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Sunday, September 25

Is Beijing running a false-flag op against Dalai Lama? Or has His Holiness gone gaga?

May 1, 2016, New Indian Express, The Sunday Standard:
(NEW DELHI) Is the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama cosying up to China, contrary to the public perception? A recent communication reviewed by The Sunday Standard shows that his aides are planning to reach out to the Chinese, which could have seismic effects on India’s interests in the region. At the centre of the controversy is a shadowy power struggle between the two sects — the Geluks and Drukpas — over control of the powerful monasteries in Ladakh.
[...]
India’s Worries
■ Dominance of monasteries may go to pro-China sects
■ Proxy control by China of Ladakh
■ Loss of face in the perception game for supporting Tibet
May 1, 2016, New Indian Express, The Sunday Standard:
Close Aide of Dalai Lama Denies Chinese Whispers in Monastery Land

July 19, 2016, NDTV (India):
100 Indian Tanks Now Near China Border In Eastern Ladakh, More To Come

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I hope everyone enjoyed the little tour of Ladakh I posted the other day. If you say it was mostly monasteries -- that's Ladakh. It's not only an Indian state, it's also Old Tibet; several Vajrayana Buddhist lineages from the other side of the Himalaya established monasteries there centuries ago. Just because of this China's military is trying to grab Ladakh through getting control of those monasteries. This was after the Indian military repeatedly shooed Chinese troops from trespassing in Ladakh. 

The Chinese are using essentially the same tactic in Ladakh that they've applied to getting control of the international sea lanes near them. With the latter they're converting spits of sand into islands that they turn into military bases. In Ladakh they're using monasteries as a bridgehead to stuff the region with Chinese military dolled up in Buddhist robes.

And just as with the Great Wall of Sand, they didn't start this monastery grab; they took advantage of a dispute between two factions of the large Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist sect, namely the dispute regarding the identity of the leader of the Karma Kagyu subsect, known as the Karmapa.

Fully explaining the dispute would be a 20-hour discussion as I noted recently. Wikipedia tries to sort out the basics of the dispute but with the caveat, "It is difficult to produce an objective description of the events because the most important developments are known only from conflicting accounts by those involved."

And Wikipedia's discussion goes nowhere near the questions of how this dispute is playing out in the larger contexts of India-China relations, recent events in Ladakh, and the fact that Buddhism is no longer just an Asian matter as one observer of the dispute put it.    

But to boil it down for Americans, the Obama Administration's 'Asia Pivot,' which gives a key role to increased India-US military cooperation, has prompted China's military under Xi Jinping to redouble its efforts to get control of the Karma Kagyu via the personage of the Karmapa. They figure he's their best shot for getting control of the Tibetan expat community in India when the Dalai Lama dies given that he's the most powerful Tibetan leader next to Dalai.

As to how the Geluk (Gelug) sect, headed by the Dalai Lama, and the Drukpa Kagyu sect got involved in the mess in Ladkah -- the second Sunday Standard report I linked to above tries to impose order on the confusing story. 
[...]
China Feels Threatened by Drukpa
In 2014, according to sources, the Chinese government supported a forced takeover of eight Drukpa monasteries by Karma Kagyu followers in Mount Kailash. A source close to Drukpa leadership said they have not been able to reclaim them so far. All the Drupka monks were exiled by the Karma Kagyu monks who claimed the support of Ogyen Trinley Dorje.

