Rogues in Robes

by Tomek Lehnert 


The Rivals

TWO CENTURIES AGO, during the regency period between the 7th and 8th Dalai Lama, the powerful caretaker of the Dalai throne issued an order banishing the 10th Shamarpa from Tibet. Shamar tulku was publicly accused of fomenting a Nepali invasion of his country. All the titles bestowed upon him by the Manchu Emperors were revoked, and his Kagyu monasteries were raided by the government army and forcibly converted to the Gelugpa tradition. Shamarpa's ceremonial Red Crown was confiscated and supposedly buried under a building in Lhasa. The 13th Dalai Lama was rumored to have offered it to Nicolas II, the last Tsar of Russia, more than a century later. However, the crown has not been seen or recovered by its owner to this day. Finally, an edict strictly forbidding Shamarpa's future reincarnation-a rather bizarre concept to a Western mind-was officially invoked. The foremost disciple of the successive Gyalwa Karmapas and second in rank in the spiritual hierarchy of the Kagyu lineage, Shamarpa had been reincarnating at the side of his teacher for centuries. When the 5th Dalai Lama and the Gelug hierarchy took power in 1638, Shamar tulku, together with Karmapa, became the object of official curbs and hardships. A hundred years later, due to the notable activity of the 8th Tai Situ, another of Karmapa's close disciples, the Kagyu lineage experienced a revival in distant Kham. Far away from the inquisitive gaze of government ministers and under the protection of a local king, Palpung, Tai Situ's monastery, in the east of the country, flourished. A master of logic and brother to the then Panchen Lama-second within the Gelugpa pecking order-Shamar tulku was determined to replicate in central Tibet the success Tai Situ had accomplished in Kham. However, operating from Yangbar Chen, his main seat only a day's journey from Lhasa, Shamarpa had little freedom to maneuver. To achieve his ambitious goal, he teamed up with his brother. The Panchen, who himself bore a resentment against the Gelug politicians for not being allowed on Tibet's throne, was a perfect ally. Ever since the Chinese emperor had bestowed a rotating monarchy upon the 5th Dalai Lama and his kingdom, the Panchen's succeeding incarnations had been waiting in vain to assume the reins of command in Tibet. The powers-that-be in the capital observed the new allegiance with due apprehension. The second-in-charge of the Kagyus clubbing together with a suitor to the throne was a direct challenge to the Gelug rule. And so, when the two brothers made contact with the Raj in India and hosted a British delegation in Tashi Lhunpo, Panchen's main monastery south of Lhasa, the government decided to act. The Panchen Lama was dispatched with a mission to Peking where he mysteriously passed away. Deprived of his brother's protection, Shamarpa fled to Nepal and was immediately accused of plotting against his country. And even though he mediated in the dispute between Nepal and Tibet, his days as a prominent tulku were numbered. When fighting between the two Himalayan nations broke out, Tenpai Goenpo, an influential Gelugpa minister, saw an ideal opportunity to permanently rid the government and the "yellow-hat" school of a dangerous rival. Shamar tulku was publicly blamed for Tibet's painful setback in the military confrontation and proclaimed a traitor. Soon after he was officially prohibited to incarnate. His monasteries were taken over, and his closest assistants were tortured and killed. A victim of political intrigue, Shamarpa kept reincarnating secretly for the next two hundred years under the protective watch of Karmapa. The mantras spoken against his rebirth were having little effect. However, the proclamation banning him from the public eye was strictly enforced. The central government, guarding its political supremacy, made sure that no Shamar tulkus were formally recognized. "Black was becoming white; the real was becoming unreal. At that time it was not practicable to have any Shamarpas recognized or enthroned. Everything was kept secret. The incarnations appeared but were not revealed." Such was the 16th Karmapa's comment on those difficult days.


