Theravada position on self-immolation

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
davidbrainerd
Posts: 787
Joined: Fri Jul 01, 2016 3:12 am

Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby davidbrainerd » Tue Jan 03, 2017 9:21 pm

What is the Theravada position on burning oneself alive in protest such as some followers of the Dalai Lama do from time to time? Like in this fairly recent (last month) story https://www.savetibet.org/tibetan-man-heard-calling-for-return-of-dalai-lama-as-he-sets-fire-to-himself/

User avatar
Nicolas
Posts: 555
Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:59 pm
Location: Somerville, MA, USA

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby Nicolas » Tue Jan 03, 2017 9:32 pm

If such a death leads to rebirth, then it is frowned upon, as there is more work to be done.

Channa Sutta (SN 35.87) wrote:When one lays down this body and takes up another body, then I say one is blameworthy.

SarathW
Posts: 7216
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby SarathW » Tue Jan 03, 2017 9:35 pm

The way I understand, killing oneself is not considered breaking the first precept.

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=27879&hilit
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

davidbrainerd
Posts: 787
Joined: Fri Jul 01, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby davidbrainerd » Tue Jan 03, 2017 11:01 pm

Is there a way to know the Theravada position with certainty or is it liable to individual interpretation?

santa100
Posts: 2262
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby santa100 » Wed Jan 04, 2017 3:20 am

davidbrainerd wrote:What is the Theravada position on burning oneself alive in protest such as some followers of the Dalai Lama do from time to time?

There're ~ 138 cases since 2009, not just "some followers from time to time" anymore. Maybe the question that should be asked is the Theravada position on the way of ruling from a system of government that is causing folks to resort to such drastic and desperate measure.

SarathW
Posts: 7216
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby SarathW » Wed Jan 04, 2017 3:58 am

Maybe the question that should be asked is the Theravada position on the way of ruling from a system of government that is causing folks to resort to such drastic and desperate measure.


When big boys are the bullies we can't do much about it.
There is a Sutta to this effect which I cant recall it.
When the kings do something wrong, the small fella has to grin and bare it.
We have to trust the operation of Kamma.
They all come to an end one day.
I recall similar things happen in Vietnam.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

santa100
Posts: 2262
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby santa100 » Wed Jan 04, 2017 4:20 am

Although by reading the history of Vietnam, I have a feeling they'd use a different method than the Tibetans had their country been occupied by China. They'd fight to the last bullet, to the last man, even the last woman and child. They'd still have zero chance against China and their country would be erased from the map of the world just like Tibet, but they sure will not vanish without a fight. The irony of violence from a kammic standpoint! China took Tibet 'cuz they can. They haven't touched Vietnam 'cuz they know Vietnam can't be killed without them losing a few limbs for life first!

User avatar
Bhikkhu Pesala
Posts: 3277
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:17 pm

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:58 am

davidbrainerd wrote:Is there a way to know the Theravada position with certainty or is it liable to individual interpretation?

Unless you can speak with the Buddha in person it's always going to be liable to individual interpretation. Even the most senior Saṅghanāyaka committee in Burma might have a different opinion to one in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam or Tibet.

Bottom line: Don't do it as you're likely to fall into hell. Buddhists should realise that all conditioned phenomena are impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha), and not subject to my control (anatta).

Whether the Dalai Lama returns to Tibet or not, suffering will not cease until one personally realises the Four Noble Truths.
AIM WebsitePāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

chownah
Posts: 5117
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby chownah » Wed Jan 04, 2017 11:57 am

santa100 wrote:
davidbrainerd wrote:What is the Theravada position on burning oneself alive in protest such as some followers of the Dalai Lama do from time to time?

There're ~ 138 cases since 2009, not just "some followers from time to time" anymore. Maybe the question that should be asked is the Theravada position on the way of ruling from a system of government that is causing folks to resort to such drastic and desperate measure.

Let's examine the idea that the system of gov't in tibet is causing folks to light themselves on fire. If the system of gov't was the cause then one would expect it to be happening everywhere in china....but it is not. I guess this means that the gov't is not the cause. Seems to me that self immolation is a preferred style of anti gov't protest in tibet and that this style of anti gov't protest is pretty much popular only in tibet. I think it is more a matter of personal preference than one of system of gov't.
chownah

SarathW
Posts: 7216
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby SarathW » Wed Jan 04, 2017 12:13 pm

If the system of gov't was the cause then one would expect it to be happening everywhere in china....but it is not.

I think this is a minority issue.
Minority is suppressed by the majority's view.
It is the duty of the government to consider the various social differences.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

justindesilva
Posts: 187
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2016 12:38 pm

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby justindesilva » Wed Jan 04, 2017 1:12 pm

davidbrainerd wrote:Is there a way to know the Theravada position with certainty or is it liable to individual interpretation?

