Mystery of murdered Tibetan guru transcends the merely mortal

A wrathful deity is the main suspect for three murders in Dharamsala, the Himalayan "capital" of Tibet's government-in-exile.

But Chinese-hired assassins or thieves have not been ruled out. Superintendent RK Singh, who is investigating the stabbing of Lopsang Gyatso, director of the Buddhist School of Dialectics, and his two pupils, believes the most likely motive may be a rift between mainstream Tibetan Buddhism and a fundamentalist sect which worships the deity Dorje Shugden. After the Dalai Lama warned his devotees in May against veneration of Shugden, cult followers in Britain and New Delhi launched a campaign against the Tibetan leader. Gyatso, 70, was close to the Dalai Lama, and fulminated against the cult's charges that his pronouncement amounted to religious persecution. Gyatso received death threats over the past nine months, said a spokesman in Dharamsala.

He was found dead on his blood-soaked divan by a student bringing his tea on 4 February. His translators, Lobsang Nagawang and Nagawang Lodoe, sprawled on the floor, were wounded; they died en route to hospital. Bloody footprints led to a ground-floor room, but the six Tibetans questioned there said a drunken brawl had caused the mayhem.

In New Delhi, six other monks were held, interrogated and freed without charge.

Shugden, a minor deity once worshipped by the Dalai Lama, is often invoked for curses, and traditionally brings wealth to believers. Gyatso said that although worship of Shugden "has long been seen to be harmful to the personal safety of His Holiness", the Tibetan establishment could not ban individuals from following their preferred superstition and could only caution against such practices.

Many Tibetans fear the Chinese, apprehensive about Taiwan inviting the Dalai Lama to visit, are exploiting divisions among his followers. Last year three suspected Chinese spies were arrested in Dharamsala. "A hired assassin could have killed the director," said Lobsang Tenphell, an assistant secretary in Dharamsala.

Security for the Dalai Lama has been stepped up following the crime."Security is always quite tight," an aide said. Besides rifle-toting Indian policeman and electronic security gates, the Nobel Peace laureate employs his own armed guards. Bullet-proof cars are being considered for his travel down the mountain.

According to Gareth Sparham, a Canadian scholar, the dispute between the Shugden followers and the Tibetan government-in-exile is as much political as religious.

"Shugden is today a political symbol representing an emerging political party wedded to the idea that the final arbiters of Tibet's destiny should be monks, and that it should champion a fundamentalist version of Tibetan Buddhism as a state religion."

The Dalai Lama must reject Shugden, Dr Sparham said, "in order that his exile government is fair and is seen to be fair amongst the Tibetan population at large."

An Indian travel agent who lives beside the School of Dialectics, where the murders took place, dismissed the various conspiracy theories as Chinese whispers.

"It's all about money. After all, this happened a few days after the director returned from Hong Kong."

Whether the crime was a burglary gone wrong, a politically motivated assassination, or the culmination of a religious feud which spans generations and incarnations, the mountain retreat of Dharamsala is grieving.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before