From the turn of the 20th century, dark clouds started to gather on the Tibetan horizon. After the decadent Manchu dynasty was swept from power in the Middle Kingdom in 1911 and an experiment with a republic gave way to a humiliating defeat dealt by the Japanese, a much more ruthless and repressive regime grabbed power in China in 1949. The victorious Communists, new masters in Peking, had one thing in common with their predecessors: a deep conviction that Tibet was an integral part of China. They had, though, fewer scruples and more formidable and fanatical manpower to accomplish Peking's centuries-old dream: the forced union of Tibet with the motherland. The dynamic personality of Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama, managed to uphold, against all odds, Tibet's sovereignty. Insistent on keeping China at bay, the 13th Dalai extended a cooperating hand to the Kagyus and the other lineages, and, after centuries of exclusion, the 15th Karmapa was welcomed in Lhasa as a partner and a friend. For the sake of national unity, the harsh laws targeting the rival schools were relaxed. Shamar tulku also benefited from the new political climate. Even though the infamous ban against his rebirth was not lifted, he was being tolerated at Karmapa's side during the 13th Dalai Lama's tenure. However, not everyone approved of such leniency. The ultraconservative factions representing Lhasa's three gigantic Gelugpa monasteries saw little wisdom in treating the other lineages as equals and consistently undermined the Dalai Lama's efforts to secure a common Tibetan front. During the regency that followed Thubten Gyatso's death in 1933 and before Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, came of age, the country lacked such a strong hand to grapple with the forces pulling Tibet into the contemporary world. Political reform was not carried out. The country, weak and militarily inept, did not attempt to found even a remotely modern fighting force nor did it seek international guarantees. The blind faith in their dharmapalas, those Buddhist transformations of the old gods of India and Tibet who, when ritually invoked, would stand for the holy kingdom in times of danger, was deemed sufficient protection against an aggressor. The Communist Chinese build-up in 1950 on their eastern frontier remained then of little concern to the central Tibetan government, and signs of the approaching tragedy were largely ignored. Instead, the sectarian rule in Lhasa was once again occupied with imposing its hegemony over the other three Buddhist schools. On top of all the adversity, the Himalayan theocracy was virtually unknown outside the Sino-Mongol-Indian triangle. The free world powers had little stomach for confronting China over some remote, forsaken region. Such lack of resolve played into Beijing's hands and made Tibet a much easier prey. But even if by some last minute effort the Tibetan government had shaken off its petty rivalries and amassed a national resistance, this would have certainly been no match for the Peoples Liberation Army. The sheer size of the aggressor would have been simply overpowering. In typical Tibetan fashion, though, a civic awakening did not materialize, and, in its last years, rather than witnessing a call to arms, the Land of Snows saw only endless feuds and eventually treason. When, in October 1950, the Communist Chinese attacked eastern Tibet and subsequently infiltrated and took over the rest of the kingdom, they caught the Tibetans off guard. Unable or unwilling to put up a common front against the aggressor, the Tibetan government remained conspicuously passive. The only ones ready to fight-the Khampas-needed weapons, which the powers-that-be would not provide. Instead, the armories in Chamdo, in the east of the country, were blown up on orders from the government official and traitor, Ngaboe. Offering no opposition to the rapidly advancing Chinese troops, Ngaboe made sure that the resistance fighters in the east were left without arms. And so, abandoned by Lhasa, deprived of military leadership, and lacking a capable fighting force, Kham fell to the Communists in a matter of weeks. Following their disastrous performance in 1950, in May 1951, the Tibetan government, under the authority of the sixteen-year-old 14th Dalai Lama, signed the controversial Seventeen Point Agreement in which Tibet formally accepted Chinese sovereignty, albeit with local autonomy. When, in 1959, the people in Lhasa finally arose against the Chinese Army, they could no longer reverse by fighting what the politicians gave away on paper. The desperate revolt was brutally crushed, and Tibet vanished from the political map of the world; the Communists were free to initiate their genocide of the Tibetan nation. The young Dalai Lama and his close circle of attendants fled at the last moment, the Chinese troops occupying the capital. His departure set off a mass exodus of lamas and monks across the Himalayas. The 16th Karmapa, with more foresight, had prepared his people for the exit years before and arrived, as planned, with his four closest disciples and other incarnates in the eastern Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Once in India, representatives of the four schools suddenly found themselves on equal footing. The power of the Gelugpas and the dominance of the central Tibetan government had vanished overnight. Past feuds paled in comparison with the magnitude of the present catastrophe. The fortunate lamas who had managed to survive the ordeal of the Chinese invasion and the anguish of crossing the Himalayas on foot in winter were now confronted with the enormous task of rebuilding in exile what they could salvage from destruction in Tibet. Influenced by his friendship with the 16th Karmapa and realizing that cooperation was now essential, the 14th Dalai Lama agreed to overrule the two-hundred-year-old ban. After two centuries of absence, Shamar tulku was again officially recognized, this time on Indian soil. For a moment it looked like the extent of the disaster and the status of destitute refugees in an impoverished land would force the Tibetans to come to reason and work together. As it later turned out, the total ruin of their country wasn't affliction enough to bend the collective tendency of the nation to quarrel. No sooner had the dust from the disaster settled, than the feuds from the old days revived with much of their former fervor. The old Lhasa regime, disguised behind a new name, "Tibetan Government in Exile," and operating from its new seat in Dharamsala in the western Himalayas, inherited the old agenda of hostility towards the other Buddhist schools. The members of this illustrious body took up, with the same misguided enthusiasm, the prejudices, rivalries, and fights of the past. The Khampas, in particular, were considered a serious threat to the newest ambition of the Gelugpa administration: that of representing and controlling all Tibetans in exile. Gelo Thyndrub, the Dalai Lama's audacious brother, decided that the best answer to Mao's invasion and destruction of their country was to adapt Tibet and Tibetan policy in exile to the new Communist realities. He boldly proposed to abolish the old Buddhist schools, to do away with the rich, religious show, and thus bring the high lamas to the ground. "No more thrones, rituals, or gold brocades," he was rumored to have uttered. His words struck fear into the lamas' hearts. As more details of the elaborate plan began to emerge, it became clear that a coup against three of the schools was being hatched. The new religious body that would replace the traditional lineages was to be controlled by the Gelugpa hierarchy. The worried lamas rushed to Karmapa for help.


