China is trying to crack down on self-immolations by Tibetan Buddhist protesters, but online videos are inspiring copy-cat deaths.
By Melinda Liu, The Daily Beast, March 26, 2012
A Tibetan in flames after self-immolating at a protest ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to India, in New Delhi, March 26, 2012, Manish Swarup/AP Photos
Like Tibetan neighborhoods all over Western China, Wuhouci is chock-a-block with shop fronts selling gold-colored Buddhist prayer wheels as big as oil drums, intricately carved altars, and beatific bronze Buddhas, all permeated with the languid aroma of juniper incense. But the Tibetan residents—women wearing brightly striped aprons, husky men in sunglasses and funky cowboy hats—seem strangely sullen and few in number. Instead, the streets are dominated by public security vehicles with lights flashing, and black-clad police patrols in flak jackets. “Any cars coming from Lhasa are immediately stopped and searched,” says one local, “What have we done to deserve this?”
Wuhouci, a district in the provincial capital of Sichuan province, lies far removed from the fiery suicides that have rocked more remote Tibetan communities. But government authorities are taking no chances. They’ve put on a show of force—and flooded the Tibetan zone, far and wide, with checkpoints and spies—to flush out the so-called terrorists, separatists, and religious extremists whom they maintain are behind the recent spate of self-immolations.
About 30 people in Tibetan communities under Beijing’s control have set themselves on fire in grisly acts of protest since February 2009, according to human-rights groups overseas. Of those, 22 have reportedly died. News of the most recent immolation came on Monday, when a Tibetan exile ran blazing through the streets of New Delhi to protest Chinese President Hu Jintao’s upcoming visit to India. (As of press time, the man remained in critical condition, and the Association of Tibetan Journalists reported that he sustained burns on 98 percent of his body.)
Although Tibetans have immolated themselves in years past, modern technology now allows gruesome video snippets of gasoline-drenched human fireballs—some of them shouting “Long live Tibet” or defiantly waving raised fists—to proliferate online, and possibly to inspire copy-cat acts of self-annihilation.
Committing suicide is a last-resort measure in any society, but it’s seen as especially extreme for Tibetan Buddhists.
Committing suicide is a last-resort measure in any society, but it’s seen as especially extreme for Tibetan Buddhists. Because their religion reveres all living beings, many Tibetans believe those who take their own lives will not be reincarnated. That’s a grim fate for religious devotees who aspire to be reborn, again and again, in more enlightened forms. “But what else can people do? We don’t have guns. We don’t want to harm other human beings. Yet we can’t stand to see our religion and culture being crushed,” lamented one Tibetan man from Lhasa, who requested anonymity because he feared China’s massive security crackdown, which has affected parts of four provincial areas.
Many self-immolations have taken place in Sichuan province, but their geographic scope has expanded in recent weeks. Since January, five people have set themselves on fire in Tibetan areas of adjacent Qinghai province. A 44-year-old farmer named Sonam Dargye immolated himself on March 17 in the center of Qinghai’s Tongren town, an act that attracted hundreds of Tibetans who gathered to pray near his still-burning remains. Three days earlier, a 30-something monk named Jamyang Palden—described by an acquaintance as a quiet, studious lama who “must have thought through what he was going to do”—had set himself on fire in the square outside the crimson walls of Rongpo monastery in Tongren.
The current clampdown is the heaviest in Tibetan communities since March 2008. That’s when deadly race riots erupted in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa just months before the Olympic Games, resulting in 19 dead, mostly ethnic Chinese. Exile sources say many more Tibetans died in the government’s heavy-handed reaction, which caused the Dalai Lama, who lives in India, to weep upon seeing photographs of mangled corpses, and to warn Beijing officials they may find younger Tibetans to be even more militant than their elders in struggling against what he calls “cultural genocide.”