“Karma Kagyu monks, who forcibly took over the monastery had claimed that it was being done so on the orders of Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje. However, our spiritual leader said it might not have been ordered by the Karmapa but by some top leaders with Chinese connections. This takeover is not possible without tacit Chinese support. But, there is no doubt that there is a clear plan to convert Drukpa monasteries to Karma Kagyu,” he said further, adding that historic pictures of Drukpa lamas have been removed from the monasteries forcibly.
A spiritual leader from Ladakh said there is a consistent effort by [Ogyyen] Karmapa followers to overshadow the Drukpas in the region and recent developments include opposition to Thaye Dorje are part of well-knit plan.
[...] 
(Trinley) Thaye Dorje is a rival claimant to the title of Karmapa, and stars in the Ladakh documentary I featured. But as to how the Dalai Lama got involved in all this -- to return to the Sunday Standard report:
Sources say a conflict has prevailed between the sects supported by the Dalai Lama, China and others [all on the one side].
Tibetan politics inevitably got murky murkier when in August 2015, Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje, also known as TTD, was invited by a Drukpa monastery in Ladakh. However, some leaders of Geluk sects opposed it, saying he will not be welcome unless Dharamshala, the seat of the Dalai Lama and Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, gives permission.
Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s recognition [as the Karmapa] drew vociferous protests from Shamar Rinpoche, the acting head of the Karma Kagyu lineage, who had declared ... Trinley Thaye Dorje as the Karmapa.
 A majority of All-Ladakh Gompa (Monastery) Association (LGA) objected, and the association office was locked. An office-bearer said the LGA office remains closed till date because of the friction between Geluks and Drukpas, and all the political games are orchestrated from Dharamshala. The Geluks exercise influence over monasteries and [virtually all Vajrayana] sects. The number of Drupka monasteries and followers in Ladakh are significantly higher [than Gelug monasteries]. Drukpa monks are opposed to China.
But none of the above touches on how and why the Dalai Lama came to support Ogyen Trinley Dorje for the Karmapa title, and it is just this issue which is at the heart the entire matter.
      
The (supposed) story is that the Dalai Lama wants Ogyen to take over the leadership position for him after the Dalai's death. Why Ogyen? Why not Thaye Dorje, whose credentials for the title of Karmapa are actually much better than Ogyen's?  

The question points to the ugly rumor about the Dalai Lama's alleged attempts to play ball with Beijing. Beijing broke precedent and recognized Ogyen as the Karmapa. As Wikipedia reports it:
The Chinese government had recognized Ogyen Trinley Dorje as "the first reincarnated Living Buddha confirmed and approved by the Central Government of the People's Republic of China after the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951,"[31] which is in itself unusual since the Chinese government is secular, Communist, and has previously denied reincarnation.
The Dalai could surprise everyone and live to 100, but given his age (81) there have been escalating power struggles between the most powerful Tibetan Buddhist sects (and virtually all Tibetans belong to a Buddhist sect). 

To some extent the Dalai stoked the struggles by announcing some years ago that he wanted the next Dalai Lama to be an elected position rather than a hereditary one (via 'reincarnation'), and that he wanted to separate the Dalai's religious function from the political one. But power struggles around an aging king are an old story and Tibet was never an exception even after Buddhism got entrenched there; it's just that they're worse now that that the first Tibetan leader living in exile has entered old age.

Thus, given his involvement (as the leader of Tibetans in exile) with the Karmapa Controversy as it's called, the rumor is plausible -- provided the Dalai Lama has gone a bit gaga. I think he would have to be sliding into senility if he'd trust a Chinese deal any further than he could throw it. 

So it's just as plausible and perhaps more so that the Chinese are running a false flag operation in order to make things hot for him with India's government. If this is the case, Beijing is making opportunistic hay from the power struggles and Karmapa Controversy. 

Curiously the controversy has been resolved within the confines of Tibetan Buddhism; there is no question any longer that Trinley Thaye Dorje is the 'real' 17th Karmapa -- a fact that's delicately alluded to by those who term him the 'historical' Karmapa. 

As to Ogyen -- well he's definitely not straight off the banana boat in terms of incarnations. There were some extraordinary events accompanying his birth -- the sound of a conch shell being mysteriously blown, for one. I note he has the bearing of a king when he walks, and I seem to recall that in the old days in India, at least, the birth of a king was accompanied by the blowing of a conch shell.

We'll have to see how it shakes out, but for now there are two Karmapas. There is, however, a third claimant to the title. To my recollection he's not mentioned in the Wikipedia article about the Karmapa Controversy. From what I know about him he's quite a character. Perhaps he's an editorial comment by Someone Out There regarding the court intrigues around reincarnated High Lamas. 

[smiling]

For those who haven't seen it I hope you'll squeeze in time to watch the Ladakh documentary whether or not you're Buddhist. Someday, maybe a few centuries from now, you'll realize you were very fortunate, very special, just to be able to see the places in Under These Outrageous Skies

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