by Jeffery Paine from the Washington Post Book World Sunday,
August 1, 2004:
Landman's charges about the Dalai Lama and especially about
the forged letter are exhaustively refuted not only in Mick Brown's
The Dance of 17 Lives but also in the other major
books on the subject, Michele Martin's Music in the Sky
and Lea Terhune's The Politics of Reincarnation.
Mr. Landman represents the position of Shamar Rinpoche, whom, unfortunately,
all three books paint as doing the Tibetan cause harm in order to
secure the profits from the Karmapa's holdings for himself. I hope,
and would like to believe, that there are honorable motives for
Shamar Rinpoche's actions that all three books have overlooked.
August 2, 2004
W. NORTON & COMPANY, INC.
Attn: Author Jeffrey Paine
New York, N.Y. 10110
me introduce myself. I am one of the chief administrators of the
Shamar Labrang and am writing this open letter to you on behalf
of supporters of Karmapa Thaye Dorje. We have read your reply to
Jay Landman’s response to your review in the Washington Post
Book World of August 1, 2004. There you say that the major points
of the our position—that Situ’s Karmapa prediction letter
is fake and that HH Dalai Lama has no jurisdiction to recognize
Karmapa—are invalid because three books have already been
published which “refute” these points. You further add
that these three books cast doubt on Shamar Rinpoche’s character
and motivations, but that you personally hope that they are not
correct in this.
I thank you for your good hopes and for keeping an open mind.
I wish to beg your indulgence to say that in my opinion, passing
along such character aspersions does you no credit. Even with the
qualifications you added, this was a very low blow. I am very surprised
that a scholar and writer of your position would resort to debased
personal attack. This sort of gutter rhetoric is more appropriate
to a political campaign than to a sober discussion of the unfortunate
controversy over our Buddhist lineage. Mr. Landman’s letter
was indeed critical, but it was respectful and stuck to the issues.
Your response however attempted to nullify everything Mr. Landman
said by passing along very serious criticism of Shamar Rinpoche
that is, despite what these books may say, completely unfounded.
do not need to defend Shamar Rinpoche’s character and motivations
here. Let it suffice to say that ample documentary evidence is available
from the Indian court system as well as public records on file with
government agencies in India to demonstrate how Shamar Rinpoche
has worked only to protect the Karma Kagyu lineage from betrayal
by Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches, which is the role of the Shamarpa.
In addition, anyone who knows Rinpoche knows that personally, his
lifestyle is modern but simple, he enjoys few comforts and works
tirelessly only to spread dharma and to protect the purity of the
Karma Kagyu lineage.
shame on you Mr. Paine! I am sure that you could have done better.
And I do hope that this kind of statement doesn’t mean that
you think that nothing we say has any value because three books
support Orgyen Trinley as Karmapa?
now I hope you will allow me to discuss the facts of these three
books with you. Then perhaps you will have more information to decide
if you really feel that they are credible enough to have “refuted”
is true that there are three books published that support Orgyen
Trinley, but even by your own logic you are wrong to claim that
all three of these books “refute” us. Only two of them
in fact deal explicitly with the Karmapa controversy: Lea Terhune’s
Karmapa: The Politics of Reincarnation and Mick Brown’s
The Dance of 17 Lives.
should not count Michelle Martin’s book Music in the Sky:
The Life, Art & Teachings of the 17th Karmapa Orgyen Trinley
Dorje as “refuting” our points, since hers is strictly
a hagiography of Orgyen Trinley without much discussion of the issues
of the controversy. Her treatment of the controversy is limited
to a couple of sentences and one footnote, where she explains that
Shamar Rinpoche initially doubted the prediction letter. Otherwise,
Martin proceeds as if the whole controversy did not exist and as
if everyone agreed that Orgyen Trinley was the Karmapa.
this reason, we have not made any criticisms of her book. She does
not engage in debate here but simply celebrates Orgyen Trinley.
