Govind Siddharth’s Visit to the 16th Karmapa

Remembering Here&Now

The 16th Karmapa speaks to Govind Siddharth about Osho

The following interview was published at the end of one of Osho’s very early books, The Silent Explosion, which has since gone out of print. Puroshottama, who had also met the Karmapa personally during his travels, reminded us of this very extraordinary interview.

16th Karmapa
16th Karmapa

Govind Siddharth, would you please tell us in detail about your visit to the Monastery of the Tibetan Lama, His Holiness Lama Karmapa?

Darjeeling is full of monasteries. When one approaches Darjeeling, many monasteries are seen on the way. Many times I had heard Bhagwan talk about the Tibetan mystics, of their occult sciences, of how they are meditating and of the things that they have learned from Buddha. So naturally, when I was travelling in Darjeeling in June 1972 with my wife and two daughters (age thirteen and ten), I was interested in seeing their monasteries.

I found at the tourist office at Darjeeling that they had complete information on monasteries. They suggested that I visit the monastery at Rumtek, which is near Gangtok—the capital of Sikkim. This is the monastery run by His Holiness Lama Karmapa. (It is named “Pal Karmapa Densa Shed Drup Chho Khorling”, in the Tibetan language). I felt very anxious to go there, and that is how I came to know about His Holiness.

Gangtok is 5000-6000 feet high. It was rainy season there when I came. The rains start there in May. It was very cloudy, and one could hardly see. Compared to the climate in Bombay one would feel cold there during the rainy season.

His Holiness’s monastery is about 25 miles from Gangtok. It was partially erected by the Maharaja of Sikkim with the help of the Indian Government. The place was selected by His Holiness Lama Karmapa himself. When he came from Tibet after the invasion by Communist China in 1959, he was asked where he would like to establish his monastery. He was given a choice of Dharmshala and was also asked to stay in Sikkim. As the Dalai Lama had already settled in Dharmshala, he chose Sikkim. At about 5000 feet high in the Himalayas, opposite Gangtok, there is a peak which is very close to the Himalayan Peak of Kanchenjunga. At that spot this monastery is situated.


It is a very big monastery with about two hundred people permanently living there who are all lamas (Tibetan monks). No one is allowed to stay in the monastery unless he has renounced. “Lama” means one who has renounced life in the world and who becomes a monk.

When I first came to the monastery, I was told that His Holiness would not be able to see me just then and that he usually only sees certain people, but that perhaps I could make an appointment. I learned later that my hotel manager knew him well, and he said that he would arrange a meeting. The next morning we started for the monastery, but I just completely forgot to ask him to call and make an appointment for me. I remembered afterwards that I should have told him, but I went there anyway with my family.

When we arrived by car, the monastery was completely closed. I was very disappointed and wondered whether I would be able to meet His Holiness or not or whether I would even be able to see the inside of the monastery. Then all of a sudden, one lama came, and he said, “Do you want to meet Guruji?” I said, “Yes, I have come for that purpose.” He immediately took me to where His Holiness was staying. He said that there were some foreigners inside, and I would have to wait for some time. I said, “I do not at all mind waiting.” He asked me for my name and address. I gave him my name as Swami Govind Siddharth from Bombay. He went inside and to my surprise the lama came out saying that “You are immediately wanted inside by His Holiness.” I went in and was greeted by him as if I was expected there. This is how I came to be in his presence.

I entered and touched his feet. He immediately put his two hands on my head. This is really a very rare gesture and is very significant in the tradition of Tibetan lamas. According to their practice, when you enter and bow down to His Holiness, you are supposed to present a scarf to him which is put on his leg. If he feels something special about you concerning your spiritual development, he will then put it on your neck. If he feels that you are somewhat more advanced in meditation, then there are special scarves with three red marks, and he will put that on you. If he feels something still more about you, then he will put one hand on your head. But the highest indication is if he puts two hands on your head. He would never have done this unless he felt this indication.

His Holiness never even knew anything about me beforehand, as I had never made any appointment with him. If I had taken an appointment he would have known who I am, but he never knew anything about me except that I was in a sannyasin’s dress.

In every Tibetan monastery this is the usual practice. Before visiting this monastery, I visited other ones in Darjeeling where I inquired about these scarves, because you will find in every monastery images of Buddha with such scarves put on their laps. Naturally, I was told that it indicated the same thing as if one offers a flower garland in the Hindu temple to the images of God. It is to show respect.

About His Holiness, he is said to be a “Divine Incarnation.” In Tibet, they believe that whosoever attains to Buddhahood, to Enlightenment, if by their own wishes they are born again to help people in the world, then they are “Divine Incarnations”—Bodhisattvas. There were many people attaining Buddhahood at the time of Buddha himself, so certain lamas are Incarnations of some of these Enlightened Ones. His Holiness is said to be a Bodhisattva who is the sixteenth Incarnation of Dsum Khyenpa, the first Karmapa, who was born about 1110 A.D. He is descended from the chain of gurus going back to Marpa, one of  Tibet’s great yogis.

In the Darjeeling area this is the only monastery that has a lama who is an Enlightened Incarnation. There are only three such living Enlightened Tibetan Incarnations (Bodhisattvas) altogether at present. They are: 1. The present Dalai Lama—the highest one. He is an Incarnation of Chenaezi Buddha; 2. His Holiness Lama Karmapa who is an Incarnation of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara; 3. Pancham Lama, the Incarnation of O-pa-me. Each of these three is the head of a cluster of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. All Tibetan monasteries under them are run by appointees of these three. Only an Enlightened Incarnation is allowed to be the head of a monastic order, since only by being enlightened can anyone help others toward attainment of the same. The Dalai Lama is the temporal ruler of the Tibetan people and is also the head of all the monastic orders.

One interesting point is that His Holiness looks exactly like Bhagwan—exactly: so jolly, so light-hearted, so warm! He is about the same age too—about forty—between forty and fifty. A particular thing which I saw about His Holiness is his third eye. You can see it very easily; it is concave—inwardly curved—in the center of his forehead. It felt like a normal eye, but it is an inner eye. I experienced the middle point of that inner eye as if energy was being emitted from a small hole there. You can very easily see that middle portion.

I had heard that they have a practice in Tibet where they drill a hole in the forehead to open the third eye, so I asked him about this. He said, “That is all fake rumours. It is never done. At some time in the distant past it may have been done, but not now.” He said that once this third eye is opened, you can see many things that are hidden from one’s ordinary perceptions.

When I first entered, he immediately told me, “I know from where you are coming.” It was a great surprise for me. And then he said, “I am seeing that you have somewhere some photograph, or something which is printed on two sides, of your Guru.” I answered, “I have nothing like that which is printed on two sides.” (I had completely forgotten the locket hanging on my mala with Bhagwan’s photograph on both sides.)

There was an English lady who acted as an interpreter, since Lama Karmapa does not know English and speaks only in the Tibetan language. This English lady had been there for many years. She had completely renounced and is following the Tibetan ways of meditation. She is Lama Karmapa’s disciple, and the only lady in the monastery. Basically, no ladies are allowed, and there are special monasteries for ladies.

She immediately saw my mala and said, “What is this?” I then remembered that the locket was printed on two sides and said, “This is the photograph of my Guru.” She was curious to see it, so I took it off and showed it to her. Immediately His Holiness said, “That is it.”

He took the locket of Bhagwan in his hand, and he touched it to his forehead, then he said about him. “He is the greatest incarnation since Buddha in India and is a living Buddha!” I felt much excited to hear this, then asked, “There are certain other people in India who also say they have attained Enlightenment. What about them?” He replied, “They are ‘Realized Souls’, but not Enlightened Incarnations.”

Then I asked particularly about Krishnamurti. He said, “Firstly he is not in India. Secondly, he is a ‘Realized Soul’, but not a Divine Incarnation.” That is what he specifically told me. Then I asked him what is the difference between an Incarnation and a Realized Soul. He said that a Realized Soul has become Self-Realized, but he cannot necessarily help other people. If he wants to help others, then he would have had to have been specially trained for this in occult and esoteric sciences and must be born again and again for this training. Then he can make a conscious choice of re-birth. All this Bhagwan has already passed through, the Lama told me. “Divine Incarnation” means an incarnation of someone who was trained in previous lives to help others, not just a soul who has Realized in this life. In Bhagwan’s case, he has already been trained; he has already been Realized. Now in this life, Bhagwan has taken birth specially in order to help people spiritually—only for this purpose. He has taken birth fully consciously, the Lama said. In that respect I told him that he is teaching many people, and he speaks on many deep things.

