Author Topic: Self-immolation of monks at Kirti Monastery  (Read 20574 times)

negra orquida

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Re: Self-immolation of monks at Kirti Monastery
« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2012, 03:59:20 PM »
Many very good points raised here.  Self immolation is a powerful tool to send a message across, however like many tools in life, it may not be suitable for all occasions.

Here is what the Venerable Thich Nhat Nanh had said about the Vietnamese monk who burned himself in 1965.  He too, did it for his country and countrymen.  Is the current Tibetan situation similar to Vietnam's situation at that time?

"The self-burning of Vietnamese Buddhist monks in 1963 is somehow difficult for the Western Christian conscience to understand. The Press spoke then of suicide, but in the essence, it is not. It is not even a protest. What the monks said in the letters they left before burning themselves aimed only at alarming, at moving the hearts of the oppressors and at calling the attention of the world to the suffering endured then by the Vietnamese. To burn oneself by fire is to prove that what one is saying is of the utmost importance. There is nothing more painful than burning oneself. To say something while experiencing this kind of pain is to say it with the utmost of courage, frankness, determination and sincerity. During the ceremony of ordination, as practiced in the Mahayana tradition, the monk-candidate is required to burn one, or more, small spots on his body in taking the vow to observe the 250 rules of a bhikshu, to live the life of a monk, to attain enlightenment and to devote his life to the salvation of all beings. One can, of course, say these things while sitting in a comfortable armchair; but when the words are uttered while kneeling before the community of sangha and experiencing this kind of pain, they will express all the seriousness of one's heart and mind, and carry much greater weight.

The Vietnamese monk, by burning himself, say with all his strengh [sic] and determination that he can endure the greatest of sufferings to protect his people. But why does he have to burn himself to death? The difference between burning oneself and burning oneself to death is only a difference in degree, not in nature. A man who burns himself too much must die. The importance is not to take one's life, but to burn. What he really aims at is the expression of his will and determination, not death. In the Buddhist belief, life is not confined to a period of 60 or 80 or 100 years: life is eternal. Life is not confined to this body: life is universal. To express will by burning oneself, therefore, is not to commit an act of destruction but to perform an act of construction, i.e., to suffer and to die for the sake of one's people. This is not suicide. Suicide is an act of self-destruction, having as causes the following:
  • lack of courage to live and to cope with difficulties
    defeat by life and loss of all hope
    desire for non-existence (abhava)
This self-destruction is considered by Buddhism as one of the most serious crimes. The monk who burns himself has lost neither courage nor hope; nor does he desire non-existence. On the contrary, he is very courageous and hopeful and aspires for something good in the future. He does not think that he is destroying himself; he believes in the good fruition of his act of self-sacrifice for the sake of others. Like the Buddha in one of his former lives — as told in a story of Jataka — who gave himself to a hungry lion which was about to devour her own cubs, the monk believes he is practicing the doctrine of highest compassion by sacrificing himself in order to call the attention of, and to seek help from, the people of the world.

I believe with all my heart that the monks who burned themselves did not aim at the death of the oppressors but only at a change in their policy. Their enemies are not man. They are intolerance, fanaticism, dictatorship, cupidity, hatred and discrimination which lie within the heart of man. I also believe with all my being that the struggle for equality and freedom you lead in Birmingham, Alabama... is not aimed at the whites but only at intolerance, hatred and discrimination. These are real enemies of man — not man himself. In our unfortunate father land we are trying to yield desperately: do not kill man, even in man's name. Please kill the real enemies of man which are present everywhere, in our very hearts and minds.

Now in the confrontation of the big powers occurring in our country, hundreds and perhaps thousands of Vietnamese peasants and children lose their lives every day, and our land is unmercifully and tragically torn by a war which is already twenty years old. I am sure that since you have been engaged in one of the hardest struggles for equality and human rights, you are among those who understand fully, and who share with all their hearts, the indescribable suffering of the Vietnamese people. The world's greatest humanists would not remain silent. You yourself can not remain silent. America is said to have a strong religious foundation and spiritual leaders would not allow American political and economic doctrines to be deprived of the spiritual element. You cannot be silent since you have already been in action and you are in action because, in you, God is in action, too — to use Karl Barth's expression. And Albert Schweitzer, with his stress on the reverence for life and Paul Tillich with his courage to be, and thus, to love. And Niebuhr. And Mackay. And Fletcher. And Donald Harrington. All these religious humanists, and many more, are not going to favour the existence of a shame such as the one mankind has to endure in Vietnam. Recently a young Buddhist monk named Thich Giac Thanh burned himself [April 20, 1965, in Saigon] to call the attention of the world to the suffering endured by the Vietnamese, the suffering caused by this unnecessary war — and you know that war is never necessary. Another young Buddhist, a nun named Hue Thien was about to sacrifice herself in the same way and with the same intent, but her will was not fulfilled because she did not have the time to strike a match before people saw and interfered. Nobody here wants the war. What is the war for, then? And whose is the war?

Yesterday in a class meeting, a student of mine prayed: "Lord Buddha, help us to be alert to realize that we are not victims of each other. We are victims of our own ignorance and the ignorance of others. Help us to avoid engaging ourselves more in mutual slaughter because of the will of others to power and to predominance." In writing to you, as a Buddhist, I profess my faith in Love, in Communion and in the World's Humanists whose thoughts and attitude should be the guide for all human kind in finding who is the real enemy of Man.

June 1, 1965
NHAT HANH"

http://www.aavw.org/special_features/letters_thich_abstract02.html

nagaseeker

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Re: Self-immolation of monks at Kirti Monastery
« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2012, 07:53:32 PM »
Lobsang Sangay Discusses Self-Immolation Of Tibetan Buddhist Monks

DHARMSALA, India (RNS) At least three Tibetan Buddhist monks drank gasoline and set themselves ablaze in January, bringing the count of self-immolations to 15 since March 2011.

Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, attributes the deaths to restrictions being imposed by the Chinese government on traditional Tibetan practices.

The U.S. State Department has raised concerns over the self-immolations. However, Beijing, which regards Tibet as part of China, alleges that Tibetan exiles are encouraging the monastic community to take this extreme step, disregarding the Buddhist principle of non-violence.

Sangay, a former scholar from Harvard Law School and the political successor of the Dalai Lama, spoke about religious restrictions and self-immolation in Tibet. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Why are monks and nuns self-immolating in Tibet?

A: Repressive policies of China have pushed them to the brink of desperation. Members of the Communist Party of China dictate what monks and nuns should do, how they should pray, and who should be allowed into the monasteries.


Those who give up worldly life to join a monastery see their follow monks as their world, their family. When they see their associates being expelled because they refused to denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama or to stamp on his photograph, hopelessness sinks in. When they think their sufferings are not being noted, they take such a desperate step.

Q: Does Buddhism allow self-immolation?

A: It's a complex issue. One could refer to Jataka tales, which concern the previous births of the Buddha. In one story, the Buddha, in a previous incarnation, gives up his body to feed a starving tigress and her four cubs. Some other stories also talk about self-sacrifice by the Buddha.

Although suicide is violent and prohibited in Buddhism, some Buddhists believe it depends on the motivation. If you do it out of hatred and anger, then it is negative. But if you do it for a pure cause ... it's such a complex theological issue. You can't go either way or have a definitive answer. But the action is tragic, so painful.

Q: Do you discourage monks setting themselves ablaze?

A: My stand on self immolation is the same as that of the Dalai Lama, who has always discouraged drastic actions by Tibetans. He does not even endorse hunger strikes.

Q: Can you stop the wave of self-immolations?

A: I am expected to do something about it, but it has been challenging, difficult and painful. As a human being, it is so difficult to hear someone dying for a cause. And as a Buddhist, it is even more painful.

I went to the United Stated and Europe to get statements of support so that I could send a message of hope to Tibet. I tried my best to get everything I did covered by the Tibetan media. And during my visit -- almost until the last leg of my trip -- self-immolations stopped. I thought I was able to pass on the message of hope. But when I was in London, I heard there was one more self-immolation. That dampened my mood. I cancelled all my appointments for that morning.

Q: Do you see a solution to the Tibet-China conflict in sight?

A: I do believe so. That's why I have left Harvard to be in India to lead the movement. The Tibetan struggle has to go on. Had I not moved to India, where I am living on about $300 a month, my life would have been normal and boring.

