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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge
"The Karmapa's arrival took the town by surprise"
 real 28k

Saturday, 8 January, 2000, 15:37 GMT
Tibetan Lama meets spiritual leader

The Karmapa fled across the Himalayas (Tsurphu Foundation)

The young Buddhist leader, the Karmapa Lama, who escaped to India from Tibet by walking across the Himalayas, has met the Tibetan leader-in-exile, the Dalai Lama.

The 14-year-old, currently recovering after his arrival in Dharamsala on Wednesday, appeared relaxed despite his gruelling trek as he arrived at the Dalai Lama's palace.

Wearing a dark brown monk's robe and a light orange scarf, the Karmapa was driven 450 metres from the compound's official guesthouse where he has been staying to the palace, in the Dalai Lama's yellow car.

The Karmapa The Karmapa on his way to meet the Dalai Lama

Monks lined up to present brightly-coloured Tibetan shawls and other gifts while the Dalai Lama's guard service and police from the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh looked on.

Tashi Wangdi, Minister for Religion and Culture of the Tibetan government-in-exile, said the meeting between the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa Lama was private and lasted almost half-an-hour.

"He is 14-year-old and he has undertaken a long and difficult journey," said Mr Wangdi.

"He is not talking properly. He is very tired and very restless."

The only outsider to have met the Karmapa so far is a mid-ranking official from India's foreign ministry, officials in the exiled government said.

The Karmapa Lama is the only senior Tibetan Buddhist officially recognised by the Chinese authorities and correspondents say his escape, which has gone almost unreported China's press, is certain to be an embarrassment.

Dalai Lama's residence The Dalai Lama's residence
The Karmapa Lama escaped his Chinese guards at the 800-year-old Tsurphu monastery in central Tibet by saying he intended to go on a retreat.

He set out across the mountains on 28 December, accompanied by five companions, including his 24-year-old sister and two other lamas.

Click here to see map of the Karmapa's route

Sources in Dharamsala said their feet were blistered during the week-long trek along rocky paths and their hands were scratched by thorn-bushes along the way.

Officials of the Tibetan government-in-exile have denied any involvement in his escape.

"We were all caught by surprise when we were told on the fifth morning that he has arrived," said Mr Wangdi

It is not yet clear whether he intends to leave Chinese-ruled Tibet permanently or if it is a temporary measure in order to receive further religious teaching.

Tibetan officials said they would talk to the Karmapa next week when has rested to discuss his plans for the future.

The Karmapa Lama, the third most powerful person in Tibetan Buddhism, is the only person among the religion's senior figures accepted by both Beijing and the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama spent half an hour with the Karmapa
China's official news agency Xinhua said the Karmapa left a letter explaining he had gone abroad to collect "the musical instruments of the Buddhist mass" and the "black hats" used by previous Karmapas.

Xinhua quoted the Karmapa as saying in the letter that his actions did not mean he had intended to "betray the state, the nation, the monastery or the leadership".

With the exception of the China Daily, an English-language publication aimed at foreign readers, the official Chinese media said nothing about the Karmapa's departure on Saturday.

"Living Buddha simply went abroad," said the China Daily.

But Robert Barnett, a Tibetan expert at Colombia University, New York, said: "It leaves China's religious policy in Tibet in complete disarray."

The BBC has been told that the Karmapa Lama had become increasingly frustrated with a lack of access to religious teachers in Tibet.

He is said to have wanted either permission to travel abroad for lessons from Lamas from his school of Buddhism, or for permission from Beijing for a teacher to visit him.

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See also:
08 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Who is the Karmapa Lama?
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Analysis: Lama's flight embarrasses Beijing
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Tibetan Lama flees to India
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