Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Please Stop Killing Yourselves!

The stories of self-immolations from Tibet are blood-curling and leave us all horror-struck. But are the public reactions to these suicides or attempts at suicide not just as shocking? All we do is use these sacrifices to attack the Chinese. There is no appeal to the compatriots in Tibet to please, please stop killing themselves for our greater good. Instead the public discussion focuses on the motivation why these mostly young people set themselves on fire.

We can argue till our mouths hurt that they set themselves on fire over “independence” and not “autonomy” or the other way round; we can also say it was for “altruistic” reasons and that they didn’t commit a “sin” in Buddhist terms; and the Chinese can argue until kingdom come that these were “illegal acts to disturb the social order”.

But all these discussions are perverse because they do not waste any words about the basic wrongness of suicide. Our silence gives Tibetan society a fundamentalist touch: We accept violent suicide as a justifiable act.

Is this really the message we want to send to young people in Tibet? That it’s “heroic” to violently kill yourself for idealistic reasons? Is it okay for the political groups on the Tibetan side to use them as cannon fodder to advance their political aims?

If the politicians and activists among us are unable to bring themselves to speak out against suicide, shouldn’t at least our religious leaders take up position? Isn’t it their responsibility to persuade our young that killing yourself is not what’s required?

Where is everyone?

Where is the Dalai Lama? Where is the Karmapa? Where is the Sakya Trizin? Why for Buddha’s sake are our religious leaders silent? Please speak to the people in the homeland that you do not approve of this act. Please tell them that we Tibetans must survive. Not speaking out against the self-immolations means tacit agreement. Blaming the Chinese and lobbying for Western support over these acts while not speaking out against them means tacit agreement.

It is our responsibility to do anything it takes to prevent compatriots from committing suicide for Tibet’s greater good. Would we ever tolerate if our kids intended to do that? Along the very same lines, we must discourage the young in faraway Tibet from killing themselves for the sake of our country. This is not the way to go.

People in Tibet know this is not the way to go. On High Peaks Pure Earth some of their voices are translated. They express what many people there feel: No matter how difficult the situation, “do not offer your body, the base of the mind, as a butter-lamp offering”.

Whatever the intention behind the self-immolations, it remains a misguided and wrong act. We must speak out against suicide. Tibet does not ask its people for a blood sacrifice. She needs each and every one of us to stand by her side – alive!

Om Mani Padmé Hum
Mountain Phoenix

All written content on this blog is coyprighted. Please do not repost entire essays on your websites without seeking my prior written consent.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mountain Phoenix,

I chanced upon reading some of your blog posts, and a few of them were very though provoking, particularly the "gyalu" post. I have always liked
"Gangri Rewe" as the comparatively better national anthem for Tibet.

Anyhow, about this particular post, I agree with the general sentiment about asking those Tibetans to stop offering themselves by self-immolation. I agree with the sentiment, because it is the most humane response, and not only that but we do not want to over glorify this type of protest, or encourage others for the wrong reasons.

My only issue with your post, is that I believe many Tibetans have to resort to self-immolation/suicide as a form of protest, because it is no different from being arrested by Chinese authorities and put in prison. I know you would agree that prison in Tibet is hell on earth, so if we were to consider going to prison as virtual suicide in and of itself, doesn't any form of protest lead to death. If it was yourself, honestly, I want you to ask yourself honestly, would you rather protest and then die right away, or protest and have a long drawn out death. Surely you are aware, many Tibetans die right away after release from prison, and are subjected to inhumane torture. Surviving after going to prison in Tibet is a rarity. So with that in mind, would you change your view on self immolation, or adjust your view at least a little. Just a little food for fodder, definitely has me thinking what I would do. I mean, in a nutshell, maybe were all reading/interpreting the self-immolations incorrectly. Maybe the Tibetans in Tibet are doing this not primarily because they think this will draw attention to the cause more than a regular protest, but perhaps they are doing it because it is the better than being killed in jail, or having to hide in the mountains (scared to come down for months even years) after one protests and authorities are looking high and low. So therefore, if we are to go along with your title "please stop killing yourselves", isn't it truly the same as asking the Tibetans, "please do not protest at all"? Truly it is, because if we protest either way, whether by suicide or torture, we will possibly die. From a Buddhist perspective the suicide is worse, but from a realistic point of view, ask yourself would you rather die a quick fiery death, or would you rather be captured, then raped, electrocuted, beaten, strung upside down from the jail ceiling etc.? So again, if we consider both the aforementioned situations as death, then the only way to "stop killing yourselves" would be to not protest at all. I just think to ask people to stop the suicides, really, at it's root is tantamount to asking them to not protest at all. Again, any protest is virtual death, one way or another. I will leave on the note, that I really enjoyed reading your musings on this blog, keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Tashi Telek!

I am writing to bring to your attention the creation of a new blog: "Le Tibet Invisible". This new blog seeks to popularize within the Francophone community the writings of Tsering Woeser, by the translation of her texts, reflections and articles.