One Buddhist lesson I have learned is that one who is born has to die. That means what you do is what you leave behind. If you live for yourself, you won't make much difference. I, as a Buddhist, as a Tibetan, want to live for a cause greater than myself and my life.

diamond girl

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Re: Self-immolation of monks at Kirti Monastery
« Reply #17 on: January 31, 2012, 05:52:18 AM »
Many very good points raised here.  Self immolation is a powerful tool to send a message across, however like many tools in life, it may not be suitable for all occasions.

Here is what the Venerable Thich Nhat Nanh had said about the Vietnamese monk who burned himself in 1965.  He too, did it for his country and countrymen.  Is the current Tibetan situation similar to Vietnam's situation at that time?

"The self-burning of Vietnamese Buddhist monks in 1963 is somehow difficult for the Western Christian conscience to understand. The Press spoke then of suicide, but in the essence, it is not. It is not even a protest. What the monks said in the letters they left before burning themselves aimed only at alarming, at moving the hearts of the oppressors and at calling the attention of the world to the suffering endured then by the Vietnamese. To burn oneself by fire is to prove that what one is saying is of the utmost importance. There is nothing more painful than burning oneself. To say something while experiencing this kind of pain is to say it with the utmost of courage, frankness, determination and sincerity. During the ceremony of ordination, as practiced in the Mahayana tradition, the monk-candidate is required to burn one, or more, small spots on his body in taking the vow to observe the 250 rules of a bhikshu, to live the life of a monk, to attain enlightenment and to devote his life to the salvation of all beings. One can, of course, say these things while sitting in a comfortable armchair; but when the words are uttered while kneeling before the community of sangha and experiencing this kind of pain, they will express all the seriousness of one's heart and mind, and carry much greater weight.

The Vietnamese monk, by burning himself, say with all his strengh [sic] and determination that he can endure the greatest of sufferings to protect his people. But why does he have to burn himself to death? The difference between burning oneself and burning oneself to death is only a difference in degree, not in nature. A man who burns himself too much must die. The importance is not to take one's life, but to burn. What he really aims at is the expression of his will and determination, not death. In the Buddhist belief, life is not confined to a period of 60 or 80 or 100 years: life is eternal. Life is not confined to this body: life is universal. To express will by burning oneself, therefore, is not to commit an act of destruction but to perform an act of construction, i.e., to suffer and to die for the sake of one's people. This is not suicide. Suicide is an act of self-destruction, having as causes the following:
  • lack of courage to live and to cope with difficulties
    defeat by life and loss of all hope
    desire for non-existence (abhava)
This self-destruction is considered by Buddhism as one of the most serious crimes. The monk who burns himself has lost neither courage nor hope; nor does he desire non-existence. On the contrary, he is very courageous and hopeful and aspires for something good in the future. He does not think that he is destroying himself; he believes in the good fruition of his act of self-sacrifice for the sake of others. Like the Buddha in one of his former lives — as told in a story of Jataka — who gave himself to a hungry lion which was about to devour her own cubs, the monk believes he is practicing the doctrine of highest compassion by sacrificing himself in order to call the attention of, and to seek help from, the people of the world.

I believe with all my heart that the monks who burned themselves did not aim at the death of the oppressors but only at a change in their policy. Their enemies are not man. They are intolerance, fanaticism, dictatorship, cupidity, hatred and discrimination which lie within the heart of man. I also believe with all my being that the struggle for equality and freedom you lead in Birmingham, Alabama... is not aimed at the whites but only at intolerance, hatred and discrimination. These are real enemies of man — not man himself. In our unfortunate father land we are trying to yield desperately: do not kill man, even in man's name. Please kill the real enemies of man which are present everywhere, in our very hearts and minds.