Since the 2008 unrest, authorities have accelerated efforts to compel Buddhist clergy to denounce the Dalai Lama, and to introduce Chinese-language textbooks for scientific subjects in some Tibetan schools. This has left many Tibetans seething with anti-government resentment. (The government has also dangled carrots, including the promise of pension plans and medical care, to those who comply.) As the number of fiery deaths has mounted, so has government rhetoric vilifying the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. On Saturday, state-run media likened the Dalai Lama and his colleagues to “cruel Nazis during the Second World War.” Calling the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader a “tricky liar skilled in double-dealing,” the official Xinhua News Agency alleged that he favored policies to expel ethnic Han Chinese from traditionally Tibetan parts of the country: “How similar it is to the Holocaust committed by Hitler on the Jews!”
The Dalai Lama, now 76, has criticized Beijing policies that encouraged Han Chinese migration into Tibetan areas and favored Chinese-language instruction over Tibetan in predominately Tibetan schools. (The area, known as China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, is about half the size of ancient Tibet, which once included parts of today’s Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan, and Gansu provinces; the vast majority of recent self-immolations have taken place in the latter areas.)
The recent suicide trend appears to have begun in the Qinghai town of Tongren, where the introduction of smartphones and the Internet several years ago allowed monks to receive and react to news from other Tibetan areas pretty much in real time. After unrest broke out at Rongpo monastery in March 2008, a number of monks were detained; one of them, 43-year-old Sheldrup, committed suicide in February 2009, allegedly to protest torture during detention.
Since then, most of the Tibetans who have set themselves alight have been either laypersons, ordinary Buddhist monks, and nuns, or former ones. However on Jan. 8, Lama Sobha, a well-liked lama in his 40s, doused himself with kerosene outside Dungkyob monastery in Golog, Qinghai province, and set himself on fire while calling for the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet. The first reincarnate lama to self-immolate in recent years, Lama Sobha had recorded a nine-minute message and hidden it in his maroon robes before setting himself on fire.
Obtained by exile groups and summarized by the International Campaign for Tibet, the audio sheds light on the religious thinking behind the lama’s decision to end his life. Lama Sobha, who had initiated projects to provide welfare for elderly monks and to educate poor Tibetan children, had been denied a new passport that he needed in order to travel to India in January to attend a religious teaching by the Dalai Lama. Citing a well-known Buddhist parable, his recording said: “I am giving away my body as an offering of light to chase away the darkness … I am sacrificing my body with the firm conviction and a pure heart just as the Buddha bravely gave his body to a hungry tigress [to stop her from eating her cubs].” Beijing’s avowedly atheist regime is still struggling to understand—and to try to counter—the religious devotion behind such desperate acts.
Row over Dalai Lama’s speech in New Delhi is latest in a series as emerging Asian giants vie for power and influence in region
India is said to have refused Chinese demands that the Dalai Lama be prevented from giving a keynote conference speech in New Delhi. Photograph: Ashwini Bhatia/AP
Tensions between China and India rose on after scheduled talks on outstanding border issues were cancelled following a row over a speech by the Dalai Lama, the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism, at a religious event in New Delhi.
The spat is the latest in a series of rows as the emerging Asian giants manoeuvre for power and influence in the region.
Diplomats were due this week to discuss the decades-old dispute over the exact line taken by the frontier between the two nations in the Himalayas.
The Chinese are believed to have demanded that the Dalai Lama be prevented from giving the keynote speech at the conference, which will be attended by more than 9,000 delegates in New Delhi. Indian officials refused.
Local media have reported that the Chinese feared the conference could be used by Tibetans as a platform for criticising Chinese rule over Tibet.
Organisers insist it is a purely cultural and religious event, involving intense theological discussions.
Spokesmen for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs could not be reached on Sundayfor comment.
China regularly objects to any contacts between other governments and the Dalai Lama, accusing the 76-year-old monk of fomenting dissent.
Recent weeks have seen a series of spectacular protests inside China, with at least 11 Tibetan monks, nuns, and former monks setting themselves on fire to protest about tightening Chinese control over Tibetan life and traditional Buddhist culture.
Beijing accuses supporters of the Dalai Lama, who found refuge in India on fleeing Tibet in 1959, of encouraging the immolations.
The Dalai Lama himself and representatives of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile, based in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala, say however they oppose all violence.
G Parthasarathy, a former Indian foreign secretary, said India “had repeatedly made it very clear [to Beijing] that the Dalai Lama is a respected spiritual leader and is free to pursue his activities as such.
“It may just be a timing problem. It should have been obvious that [the Chinese delegation] would not want to be here [in New Delhi] at the same time as the Dalai Lama,” he said.
This new clash comes at a time of heightened concern in New Delhi about growing Chinese influence in Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
“The Indians feel they are being hemmed in by an expansionist China and you can sort of understand why,” said one Western diplomat in Delhi on Sunday/. “The only good news from the Indian perspective is Burma.”
With incremental democratic reform underway in Burma, China’s strong influence on the country appears to be threatened, the diplomat said.
“Beijing is upping the assertiveness towards all its neighbours. The Chinese are carefully testing the waters to see how far they can go,” Parthasarathy said.
India recently made clear its unhappiness with Chinese claims to sovereignty over the South China Sea and Beijing’s description of the north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as “south Tibet”.
Oil and gas exploration by Indian companies in the South China Sea have upset China, as has the news of an Indian plan to raise tens of thousands of extra soldiers to send to the frontier near Tibet.
Both nations are also involved in a complex and sometimes bitter battle for influence over Nepal, which has traditionally been close to India. There is concern in Delhi over plans by a Chinese NGO to spend large sums renovating Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.
China on Saturday warned the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama not to interfere with the “reincarnation” process to select a successor after his death, saying the selection cannot be influenced by any group from outside the country.
“The top official of Tibet, Chen Quanguo, on Saturday warned the exiled Dalai Lama group not to interfere with living Buddhas’ reincarnation affairs, a tradition of Tibetan Buddhism that also concerns who will replace the current 14th Dalai Lama, 76, once he dies,” state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.
The warning came as tensions prevailed in Tibetan populated areas like southern Sichuan province where nine Buddhist monks and two nuns have attempted to commit self immolations, demanding return of the Dalai Lama from his exile in India.
Another monk set himself on fire in Nepal two days ago against Chinese rule in Tibet.
The Xinhua report said China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs in 2007 issued regulations on reincarnation of Tibetan living Buddhas.
It stated that the selection must adhere to the principle of upholding the national unity and solidarity of all ethnic groups and that the selection process cannot be influenced by any group or individual from outside the country.
The reincarnation should respect the rituals and traditions of Tibetan Buddhism but reincarnated living Buddhas (Monks) are barred from retaining the old feudal theocratic powers, which have been abolished since Tibet’s democratic reforms half a century ago, according to the regulations, the report said.
The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, has been described by the Chinese leadership as “splititst” seeking to destroy the unity of the country.
Chen, the newly appointed secretary of the Communist Party of China Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region, told a regional congressional meeting held in Lhasa that the authorities in Tibet will continue to protect religious activities, religious venues, and the legitimate rights of the followers in accordance with the country’s laws.
Chen also underlined the importance of building the Tibet Buddhist Theological Institute into an organisation that trains well-educated monks and nuns for Tibetan monasteries across the country and explains the doctrines of Tibetan Buddhism in ways that can keep the religion at pace with the times.
The institute, Tibet’s only regional-level Buddhist theological academy, opened in the county of Quxu near Lhasa in October.
One hundred-and-fifty people from various sects of Tibetan Buddhism were enrolled to study religion, culture, and law courses as the first batch of students.
By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA Associated Press KATMANDU, Nepal, November 10, 2011
A man wearing the robes of a Tibetan Buddhist monk set himself on fire in the Nepalese capital Thursday morning to protest Chinese policy in Tibet before the flames were extinguished by people nearby.
The incident was the latest in a rash of such protests by Tibetans in recent months to protest China.
