长久以来，侦探小说作家喜爱在书中把藏传佛教的上师幻想成间谍与特务的角色，周旋在惊险而诡谲的局势里。吉卜林（Rudyard Kipling）小说《基姆》（Kim）中的扎西喇嘛，本人虽非间谍，却糊里糊涂地被卷入了英俄“大博羿”的尔虞我诈之中。近年，两位英国国会议员在他们的小说里面也描写了类似的人物：工党国会议员克里斯•穆林（Chris Mullin）的《藏历绕迥火猴年》（The Year of the Fire Monkey），描写美国中情局招募了一位名为阿里的年轻喇嘛，并且派他到西藏的中国共产党内工作，他的任务是在跟伟大的舵手见面的时候，图穷匕见地谋刺他。（此情节当然太过异想天开，从印度回到中国的藏人是不可能在党内取得这样高的位置。）第二本类似的小说，是英国政治人物、曾担任（保守党）撒切尔夫人演讲撰稿人的麦可•多布斯（Michael Dobbs）所写的《布鲁尔街的佛陀》（The Buddha of the Brewer Street），他的小说描写中国与英国的情报单位竞相在伦敦城里寻找达赖喇嘛的转世化身。在穆林所杜撰的情节中，坏蛋是中情局与西方国家；而多布斯的小说里，坏人乃是中国，西藏喇嘛是受某国利用的不幸棋子。这些小说与现实无关，真正反映的，是作者本人的政治倾向。
对噶玛巴的指控并不只来自媒体，也来自资深有影响力的政论家。印度政府的前内阁副总理，如拉曼（B. Raman）写到他怀疑噶玛巴“之所以逃到印度，可能为的是执行中国情报单位的长期卧底任务，目的是影响达赖喇嘛圆寂后的西藏事务”。类似的说法，也由印度政府的前国安副顾问里拉•波纳帕（Leela Ponappa）接受电视专访的时候提出。不管藏人信徒或支持者发出多少悲愤的不平之鸣，这些怀疑都不太可能因为藏人情绪性的表达就烟消云散。
对于印度媒体来说，噶玛巴办公室里找到许多现金都是外国货币，真是雪上加霜，因为印度长期以来对于外国货币有一种根深蒂固的怀疑。毫无疑问，假如今天是凶天教──通常被藏人认为是专门与达赖喇嘛作对的人──的喇嘛被查出持有大量的中国人民币，藏人将会是第一个出来指控他就是中国间谍的人。我们也应该明白，今日印度的藏人倚赖外国的捐款，又因为越来越多藏人住在西方并把钱寄回印度，所以难民社区已经变成了全球汇兑经济的一部份。另一方面，印度的藏人难民少有人成为印度公民，因此面临从外国转帐到印度的种种复杂规定，往往别无选择只能使用现金，无法利用银行。此事行之有年，已经是公开的秘密，印度当局也非常清楚，其实印度的许多商业交易有时候也面临类似的困扰。达塔雷（Sunanda K. Datta-Ray）在《电邮报》中所指出的：
“没有人提到，信徒主动捐赠的款项，本来都存入噶玛巴的妙音佛母慈善信托（Saraswati Charitable Trust）里面，然而这个帐户的存款金额超过十万美金，所以银行拒绝再收受信徒的捐款。他只好又再登记了噶玛噶千信托（Karma Garchen Trust），然而他申请遵照《外国献金法》的规定收受外国捐款的申请书，从2002年到今天都一直还卡在公务单位里面，尚未得到核准。噶玛巴的寺院别无选择，只能收取信徒拿出来的现金捐款，并且努力确保寺院‘巨细靡遗地纪录’每一毛、每一分、每一元（虽然媒体因警方查获中国人民币而哗然，然而实际的金额不到总数的百分之十）的捐款。即使贫穷藏人所捐的一元人民币也都有纪录。”
不论噶玛巴是中国派来印度当卧底的指控是多么疯狂，印度高层所表达的怀疑，应该是西藏人应该关切的问题，而且应该体认到这对于西藏人住在印度具有重大的影响。印度内部目前正就它对中国的政策进行认真的辩论，对于那些认为应该与中国和解的人来说，藏人住在印度国内本身就是中印关系的最大绊脚石；另一派则是对中国较不信任的一派，他们一度认为藏人有利于印度，现在渐渐开始怀疑藏人的可靠程度究竟如何。印度媒体对于噶玛巴的指控，已经让印度大众认为藏人不利于印度的国家安全。印度语的网站Janokti描写噶玛巴是“aasteen ka saap”，这个词影射的是一条藏在暗处的蛇。这些议题，着实需要藏人冷静、彻底地加以处理，而不是表达自己感情受到伤害，并对印度的媒体口诛笔伐，须知媒体的天职就是要询问难以回答、触犯忌讳的问题。没有人会喜欢接受众媒体巨细靡遗的检视，然而在一个民主的社会里，媒体的职责就是问问题，而不是逢迎信徒的宗教感情。西藏人应该主动扛起向外界解释的重担，让大家不再怀疑他们的宗教纠纷以及资金往来并不会对印度的国安以及稳定造成威胁。
Portrait of A Lama As A Spy
By Tsering Shakya
The idea of a Tibetan lama as a spy or agent involved in high-level intrigue has long been a popular theme for thriller writers and novelists. The Teshoo Lama in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim was not himself portrayed as a spy, but unwittingly becomes a part of the skulduggery of the Great Game. In recent years, two British Members of Parliament have written novels with similar figures: in the Labour MP Chris Mullin’s The Year of the Fire Monkey, the CIA recruits a young Lama named Ari and dispatches him to Tibet to work in the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party, where he is tasked to secure a meeting with the Great Helmsman himself and assassinate him (it was of course fantastical to envisage any Tibetan returning from India ever rising to such heights in the Chinese system). The second novel by a British politician wasThe Buddha of Brewer Street, by Michael Dobbs, a former speech writer for Mrs Thatcher, in which the Chinese intelligence services and the British compete in scouring the streets of London to find the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama. In Mullins’ yarn, the baddies are the CIA and the West, while in Dobbs’ novel the villains are the Chinese and the Tibetan lama is the hapless tool of a foreign power: the stories reflect the authors’ political leanings.
