Self-immolation truth: Tibetan Buddhism kidnapped by politics

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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.

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