Karmapa kept India in the dark

Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who travelled to U.S. last year, didn’t inform India before taking foreign citizenship

December 27, 2018 09:20 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 10:21 am IST - NEW DELHI

Ogyen Trinley Dorje

Ogyen Trinley Dorje

India was not informed by Ogyen Trinley Dorje before he took the passport of another country (the Commonwealth of Dominica), government sources said on Thursday, indicating a rift with the Lama who claims to be the Karmapa, who had travelled to the United States last year and has not returned despite saying on several occasions that he would do so.

Sources aware of the developments also reiterated India’s “neutral position” on which the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage is, given the rival claimant Trinley Taye Dorje. The Dalai Lama as well as the Chinese government had, in 1992, recognised Ogyen Trinley Dorje as the rightful heir to the position, but India has not accepted that.

“The government of India does not recognise Ogyen Trinley Dorje as the 17th Karmapa Lama. There are other contenders,” said one highly placed source, clarifying the circumstances around the Karmapa’s travel documents. “He has secured the passport of the Commonwealth of Dominica. He didn’t share this information with India. He doesn’t need to, but in good faith he ought to have, since he was our guest. What was the reason for not sharing this with the government of India?” the source added, in the first such official reaction to Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s move.

Earlier this month, The Hindu reported that the two sides had reached an impasse over the documents required by the Karmapa to travel to India for a conference of religious leaders in November. While Tibetan officials had claimed the Karmapa was being asked to return to India on the original Identity Certificate (IC) issued to him and surrender it, government sources denied the claim, saying he could use his newly acquired passport to apply for a visa at the New York consulate.

“There is no issue over the IC, as the IC is invalid the moment the holder acquires a foreign passport. He has indicated time and again to the media, but he has not yet presented his passport for a visa, and there is no visa application. There are specific motivations by certain quarters to put out a story that he is not getting a visa. There should be no doubt that he is free to come to India and get a visa on the Dominica passport,” the source said.

The conference that Ogyen Trinley Dorje was due in India for was put off owing to the death of the head lama of another, Nyingma sect. However, it is likely that the conference will be rescheduled once Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s travel document issue is resolved, officials dealing with the conference said.

The Karmapa is the head of the Karma Kagyu school, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and is based at Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. Ogyen Trinley Dorje escaped from Tibet in 2000 as a 14-year old. His rival Trinley Taye Dorje had allegedly escaped to India from Tibet some years before, but was never officially recognised in Dharamshala as the Karmapa.

Making matters more complex for New Delhi is the fact that Ogyen Trinley Dorje and Trinley Taye Dorje met in France in October this year and vowed in a public statement to “heal the divisions” within the Karma Kagyu sect and to “bring the lineage together,” indicating that the two might resolve the issue without India’s help.

Some differences over the Karmapa issue have arisen in the government between the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs in recent years over who should have the final word on the modalities of the Karmapa’s return. Intelligence agencies are also believed to be divided over whether Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s allegiances remain with China, where he still has many supporters, or with the United States, where he has set up residence on a large estate for nearly two years now. Differences persist in the government about whether Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s Tsurphu Labrang office should be given a permanent place for a monastery as well as clearance to receive foreign donations under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, officials told The Hindu .

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