Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Self-Immolation and So-Called Buddhism

China Attacks 'Dalai Clique' Over Self-Immolations
BEIJING October 11, 2011 (AP)

China on Tuesday accused overseas followers of the Dalai Lama of inciting a string of self-immolations among Tibetans.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said members of the "Dalai clique" not only failed to condemn the incidents, but publicized them to inspire further such acts.
"They publicly played it up, spread rumors and incited more people to follow suit," Liu told reporters at a daily news briefing.
Liu said the self-immolations were part of a plan to violently overthrow Chinese rule in Tibet.
"That runs against human conscience and morality but also Buddhist doctrine," he said.
Five Tibetan men have set themselves on fire in the past two weeks in Aba, a traditionally Tibetan region of western China.
While few details are known, the self-immolations are seen as a protest against Communist restrictions on Tibetan Buddhism and Beijing's hostility toward the exiled Dalai Lama.
Aba has been the scene of numerous protests in past years against the Chinese government. Most are led by monks who are fiercely loyal to the Dalai Lama, Tibet's Buddhist leader who fled the Himalayan region in 1959 amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule and is reviled by Beijing.
The Dalai Lama has routinely condemned violence and advocates a peaceful campaign for greater autonomy for Tibetans in China while remaining under Beijing's rule.
 The Practical Buddhist Responds

The Practical Buddhist is old enough to remember the horrible photos of Vietnamese monks aflame in the mid-1960’s. There were over one hundred self-immolations recorded in the following decade.  Now there are more ritual self-burnings, this time in Tibet. This is not Buddhism.
Yes, yes, there was a bodhisattva mentioned in the Lotus Sutra (chapter 23) who according to legend set his body aflame to “spread the light of the Dharma for a thousand years.” 

But that’s what’s called a “proof text.”

 So-called Christians search the books of the Bible for proof texts to justify anything from capital punishment to wars of aggression to slavery or hating gays. So-called Muslims search the Koran and holy texts to find justification for suicide bombing, terrorism, and the subjugation of women.  It’s not surprising that so-called Buddhists can find texts that seem to encourage dousing themselves with gasoline and lighting a match.  

I realize “so-called” is a bit provocative.  It’s meant to be.  Think of any crazy, destructive, inhuman act; I’ll find a holy scripture text, out of context, that will justify it.

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