Now in the confrontation of the big powers occurring in our country, hundreds and perhaps thousands of Vietnamese peasants and children lose their lives every day, and our land is unmercifully and tragically torn by a war which is already twenty years old. I am sure that since you have been engaged in one of the hardest struggles for equality and human rights, you are among those who understand fully, and who share with all their hearts, the indescribable suffering of the Vietnamese people. The world's greatest humanists would not remain silent. You yourself can not remain silent. America is said to have a strong religious foundation and spiritual leaders would not allow American political and economic doctrines to be deprived of the spiritual element. You cannot be silent since you have already been in action and you are in action because, in you, God is in action, too — to use Karl Barth's expression. And Albert Schweitzer, with his stress on the reverence for life and Paul Tillich with his courage to be, and thus, to love. And Niebuhr. And Mackay. And Fletcher. And Donald Harrington. All these religious humanists, and many more, are not going to favour the existence of a shame such as the one mankind has to endure in Vietnam. Recently a young Buddhist monk named Thich Giac Thanh burned himself [April 20, 1965, in Saigon] to call the attention of the world to the suffering endured by the Vietnamese, the suffering caused by this unnecessary war — and you know that war is never necessary. Another young Buddhist, a nun named Hue Thien was about to sacrifice herself in the same way and with the same intent, but her will was not fulfilled because she did not have the time to strike a match before people saw and interfered. Nobody here wants the war. What is the war for, then? And whose is the war?

Yesterday in a class meeting, a student of mine prayed: "Lord Buddha, help us to be alert to realize that we are not victims of each other. We are victims of our own ignorance and the ignorance of others. Help us to avoid engaging ourselves more in mutual slaughter because of the will of others to power and to predominance." In writing to you, as a Buddhist, I profess my faith in Love, in Communion and in the World's Humanists whose thoughts and attitude should be the guide for all human kind in finding who is the real enemy of Man.

June 1, 1965
NHAT HANH"

http://www.aavw.org/special_features/letters_thich_abstract02.html


This is very helpful and informative. Thank you.

After reading all the response to this thread, I agree that different ways for different causes. To kill oneself, for a greater cause or not, must depend on the potential result. And also the opponent. Going against government, especially one like China who is so powerful and to some extent merciless, self-immolation is not the best way. To China it will only be another statistic. Plus, others will feel for the monks but for how long? Then what? Are a group of non-monks going to the same? The effect will not last to create the results.

It is hard facts that Tibet will not be free for a while longer, or even at all in this life time. How many monks will need to burn? I agree that when going against such great powers, strategy, wisdom and big financial backing are best. Self-immolation is really wasting precious life. This is very sad reality, this thread although interesting, is disheartening.

Amitabha

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Re: Self-immolation of monks at Kirti Monastery
« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2012, 03:55:48 AM »
self immolation is done when an attained monk left for bodhi to liberate existing and other beings as the condition in its current form no longer needed. buddha shakyamuni previous life was tortured to death by ruler and in total metta. He never self immolated while suffering severe tortured.

Midakpa

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Re: Self-immolation of monks at Kirti Monastery
« Reply #19 on: February 05, 2012, 02:56:44 PM »
Thich Nhat Hanh's explanation on self-immolation is the most acceptable and shows that this is indeed a selfless act  on the part of the monks who were willing to endure so much suffering for the sake of their people. I think they had great compassion. Otherwise, they would not have the courage to sacrifice their lives for others. I hope their actions will not be in vain.

negra orquida

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Re: Self-immolation of monks at Kirti Monastery
« Reply #20 on: February 07, 2012, 04:33:57 PM »
Here is what Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa (barring the "Karmapa controversy") said about Tibetans (not sure if this includes monks) setting themselves on fire:

Quote
STATEMENT FROM THE GYALWANG KARMAPA, OGYEN TRINLEY DORJE.
Februrary 6, 2012 - Bodhgaya.

Reports have just emerged that three more Tibetans set themselves ablaze within a single day in eastern Tibet. This comes shortly after four Tibetans immolated themselves and others died in demonstrations in Tibet during the month of January. As tensions escalate, instead of showing concern and trying to understand the causes of the situation, the Chinese authorities respond with increasing force and oppression. Each new report of a Tibetan death brings me immense pain and sadness; three in a single day is more than the heart can bear. I pray that these sacrifices have not been in vain, but will yield a change in policy that will bring our Tibetan brothers and sisters relief.

...

In these difficult times, I urge Tibetans in Tibet: Stay true to yourselves, keep your equanimity in the face of hardship and remain focused on the long term. Always bear in mind that your lives have great value, as human beings and as Tibetans..


(source: http://kagyuoffice.org/#KarmapaBG5)

Key points: Equanimity in the face of hardship, focus on long term, human life has great value.