Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Political acts, not acts of faith

By Xiao Lixin (China Daily) Updated: 2014-05-22 07:46

China Daily | Xiao Lixin

Self-immolation is taken as a sin in Buddhist teachings and goes against local people's will in Tibetan-inhabited areas

The Dalai Lama, in his private visit to Norway early this month, which was met with an official snub by the Norwegian government, called for an external investigation into the self-immolations that have occurred in the Tibetan-inhabited regions since February 2009.

From the perspective of motivation, purpose or behavior, self-immolations are about expressing political appeals rather than religious behavior. In fact, such suicidal acts run counter to the essence and core concepts of Buddhism, according to Li Decheng, director of the Religion Research Institute at the China Tibetology Research Center.

Buddhist believers and practitioners should respect and value life, which is among the 10 good karmas, according to teachings of the religion; while conversely, killing life tops the 10 evil karmas. Suicide is thus considered one of the greatest sins no matter what the reason or motivation, and a person who commits suicide, as well as anyone who instigates suicide, acts against the fundamental Buddhist core values and can neither be reborn in any other world nor find physical or mental comfort.

Since ancient times, it has been a long cultural tradition that the Tibetan people love and cherish life, with the eight widely popular Tibetan operas and the Romantic Legend of Sakya Buddha, which is considered to set out the moral principles of Buddhism, singing of the beauty of life and the need to safeguard it. The self-immolations and acts abetting and helping such suicidal behavior, which ignore the value of life, not only violate the fundamental precepts of Buddhism and basic human rights and morality, they are also opposed and rejected by the majority of Tibetan people as well as all people with conscience.

When talking about the self-immolations in the Tibetan-inhabited regions with local Tibetan people, Lian Xiangmin, a researcher with the China Tibetology Research Center, says there has been a change in attitude. At first the local people were grieved to hear about such tragedies, but now they consider the self-immolators foolish for giving up their lives.

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