Dharamsala (Agencies): The recovery of unaccounted cash worth nearly Rs.7 crore (Rs.70 million) from the monastery of Tibetan leader Karmapa Lama has sparked off the succession controversy in the Karma Kagyu sect, as two rival monks have started claiming to be the 'real' Karmapa.

An important institution in the Tibetan religious set-up, the Karmapa Lama is the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu sect, one of the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism. It is also one of the richest, with assets reportedly worth $1.3 billion.

Both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government have recognised Ogyen Trinley Dorjee - in the eye of the storm for unaccounted cash in his monastery - as the 17th Karmapa. The recognition of the Karmapa has been the subject of controversy since the death of the 16th Karmapa in 1981.

But a rival group has all along been claiming that the post belongs to Trinlay Thaye Dorje who is often on the move and sometimes visits Delhi.

Only last year an attempt was made to settle the dispute when Trinlay Thaye Dorje's mentor paid a visit to the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.

'On Aug 13, 2010, I met His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. We had a very important and detailed exchange of views regarding the ongoing Karmapa controversy and its possible solution,' said a statement quoting Shamar Rinpoche, the mentor of Trinlay Thaye Dorje and the second-highest monk of the Karma Kagyu sect, posted on the official website www.karmapa.org.

Tai Situ Rinpoche proposed Ogyen Trinley Dorjee as the successor, while Shamar Rinpoche favoured Trinlay Thaye Dorje. However, the third monk did not agree with the two choices.

Both Ogyen Trinley Dorjee and Trinlay Thaye Dorje have been enthroned as the 17th Karmapa and have been independently performing ceremonial duties in India.

However, only Ogyen Trinley Dorjee got recognition as the 'real' Karmapa by both China and the Dalai Lama.

Trinlay Thaye Dorje's followers have been claiming that he is the real claimant to the seat of the Kagyu sect or the Karmapa in the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim, set up by the 16th Karmapa.

Ogyen Trinley Dorjee has been surrounded by controversies since his mysterious escape to India in January 2000 with a few close aides from the closely guarded Tsurphu monastery near Lhasa in China.

Now, the seizure of unaccounted currency worth nearly Rs.70 million, including 1.1 million Chinese Yuan (Rs.7 million), Jan 27 from his Gyuto Tantric University and Monastery near here has given credence to allegations of his links with the Chinese. However, a spokesperson for Ogyen Trinley Dorjee has denied the allegations, stressing he was not a Chinese agent.