And so it is with recent accusations levelled against the Karmapa, one of the most senior and important figures in Tibetan Buddhism, in the Indian media: these too could have come from the pages of a cheap spy novel, were it not for the seriousness of the charges and the high rank of those who are encouraging such suspicions.
While the world is riveted by the news of an early Arab Spring and the drama of Tahrir Square, Tibetans are caught up in the drama of the Indian police raid on the residence of the Karmapa and the subsequent media frenzy about the recovery of foreign currency from various countries in his office. The Tibetans expressed their outrage on the internet and held vigils in support of their religious leader, accusing the Indian media of sensationalising the story, much like any religious followers who find their leaders criticized by the media. The initial response seems to have been to blame the messenger rather than address the seriousness of the charges against the Karmapa and, by implication, against all the Tibetans in India.
In this case, the action taken by the police cannot be viewed as the work of ill-informed local officials or of a shady business deal gone wrong. Of the two central accusations made in the media and by Indian commentators, the most serious is that the Tibetans are engaged in espionage against the government of India (GOI) and the most tenacious is that they are involved in money-laundering. These accusations have serious implications that go beyond the issue of the Karmapa. Even after living in India for over 50 years, the Tibetan diaspora community fails to understand and appreciate the sensitivity of its presence to
India, where these matters are seen very differently from how they are perceived within the Tibetan community. For India, the issues concern the security of the nation and the legality of financial transactions. For Tibetans, the feud over rival claimants to the Karmapa’s title seems like a religious matter internal to the refugees, but like the Shugden issue it represents for India an issue of stability in a sensitive border region: for the GOI and Indian commentators these feuds are seen not as matters of faith but through the lens of security and stability. India knows from painful experience the consequences of religious feuds, and the continuance of these conflicts among the Tibetan refugees is an unwelcome intrusion on Indian soil
The Agent of Influence Conspiracy
The charges against the Karmapa have not just come from the media, but from senior and influential commentators as well. B. Raman, a former Cabinet Sectary of the GOI, wrote of his suspicion that the Karmapa's “escape to India was probably under a long-term Chinese intelligence operation to use him to influence events relating to Tibet after the death of the Dalai Lama”. Similar concerns were raised in a TV interview by Leela Ponappa, the former deputy National Security Adviser to the GOI. No amount of emotional denial by Tibetan devotees and supporters is going to dissipate these doubts.
