Does the Dalai Lama have bodyguards? And if so what does Buddhist philosophy have to say about that? Are they necessary, or are they just to keep with appearances?

ps. The Dalai Lama is one of my heroes so this should in no way be taken as a joke.

4 Answers 4


Does the Dalai Lama have bodyguards?

According to Ganden Thurman, executive director of the Tibet House;

"...Whenever the Dalai Lama travels, "he has his own bodyguards and staff, of course, and translator and two attendants," Thurman said. "And then the State Department people provide the protection envelope around his person..."

I couldn't find anything about any current bodyguards for the Dalai Lama, presumably due to security reasons.

There are, though, information about former bodyguards;

May this be of use to you.


In DN16, the Buddha praised the protection of Arahats. While the Dalai Lama may not be a Arahat, still the protection of saintly people is implied here.

"What have you heard, Ananda: do the Vajjis duly protect and guard the arahats, so that those who have not come to the realm yet might do so, and those who have already come might live there in peace?"

"I have heard, Lord, that they do."

"So long, Ananda, as this is the case, the growth of the Vajjis is to be expected, not their decline."


The direct answer (“Yes”) has already been provided, with enough references bh @Lanka’s excellent answer. But I would like to add a perspective:

The Dalai Lama (for centuries) has been the political head of the Tibetan state and is not just a spiritual teacher (which too, he of course, is — and a very important one too). The spiritual head of the Gelug sect, to which he belongs, is the head of that Ganden monastery (Ganden Tripa), not the Dalai Lama.

This political status makes him special and revered by Tibetans of all sects (even ones that have been in discord with the Gelugpa). The ascension of the Dalai Lama is a rare occasion in history where a monastic was on the throne of a country (a “monk-king”, if you will).

It is also natural that rival political forces, rebels, opposing/occupying states would target him in this status. Would it not be logical for a head of state to have bodyguards?

So the situation is not quite the same as states providing security for their arhats or foreign countries providing routine security cover for visiting dignitaries.

  • And he has until recently, when he made moves to hand over the political responsibility of the Tibetan government in exile to the Kalon Tripa (prime minister), he continued to be the head of the gov. In exile.
    – Gotamist
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 11:11
  • Exactly, Would it not be logical for a head of state to have bodyguards? Yes, it would if the appearance of enemies is penultimately real. But what I am asking, is for an interpretation of Buddhist philosphy. Is the appearance of an enemy, an indicator of sorts of the reality of the temporal plane? I follow my teachers as far as I can. One point of context that i'd like to make. It's actually a quote from SciFi author Philip K Dick which i'll have to paraphrase because google isn't working at the moment. The paraphrase is this "Karma is a palm tree garden".
    – user66136
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 11:56
  • I guess what I’m saying is that the DL, by his job title, has a substantial temporal role. A purely “holy life” existence is already compromised for him. I did not understand your quote about the palm tree garden.
    – Gotamist
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 12:08
  • As a organizing principle for life. Peace on Earth. Utopia. That is what I think is meant by Karma is a palm tree garden. The essence of my point of view is that I doubt that a purely "holy life" could ever be comprised. Adding just a little to that. I would say that the meaning of Karma is a purity of essence that is shared eternally. It is not the result. It is the beginning. Hope that is clear.
    – user66136
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 12:14

Some security (e.g. counterintelligence, a cordon, secure premises, trusted drivers and so on) are also provided by the State he's in (e.g. the Indian governments, and/or any countries he is visiting).

Even previously, in Tibet, he lived secluded (possibly more so than now).

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