Thoughts on the Self-immolation in Tibet

Yesterday afternoon we heard the profound and heart-rendering news about Ven. Tapey, a young Tibetan monk from Kirti Monastery in north-eastern Tibet, committing what is certainly a self-immolation.

As I pen my thoughts here we do not have complete information about the incident (China has confirmed it, however, after a day later), but what is clear is that this is yet another indication of the desperation of the Tibetans, who are not able to tolerate the Chinese Government’s attitude towards His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the issue of Tibet.

Reports suggest that the monk was raising slogans reflecting such a message and that he was carrying a Tibetan flag on which a photo of the Dalai Lama was pasted. It seems the immediate cause for this courageous act by the monk was the Chinese authorities’ interference in the monastic program of undertaking their annual prayer festival called Monlam.

Last year, after the very visible Tibetan demonstrations, there was an analysis about the growing trend of ecclesiastical involvement in activism by the Associated Press. I was intrigued by some aspects of the report.

It referred to a development in Vietnam saying, “The self-immolation of monk Thich Quang Duc on a Saigon street became an iconic image of protest against the Vietnam War.

The report said, “Christopher Queen, an expert on Buddhism at Harvard University, says the new trend among some of the world’s 350 million faithful is expanding from individual spiritual liberation to attacking problems such as poverty and environmental blight that affect whole communities or nations.”

“Engaged Buddhists are looking at the social, economic, and political causes of human misery in the world and organizing to address them. The role of social service and activism is clearly growing in all parts of the Buddhist world,” Queen said in an interview, according to AP.

In recent days we have seen a series of reports in the official Chinese media about how things are fine in Tibet. This latest incident is but a said reminder of the reality of the situation and shows how far removed the powers-that-be in Beijing are from the situation on the ground in Tibet.

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