Washington, D.C. - Karmapa Rimpoche, recognized as the reincarnation of a 900 year-old Tibetan Buddhist leader, urged followers to "have faith and lead a pious life" in an interview with Radio Free Asia. "The need to pursue Buddha Dharma [Buddhism] and the cultivation of universal compassion and love is becoming more and more important in this age of decadence," he said. "Follow your heart and the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is working hard for everybody." Ugyen Tinley Dorjee was recognized at age eight as the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa Rinpoche. Uniquely, he is viewed as such by both the Dalai Lama and by the Chinese government, which controls Tibet. After seven years under the tutelage of monks at Tibet's Tsurbu Monastery, however, the Karmapa staged a dramatic escape in 1999 to pursue his religious studies and to see the world. He left behind a letter explaining his departure - then trekked 875 miles over the Himalayas to Dharamsala, the northern Indian home of Tibet's government in exile. New Delhi granted him asylum earlier this year. "I wrote [to the monks] that my escape shouldn't be seen as a betrayal of the nation or the monks or the monastery, and explained I had decided to escape some time ago with the sole aim to pursue religious studies and travel," the Karmapa told RFA's Dhondup Dorjee. "It was a known fact that the Chinese authorities had rejected my repeated appeals." The Karmapa said in his letter that he would return to the monastery "if and when his presence would benefit Buddhism and the Tibetan people." No one, he said, saw him flee. "It is true that thousands of Tibetans, including monks from various monasteries, are escaping to India, but so far only one escaped from Tsurbu monastery," he said, referring to himself. Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting news and information to those countries in Asia where full, accurate, and timely news reports are unavailable. Created by Congress in 1996, RFA aims to deliver such news reports - along with opinions and commentaries - and to provide a forum for a variety of voices and opinions. RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan, and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest journalistic standards and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.