Tibetan History

Dear readers,

slowly I will give an introduction to tibetan history. I will start with an event in the 18th century, when Sharmapa, the red hat lama and second highest lama of the Karma-Kagyü-school fled to Nepal

Taken from

Ramesh K. Dhungel

Nepal-Tibet Cultural-Relations and the Zhva-dmar-pa [Shamarpa]

The Tenth Zhva-dmar-pa and Nepal

The relations of the tenth zhva-dmar-pa chos-grub-rgya-mcho is the most important aspect of this history. He contributed much to strengthen this historical cultural relation. His special and profound contact with the. Buddhist Vajracarya Community in Nepal enabled him to do so. Because of Chinese policy and pressure in Tibet, he even had to take political asylum in Nepal, and that incident became one of the root causes of the Nepal­Tibet-China War of 1788-1792. In this war, Nepali troops looted the bkra­shis-lhun-po dgon-pa (tashilunpo monastery) of shikache, the second most powerful and the richest monastery in Tibet (Shakabpa 1967: 235,

Nepal-Tibet Cultural-Relations and the Zhva-dmar-pa 191

Kirkpatrick 1975: 175). However, the main cause of this incident was the international rivalries between China, Russia and the British-India. Unfortunately, the tenth zhva-dmar-pa was accused of the heavy loss of Tashilhunpo’s property and therefore was accordingly imprisoned by the Tibetan Government. Escaping from house-arrest, he, then fled to Nepal via Sikkim together with his fourteen followers and after all took political asylum there in 1788. A government document related to this incident is available (Yogi V.E. 2022: 52-53). In Nepal, the zhva-dmar-pa and his assistants submitted a dharmapatra (written oath) to the mandraja of Nepal taking oath of faith and commitment. The text of the dharmapatra reads `we no longer support Chinese Lha-sa (Tibetan Government of the Dalai Lama) rather become subjects of your Gorkha Majesty (the king of Nepal)’ (Yogi, Ibid).

At that time, the abbot of Tashilhunpo, third Panchen Lama blo-bzang pal-ldan-ye-se’s relation with British Indian authorities was very close. In accordance with Governor Warren Hasting’s interest, under the leadership of George Bogle, a mission was sent to Tibet. Playing a role of British envoy George Bogle met the third Panchen Lama in Lha-sa in 1772 (Das, 1970: 126). On the other hand, this relation effected Russian and Chinese interest in international political arena. Therefore, the Chinese Emperor invited the Panchen Lama to pay a cordial visit to China. Surprisingly, the lama died during his China visit. The lama’s death and the parallel views of neighboring countries towards Tibet flourishes a hypothesis: His death was caused intrigue. A strong evidence in support of this argument is available. For example, immediately after the end of Nepal-Tibet-China War, Abdul Kadir Khan, the resident representative of the British Governor General in Benaras, who arrived Nepal for a strategic study, reported that the lama was served poisonous dishes in the emperor’s palace (Calendar of Persian Correspondence Vol. VIII, 1788-89, events mentioning the particulars relating to the raja of Nepal and the Emperor of China dated Sept. 1,5, 1792). Whatever might be the truth, most historians have agreed that, the lama, who was the emperor’s spiritual teacher who had estalbished a cordial relationship with the emperor, died of sudden dangerous ailment (Das, 1970: 132-134). Therefore, an apt decision should be ascertained reviewing the matter. At that time, the fifth Dalai Lama of Tibet was still in his infancy, whose regent (rgyal-tshab-rin-po-che) kun-lde-ling-rtag-chag bstang-pa’i mgon-po was of Chinese influence, whereas the Panchen along with another prominent abbot, the tenth zhva-dmar-pa, had come under English

