Murder in Dharamsala

On February 5, 1997, three Tibetans were murdered on the campus of the Buddhist School of Dialectics, close to the Dalai Lama’s residence in McLeod Ganj, near Dharamsala, India. The victims were the founder and principal of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, Venerable Lobsang Gyatso, age 70, and two of his students, Lobsang Ngawang, 25, and Ngawang Latto, 23. All three were reportedly killed with sharp weapons. Lobsang Gyatso died at the scene of the crime. The two monks were rushed to a nearby hospital, where they succumbed to their injuries.

Six Tibetans were detained for investigation, and one Tibetan youth has been arrested. One newspaper,Indian Express, claims that the killer or killers are connected with followers of the deity Dorje Shugden. However, the investigation into the murders is inconclusive as of yet. Lobsang Gyatso reportedly received threatening letters that accused him of being part of the Dalai Lama “clique” and of spreading propaganda against the deity Dorje Shugden.

 Ven. Lobsang Gyatso, 1928-1997, courtesy of Sidney Piburn.
Ven. Lobsang Gyatso, 1928-1997, courtesy of Sidney Piburn.

Worshippers of the the deity Dorje Shugden, whom they regard as a Buddha (see “In the News,” Tricycle, Fall 1996). They dispute the Tibetan spiritual leadership and the Dalai Lama’s lineage. Since 1976, the Dalai Lama has officially discouraged the worship of Dorje Shugden. Until then he too had practiced the rites and meditations connected to Dorje Shugden. He now views the deity as a divisive force that endangers both the cause for a free Tibet and also the long life of the Dalai Lama. Due to the recent murders, the Indian government has increased the number of guards protecting the Dalai Lama. This has not, however, restricted his movement, one of his spokespersons said.

Memorial services for the slain monks were held at Thechen Choeling, the main temple of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in Dharamsala on February 15. Some 2,000 monks, nuns, and senior lamas from all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism came to pay their respects. The death of Lobsang Gyatso has been a shock and a great loss to the Tibetan Buddhist community. He was the author of many books and a renowned teacher. Born in Kham, Tibet, in 1928, and educated at Drepung Monastic University, he founded the Institute for Buddhist Dialectics in 1973 with the blessing of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He was a strong advocate for the promotion of Tibetan nunneries and was at the forefront of helping nuns in the traditional training. Snow Lion Publications plans to publish a biography of Lobsang Gyatso’s life and work by the end of this year.

Liberate this article!

This article is available to subscribers only. Subscribe now for immediate access to the magazine plus video teachings, films, e-books, and more.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Log in.