Having been invited by the ruling family to settle in the kingdom of Sikkim in the eastern Himalayas, Karmapa founded, in 1961, Rumtek monastery. The place soon became a major center of study and assumed a position equal to Dharamsala. His two closest disciples-the reinstated Kunzig Shamar and the Tai Situ-together with the freshly integrated Jamgon Kongtrul and the Goshir Gyaltsab, were trained, under his direct guidance, in the newly built institute and cloister. Even though Karmapa shunned with determination Tibetan politics, he was a voice to be reckoned with in the affairs of the region. Highly honored by various Himalayan nations, his word was law when it came to the Khampas. The warlike eastern Tibetans and a number of high lamas, coming under pressure from the exiled government, gathered at his side for support and assistance. Dharam-sala's latest initiative to merge all schools into one body was a threat to the schools' self-rule. If carried out, such a move would signify the end of many unique Buddhist practices that each lineage had preserved as their speciality for centuries. Not in the least disposed to be swallowed up by big brother, thirteen large Tibetan settlements-mainly refugees from Kham-formed a political alliance and chose Karmapa as their spiritual leader. A powerful and opposite pole to the Dalai Lama and the official line of Dharamsala came into existence. The new coalition fought successfully against the idea of doing away with Tibet's religious diversity, and, in the end, the misguided plan had to be abandoned. But the government could not forgive Karmapa his uncompromising stance in the dispute and his defiance of the Dalai Lama's authority, and the Kagyus became the targets of unsavory attacks. When in 1976, Gungthang Tsultrim, the political head of the alliance, was murdered and the assassin confessed to operate on orders from the Tibetan cabinet, Rumtek and Dharamsala drifted farther apart. The Dalai Lama's and Karmapa's initial friendship was buried under the painful realities. In light of Karmapa's independent position, ministers in the Tibetan administration came to regret the Dalai Lama's change of policy concerning Shamarpa. Although the lifting of the ban was, to a large extent, an empty gesture-neither the Dalai Lama nor his government held jurisdiction in India, and Shamarpa didn't require the Tibetan leader's permission to go public on foreign soil-the decision brought an outcry. For centuries, both Karmapa and Shamar tulku had remained unpopular figures within the government circles, and Lhasa's action from two hundred years ago had been hailed a victory against the mutinous Kagyus. Today, Karmapa's high profile and his main student's sudden re-emergence were declared a threat to the Gelugpa's political aims. The head of the Kagyus and his senior disciple turned into Dharamsala's bitter enemies. The Dalai Lama, as nominal ruler of all Tibetans, was expected to keep above such scheming and unhealthy reasoning. Surrounded by players with a serious bent for conspiracy and trying to accommodate all parties, he had only the reputation of his name left at his disposal. To halt the advances of the less rational members of his cabinet, he would periodically declare himself to be the last incarnation in the line of the Dalai Lamas. The strategy would work for a time, until his politicians reassumed their confrontational tactics and continued conspiring against the other three Buddhist schools.


