The Economic Times | March 29, 2014
The 17th Karmapa (head of the Karma Kagyu School, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism), Ogyen Trinley Dorjee, in exile in India since the age of 14 from 2000. He is based in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh where many from Tibetan community reside. During one of his rare visits to Delhi Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury of ET met the Karmapa. For the first time ever he slammed Beijing’s totalitarian rule in Tibet and has come out in open support of Dalai Lama and his middle-path approach for meaningful autonomy for Tibet.
Q: The Tibetans have been indulging in fresh round of self-immolations in protest against China’s rule in Tibet and in demand for more rights. Do you support this method of protest? What are your views on Beijing’s approach in dealing with Tibetans?
Ans: Tibet is under Communist China’s totalitarian regime. Unlike democratic India, there is no religious freedom there. Many Tibetans including the illustrious heads of the different sects of Tibetan Buddhism had to flee to India following the Cultural Revolution. The spate of self-immolations reveals the underlying tension that has been simmering for decades due to China’s misguided policies addressing the grievances and resentments of the Tibetan people. These are symptoms of a broken and wounded people desperately crying out for the restoration of their cultural identity, religious and human rights.
Q: Do you support the Dalai Lama’s call for meaningful autonomy for Tibet (Middle-way approach) to meet the aspirations of the Tibetans?
Ans: His Holiness the Dalai Lama is my spiritual and temporal leader and has been like a father figure for me in Dharamsala. I unequivocally support for the ‘Middle way approach’ advocated by the Dalai Lama. He is the one and only leader who would provide leadership in this momentous task, not just in this life but in future lives as well. It is the shared responsibility of all Tibetans to preserve the Tibetan religion and culture and uphold the Tibetan identity. I am committed to the well being of the Tibetan people. I regard it as my duty and responsibility to support the religion and culture of Tibet as much and as vigorously as I can. In that sense by supporting Tibetan religion and culture I will assist His Holiness the Dalai Lama as much as I can.
Q. What is the future of the Tibet and Tibetans amid the suppression by the Chinese authorities?
Ans: I am totally committed to the Middle-way approach. It is quite possible that the political situation in China will change considerably which will result in a rethink on the Tibetan issue within the Chinese Communist Party. Additionally, the power of the aspirations and compassion of the Dalai Lama is virtually limitless. It is the hope of all Tibetans to see the Dalai Lama return to Tibet safely and for Tibet to enjoy peace, happiness and the freedom to practice religion and culture.
Q. You have been living in India for more than 13 years now. How do you feel in exile? Can you elaborate on the historical linkages between Tibet and India Historical linkages between Tibet and India?
Ans: India is my second home. The Tibetan culture and religion has flourished in India’s open, free and welcoming atmosphere. India has given refuge to the Dalai Lama and to many Buddhist lineage heads that have set up monasteries around the country when many other nations did not have courage to do so. Tibetan Buddhism, culture and the Tibetan way of life thrive in India. India has not only saved Tibetans and their way of life from extinction but also enabled us to draw inspiration from this holy land of the Buddha and take Buddhism to distant parts of the world. I have nothing but gratitude for Government of India since my arrival.
Tibet was as independent nation from ancient times right up to 1951. During this period Tibet was in full control of it’s external and defence policies. It maintained strong religious, cultural and trade ties with India. The common border was open and peaceful allowing not only the free movement of goods and people but also the flow of some ofthe finest thoughts of human civilization. Hindus and Jains revere Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake in Tibet as places of holy pilgrimage. Tibetans regard India as the Holy land of Lord Buddha and aspire to make a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya. Buddhism came to Tibet from India.Along with Buddhism came much of the Tibetan language and theTibetan script, which was derived from ancient Indian scripts.
Q. What forced you to come to India in 2000?
Ans: I had to receive oral teachings of the Karmapa Lineage, which have been passed down in an unbroken chain from India since the time of Lord Buddha. The origins of my lineage are in Nalanda whose great scholar, Naropa, received the teachings from his teacher, the Mahasiddha Tilopa. The Karmapa lineage is deeply rooted in India.
My predecessor, His Holiness the 16th Karmapa took refuge in India and established the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim. The head lamas of the four main Tibetan Buddhist traditions are also currently residing in India. The Chinese Government would not allow them to visit me in Tibet. Most importantly, I desired to study under the tutelage of the Dalai Lama. If I had stayed in Tibet, I would have been forced to denounce the Dalai Lama.