Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

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

Postby 5heaps » Wed May 01, 2013 2:54 pm

Ayu wrote:So one has to decide to look at self-immolation
- as a political form of protest? ---> works wrong,

i dont think it works wrong. even if it did, thats irrelevant. its a valid act that will produce good karma in the right cases.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Simon E. » Wed May 01, 2013 2:58 pm

No. it wont. Its dumb and brutish and utterly wrong.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby 5heaps » Wed May 01, 2013 3:15 pm

Simon E. wrote:No. it wont. Its dumb and brutish and utterly wrong.

unless you provide reasoning, keep quiet.
those people are acting out of perhaps very strong compassion for compassionate aims. therefore there will be exquisite good karma. much better than most of us have done or will do.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Ayu » Wed May 01, 2013 3:39 pm

5heaps wrote:
Ayu wrote:So one has to decide to look at self-immolation
- as a political form of protest? ---> works wrong,

i dont think it works wrong. even if it did, thats irrelevant. its a valid act that will produce good karma in the right cases.


I answered this already, but by quoting you deleted it:

Ayu wrote:So one has to decide to look at self-immolation
- as a political form of protest? ---> works wrong,
- or as an spiritual high act? ---> better to keep this on the quiet, because it brings disrepute and missunderstanding in the public,
- or as a personal form of suicide out of deep despair? ---> understandable
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 Simon E. » Wed May 01, 2013 3:43 pm

I dont need to provide reasoning.
The onus is on you to show that your personal belief that deliberately destroying our " precious human form " in a particularly violent way can generate " good karma " is anything other than an appalling error of judgement at best, and pathological at worse.

Please feel free to disagree. As noisily as you wish.
I won't be asking you to " keep quiet ".

And I do hope that your reply is not framed around folk myths from the Jataka Tales.
Last edited by Simon E. on Wed May 01, 2013 3:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby conebeckham » Wed May 01, 2013 3:46 pm

Motivation, and mental state, are key...of course I don't know these people, but I do know many politically active young (and older) Tibetans. I can't read their minds, either-but I have seen and felt rage, despair, and frustration, especially amongst the younger folks. Understandable. But not a positive mental motivation for such acts of violence.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Jnana » Wed May 01, 2013 6:32 pm

Simon E. wrote:I dont need to provide reasoning.
The onus is on you to show that your personal belief that deliberately destroying our " precious human form " in a particularly violent way can generate " good karma " is anything other than an appalling error of judgement at best, and pathological at worse....

And I do hope that your reply is not framed around folk myths from the Jataka Tales.

Self-immolation as an expression of political protest may be a modern phenomenon, but the notion of complete or partial self-immolation as a meritorious action has a long history in Mahāyāna Buddhism as surveyed here. Scriptural sources used to justify the practice include not only the Jātakas, but also the Lotus Sūtra and the Sūtra of Golden Light. The most detailed study of this phenomenon is Burning for the Buddha: Self-immolation in Chinese Buddhism by James A. Benn.

Multiple Meanings of Buddhist Self-Immolation in China — A Historical Perspective is a short paper by the same author, written after the recent Tibetan immolations had begun. He concludes this paper with the following observation:

    In China, while often controversial, self-immolation was always considered a valid Buddhist practice. It was not pushed to the margins by Chinese Buddhist authors, but was considered seriously as part of the path to buddhahood itself. If we refuse to take self-immolation equally seriously, wherever and whenever it appears, I believe that we can only fail to understand it.

Of course, taking it seriously and trying to understand it isn't the same thing as condoning it.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby 5heaps » Wed May 01, 2013 11:11 pm

Simon E. wrote:destroying our " precious human form " in a particularly violent way can generate " good karma " is anything other than an appalling error of judgement at best, and pathological at worse.

the positive mental factors that are generated by rebelling against oppression, corruption, etc, and trying to force people's attention to that situation accompany the final moment before death.

Ayu wrote:- or as an spiritual high act? ---> better to keep this on the quiet, because it brings disrepute and missunderstanding in the public,

this line of reasoning is nonapplicable. people are killing themselves as an act of demonstration against brutality. if the public are so stupid that they dont know that the acts are undertaken in the context of responding to brutality, then they are stupid. but they do know that chinese human rights are a joke, so your argument doesnt apply.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Ayu » Thu May 02, 2013 8:30 am

5heaps wrote:...
this line of reasoning is nonapplicable. people are killing themselves as an act of demonstration against brutality. if the public are so stupid that they dont know that the acts are undertaken in the context of responding to brutality, then they are stupid. but they do know that chinese human rights are a joke, so your argument doesnt apply.



