The 17th Karmapa, Sex Slaves & Indian Hysteria.

Via John Pappas
on Feb 9, 2011
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Karamapa cleared by Indian authorities.

All good things must come to an end…even media hysterics. Surprisingly enough, a statement from an Indian news report stated that rather than stick to the plausible assertion that the Karmapa is an elaborate Chinese spy, the money found during a raid on the Karmapa’s monastery was actually donated by his followers and completely legal.

Nothing like hearing a bodhisattva fart and insisting that the elephants are charging. One can only hope that the next scandal is equally entertaining.

There has been a recent rush of hysteria concerning the Karmapa lately.

The 17th Karmapa is a young, charismatic, dashing young man and, according to the Indian government, he is also a possible Chinese spy. Evidently, he was sent by the Chinese government to infiltrate the Indian government in 2000, when at the tender age of 14, he escaped Chinese-occupied Tibet to Nepal and then into India on horseback. The hysteria consists of a barrage of random (and seemingly) unfounded rumors of secret bank accounts, connections to the Chinese government and spy-tales seem more worthy of James Bond rather than the spiritual head of a sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

But the 17th Karmapa is no novice to controversy. His comments in 2009 over the role of war-based video games as a “skillful release” sent a few Buddhists into a mind-boggling tailspin. While, granted I do like to partake in an occasional game of Tetris, it doesn’t really do the same thing for as blowing up Zombie Nazis – but that is just me. There was further concern when the Karmapa was denied a teaching tour of Europe and the US by the Indian government for reasons, as far as I can tell, were never really explained.

But this is all besides the point as this video-game loving, near pop-culture Buddhist icon is now in the throes of the most dreaded of all media fanned controversies – The notorious Shady Land Deal!

According to Time Magazine the 17th Karmapa

…found himself at the center of an Indian media storm after government investigators confiscated about $1 million in cash kept in his monastery. The fact that a sizable chunk of the currency was in Chinese yuan prompted manic headlines in India’s ever voluble press, querulously asking whether this was proof that Dorje was a Chinese “spy” or “mole.”

You would think that a world class spy like the Karmapa would hide his blood-money in a better place.

In typical spy style, the Karmapa denies all allegations from media reporting the links to China, the intense and (assumingly) well-documented subterfuge and consistent harboring of a harem of Mongolian sex slaves [that is obviously not true but it seems that if the recovering of foreign currency equates to the 17th Karmapa being a “Spy Kid” for the Great Red Menace then I am sure I can whip something up equally ridiculous] Representatives of the Karmapa stated that the foreign currency seized from his monastery [which came from 20 different countries] were simply offerings donated from devotees from around the world. The fact that some of the loot was Chinese should come to no surprise when [Ta-Da!] the 17th Karmapa is popular in China. The plot thickens…

As per the possible rationelle for the money, an Indian Tribunal editorial stated…

The money seizure needs to be seen in the backdrop of Beijing’s larger plan to gain control over monasteries in India and downgrade the stature of the Dalai Lama among Tibetans. For the past several months, the Chinese have been distributing pamphlets among the locals in Arunachal Pradesh that since the Tawang monastery there pays tribute to Lhasa, which is in China, Tawang must be recognised as Chinese territory. They also aim to build a monastery in Dharamsala with a stature similar to the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, which was the seat of the 16th Karmapa in exile, but has been kept out of bounds for Karmapa Trinley Dorje on the suspicion that he may be a Chinese prop.

Holy Political Conspiracy Theory! So let me get this correct…from the $1 million in foreign currency found at his residence, about $166,000 was in Chinese currency [according to the New York Times]. That percentage is indicative of a major Chinese Public Relations upheaval to downgrade the actual seat of the Karmapa at Sikkim, which he is forbidden to visit? Really? It sounds more like the Karmapa is saying “screw you” to Indian restrictions [not a crazy thought from a 25 year old, reincarnated lama or not] and willing to set his own tent up rather than sit tight under increasingly tighter restrictions in India’s.

At worst, the 17th Karmapa, made the all too common mistake of letting people who know nothing about money…say MONKS [at least non-western ones. The Western ones are very good at protecting and <ahem> increasing their bottomline], actually handle the finances. Probably best to hire a decent accountant to handle these things in the future. Maybe an Indian one…

The questions concerning why the money was there and in that form, according the New York Times, is due to the fact that the Kamapa’s administration is still, after years of stalling by the Indian Government, trying to navigate the bureaucratic tape to simply accept and determine a use for the money. Looks like it is just another way to leash the Karmapa just a little bit tighter…or it could be an elaborate rouse to gain an access point into the Tibetan exile community. Hell, just do what every other government does and bribe a public official.