The assumption that a teenage boy was groomed by Chinese intelligence operatives to go to India as a covert agent seems utterly fantastical. However, the concerns of the officials go much beyond the identity of the Karmapa: what is being expressed at the highest levels of the GOI and among other influential figures in India is an underlying doubt about the role of Tibetans in India and their liability to India’s long-term security. This doubt coheres around the fear that after the death of the Dalai Lama, under the influence of the Karmapa, the Tibetans could become a Trojan horse, abandon their political struggle and run into the open arms of China; or, that they will be fragmented and in some other way be used against Indian interests. This assumption does not speak well of the Tibetan political movement but for hard-nosed India analysts it is not a farfetched scenario – they view Tibetans as blind followers of religious leaders who will not question their Lama’s ruling on what is right or wrong, including in political affairs. The emotional response by Tibetans to the latest Indian media coverage confirms their piety and faith in their religious leaders, and they, as a result, for outsiders, seem no different from any other religious fundamentalists who allow religious leaders to obtain political influence.
The current moves against the Karmapa also reflect growing anxiety in India about China’s plans and a worsening in the Sino-Indian relationship. The Indian media has been at the forefront of voicing fears of Chinese encirclement and the recent arrest of Chinese nationals in India’s Northeast has further exacerbated the perception of intrigue by Beijing against India. This perception has been shaped by decades of dealings with Pakistan, where Indian security officials have experienced the use of agent provocateurs to sow social unrest and discord within India’s borders. Officials assume China operates in similarly old-fashioned ways, not aware of much more developed forms of political strategy.
There are two aspects to the assumptions found amongst Indian officials. One concerns the influence of Tibetan Buddhist leaders among their followers in the foothills of the Himalayas. Brahma Chellaney, professor at the Centre of Policy Research, noted the influence of the Kagyu schools of Buddhism in these sensitive regions. Indian officials have long known that the Tibetan exile monasteries in India are mostly populated by monks from Ladakh, Spiti, Sikkim and Northeast India, and this is particularly true of Kagyu and Nyingma monasteries. The Indian authorities are concerned about social stability and such an issue is legitimate for any government.
However, the assumption that this influence could induce people in the border regions to turn against India because of their religion fails to appreciate the deeply-felt Tibetan opposition to China. In addition, among the peoples in the Himalayas who follow Tibetan Buddhist lamas, there is a growing resurgence of local identity and increasing differentiation from the Tibetan diaspora. In all these areas, devotion to Lamas has never translated into politics. The people in the regions know too well where their interests lie: with India. And the Buddhist populations of the Himalayas constitute a tiny minority – even in Sikkim, where the Karmapa’s main monastery in exile is located, the Buddhist population is a minority. The entire Buddhist population of the border regions does not even make up the size of a mid-sized urban area in India. The ability of the Buddhist population to pose a major threat to India’s security is at best negligible. The festering perception in India that Tibetan Lamas could be a Trojan horse among the peoples in the border regions is thus clearly a misplaced apprehension.
The second fear – that one of the senior most lamas could be a Chinese agent and woo the Tibetans into siding with China – implies that senior Indian officials have serious doubts about the effectiveness of the Tibetans as a strategic asset for India in its dealings with China. The Indian security establishment sees Tibetans as loyal to their Lama rather than to the idea of Tibet itself, and so assumes that the influence of a turncoat Karmapa could turn the Tibetans easily against them. But in fact the Tibetan political movement in India and worldwide has matured towards a largely secular movement: its opposition to China’s rule is deep-rooted and it is unlikely that any Lama could counter that. The community supports the Dalai Lama because he represents that view, not just because he is a religious leader.