We cannot bring in Lord Budda in this context. But we can bring in budda darma in to this act of sui cide in self immolation for patriotic reason.
Let us answer the questions
Is the suicidal act void of lobha, dosa and moha
It is clear that though it may sound selfless suicide hear is based on greed for possession of nation. Dvesha towards the foreign rulers by a minority can be seen here in this suicidal act. The Chuti citta of the suicider hence is unwholesome and the next rebirth could be in the realm of hell.
Further more instead of a suicide this person can absorb suffering to help others to spread or understand darma.
Lastly our life does not belong to us and is not our property to destroy for any reason.
The first precept of panca Sila means that we cannot destroy or harm our own life or the life of any other being.
With metta.

chownah
Posts: 5117
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby chownah » Wed Jan 04, 2017 3:02 pm

SarathW wrote:
If the system of gov't was the cause then one would expect it to be happening everywhere in china....but it is not.

I think this is a minority issue.
Minority is suppressed by the majority's view.
It is the duty of the government to consider the various social differences.

The minority is suppressed by the majority in many places in china but the only place where self immolation occurs that I know of is tibet. In other places they have riots etc. I take this to mean that self immolation is a personal preference for anti gov't protesters in tibet....and it is not a personal preference for anti gov't portesters in other places in china.
I am not trying to justify the chinese gov't's insensitivity to minorities. I am only saying that it does not force self immolation or at least most chinese anti gov't protesters do net feel forced to self immolate. Self immolation is just the mode of demonstration chosen by some tibet people. And since they are buddhist people who do this it is a topic of disussion from a buddhist standpoint.
chownah

santa100
Posts: 2262
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby santa100 » Wed Jan 04, 2017 3:13 pm

chownah wrote:Let's examine the idea that the system of gov't in tibet is causing folks to light themselves on fire. If the system of gov't was the cause then one would expect it to be happening everywhere in china....but it is not. I guess this means that the gov't is not the cause. Seems to me that self immolation is a preferred style of anti gov't protest in tibet and that this style of anti gov't protest is pretty much popular only in tibet. I think it is more a matter of personal preference than one of system of gov't.

Let's simplify the analysis by narrowing the scope down to the family level. Imagine some families in a neighborhood, there're the "Dalai's" family, the "Mao's" family, the "Uncle Sam's" family, the "Stalin's" family, etc. One nice day, the Mao's decided to take over the Dalai's house, the most peaceful but also the weakest in the hood, kicked out some members while keeping the rest to do servants work in what used to be their own home. It's also well known that the head of the Maos household treated his own children badly but no where close to the level he treated the Dalais kids. Uncle Sam's and Stalin's didn't do anything for the apparent reason that there's no gain in pissing off the Maos. Hope this scenario gives some background info. into seeing why the Dalai's members did what they did. Also some food for thought to other families in the hood regarding the reality of the world, especially those living right next to the Mao's family..

chownah
Posts: 5117
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby chownah » Wed Jan 04, 2017 3:51 pm

santa100 wrote:
chownah wrote:Let's examine the idea that the system of gov't in tibet is causing folks to light themselves on fire. If the system of gov't was the cause then one would expect it to be happening everywhere in china....but it is not. I guess this means that the gov't is not the cause. Seems to me that self immolation is a preferred style of anti gov't protest in tibet and that this style of anti gov't protest is pretty much popular only in tibet. I think it is more a matter of personal preference than one of system of gov't.

Let's simplify the analysis by narrowing the scope down to the family level. Imagine some families in a neighborhood, there're the "Dalai's" family, the "Mao's" family, the "Uncle Sam's" family, the "Stalin's" family, etc. One nice day, the Mao's decided to take over the Dalai's house, the most peaceful but also the weakest in the hood, kicked out some members while keeping the rest to do servants work in what used to be their own home. It's also well known that the head of the Maos household treated his own children badly but no where close to the level he treated the Dalais kids. Uncle Sam's and Stalin's didn't do anything for the apparent reason that there's no gain in pissing off the Maos. Hope this scenario gives some background info. into seeing why the Dalai's members did what they did. Also some food for thought to other families in the hood regarding the reality of the world, especially those living right next to the Mao's family..

I don't know why you want to turn a discussion of buddhist thought on self immolation into a political discussion. I won't comment on your political ideas about who is the rightful ruler of tibet since that really is not what we are supposed to be discussing. I will say that as a matter of discussion of buddhist thought on self immolation that self immolation does seem to be an especially tibetin buddhist response.

So, from a buddhist perspective I ask why did they do it? Did they do it because they knew it would stir up emotions against the gov't?....and if so does tibetin buddhism suggest that stirring up emotions is a good thing?...or does theravadin buddhism suggest that? Personally, I can't see anything in the suttas which would suggest that stirring up emotions is a good thing. Some things in the suttas seem to be against it...like when the buddha taught to "train only for calm."
chownah

santa100
Posts: 2262
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby santa100 » Wed Jan 04, 2017 4:16 pm

chownah wrote:So, from a buddhist perspective I ask why did they do it? Did they do it because they knew it would stir up emotions against the gov't?....and if so does tibetin buddhism suggest that stirring up emotions is a good thing?...or does theravadin buddhism suggest that? Personally, I can't see anything in the suttas which would suggest that stirring up emotions is a good thing. Some things in the suttas seem to be against it...like when the buddha taught to "train only for calm."