Chodon Lama said the protest took place at the holy Buddhist stupa of Boudhanath, in an area of eastern Katmandu where most of the local Tibetan exiles live.
Police official Shyam Gyawali said the man fled after the incident and police were searching the surrounding neighborhood to locate him.
Lama said the man was standing next to the stupa, one of Katmandu’s most popular tourist sites, when he poured kerosene on himself. He tried in vain to light a match, and when that didn’t work, he used one of the nearby devotional lamps to set himself ablaze as he chanted slogans against China, she said.
Police said the man’s friends put out the flames, but Lama said that she and other strangers raced to him to extinguish the flames quickly. He didn’t appear hurt badly and he quickly fled, she said.
At least 11 people in Tibet have set themselves on fire since March to protest Chinese rule. At least five have died.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei accused Tibetan activists of glorifying and inciting the self immolations.
“In China, the vast majority of religious believers believe such self-immolation cases should be condemned and the majority of the people in the religious field believe that life is precious and should be cherished,” Hong said.
The Dalai Lama has said that China’s “ruthless policy” was behind the self-immolations. China accuses the Dalai Lama and his supporters of stirring up trouble in ethnic Tibetan areas and encouraging followers to set themselves on fire.
The Karmapa, Tibetan Buddhism’s third-ranking leader, asked China on Wednesday to review its policies toward Tibet in the wake of the protests against Chinese restrictions on their religion and culture.
“These desperate acts, carried out by people with pure motivation, are a cry against the injustice and repression under which they live,” he said.
ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — The Dalai Lama began a series of lectures to Buddhists in Mongolia on Tuesday in a low-key visit which nonetheless drew a protest from neighboring China.
The Tibetan spiritual leader spoke at a Chinese-built sports stadium on the outskirts of Ulan Bator that underscored the economic sway that Beijing exercises over landlocked and largely poor Mongolia.
In an attempt to allay Chinese concerns about the Buddhist leader, senior Mongolian lamas repeatedly said the visit was purely religious.
In Beijing, however, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China had made “a solemn representation” to Mongolia and was opposed to any country giving a platform to the Dalai Lama. China accuses the Dalai Lama of wanting to split Tibet from China, a charge the Nobel Peace Prize laureate denies.
Mongolia’s people traditionally follow the Tibetan school of Buddhism, and the Dalai Lama has visited at least a half dozen times.
“This is a purely religious visit made at the request of Mongolian Buddhist lay-believers and monks,” said Choijamts Demberel, head of the Mongolian Buddhist center and head abbot of Ganden Thekchen Choeling monastery.
The Dalai Lama’s visit comes at time of renewed unrest in Tibetan areas of China, where at least 11 people have set themselves on fire since March to protest Chinese rule. At least five have died.
The Dalai Lama has said that China’s “ruthless policy” was behind the self-immolations. China accuses the Dalai Lama and his supporters of stirring up trouble in ethnic Tibetan areas and encouraging followers to set themselves on fire.
Many Tibetans consider the Dalai Lama to be their rightful leader. He fled from Tibet to India in 1959 during an unsuccessful anti-Beijing uprising and is reviled by China’s Communist government.
When the Dalai Lama visited Mongolia in 2002, China held up trains at the border. There were no reports of that on Tuesday.
China is Mongolia’s biggest trading partner. The two signed a strategic partnership deal in June during a visit by Premier Wen Jiabao.
Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.
The Dalai Lama has blamed a recent wave of Tibetan self-immolations on a policy of “cultural genocide” being carried out by the Chinese government. The Telegraph, November 7, 2011
Analysts said the Dalai Lama was seeking to avoid a political vacuum after his death, when Tibetans will have to identify his reincarnated successor Photo: REUTERS
Eight Buddhist monks and two nuns have set themselves alight in ethnically Tibetan parts of China’s Sichuan province since the death of a young monk in March sparked a government crackdown.