Another reason for suspicion among Indian commentators has been the Karmapa’s supposed lack of vocal opposition to the Chinese regime and the reluctance of the Chinese government to lambaste him as they have done repeatedly with the Dalai Lama. But this is true of all senior Tibetan Lamas: none of them make frequent anti-Chinese speeches or lead political campaigns abroad, since this has always been a task delegated to the Dalai Lama, who for centuries has had a formal political role as well as a religious one, unlike the other lamas. Inevitably, the Chinese attack him primarily as their main enemy, rather than other Tibetan lamas, whose followers would turn against them if needlessly attacked. In any case it seems likely that if the Karmapa were a planted agent, the Chinese would have encouraged him to camouflage himself as a firebrand activist. And if they had a long-term plot to undermine India through an agent of influence, why would they use a Tibetan whose ability to affect Indian society and its security concerns is almost non-existent? China would do far better in establishing alliances with a host of other insurgent groups in India.
Since 1959, the single most important failure for China in Tibet has not been the protests but the defection of the Karmapa. His flight to India in 2000 was a major setback for China’s policy in Tibet. Endorsed by the Dalai Lama as well as by the Chinese state, he would have been far better used for their purposes as a means of subduing the Tibetans inside Tibet. When the boy was installed in Tsurphu monastery, the traditional abode of the Karmapas, in 1992, it was a major propaganda coup for China’s United Front Department. Now that he has fled, not a single senior Tibetan Lama remains under their control – all have voted with their feet to come to India. For China, Tibetan Lamas are seen typically as agents of India and other foreign powers, since the vast majority of the famous ones reside abroad. One is reminded of the farmyard bluntness of the Lyndon Johnson, who is supposed to have said: “I'd rather have him inside the tent, pissing out, than outside, pissing in”: the Karmapa was infinitely more valuable to Beijing inside China than outside, because the Chinese have never succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people and cannot do so without the moral authority of the Lamas. The Karmapa was the greatest asset the Chinese had, and they would have dearly loved for him to have stayed in Tibet and to have endorsed their rule and their message of stability and unity.
Of course, it is right for the government of India to be concerned about stability in the border regions, and they are also right that the ongoing religious feuds within the Tibetan community have not helped. But these disputes are not an issue of international manipulation or something that the Indian security services cannot contain. They are conflicts created by Tibetans and by competing lamas, not designed by China. Those conflicts are now subsiding, with the respective factions burrowing themselves into their holes to consolidate such power and resources as they have been able to gain, and only history will show how these groups will reconcile their differences.
As for the Tibetans, they need to recognise that their internal feuds have implications beyond their own community and have served them badly in their political struggle – if they continue to have a system which integrates religious figures within political leadership, then religion will inevitably impact on their political aspirations and ideals. For example, Tibetan lamas from the Shugden group have already exported the feud over that issue to Mongolia and forced Mongolian Buddhists to take sides. The government of Mongolia is now wearied of this feud and maintains a distance from all the Tibetan Buddhists. As a senior Mongolian official told me recently: Mongolia does not want Tibetan religious conflicts exported to its country, and the Tibetans have now lost a potentially sympathetic nation as an ally.
Any story involving huge sum of money makes for a sensation: in a world of banks and credit cards, we associate cash with criminality. But among Tibetans, there is no sense of public accountability for the vast sums often accumulated by monasteries and their lamas, because they witness cash being donated every day by faithful followers in almost every monastery and temple. There is nothing mysterious or unexpected about it to any Tibetan, and probably if the Indian police were to raid any mandir, they would also find large bundles of rupees given by devotees. Equally, it is a legitimate concern of government agencies to check the source of any large sum of money and to ascertain how that money is accounted for and used. Just saying it is a donation is an explanation but not a defence, and the Tibetans, enjoying hospitality on Indian soil, have to be cognisant that we are accountable to the Indian public, not just to our community.
