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Karmapa Said He Left a Message When He Escaped Tibet in 1999

Karmapa Rinpoche, the head of Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism who is often regarded by international media as the third-highest Tibetan lama, said he will return to Tibet and “share the happiness and misery” with Tibetans when the situation allows him to be beneficial to them.

After 17-plus years in exile, Karmapa said publicly for first time that he had left a written message behind when he escaped for India in late 1999.

“In it, I wrote I have made many failed efforts to be able to go to abroad. Now, having no other option, I am doing this way as a final solution. However, in the future if I could be beneficial to Tibet, the Land of Snow, I will return soon.’ That’s what I wrote,” he said Sunday, speaking in Tibet to about 4,000 Tibetans and devotees in Toronto. He had previously said that Chinese authorities turned down his requests to travel to India before his escape.

When the then-14-year-old Karmapa met with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala for the first time on Jan. 5, 2000, he reportedly told the Dalai Lama that he came to India because he could not serve the Tibetan people in Tibet under the circumstances.

Karmapa secretly left his monastery in Tibet on Dec. 28, 1999, after announcing that he was going to be in strict retreat in his monastery near Lhasa. When he suddenly arrived in Dharamsala on Jan. 5, 2000, it shocked the world and humiliated Beijing.

After a period of awkward silence, Chinese authorities said Karmapa had left a message, saying that he was going to India to obtain his sacred hat that belonged to his predecessor, the 16th Karmapa, who left it in Rumtek Monastery in India. But Karmapa dismissed it in 2001, according to The Guardian.

“Why would I want to bring the hat back from India? All that would accomplish would be to place the hat on Jiang Zemin’s head,” he reportedly said.

Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje is the 17th Karmapa, recognized by both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government in 1992. However, a Tibetan lama in India named Shamer Rinpoche recognized another Tibetan boy in 1994 named Tinley Thaye Dorje as the 17th Karmapa. Since then, there has been a dispute among the followers of Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

The followers of Shamer Rinpoche, who is also a high lama in Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, argue that Tinley Thaye Dorje, who has recently declared that he was no longer going to be a monk, is the 17th Karmapa.

Although Karmapa is the head of only Karma Kagyu lineage, one of the Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism, 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje has received great respect and hope from across Tibetan communities. Often described in international media as the third highest lama of Tibet, Karmapa also draws worldwide popularity.

During this trip, he was met by Prince Charles in London as he visited Britain for the first time. Upon his arrival in Canada, he was welcomed by some members of the Canadian parliament.