However, the clashes among Tibetans were not confined to the Gelugpas' harassment of their rivals. Opposition to Shamarpa's reinstatement emerged, unexpectedly, from far more immediate quarters than the government houses in Dharamsala. Every tulku in Tibet was surrounded and groomed from cradle to grave by a retinue of professional advisers and servants. Life after life their families held the same functions around their lama. This group grew in prominence and size until it became a de facto court, tightly besetting their master. Personal ambitions here meant a great deal more than one would expect from people in the service of a spiritual teacher. The incarnations of Karmapa and his close disciples each maintained such an entourage whose members jealously guarded their place in the hierarchy of the lineage. When Shamarpa and his household were banned from the public scene, the groups surrounding other eminent Kagyu lamas moved, together with their Rin-poches, one notch higher in the pecking order. Shamarpa's sudden return brought an end to that cozy state of affairs. As he reclaimed his place as senior student to Karmapa, the retinue of Situ Rinpoche was forced one place down in the power system. Even more displeased were the followers of Gyaltsab Rin-poche. They shared several buildings with Karmapa's administration in Tsurphu, His Holiness' main seat in Tibet, and had been filing lawsuits for centuries to contest the property. Now, due to Shamar-pa's reappearance and after the 16th Karmapa inserted Jamgon Kongtrul as the fourth in the lineage, they had to live with the fifth position. Such events were dynamite in traditional Asian societies. After two hundred years of enjoying high status, the protective families that surrounded Tai Situ and Goshir Gyaltsab were unwilling to accept this latest sad twist in their fortunes. Shamarpa stood in their way, and so the government in Dharamsala gained an unforeseen ally in challenging the senior Kagyu lineage holder. It was generally assumed, though not always proven, that the Rinpoches themselves were above these Machiavellian calculations. While Karmapa was alive, he remained the undisputed leader of the Kagyu lineage. He personally took over the education of many of the Kagyu high incarnates and envisioned Rumtek as a center of learning, meditation, and ritual-the best shield against the disappearance of the teachings. From an early age on, his four close disciples grew under Karmapa's supervision, receiving instructions and empowerment into the treasures of the Kagyu transmission. The common upbringing was to strengthen the links between the young tulkus as well as to forge a united leadership of the lineage for the inevitable time when Karmapa would pass away. Were there, at this early stage, any signs of the coming rupture between the Shamar and Situ Rinpoches? Did one bear a secret grudge against the other already during the early days in Rumtek? In truth, even though growing together under Karmapa's watch, they did not associate with each other. Once the eminent party of refugees had established itself on Sikkimese soil, the young Tai Situ-a powerful figure in eastern Tibet in his previous life-was immediately besieged by his now diminished administration. The poor but still avid attendants, afraid their adolescent master might fall for the glitter of the modern world, had offered him every kind of material comfort but kept him under lock and key in his quarters. From a young age, the juvenile tulku ate alone, played alone, and sat down-apparently with little enthusiasm-to his books alone. On top of this, the fact that Shamarpa and Situpa claimed origin from opposite backgrounds didn't help to bridge the differences either. The former enjoyed the luster of aristocratic descent with links to Karmapa's family. The latter, proud and imperious in his last incarnation, now bore the stigma of the son of a blacksmith-a profession close to that of mole hunter or butcher in the old Tibet. If his fine ancestry had given Sharmapa reasons for celebration, his present circumstances put him at a disadvantage to his brethren. While the three tulkus were reborn, as it were, into their old retinues of advisers and servants, Shamarpa, during his two hundred years of official banishment, all but lost his loyal circle of assistants. The situation gave him a good deal of freedom and was not exceptionally worrisome as long as Karmapa was there to fend off any offensive against his principal student. Once alone, should a conflict arise-his position of senior disciple notwithstanding-Shamarpa was undoubtedly more vulnerable to political attack than his three peers. The members of Situpa's close circle had already begun to weave their own designs in the new haven. They banded together with one Gyaton tulku-a lama sent to Sikkim years before by Karmapa who now opposed His Holiness' presence in the enclave-and tried, however unsuccessfully, to create their own power base in the capital Gangtok.


