Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

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Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Jikan » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:13 am

topic split from:

viewtopic.php?f=64&t=12545&start=40

Sara H wrote:Regarding the whole setting oneself on fire thing, and other things..

You know, when Koho Zenji was asked the question of why, if in Buddhism, killing oneself is absolutely forbidden, so many monks immolated themselves during the Vietnam war, he said
"Perhaps, they were not real Buddhists."

Just because a person is wearing a monk's robes, does not mean that everything they do is a Buddhist act.
A monk killing themselves(or engaging in physically injurious, potentially lethal, or self-destructive behavior) is not a Buddhist act, any more than a monk saying that touching his penis will bring you enlightenment is.



In Gassho,

Sara


It seems a discussion of "the whole setting oneself on fire thing" seems warranted given the current state of affairs in Tibet.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:37 am

when "self immolation" refers to setting the body on fire or something like that,
this is actually not self immolation, as it appears. It is self-perpetuation.
It is a kind of martyrdom, which is not really a sacrifice.
What a waste of a life and a waste of gasoline,
that only brings more suffering to the world.
And making sacrifices is not the buddhist way anyhow.
Making offerings, as a practice of generosity, yes.

Real self immolation takes years of meditation practice.
then the self is totally burned away.

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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Jikan » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:50 am

I'd thought self-immolation in this context had more to do with making a political statement than performing an offering of the kind attributed to the past lives of Medicine King bodhisattva in the Lotus Sutra (chap. 23). That said, one could make the case that this is a faulty distinction: that sometimes a political act is itself the act of a bodhisattva. I've read what Thich Nhat Hanh and others have had to say about it; I'd like to hear more perspectives.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Jinzang » Tue Apr 30, 2013 2:00 am

Well, I'm opposed to it and I hope it stops. Let's stop the killing, whether it's guns, drones, or suicide by self-immolation.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby plwk » Tue Apr 30, 2013 2:21 am

Way before the Lotus Sutra account and modern precursors, there's the early accounts of Dabba and Ananda, the Lord's own personal attendant and cousin...serving as interesting case studies...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el273.html
When Ananda reached one hundred and twenty years, he felt that his death was near. He went from Rajagaha on a journey to Vesali, just as his master had done.
When the king of Magadha and the princes of Vesali heard that Ananda would soon die, they hurried to him from both directions to bid him farewell.
In order to do justice to both sides, Ananda chose a way to die in keeping with his gentle nature: he raised himself into the air through his supernormal powers and let his body be consumed by the fire element. The relics were divided and stupas erected.
The virtuous, wise man,
The hero strong and ever resolute,
The guardian of the word so true,
Ananda found extinction now.

And the opinion of one Bhikkhu Pesala from the sister site...
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=14163
Dabba did not commit suicide — he just knew beforehand the time of the expiry of his life-span, and told the Buddha about it. By performing a self-cremation he gave no trouble to others. The death of Venerable Ānanda was similar.

The Pāḷi Canon makes no mention of Ānanda’s death. Fa Hsien (Giles trans. 44. The story also occurs in DhA.ii.99ff., with several variations in detail), however, relates what was probably an old tradition. When Ānanda was on his way from Magadha to Vesāli, there to die, Ajātasattu heard that he was coming, and, with his retinue, followed him up to the Rohiṇi River. The chiefs of Vesali also heard the news and went out to meet him, and both parties reached the river banks. Ānanda, not wishing to incur the displeasure of either party, entered into the state of tejokasiṇa in the middle of the river and his body went up in flames. His remains were divided into two portions, one for each party, and they built cetiyas for their enshrinement (See also Rockhill, op. cit., 165f).

There are one or two cases of suicide, but not by Arahants. Ghodhika Thera attained Arahantship after slitting his throat with a razor, not before.

As others have said, speculation on this is unlikely to be fruitful. If we ever get close to Arahantship, perhaps then would be the time to make our own funeral arrangements. Meanwhile, just rest in peace

Meanwhile, HHDL makes these observations...
http://www.examiner.com/article/his-hol ... immolation
The Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying,
“Actually, suicide is basically a type of violence but then question of good or bad actually depend on the motivation and goal. I think as goal is concern, these self-immolator people are not drunk, do not have family problem, this self-immolation is for Buddha dharma, for Tibetan National interest but then I think the ultimate factor is their individual motivation.”

“If motivation consists too much anger, hatred, then it is negative, but if the motivation is more compassionate, calm mind then such acts also can be positive.
That is strictly speaking from Buddhist view of point. Any action whether violence or non violence, is ultimately depend on motivation.”
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Sara H » Tue Apr 30, 2013 2:33 am

The one thing that has always struck me about this modern situation, is that it has always struck me as a huge act of not accepting something.

Not accepting change, or that things do change, including one's country one lives in, or political situation.