Anyhow, if you call it stupid or whatever - it is not understandable for normal people, who cling to this life and appreciate it as the highest treasure, that killing oneself should be seen as a "valid act that will produce good karma".
But if you talk about politics: the main buisiness in politics is to deal with "stupid" people.
I would call it better: make topics understandable for the people. One has to talk with them on that level where they are.

Wether burning oneself to death is a noble deed or not, i would not like to discuss here. The main point should be respect for the victims and their decision. Wether it is a good deed or not, from the spiritual point of view, is not possible to judge right here.
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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 Simon E. » Thu May 02, 2013 8:58 am

5heaps wrote:
Simon E. wrote:destroying our " precious human form " in a particularly violent way can generate " good karma " is anything other than an appalling error of judgement at best, and pathological at worse.

the positive mental factors that are generated by rebelling against oppression, corruption, etc, and trying to force people's attention to that situation accompany the final moment before death.

Ayu wrote:- or as an spiritual high act? ---> better to keep this on the quiet, because it brings disrepute and missunderstanding in the public,

this line of reasoning is nonapplicable. people are killing themselves as an act of demonstration against brutality. if the public are so stupid that they dont know that the acts are undertaken in the context of responding to brutality, then they are stupid. but they do know that chinese human rights are a joke, so your argument doesnt apply.

What I take from that is that at least some people who see burning yourself to death to support a political stance as virtuous, also see the person in the street as "stupid"..which rather reinforces my own view.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Nemo » Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:05 am

Immolation is becoming more frequent. This Sunday two monks immolated. One at the Shaderi Monastery in Amdo in front of the monastery. Another, Losang Palden, from the Kirtit Monastery in Sichuan set himself on fire. If the monks have angry minds and some degree of realization at the moment of death the consequences for China will be severe. I am remembering the fate of President Diem in Vietnam. There was also an immolation in Tienanmen Square last week and the three people who tried to report on it were arrested and their computers seized. I would not bet on the regime surviving if this keeps up.

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

Postby Indrajala » Mon Mar 17, 2014 5:44 am

Nemo wrote:If the monks have angry minds and some degree of realization at the moment of death the consequences for China will be severe.


Arguably if you kill yourself out of anger and hatred, the karmic consequences for that will be unfavorable to you rather than others.

This kind of spiteful religious approach (superstitious?) to politics doesn't really do much in the real world. Despite all the violence inflicted on the Tibetans and Tibetan clergy on the orders of PRC leadership, the PRC elites are still in power and in control of both China proper and Tibet. Hu Jintao went gracefully out of office and seems healthy as ever. The future is uncertain, but despite all the threats of karmic consequences and probably black magic directed against the PRC, they still control Tibet and are moving millions of Han Chinese in as permanent colonists. Clearly the pro-Tibetan program isn't working out so well and should be reevaluated.

Torching yourself as an act of spite against your conquerer doesn't really help your situation, especially when you have no champion to fight on your behalf. Neither India nor the west is going to seriously challenge China over Tibet. The door for that closed decades ago. The real power in the world, political and financial, doesn't care about Tibet. China in recent years has demonstrated a much more liberal policy towards religious activities. It is still heavily controlled, yes, but cooperation is probably going to earn more progress than self-immolations. This isn't the era of Mao any longer.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Simon E. » Mon Mar 17, 2014 9:07 am

Nemo wrote:Immolation is becoming more frequent. This Sunday two monks immolated. One at the Shaderi Monastery in Amdo in front of the monastery. Another, Losang Palden, from the Kirtit Monastery in Sichuan set himself on fire. If the monks have angry minds and some degree of realization at the moment of death the consequences for China will be severe. I am remembering the fate of President Diem in Vietnam. There was also an immolation in Tienanmen Square last week and the three people who tried to report on it were arrested and their computers seized. I would not bet on the regime surviving if this keeps up.

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They were idiots.
Now they are dead idiots.
The regime will not give a damn.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Simon E. » Mon Mar 17, 2014 10:12 am

Simon E. wrote:
Nemo wrote:Immolation is becoming more frequent. This Sunday two monks immolated. One at the Shaderi Monastery in Amdo in front of the monastery. Another, Losang Palden, from the Kirtit Monastery in Sichuan set himself on fire. If the monks have angry minds and some degree of realization at the moment of death the consequences for China will be severe. I am remembering the fate of President Diem in Vietnam. There was also an immolation in Tienanmen Square last week and the three people who tried to report on it were arrested and their computers seized. I would not bet on the regime surviving if this keeps up.

Image

They were idiots.
Now they are dead idiots.
The regime will not give a damn.

