Did Dorje Shugden practitioners issue death threats?

[From Helmut Gassner, the former German translator for the Dalai Lama from 1979-1995:]

Ref.: Triple murder in Dharamsala, India, February 1997
Murder of the abbot Losang Gyatso, friend of the Dalai Lama

Does the minister of the Tibetan exile government lie?

Minister Tashi Wangdi

On January 25th, the Swiss Television DRS reported on this murder in its broadcast called ‘Sternstunde’. An interview with the police chief of Dharamsala presented the leaders of the Dorje-Shugden society as the main suspects. A threat letter sent by this Shugden society to the murdered abbot was mentioned as proof. A minister of the Dalai Lama’s exile government quoted the threatening passage of this letter in English with the words: “We will squeeze you like a lice”. The Tibetan original was shown on the television screen.

I speak and read the Tibetan language fairly well (for many years I have served H.H. Dalai Lama as interpreter). So I paused my video deck and read the Tibetan original of the threat letter. To my great surprise, I could not find any murder threat in the letter.

Apparently the murdered abbot has published several books abusing the old Tibetan guerilla organisation as well as the Tibetan deity Dorje Shugden and others. Reading the letter I realized that it was a request by the secretary of the Shugden society to the abbot, to stop his abuse of the deity, as there was plenty of sacred literature on this subject, that apparently the abbot had not read. The significant statement of the letter is the request to the abbot to come to Delhi, in order to verify truth and untruth. And if the abbot felt too guilty to come to Delhi, then they would also be willing to come to Dharamsala in order to find the truth. Finally the abbot was requested to give a date for such a meeting, in order to decide this matter.

Screen capture of original letter

The word ‘louse’ appears only once in this letter, in a passage that litterally means: “Verify louse and finger”. In the meantime I have confronted many Tibetans with this idiom. All of those familiar with it, described its meaning as “to verify what is truth and what is lie”, and confirmed that this was an idiom of daily life usage. My insistent question, if this idiom is ever understood as a threat to murder, was always denied with a clear NO.

I transcribed the original Tibetan letter as shown on television and transmitted it to the secretary of the Shugden society for verification. The secretray confirmed that he was the author of this letter and that its complete contents had been shown on TV. The meaning I could draw from the letter was also confirmed by him as well as other Tibetans.

Several incidents after the murder repeatedly raised the suspicion, that circles around H.H. Dalai Lama may have an interest to frame the Shugden society with this murder. There has been repeated talk about clear proofs, but nevertheless there has been no arrest and no trial in this case up to date. Could the reason for this be, that other ‘proofs’ are manipulated as well? Concern of a similar kind has been raised by the Indian police in a news article in the Indian Express on Dec. 21st 1997.

The following statements were shown on television, referring to a threat letter received by the abbot:

Tashi Wangdi, minister of the Tibetan exile government: (partially retranslated from TV commentary in German)

“Before the murder of the principal of the school of dialectics, he received a threatening letter from the Dorje Shugden society. We squeeze lice between our finger nails. And so it said in the letter: When you come to Delhi, we will squeeze you like a lice.”

Prithvi Raj, police chief: (partially retranslated from TV commentary in German):

“At the place where the murder took place, the police found a letter written by Chime Tsering, who is the president of Dorje Shugden Charitable Trust. This is a threat letter against the abbot and shows that the murderers have direct connection to the Shugden people.”

Original letter in Tibetan: (retyped as shown on TV)

Supposed death threat letter

Translation of the above letter:

To Losang Gyatso,
the embarrassment of the Buddhist School of dialectics, Dharamsala:

Recently, under the pretext of writing to Sermey Monastery, a tract with spelling and historical inaccuracies has been sent to the Shugden society from there. It is well-known that the Shugden society is based in Delhi. Moreover, we have personally approached Dharamsala three times: Were you distracted at the nunnery?

Just as the saying “There are many areas of knowing that you have not learnt, just as there are many treks the donkey has not passed”, there are hundreds of sacred literature on the subject you have written on. You have not looked at them. This is pitiable.

Therefore, instead of engaging in baseless polemical works, come to Delhi with this dedication, to corroborate facts from fallacies (lit.: to verify louse and finger). If, on account of your guilty conscience you do not like to come to Delhi, we can come to Dharamsala to determine who is telling the truth. Let us know the time. It should be decided accordingly.

Sent by General Secretary Chime Tsering, 1996, 5th month, 8th day

Minister: “When you come to Delhi, we will squeeze you like a lice.”

Original letter: “come to Delhi …., to verify louse and finger.”

Here the Tibetan idiom ‘verify louse and finger’ (also commonly ‘verify louse and nail’) has obviously been misused to turn this letter into a murder threat. This idiom is used by Tibetans in everyday life in case of false allegations. It is a request for discussion where truth and untruth can meet like louse and finger, implying that the untruth will definetly become evident in such an encounter. This idiom never implies a violent threat.

Here the litteral translation of each word of the idiom as used in the letter:

Supposed death threat
shig tang sormo ratrö jepa: “Louse and finger verify do”

In Melvin C. Goldstein’s Tibetan-English dictionary the word ‘verify’ (ratrö jepa) is shown with the following entries: to be proved, to be verified, to get attested to.

So it must be concluded, that an intentionally distorted translation is presented by the Tibetan exile government!

Please click here for a chronology of these events according to the Dorje Shugden Devotee’s Charitable & Religious Society.