Compilation of citations concerning Tsepön Lungshar
1) General representation of Lungshar’s role in Tibetan politics in the 20ies (Page 1)
2) Lungshar and his attempt to install his son as 16th Karmapa (Page 4)
General representation of Lungshar’s role in Tibetan politics in the 20ies
A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State
von Melvyn C. Goldstein,Gelek Rimpoche
Surprisingly, Lungshar was also one of the few Tibetan officials with a broad understanding of the world. He had lived and
traveled in England and Western Europe and was familiar with Western history. His exposure
to European political systems and history convinced him that reforms were necessary if Tibet
was to survive in the modern world.
Lungshar went to Europe when the Dalai Lama decided in 1912 to follow the advice of Sir
Charles Bell and send four youths to England for a Western education. He appointed
Lungshar to accompany these.
 Bell 1968: 162–63.
During his stay in England, Lungshar learned a moderate amount of basic English and a
great deal about “democratic” political institutions and the way they had replaced hereditary monarchical institutions during the “age of revolution.” His son, Lhalu, recalls that his father would often tell stories about the fall of the kings of France and Italy and their brutal executions. Lungshar was also deeply impressed by the way the British monarchy had avoided such violent revolution by accepting a constitutional monarchy. During his stay in England he became convinced that Tibet must change voluntarily or experience the fate of France.
Lungshar, like Tsarong, was a forward-thinking favorite of the Dalai Lama who was
dedicated to developing a strong central government but did not like Tsarong’s blatant bias toward the British.
Tom Browns from Central Asia, ALASTAIR LAMB 325ff
On 28 June 1913, therefore, Lungshar was received by the King at Buckingham Palace.9 The Dalai Lama’s gifts were handed over.
Tsarong, Lungshar and Kunphela
K. DHONDUP (in McKay p 514ff)
Lungshar returned to Tibet in September 1914 with letter and presents from the British Crown to the Dalai Lama. His report of the
Tibetan students progress in England and general observations about Europe and
their political systems must have impressed the Dalai Lama whose main concern after
the recent declaration of Tibetan independence was its modernisation in every sphere.
Soon afterwards, Lungshar was appointed a Minister of Finance.
In April1929, Lungshar was appointed
to the post. As the commander-in-chief and Financial minister of the Tibetan Government,
Lungshar had reached the zenith of his power. Yet he was to pursue power
with vehemence, plotting the downfall of his opponents with skill and sorcery.
P 526 Lungshar, the head of the Assembly was once again at the peak of power.
Behind him stood the solid block of the three monasteries whose abbots supported
his idea of subordinating the Kashag under the Assembly. Soon the Kashag had
subjugated itself before the Assembly.
Meanwhile, Lungshar’s idea of a republic was creating doubts in
the minds of many. The monasteries began to wonder about the role of religion and
monastic establishment in a republic. They began to wonder if Lungshar, a layman
was not using them to get more power for himself.
Lungshar’s idea of a republic,
implanted in his mind during his stay in Europe, would have served Tibet well had it
been properly executed. But unfortunately the root cause of the failure was in Lungshar
himself. Though extremely learned and brilliant, Lungshar’s ambition for power was
wild and he did not hesitate to justify any means to achieve his ends.
539: H. E. Richardson: The Rwa-sgreng couspiracy of 1947: “Lungshar was an unusual phenomena( in McKay p 538ff)
in Tibet. In him certain qualities inherent in the Tibetan character were overdeveloped
and exaggerated. A strain of recklessness made him in the well-worn phrase, “drunk
The Tibetan government sent troops under the command of Lungshar and Tshogaw
to stop him, but they were too late and the Panchen Lama escaped with a large
The Dalai Lama responded by appointing his own administrator, the Dzasa Lama,
to take over the administration of Tashilhunpo:
Alex McKay: History of Tibet. Vol. III
In 1934 he [Lungshar] was arrested at a meeting in the Potala. In an echo of the events surrounding the attempted assassination of the Dalai Lama in 1899, Lungshar was found guilty
of practising ‘black magic’ against the Regent and leading members of the Kashag.
He was imprisoned and blinded.
So far the quotation from McKay, Alex – History of Tibet. Vol. III
The description of Lungshar as a democratic reformer is not undisputed. Some state that this was motivated by his earlier mentioned thirst for power. Actually for „tactical reasons“ he later alied with the most conservative elements of tibetan society.
BLACK ANNALS: Goldstein and the Negation of Tibetan History (Part II) – Jamyang Norbu
Goldstein’s „glowing but implausible account of Lungshar from Lungshar’s own son, Jangju la, who was teaching Tibetan language at Dr. Graham’s Homes in Kalimpong where Dawa Norbu studied.“
Actually, if one reviews just the raw data that Goldstein lays out about Lungshar, and disregards his interpretation, it becomes immediately clear that far from being a progressive or a reformist, Lungshar was the most effective player on the ultra-conservative and reactionary side of Tibetan politics. He was, as Goldstein’s own information clearly points out, the chief factor in undermining the modern Tibetan military, the reforms of the 13th Dalai Lama, and by logical extension the defense of the nation against the Chinese invasion.
Goldstein tells us that at the outset of the modernization period, Tibetan politics was divided into two camps: the new military under the commander-in-chief, Tsarong which was “committed to modernization” and the “ultra-conservative” monastic segment allied with reactionary officials, led by the monk official Tempa Dhargay, who was also the Dalai Lama’s chamberlain (dronyerchemo).
Goldstein clearly states that Lungshar had “tactically allied” himself with the ultra-conservative group. The leader of the conservative group, Tempa Dhargay, was known to his monk colleagues by the complementary nickname, Ara Karpo or “white beard”. The military officers and lay officials who despised him called him dronyerchemo Apso – after the shaggy Tibetan terrier. Surprisingly Goldstein makes no mention of the pejorative “Apso” and writes as if he were only known as “white beard”. While this may not be evidence of Goldstein’s sympathy for the ultra-conservatives, it does point to where most of his information might have come from.
We know that Lungshar was given to supernatural beliefs and occult practises. Goldstein tells us that he was “widely considered to be an expert in mirror divination (thrabab) and black magic (dey).” Rinchen Dolma Taring tell us (repeated by Luciano Petech) that the death of Shatra Paljor Sowang in 1928, just before his appointment as a kashag minister, was popularly attributed to magic by Lungshar. Then, of course we have Lungshar’s own attempt to murder the minister Trimon by black magic, which Goldstein mentions. Even in a society as religious (and perhaps credulous) as the Tibetan, Lungshar’s obsession with magic was exceptional. In sharp contrast, many of the young military officers and modernists at the time regarded themselves as rationalists (even if they were so only in a superficial sense). Tsarong was considered by many to be an atheist, and Rinchen Dolma Taring attempts to defend him on this charge in her autobiography, Daughter of Tibet.
Anyway, „the Thirteenth Dalai Lama fully trusted Lungshar” accounts the 14th Dalai Lama and “… (his) main aim was that the Tibetan government should be led by officials and not by lamas. Lungshar said that lamas have no experience in administration and so forth.”1
Lungshar and his attempt to install his son as 16th Karmapa
Sylvia Wong: Karmapa Prophecies, Delhi 2010:
Wong, P. 2
„After the death of the 15th Karmapa, a very powerful Gelugpa government
minister named Lungshawa wanted to have his son recognized as the reincarnation
of Karmapa. Lungshawa was dedicated to modernizing Tibet. He thought that if his
son were a Karmapa, it would facilitate his plans for Tibet’s north-western and
eastern regions, whose inhabitants were followers of the Karma Kagyu School. H.H.
the 13th Dalai Lama was subsequendy persuaded to confirm Lungshawa’s son as the
16th Karmapa. However, the 15th Karmapa’s labrang (the Tsurphu monastery
administration) did not accept this recognition, stating that ” the son of this
aristocrat is not the reincarnation of the 15th Gyalwa Karmapa Khachup Dorje.”
Wong P. 370:
„Once instance where the Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan government did try to
interfere in the process of recognizing the Karmapas was during the time of the
recognition of the 16th Karmapa. At that time there was a boy, the son of the
finance Minister Lungshawa, whom the 13th Dalai Lama recognized as the 16th
Karmapa. Karma Kagyu lamas, on the other hand, recognized a boy from the
Athubtsang family of Derge. They rejected the 13th Dalai Lama’s candidate, and
the 13th Dalai Lama accepted that rejection and acknowledged the Kagyu
chosen candidate. That candidate grew up to be H. H. Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.“
BUDDHA’S NOT SMILING Uncovering Corruption at the 1-leart of Tibetan Buddhism Today ERIK D. CURREN p. 73ff:
This is another position that history contradicts. Khenpo Chodrak
Tenphel, the abbot of Rumtek until the takeover in 1993 and the top
authority on the history of the Karmapas, has told the story behind this
“It is true that the thirteenth Dalai Lama’s administration did
attempt to participate in the recognition of the sixteenth Karmapa, but
at that time the. Karma Kagyu saw it as interference. After failing to install
his candidate, the Dalai Lama eventually had to back down.