In the Time Magazine article Columbia professor Robbie Barnett compares the allegations to accusing the Pope of being a Chinese spy because some of his donations come from Chinese followers. While another expert stated that the accusations were “worthy of a cheap spy novel.” I agree in that it is taking a large leap of logic to go from money to elaborate media speculations of loyalty to China. Besides, being a Chinese sympathizer is the least of the Pope’s concerns…

Mr. Topden, advisor to the Karmpa administration stated that after questioning from the Indian Government; “He (Karmapa) has assured me he has never done anything in any way to undermine or to harm the interest of India. India is his second home. He is happy here and he looks forward to India becoming a powerful and prosperous nation. And he has no intention in any way of undermining the interest of India.” [source]

All this stemmed from a recent incident of the Karmapa’s fun-loving and possibly drunk administration attempting to purchase land to build a new monastery [probably to house all those Mongolian sex slaves…ever have to house and feed Mongolian sex slaves? It takes at least a Monastery and at least three Irish bishops]. But then again, what the hell? The Indian government made a decree that the Karmapa can’t actually stay at the official head monastery of his religious order so why not build a new one? Why? Because it is illegal for Tibetans to purchase land in India. That is what we call a catch-22. Is there any wonder why the Karmapa was forced to resort to sex slaves for emotional support?

Anyway, Indian authorities also arrested two members of the Karmapa’s administration traveling with reportedly $219,000 in Indian rupees [obviously it is also illegal for Tibetans to carry large sums of money in India…so what can they do what in India exactly? Oh yeah…live.]. The reported arrest of associates of the 17th Karmapa as well as the continued questioning and accusations of a possible successor of the Dalai Lama, understandably has caused some shockwaves across India, North America and Twitter.

But lets go right to Twitter, shall we?

  • Lies in the Indian press about the #Karmapa remind me of the lies in the British press about #homeopathy. Need a lamp to find an honest man. [Especially in homeopathy?  Seriously? An Indian conspiracy is equal to the fact that someone sticking needles in my ass isn’t medicine…ah hell]
  • gyalwa karmapa is not a chinese design . . . . I request indian media to stop bluffing n bring the reality . . . . [while I understand his frustration, I think this man may need to find the time to capitalize a few letters]
  • FREE THE KARMAPA!!!! [This man has to go out with the fella above and make a love-child, teach the love-child to tweet and then hopefully we will get a reasonable tweet]
  • any thoughts on the NYT article about the Karmapa? Should buddhist be weary of the governing bodies that rep the faith? [Absolutely not! Now prepare for the Inquisition.]

In all seriousness, this event does seem to be indicative of an ongoing rift between the Tibetan exiles, the 17th Karmapa and their host, the Indian Government. When no other country was willing to open their borders to an influx of Tibetan refugees, India did allow them entrance, seemingly with major restrictions. But if the Karmapa is so restricted in this country then what benefit is there for him to stay? Not an Indian citizen, he is unable to travel freely within the country [his “second home”] of India and refused permission to travel internationally to teach or tour, unable to purchase land or even to have money [the recoved money was called “illegal cash“] the Karmapa is seriously compromised in his ability to act as the spiritual leader his sect.

I don’t pretend to understand the intricacies of Tibetan or Indian politics but more and more it seems that India is becoming just as restrictive as China. however, rather than blatantly restricting freedoms, the Indian government has enough bureaucratic red tape wrapped around the Karmapa that he can do little but grin and bear it.

What is a young Karmapa to do?


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About John Pappas

John Pappas is a struggling Zen practitioner with a slight Vajrayana palate (but he won’t admit it) stumbling between the relative and absolute through the Buddhist Purgatory otherwise known as the Great Plains of South Dakota. Emerging writer, librarian and aspiring hungry ghost, John spews his skewed perception of the dharma all over his personal blog, Subtle Dharma Mouth Punch as well as on the ephemeral Elephant Journal and occasionally (while having no artistic ability to speak of) on Dharma/Arte. John also loves tacos, homebrew, yoginis and obscure Cthulhu references. You can follow him on twitter under the handle @zendustzendirt


27 Responses to “The 17th Karmapa, Sex Slaves & Indian Hysteria.”

  1. I had an "audience" with the Karmapa in Bodh Gaya in December 2009. Waited in line for over an hour, and the audience was, like, ten seconds! What the hell is that?! Investigate THAT, Indian government!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by neighbourboy, Red Fox. Red Fox said: The 17th Karmapa, Sex Slaves and Indian Hysteria […]

  3. goldenmala says:

    Ogyen Trinley (the political Karmapa) is closely tied to the Tibetan Government in Exile. Whether he is a spy or not he is another representative of the union of politics and religion. He was recognized by the Dalai Lama. Historically, the Dalai Lama has no say in choosing the Karmapa.