I suspect that cracks are appearing in the regime that will one day become catastrophic.
But monks burning themselves to death will not have contributed to that in the slightest.
Ironically it will be materialism and consumerism that will do for the People's Republic.
Not sacrifice, whether noble or simply tragic.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Malcolm » Mon Mar 17, 2014 2:38 pm

Cabezon wrote a good and thoughtful article on the subject:

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/7126/on_the_ethics_of_the_tibetan_self_immolations_/

Personally, when it first began happening I thought it fruitless and sad. Now, over the years, I have come to see that this form of protest is much superior to violent protest around the world. It is still sad, but I think that such acts being done out of love and caring for Dharma, and not just because Tibetans are being oppressed. Indeed, the whole phenomena is grounded in the notions of offering one's body for the sake of the enlightenment of others. In the article Cabezon recalls several examples, not least among them, the Buddha's own sacrifice of his body at Namo Buddha during his last human lifetime as the bodhisattva. He quotes a one writer, Jigmey who was sentenced to five years for publishing the following:

The Beijing government claims that the act of self-cremation, or the burning of one’s body, contradicts the Buddhist texts, but this is a confused position. According to Buddhism, giving up one’s life for the welfare of others is an act of a bodhisattva. One can know this from the biography of the compassionate Buddha himself. Before he was enlightened, the future Buddha came across a tigress and her cubs. They were on the verge of starving to death. Unable to bear their suffering, he sacrificed his own body as food for the tigress. That act of protecting the life of the tigress and her two cubs by giving up his own life is the central theme of many contemporary religious writings; it is widely known. When one reaches the highest level of Mahāyāna practice—that of “the being of great scope”—one is able to give up everything one possesses for the welfare of sentient beings. For example, if it is necessary, one is able to spend many hundreds of millions of years in hell just for the sake of a single sentient being... For all of these reasons giving up one’s own life for the sake of sentient beings or for the sake of one’s own people does not contradict the Buddhist teachings. Not only does it not contradict them, it is actually a tenet of the Mahāyāna; it is a most excellent doctrine. Hence, no one who is informed about these matters would claim that it contradicts Buddhism—no one, that is, except confused government officials and their lackeys.

Of course some will debate the effectiveness of such actions from a cynical real politick perspective, but in my view, the actions of bodhisattvas grounded in Mahāyāna motivation will always outshine such cynicism.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Simon E. » Mon Mar 17, 2014 2:54 pm

I disagree completely Malcolm. I think its an expression of a pathology which forms part of the complex web that is the legacy of the Subcontinent. I think fear of sex is part of that legacy, as more distantly are suicide bombings.
Burning yourself to death because of aversion to what is, is a greater act of aggression than becoming a Muslim martyr, because more subtle and more capable of provoking moral ambivilence.

Or so it seems to me.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Norwegian » Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:05 pm

Wait, so let me get this straight:

You're suggesting that a Tibetan who is setting himself or herself on fire - a lone act affecting only the individual in question - as a form of protest against Chinese atrocities, is a greater act of aggression than say a Muslim suicide bomber who as a means of "attacking the enemy", detonates himself or herself in for example a school bus full of children (or as usual, ends up killing and injuring many innocent people)?

I hope I am reading you wrong.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Malcolm » Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:07 pm

Simon E. wrote:I disagree completely Malcolm. I think its an expression of a pathology which forms part of the complex web that is the legacy of the Subcontinent. I think fear of sex is part of that legacy, as more distantly are suicide bombings.
Burning yourself to death because of aversion to what is, is a greater act of aggression than becoming a Muslim martyr, because more subtle and more capable of provoking moral ambivilence.

Or so it seems to me.



Tibetans are hardly afraid of sex. In fact, they are rather more practical about it then we are.

I don't think that the self-immolations are happening, in general, because of aversion. They are happening because of the Mahāyāna ethics these young men and woman are trained under.

It is not like the suicide bombings, which are, where they occur, part of a calculated plan of terror. These are not terrorist acts in any sense.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Simon E. » Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:27 pm

Again I disagree.
Attempting to force a change of behaviour from a political entity or an individual by threatening to kill oneself in a particularly horrible way is I believe an act of terrorism, even when we agree with the aims of the actor.
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Re: Self-Immolation: an anti-Buddhist practice?

Postby Malcolm » Mon Mar 17, 2014 5:30 pm

Simon E. wrote:Again I disagree.
Attempting to force a change of behaviour from a political entity or an individual by threatening to kill oneself in a particularly horrible way is I believe an act of terrorism, even when we agree with the aims of the actor.


I don't think they are making threats, Simon. It is not like these people write a letter and say "This is my list of demands", etc.

I don't think it is terrorism at all. I think it is the opposite, it is a response to terrorism.
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