Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche, the founder of the first Tibetan monastery in the West, was killed in Chengdu on Tuesday, local police said in a statement.
The 73-year-old Tibetan was stabbed to death along with his nephew and their driver in the city’s Wuhou district around 11am on Tuesday. Three suspects, all ethnic Tibetans, have been detained by police, according to the statement.
Police said an economic dispute caused the altercation. “Following a verbal dispute between the two sides, the three suspects stabbed the three victims to death with knives they were carrying,” according to the statement.
On Tuesday evening, the Samye Ling monastery confirmed the report saying its founder had been “assassinated”. The statement was signed by the monk’s brother Lama Yeshe Rinpoche.
“Rinpoche’s body has been taken to hospital where a post-mortem will be carried out,” he wrote.
Born in the Chamdo prefecture in Tibet in 1940, Rinpoche was identified at a young age as the reincarnation of the abbot of the Drolma Lhakang monastery, where he was later raised. After the 1959 uprising, he fled to India. Two decades later, he co-founded the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery in Dumfries and Galloway near the English-Scottish border.
The Karmapa Lama, the second most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism, expressed his condolences over his death in a statement by his New Delhi office. Rinpoche had led the search which identified the Karmapa at the age of seven as a reincarnation of the previous Karmapa. The Karmapa fled Tibet in December 1999 and has since lived in India.