Self-immolations are not noble behavior

By Li Decheng
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, November 30, 2011
Adjust font size:

Several Buddhist monks and nuns have committed suicide in the Tibetan regions of Sichuan province recently. By burning themselves to death they have broken one of the core tenets of Buddhism in an extreme and brutal way. As Buddhists, one of the Five Precepts, or rules they should live by, is they should avoid killing or harming any living being, including themselves.

And according to Tibetan Buddhism, taking the life of a human being is prohibited. Killing another, suicide, as well as inciting and instigating others to kill are all grave sins. A person can only be considered a true spiritual practitioner if he or she does no harm to any living being and does not kill or cause others to kill.

Tibetan Buddhism has never encouraged its practitioners to take the life of another human being, let alone the lives of the practitioners themselves. Thus, the self-immolations by these monks and nuns are not only a tragedy for them and their families, but also a disavowal of Buddhism.

Some people with ulterior motives have claimed that self-immolation is not against Buddhist doctrines, because it is free of selfish motives. They are willing to distort Buddhist doctrines for their own purpose and they extol the sin of self-immolation as "the greatest goodness" and "noble behavior". They even claim self-immolation is a religious activity offering tribute to the Buddha.

However, Buddhists should endeavor to protect and take care of all living creatures. The Noble Eightfold Path, which is the Buddhist code of behavior, requires right conduct, and this stipulates abstaining from taking life, including suicide.

Self-immolation is not a religious practice.

There has never been any Buddhist doctrine encouraging people to sacrifice themselves to Buddha by committing suicide.

The claim that self-immolation is a noble act of Buddhism is ludicrous and those that make such claims deny the Buddha's teachings and go against the compassion that is at the heart of Buddhism. The argument that self-immolations are acts of great goodness only incites more such tragedies by intentionally twisting a core tenet of Buddhism and trying to sway uneducated and impressionable minds. Those that incite such acts are themselves committing a crime and disavowing Buddhism, which holds that every life is precious and nobody should take their own life or encourage someone else to do so.

Those that encourage monks and nuns to commit self-immolation are engaged in religious extremism and terrorism, which is why such suicides are committed in public in such a dramatic way. It is the consensus of people around the world that we should not bow to terrorism and religious extremism. Compassion and the sanctity of life are inextricably ingrained in Buddhism and should be practiced and observed by all who follow the Buddhist path.

The author is director of Institute of Religions with China Tibetology Research Center.

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from