Guwahati: Tibetan Buddhist monks and locals in Sikkim are exuberant that the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s visit to the northeastern state has been approved by the Union government.
The Home Ministry’s nod to Karmapa’s long-awaited, but restrained, visit was confirmed by Sonam Lama, the lone legislator in Sikkim Assembly representing the Sangha – a community of revered monks entitled to contest elections.
“I received the news yesterday. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has given their approval to Karmapa’s visit. However, I have learned that the Centre has restricted his visit to any part of Sikkim except the Rumtek monastery. Nevertheless, we are very happy. This is great news for Sikkim,” said Lama.
While thanking the government for the big approval, Lama also clarified that the relay hunger strike by the monks demanding Karmapa’s visit would continue till ‘His Holiness’ finally steps into the Himalayan kingdom. It has been over 630 days that hundreds of monks have been on a hunger strike in Sikkim.
The Denzong Lhadey Tsogpa, an organisation of monks and monasteries in Sikkim, had called for the strike in 2016, and has so far held several rallies pressing for Karmapa’s visit.
The monks had also raised the issue with the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh during his visit to Sikkim last year, but the Centre had been firm on not allowing the 17th Karmapa to visit Sikkim keeping in view China's position on the issue. With China adroitly striving to tighten its grip on Tibet, a tractable Karmapa, who can rightly influence Tibetans on either side of the border, would be desired by both India and China as the successor to the Dalai Lama.
The Home Ministry’s clearance comes days after Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling wrote to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj seeking her assistance for Karmapa’s visit to Sikkim. In a letter to Sushma, Chamling had requested to let Karmapa visit any monastery in Sikkim, if not the sacred Rumtek Monastery which he ‘rightfully’ heads. So far, not more than 35 letters have been written to the Home Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office by the Sikkim Government pursuing Karmapa’s visit to the state.
The head of the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, Ogyen Trinley Dorje was endorsed as the 17th Karmapa by the 14th Dalai Lama in 1999. Karmapa had escaped from Tibet in 2000 at the age of 14 years. The 33-year-old has since been living at his temporal home at Gyuto monastery in Dharamsala. Since 2002, he has been holding lectures and prayer sessions at the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo in Bodhgaya that witnesses the participation of topmost Kagyu masters and lamas every year.
With inputs from Prakash Adhikary