For the press, the fact that much of the currency in the Karmapa’s office was in foreign denominations only added to the long-held suspicion in India regarding foreign money and currencies. No doubt, Tibetans would likewise be the first to accuse a lama from the Shugden cult – usually seen as being opposed to the Dalai Lama – of being a Chinese agent if he were found with bundles of Chinese currency. It should be remembered that the Tibetans in India today are dependent on foreign donations and increasingly on Tibetans living in the West, and our refugee community has become a part of the global remittance economy. But Tibetan refugees in India can rarely become Indian citizens and so face complex regulations regarding fund transfers from abroad, and often have no choice but to resort to cash dealings rather than bank deposits. This has been an open secret and the Indian authorities are fully aware of this, as is the case with many business deals in India. As Sunanda K. Datta-Ray points out in theTelegraph:
No one mentions the Karmapa’s Saraswati Charitable Trust into which all unsolicited cash donations would have been paid if permission to do so had not been withdrawn after the first $100,000. He then registered the Karma Garchen Trust but the application to receive foreign donations under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act has been pending since 2002. Forced to retain donations as they come, the monastery ensures that every penny, cent or yuan (under 10 per cent of the total despite the hullabaloo over Chinese currency) is “diligently recorded”. Even one-yuan notes from humble Tibetans without access to any other currency are recorded
The explanation given for the Chinese currency by the Karmapa’s office is plausible: this cash came as donations from followers from Tibet or China, for whom the offering of donations to a lama is an expression of their devotion. The quantities involved should not surprise us either, not just because the Karmapa has tens of thousands of followers, but because the economy in Tibet and China has changed drastically. In the 1980s, Tibet was far poorer than India and donations flowed exile lamas and Tibetans in India into Tibet for the reconstruction of monasteries there. Today, this balance has changed. The Tibetan region has been benefited in some ways from China’s economic growth and today, the people in Tibet enjoy a much higher standard of living than their counterparts in India, and have disposable wealth to send to lamas and to relatives living in India. They can rarely donate to lamas or build monasteries inside Tibet because of heavy restrictions on religion there, and so see India as an alternative base for their temples and monasteries. Both China and India look to these ties with suspicion. The lamas in India are caught in the middle, accused by both sides as agents of the other.
The economic question is one that worries Indian strategists, for the Indian side of the border remains poor and neglected relative to the rapid economic and infrastructural development on the other side of the Himalayas. But rather than seeing the flow of money as an index of espionage, Indian leaders increasingly recognise that disparity in economic development on either side of the border poses a great danger to India. That is why last year vast sums were allocated by New Delhi for development of roads and other facilities in Arunachal Pradesh and other northern border areas. For India's security, cash donations to lamas in India are insignificant compared to India’s all-important task of speeding up infrastructural development and growth in the border regions.
The questions raised in the Indian press have serious implications for the Tibetans. On one level, the Lamas and monasteries must be accountable and maintain transparency over their funding. It is clear that the Tibetans in India are among the largest recipients of foreign donations, yet there is very little accountability to the larger public in India, or indeed to their own followers. The Tibetan settlements and monasteries are often located in poorer parts of India and their finances have a large impact on the local economy. The huge increase in land prices in Kangra and other parts of Himachal are driven by the flow of money into the Tibetan community, an imbalance that has created resentment and unfair competition for some of the local community. Without transparency, lingering doubts will remain about the sources of Tibetan funding and donations. However, such transparency cannot be maintained without clear-cut legal protection and the bureaucratic will to enable Tibetans to operate within India’s financial systems.
However ludicrous the claim that the Karmapa is a Chinese agent may be, the doubts expressed at the highest levels of Indian society are a matter of concern with serious repercussions for the Tibetan community in India. India is engaged in a hard debate regarding its policy towards China, and those who argue for rapprochement with China view the presence of the Tibetans as an obstacle and those who are suspicious of China, and once saw the Tibetans as an asset, are now beginning to doubt their reliability. The media accusations against the Karmapa have galvanised the public perception in India that the Tibetans are a liability to India’s security. The Hindi-language website Janokti described the Karmapa as “aasteen ka saap”, a phrase invoking a hidden snake. These are issues that Tibetans must address calmly and in depth rather than speaking of hurt feelings and attacking the Indian media whose job is to ask hard, unthinkable questions. Nobody likes being in the media spotlight, but in a democratic society the duty of the press is to raise questions and not to pander to religious sentiment. The onus is on the Tibetans to demonstrate beyond doubt that their religious feuds and financial activities do not pose a threat to India's security and stability.
Tsering Shakya is professor of Tibetan History at the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia and the author of the Dragon in the Land of Snows