1. Religion & Spirituality
Barbara O'Brien

The Self-Immolations in Tibet Continue

By January 31, 2013

Follow me on:

I haven't recently written about the self-immolations 0f Tibetan Buddhists in China, although certainly they have continued. Close to one hundred Tibetan Buddhists, mostly monks and nuns, have been known to have set fire to themselves over the past few months.

This is hard to reconcile, given the First Precept -- do not kill. I understand the monastics are avoiding more conventional group protests after the 2008 Lhasa uprising ended in violence against Han Chinese by Tibetan laypeople. This violence enabled Beijing to avoid addressing the oppression that is at the root of the unrest.

Now China is accusing specific Tibetans of inciting the self-immolations -- because people who burn themselves to death couldn't possibly do so out of their own convictions, I suppose. In the past several hours Chinese courts have convicted eight ethnic Tibetans of murder because a relative or associate self-immolated. They have to find somebody to blame but themselves.

Awhile back Robert Thurman described this scene --

"One of the brave monks who set himself on fire did so in the close presence of Chinese military police, who were so confused by this astonishing gesture, they shot him and then proceeded to beat him as he was dying, as if to punish him for freeing himself from their punishments! It was a sign of their utter confusion."

Perhaps they were punishing him for killing himself without proper authorization.

February 1, 2013 at 7:47 am
(1) Michael says:

No doubt the conviction of relatives of self-immolators is a strategy to deter them. Much in the same way that the Nazis would kill a number of remaining concentration camp inmates for every successful escapee. If you self-immolate, we will harm your friends and family kinda thing.

February 1, 2013 at 10:44 am
(2) David says:

Michael, you could well be right. Frankly, I find self-immolation far more horriying than heroic. When I was a practicing clergyman I visited a man in the hospital who had immolated himself and did not quite succeed in dying–it is a sight I never want to see again. I too am puzzled how this act can go along with the First Precept. However, the Chinese authorities are maniacs on the subject of control–which they call Confucian “harmony”. What can be more out of control than publically killing yourself in protest? This is disharmony, while condemning someone and then officially shooting them in the head in prison is harmony. Something like that. Slowly, however, parts of Chinese society are loosening up a bit. Maybe the day will come when Tibet will at least win a degree of meaningful self-rule. But not any time in the near future.

February 2, 2013 at 9:38 am
(3) Astraea Shaw says:

[Comment deleted]

February 2, 2013 at 10:04 am
(4) Astraea Shaw says:

[Comment deleted]

February 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm
(5) Barbara O'Brien says:

As it is Tibet is not only enjoying real democracy and a good standard of living, but the monasteries are really well funded and flourishing as never before!
There are millions of tourists going to Tibet these days.

I know this from an impeccable source, a Tibetan monk who has been in and out of Tibet quite often over the last few years.

There is copious testimony of other monks saying otherwise. I don’t know where you are getting your information, but it is seriously twisted. I suggest you stop being a conduit for propaganda and find another hobby.

February 2, 2013 at 10:08 am
(6) Astraea Shaw says:

[Comment deleted]

February 2, 2013 at 5:50 pm
(7) Barbara O'Brien says:

“Where is my comment?”

You’ve published two comments that are publicly available. What is your problem?

February 2, 2013 at 10:15 pm
(8) Darwida says:

Let us endeavor to deal with the nuts and bolts of the situation described. The first question to be asked is what is it that is making these people go to such extreme punishment? What exactly are they protesting? And I am extremely curious why there seems to be so little coverage of their acts here in the US, or am I just missing something?

February 3, 2013 at 2:08 pm
(9) David says:

Astraea Shaw–Arguments about Tibet aside, I think we can all do without your anti-Semitic comments about “Jewish bankers” and “Jewish Money Power” as well as your anti-homosexual smear. Barbara, I have read your blog and site for many months now, and have always regarded you as very fair-minded. But I am more than a little shocked that a racist homophobe is allowed to post here–at all.

February 3, 2013 at 7:06 pm
(10) Barbara O'Brien says:

David — Sorry, I didn’t read the comments all that carefully. Although I did find the part about George Soros keeping the Dalai Lama prisoner in India morbidly fascinating. His Holiness seems to slip his tether pretty often.

I’ll take votes. Anyone have any objections to deleting Astraea’s comments?

February 3, 2013 at 4:17 pm
(11) Jack B says:

Astrea– what planet are you currently living on? and in what century?

Speaking as a Lesbian, I really don’t care for your comments re: homosexuals at all. Homophobia is such a bore and I am so VERY tired of it. And re: your anti-Semitism, — child, where is your head? If you have more than 2 working brain cells, I’d be very surprised.

Tibetans are killing themselves because they have no other way to protest the genocide that the Chinese are perpetrating in their country. In order to avoid killing others, they are killing themselves and I applaud their bravery. I couldn’t do it. Could you?
The obvious thing that comes to me is the way that the United States tried their very best to snuff out their Native Americans. And nearly succeeded. I am an American and I am in NO WAY proud of what my beloved country has done in its history in that regard.
Please try to see how incredibly biased you are and look squarely at it instead of just thinking how others have told you too.

February 3, 2013 at 9:33 pm
(12) Xaviar Paolo Josh Ledesma Mandreza says:

You have my Vote, M’am Barbara – DELETE it, kindly please.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.