Affirmation of Prof Samuel Geoffrey concerning the historical role of the Dalai Lamas in recognizing the Karmapas

The Dalai Lamas never had the role to recognize the Karmapas. This is clearly affirmed by Prof. Geoffrey Brian Samuel in: “Affirmation of Geoffrey Brian Samuel,” Lama vs. Hope and Ors, CIV-2004404-001363, High Court of New Zealand Auckland Registry, November 11, 2004

The whole text of the Affirmation:

Affirmation of Samuel Geoffrey


Summary of the text (from Sylvia Wong: Karmapa Prophecies, P. 374): Professor Samuel Geofrey went on to write that even once the Dalai Lamas came along, the Karmapa’s labrang at Tsurphu never asked for permission from the Dalai Lama to choose a Karmapa, except in the one exceptional case of the recognition of the sixteenth Karmapa in the late twenties. In that case, as we have seen, the thirteenth Dalai Lama originally supported the son of his council minister Lungshar as a candidate, but the Tibetan leader later backed down and was forced to concede that the Karma Kagyu could recognize its own choice, who became the sixteenth Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.

Excerpts of the Affirmation:

“8. The Lhasa government, which was in effect under the direction of the Dalai Lama (it began as an extension of his personal labrang or household, see later), gained control over much of Tibet in the 1640s. It subsequently went through periods of greater and lesser effective power, the latter coinciding with greater control by the large Gelugpa monasteries and/or external powers.

9. During the period of rule of the 13th Dalai Lama (who died in 1933) there were sustained attempts to construct some of the apparatus of a modern state in the area ruled by the Lhasa state (which at that time covered roughly half the Tibetan population) and these continued in varying degrees during the years after his death. Even the 13th Dalai Lama at the height of his power could not really be described, however, as the overall spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people. He was the temporal leader of some half of the Tibetan people (after the military defeat of Powo and the flight of the Panchen Lama to Mongolia) and the spiritual leader (if not the formal head) of the GeJugpa tradition (though individual monasteries within the Gelugpa order retained considerable autonomy). He was very widely respected among the entire Tibetan population, but this does not mean that what he said had binding authority for Tibetans outside the Lhasa state (so-called “Outer Tibet” as defined by the Simla Convention, and roughly equivalent to today’s Tibet Autonomous Region). Within that state, his authority over ordinary Tibetans was that of a secular ruler.

10. As such, his government could and did take a role in approving the installation of reincarnate lamas, particularly the more politically important ones, within the Lhasa state (there were perhaps around a thousand reincarnate lamas by the mid-twentieth century, and many were of mainly local significance). This matter is discussed further below. [Below Samuel writes: It is unclear, however, how commonly this was carried out, even within the lifetime of the 13th Dalai Lama.] It should be remembered, however, that more than half the population of Tibet lived outside the Lhasa state, in other states or stateless regions. While the Karma KagyO head monastery of Tsurphu was within the Lhasa state, the majority of the followers of the Karma Kagyu tradition, and many of its important monasteries, were outside the Lhasa state (see Samuel 1993: 39-154).

11. In the years following H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama’s flight from Tibet in 1959, he has become, in effect, the “overall spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people” in a way that his predecessors as Dalai Lama were not.


26. The religious and political structure of Tibet until the Chinese takeover could therefore be described as consisting of a large number of relatively autonomous religious units within a number of largely autonomous political units, without any formal legal or constitutional framework which encompassed the whole region. When the 13th Dalai Lama became effective ruler of the Lhasa state in 1911, he pursued a policy of centralising control both over Gelugpa religious institutions and the state as a whole. Progress in this direction was however limited, and came to a standastill after the 13th Dalai Lama’s death in 1933.

