Finance Minister Lungshar and his attempt to install his son as 16th Karmapa

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.[23] He appointed
Lungshar to accompany these.
[23] 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.”[30] 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.[31]

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
P 326:
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.

P 527:
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
with power.”
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
Introduction p23:
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[12]) 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,
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
Buddhist culture.

“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
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.
Blazing Splendor:
„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)

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