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by Cheng Yunjie
July 19, 2012 (TSR)- Describing self-immolation as “very, very delicate political issue,” the 14th Dalai Lama has said he will “remain neutral” on the topic in order to avoid offending the relatives of the self-immolators.
The remark demonstrates that politics remains a vital factor in the Buddhist’s decision-making process, despite the fact that he has claimed to have relinquished his political and administrative role in the so-called “Tibetan government-in-exile.”.
If he has devoted his mind to religion, he would explain why he hasn’t explicitly forbidden self-immolation based on Buddhist doctrine. Questions like “is it right or wrong to commit suicide for Buddhism?” should not be avoided.
“If I say something negative, then the family members of those people will feel very sad. They sacrificed their …life. It is not easy. So I do not want to create some kind of impression that this is wrong,” he was quoted as saying by the Hindu, an Indian English-language newspaper.
This inner struggle revealed by the Dalai Lama might be able to dampen some discontent over his dodging of core questions. But it is sad to see that his justification is below where it should be.
It might be better if he could temporarily put aside his worries about the deepening sorrow of those family members to concentrate on the simple questions: what benefits do the self-immolators receive? If they’ve done something wrong, nobody else can suffer for their faults during their endless life cycle. If there are some merits in their self-destruction, are these merits worthy?
The Dalai Lama does have reason to care about the grieving family members. The fear of deepening their sorrow is not as meaningful as helping them to cope with their sadness and turn misfortune into advantage.
After a series of self-immolations took place in China’ s Tibetan-populated regions, several copycat suicides by teenagers and depressed people have been reported. Psychologists warn that clergy immolations are demonstrating to the public that it is permissible to give up hope and their lives so long as they follow suit.
Tibetans who have been taught not to observe other people’s errors, as specified in Buddhist scripture, are reluctant to comment on the self-immolations by clergy and lay people, but that doesn’t mean they agree with it or support it.
According to reports, the Dalai Lama has 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, the self-immolation tragedy will definitely end.
It is immoral and inhumane to sacrifice other people’s lives for one’s own political agenda.
While overseas splittists brand self-immolations as a “protest of Chinese repression” and “cultural genocide,” local Tibetans have found themselves gaining easier and broader access to education, traveling more conveniently, living in better houses and continuing to maintain Buddhist tradition.
Anyone who visits Tibet can see for themselves the progress China has made in facilitating local democracy, as well as social and economic development.
Like any other country, China has its own imperfections. The situations in Tibetan-populated regions are no worse than elsewhere across China. From a Buddhist perspective, aren’t these imperfections a healthy reminder for people to renunciate that which binds them to suffering and to nourish the compassion to do more good for the world?
Playing up problems for the purpose of sowing discord and hatred are detrimental to freedom in Buddhism and world peace. According to the teachings of Padmasambhava, the root guru of Tibetan Buddhism, a Mahayana Buddhist must abandon the discrimination of abodes, nations, geographies, social ranks, enemies and friends to equally benefit all beings.
Many people remember Dalai Lama’s comment “violence, even violence on the self, creates more violence” when Thubten Ngodup set himself on fire after a hunger strike by Tibetan refugees in New Delhi in 1998. What’s chilling is that some die-hard anti-China forces are advocating the Dalai Lama’s silence, presuming the Chinese government is seeking the man’s help to diffuse a “domestic crisis”. But they have miscalculated the situation.
If the Dalai Lama’s top concern is Buddhism, the solution to his dilemma is not in politicking, but inspiring people within his influence to exercise more compassion and avoid more self-immolations.
AUTHOR: Cheng Yunjie
Cheng Yunjie is a Chinese practicing Buddhist and writer.