NEW DELHI: While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping were on a swing along the Sabarmati and their respective Armies continued a face-off in Ladakh, the leader of a Buddhist sect on Wednesday sought help from the Indian government to stop his monasteries in Tibet from being taken over by a richer, rival sect, allegedly backed by the Beijing.
Breaking his silence, Jigme Pema Wanghcen, head of 1,000-year-old Drukpa lineage school, also known as Gyalwang Drukpa, told Express about the “conversion” by the Karma Kagyu school. However, the latter strenuously rejected the claims, saying there was no such campaign or orders from their leader, the 17th Karmapa. Drukpa was here on Wednesday to address a seminar on Buddhist tourism.
Drukpa, who has 25 million followers world-wide, told Express on the “disturbing trend” of his monasteries in Tibet, ringing Mount Kailash, being taken over by powerful Karma Kagyu sect. “This has been going on for the past 15-16 years. But, we didn’t speak as we didn’t want to escalate the situation… We were hoping that they would realise what they are doing is bad. But, nothing happened, so we have to speak out now,” Gyalwang Drukpa said.
His office had issued a statement earlier this month, but this is the first time that Drukpa is publicly talking about the issue. He claimed that 12 of his monasteries have been converted “forcibly”, starting with the Dri-ra Phug monastery 15 years ago. This means that slowly through donations from Karma Kagyu followers, monasteries were taken over, the drukpa emblem obliterated and the sect leaders’ photos removed. His followers, numbering around two million across the Himalayas, were reportedly told to ‘convert’ to the Karma Kagyu school or face expulsion.
“There is a strong rumour that all of this is being done with funds from the Chinese government,” he said.
However, he was cautious in imputing any motive to the Chinese government. “We are still trying to find out from the ground on what could be the motive behind this,” he said. China, of course, maintains overall control over monasteries and monks in Tibet with many of them being the nursery for leading the struggle for autonomy in the region.
He emphasised that this was a matter which India had to take cognisance as for centuries, his followers had been the guardians of the Himalayan frontier.
“You know how sensitive the border is… especially now,” said Gyalwang Drukpa, an Indian citizen.
In May, Department of Posts released a special commemorative stamp to mark 1,000 years of Drukpa lineage. The Buddhist spiritual leaderis planning to raise the issue with the Indian authorities.
“India has a big role to play,” he said. When asked as to why the the issue was raised during the Chinese President’s visit, he said, “it is a pure coincidence”.
The Karma Kagyu sect is led by 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who escaped to India from Tibet at the age of 15 in 2000. His spokesperson Kunzang Chungyalpa said that they were not aware of the allegations made by the Drukpa sect. “We have no such knowledge, so we want to verify them ourselves and ask for reports from there. But, His Holiness has not given any such orders for conversion. He has a non-sectarian approach,” Chungalypa said.