1. Daunting audience with a 900-year-old teenager (The Telegraph
By Mick Brown The Telegraph April 28, 2001
Fears for the Karmapa's safety since his flight from Tibet to India, can make meeting him a daunting experience. On the three occasions I have met him since his arrival in India 16 months ago, the procedure has always been the same.
First one must negotiate the armed police who prowl the steps leading to the Gyuto monastery where he lives. At the door, one is searched and one's name and passport number logged, before being led up the four flights of narrow stairs to the audience room, where yet another screen of security men stand.
Then there is the imponderable weight of his spiritual ancestry to consider. The present Karmapa - the 17th of his line - is believed to be the repository of an unbroken line of teachings going back 2,500 years to the time of the Buddha himself, and the Karmapas are the oldest line of identifiable reincarnates in Tibetan Buddhism. The first Karmapa was recognised about 900 years ago - 400 years before the first Dalai Lama.
Regarded as the great miracle-workers of Tibetan Buddhism, they are unique in leaving instructions at their deaths about where their next incarnation will be found. The 16th Karmapa who died in 1981, was believed to have the ability to control the weather, talk to birds and leave imprints of his hand and feet in solid rock. His letter of prediction was found eight years after his death, leading to the discovery of the present Karmapa, living in a nomad family in eastern Tibet.
Enthroned at the ancestral seat of Tsurphu monastery in 1992 with the permission of the Chinese, the Karmapa remained in Tibet until last year, when he fled to India to join the Dalai Lama in exile.
Since arriving in India, he has been confined in the small Gyuto monastery in Dharamsala. Last month, after finally being formally granted refugee status, he was allowed to make a pilgrimage to Buddhist sites in India; but he is still forbidden to travel to his seat of Rumtek monastery, in Sikkim, which was established by his predecessor the 16th Karmapa after his flight from Tibet in 1959.
His court at Gyuto is a miniature of the system that has served successive Karmapas for centuries. His inner circle is made up of his monk tutors and personal attendants, including members of the party who escaped with him from Tibet. Among these are one of the lamas who planned the escape (another remained behind), and the Karmapa's elderly chamberlain, who serves his meals, prepares his clothes and ministers to his daily needs, and who fulfilled the same functions for his predecessor.
His closest confidants are two middle-aged lamas, one of whom he refers to as "uncle", both highly educated in Buddhist philosophy, fluent in English, well-travelled and politically astute. Then there is the outer circle, or labrang, made up of a handful of lay people who administer the Karmapa's affairs.
In the 16 months that his entourage has been confined in Gyuto, the small, cramped warren of rooms of the monastery have come to resemble a refugee camp. Monks sleep on camp-beds, dormitory style, and administrators have been working amidst a tangle of papers, cardboard boxes and piles of clothes. Adding to this disarray is the daily avalanche of offerings from devotees who arrive at the monastery to receive his blessing.
While only 15, the Karmapa is a tall, powerfully built figure, whose presence seems to fill the room. His smile can change in an instant to an expression of fierce intensity which devotees call "wrathful". Even his closest attendants confess that they feel uncomfortable holding his gaze for too long.
Conversing with him, one is left in no doubt that he has a strong mind of his own; his comments yesterday about China's President Jiang suggest he also possesses sharply ironic sense of humour.
2. Karmapa Lama joining campaign for a free Tibet (The Scotsman)
Damien McElroy In Dharamsala Saturday, 28th April 2001 The Scotsman
Chinese hopes that the Tibetan issue will disappear after the death of the Dalai Lama are fading, as a star emerges from the ranks of reincarnated lamas at the top of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Karmapa Lama, the boy monk who rocked Beijing in a daring flit across the Himalayas at the end of 1999, yesterday offered a tantalising glimpse of an articulate opponent of Chinese rule in his homeland as he described his escape to freedom to international reporters.
Frustrated by his inadequate teachers and suspicious that the Communist Party was planning to use him as a pawn, the Karmapa slipped of out a window of his closely guarded monastery in the dead of night.
It was a momentous decision for a young man who was then 14. He left behind his parents and now has no idea if they are suffering terrible consequences.
He said: "The decision to leave my homeland, monastery, monks, parents, family and the Tibetan people was entirely my own - no-one told me to go and no-one asked me to come to India."
In the dying days of 1999 the Karmapa Lama, who ranks third after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama in the hierarchy, then undertook a gruelling eight-day journey by jeep, foot, horseback and helicopter to Dharamsala, the heart of the Tibetan community in exile.
He had told his Chinese guards that he was embarking on a four-day tantric mediation during which he would not emerge from his cell. With a driver and two close associates of his predecessor, who fled Chinese rule in 1959, the Karmapa dashed north-west to the border with Nepal.
He boarded a helicopter in the Nepalese town of Mustang before trekking across the hills and rivers that separate the isolated kingdom from India.
Days after crossing into India, the Karmapa Lama was welcomed to Dharamsala by the 64-year-old Dalai Lama, eager to embrace a dynamic young monk whose actions were reminiscent of his own early struggle to lead his people.
In the intervening months, the Karmapa has kept a low profile while pursuing his studies and waiting for the Indian government to defy Chinese pressure by granting him residency.
While avoiding an outright attack on Chinese activities in Tibet, the Karmapa said he would join with the Dalai Lama in defending Tibetan religious and cultural traditions from the brutally repressive regime run by Beijing in his homeland.
"I have heard it said the Chinese government wanted to make use of me. I was certainly treated as someone very special," he said.
"But I came to suspect that there might have been a plan to use me to separate the people within Tibet from His Holiness, the Dalai Lama."
The Karmapa Lama also ridiculed China's face-saving explanation that he had arrived in India to collect his Black Hat and other symbolic trappings for his position as head of one of the main branches of the Tibetan religion.
"I left because I had consistently and repeatedly requested permission to travel internationally but I had never received it. I did not mention the Black Hat - and why would I want to retrieve that from India and bring it back to China?" he said, referring to Chinese claims that he had left only temporarily.
"The only thing that would be accomplished by doing that would be to place that hat on [Chinese President] Jiang Zemin's head."
The exiled Tibetan movement accuses the Chinese of a systematic campaign designed to obliterate the religious culture of the territory they effectively annexed 50 years ago this month. A spokesman for the government in exile said yesterday that 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed under Chinese occupation.
There are dozens of reports each month of torture, persecution, looting of temples and harsh discrimination by the Chinese in Tibet.
3. China cautions Karmapa Lama (BBC)
Monday, 30 April, 2001, From the newsroom of the BBC World Service
China has warned what it calls anti-China forces not to use the teenage Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Karmapa Lama, to split Tibet from China.
A Chinese foreign ministry official, Zhang Qiyue, said Beijing hoped the Karmapa Lama wouldn't, as she put it, be fooled or taken advantage of by political opportunists.
The young Buddhist leader, the third most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism, escaped to India from his homeland a year ago. On Friday he spoke for the first time about his flight from Tibet.
He's been granted refugee status in India and now lives near the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Correspondents say the Karmapa's flight from Tibet revives memories of the escape of the Dalai Lama to India in 1959 after a failed Tibetan uprising against Communist rule.