    The Dalai Lama has an declassified history of receiving stacks of cash from the CIA. What a mess these political lamas are making of Buddhism. The Westerners who get goo goo eyed any time they see a Tibetan in robes (political or not) aren't helping either.

  4. Wayne Schmand says:

    If he's that much trouble to the Indian government. Let him go on a speaking tour of Europe and the US. With any luck he'll build a monastery in the Hudson River Valley along with numerous escaped Lamas. 😉
    Or maybe tge Poconos. That popular also.

  5. balance says:

    Typo spotted: you want "rationale" not "rationelle"

  6. david says:

    Know what you mean about those Nazi Zombies, certainly took a weight of my shoulders. My only regret is that no new maps have been issued. And I am way old enough to know better!

  7. Linda says:

    Well, as of this Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, the Indian government admits that the Chinese money received by the 17th Karmapa is indeed from Chinese devotees–and folks please remember that not all Chinese are from the Red Chinese mainland! Karmapa being a Chinese spy is utterly ridiculous, whereas Karmapa being imprisoned by Indian red-tape is not; it seems to be fact. Nevertheless, Mother Indian has been the accommodating place of refuge for the vast majority of Tibetan refugees, and before Westerners start mocking India, we should appreciate that fact and look into our own gov't policies re: Tibetan refugees. For example, Canada has just now agreed to another 1000 Tibetan refugees entering the country if there are sponsors, etc. For a country which has no growth in population without opening its doors to immigration, this is is a most modest good move on the part of Canada–like tossing a dime to a homeless teen on the streets in the winter.

  8. Aside from the ridiculous Chinese spy accusation it was irresponsible to hold all that cash when the proper procedures for any Indians, Tibetan or not, have to be followed for accepting cash from outside India. Tibetans, Holy or not, are not above the law and plenty of Indian religious figures and Indian NGO's have the same problem. It just doesn't make the worldwide press or the international community.

  9. Karen Hanegan says:

    THANK YOU for your delightful article, irreverent or not! The remarks were needed, especially for those of us in Western society who don't know a lama from their dharma. May I point out that this whole Lamagate thing would never have been blown so out of proportion were it not for the efforts of the Indian press – and India has its own problems with China. The comments, especially to articles published in the Times of India, displayed a shockingly caste-driven hostility toward all Tibetans; "What good are they for? They are dirty and do nothing but sit around and beg!" for example. Heavy sigh.

  10. ajay says:

    dont forget india offered refuge to the Dalai Lama in the late 1950s. China attacked India in 1962. India needs to be cautious in her approach. There is already lot of Chineese talk reg. Arunachal Pradesh which they claim. Staples visas for Indians residing in Kashmir and other issues add to the tensions. It is easy to pass sweeping comments against the government. But ground realities have to be faced. He could have easily declared the cash. Kept it in a official bank account, etc.

  11. Mike Smith says:

    Hey Jeff,

    Thanks for the article. But I'm wondering if I missed something. There was no mention of Trinley Thaye Dorje. He was recognized by the Sharmapa as the real Karmapa. Now I have no idea who is correct. But most of Europe supports Trinley Thaye Dorje whereas most of American supports Ogyen Trinley Dorje whom you wrote your article about.

    Just thought you would have mentioned that in your article unless I missed it. If we look though Tibetan history one will see there has always been a very, very strong connection between the Sharmapas and Karmapas. Don't think this can be ignored. Once again I have no idea who is right but this situation has not been resolved yet.

    • Padma Kadag says:

      Mike your analysis regarding "most of Europe" is utter Bullshit! You would do well to steer clear of the likes of "golden shower"…er a excuse me golden mala.

  12. Jeremy Ragland says:

    yet another assanged victim!

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    Surprise! You genuinely covered this subject well. Are there other options that i will have to examine out?

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