We have no desire to reduce anyone’s devotion to the boy,
and Martin has every right to pen a tribute to her guru. She may
even believe what she has written about Orgyen Trinley, so we cannot
criticize her intentions.
leaves two books that attempt to refute our position, the books
by Terhune and Brown. I could understand it you felt that two books
disagreeing with us versus no books supporting us makes a pretty
you should be aware that there are also books published in English,
predating Terhune and Brown, that support Thaye Dorje: The Buddha
Cries (New Delhi, 2000) by Hindustan Times journalist Anil
Maheshwari and The Karmapa Papers (France, 1992) and The Siege
of Karmapa (New Delhi, 1999) by our group. However, since these
titles were not published in the USA or the UK, but instead in Europe
and in India, perhaps you do not think they are credible.
the books of Terhune and Brown have been published so close together,
we have not yet had a chance to publish our own rebuttals in book
form in the USA or the UK. We are working on this at present. In
the meantime, we have published our responses online, at www.karmapa-issue.org.
Our forthcoming book will contain ample documentary proof truly
refuting all the major claims of Terhune and Brown, using respected
third-party sources like official transcripts of courts of law.
for now, Situ Rinpoche and his group have two brand new books in
the USA and in the UK and we have none. I would like to ask you,
however, Mr. Paine, do you think that having two books in itself
makes someone right? What if these are bad books that may be proven
wrong in the near future, and may even be under litigation now?
And what if these books contradict judgments already given by law
courts and ignore decades of public records on file with government
the two biased books, we would offer more reliable sources: the
verdicts of three courts in India, including the Supreme Court.
These courts have all ruled against Situ Rinpoche and his group
and in favor of Shamar Rinpoche’s position. The full text
of their decisions can be found at www.karmapa-issue.org.
I would submit to you that Terhune and Brown do not refute our position
at all. Their motivation is not to inform but to persuade, and as
a result their information is bad and their presentation is biased.
believe that Martin’s goal may really be to support Orgyen
Trinley and so we wish her well. But this is not true for Terhune
and Brown. We think they actually don’t care about convincing
anyone that Orgyen Trinley is Karmapa. Instead, Terhune and Brown
write for much worse reasons.
be very blunt, Terhune and Brown write only to help hide the crimes
of the lamas they sympathize with, Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches and
the others who have seized the seat of the Karmapas, Rumtek Monastery
in Sikkim. They seized this cloister purely to get their hands on
its valuable antiques and to gain prestige for themselves.
believe that Terhune and Brown thus employ a version of Josef Goebbels’
famous propaganda technique known as “the Big Lie.”
Under this technique, if you yourself have committed a crime, you
should protect yourself by accusing your opponent of exactly the
same thing. Then you should repeat your accusations over and over
again until the public is convinced that these false charges are
true. Thus, Terhune and Brown accuse Shamar Rinpoche of the exact
crime that their lamas, Situ and Gyaltsab, are guilty of- causing
trouble in the Karmapa lineage purely for their own personal gain,
as you boldly state in your answer to Mr. Landman’s letter
in the Washington Post.
will prove all of this legally in court shortly. Meantime, perhaps
you do not know that the Indian courts have determined that Situ’s
group is illegally occupying Rumtek? Situ and his followers seized
Rumtek by force from the administration of the Karmapa Charitable
Trust on August 2, 1993 and shortly afterwards the Karmapa Trust
began legal proceedings against them to regain the monastery. Perhaps
you do not know that supporters of Orgyen Trinley have lost all
their appeals in this case, all the way up to the Indian Supreme
Court? Perhaps you also do not know that the courts have determined
that while occupying Rumtek, Situ’s group has removed valuable
objects from its treasury as well?
have heard that Situ and his group are afraid of criminal prosecution
in India for these thefts. Therefore, we believe, their group has
enlisted Terhune and Brown to put out books that will confuse the
issue with the public and cover for the crimes of those who seized
Rumtek. These books were clearly rushed to print in anticipation
of some ugliness for Situ and his group in criminal court. Perhaps
these lamas hope that such a propaganda effort will help them to
avoid prosecution or at least help them maintain the support of
their followers once prosecution begins?
and Brown are no more than mouthpieces for Situ’s group. And
we cannot emphasize enough that this group does not really care
if Orgyen Trinley is recognized as Karmapa in the long run. What
they care about is avoiding criminal prosecution and punishment
in the short run for Situ, Gyaltsab and others.
