The Return of the 12th Kenting Tai Situpa to Sikkim after decades of absence

By Adele Tomlin

A 71st birthday poem to Kenting Tai Situpa by the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa

May the cooling camphor droplets of benefit and well-being drip down, and
Eliminate completely without exception heated suffering,
May the cooling of the unprecedented sacred Dharma,
Making all beings moist, not only once!

Lines from the 17th Karmapa’s new praise to the 12th Tai Situpa (February 2024)

HE 12th Tai Situpa Rinpoche with the Governor of Sikkim, 18th February 2024

The historic visit of Tai Situpa to Sikkim after decades of absence

On the 17th February, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa posted a stunning new poetic praise online for the 71st Birthday of HE 12th Kenting Tai Situpa Rinpoche.  The following day, some lovely photos were posted online of 12th Tai Situpa meeting HE 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche at his residence in Siliguri, West Bengal, India. He met the chief minister of Sikkim afterwards.

This visit is historic and timely as it the first time in over thirty years that Tai Situpa has been allowed to travel to Sikkim, where he stayed for a significant amount of time with the 16th Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje before he passed away.

Historic meeting in Siliguri, West Bengal between 12th Tai Situpa and 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche, 18 February 2024 

As I discussed previously in a Dakini Conversations podcast interview with the author of ‘Dance of 17 Lives’ an important (and  the most objective account) of the 17th Karmapa recognition and ensuing dispute, British investigative journalist, Mick Brown, the 12th Tai Situpa was effectively (and unfairly) banned from going to Rumtek Monastery and Sikkim for decades as a result of a dreadful smear and defamation campaign launched against him by the 14th Zhamarpa/Thaye Dorje followers (and others, particularly Bhutanese teachers due to Bhutanese royal princess marriage to Zhamarpa’s personal secretary, Tobga). The defamers falsely accused Tai Situpa of being a “Chinese spy,” with their reasoning apparently due to the fact that the 17th Karmapa was recognised in Tibet at the Karmapa’s main seat Tsurphu Monastery and of forging the sacred handwritten prediction letter given to him by the 16th Karmapa before he passed away.

This letter is accepted by all the Karma Kagyu heart sons (bar the Zhamarpa) as genuine. To see the heart-sons talking about the handwritten letter, including the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul before he was suddenly killed in a car “accident,” see this video here.

Handwritten letter of the 16th Karmapa on his re-birth, given to Tai Situpa, a few months before he passed away

Despite the fact, the vast majority of Karma Kagyu teachers and followers in Tibet (and in exile) recognised the boy (now known as Ogyen Trinley Dorje) discovered by a search party directed by Tai Situpa and Gyaltsab Rinpoche, based on the handwritten letter, a court case was then launched by the 14th Zhamarpa’s (predominantly white, European) followers to seize back full and sole control of Rumtek monastery from the main Kagyu heart-sons. They did not accept that Ogyen Trinley Dorje was a legitimate candidate at that time.

This court case seems to be ongoing and seems to  be one of the main obstacles preventing both the 12th Tai Situpa and the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa being able to freely visit and teach there, and for the Karmapa to perform the sacred black crown ceremony. That is a real loss and shame not only for Karma Kagyu and their followers, but for the Buddhadharma as a whole. In any case, the reasons are still unclear why the official 17th Karmapa has not visited Rumtek Monastery yet, decades after his leaving Tibet for India in 2000 and his followers are getting increasingly frustrated and unhappy at his absence there, and in India.

Image from Facebook

However, as I wrote about here, the 12th Kenting Tai Situpa recently led the Kagyu Monlam, and performed the sacred red hat ceremony in Bodh Gaya, after decades of being prevented from going there too and participating publicly with the other Karma Kagyu teachers and followers.  So this visit to Sikkim hopefully suggests a change is going to come, which is long overdue!

Despite the fact I am travelling on Buddhist pilgrimage still, as a small offering for the long-life of the 17th Karmapa and that he may also be able to visit Sikkim and Rumtek, I offered a translation (with the Tibetan and phonetics) of the 17th Karmapa’s new praise.

Music? A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke.

Related news from BDG

The 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche Holds Historic “Red Crown” Kagyu Monlam Chenmo at Bodh Gaya

Related blog posts from BDG

“The Red Crown that Liberates Upon Seeing” – The Black and Red Crowns of Karma Kagyu: The 1st Jamgon Kongtrul and the 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche Hold Historic “Red Crown” Kagyu Monlam at Bodh Gaya, January 2024

Laying the Foundations: the Question of the 17th Karmapa’s Ongoing Absence at Rumtek Monastery During the 14th Dalai Lama’s Current Visit

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