The group led by Tai Situ Rinpoche in 1985 recognised Ogyen Trinley Dorje as the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa. After seeking the Dalai Lama’s approval at the age of 7 in 1992, Ogyen Trinley was enthroned at Tsurphu in Tibet — the traditional seat of Karmapas. Ogyen Trinley Dorje studied under the guidance of Buddhist masters, and alongside he mastered mandarin. Ogyen, alias Apo Gaga, 14, struck the world media when he dramatically escaped from Tsurphu and reached Dharamsala on January 5, 2000.
Since then he has been living in the Gyuto Tantric Monastery in Dharamsala under the watchful eyes of Indian intelligence. The monk was rarely allowed to move and it was in 2008 that Ogyen, for the first time, visited Woodstock in America — the influential and rich Dharma centre set up by the 16th Karamapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.
Ogyen, one of the claimants for the Karmapa title, has been regularly conducting religious ceremonies in the Gyuto monastery. His enthronement may have been subject to controversy but those associated with him revere him as the reborn 16th Karmapa. “I see him in continuation of the 16th Karmapa,” says Gompo Tsering, his close aide. Tsering is one of the staff members at Gyotu who earlier served 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. “His (Ogyen’s) activities are very similar to the 16th Karmapa,” says Gompo.
Tibetans in exile see Ogyen playing a greater role after the Dalai Lama’s death. “There is a lot expected from Ogyen, who has a huge following amongst Buddhists in Tibet, China and now the world over. The Dalai Lama has evolved a democratic system that will keep creating leadership and certainly the Karmapa will have a more influential role for Tibetans once the Dalai Lama passes away,” says poet and Tibetan freedom activist, Tenzin Tsundue.
Right from his enthronement to his escape to India, controversies have followed Ogyen like a shadow. He drew ire from Buddhist devotees when he entered the Mahabodhi temple in Gaya with shoes on. Later he expressed his regrets. But again last year he was in the news for the wrong reasons. On January 26, 2011, the Una district police recovered one crore rupees from a vehicle during a routine check. The two occupants told the police that the money was part of a land deal struck with the Ogyen Trinley-headed Karmae Garchen Trust. The police raided the monastery in Gyuto. They recovered currency denominations from 25 countries including China, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Vietnam, Thailand and Germany. The police also found 6 lakh Chinese Yuan at the office of the Karmae Garchen trust.
Ogyen was named in the charge sheet filed by the police even as his supporters and the Tibetan government in exile lobbied hectically to remove his name. While nine others were arrested and later released on bail, the state government has now pleaded to remove Ogyen’s name. “The state had sought opinion from the law department.
The Una deputy commissioner requested the court, since the case was weak, that in public interest the case be dropped,” says principal secretary, Home, PC Dhiman.
The state government’s move to drop the charges have given reprieve even to the Dharamsala-based Tibetan government in Exile. The Karmapa’s purpose was to come to India to join the Dalai Lama and pursue his lineage in a free country. He has millions of followers across the world and the cash controversy brought disrepute to his name, even though he was not directly involved. “The damage has been done. But We are happy that his name is being dropped from the charge sheet,” says Pema Chinjjor, Cultural and Religion affairs minister.
Timeline of the cash controversy
January 28, 2011: The Police recover currencies of 26 countries, including Chinese yuan and around R53 lakhs, in a raid on the Gyuto Tantric University and Monastery located near Dharamsala. This followed from the seizure of R1 crore from a jeep by Una police on the inter-state border. Investigation reveals that the money was meant for buying land for the Karmapa Trust.
December 7, 2011: A charge sheet is filed before Una chief judicial magistrate who summons Oygen and 9 others to be personally present on March 6. Ogyen fails to appear.
February 21, 2012: National Security Advisor Shivasankar Menon chairs a meet in PMO on Oygen and takes a decision in line with the Cabinet Committee on Security’s decision to engage Oygen. Oygen, on the same day, moves the Una deputy commissioner to drop his name from the chargesheet saying he is only head of the Gyuto Monastery and has nothing to do with financial transactions.
March 14, 2012: The Intelligence Bureau sends a report on Oygen, saying he is leveraging influence in India, using huge remittances from China.
April 24, 2012: Centre tells Himachal Pradesh government to drop Ogyen’s name from the chargesheet which in turn directs Una district Magistrate to move the matter in court through the public prosecutor for deleting Oygen’s name.