Supreme Court Awards Rumtek to Karmapa Charitable Trust
the IKKBO News Service
the International Karma Kagyu Buddhist Organization released
the text of a July 5 decision by
India's highest court concerning Rumtek Monastery, the seat
of the Karmapa lamas. In the decision, the court rejected a petition
by the Tsurphu Labrang seeking legal sanction of its control
over the disputed Tibetan monastery in India 's northeastern
Tsurphu Labrang is the group set up by supporters of Karmapa
contender Orgyen Trinley to promote his candidacy for the title
of 17 th Karmapa, including his claim for jurisdiction over Rumtek.
The group gained control of Rumtek in 1993 after removing the
administration of the Karmapa Charitable Trust, which had been
entrusted with the monastery's care by the previous title-holder,
the late 16 th Karmapa.
are very pleased with the Supreme Court decision,” said
HH Shamar Rinpoche, the lineage-holder of the Karma Kagyu tradition
and a board member of the Karmapa Charitable Trust. “The
court has refused to endorse the claims of the Tsurphu Labrang.
So the decisions of the lower courts stand, that the Karmapa
Charitable Trust is the legal administrator of Rumtek.”
Rumtek, the seat of the Karmapa lamas since the
has been the subject of dispute for more than a decade.
Supreme Court in New Delhi rejected the Tsurphu Labrang's plea
to overturn lower court decisions that denied the group authority
over the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Center. This decision represents
the final judgment in the long-running case over who has authority
over Rumtek. The court's disqualification of the Tsurphu Labrang
is tantamount to validation of the legal claim to Rumtek of the
Karmapa Charitable Trust. The Trust plans to begin proceedings
soon in lower courts to regain physical control of Rumtek.
seat of the Karmapa lamas since the 1960s, Rumtek has been the
subject of dispute for more than a decade. The monastery was
built by the 16 th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje after his escape
from Tibet in 1959. Upon the death of the 16 th Karmapa in 1981,
the Karmapa Charitable Trust assumed management of Rumtek, following
the late Karmapa's stated wishes.
late Karmapa had intended the second-ranking Karma Kagyu lama,
Shamar Rinpoche, to find and recognize Karmapa's rebirth according
to Tibetan tradition dating to the 12 th century. Shamar Rinpoche
would then install this boy as the new Karmapa and transfer the
responsibilities for the main seat of the Karma Kagyu Buddhist
lineage to him when he would come of age.
1992, however, Rumtek and the Karmapa succession became the object
of a bitter dispute. Before Shamar Rinpoche could announce the
new Karmapa incarnation, two other high lamas, Tai Situ Rinpoche
und Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, presented their own Karmapa candidate,
a Tibetan nomad boy they called Orgyen Trinley Dorje. To bolster
their case and breaking with Tibetan Buddhist tradition, they
obtained recognition of this boy from two outside authorities,
the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama.
the history of Tibetan Buddhism each of the four autonomous Tibetan
Buddhist schools has always been responsible for selecting its
own leader. Though politically HH Dalai Lama is head of the Tibetan
government-in-exile, spiritually his authority is limited to
his own Gelugpa school. HH Dalai Lama has no religious authority
to approve leaders of the other three schools, including the
Karmapa's Karma Kagyu lineage.
Tai Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches presented their candidate, they
made a plan to seize control of Rumtek from the administration
of the Karmapa Charitable Trust. The two rinpoches obtained a
promise of assistance from the Sikkim state government of NB
Bhandari, who was later ousted amidst charges of widespread corruption
and intimidation of political rivals. On August 2, 1993 , a group
led by Tai Situ and Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoches, with the help
of Sikkim state police, entered Rumtek by force and evicted its
administration and more than 200 resident monks. Ever since,
possession of the monastery has been a key issue in the Karmapa
the last decade, the Karmapa Trust has pursued legal means to
regain control of Rumtek through the Indian courts. The verdict
released today represents the third legal victory for the Trust
in the Rumtek case.
1997, after the ouster of Sikkim Chief Minister Bhandari, the
Trust filed its case to regain Rumtek from a group headed by
the case was heard, it became clear that Gyaltsab's group had
no documentation to prove its stewardship of Rumtek,” said
Karma Wangchuk, secretary of the IKKBO in New Delhi, “while
the Karmapa Charitable Trust could produce minutes of meetings
dating back to 1983 showing that it had run the monastery after
the death of the 16 th Karmapa.”
after considerable delay caused by issues brought by the defense,
in 2002 the District Court decided that Gyaltsab Rinpoche's group
had no standing as administrator of Rumtek and that the monastery
was the legal property of the Karmapa Trust.
Rinpoche and his secretary Tenzin Namgyal, acting for Situ Rinpoche
and Orgyen Trinley, appealed this decision to the High Court
of Sikkim in Gangtok. Finding no new evidence to support a challenge
to the original verdict, the High Court denied the appeal on
March 19, 2003 .
Supreme Court verdict, announced July 5 at 2 pm New Delhi time,
affirmed the earlier findings of the District Court and the High
Court. Acting on behalf of Orgyen Trinley and the Tsurphu Labrang,
the group supporting Orgyen Trinley, Tenzin Namgyal had brought
this final appeal.
recent Supreme Court decision removes competing claimants to
control of the Rumtek monastery, leaving the Karmapa Charitable
Trust as the sole rightful administrator of this important religious
do not expect to move into Rumtek tomorrow,” Wangchuk said. “But
this decision opens the way for the Karmapa Trust to ask the
courts to evict the current, illegal occupants of Rumtek and
conduct an inventory of the religious relics and valuables stored
there. Once this inventory is completed, then Rumtek can be restored
to the management of the Karmapa Trust. This will pave the way
for the Karmapa Trust to hand over Rumtek to the person it designates.”
Karmapa Charitable Trust recognizes Thaye Dorje as the 17 th
IKKBO has released the full text of the Supreme Court's decision
here on this
the Karmapa Lamas
Gyalwa Karmapa, like the Dalai Lama, is one of the highest leaders
of Tibetan Buddhism. The Karmapa is the oldest line of reincarnate
lamas in Tibet , and Karmapas have been reincarnating since the
12 th century. The current holder of this title, 21-year-old
17 th Karmapa Thaye Dorje, is the head of the Karma Kagyu tradition,
one of four independent schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The young
lama is spiritual director of more than 640 Buddhist centers
in 51 countries. More information can be found online at www.karmapa.org.
International Karma Kagyu Buddhist Organization, based in New
Delhi, is dedicated to educating the wider public on issues
relating to the disagreement over the identity of the Karmapa.
The IKKBO and a variety of supporting materials on the Karmapa
controversy can be found
online here on this site.
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