Karma Chungyalpa, a spokesman for His Holiness the Karmapa in Dharamsala, has circulated the following talking points to be used in responding to media inquiries regarding the affair at Gyuto Monastery:
Fact: The allegations that His Holiness the Karmapa is a Chinese spy are entirely unfounded and ridiculous.
His Holiness the Karmapa’s escape from Chinese-occupied Tibet was a major embarrassment to China and landed a serious blow to China’s claims to legitimacy for its rule over Tibet. His Holiness the Karmapa was the first reincarnate lama that the People’s Republic of China had officially acknowledged. Yet, rather than allowing himself to be used to convince the world that the Chinese government allowed freedom of religion, His Holiness fled overland, by foot, horseback and jeep, crossing the Himalayas to freedom in India. When His Holiness the Karmapa’s escape and his joyful first meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama became public, China’s oppression of Tibetans’ rights was dramatically highlighted the world over. This thoroughly discredited China’s claims that Tibetans were content under Chinese rule. During his time in India, His Holiness the Karmapa has served as an important spiritual figure, inspiring the Tibetan cause. The allegations that His Holiness the Karmapa was sent here from China as a spy or an agent are not only entirely unfounded, but ridiculous.
Fact: His Holiness the Dalai Lama and leaders of the Tibetan community in exile have repeatedly expressed their support of His Holiness the Karmapa, and their complete confidence that he is no Chinese spy.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has fully backed His Holiness the Karmapa. Firstly, he has categorically and unequivocally dismissed all allegations of His Holiness the Karmapa having a connection with any arm of the Chinese government. Second, he has underlined how Buddhists from across the world leave offerings in cash to allow His Holiness the Karmapa to continue his substantial religious and social activities.
The Parliament of the Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (also known as Tibetan government-in-exile) issued a formal statement declaring the following: “As far as Gyalwang Karmapa is concerned, he put his life at risk by coming into exile from Tibet at a tender age. In our society, he is one of the spiritual heads of schools of Tibetan Buddhism, highly revered and respected by the Tibetan people. Personally, he has been concentrating on his study, promotion of Buddhism and world peace and protection of environment, thereby making great service to Tibet's political and spiritual cause.”
Spontaneous candlelight vigils and marches have sprung up around the Tibetan community in exile. The areas surrounding His Holiness the Karmapa’s residence in Dharamsala have been flooded with Tibetan and overseas visitors seeking to stand by this highly revered spiritual figure. The Deputy Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament, Dolma Gyari, stood at His Holiness' side when he made his first public address after the investigation began.
Fact: The Karmapa Office of Administration has been seeking to deposit its donations in foreign currency for years.
Under Indian law, foreign currency can only be deposited in a bank by a trust or other registered institution that has received government permission to do so, known as FCRA permission. The Karmapa Office of Administration created a trust, Saraswati Charitable Trust that repeatedly applied for but did not receive permission to deposit foreign currencies. It thus created another trust, Karmae Garchen Trust, whose application for FCRA permission to deposit foreign currency was submitted last year and is still pending. With no legitimate means of depositing or exchanging this foreign currency, the money was left to pile up over time, awaiting the day when it could be legitimately deposited.
Fact: The Chinese Yuan represents less than 10% of the total amount sized.
The Chinese Yuan was a small proportion of the foreign currency seized. The Chinese Yuan is the national currency used in Tibet and across mainland China. Tibetans from Tibet generally leave donations in Chinese Yuan. So do Buddhists from mainland China. The Yuan seized by police include Chinese Yuan notes ranging from 1 Yuan notes to larger bills, reflecting that they come from multiple individual sources.
Fact: The Chinese Yuan was only one of over 20 different currencies found.
The foreign currency found included bills in over 20 different currencies. The presence of donations in Yuans well as the many other currencies reflects His Holiness’ status as a world spiritual leader with a widely diverse international following that includes Tibetans and Buddhists from mainland China, whose national currency is the Yuan. It is customary for groups to pool their money and make collective donations. In Chinese culture, it is especially common to offer new notes when making donations to high abbots and senior spiritual leaders.
Fact: Written records are kept of the cash donations.
All donations made by devotees are placed by his attendants in a donation box. At regular intervals, the box is opened and the cashier and a group of other office staff sort and count the donations. The cashier carefully notes the total in each denomination, and painstaking records are kept of the amounts. The cashier opted to store the foreign currency openly in a dormitory room he shares with other monks, rather than in the office, which receives considerably more foot traffic.
Fact: Millions of international disciples regularly leave unsolicited donations in the currencies of their home countries when they come to see His Holiness the Karmapa.
His Holiness the Karmapa is the revered leader of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and the object of the devotion and trust of millions of followers from all over the world. During December 2010 alone, His Holiness granted personal audiences to thousands of devotees from 44 distinct nationalities, including American, British, German, Japanese, and Chinese. It is customary to leave donations of gifts such as fruit, incense or cash, as symbols of devotion to His Holiness the Karmapa, and as a means of supporting his many charitable activities.
Fact: His Holiness the Karmapa’s role is to lead the sect spiritually and he has no role in the day-to-day management of the sect.
The Karmapa reincarnation lineage has a 900-year history of engaging in a vast range of spiritual activities, from teaching Dharma to rigorous meditation to composing philosophical texts. His Holiness the Karmapa is completely and utterly uninvolved in the handling and management of cash. The Tsurphu Labrang, known now as the Karmapa Office of Administration, has existed for hundreds of years to allow the Karmapas to devote their time and energy to their role as spiritual leaders. It manages all the worldly affairs of the Karmapa, including handling the donations and administering the finances. In this way, the Karmapa has been left free to fulfill his solemn duties as spiritual guide to countless followers and leader of a large Buddhist order.
Fact: The Indian government was fully informed of the plans to buy land in Dharamsala to build a monastery for His Holiness the Karmapa.
His Holiness the Karmapa has been hosted in a temporary residence in Dharamsala by another Tibetan Buddhist sect since his arrival in India in 2000. The Karmae Garchen Trust was seeking to purchase the land in its own name for the purpose of building a permanent residence and monastery for His Holiness, whose current living quarters measure 15'x15'. When the Karmae Garchen Trust identified suitable land near His Holiness’ current temporary residence in Dharamsala, it informed the office of the District Collector of Dharamsala and sought their approval to proceed with the purchase.
Fact: The Indian government had granted preliminary approval of the land purchase.
Under the Land Reform act, any non-Himachali, non-agriculturist requires sanction by the state government before purchasing land. The Karmae Garchen Trust sought and was granted preliminary approval by the relevant state government offices. The application was accompanied by a strong letter of support from the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. They obtained both an essentiality certificate and a no-objection certificate from the Town and Country Planning Department of the Himachal Pradesh government, indicating state government approval to proceed with the plans to purchase the land.
Fact: The INR 1 crore (approx. $215,000) seized in the car of an Indian hotelier belonged to the seller of the land, rather than the Trust.
Two men were arrested in a car with approximately 215,000 USD (Rs 1 crore). The two men were agents working for the land seller, who had been given a partial payment due for the land. These agents had accepted payment in Delhi and signed a receipt from Rabgay Chusong, the monk who handles the financial matters for the Karmapa Office of Administration. Currently, only Rabgay is in custody and will be in remand until the 5th, after which we will post bail.
The seller demanded payment in cash for the land, which is legal and commonly practiced for various other capital assets as well, in India. Since the Karmae Garchen Trust did not have such cash on hand, cash donations in Indian rupees were gathered from donations made during the Kagyu Monlam in Bodh Gaya, and delivered to Delhi by the Karmapa Office of Administration.