27. Some years after the 14th Dalai Lama’s flight to India in 1959, his administration at Dharamsala (also known as the Tibetan Government-in-Exile) set up an office of religious affairs among the refugees, including a system of four “heads” of the “four main orders”. The 16th Karmapa was appointed head of the Kagyu order. Thus the position of the Karmapa as “head of the KagyO order” is essentially a new phenomenon, and did not exist before 1959. […] However, this does not necessarily imply that the other Kagyü traditions would accept direction from the 16th Karmapa in matters such as the recognition of reincarnations, or that the Karmapas would necessarily accept such direction from the Dalai Lamas.

Context of the affirmation of Prof. Geoffrey:

From Sylvia Wong: Karmapa Prophecy, P. 374;:

“Then in 2003, Beru Chentse Rinpoche caught word of a plan devised by Situ Rinpoche and Karma Samten. He found out that Situ Rinpoche had apparently recognized the baby of Karma Samten’s niece as a reincarnation of a rinpoche. It was rumoured that their plan was to make Samten Situ’s regent in New Zealand, and the baby rinpoche would one day head the New Zealand monastery. Beru Chentse Rinpoche went to New Zealand to find out what was going on at his centre. When Beru Chentse Rinpoche arrived there, he was stopped at the gates. Karma Shedrub physically pushed him away. He and Karma Samten both refused him entry. Situ Rinpoche’s side used the name of Karmapa Ogyen Trinley to issue a letter, removing Beru Chentse as the Spirirual Director. In this way. they tried to take over the monastery and property under the spiritual directorship of Beru Chentse Rinpoche.

On March 3, 2004, Beru Chentse Rinpoche made an application to the High Court, in Auckland, and began legal proceedings to keep his spiritual directorship of said monastery.

Beru Chentse Rinpoche won this legal case.406 The coun rendered its decision in a statement released in 2005, which confirmed Beru Chentse Rinpoche as the Spiritual Director of the New Zeal.and Karma Kagyu Trust. Beru Chentse Rinpoche’s decision to dismiss some trustees and Karma Shedrub was also upheld by the judge. Those trustees were thus dismissed. (Karma Samten, the ex-resident teacher, was not named in this suit because shortly after he barred Beru Chentse Rinpoche from the monastery, it was alleged that he had to flee the country. Situ Rinpoche then appointed Karma Shedrub as the resident teacher.)

Beru Chentse Rinpoche also won the case on appeal through the judgment of the Appeal Coun released on 7 June 2006. For this trial, the KCT was asked to submit validation of its legal rights as trustees of the l6th Karmapa, and of its acceptance of the l7th Karmapa Thaye Dorje. It is on this issue that I, as a trustee of KCT, offer my comments as follows:

Thrangu Rinpoche submitted an affidavit to the court at Auckland, New Zealand, stating that Ogyen Trinley was the titular head of the Karma Kagyu School. The issue in dispute in that court came down to whether tl1e Dalai Lama’s authority was needed to institute a new Karmapa incarnation. The gist of Thrangu Rinpoche’s affidavit is that throughout the history of Tibet, the Karmapas have been recognized or authenticated by none other than the Dalai Lamas.

Khenpo Chodrak Tenphel of Rumtek Monastery also submitted an affidavit, stating that none of the Dalai Lamas, at any time in history, had ever been required to certify the spiritual head oi the Karma Kagyu lineage.

The court sought an impanial and independent third-party opinion. Geoffrey Samuel, a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia and a renowned scholar, was appointed to the case. He conducted his own research based on bona fide historical documents and records. Professor Samuel testified in court that none of the previous Dalai Lamas had a role in the recognition of the previous Karmapas. It would therefore be wrong to infer that the present Dalai Lama has authority, spiritual or legal, over the recognition of the l7th Karmapa of the Karma Kagyu School. Professor Geoffrey Samuel’s testimony thus agreed with Khenpo Chodrak Tenphel’s affidavit. His testimony also decidedly won the case for Beru Chentse Rinpoche.”

The 16th Karmapa had apponted Beru Chentse (Khyentse) Rinpoche as his representant to Australia and New Zealand and thus he was the leader of this New Zealand Monastery).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s