Tibetan Self-Immolation

In Tibet, Protest = Death - To Die Slowly Or Quickly. Is That The Question?

Here is a very interesting blog post about Tibetan Self-Immolation I came across on 'Mountain Phoenix over Tibet'. It is asking the people in Tibet to stop killing themselves saying that suicide is wrong and this is not the way.

Under the post is an amazing comment you must read, that states that if any Tibetan protests it ultimately leads to death anyway so why not make it a quick death by setting yourself on fire.

As everyone should know by now, if any Tibetan protests in Tibet, they are quickly taken to jail where they are beaten, raped, electrocuted, strung up from the ceiling for weeks, months and years on end. Most of them die in jail or just after they are released. So, if we ask Tibetans not to commit self-immolation or not to kill themselves, is it the same as asking them not to protest at all?

Please read the following, think about it, then share your feelings with us...

What do you think?

Do you have an opinion about Tibetan self-immolation or any other forms of protest in Tibet?

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The Evils of Self-Immolation Not rated yet
First, of course, we have no business telling anyone what to do, even if it is suicide. However, being the survivor of a suicide in the family, I do know …

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Please stop killing yourselves!

The stories of self-immolations from Tibet are blood-curling and leave us all horror-struck. But are the public reactions to these suicides or attempts at suicide not just as shocking? All we do is use these sacrifices to attack the Chinese. There is no appeal to the compatriots in Tibet to please, please stop killing themselves for our greater good. Instead the public discussion focuses on the motivation why these mostly young people set themselves on fire.

We can argue till our mouths hurt that they set themselves on fire over “independence” and not “autonomy” or the other way round; we can also say it was for “altruistic” reasons and that they didn’t commit a “sin” in Buddhist terms; and the Chinese can argue until kingdom come that these were “illegal acts to disturb the social order”.

But all these discussions are perverse because they do not waste any words about the basic wrongness of suicide. Our silence gives Tibetan society a fundamentalist touch: We accept violent suicide as a justifiable act.

Is this really the message we want to send to young people in Tibet? That it’s “heroic” to violently kill yourself for idealistic reasons? Is it okay for the political groups on the Tibetan side to use them as cannon fodder to advance their political aims?

If the politicians and activists among us are unable to bring themselves to speak out against suicide, shouldn’t at least our religious leaders take up position? Isn’t it their responsibility to persuade our young that killing yourself is not what’s required?

Where is everyone?

Where is the Dalai Lama? Where is the Karmapa? Where is the Sakya Trizin? Why for Buddha’s sake are our religious leaders silent? Please speak to the people in the homeland that you do not approve of this act. Please tell them that we Tibetans must survive. Not speaking out against the self-immolations means tacit agreement. Blaming the Chinese and lobbying for Western support over these acts while not speaking out against them means tacit agreement.

It is our responsibility to do anything it takes to prevent compatriots from committing suicide for Tibet’s greater good. Would we ever tolerate if our kids intended to do that? Along the very same lines, we must discourage the young in faraway Tibet from killing themselves for the sake of our country. This is not the way to go.

People in Tibet know this is not the way to go. On High Peaks Pure Earth some of their voices are translated. They express what many people there feel: No matter how difficult the situation, “do not offer your body, the base of the mind, as a butter-lamp offering”.

Whatever the intention behind the self-immolation, it remains a misguided and wrong act. We must speak out against suicide. Tibet does not ask its people for a blood sacrifice. She needs each and every one of us to stand by her side – alive!

Om Mani Padmé Hum

Mountain Phoenix

Anonymous said...

Dear Mountain Phoenix,

I chanced upon reading some of your blog posts, and a few of them were very though provoking, particularly the "gyalu" post. I have always liked "Gangri Rewe" as the comparatively better national anthem for Tibet.

Anyhow, about this particular post, I agree with the general sentiment about asking those Tibetans to stop offering themselves by self-immolation. I agree with the sentiment, because it is the most humane response, and not only that but we do not want to over glorify this type of protest, or encourage others for the wrong reasons.

My only issue with your post, is that I believe many Tibetans have to resort to self-immolation/suicide as a form of protest, because it is no different from being arrested by Chinese authorities and put in prison.

I know you would agree that prison in Tibet is hell on earth, so if we were to consider going to prison as virtual suicide in and of itself, doesn't any form of protest lead to death.

If it was yourself, honestly, I want you to ask yourself honestly, would you rather protest and then die right away, or protest and have a long drawn out death.

Surely you are aware, many Tibetans die right away after release from prison, and are subjected to inhumane torture. Surviving after going to prison in Tibet is a rarity. So with that in mind, would you change your view on self immolation, or adjust your view at least a little. Just a little food for fodder, definitely has me thinking what I would do.

I mean, in a nutshell, maybe were all reading/interpreting the self-immolation incorrectly. Maybe the Tibetans in Tibet are doing this not primarily because they think this will draw attention to the cause more than a regular protest, but perhaps they are doing it because it is the better than being killed in jail, or having to hide in the mountains (scared to come down for months even years) after one protests and authorities are looking high and low.

So therefore, if we are to go along with your title "please stop killing yourselves", isn't it truly the same as asking the Tibetans, "please do not protest at all"? Truly it is, because if we protest either way, whether by suicide or torture, we will possibly die.

From a Buddhist perspective the suicide is worse, but from a realistic point of view, ask yourself would you rather die a quick fiery death, or would you rather be captured, then raped, electrocuted, beaten, strung upside down from the jail ceiling etc.?

So again, if we consider both the aforementioned situations as death, then the only way to "stop killing yourselves" would be to not protest at all. I just think to ask people to stop the suicides (self-immolation), really, at it's root is tantamount to asking them to not protest at all.

Again, any protest is virtual death, one way or another. I will leave on the note, that I really enjoyed reading your musings on this blog, keep it up!

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