The Karmapa Lama, one of Tibet’s top Buddhist monks and widely seen as a potential spiritual successor to the Dalai Lama, spoke out on Monday against allegations that he was a Chinese spy.
“Let me categorically state that I am not a Chinese spy, agent or plant in India,” the 26-year-old Karmapa, who fled Tibet in 1999 at the age of 14, told reporters in New Delhi in his first comments on the issue.
Earlier this year, the Indian media, quoting unnamed security sources, reported concerns the Karmapa Lama could be a Chinese stooge sent to India to set up pro-Chinese monasteries. The allegations surfaced after authorities found more than US$1 million in foreign cash, including Chinese yuan, stashed at the Gyuto monastery where the Karmapa lives.
His staff said the rare press conference was organized to try and clear the air.
Indian officials were reported to have suspected Beijing might have links with the Karmapa ever since his flight from Tibet, believing his winter escape over the Himalayan mountains — an eight-day journey by foot and horseback — at such a young age would have required Chinese connivance.
“It has been very saddening to have faced such allegations,” the Karmapa said. “There cannot be a greater blasphemy than these false, very hurtful allegations.”
The Karmapa lives in Dharamsala, the northern hill town that is the base of the Tibetan government-in-exile and home to the Dalai Lama.
The Karmapa said he fled Tibet because he was concerned Beijing would force him to turn against the Dalai Lama, who has acted as a father-like figure for him in Dharamsala.
The Karmapa’s general secretary Karma Chungyalpa told the news conference the money found by police totaled 60 million rupees (US$1.4 million) and were “offerings by devotees” from around the world and had been accumulated.
Police raided the monastery in January after two men were stopped carrying a large sum of money they said belonged to one of its trustees.
The Karmapa said there had been “financial mismanagement,” but said he had trusted the administration of the funds to “lay workers.”
“I have my hands full in fulfilling my religious duties,” he said.