China / Society

Buddhist doctrine opposes self-immolation

(Xinhua) Updated: 2013-01-17 09:54

BEIJING - Eminent Tibetan Buddhist monks interviewed by Xinhua have expressed their grief over the recent deaths of Tibetans who set themselves alight.

"They do not even protect their own lives, which runs against Buddhist doctrine," Rinchen Amgyal told Xinhua.

The former abbot of the Tingkya Sangngak Choling, a monastery in Gonghe county of Northwest China's Qinghai province, said the most severe violation of Buddhist doctrine is to kill, and Buddhists should do good.

"It's a pity to lose such young lives," he said, adding that these suicide cases cannot represent Tibetans.

The Dalai Lama and his followers have argued that self-immolation is lofty and respectable for Tibetans who set themselves alight for the national cause instead of selfish ends.

However, Rinchen Amgyal said Tibetans are people who do good and tell the truth.

According to media reports, several self-immolations have occurred recently in Tibetan-inhabited regions in west China's Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces bordering Tibet.

Lorang Konchok, a 40-year-old monk from an ethnic Tibetan area of southwest China's Sichuan Province, was found to have goaded eight people into setting themselves alight, three fatally, since 2009.

He acted on the instructions of the 14th Dalai Lama and his followers, according to police, who cited confessions and investigations.

In January, in an address that seemed to encourage self-sacrifice, the Dalai Lama told his disciples in a prayer meeting in India that Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, cut off his own flesh to feed seven starving tigers. He died rescuing the tigers.

However, self-immolation has nothing to do with the Sakyamuni story, according to Palden Donyu, the former abbot of Sagya Monastery in Tibet Autonomous Region's second-largest city of Shigatse, the key temple for Tibetan Buddhism's Sagya branch.

"Life is so precious," he added, mourning those who self-immolated.

The fact that many self-immolators were youths makes Donyu especially sorrowful, with the Buddhist urging the generation born in the 1980s to improve themselves inwardly in order to avoid the emergence of severe problems.

The Dalai Lama himself has publicly applauded the "courage" of the people who died or were injured in self-immolations.

However, Chuan Yin, president of the Buddhist Association of China, on Wednesday described inducing, encouraging or even praising suicides as "an extremely severe crime."

Committing suicide or goading others to do so violates Buddhist tenets of mercy and compassion, he said.

These self-immolations were due to others' incitement, instigation and coercion, according to the Buddhist master, who advised followers to "discern good and evil."

Gumang Ngokse Gyatso, a lection teacher in Gyaltsen Monastery, said Buddhist doctrine says people should do things that are conducive to social stability and development and to the spreading of Tibetan Buddhism.

A group of backbone of younger monks has formed in Tibetan Buddhism's six sects, which has put the religion in a thriving position, said the eminent monk of Tibetan Buddhism's Gelug sect.

Jampa Chile, a lection teacher of Sera Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet's regional capital, pointed to Tibetan Buddhists' gains under the Chinese government and said, "I've benefited from the religious freedom policy."

All monasteries in Tibetan-inhabited regions have access to radio, television, electricity and drinking water, he said.

Sera Monastery, one of the three important temples of the Gelug sect, currently has 560 monks, all covered by medical insurance, Chile went on, adding the government donated more than 100 million yuan ($16 million) to maintain the monastery this year.

Palden Donyu likewise pointed out that the Sagya sect of Tibetan Buddhism had enough resources to hold two assemblies, one in summer and one in winter.

"Buddhism's followers and disciples should actively participate in building a harmonious society, which is in line with Buddhist doctrine and conducive to religious development," he added.

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