Self-immolation against Buddhist values, say monk

Updated: 2013-01-17 03:25

By HUANG ZHILING in Chengdu (China Daily)

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Buddhism, whose core values are mercy and respect for life, opposes self-immolation, said representatives of the three branches of Buddhism in China.

They made the remarks at a two-day seminar on the Buddhist view of life, which started on Wednesday in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

Sponsored by the Buddhist Association of China, around 40 senior monks and experts from the three branches of Buddhism in China are taking part in the event.

Discussing a string of self-immolation incidents by young monks in the border areas of Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces in recent years, they deplored the loss of lives.

"Buddhist doctrines strongly condemn and prohibit acts of persuading, encouraging and praising suicide and associate them with killing people," said Chuan Yin, president of the association.

Endorsing his view, Jamyang Losang Jigme Tubdain Qoigyi Nyima, vice-president of the association, said: "Self-immolation of monks, the involvement of monks in acts of self-immolation and monks inciting others to burn themselves are completely contrary to the teachings and precepts of Buddhism. Buddhists must oppose this."

Participants in the seminar rebutted the view spread by some people that self-immolation does not contradict Buddhist precepts. Quoting Buddhist classics, they considered it deluded behavior violating Buddhist doctrine. Encouraging and praising suicide and helping people to commit suicide is tantamount to murder, they said.

Guba Longzhuangmeng, vice-president of the association, said: "They are the most sinful acts in Buddhist precepts, and monks committing such a sin must be expelled from the Buddhist community forever."

Commenting on the view that self-immolation is the highest form of nonviolence, participants in the seminar said it did serious harm to those involved, brought fear to others and caused panic among the public. As a result, it could not be referred to as a "nonviolent" act, they said.

Sheng Hui, vice-president of the association, said: "With the development of human civilization, cherishing and respecting life has become the consensus of all mankind. Acts of violence such as self-immolation are the enemy of any civilized society."

Of the monks setting themselves on fire, the youngest was only 16. "How could they decide to end their lives in self-immolation when they barely had their own views of life and Buddhism," said Jia Deng, vice-president of Sichuan Provincial Association of Buddhism.

Teachers and elder monks at some temples had neglected their duty, he said. Seeing the young monks adopt mistaken views, they not only failed to stop them, but even hid those who had burned themselves and whose lives were at stake, delaying the treatment time, he said.

Since the first of these self-immolations occurred in 2009, some Buddhist monks have expressed indifference and have not called for an end to these acts. Instead, they have continued to mastermind self-immolations, which has resulted in the loss of lives, he said.

What is worse, some Buddhists who are called teachers think highly of self-immolation and call those who burn themselves "heroes", calling for salvation for the dead and inciting minors to die. Their political intention is all too clear, he said.

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