When in September of 1970 the young Danes, Hannah and Ole, made their way to the then off limits Rumtek monastery, they found an excellent condition for spiritual growth. Indian bureaucrats exceeded themselves in making the entry into Sikkim difficult and the stay in the region brief, but the couple's skills in duping them proved worthwhile. On the sunny Himalayan slopes that faced Tibet and Bhutan, the four young tulkus and other lamas merged their minds with Karmapa's enlightened essence, renewing the bonds to their teacher that ran many lives into the past. Under Karmapa's protective field, the place flourished, and the occasional rumors about Damcho Yongdu, the old general secretary's despotic temper and his iron-fist-rule, were not able to dispel the genuine atmosphere of harmony and growth. Before passing away in the autumn of 1981, Karmapa expressed a strong wish that three vital projects be completed: the Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies in Rumtek, the Dharma Chakra Center in New Delhi, and the printing of 500 sets of the Tengyur, an extensive collection of commentaries to the Buddha's teachings. The first of these projects came under the supervision of Jamgon Rinpoche, while the undertaking in Delhi, which later became known as Karmapa International Buddhist Institute, became the domain of Shamar Rinpoche. The printing of the Tengyur, a tedious and meticulously long process, was also to be finalized in Delhi. Hence, some of the young Rinpoches were soon to come from under Karmapa's wings and test their strength in the big world. Tai Situ had already ventured out of the monastery in 1976, before the completion of his training. However, his shift to the western Himalayas had apparently been premature and against his lama's wishes. Time and again, Karmapa confided privately to Hannah and Ole that Situ Rinpoche should return to Sikkim to finish his instructions on Mahamudra or the Great Seal-the ultimate view on the nature of reality. But to no avail-Karmapa's appeals fell on deaf ears, and Situpa remained in voluntary exile from the main seat for a lot longer than was beneficial. When he finally came round, the time and conditions for the fulfillment of his training were over. In one of the notes to his lama, Situ Rinpoche wondered why Karmapa refused to answer his many previous letters. It seemed that after years of pleading with his heart son to come back, in the end, His Holiness decided against having him at his quarters. And so, except for a stay during Karmapa's cremation ceremony and a few brief visits thereafter, Tai Situ remained consistently away from Rumtek until 1992. When he appeared in May of that year, he had a good deal more on his mind than just the desire to perform his religious duties.


The first signs of a conflict brewing within the lineage appeared directly after Karmapa passed away in 1981. A year and a half earlier, on solstice day in Colorado, he had confided the time of his death to Hannah and Ole. Following his wishes, the Danish couple travelled to Sikkim with a hundred of their friends and arrived in Rumtek shortly before Karmapa died in America. Forty-five days later, on the December 20, 1981, the official cremation ceremony brought several thousand of Karmapa's followers to his headquarters. During this significant event, while His Holiness' body-which had shrunk to the size of a baby-was consumed by the shooting flames, suddenly a "blue-black ball" rolled out of an opening in the pyre. It came to rest on the northern side of the cremation place, towards Tibet, where Lopon Chechoo-Karmapa's confidant-and two other lamas were standing. The unusual phenomenon created a good deal of excitement and speculation. Nobody knew exactly what to make of the mysterious object, and the puzzled lamas ran for advice to Kalu Rinpoche, the oldest and by assumption the wisest in the gathering. After carefully examining the intricate "ball," the senior Kalu nodded in knowledgeable approval but remained as perplexed as the rest of the illustrious assembly. Everybody exchanged bewildered glances and helplessly waited for some answer. By now people thought the object resembled a human organ, so Lopon Chechoo had it placed high on the side of the Stupa. At that moment, Situ Rinpoche emerged from the adjacent room with offerings to be burnt in the fire. He noticed the commotion but obviously had no clue as to what was happening. Seeing the baffled faces around him and the round lump high on a steel plate, he took the plate in his hands and, amid much pomp and circumstance, disappeared with his new possession into the main shrine room. Later that night, operating on a less ceremonial note, he quietly transferred the object to his private quarters where he kept it closeted away. Three days later, a big Kagyu conference took place in Rumtek. As senior lamas of the lineage sat next to each other in the hall of the institute, Situ Rinpoche rose from his chair and addressed the distinguished gathering of traditional Tibetan Rinpoches in English. He first disclosed that what he had secured in his room was, in actual fact, Karmapa's heart. "The heart flew from the north door of the cremation pyre and landed in my palm," he proudly confessed, exposing, for everyone to admire, his right palm. "It now belongs to me," he concluded. He then announced he would build a two-to-three-foot stupa of solid gold in Sherab Ling, his monastery in the western Himalayas, to house the precious relic. The lamas looked impassively at Situpa talking to them in English, unable to