But it's impossible to discuss this self-immolation issue by completely ignore the social/political background of the story. We Buddhists should know more than anyone else that there's no re-action without an action. That's all I'm trying to do by sharing info. Right or wrong, to be honest, I don't know. The Maos has not occupied my Uncle Sams family yet and I don't have first hand experience of what the Tibetans are going through right now to pass any judgement.

SarathW
Posts: 7216
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby SarathW » Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:01 pm

So, from a buddhist perspective I ask why did they do it? Did they do it because they knew it would stir up emotions against the gov't?....and if so does tibetin buddhism suggest that stirring up emotions is a good thing?


It is the action taken in desperation.
It is similar to Gandhi's non-violence movement.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

davidbrainerd
Posts: 787
Joined: Fri Jul 01, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby davidbrainerd » Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:22 pm

santa100 wrote:
chownah wrote:So, from a buddhist perspective I ask why did they do it? Did they do it because they knew it would stir up emotions against the gov't?....and if so does tibetin buddhism suggest that stirring up emotions is a good thing?...or does theravadin buddhism suggest that? Personally, I can't see anything in the suttas which would suggest that stirring up emotions is a good thing. Some things in the suttas seem to be against it...like when the buddha taught to "train only for calm."

But it's impossible to discuss this self-immolation issue by completely ignore the social/political background of the story. We Buddhists should know more than anyone else that there's no re-action without an action. That's all I'm trying to do by sharing info. Right or wrong, to be honest, I don't know. The Maos has not occupied my Uncle Sams family yet and I don't have first hand experience of what the Tibetans are going through right now to pass any judgement.


Your analysis is treating it as if these are average joes not monks. I think more than any social political cause this shows that Tibetan Buddhism has not been able to ground its monks in an understanding of how the real wotld works. The belief that burning yourself alive is going to make a world leader sad, so sad, he changes his policy, is extreme naivite perhaps caused by an overly idealistic picture of the world.

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 897
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby Coëmgenu » Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:27 pm

chownah wrote:
santa100 wrote:
davidbrainerd wrote:What is the Theravada position on burning oneself alive in protest such as some followers of the Dalai Lama do from time to time?

There're ~ 138 cases since 2009, not just "some followers from time to time" anymore. Maybe the question that should be asked is the Theravada position on the way of ruling from a system of government that is causing folks to resort to such drastic and desperate measure.

Let's examine the idea that the system of gov't in tibet is causing folks to light themselves on fire. If the system of gov't was the cause then one would expect it to be happening everywhere in china....but it is not. I guess this means that the gov't is not the cause. Seems to me that self immolation is a preferred style of anti gov't protest in tibet and that this style of anti gov't protest is pretty much popular only in tibet. I think it is more a matter of personal preference than one of system of gov't.
chownah
China doesn't not treat China like China treats Tibet. The situations are fundamentally different. China isn't in the process of culturally assimilating itself to Maoism because it already did that during the Cultural Revolution. Similarly, China is not currently in the process of colonizing itself with settlers, like it is currently doing to Tibet. I do not think your analysis, that it is no fault of China and that monks simply prefer to self-immolate in Tibet, is solid on these grounds.
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
此等諸法,法住、法空、法如、法爾,法不離如,法不異如,審諦真實、不顛倒。These many dharmāḥ, the residence of these dharmāḥ, the emptiness of these dharmāḥ, these dharmāḥ self-explain, these dharmāḥ are thus, these dharmāḥ do not depart from their self-explaining, these dharmāḥ are not different than their self-explaining, judged as truly real, not delusional. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 897
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby Coëmgenu » Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:37 pm

justindesilva wrote:It is clear that though it may sound selfless suicide hear is based on greed for possession of nation.
Incorrect assumption. Why is it so unlikely that these suicides are protests against Chinese brutality? Why do you immidiately assume the monks are selfish? It is because they are Vajrayāna and you are Theravāda?

If China invaded Thailand and started extremely aggressive colonization and assimilation processes, and the media utterly ignored widespread human rights violations in Thailand due to China's power, and a famous Theravāda bhikkhu self-immolated to draw attention to Chinese atrocities in international media, would you be so quick to presume that the monk was selfish and greedy?
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
此等諸法,法住、法空、法如、法爾,法不離如,法不異如,審諦真實、不顛倒。These many dharmāḥ, the residence of these dharmāḥ, the emptiness of these dharmāḥ, these dharmāḥ self-explain, these dharmāḥ are thus, these dharmāḥ do not depart from their self-explaining, these dharmāḥ are not different than their self-explaining, judged as truly real, not delusional. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶

SarathW
Posts: 7216
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Theravada position on self-immolation

Postby SarathW » Wed Jan 04, 2017 10:31 pm

What is the Theravada position on burning oneself alive in protest such as some followers of the Dalai Lama do from time to time?


I think this is a political and not a religious matter.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”


Return to “Connections to Other Paths”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 29 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine