China / Cover Story

Monks vent anger at self-immolation

By Cui Jia (China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-21 08:18

Fury at outside forces luring young men to gruesome fate, reports Cui Jia in Aba county, Sichuan province.

Carrying a large bottle of liquefied butter, Thangmokor walked slowly in his red robes - a distinguishing feature of Tibet's Buddhist monks - toward one of the halls of Kirti Monastery in the northwest of Aba county, Sichuan province. The elderly monk was on his way to refill the butter lamps in the halls so the flames could continue to burn as part of the daily rituals.

Monks vent anger at self-immolation

Monks discuss and debate various aspects of Buddhist teaching at Kirti Monastery in Aba county, Sichuan province. Feng Yongbin / China Daily

Outside a prayer hall, a monk threw hundreds of small pieces of paper inscribed with images of the Buddha into the blue sky, allowing the wind to lift the prayers higher. Yaks and sheep wandered freely through the courtyards. "Praying and studying Buddhism is what monks should do. Anything else is an interruption," said Thangmokor, who has spent the past 30 years at the monastery, which belongs to the Gelug sect, also known as the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism, and has a history stretching back more than 1,400 years.

As he passed through a residential area that encircles the main prayer halls, and houses more than 1,000 monks, Thangmokor paused outside one dwelling. He said he couldn't understand why Phuntsog, a young monk who used to live there, decided to commit self-immolation.

"People had never heard of this sort of thing until the last few years. After all, life is the most precious thing, isn't it?" he said.

Phuntsog was just 19 when he killed himself in 2011. According to an investigation conducted by the police after Tapey, a monk from the same monastery, set himself on fire on Feb 27, 2009 in Aba county, a unnamed foreign separatist group was portraying the young man as a hero to encourage more monks to self-immolate.

Monks vent anger at self-immolation 

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