192 CNAS Journal, Vol. 26, No. 2 (July

influence, which reveals a strong point that the death had culpability. In order to solve the misunderstandings of Nepal-Tibet relation and war questions, the Panchen Lama followed very crude politics by provoking the Jumli Raja against Gorkha-Nepal or corresponding with the British Indian Governor General requesting attack over Nepal. (Calendar of Persian Correspondence Vol. VIII, 1788-89, notes about the request letter of Tashi Lama of Tibet, dated Jan. 22, 1989). Tashilhunpo’s authorities seem to have very secretly corresponded with British Indian authorities without making it known even to Chinese and the rgyal-tshab-rin-po-che, the Dalai Lama’s regent. They also had requested to the British authorities not to discolse the content of the letter, if the secrecy was to be uncovered later, the letter mentioned that the Panchen himself would have his life endangered (Calendar of Persian Correspondence, Ibid). So the content of the letter reflects the authorities’ intention of ignoring China’s assistance to Tibet in Nepal-Tibet-China War. The letter also hints that, if Nepal would be unable to attack Tibet that the Chinese should not have any ground to enter Tibet (Calendar of Persian Correspondence, Ibid). Such evidence further strengthens the aforesaid point that the death of the third Panchen Lama could have been caused by secret plotting.

On the factual grounds mentioned above the tenth zhva-dmar-pa’s fleeing into Nepal was not the primary cause of Tashilhunpo’s loss of properties. It was only a secondary cause. It can be assumed that the zhva­dmar-pa would not have stolen or deliberately misused someone else’s property in cordial and peaceful situation because he himself was one of the incarnate abbots of yans-pa-can monastery. The yangs-pa-can was under the karma bka’-rgyud line and tenth abbot of this monastery, the title holder of ho-thog-thu (equivalent to the regent) (Martynov, 1987: 6-20)7. Again the religious sect of zhva-dmar-pa i.e. yans-pa-can monastery and of the Panchen rin-po-che of Tashilhunpo, were not of the same line and even zhva-dmar-pa had no direct relation and influence on Tashilhunpo in any religious outlook. It has been mentioned above that the zhva-dmar-pa was of the karma-bka’-rgyud school and Panchen Lama was of the dge-lugs-pa school, the so called highly purified and reformed sect developed by the great Tibetan Buddhist scholar tsong-kha-pa (Das, 1983: 273). This school was formerly called `chos-rje dga’-ldan-pal’i lugs which term has later assumed the form dge-lugs-pa. Spirititual seat of the founder of this school, tsong­kha-pa in the later transfered in the hand of rgyal-ba-rin-po-che i.e. the Dalai Lama. There were vast differences in religious practices and

