Self-immolation truth

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Regarded as the root guru of Tibetan Buddhists of the Gelug sect, the 14th Dalai Lama told media on different occasions that he "did not encourage" or "did not condone" self-immolation. But he never explicitly forbids such cruel self-destruction.

Chinese officials have blamed the Dalai Lama for encouraging the self-immolations, saying that the exiled Tibetan religious leader prayed for those who died after committing self-immolation in public and refused to call for an end of a practice that violates a basic Buddhism doctrine -- not to kill.

"In the Buddhists' eyes, the Dalai Lama is their spiritual leader, if he reminds the followers of the doctrine, self-immolation will definitely end," said Likatesring, deputy head of Huangnan Tibetan autonomous prefecture government of Qinghai province.

It was a different story when Thubten Ngodup, one of his followers, lit himself on fire in a hunger strike organized in New Delhi by the Tibetan Youth Congress in 1998.

Robert Thurman, a professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University who has studied with the Dalal Lama for nearly 30 years, revealed that the Dalai Lama had condemned: "This is violence, even if it is self-inflicted," according to Canada's National Post.

Although the Dalai Lama resigned his political role last year, Tibetan Buddhism remains deeply entangled with politics. And that was the fundamental problem plaguing Tibetan Buddhism, officials with the Aba prefecture noted.

The purpose of the series of self-immolations scheme, they said, was to use individual sacrifices to cement and sow hatred among the 16,000 Tibetan exiles, foment strife between Tibetans and the Chinese government, distract the Tibetan-populated regions from the focus of social and economic development and seek international attention to pressure the Chinese government.

"Their ulterior purpose is not to stage a dialogue but to sabotage," said an official who asked not to be identified.

Although the 14th Dalai Lama kept calling for non-violence, the average Tibetans and the government carders here felt otherwise.

Lei Kaiwei, political commissar of the Public Security Bureau of Aba County, almost lost his life while trying to rescue Lhorang Jamyang, a Kirti monk of the Kewa village of Antou township who set himself on fire on Jan. 14 at the Qiatang West Street.

"When I thought the fire on his body was quenched and was about to disperse the on-lookers, I heard a 'bang'. The guy rose, surrounded by an even fiercer fire due to his re-exposure to air. Shockingly, he started to catch the eight police officers on the site. Each of them flinched instinctively. It was chaotic. I heard screams and felt the crowd closing in," he said.

With bare hands, Lei caught the burning waist of Lhorang Jamyang, and a scuffle ensued. Lei said he gathered all his strength to pry open the arms of Lhorang Jamyang from his neck after both fell to the ground.

The 22-year-old died. Lei suffered serious burns on his hands and face. If Luo failed to break loose in 10 to 15 more seconds, doctors said he could have died from either carotid insufficiency or suffocation triggered by laryngeal edema.

"While patrolling the street, rain or shine, I always think it my duty to come to the rescue of those who commit self-immolation and protect the public from harm. I don't understand why Dharamsala associated us with military crackdown or suppression. That was mud slinging," said Lei.

Calling himself a "pure product" of the 2008 riots which broke out in Lhasa on March 14 and then other Tibetan regions including Aba, leaving 19 people dead and many businesses, residences and vehicles damaged or looted, Lei said he felt he owed his family an apology for having taken up a high-risk job.

For average Tibetans, the non-violence strategy advocated by the 14th Dalai Lama appeared to have more to do with hatred and bullying than what Mahatma Gandhi proposed, the power of love and understanding between all.

After the death of its monk Tsewang Norbu, Nyitso Monastery of Gelug sect in Daofu county of Ganzi prefecture sent out words that each household in its diocese must send a representative to pay condolence visit to the family's of those who have committed self-immolation and donate money otherwise they could no longer expect the monastery to do any Buddhist services for their families, police investigation showed.

During this year's spring farming season, leaflets were distributed in the county's Kongse township, threatening to burn the house of those who dared to follow the instruction of Han Chinese to cultivate lands.

Hu Wenbing, Party secretary of the Kongse township, said that one carder of the Geleg village took the lead to plough his land. His barn housing his cows and tractor was set on fire that night.

"If you don't follow the monasteries, you go to hell after death.' This is the most vicious menace as many Tibetans pinned the hope of their next life on monasteries," said Luo Yuehua, former principal of the Xialatuo Primary School of the Xialatuo village of Luhuo county in Ganzi.

The way to quell public fears, as Fu Shou, Party secretary of the Xialatuo village, noted, was to follow Buddhism doctrines rather than individual lamas.

As no one in Xiatatuo village participated in the riot that took place in Luhuo county on Jan. 23 when dozens of people, including some monks, stormed and smashed some stores and a police station, causing one death and nine injured, separatists threatened "if you don't follow monastery, your house will be burnt."

The village committee responded tit-for-tat, "If any house is burnt, everyone teams up to help its owner rebuild."

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