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January 8, 2000
Karmapa Lama escapes from China, enters India
Amberish K Diwanji in New Delhi
Tibet's third highest spiritual authority, the Karmapa Lama, has reportedly escaped from China to India. A 14-year-old boy, the Karmapa Lama along with a few attendants, fled from Tibet and crossed the Himalayas, avoiding the Chinese military patrols that man the long border between India and Tibet.
According to information available on the Internet, Urgyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th living Buddha, arrived at Dharamsala on January 5 at 1030 hours, where the Tibetan government-in-exile is based. The website www.maiu.net/~tsurphu/karmapa said that the escape took seven days.
The Dalai Lama, the highest spiritual and temporal authority of the Tibetans, resides at Dharamsala. The Tibetan government-in-exile too is headquartered at Dharamsala.
Agency reports state that the Tibetan government-in-exile has confirmed the presence of the Karmapa Lama at Dharamsala, but refused to provide more details.
The Karmapa Lama is the head of the Kagyu sect of Tibetans. The Karmapa Lama was housed in the Tsurphu monastry, located about 50 kilometres north of Lhasa. The present Karmapa Lama, a child of nomads in east Tibet, was enthroned on September 27, 1992, and lived at the monastry ever since.
The government of India has refused to comment on the arrival of Karmapa Lama, in India. A ministry of external affairs official said that the government had still to be informed about the development. And with the coming weekend, the government is unlikely to make a statement till Monday.
The Chinese news agency Xinhua has quoted a Chinese government official as saying that the Karmapa Lama had gone abroad, but does not mention his fleeing to India. The Chinese official further said that the Karmapa Lama had left a note saying that he was going abroad to "purchase musical instruments and hats used by previous incarnations of the Karmapa Lama and that he had no intention of betraying the state, nation and the monastry."
Nevertheless, the escape will be an embarrassment to the Chinese government and a boost to the Tibetan government-in-exile, especially since both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities had accepted the present Karmapa Lama.
Some Buddhists, however, have not accepted the present Karmapa Lama and have anointed another Karmapa Lama, now based in Sikkim.
Regarding the Panchen Lama, the second highest leader of the Tibetans, the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities are locked in a bitter fight. Both sides have chosen their own Panchen Lama. The Panchen Lama selected by the Tibetan government-in-exile is reportedly in prison in China and has not been seen for the past many years.
Details of Karmapa Lama's escape are not yet known, but crossing the Himalayas from Tibet to India is a regular feature for many Tibetans who often come to Dharamsala to pay their respects to the Dalai Lama and study Buddhism. However, such crossings at the height of winter is quite rare and is extremely difficult even for the rugged Tibetans. Tibetans who have crossed over to India say they used the higher mountain paths, which the Chinese border guards rarely man to avoid the merciless cold.
The Karmapa Lama's escape has echoes of the famous escape by the Dalai Lama way back in March 1959. The Dalai Lama too escaped on foot, accompanied by a few attendants, and was welcomed by then Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The Dalai Lama set up a government-in-exile at Dharamsala. The 16th Karmapa Lama also fled Tibet along with the Dalai Lama, and later established his headquarters at the Rumtek monastry in Sikkim.
China occupied Tibet in 1951, an occupation that has been recognised by most nations, including India and the United States. Yet, there is a strong resistance movement against the Chinese occupation, and over the years, the Dalai Lama's stature as a spiritual leader and the head of the Tibetans has only grown.
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