His Holiness then said, “You may be feeling that he is speaking for you, but it is not only for you that he speaks. He (Bhagwan) speaks for Akashic Records (records of events and words recorded on the astral planes) also. Whatever is spoken is not forgotten. That is why you will find that he goes on repeating things. He will go on repeating things, and you will feel that he is speaking for you, but a matter of fact, he speaks only for a few people. Only a few people realize what he (Bhagwan) is. His words will remain in the Akashic records, so that they will also be helpful to people of the future.

His Holiness asked me where Bhagwan is, as he at once recognized him when I came there, from the vibration of my locket with Bhagwan’s photo. He was also with him in past lives. All Buddhas (Enlightened Ones) come in contact with each other. Even now he and Bhagwan are in contact with one another telepathically. That is how he knows. I thought that his question meant where is Bhagwan staying, or I did not hear the English lady who was translating properly, so I said “Bombay.” His Holiness said, “No, not Bombay.” He meant “Where is his native place?” Then when I told him Madhya Pradesh, he said, “Right!” So he knew the whole thing before I said it even, as it is in the Akashic Records, and he knows from these.

Then he asked me about what methods of meditation Bhagwan teaches. I described to him our four-stage method. When I told him about the third stage, the shouting of “hoo-hoo-hoo,” he said that this “hoo” comes from the “hum” in the Tibetan mantra “Om mani padme hum.” He was so much excited about this that he just grabbed my two hands, saying he was “very much delighted” and that “this method is absolutely right; this is similar to some of the Tibetan ways of these practices, and whatever work we are doing, you are doing the same thing.” Many differences are only in language. For example, when we use the term ‘kundalini’, they use ‘the burning fire’ to mean the same thing. But about Bhagwan’s method, he just said, “Perfect!”

Actually, their system is quite different in most ways. They believe in vibrations being responsible for all manifestations, and they do a lot of prayers and chanting of particular mantras in the Tibetan language. This must be done only in a particular way. But His Holiness felt sure that the “hoo” stage in our meditation comes from the “hum” in their mantra “Om mani padme hum.” That Bhagwan has also confirmed in some of his lectures.

Inside the monastery itself there is a large compound. On the border of it there are small, small rooms where the resident lamas stay. In the middle of the compound, there is another block of rooms consisting of three stories; the first room is a prayer room where all the lamas go to pray.

These Tibetan monasteries are built out of thick wood that is intricately carved and coloured in a combination of bright red, blue and gold. They appear very elegant. Among Tibetans, gold is considered to be the sacred metal and sacred colour also, so they use it a lot, but only for religious purposes. The monastery is so rich looking. Gold is plentiful in Tibet. You can find it in rivers, just lying on the banks. That is why they use it for sacred things. This is a special art, and it is considered very sacred. All their pooja (worship) things are of gold.

In Tibetan theory, they believe that Existence is nothing but vibrations and that only by the right vibrations can one achieve enlightenment. So they believe in prayer and in repeating particular mantras (sounds), particular rhythms, through which they can attune to the Cosmic and go deep in meditation, calming down the restless vibrations of the mind. That is their theory of meditation. This prayer hall which I have mentioned has a statue of Buddha, photographs of the Dalai Lama and of great souls like that, and hundreds of special lamps which they light up when they pray.

You can feel the strong vibrations as soon as you enter the monastery, because the lamas constantly go on chanting their prayers there, creating a vibratory atmosphere. They are provided clothes, food and shelter, so they have nothing to worry about and nothing else to do but meditation. Meditation is the main aim of these two hundred monks, so that creates an atmosphere. Half the work of meditation is done even without any practices, because the vibrations are very good there. They are felt as soon as you enter. I myself feel the difference now very much.

When the lamas start prayer, they use a particular type of incense, as they also believe that smell plays a very important part in meditation: that each smell has its own effect and that if you want to have a particular type of effect, you should use a particular type of incense. For example, if you want to calm down your mind, then it is required that you use a particular type of incense. Or suppose that you want to contact certain souls, to guide certain souls, then a particular type of incense is used and particular mantras are to be cited. They have a complete science about it.

So in this prayer hall all the lamas have to come and sit. They sit in rows—back to back to each other and facing each other, so that when they pray loudly their vibrations can form a particular pattern.

There are special types of bells used which cost over 200 or 250 rupees. They prepare those bells out of a specific metal. They mix seven metals and prepare them to get a particular type of vibration. They have made a very deep study regarding this science. In the morning, His Holiness comes only for a particular ceremony. Then, in his presence, the monks have to chant mantras of a particular type, in a particular way.

Still further inside, they have different temples where different types of prayers are to be done according to what purpose is required. Some prayers are done to guide the souls of deceased persons in Tibet. They believe that deceased souls have to be guided, so they guide a person’s soul while he is dying and then after death to choose the proper womb for his next birth. This they refer to as the “Bardo process.” There are particular lamas who are experts in that science, and only they are allowed to enter that particular temple. At a particular time they have to chant particular mantras so that the departed souls can be guided properly. Usually they guide the souls of their own deceased lamas in order to call them back in the next birth for further training. Like that, many lamas have been trained through many births by them. And in the monastery, there is one room where His Holiness is staying.

Basically, lamas have two different systems of practices. The first is prayer—chanting of mantras and things like that; the other is meditation. They do not allow anybody to live in the monastery or to take initiation unless they make a complete renunciation. This renunciation means a clean shaven head with a particular type of dress, a particular type of food to be eaten, a particular way the hair is to be cut and complete seclusion for a certain period of time. And in that period, they instruct you what to do. If you pass through that, then only you are entitled to stay at the monastery—otherwise not.

After prayers, they will tell you what type of meditation is to be done, what practices you will have to follow, depending upon what your capacities are, and what things you will have to study. They have different occult sciences which one has to learn in order to help other people also, such as the science of knowing the aura of a human being. By this you can immediately know what type of a person someone is; whether he is genuine, whether he speaks the truth or not, whether he is on the path of meditation or not, whether he is going ahead or whether he is regressing. All these things they can know by the colour of the magnetic fields of the human aura.

Another occult science which they have to learn is telepathy. By this you can read the thoughts of people. And a third one is clairvoyance, a science by which you can guide people by your thoughts from long distance. These are the three sciences one must learn, and they have different types of meditation for these things.

Naturally, I asked the Lama more about them and whether he can teach me or not. He said he could not teach anyone who was not one of their lamas, because if these things go to a person who is not ready for them, they can be misused. Thus, the Tibetans have kept all their occult sciences very secret, only because they feel that nowadays we live in a materialistic world, and people will try to make money out of everything. That is why they do not want to give out these secrets.

Once a person has entered the monastery, he has to remain there until his death. He cannot go out of the monastery unless he dies; otherwise he will have to leave the Tibetans completely. Once a person belongs to them, he belongs to them for his whole life and for all his remaining lives, even until he achieves Buddhahood. They go on instructing him in all his lives, and they will always call back monks who know about guiding others’ spirits. They come back there to guide them, and these souls are always guided in order that they will get the proper birth in the next life. Like that, their spiritual training continues for many lives. Generally, they try especially not to let any Realized Soul leave their group. However, after realization, they cannot control them.

Regarding Bhagwan, His Holiness said that after enlightenment it cannot be helped if the soul of the Enlightened One, by his own choice, is reborn somewhere else than among them. In Bhagwan’s case, the Lama said that he was with them in past lives. He said to me, “If you want to see one of Bhagwan’s previous Incarnations—who he was in Tibet—you can go to Tibet and see his golden statue there which is preserved in the Hall of Incarnations.”

Bhagwan’s last birth is said to have occurred about seven hundred years ago. His Holiness was referring to one birth before that one. He said Bhagwan was one of their great Incarnations two births ago, and his statue is thus preserved.

The Tibetans preserve the body of one who has achieved enlightenment in a particular fashion, like a mummy in Egypt is preserved. The dead body is given special treatment by which it dries. After it is dried, it does not lose the natural features of the person from the time of death. Then, after that treatment is given, they give the body to the goldsmith to cover it with gold, making it a gold-encased body. The body has to be put in the sitting posture of Buddha (Padmasan—lotus posture) for this treatment, and then they will encase the body in gold. There are specialized goldsmiths who do this so that not a single feature line is changed.

The Tibetans were able to salvage many precious relics and statues because they know the science of astrology. As a result of this, they can predict the future, so they know what is going to happen beforehand. Thus, they knew about the Chinese Communist invasion long before it came and were able to duplicate everything. The real golden statues are hidden somewhere in Tibet. Only certain people know about it—only people who go deep in meditation. Bhagwan knows about this. Those who go deep into meditation can know where these things are kept. Only the unauthentic duplicates were placed in a visible place, just for show so that the Chinese could destroy them, as the Tibetans knew that they would want to destroy something.

There are ninety-nine golden statues of great Divine Incarnations like this in Tibet, according to His Holiness. One of them is the statue of Bhagwan from two lives back. The Chinese have not destroyed it. They cannot, because these statues have been removed to a remote part of Tibet and are secretly hidden. The real statues have been removed because these statues are powerful occult things. If anybody will even just touch them, some powerful spiritual experience can happen to him. So in a room where they are kept even the monks will not be allowed to enter. Only particular people are allowed, because even by touching these statues one can have powerful reactions.

Whatever His Holiness wanted to tell, I wanted only to listen, so I went on just listening to him, to his responses. I found only that he was so happy about the whole thing and so excited, as if something lost was found again. Through this excitement which he conveyed and in his gestures I could realize that he must have been closely associated with Bhagwan in the past. He did not specifically say what was his own spiritual relationship to Bhagwan, and I did not want to ask him though I was curious. It was a very interesting and unique experience for me which I had never expected.

He went on to say about Bhagwan and his work that “My blessings are always there, and I know that whatever we are not going to be able to do to help others, Bhagwan will do.”

The main aim of the lamas in coming to India was to preserve their occult sciences. Bhagwan has also confirmed this in his Kashmir lectures given in 1969. The Dalai Lama has not escaped only to save himself, but to save the Tibetan religion, the meditation secrets, the occult sciences. Only for that purpose has he come to India, taking with him everything from Tibet. His Holiness said, “We have gotten these things from India in the past, and now we want to return [them] back. And now we have come to know that here is an Incarnation (Bhagwan) who is doing our job in India and in the world. We are happy about it.” That is how they think about Bhagwan.

His Holiness then said that Bhagwan is the only person who will be able to do this work in India, as they are finding it very difficult to contact Indian people, since they do not speak our languages. But His Holiness said that Bhagwan has taken special care to come to India for this birth, and he said to me, “You are very, very fortunate to have him. His is the only Divine Incarnation living today who will be a World Teacher.”

Then he asked me how we are initiated, whether there is anything in particular we have to go through. I said, “Nothing difficult. We are just accepted as we are. We can do anything and live as is convenient. We have not to leave anything. We can eat whatever we like; we can do whatever we like. The only thing Bhagwan requires of his neo-sannyasins is that they do meditation regularly and attend mediation camps and things like that.” I told him that Bhagwan feels more people can be helped in this way and that all spiritual goals will be achieved naturally in their own time by practicing meditation. Then His Holiness, said, “You are very fortunate. We here in Tibet are very strict about everything for those who are initiated by us.”

I then suggested to him that we would perhaps like to have a meditation camp in that area in the Himalayas. He immediately said that “You can come, and you are most welcome to my monastery. Whatever help you want we will give.”

Then the English lady who was interpreting for us said she would come to Bombay especially to meet Bhagwan early in October or November. I told her specifically that if she comes in October, we will have a meditation camp where she could actually see for herself in what way Bhagwan is teaching meditation and how we are doing all our practices. She said, “If not that, at least I shall definitely come to Bombay to meet Bhagwan.”

Some foreigners were there who were very much impressed with this discussion. Immediately, they took down my address, and in October they might come to our meditation camp.

I asked His Holiness of who Bhagwan was an Incarnation, but he said, “No, that is secret. Unless someone is the head of one of our monasteries, we do not disclose whose Incarnation he is. But he told me one thing very clearly, that “As soon as his (Bhagwan’s) work is done, he will disappear—disappear completely, and we will not be able to find him.” He said that “It is only by a Tibetan art by which one can disappear.” The same thing had happened to Lao Tzu. Bhagwan had also told us that nobody knows where Lao Tzu had gone. He just disappeared when his time came instead of dying. His Holiness did not indicate when it would happen to Bhagwan.

I had asked His Holiness how it is possible that he will disappear like that. He said, “Ours is a science of vibrations, and Bhagwan is already accomplished in it. He has only to calm down his vibrations, and then he can disappear.” One only sees people because their vibrations are thrown to the eyes. The eyes then catch the vibrations which form into an image, and that is behind the secret of this art. Bhagwan has also said that you want to make people feel that you are there, so your vibrations form an image. Lama Karmapa said that Bhagwan has already calmed down his vibrations, and he is only waiting for his work to be completed. As soon as this is done, he will disappear. He is already on a calmer vibration, and it is by artificial means that he is keeping himself here, just because he has to finish the work.

He went on to say that “The world will know him, but only a few people will realize what he actually is. He will be the only person who can guide properly, who can be a World Teacher in this age, and he has taken birth only for this purpose.” He indicated that unless one achieves enlightenment, one will not fully know who Bhagwan is.

Even now also people misjudge him, as they misjudge us, by misunderstanding our meditation practices and by seeing that we are allowed to continue to live with modern conveniences and luxuries if we like and by things like that. So people will misjudge. His Holiness then said that “Bhagwan really is interested only in people who can know him, and he does not want to waste time. He will not want the wrong people to come. As soon as someone comes to him (Bhagwan), he knows who he is by the colour of his aura, as different colours indicate different degrees of the state of spirituality one has reached, and he immediately finds out about the person. And only if he feels something special about someone will he allow him to come near to him. Otherwise he will not allow it.

Hearing all these things, one could very easily think that whatever Bhagwan is teaching is nothing else but completely Tibetan and that he is trying to adjust these things to our atmosphere and our circumstances. That may be why Bhagwan mentions Buddha in almost every lecture he gives. Now I can see this even in his lectures on the “Gita”, on Lao Tzu, even in any of his lectures, Bhagwan always mentions Buddha; he seems so familiar with Buddha. So it looks to me as if this confirms everything that His Holiness has said. (However, other sources of information have reported that Bhagwan has been trained in all the esoteric systems of all the religions in his past lives, and so he is familiar with all paths. This makes him all the more qualified to help universally and it is not in contradiction with what His Holiness said.)

His Holiness also asked me about sex, as my wife and children were also with me. He asked whether we were allowed to have sex lives. I said, “We are not supposed to renounce anything unnaturally or forcefully, but are supposed to take each step as it comes naturally to us.” Then I asked him. “What about your disciplines”? He said, “There are special monasteries where couples can live together, and we feel that if they are in deep love, then the sex act will definitely help them to help each other. There is a separate science for that also, but only for people who are in deep love—only then, otherwise not; otherwise it will be harmful to them and to their spiritual growth.”

Would you say that the lamas have a chance of ever going back to Tibet?

They are thinking that they will be able to go back. They have predicted this also. They have written down everything for when the time comes. That is why they have preserved all their occult sciences. In astral travelling, every day they are visiting Tibet. They think that after the year 2000, they will be able to return there physically. His Holiness told me. The cycle will change. That is what their predictions are, but I do not know whether it will come true.

Have you discussed all of this with Bhagwan, and what did he say?

I have told all these things to Bhagwan and asked him about the Tibetans and whether they will be able to help us here in India. He said, “No, it is not possible for them to help, because their strictness is too much for the modern age, their methods for spiritual progress take too long, and the time is short. Help is needed quickly in this age, so it is not possible for them to help a great number of people.”

So as I see it, Bhagwan is the only person who can give spiritual help in today’s world to a large number of seekers. These were the words of His Holiness also, that they themselves will not be able to help the world too much and that “the only person who can is Bhagwan, and he will be recognized as a World Teacher.”

Bhagwan has told me that “It is very good that you went there.” But I do not know whether I have gone or whether, in a mysterious way, he has sent me without my being aware of it.

Bhagwan did not directly say that he knew His Holiness in a past life. But I could see from his face and from his gestures that he did. That is why he said in particular, “It is very good that you went there.”

I must say that I have felt very excited in hearing all these things. I was not expecting to meet His Holiness at first, but when I could meet him and hear all this, it was wonderful. And it happened so all of a sudden. I am most happy about it all.

From Osho, The Silent Explosion, pages 202-217

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