such an ignoble goal, it is not surprising that Terhune and Brown
draw from poor quality sources. Their main sources are either biased
ones like Situ Rinpoche and Tenzin Namgyal, or uninformed ones like
Akong Tulku’s brother Jamdrak or, worst of all, sources who
are both biased and uninformed, like Akong Tulku himself. At the
same time, these authors ignore well informed and trustworthy sources
like the trustees of the Karmapa Charitable Trust appointed directly
by the late 16th Karmapa, the records of the Trust since the death
of the late Karmapa and of course, the decisions of the Indian court
system. It is true that Brown spoke with three sources from our
side, Thaye Dorje, Shamar Rinpoche and Khenpo Chodrak Tenphel Rinpoche.
But as Mr. Landman wrote to the Washington Post, Brown used little
information from these sources. And why did Brown not consult the
other highly credible sources, like the court verdicts and the public
you lack all this knowledge, then we can understand how you might
have been convinced by Terhune and Brown. But it is difficult for
us to believe that you would be so poorly informed on these issues.
Your being brave enough to endorse Brown’s book as trustworthy
in a major US newspaper without any independent investigation of
your own seems naïve at best and dishonest at worst.
Lea Terhune’s book, we have already filed a defamation case
in the High Court of New Delhi because many of the lies in her book
are very serious, including charges of theft and murder. These lies
are also obvious and easy to detect. Under Indian law her text is
open to legal challenge because accusing someone of such serious
crimes in writing can greatly injure the character of the person
so accused. It would then not fall into the category of protected
free speech, but instead into the category of character defamation.
And if the accusations turn out to be incorrect, then Indian law
concludes that the accuser herself is at legal fault.
can only suppose that it is a very strange karmic force that has
caused you to recognize the validity of these two sloppy, biased
books without recognizing, on the other side, court decisions and
supporting public documents over a thirty-year span.
is a shame that as a professor you cannot accurately judge our position
in this unfortunate situation. We have not criticized Michelle Martin
and we will continue to support her right to express her devotion
to Orgyen Trinley. Instead, we have only responded to Terhune and
Brown because they seem to be intentionally retailing lies merely
to cover up the worst type of larceny by high rinpoches who have
dishonored their titles for generations to come. We are only doing
this to set the historical record straight and protect the Karma
Kagyu lineage for future generations.
believe I know something about your situation, Mr. Paine. I believe
that you are a follower of the Gelug school, that you are not associated
with the Karma Kagyu. Is it possible that you are supporting Situ’s
group because they have betrayed the Karma Kagyu in favor of HH
Dalai Lama’s sect? I do not wish to insult you, Mr. Paine,
but I believe you may be a bit of a fanatical follower of any group
that does anything to sabotage the independent administration of
the Karmapas. Therefore, I would not be surprised if you are predisposed
to believe anyone who writes something bad about Shamar Rinpoche,
the last guardian of the independence of the Karmapas and that,
consequently, your mind is closed to any facts coming from Shamar’s
believe that this may be your prejudice. But I do hope that I will
be proven wrong in this.
the end, even if you have an agenda to aid and comfort those who
would destroy the Karma Kagyu, do you think that it is convincing
to support an unreliable book by Mick Brown by reference to the
unreliable book of Terhune, which is currently in litigation? Isn’t
that like asking one thief who is now in court to vouch for the
good character of another thief who has just been indicted?
you cannot see the difference between our motivation and our principles
on the one hand and those of Terhune, Brown and their masters Situ
and Gyaltsab on the other, then we might suggest that you should
forget about reviewing books about Tibetan Buddhism. This subject
may just be too complex for you to understand.
are exposing all the lies of Terhune and Brown one by one on our
website, and as I said, we will soon publish our work as a book.
So I believe that we will truly refute these books. But I would
like to invite you, since you claim that these books have “refuted”
our points, to provide your proof. On what basis do you accept the
arguments of Terhune and Brown? I am very curious to know.
will publish this letter on our website, along with any response
that you care to send. Please be assured we will endeavor to represent
your views fairly and accurately.
of Shamar Labrang