I know that D.T. Suzuki wrote that since we must live in countries, we must help that country in which we live in, and part of that means that maintaining armies for defensive purposes is necessary. Traditionally, all Buddhist countries and governments have found it necessary to maintain armies. And defensive war is occasionally necessary.

The question I have to ask myself, is should the people in Tibet, just stop half-assing themselves and engage in active guerrilla warfare to repel the Chinese?

Or do they need to simply accept that they are no longer a Tibet as a country and are now a part of China?

Or, is there a middle path, where they can have greater autonomy, and have religious and cultural rights respected, and still be officially a territory of China?

From a Buddhist perspective, I would say some sortof middle path would be preferable, and would probably result in the least amount of lives lost, and harm done.

Part of this whole thing, is that the struggle in Tibet, reflects not just Tibet, but a country-wide struggle across China to get minority rights and religious and cultural rights respected across many traditions and minorities, and not-so-minorities.

China has a big problem respecting differing views other than those held by the party.
They also tend to view any and all culture outside of official party policy as a threat.

They need to find a way to be more secure with themselves, and realize that with that many people, a mono-culture is next to impossible, and they simply need to accept that, and embrace diversity and multi-culturalism.

The problem is, and the reason why they don't, is diversity and multiculturalism, if officially accepted or unofficially tolerated, leads to further official acceptance of different public opinions, which leads to the natural formation of different political parties.

Different political parties leads to the destruction of the one-party state which is China.

So therefor, all of these different cultural movements, and rights movements, is viewed as a direct threat to the sovereignty of the Communist Party.

I don't honestly know how long they can hold it together.

It's sortof become a de-facto aristocracy, with senior party members being the equivalent of aristocrats.

Historically, aristocracies tend to degrade over time into more stable parliamentary models.

It will be interesting to see if that happens in China.

In Gassho,

Sara H.
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby MattyNottwo » Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:52 am

I heard that it will actually take the chinese hundreds of years to adapt to the altitude, that the Tibetans evolved over a long time to live that high. It said that the chinese who were relocated there got sick, and the women would have to go to a lower altitude to have children.

I also read that one of the ways a Bodhisattva fails is to not break a precept when it would help someone. I can understand this, but to do it you would have to be a Bodhisattva.

I also heard a Hindu quote about killing yourself while saying your mantra, and therefore going straight to "heaven, pure land, better rebirth etc." because the mantra would be your last thought. The guru who was asked this question said that that doesn't work because your last thought would be of yourself.

So, if you can kill yourself without thinking about yourself, it could probably be compassionate, but if it's any escape, I don't know.

Just a thought,
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby LastLegend » Tue Apr 30, 2013 5:15 am

If a monk can light himself on fire and enter a meditative state, he must have had some serious training. Now for those of us who cannot do it, we need to practice more. Dying on the path and sacrificing the body to sentient beings sounds familiar.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby dyanaprajna2011 » Tue Apr 30, 2013 5:54 am

Does not harming any sentient being include oneself? That's the question that's always been at the front of my mind when thinking about this question. Then another one comes up: if attachment is a poison that leads one away from the path, then why are these monks attached to a certain place, or how or who by it's ruled? I don't take the story in the Medicine King chapter of the Lotus Sutra literally; to me, it represents the burning away of the ego and attachment to oneself, particularly one's physical form.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby LastLegend » Tue Apr 30, 2013 6:11 am

dyanaprajna2011 wrote:Does not harming any sentient being include oneself? That's the question that's always been at the front of my mind when thinking about this question. Then another one comes up: if attachment is a poison that leads one away from the path, then why are these monks attached to a certain place, or how or who by it's ruled? I don't take the story in the Medicine King chapter of the Lotus Sutra literally; to me, it represents the burning away of the ego and attachment to oneself, particularly one's physical form.


I don't see why things have to be one way or the other. If a monk lights himself on fire, does that mean he's attached to politics?
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby dyanaprajna2011 » Tue Apr 30, 2013 6:20 am

LastLegend wrote:
dyanaprajna2011 wrote:Does not harming any sentient being include oneself? That's the question that's always been at the front of my mind when thinking about this question. Then another one comes up: if attachment is a poison that leads one away from the path, then why are these monks attached to a certain place, or how or who by it's ruled? I don't take the story in the Medicine King chapter of the Lotus Sutra literally; to me, it represents the burning away of the ego and attachment to oneself, particularly one's physical form.


I don't see why things have to be one way or the other. If a monk lights himself on fire, does that mean he's attached to politics?


I can't say. And that's the problem. None of us can say for sure the mindset and mental state of each monk that has self-immolated. From my own point of view, it's not something that should be done. But who's to say for sure? Self-immolation could be a high degree of non-attachment to life and form. Or it couldn't be.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby LastLegend » Tue Apr 30, 2013 6:24 am

I don't think it should be done or encouraged either, but I feel like it is a last resort. Things must be really bad. Just my opinion.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Apr 30, 2013 9:24 am

Sara H wrote:The question I have to ask myself, is should the people in Tibet, just stop half-assing themselves and engage in active guerrilla warfare to repel the Chinese?

