Disunity threatens the Dalai Lama’s timeless authority


 The decision of the excellent Buddhist news source Buddhist Channel to carry Michael Binyon’s Time’s online article is to the credit of the Buddhist Channel.  Additionally Binyon and Times Online are equally to be commended for an uncommon piece of religious journalism.

Of all the fields of reportage, politics, economic, even sports, arts, and leisure, the area most commonly characterized by ignorance on the part of even section editors, is religion.  There are a number of important exceptions, and this piece on serious and important developments in Tibetan Buddhism is one of them.  Binyon does an exceptional job of educating the reader through abstruse elements of contention together with revealing what is at stake with possible outcomes.  He does so both by laying bare the contemporary elements but helping us grasp the theological, historical, and sectarian elements that participate in the contemporary scenario.

London, UK — The news that a Tibetan monk,
chosen as a child by the Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of a spiritual
leader, has thrown off his robes and renounced his vows has caused
consternation among some Buddhists.

Tenzin Osel Rinpoche has changed his name, denounced the Buddhist order
that revered him as a man of spiritual authority and is now studying
film in Madrid. He has renounced the strict life of meditation and
prayer that traditionally isolates lamas away from the hurly-burly of
modern life and reportedly now attends discos. To some, this will be a
shock. But it underlines the extraordinary hold that one country,
Tibet, has on Buddhists throughout the world and the many strands of
faith and monastic traditions that are found there.

We of IRFWP believe it is important for those in Inter Religious dialogue to be conversant with these matters, and so have chosen to excerpt a bit of Binyon’s original article with the strong urging that we follow links to read the original article in its entirety.

At the age of 14, Ogyen Trinley Dorje slipped out of a window of
Tolung Tsurphu monastery in central Tibet and fled across the mountains
to Nepal and then India. He arrived at the exile headquarters of the
Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, northern India, in January 2000.
Conveniently, he also appears to have Beijing’s backing. Certainly, he
has spoken of his admiration for Chinese culture and a willingness to
co-operate with China. Speaking Mandarin fluently and an avid watcher
of Chinese films, he told the BBC earlier this year that he hoped the
political issue of Tibet could be resolved peacefully. He has backed
the Dalai Lama’s policy of seeking greater autonomy rather than

The Chinese have long refused to recognise the man seen as the
second most senior figure in Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama,
identified as a boy by the Dalai Lama himself. Instead, they detained
him and appointed their own candidate.

But there is a major difficulty to any smooth transfer of authority
to Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje: the Tibetan community is deeply split
over his claim to the Karmapa throne. A large number are loyal instead
to the handsome and charismatic Trinley Thaye Dorje, a 26-year-old who
was recognised as the 17th Karmapa after a secret visit to Lhasa by a
recognised spiritual leader when the boy appeared to him in a dream in
1988. He left Tibet in 1994.


Frank Kaufmann
June 9, 2009

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