Nepal-Tibet Cultural-Relations and the Zhva-dmar-pa 193

philosophy beiween dge-lugs-pa and the other sects of Tibetan Buddhism. There was only one relationship between Tashilhunpo and the yans-pa-can in that period. The Pan-chen Lama and the zhva-dmar-pa tenth were brothers. The third Panchen dpal-Idan-ye-se was elder and the tenth zhva­dmar chos grub rgya-mcho was one of the younger brothers. Both being pro-English and after the sudden demise of the third Panchen in China, the leadership attained by the pro-English group of Tashilhunpo monastery was taken by the tenth zhva-dmar-pa. Therefore he had to be a traitor to both the Government of China and Tibet. So, having an uncertain future in Tibet he fled to Nepal to save his life. In the process he took his own property as well as a portion of the Tashilhunpo’s property. According to the biography of Lama kah-thog rig-‘dzin the tenth zhva-dmar rin-po-che got into a serious conflict with his eldest brother known as drung-pa ho-thog-thu. The conflict was related to the property offerd by the Emperor of China to the family of the third Panchen Lama after the sudden demise of the Lama in China. The drung-pa brother of the zhva-dmar-pa, who at that time was the care taker of the bkva-shis-lhun-po monastery, captured the property of the Panchen Lama and returned from China along with ten thousand gold coins offered by the emperor. As a younger brother of the family the tenth zhva-dmar rinpoche claimed for his share of the property provided by the emperor. The drung-pa brother denied to devide the property. Eventually the zhva-dmar-pa, with the help of his follower monks from bkra-shis-thun-po got success in acquiring his share of the property. But the regent (rgyal­tshab-rin-po-che) of the Dalai Lama kun-bde-gling-rtag-tshag-bstan-pa’i mgon-po in order to suspend him accused him of misusing the dgon-pa’s property in conspiring with Chinese will and direction. The zhva-dmar-pa, who was accused of taking away of monastic property and later put him in house arrest. Finally he fled to Nepal and took political asylum for he had an opportunity to flee from the house-arrest. According to the common belief of the followers of the zhva-dmar-pa, later he died of jaundice in Nepal. A contemporary Nepali report describing the causes and incidents of the Nepal-Tibet-China War 1789-92 prepared under the request of the council of East India Co. also agrees that the tenth zhva-dmar-rinpoche had passed away due to the divine will (Regmi 1980:49). Contrary to such evidence some foreign writers and Chinese sources mention that the lama had committed suicide. But this statement seems not other than a gross imagination and far from historical truth. After the Nepal-Tibet-China War, when talks of peaceful agreement began, the Chinese authority imposed a 194 CNAS Journal, Vol. 26, No. 2 (July  severe condition over Nepal demanding the properties brought to Nepal by the zhva-dmcir-pa be returned and that his wife, children, servants, and even his remains such as bones be sent back (Document of Foreign Ministry archieves bundle No. 7).8  During his asylum in Nepal, the tenth zhva-dmar-pa chos-grub-rgya mt s ho (unconquerable ocean of accomplished dharma) had .ade a numerous religious and cultural services in the field of Buddhism including the donation and renovation of temples and monasteries. It is recorded that he first made an effort for a minor renovation of the svayanibhamandcaitya in 1790. During this renovation, the tenth zhva-dmar-pa restored several disrepaired religious object including the descriptive stone inscription originally inscribed and installed’ in 1758 (Dhungel 1988: 10, for Tibetan text: 7). The restored full text of the inscription was re-written by the tenth zhva-dmar-pa himself and it also includes the additional information related to the contribution made by him in 1790 (Dhungel, Ibid). During the course of renovation of the svayaMbhamaheicaitya a-id its surrounding areas, he is also recorded to have renovated the Harati temple offering a golden pinnacle and gold polish to the temple. It was a quite lavish renovation and the record of the expense incurred by the tenth zhva-dmar abbot for this can be seen in a copper-plate inscription of that time (appendix-4 of this article). Likewise, one year later,.he also offered a large bell to svayaMbhandtha. This bronze bell weighing 170 dharnis of metal and three lines of inscription in Tibetan was installed infront of the temple known, as anantapura and it still stands there (appendix-3). Similarly, in 1912, he provided some material and financial assistance to some of the important Buddhist monasteries of Nepal which includes taksabahal of Kathmandu particularly for the purpose of lighting lamp at svayaMbha and khäsia caitya (boudhanatha) and infront of the karunamaya of taksabahal (a letter of reverential praise and greeting offered to the present fourteenth zhva-dmar-pa by the Sv’ayarictbhfi Community in 1977). The fourteeth zhva-dmar-pa has also continued and maintained this old tradition of respecting variance Buddhism in Nepal by the abbots of yangs-pa-can monastery (vaiSelli maheivihdra) of Tibet.9 He even visited Nepal to help in the renovation of the Harati temple, when the Government of Nepal renovated it (Ibid). Presently he is busy founding a monastary and Buddhist cultural center near Nagarjun in Kathmandu.

Nepal-Tibet Cultural-Relations and the Zhva-dmar-pa 195

Summary and Conclusion

Nepal, being an important center of Buddhist education played a prominent role in establishing Mahayana Buddhism in Tibet from the very inception of its Buddhist history. The role of Nepali scholars (Buddhist panditas), artists, traders, and the political and cultural contact of the royalties were very important in this regard. Similarly, visits of high-ranking Tibetan lamas and monk pupils as well as pilgrims also played significant role in strengthening the relationship. Even more interesting and important in this regard is the relation of the zhva-dmar abbots of yangs-pa-can monastery of Tibet with the people and Government of Nepal. So far as the tenth zhva-dmar-pa’s history is concerned, it is much more significant not only in the field of. cultural relations but also for reconstructing the history of political rivalries in the region. The tenth zhva-dmar-pa’s asylum in Nepal and the third Panchen’s demise in Beijing are the extreme examples of the rivalry of super-powers.

196 CNAS Journal, Vol. 26, No. 2 (July


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