Tibetan Buddhists in shock at claims spiritual leader is a Chinese spy

The exiled Tibetan Buddhist community is in turmoil at the questioning of one of its most important religious leaders by Indian police after large sums of Chinese currency were found at his monastery, forcing him to deny claims he is an "agent of Beijing".

Police in northern India interviewed Ugyen Thinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa and Tibetan Buddhism's third most important figure, after approximately £480,000 of cash in two dozen denominations was found at his Gyuto monastery in Dharamsala.

Police have arrested a number of the Karmapa's aides and are currently investigating what they believe may be an illegal attempted land purchase.

The Karmapa told police the money was donated by supporters. "All our dealings across the world are honest and completely transparent – anything else would be contrary to the Buddhist principles that we live by," his office said.

But there are indications investigators are not satisfied with the answers given by the 25-year-old. "We are not happy with his replies and he is likely to be questioned again," said KG Kapoor, the officer heading the inquiry.

The incident has sent shockwaves through the Tibetan Buddhist community in exile. Even the Dalai Lama, its most important leader, has been drawn in. "There should be a thorough investigation into the cash dealings of the Karmapa as he is an important Lama," he said.

Many among the 200,000-strong community of exiled Tibetans in India and beyond are distraught. In Majnu-ka-Tila, a narrow maze of dusty alleyways that is home to thousands of Tibetan refugees in Delhi, three grey-haired women were openly weeping yesterday afternoon. "We don't believe he is a Chinese spy," sobbed one woman, Taushi, who fled from Tibet in 1959. "We have not been able to sleep since we heard this. Food has had no taste."

Controversy has followed the Karmapa since he escaped from Tibet in 2000 and crossed into India. While he was widely acknowledged as the successor to – and reincarnation of – the 16th Karmapa, not everyone supported his claim, and some backed another candidate. As he was recognised by China, his supporters have often had to defend him against whispers that he has links to the authorities in Beijing.

But the profile of the Karmapa, whose dramatic escape from Tibet, first to Nepal and then to India, took place when he was just 14, has steadily grown. While he is from the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism rather than the Gelug school of the Dalai Lama, many have suggested the Karmapa may be able to fill the political void within the Tibet autonomy movement that will be created upon the death of the 75-year-old Nobel prize winner.

Last summer, when the Dalai Lama celebrated his 75th birthday, the Karmapa, who owns an iPod and plays video games, sat next to him. In 2008 he visited the US, and last summer he was due to visit Europe, but was denied a visa by India.

Last Thursday's raid at Gyuto followed the arrest of two Indians a day earlier who were carrying a large sum of cash and who told police they had received the money from a monk in order to buy land in Himachal Pradesh, the state in which Dharamsala is located.

It may yet transpire that the monastery has nothing more than fallen foul of regulations in the state which prohibits outsiders from buying land without special permission. Within the Tibetan community there is criticism of speculation in the Indian media that the Karmapa had received money from China. Yeshi Phuntsokm, a member of the Tibetan parliament in exile, said: "They are creating a problem for such a special leader and for the people."

Last night, the office of the Karmapa issued a statement which said it was well known he was trying to build a permanent monastery that would serve as a residence. It said the project was subject to approval by the Indian government. "We categorically deny having any link whatsoever with any arm of the Chinese government," it added.

"The Karmapa has a deep affection for the people of this great country of India where he has been practising his faith for years."

Tibet's influential figures

Dalai Lama

He claims to be "a simple monk, no more, no less," but the Dalai Lama is a hugely influential figure, loathed by the Beijing government as a dangerous splittist and adored by the Tibetan people as a god-king. The Nobel Laureate was forced to flee Tibet on foot and on horseback in 1959 in a daring escape after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. There are fears that a power vacuum will arise upon his death. He has no obvious successor, but one of those often mooted is the Karmapa Lama.



Karmapa Lama

The Karmapa Lama, the third highest lama, escaped from Chinese control in Tibet to India in 1999 and is being coached for a wider role in the movement. His position has also been recognised by Beijing, which could make him an acceptable compromise candidate if there is a succession battle. He belongs to the "Black Hat" lineage, named after the crown of that colour that the Karmapa wears, and his influence is strong among young Tibetans and Buddhists around the world.



Panchen Lama

Gyaltsen Norbu is the Chinese Communist Party's choice for Panchen Lama, the second-in-command in Tibetan Buddhism. He has long been favoured by Beijing as a possible successor to the Dalai Lama. He is a delegate of China's top legislative advisory body, and has praised Chinese rule in Tibet. The original 11th Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, was annointed by the Dalai Lama. He was kidnapped by the Chinesegovernment in 1995, and has not been seen since.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

PHP Web Developer (HTML5, CSS3, Jenkins, Vagrant, MySQL)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: PHP Web Develo...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice