The potential heir to the Dalai Lama is being sued for child support and spousal maintenance by a former nun who is claiming the pair had a ‘marriage-like relationship’.
Vikki Hui Xin Han says she only ever met Ogyen Trinley Dorje — known to his millions of followers as His Holiness, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, or simply the Karmapa Lama — four times.
Despite this, a court in British Columbia – where Han lives – has given permission for her to sue Dorje for spousal support in a case that could break new legal ground in Canada.
Han, who was training to be a Buddhist nun, claims that she got pregnant when Dorje visited a New York monastery in 2017.
She says their relationship ‘evolved into a loving and affectionate’ one which saw the pair keep in contact via texts, email and telephone calls. She says Dorje also sent her more than $700,000.
The Karmapa Lama denies he had any romantic relationship with Han, saying that any emotional and financial support he provided her was ‘for the benefit of the child [she] told him was his daughter.’
In the Buddhist faith, sex is considered a serious monastic transgression.
The potential heir to the Dalai Lama has been sued for child support and maintenance by a former nun who is claiming the pair had a ‘marriage-like relationship’. Pictured: The Karmapa Lama in Toronto
Initially, Han sued for child support. However, she asked the court to permit her to amend her claim to include espousal support in a case that could tread new legal ground when it goes to trial in April 2022.
The case raises a ‘novel’ question according to Master Bruce Elwood, the Supreme Court official who granted Han’s application, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported.
‘Can a secret relationship that began online and never moved into the physical world be like a marriage?’ Elwood wrote in the ruling posted on Tuesday, seen by the CBC.
‘Ms. Han’s claim is novel. It may even be weak. Almost all of the traditional factors are missing. However, the traditional factors are not a mandatory check-list that confines the ‘elastic’ concept of a marriage-like relationship,’ he added.
‘And if the COVID pandemic has taught us nothing else, it is that real relationships can form, blossom and end in virtual worlds.’
Elwood is not a judge, but is one of 15 Supreme Court masters who decide on pre-trial motions and procedural orders.
Saying he meant no disrespect by referring to the Karmapa Lama by his last name, he said the man’s lifestyle was ‘monastic and nomadic.’
‘His true home is Tibet, but he currently resides in India. He receives followers from around the world at the Gyuto Monastery in India,’ Elwood wrote.
‘He also travels the world teaching Tibetan Buddhist Dharma and hosting pujas, ceremonies at which Buddhists express their gratitude and devotion to the Buddha.’
Pictured: Exiled Tibetan Buddhist nuns take part in a prayer procession at Choeling Monastery in Kathmandu on March 10, 2020 [file photo]. Vikki Hui Xin Han, who was training to be a nun says she only ever met Ogyen Trinley Dorje four times, but is claiming spousal support
Dorje is seen as a successor to the Dalai Lama as a leader of the world’s Tibetan Buddhists. He was recognized as the reincarnation of the Karmapa Lama when he was found by a search party in 1992 at the age of seven.
His story hit international headlines in 1999 when he fled China-controlled Tibet for the Dalai Lama’s compound in India when he was just 14 years old. The incident put a strain on the relationship between India and China.
In one of Buddhism’s great controversies, he is one of two claimants to the title of Karmapa, along with another named Trinley Thaye Dorje.
Han claims she met Dorje during a ceremony in 2014, before starting a three-year residency at the U.S. monastery in 2016. She claims she saw him twice more – including when she fell pregnant in October 2017.
‘After she learned that she was pregnant, Ms. Han requested a private audience with Mr. Dorje,’ Elwood wrote. ‘Mr. Dorje initially denied responsibility; however, he provided Ms. Han with his email address and a cellphone number, and, according to Ms. Han, said he would ‘prepare some money’ for her.’
Han, who was training to be a Buddhist nun, claims that she got pregnant by Dorje at a New York monastery in 2017. But after that, she says their relationship ‘evolved into a loving and affectionate relationship,’ which saw the pair exchange text massages, through which Dorje (pictured praying in 2017) sent her more than $700,000
Abandoning her plan to become a nun, Han returned to Canada, and the two remained in contact as her due date neared.
‘The parties appear to have expressed care and affection for one another in these communications,’ Elwood wrote. ‘The parties wrote in a private shorthand, sharing jokes, emojis, cartoon portraits and ‘hugs’ or ‘kisses.”
Han claimed to believe that Dorje was in love with her, and that they lived in a ‘conjugal relationship’ by 2018, and in the months leading up to her child’s birth in June that year, Dorje transferred her $420,000 US and $350,000 Canadian dollars.
This, she claims, included money for a home and for a wedding ring, and in the months that followed Dorje is alleged to have written to her: ‘Taking care of her and you are my duty for life.’
According to the court’s decision, Han claimed that what the pair had was a spousal relationship, made untenable because Dorje ‘is forbidden by his station and religious beliefs from intimate relationships or marriage.’
They lost contact in January 2019, Han says, and she sued him the following June.
The Supreme Court in British Columbia, Canada (pictured) – where Han lives – has given permission for her to sue Dorje for spousal support in a case that could break new legal ground
This is not the first time the court in Canada has been asked to look at what constitutes Marriage, with Elwood referring to a list of 22 factors grouped into seven categories that formed part of a 1980 case that tried to find an answer.
The categories include shelter, sexual behaviour, services inside the marriage, social and societal activities, economic support and children, according to CBC.
Elwood said that while the pair – almost on every category – missed the mark, he noted that the judge would ultimately decide the case may consider Dorje’s financial support as being significant.
‘They appear to have discussed marriage, trust, honesty, finances, mutual obligations and acquiring family property. These are not matters one would expect Mr. Dorje to discuss with a friend or a follower, or even with the mother of his child, without a marriage-like element of the relationship,’ Elwood wrote.
‘A trial judge may find on the facts alleged by Ms. Han that the parties loved one another and would have lived together, but were unable to do so because of Mr. Dorje’s religious duties and nomadic lifestyle.’
The DailyMail.com has contacted Dorje’s representatives for comment, but is yet to receive a response.