Karmapa Lama wishes to return to Tibet someday (Interview)

April 19th, 2009 - 1:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Richard Gere By Jaideep Sarin
Dharamsala (Himachal Pradesh), April 19 (IANS) Like the Dalai Lama who escaped from Tibet in 1959, the second highest Tibetan monk, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, secretly arrived in India nearly 10 years ago as a teenager. But his desire to return “one day” remains provided Tibetans are able to live with “full religious and other freedom”.

Though the boyish looks are now changing into those of a young man, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, popularly called Karmapa Lama, is readying himself to take on the responsibilities associated with the high seat in Tibetan religion and tradition that he holds.

Not regretting his flight to freedom from the Tsurphu monastery near Lhasa in Tibet to arrive here in the winter of January 2000, the Karmapa says he would like to go back to Tibet, but only if the situation is conducive for their return.

“If you ask about going back, the answer is yes. Everyone has the right to go back to his own country. We are struggling for that opportunity (to go back). One day, this wish will come true,” the Karmapa told IANS in an interview at his temporary abode at the foothills of the snow-covered Dhauladhar Himalayan range at the Gyuto Tantric University and monastery at Yol Cantt near here.

“Tibetans have seen 50 years of suffering after they had to let go their country by force. They are stateless and homeless. Even after 50 years, Tibetans would like to go back but that will happen only if the situation is ideal to go back. The issue that arises is whether they will be able to live like Tibetans with full religious and other freedom.”

Everyday, scores of people, mostly foreigners from Western countries, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and others arrive at his monastery to seek blessings from the 24-year-old Tibetan religious leader.

Among them last week was Hollywood superstar Richard Gere.

Surrounded by tight security of Indian Army trained Tibetan commandos and Himachal Pradesh Police at all times, the young Karmapa clearly seems to have gained in confidence and has become more assertive from the time when he was first revealed to the world after his arrival here in 2000.

“The main purpose of coming out (of Tibet) was to have the opportunity to pursue important religious study and get the necessary transmission of religion. I have received that transmission now,” he said through a translator.

Though he knows English, he prefers to use translators for media interaction - giving replies patiently and after weighing his words.

His tours have to be cleared by the union ministries of external affairs and home affairs. In recent months, the Karmapa has toured the United States and Hong Kong and some parts of India. His entry to Rumtek Monastery near Gangtok in Sikkim, though, is still banned by the central government.

In the Tibetan exile circles based here and other parts of India, the future role of the Karmapa as the leader of the Tibetan community is acknowledged as the Dalai Lama, 73, is ageing.

“I would like to think of myself as a person of substance. Even though I am a Tibetan, I hold the name of the Karmapa which is an important responsibility. I have to uphold the history of 900 years of the institution of the Karmapas. If a situation arises, I will have to address it as the Karmapa,” he replied indirectly when asked whether he was prepared to lead the Tibetan community after the Dalai Lama.

“In Tibetan religious tradition, monks are not supposed to eat meat. But given the harsh conditions in cold mountains, where vegetation is also not there, they have to adapt to eat meat to survive. Similarly, if a situation arises, I will adapt to it accordingly,” he added with an analogy.

Referring to the recent decision at a meeting of high lamas (monks) held here in March in which it was decided that a law be brought to have all future reincarnations of top lamas from within the exiled Tibetan community only, the Karmapa justified the decision.

“In free Tibet, the earlier system (of choosing re-incarnations) worked very well. Now the situation is different. The Tibetan community is split into those living inside and outside Tibet. So the system needs upgrading according to the prevailing situation. Some of the earlier things (on selecting reincarnations) are not relevant now.”

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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