closer Look". However, our comment application cannot accept comments after a certain length and the author was […]

  24. waywuwei says:

    and just swallow the kool-aid which we have been doing for the past 30 years. With each death and re-incarnation we find ourselves in the same place, with the same characters, same events and same difficulties. It's time to get off the wheel.

  25. Anonymously says:

    I don't criticize Bardor Tulku at all for leaving, I just wish very much he could have stayed despite it all, given up the Treasurer position and hired a real financial planner! I do not like Tenzin Chonyi getting all "Donald Trump" on the best people KTD has for no good reason, because I don't think that is serving Karmapa at all, quite the opposite, it is only serving personal vendettas. If he really would like nothing better than to retire to Dharamsala, he could have done so when they set up the new board to run things, no? Another four years! oy, vey!

  26. Kathy says:

    For your information Tenzin likes things as they are. He basically does nothing and all his living expenses are paid. he is not liked at ALL by the staff at KTD and basically everyone knows he is 'off.' He is ignored because his power has been taken away by the board. KTD is a mess and I suspect it will go under in the next couple of years. Probably a very good thing


  27. Stacey says:

    Why would anyone want to practice at KTD when there are many wonderful dharma centers in the west? I was at KTD once and will never return. The place has such negative energy – it is just plain creepy

  28. Любит ли он меня? Будем ли мы сообща? Надолго ли наши отношения?

    Это действительно очень для меня важно! Спасибо.

    Если нужны вопросы-задавайте.

    Если кто-то не вермт в гадания и гороскопы, пожалуйста не издевайтесь и не оскорбляйте…

    к стате сериаллы и фильмы я качаю с http://www.2nt.ru/go/serial.php причем бесплато. :) можете пользоватся. Лучше чем локалка.Если канечно ссылка не нужна можете и удалить.

  29. […] up to speed on this…er, issue…you can catch up on the previous chapters here, here, and here. The below communication is from one Kirk Moulton, and below that the spokesperson for His Holiness […]

Leave a Reply