“After the death of the fifteenth Karmapa in 1922, there was a
period of eight years before the Tsurphu administration could find a
suitable candidate as his reincarnation,” Chodrak said. “In the meantime,
BUDDHA’ S NOT SMILING
government officials in Lhasa saw this as an opportunity to bring the
border area of eastern Tibet under the control of the Dalai Lama’s
government as a buffer against China. Central Tibetan officials thought
that if they controlled the Karmapa, then they could control Kham,
where the Karma Kagyu was strong. Since nearly eight years had passed
without Tsurphu finding a Karmapa, the Lhasa government figured that
Tsurphu might never find one. Therefore, there would be no harm for
the government to nominate its own boy to be the next Karmapa.”
Accordingly, Tsepon Lungshar, the defense minister in the Dalai Lama’s
council of state, the Kashag, convinced the thirteenth Dalai Lama Thubten
Gyatso (1876-1933) to proclaim Lungshar’s son to be the next Karmapa.
There was no historical precedent for the Dalai Lama to appoint a
Karmapa, and no Dalai Lama in the past had even helped to recognize a
previous Karma Kagyu leader. Appendix A to this book includes a chart
that lists each Karmapa along with the lamas who recognized him.
There are no Dalai Lamas on the list.
But the thirteenth Dalai Lama had his own political reasons
to agree to the minister’s request. After centuries as a satellite of the
Celestial Empire, in 1913 Tibet was able to declare its independence
and expel the small Chinese garrison in Lhasa. Weakened by internal
fighting in the wake of the overthrow of the last Qing emperor “Henry”
Puyi two years earlier, the new Nationalist Chinese government could
not oppose Tibet’s move by force. But the Nationalists never recognized
Tibet’s independence, and continued to claim the country as an integral
part of China.
The Dalai Lama knew that China’s weakness was a rare opportunity
to establish Tibet’s independence in the eyes of the world. Lungshar
agreed, and with a group of progressives in Lhasa, he supported the
Dalai Lama’s efforts to modernize the Tibetan government against the
opposition of strong conservative forces centered on the three large Gelug
monasteries in Lhasa. The Three Seats of Drepung, Sera, and Ganden
wielded considerable political clout through their armies of dopdops or
“fighting monks” and their traditional influence over powerful noble
families in Central Tibet. These huge monasteries used their power to
block or delay reforms to modernize Tibet, claiming that such innovations
as opening English-language schools, joining the League of Nations,
or building a modem army would threaten the country’s traditional
“The large monasteries were also concerned about losing power to
a modern government under the Dalai Lama with a well-equipped army
and centralized administration,” Chodrak said.
Against the opposition of strong conservatives, the Dalai Lama
attempted to push through reforms against the clock-before China
would regain its strength and try to retake Tibet. In the early twenties, the
government began an ambitious modernization program. In 1922, the
same year that the fifteenth Karmapa died, the Dalai Lama established
an army modeled on the British forces in India. His government then
went on to introduce modern innovations such as passports, a postal
service, and systemized national taxation, all to build Tibet’s strength
and show the outside world that the Land of Snows was a modern nation
rather than a medieval vassal state of China. The thirteenth Dalai Lama
thus hoped to gain international recognition of Tibet’s independence.
The Lhasa government also hoped to unify the various regions
where ethnic Tibetans traditionally lived into one modern nation. For its
strategic importance, the Dalai Lama wanted more control over Kham,
where the Karmapa was strong. Khenpo Chodtak provided his analysis.
“And so, perhaps against his better spiritual judgment, but for
compelling political reasons, the Dalai Lama agreed to interfere in the
Karmapa selection process and support Tsepon Lungshar’s son as a
candidate. In 1929 or 1930 – Tsurphu records are not clear on the date –
the Tibetan leader made a proclamation that his minister’s son was the
reincarnation of the Karmapa.
“Predictably, the Tsurphu labrang rejected this interference.
The Karmapa’s monastery said that the government had no role in
choosing a Karmapa. As it turned out, at the same time, the Karmapa’s
administration had finally found its own candidate. In response to His
Holiness the thirteenth Dalai Lama’s proclamation about Lungshar’s
son, the Karmapa’s administration politely informed the Tibetan leader
that it had located a boy of its own, a son of a noble family known as
Athub Tsang of the kingdom of Derge in Kham.