Or do they need to simply accept that they are no longer a Tibet as a country and are now a part of China?

Or, is there a middle path, where they can have greater autonomy, and have religious and cultural rights respected, and still be officially a territory of China?
It took Greek people 500 years to gain independence from the Ottoman Empire. During those 500 years some colluded, some resisted, some just lived their lives. When the island of Chios (for example) rebelled against the Otomans, the Sultan sent regular and irregular troops (even sending convicted criminals with the promise of freedom if they assisted in putting down the rebellion) which massacred 90,000 of the 120,000 residents of the island.

So before passing judgement, from the confines of your safe little middle-class American home, on the Tibetan (and Vietnamese) people consider what foreign occupation actually means for a nation and its people. Carefully consider what it means to promote rebellion.
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One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby dyanaprajna2011 » Tue Apr 30, 2013 12:12 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:So before passing judgement, from the confines of your safe little middle-class American home, on the Tibetan (and Vietnamese) people consider what foreign occupation actually means for a nation and its people. Carefully consider what it means to promote rebellion.


It's interesting that you mention Vietnam. Thich Nhat Hanh tried to stop the war in Vietnam. His tactics were similar to Ghandi's or Martin Luther King Jr.'s. They practiced open rebellion against the establishment, but did not advocate any type of self-sacrifice of any kind. Whether they would have condoned such is another story, though. But I see a difference between what the Tibetan monks are doing, and what Hanh did.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Son of Buddha » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:04 pm

dyanaprajna2011 wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:So before passing judgement, from the confines of your safe little middle-class American home, on the Tibetan (and Vietnamese) people consider what foreign occupation actually means for a nation and its people. Carefully consider what it means to promote rebellion.


It's interesting that you mention Vietnam. Thich Nhat Hanh tried to stop the war in Vietnam. His tactics were similar to Ghandi's or Martin Luther King Jr.'s. They practiced open rebellion against the establishment, but did not advocate any type of self-sacrifice of any kind. Whether they would have condoned such is another story, though. But I see a difference between what the Tibetan monks are doing, and what Hanh did.


Ven Thich Nhat Hanh friend and fellow monk self immulated in vietnam.this is what I beleive Greg is refering to.

This is generally a very sad and touchy subject,the best thing to do is put yourself in their position,visualize all their pain and suffering and their helplessness,and their motives for doing what they did,wether you agree with it of not at least try to put yourself in their shoes,and by doing that mabey we can understand the message they were trying to send us.

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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby 5heaps » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:15 pm

what is wrong with self-immolating? it can be used to make a very severe and very sincere political statement to really help people.

Jeffrey Hopkins speaks out about the self-immolations in Tibet
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby oushi » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:15 pm

I think that compassionate act cannot be directed against something, it must go for something. For example, if we see an act of oppression, we ought to direct love toward victim not hate toward oppressor.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Ayu » Tue Apr 30, 2013 3:00 pm

5heaps wrote:what is wrong with self-immolating? it can be used to make a very severe and very sincere political statement to really help people.

Jeffrey Hopkins speaks out about the self-immolations in Tibet

It is quite a long speech and the nub of the matter is shortly said. I wrote it out:
"Out of compassion they take the desperate move of burning themselves - this is a political move - to burn themselves to death, or to try to burn themselves to death, ... , out of compassion, rather than to kill somebody else. To kill themselves as a political action, to draw attention to their desperate situation.
... It's questionable wether it's effective, but we have to think n their point of view.
... So these are cases of the application of compassion in daily life..."

Okay, said like this (underlined), i can understand it better. Before I kill somebody else, it is better to kill myself. But i would prefer any solution without killing, i have to say. Killing should be no political means in any case, if possible!!!!!

So my answer to the headline of this thread is: as a practice - in other words as something regularly, normaly done - killing is a non-buddhistic deed.
Hopkins emphasized several times, that they burn themselves to death out of desparation. That is an important difference to an habitual "practice"...
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Jikan » Tue Apr 30, 2013 3:10 pm

That's an important point, Ayu. I probably should have used the word "tactic" rather than "practice," because I don't mean to imply that someone might find a way to burn themselves to death over and over and over again as a kind of regular practice, or for a society to make a regular event or spectacle of it.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Simon E. » Tue Apr 30, 2013 3:31 pm

Whats wrong with it ?

How about the fact that it doesn't work ?

The Chinese won't leave Tibet if a hundred monks a day self-immolated..in fact they would encourage it.
The self-immolation of Vietnamese monks did not bring forward the American withdrawl by a single day.
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