“Chinese communist propaganda create a very rosy picture. But actually, including many Chinese from mainland China who visit Tibet, they all have the impression things are terrible,” the Dalai Lama said.
“Some kind of policy, some kind of cultural genocide is taking place,” the 76-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader said, in comments that are likely to rile Beijing.
“(In the) last 10, 15 years, there were some kind of hardliner Chinese officials. So that’s why you see these sad incidents have happened due to this desperate sort of situation.”
Activists say that at least five monks and two nuns have died from their injuries and that Chinese police have at times responded by beating the burning protesters and their colleagues rather than providing assistance.
In March 2008, major anti-Chinese unrest erupted in the Tibetan capital Lhasa and spread to neighbouring areas of western China with Tibetan populations.
Tibet’s exiled government said more than 200 Tibetans were killed in a subsequent clampdown. Beijing said “rioters” were responsible for 21 deaths.
Many Tibetans in China are angry about what they see as growing domination by the country’s majority Han ethnic group.
In the latest in a number of incidents, Buddhist nun Qiu Xiang last week died after she set herself on fire, calling for religious freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama, rights groups said.
China has accused the Dalai Lama, who fled his homeland for India in 1959, of instigating the suicide protests in a form of “terrorism in disguise.”
In the past, he has condemned self-immolations, which many Buddhists believe are contrary to their faith, but has until now kept a low profile over the recent wave of protests.
He announced in March that he wanted to shed his role as political chief of the Tibetan government-in-exile but will retain the more influential role of Tibet’s spiritual leader.
Indian policemen try to extinguish fire on Sherab Tsedor, a Tibetan resident of New Delhi, outside the Chinese Embassy, New Delhi, November 4, 2011.
A Tibetan exile set himself on fire outside the Chinese embassy in New Delhi on Friday, the latest in a series of self-immolation protests against China.
Police in the Indian capital overpowered 25-year-old Sherab TseDor and extinguished the flames. He was hospitalized with minor burns.
Before his protest, TseDor issued a statement calling for an end to a Chinese crackdown in Tibet. He called on India and other nations to support the Tibetan people’s bid for freedom from China.
In southwest China, at least 11 ethnic Tibetans have set themselves on fire in recent months, demanding greater religious and cultural freedom and the return of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. At least six of the protesters, including Buddhist nuns, have died.
Buddhist monks at a monastery in Shanba township, one of many in China's restive southwestern Sichuan province.
Hong Kong (CNN) — A Buddhist nun in southwest China has died after setting herself on fire, the 11th Tibetan — and second nun — to self-immolate since March.
The death of the nun, identified as Qiu Xiang, was reported by state-run Xinhua and confirmed by exile groups.
The 35-year old set herself on fire at a road crossing in Dawu County, in the Ganzi region of Sichuan Province, the South China Morning Post said, citing Xinhua.
It was unclear why she killed herself, though Tibetan campaign groups say it was in protest against Chinese rule.
But China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed the incident related to “pro-Tibetan independence forces” overseas.
“Everyone knows that nowadays, except for the very few evil cults and extremist forces, all religions advocate respect for human life and oppose violence,” said spokesperson Hong Lei.
“It is a challenge to the moral bottom line of all human beings if, instead of condemning the extreme act of self-immolation, some people are hyping or instigating it.”
According to the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), which advocates Tibetan independence, Palden Choetso — Qiu’s Tibetan name — called for freedom and the return from exile of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, as she was burning.
Her body was then taken by fellow nuns into the Ganden Choeling nunnery in Tawu, the ICT said.
Six of the 11Tibetans — all monks or former monks — who have set themselves ablaze died from their injuries.
Most of the suicide attempts occurred in Aba Prefecture and the Kirti monastery, also in Sichuan, which has become a focal point for ethnic Tibetans angry at the erosion of their culture.
