09 February 2011

Ogyen Trinley Dorje, 17th Karmapa

The front page of yesterday's New York Times featured this article entitled "Tibetan Lama Faces Scrutiny and Suspicion in India."   The essence of the problem is that Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa, is accused of being a spy for the Chinese after police found boxes of cash from more than 20 countries, including China, in his monastery.  One of the Karmapa's lawyers said that the money was from pilgrims who had come from all around the world to see the Karmapa. 
Within Tibetan Buddhism, the Karmapa ranks third after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, with each man believed to be reincarnated through the centuries.  After the death of the previous Karmapa, a bitter feud broke out between the high lamas charged with identifying his successor: at least two other people now claim to be the Karmapa, though a majority of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, recognize Ogyen Trinley Dorje.

It is an interesting pattern of succession in Tibetan Buddhism, and one that is quite different from succession in the leadership of my church.  Since Tibetans believe that their leaders are reincarnated, they must find the reincarnation (the 14th Dalai Lama was a young boy when they found him) and begin his training.  This means that the highest leadership need not come from any particular walk of life or geographic location. 

The fact that this article was on the front page of the Times is ominous.  It seems that the tension present in north India, Pakistan, Tibet and China is pushing the breaking point, and I worry what the result of a rupture would be.  The issue is the stuff of Tibetan political blogging and general indignation.
This country that we are so grateful to is alleging the Karmapa is a spy for China, and we can't understand that at all.
Many Tibetans are demonstrating digital literacy in these events.  Indeed, the defense of their political and religious leaders is often a part of Tibetan displays of digital literacy.  Perhaps the Tibetan political goals are the ultimate reason that they encourage and exhibit digital literacy to the extent that they do, and perhaps I should include a few general survey questions to gauge involvement in politics (e.g. The situation in Tibet is important to me, I follow the news on a regular basis, to be answered yes or no).  This way, without evoking an emotional reaction, I can see if higher digital literacy correlates with increased interest in politics. 

Photo credit Prince Roy

No comments:

Post a Comment