make out a single word of his speech. The few Westerners present gaped at the speaker in astonishment. With satisfaction, Tai Situ scanned the silent assembly and sat back in his seat, not showing the slightest inclination to render his historic message into Tibetan. Why he chose to enlighten the Rinpoches with so momentous a communication in a language they did not understand, was a mystery. "Rinpoche, you should speak in Tibetan," Shamarpa's voice resounded in the packed hall. Not informed about the meeting, Shamar tulku had arrived halfway through his peer's sermon, just in time to hear how the heart had sailed from the pyre into Situpa's palm. He must have at once realized that Tai Situ was planning to carry away the precious relic to Sherab Ling and nobody was going to stop him. The elderly lamas, having been offered an explanation in a foreign tongue, were kept nicely in the dark. With no time to lose, Shamarpa kindly invited his peer to repeat in Tibetan what he had stated only a moment before in English. Visibly ill at ease, Tai Situ rose for the second time. "Shamar Rinpoche has rightly reminded me that I forgot the Tibetan," he acknowledged and recounted the story in his native dialect. Enter Damcho Yongdu, the combative, Rumtek's old general secretary. Situpa's sudden rise to custodian of Karmapa's heart was as much news to him as it clearly was to the rest of the assemblage. Less than impressed by the biased version of events from the cremation ceremony, and in no mood to let the unusual relic slip out of Rumtek, Damcho Yongdu boldly declared that the heart had not flown into anybody's palm, definitely not into Situpa's. He then rallied his forces to challenge Sherab Ling's bid. Speaking on behalf of the Rumtek administration, he pledged funds to erect-if need be-a five-foot gold stupa. As caretaker of Karmapa's seat, he firmly demanded that all items that have to do with the welfare and future prosperity of the lineage be left, in keeping with His Holiness' wishes, in Rumtek. Without waiting for any more surprises, the old man lead a procession to Situpa's room and quickly removed the relic from the shelf. His resolute action, clear reasoning, and decisive outbidding of Situpa's offer carried the day. Karmapa's heart was allowed to remain in Rumtek, awaiting the promised gold stupa to house it. As it later turned out, Damcho Yongdu made good on his promise. Today, a stupa of solid gold-though only a foot high-rules over Rumtek from the first floor of the monastery. What was disturbing about the whole incident was not so much the tug of war over Karmapa's heart-this was understandable in view of the extraordinary nature of the relic-but the conscious distortion of facts adopted by a venerable lineage holder. Situ Rinpoche's version of how the relic came into his hands was, at best, a vague and murky rendering of the truth and had certainly stretched the goodwill and imagination of the participants in the ceremony to the limit. For as eyewitnesses put it years later, the only reason why the heart came into Situpa's hands was simply because he snatched it from the side of the stupa and scooted off with it unchallenged. Even more disturbing was the fact that Situpa's backers allowed this visible deceit to grow unhindered. After years of intense campaigning and agitation, the story of Situpa prophetically receiving and carrying away the relic would achieve the status of holy proof that he was indeed the senior peer of the lineage, selected by Karmapa himself to bring forth his next incarnation. Such open departure from reality created a dangerous precedent and set the tone for much of the future communication at the top of the lineage. At that time, however, nobody dared confront a high lama with a lie. It was not yet possible. Having failed to get hold of Karmapa's heart, Situ Rinpoche requested to take possession of Karmapa's practice book instead. He reasoned that his monastery needed a special blessing from his teacher and a book that Karmapa used to read every day was just the thing he had been looking for. This time, the old secretary was on full guard. As years later Shamar Rinpoche would disclose in an interview with the author of this book, Damcho Yongdu strongly confronted Situpa's new fancy. "Rinpoche, don't give him the book," the old man argued to Shamarpa. "He is going to produce a false prediction letter about the next Karmapa out of it." The charge sounded largely overdone, if not totally insane, but, nonetheless, Tai Situ got nowhere with his lobbying and, eventually, had to leave Rumtek empty-handed. Karmapa's belongings stayed at his seat. As if following an inner call, right after the conference, a host of dissatisfied assistants began laying siege to Situpa's ear. "Shamar Rinpoche played such a cunning game on you during the meeting," they whispered. "He cheated you badly! Shamar Rinpoche is too quick for you," and so on, singing to an envious tune and completely ignoring the fact that it was none other than their master who had actually tried to cheat. It was not immediately clear how much credence, if any, Tai Situ gave to such divisive chatter, but the widely circulated theme of Shamarpa playing a dirty trick and easily outwitting his equal must have gained, in the end, a foothold in Situpa's heart. As imminent events would prove, the seeds of contention had been sown, and, whether intentionally or not, Karmapa's two foremost disciples embarked, from that time on, on a competitive and soon hostile path.

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