Last month, a nun in Ngaba County, Sichuan Province, became the first Tibetan woman known to have killed herself. Free Tibet said Tenzin Wangmo, 20, died outside the Dechen Chokorling Nunnery. The State Administration for Religious Affairs in Beijing told CNN they were not aware of the incident.
Activists and exiled Tibetans say the disturbing acts reflect an increasingly repressive environment under Beijing’s control.
“The incidents are a clear indication of the genuine grievances of the Tibetans and their sense of deep resentment and despair over the prevailing conditions in Tibet,” said new Tibetan leader in exile, Lobsang Sangay, in quotes carried by Free Tibet.
“It is therefore of the utmost urgency that every possible effort be made to address the underlying root causes of Tibetan grievances and resentment.”
A statement from the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, India read: “The Kashag (Cabinet) would like to make it clear that it stands in solidarity with the Tibetan people in Tibet who endure continued suppression under the Chinese authorities, whose short-sighted policies have driven till now eleven Tibetans to set themselves on fire.
“Instead of addressing the real problems that drive Tibetans to commit self-immolation, Xinhua, the official news organ of the Chinese government, blames the Tibetans-in-exile for instigating such desperate and despairing acts.
“The Kashag strongly urges the Chinese government to stop hurling baseless allegations and to start solving the real problems. (The) People’s Republic of China can do this by stopping its repressive policy on Tibet and allowing more freedom of religion and speech.”
Prominent Tibetan writer and activist Tsering Woeser told CNN this kind of protest will continue as long as the Chinese government’s Tibet policy remains the same.
“If there is no improvement Tibetans will feel it’s better to die than be alive. They commit suicide to protest,” she said.
“The international community should impose pressure and condemn the Chinese government,” she added. “But so far, the pressure is not enough, the international community only appeals to Chinese government but there are no real actions such as economic boycott.”
In an interview with CNN last month, Woeser said Tibetan Buddhists can’t use violence against others to protest, so they harm themselves to people pay attention to their plight.
“This is not suicide. This is sacrifice in order to draw the world’s attention,” she said.
China rejects accusations of oppression of Tibetans, saying its rule has greatly improved living standards for the Tibetan people.
The Dalai Lama’s representative signed an agreement with Beijing in 1951 to affirm China’s sovereignty over Tibet but also grant autonomy to the area. A failed uprising against Beijing’s rule in 1959 forced the Dalai Lama into exile.
The Dalai Lama denies seeking independence for Tibet, saying he wants genuine autonomy, under which Tibetans can make their own policies on key issues, such as religious practices.
In a 2008 uprising, violent unrest in Tibet and the subsequent military crackdown left at least 18 dead, and activists say tensions have remained high in many areas since then.
CNN’s Haolan Hong and Xiaoni Chen contributed to this report.
Posted on: November 4, 2011 6:04 am
MEDITATION DOCUMENTARY 2016
BUDDHIST MEDITATION CENTER
Videos and Photos of Vipassana classes at our Peace Meditation Center - Wat Kiryvongsa Bopharam in Leverett, Massachusetts, USA
A Dhamma Talk on Vipassana and mindfulness meditation by Vipassana Gossalaya Jotannano Hong Keo, Vipassana Buddhist Master during a 10-Day Meditation & Vipassana Retreats at the Buddhist Meditation Center, Wat Kiryvongsa Bopharam on the 11th Waxing Moon – 7th Waning Moon of Jeṭṭha B.E.2560 equivalent to June 15 – 26, A.D.2016 in Leverett, Massachusetts, U.S.A. in 2016.
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Vipassana chanting by Meditation Master Ketodhammo Som Bunthoeun. Footages from 2016 Vipassana classes at the Buddhist Meditation Center – Wat Kiryvongsa Bopharam in Leverett, Massachusetts, USA.
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Khmer literature and Dhamma talk by His Holiness Jotannano Chuon Nath, the Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia Buddhism. His Holiness was born on March 11, 1883; passed away on September 25, 1969
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Extraordinary Funeral and Memorial Services for His Holiness Samdech Dr. Maha Ghosananda