04/11/2008, 00.00
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The Karmapa Lama could visit the U.S. in May

by Nirmala Carvalho
The third-ranking religious authority for Tibetan Buddhists, he has for years been "controlled" by the Chinese police in Tibet, and has experienced the "cultural genocide" underway. In the winter of 2000, at the age of 14, he fled to the mountains and found asylum in India.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - The Karmapa Lama, the spiritual leader of "Kagyupa Tibetan Buddhism," could be in the United States in May. The Indian media report that the central government has granted him a visa. But there is silence and embarrassment on the part of official sources.

The "Kagyu" is one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and the Karmapa Lama is considered the third leading Tibetan religious authority. In 1999, at the age of 14, the current Karmapa Lama fled the monastery of Tsurphu (central Tibet), where he had been under the surveillance of Chinese guards. After a long journey through the mountains, in the dead of winter, in January of 2000 he reached India, which granted him asylum. Since then, he has been living in Dharamsala, the site of the Dalai Lama and of the Tibetan government-in-exile. He is allowed to travel within the country, but needs official permission to receive visitors.

Tsering Dhondup, secretary of the Department of Religion and Culture for the Tibetans in exile, tells AsiaNews that "[rumours of a U.S. visit] are only media speculations. We sent an official request to the government of India many months ago to permit the Karmapa Lama to visit the U.S., but we have not received any confirmation". "There are many followers of Kagyupa Tibetan Buddhism in the U.S., and they have long invited him to come give talks. But there is no political purpose; it would only be a visit with religious aims".

Asked what he thinks about the accusation that China is carrying out a "cultural genocide" in Tibet, he replies that "The Karmapa Lama has lived under Chinese occupation and rule for many years and confirms the fact that 'cultural genocide' is taking place in Tibet. There is no freedom of religious practise inside Tibet, and even the Tibetan language runs the risk of extinction.  95% of the language permitted all over is Chinese".

Tempa Tsering, minister of the Department of Information and International Relations of the Central Tibetan Administration, responds with a significant "no comment". "I am not confirming anything at this stage, and we are not making any comments on this issue".

The presence in the United States of the young Lama, who in recent years has lived under Chinese domination, would certainly draw even more attention to Tibet.  Yesterday, the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, arrived in the United States.  He will stay there for 13 days for spiritual meetings that were planned long in advance.  He is also expected to make public speeches, for example at the University of Michigan on April 19 and 20, and at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, on the 22nd.

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