NEW DELHI, India, 4 April 2014
Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa or head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, has for the first time slammed Beijing’s totalitarian rule in Tibet and come out in open support of Dalai Lama’s middle-path approach, or ‘meaningful autonomy’ to resolve the Tibetan crisis. In an interview with ET’s Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury in New Delhi, the Karmapa who has lived in exile in India since 2000 when he was just 14, expressed hope that a change in political situation in China will soon make the communist country change its policy towards Tibet.
There has been a fresh round of self-immolations in Tibet in protest against China’s rule and in demand for more rights. Do you support this method of protest?
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.
Do you support the Dalai Lama’s call for meaningful autonomy for Tibet, or the ‘middle-way approach’? Do you think Beijing will heed the demand?
His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, is my spiritual and temporal leader and has been like a father figure for me in Dharamshala. I unequivocally support 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.
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.
You have been living in India for more than 13 years now. How do you feel in exile
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.
Could you please elaborate on the historical linkages between Tibet and India for our readers?
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 of the 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 the Tibetan script, which was derived from ancient Indian scripts.
What made you flee to India when you were just 14?
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.