On December 28, 1999, under the cover of a dark night, my senior attendant and I escaped from my monastery in Tibet and fled to India to seek refuge. 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. I left my country to impart the Buddha's teachings in general and, in particular, to receive the excellent empowerments, transmissions, and instructions of my own Karma Kagyu tradition. These I could only receive from the main disciples of the previous Karmapa, Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche, who were predicted to be my teachers and who reside in India.
There have been various reports in the press about my escape, and so I will simply and briefly tell the truth about my journey. In great secrecy, my companions and I made our plans, using various stories to cover our true activities. For example, when the preparations were complete, I announced that I was entering a traditional, strict retreat and would not come out for some days. This story worked and prevented us from being pursued right away.
On December 28, around 10:30 at night, my attendant and I slowly climbed down from my room and jumped onto the roof of the Protector Mahakala's shrine room. From this building, we leapt to the ground where a jeep was waiting nearby with Lama Tsultrim and a driver. We left immediately. The story had been given out that Lama Tsultrim and his companions were going on a journey. As if preparing for this, they had driven in and out of the monastery several times during the day, and, therefore, everyone knew about this trip and we could easily leave. Usually, the monastery was strictly guarded, but no twenty-four hour guards were posted and we also left through a side road.
After a while, Lama Tsewang and another driver joined us at a designated place. We decided to head directly towards western Tibet since few travelers used this road and the check posts were not so strictly guarded. Driving day and night, we stopped only to change drivers. By taking back roads through the hills and valleys, we evaded check posts and two army camps. Through the power of my prayers to the Buddha and through his compassion, we were not discovered and arrived in Mustang, Nepal, on the morning of December 30, 1999. Continuing the journey on foot and horseback, we crossed over several passes and finally reached Manang as I had planned. This part was extremely difficult and exhausting due to the poor and often dangerous condition of the paths and the freezing cold weather. During this time, I was tired and not very well physically, yet despite the difficulties, I was completely determined to reach my goal.
Once in Manang, a close friend of Lama Tsewang Tashi helped us hire a helicopter. We landed in a place of Nepal known as Nagarkot and then went by car to Rauxal. From there, we traveled by train to Lucknow and continued with a rented car to Delhi, arriving at last in Dharamsala early on the morning of January 5, 2000. I went straight to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the very embodiment of compassion, and he received me with his great love and affection. My joy knew no bounds.
Ever since my arrival, the Dalai Lama has given his continual and generous assistance. Following his wishes, the Office of Religion and Culture from the Tibetan Government in Exile has made arrangements for my temporary stay at Gyuto Ramoche Tantric University. Situ Rinpoche, Gyaltsap Rinpoche, and other major Kagyu lamas in addition to reincarnate lamas and followers from all the other traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, have come to visit and kindly shown their concern for my well being. This was a source of great happiness for me.
Pursuing my aim in fleeing Tibet, I am now receiving from Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche all the empowerments and transmissions of the Kagyu lineage that are possible under these present circumstances. Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche and other Kagyu masters are teaching me the treatises of the Buddhist philosophical tradition. In this way, I am preparing for my life's work: to teach and study Buddhism and to encourage compassion and wisdom within the hearts of all beings.
In 1959, my previous incarnation, His Holiness the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, was also forced to flee Tibet and come to India as a refugee. He settled in Sikkim and, with the assistance of the Central Government and the State Government of Sikkim, he was able to build the Dharma Chakra Centre, Rumtek Monastery, which became the basis for his worldwide activity. It was venerated and famous everywhere as the main seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage. Therefore, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Government in Exile, Tibetan people from all over the world, and the Buddhist community of India, in addition to almost all Kagyu lamas and members of their Dharma centers consider it extremely important that I go to my main seat in Rumtek. They have made repeated requests that I be able to do so. From my point of view, going to Rumtek Monastery would be like returning home to continue the activity of my predecessor. This is why I consider it so important.
I am fully confident that I will be able to go there since Sikkim is a state of India. I am also confident that just as my predecessor did, I will be able to travel abroad to meet my numerous disciples and fulfill their spiritual needs. With this end in mind, I have submitted an application to the proper authorities.
I am especially grateful to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Government in Exile, and the people and Government of India, all of whom have shown great kindness and generosity in providing for my stay in India. With great appreciation and respect, I offer them my thanks.
In the past, the Gyalwa Karmapas did not engage in political activity and I can do nothing but follow in their footsteps. Concerning the future path of Tibet and the Tibetan people, I endorse and fully support everything that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama stands for. Embodying universal love, compassion, and nonviolence, he is the supreme leader of Tibet and the champion of world peace and human rights.
Recently, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and my disciples in Sikkim and the rest of India, in addition to disciples and centers abroad, made earnest and repeated requests to the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, and the Foreign Minister to grant refugee status to myself and those with me. After due consideration, the Indian Government decided to grant us refugee status.
With this new status, I was able to go on pilgrimage for five weeks, visiting major sites of Buddhism in the sacred land of India. In these places, I gave blessings and initiations according to the wishes of numerous disciples who came from near and far.
Today, many people from the media in the East and West have come here for this press meeting. I consider it a precious occasion and give my thanks to each and every one of you. I thought it was important that the world know the true story and my true purpose in coming here. This was not possible until now, however, due to circumstances beyond my control. I hope that after this press meeting today, you will sincerely help everyone to know the truth. Tashi Delek.
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Questions and answers from the press conference are also on this site.