The CTA (Central Tibetan Administration) and its predecessor, the Tibetan government has long been well known for their hard-line policies against Tulkus and their spiritual institutions. If one were to take a long hard look at the history books, one would find a number of high-profile cases where great lamas were marginalized, their great residences seized, students dispersed and their line of incarnations completely wiped out from historical records.
The Shamar Rinpoches are one of the highest-ranking Tulkus in the Karma Kagyu School. During the lifetime of the 10th Shamarpa, he was the brother of the 3rd Panchen Lama Palden Yeshe, the second highest lama in Tibet. Unfortunately, the 10th Shamarpa developed a very poor relationship with the Tibetan government at Lhasa due to a series of ensuing events. After the Panchen Lama entered clear light, a conflict broke out over the handling of the inheritance. Shamarpa received none of the inheritance due to the fact that he was a Kagyu lama and being a lama, he has his own estate and inheritance.
However, tensions grew from that day on, which led to the Shamarpa travelling to Nepal on a teaching trip. Shortly thereafter, a letter from the Gurkha king was sent to the Eighth Dalai Lama, claiming that the Shamarpa was held hostage and sought ransom. The government deliberated and felt it was a hoax and refused to pay the ransom. Subsequently, the Gurkha army invaded Tibet and nearly captured Lhasa the capital. In the midst of chaos, the Eighth Dalai Lama stood his ground and remained in Lhasa thus inspiring his people to rally an army to defend Lhasa. After a fierce battle, the Gurkha army was pushed back and peace talks ensued.
As a result of the talks, the blame was placed squarely on the Shamarpa’s shoulders and he was tried for treason. The Tibetan government seized the Shamarpa’s estate and his line of incarnation was banned. They seized his red ceremonial hat and sent it to Lhasa where rumors circulated that it was buried under the front steps of the Jokhang Cathedral so pilgrims would have to step over his hat to make their devotional rounds – the desecration of the main symbol of Shamarpa’s spiritual authority. His incarnation would not be reinstated until the 20th Century.
The Shamarpa is not the only lama who had received such treatment. During the time of the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, the fame of Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen exceeded that of the Dalai Lama. Both lamas were great disciples of the great Panchen Lama Lobsang Chokyi Gyeltsen. It would seem that the Dalai Lama wouldn’t be able to ascend to his position of authority unless Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen was eliminated. Therefore, tensions arose between the disciples of the Dalai Lama and those of Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen.
The worst happened, Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen was mysteriously murdered and rumors persisted that the murder was attributed to the followers of the Dalai Lama. However, the Dalai Lama knew nothing of the plot and was greatly saddened by the sudden demise of this great lama. Subsequently, the Tibetan government seized the deceased lama’s estate and his incarnation name was downgraded in historical records and the search for his incarnation was mysteriously banned.
Finally, another Tulku that received a similar fate was Reting Rinpoche, the Regent of Tibet who came to power after the death of the Great Thirteenth Dalai Lama. Reting Rinpoche formed the search party responsible for the discovery of the boy who would be enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama. Reting Rinpoche discovered his candidate in Taktser and the divination of the Panchen Lama supported his claim. For the right candidate to be enthroned, Reting Rinpoche had to come down hard on Langdun, the chief minister at that time and other corrupt officials that had their own rival candidate to the golden throne of the Dalai Lama. This angered the powerful Lhasa aristocracy that supported the chief minister with his candidate.
However, Reting Rinpoche managed to push for the enthronement of the boy from Taktser as the 14th Dalai Lama. Then, Reting Rinpoche decided to enter into retreat while Taktra Rinpoche was enthroned as the next Regent. But his time in seclusion would be short-lived as the Nechung oracle suddenly announced that the Dalai Lama was in imminent danger during a New Year’s celebration. Reting Rinpoche broke his retreat and traveled to Lhasa only to find that the Lhasa aristocracy had grown in strength.
During that time, the father of the Dalai Lama had become highly influential in Lhasa. Therefore, he was the first target and was poisoned to death. Then, there was a foiled assassination attempt on Taktra Rinpoche and somehow, Reting Rinpoche was implicated and was promptly arrested. He died in prison from the horrendous torture that was inflicted upon him. Thereafter, he was typecasted as a villain and his estate seized and his subsequent incarnations were outlawed. All future incarnations of Reting Rinpoche are banned from being recognized just like in the case of Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen and the previous Shamarpa.
These are some examples of how the Tibetan government had treated some of these ill-fated Tulkus of the past. For political reasons, even high lamas are not immune from the inconsistent policies of the Tibetan government and they can be stripped of their estate, banned and stories of lies and malicious comments concocted in order to justify the bans they had placed upon these high lamas. These stories may or may not have been investigated depending on the political agenda of a partisan and biased government. Therefore, the validity of such bans and policies that had been practiced are questionable and often shrouded in intrigue.
Mullin, Glenn H. (2001). The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation. Clear Light Publishers. Santa Fe, NM
For the full life story of Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen, watch these Youtube videos:-