“At the time, the thirteenth Dalai Lama did not press the issue,
perhaps recognizing that if the Karmapa’s own labrang had found a boy
at last, then it was better for everyone to have an authentic Karmapa than
a politically appointed one.
“But before the Tsurphu administration could enthrone the
Athub boy, out of respect for His Holiness the thirteenth Dalai Lama’s
76 BUDDHA’ S NOT SMILING
power as political ruler, Tsurphu officials had to formally request him
to reverse his action and allow them to proceed with the enthronement
of their own boy. In response, the thirteenth Dalai Lama did withdraw
Tsepon Lungshar’s son as a candidate, thus that he
the authority of the Karmapa’s own school to choose its head lama’s
reincarnation. This boy later became His Holiness the sixteenth Karmapa
Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.” Sadly, Lunghsar’ s son, the failed Karmapa, soon
died after falling off a roof.
Lungshar suffered more hardship as well. In the thirties, facing
strong opposition by conservatives, the Dalai Lama had to back down
on his military and administrative reforms in Lhasa. After the d1irteenth
Dalai Lama’s death, conservative rivals pushed aside Lungshar’s group
and arrested the defense minister. He was convicted of attempted murder
and plotting to overthrow the state. The government made an example of
the unfortunate minister, ordering his eyes to be put out and sentencing
him to life imprisonment. Tragically, the defeat of Lungshar’s group
effectively ended reforms in Tibet, leaving the country isolated and
friendless in the world and defenseless against’the Chinese invasion that
would come two decades later.“2
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche: Blazing Splendor: pg 59-60
Late in his life, the 15th Karmapa wrote a prediction letter concerning his rebirth and gave it to his attendant Jampal Tsultrim.
„Jampal Tsultrim put the letter inside the reliquary box he wore around his neck and kept it there…. Afterward, he went straight to Golok, his home region far away to the northeast, for four or five months. In the meantime, the government in Lhasa had sent a representative to Tsurphu asking to be shown the prediction letter, …
[As it was the wish of the late Karmapa, Jampal Tsültrim had not informed anybody about the letter] A frantic search for [the] … letter began. … They even tore open his mattress. But, of course, they came up with nothing-Jampal Tsultrim was unsuspectingly wandering about in distant Golok with the letter in the box around his neck. Finally, the Tsurphu officials were forced to admit that they had no letter. Soon after, the thirteenth Dalai Lama’s office issued a formal statement that the Karmapa’s reincarnation had been born as the son of one of the cabinet ministers in Lhasa. (…)
This news reached all the way to Golok. Hearing it, Jampal Tsultrim cut his stay short and hurried back to Tsurphu. As soon as he arrived, he exclaimed, What do you mean there is no prediction letter? I have it right here!’ (…)
At the same time, a delegation was sent to Lhasa informing the government of the newfound letter, with the message, ‘we have found the Karmapa’s prediction letter and it is authentic The officials at the central government replied, ‘rirst you say there is no letter and now you say there is. The office of the Dalai Lama has already issued a position. It cannot be changed. The petitioning and refusal went back and forth for an entire year. Then one day, while playing on a rooftop near the Potala, the cabinet minister’s son fell and broke his pelvis. In those days, such injuries were very serious and the boy soon died of complications. Now the Tsurphu office was asked to send out a search party for another candidate. As the Karmapa had written the prediction letter in beautiful poetry with extremely precise details, Tsurphu only submitted a single candidate-the one identified in the letter. The Lhasa government replied, you cannot submit just one candidate. That’s the same as you deciding who the tulku is. If you are asking us to decide, which is the tradition, you must submit two or three different choices and we will decide which one it is Again Tsurphu was in major turmoil and one meeting followed another.
But the Khyentse of Palpung, another important lama from Kham, was not only very wise but also very clever. He came up with an idea to circumvent the proud officials in Lhasa. “Make one candidate’s name the son of the father; he suggested, “and the ‘other’ candidate, the name of the son of the mother:’ So they wrote down two different names for the same boy, sent them to the government and awaited their reply. When it finally came, it said, “The correct tulku is the son of the mother, not the son of the father:’ This was how the authentic tulku of the fifteenth Karmapa was established at Tsurphu after many trials and tribulations. When I think of the fifteenth Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje, I am struck with amazement! To have such far-reaching powers of clairvoyance!“ (end of the citation of Blazing Splendor)
Tenga Rinpoche states in an interview in the german buddhist journal „Dharmanektar“ that in the biography of the 15th Karmapa it is mentioned as well, that a minister of the Lhasa government had his son nominated as 16th Karmapa (Dharmanektar 3/89)