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Urgyen Dorji, the Karmapa Lama
"None of my predecessors... have been active in the political arena"
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Friday, 27 April, 2001, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Boy Lama breaks his silence
Gyuto monastery
The Karmapa (left) lives at the Gyuto monastery
By Mike Wooldridge from the Gyuto monastery

The young high ranking Tibetan Lama, who 15 months ago escaped to India, has spoken for the first time about his flight and his motive for leaving his homeland.

The Karmapa Lama, now 16, told a news conference at the monastery in northern India - where he now lives - that his decision to escape had been entirely his own.

No one told me to go and no one asked me to come to India

Urgyen Dorji, the Karmapa Lama
He appealed to be allowed to go to Sikkim, the sensitive state in the north east of India, where the last Karmapa had established his seat in exile.

The teenage Lama, who is the third most important figure in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy, surfaced in Dharmsala, the Dalai Lama's exiled headquarters, in January last year.

His escape from Tibet immediately caught the world's attention.

It was compared to the Dalai Lama's 40 years earlier after the Chinese had moved into Tibet, and was seen as a significant blow for China.

Exhausting flight

Now granted refugee status in India, the Karmapa Lama decided it was time to give his own account of his escape.

He lived in a normally closely guarded monastery in Tibet.

Lhasa, Tibet
The Karmapa's flight from Tibet embarrassed China
He says that after announcing that he was entering a strict retreat, he and his attendants climbed out of his room under cover of darkness, jumped to the ground, and left in a jeep by a side road.

They then drove day and night, taking back routes to avoid check posts and army camps until they eventually reached Mustang in Nepal.

From there they continued on foot and horseback over several passes, which the Karmapa says, was extremely difficult and exhausting and then the journey to Dharmsala was completed by helicopter, train and a rented car.

Sensitive issue

Some doubted at the time that the escape was what it seemed to be because he was so closely watched. It was suggested that there might have been Chinese collusion.

Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama welcomed India's decision to grant refugee status
Today the Karmapa said in his prepared statement at the news conference:

"The decision to leave my homeland, monastery, monks, parents, family and the Tibetan people was entirely my own - no one told me to go and no one asked me to come to India."

India has not yet given him permission to take up the seat of his sect of Tibetan Buddhism at Rumtek monastery in the state of Sikkim.

Sikkim is a sensitive issue between India and China because Beijing does not accept it as part of India and India's handling of the Karmapa Lama's presence here as been marked by caution.

But the Karmapa Lama said that for him going to Rumtek would be like returning home to continue the activities of his predecessor. He considered it extremely important.

He said that like his predecessors he would not engage in political activity but he fully supported the Dalai Lama's stand on the future of Tibet.

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See also:

03 Feb 01 | South Asia
Karmapa Lama to stay in India
09 Mar 00 | South Asia
China woos exiled Karmapa Lama
10 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Diplomatic jitters over Lama's visit
08 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Who is the Karmapa Lama?
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