The many restrictions that the Chinese government imposes on members of the Tibetan intelligentsia are known. We hope that this blog in its own modest way can carry the message of Woeser beyond China's borders.

We would be extremely grateful if you could share this news within your network. The best would be to include a link on your page or send a message to friends of Tibet.

Thank you very much,

F.D., 2011.

Anonymous said...

I thought that's what ENOUGH! Global Intervention to Save Tibetan Lives was all about. To say enough and to call attention to not only the act but why these atrocious acts are taking place.

I agree with you, however, I don't quit agree w/ where you are placing your concern.

Everyone is outraged by this act. But to ignore the "why" part of the equation seems wrong. As for suicide, suicides are usually done in silence away from every one's gaze. These acts were public. Horrific yes, but lets not take away their conviction and power in their acts. Tibetans inside Tibet have the right to choose, regardless of whether we agree or not.

The agency in these acts rests with those who took these acts. I agree, we must ask them to stop, but that does not mean what they're doing must be viewed as wrong, weak or suicidal.

Mountain Phoenix said...

Finally someone saying the right thing - Karmapa Khyenno!


Anonymous said...

Lol...such a trashy article. Blaming China? Oh yea....China was so benevolent and liberated us and we blamed them for the greater good. It is the fault of monks.....how sad.....

"For Tibet's Greater Good"? What is your definition of Greater Good, first the get that straight out. It means lazy in exile and forget your yourselves or dreaming migrating to the west? Or just be satisfied with the current status in Tibet? You are clearly another Mr Anand on Guardian newspaper. Where is Dalai Lama? Oh yea, Dalai Lama visited Japan, Mongolia and now back to Dharamsala....incase if you want to visit and express your sentiment. You should have included Karmapa in your list of heros who called for end.....Oh yea....we are democratic, Dalai Lama does not shoulder state responsibility, if you are ignorant on this issue....so take the issue to Lobsang Sangay la....get it? What is your way of struggle? Suicide? Oh yea....monks committed suicide because they were in depression due to poison of religion, Mao was correct! Or maybe they could not find a proper job or money or they subjected themselves to alcoholism which you find amongst yours Tib peers in the west.......If not these reasons, then you better assess your ignorance. Oh yea....the His Eminence Kirti Rinpoche is in the US...will be doing interviews and workshops what is happenning in his home monastery in Ngawa....he is the most authorized to say on it and he knows more about causes and conditions than so called fake scholars ananyimous online opinion makers.....get out of your sentiment box.....by the way, there are so many kirti monastery or Taktsang Lhamo Kirti monasteries all over Amdo.....just for your info...


dorjee said...

I can't believe you are blatantly accusing other Tibetans of encouraging Self-immolations and glorifying it. That is absurd and quite disrespectful. Nobody wants that. It is the same as Chinese accusing Dalai Lama of actually encouraging such acts. Do you subscribe to that? It sure does to me or it is simply faulty thinking on your part.

You are missing the major point which is the WHY!!! Like somebody said before me, being engaged in simple protest also basically amounts to suicide too - a prolonged one with the added bonus of torture and mental anguish. Just ask the Drapchi 14. Maybe you should ask them to stop protesting altogether and take anything China does in Tibet like a good Tibetan dog. We can all be alive and watch ourselves go extinct together. Oh! so much fun.
Another thing is that you seem to think that these brave people are simpletons who gets easily swayed by public opinions to do what they did. I believe that is just the western ego chiming in to console yourselves for having to see the gory nature of it. It is about time we stop patronizing Tibetans in Tibet. They will decide what the future course of Tibet is going to be and not us. The tibetans outside are too busy seeking to their own wealth and chasing white people for marriage.

I am just dissappointed with this article as it lacks critical thinking and reeks of self-indulgence typical of a western mindset. I hope you include this in your comment.

Anonymous said...

I felt the same way. Suicide is suicide. We don't need to glorify suicide.
OM mani padme hung!

Mountain Phoenix said...

Hi all who have left a comment above

I’m not the brightest lamp in the room, agreed. But the “WHY” part is so obvious for us Tibetans, it doesn’t need further elaboration. I blogged above out of genuine concern for human life, plain and simple. Equations like “it’s better to die fast by setting yourself on fire than die slow from torture" leave a homophobic Kamikaze kind of flavour in my mouth. If some think that’s off, just don’t pay any attention to me.

For those who have never spent time in Tibet it may sound like an apology but there is something like a "civil society" emerging even in Tibet. The layer is very thin and people have to be very careful. It's on this fragile layer that, for example, they are able to produce writing and compose music that leave us abroad look up on them in admiration. We must recognise that every protest - which is legitimate, no issues with that - comes at the risk of threatening to destroy these beginnings of - for lack of a better word - "civil society" where Tibetans can live somewhat "normal" lives under Chinese domination. We must also be keenly aware that with every renewed protest, the mistrust on the Chinese side increases and the spiral of violence and hatred turns forever more. It's the Kirti monks themselves who said the pressure became unbearable after wide-spread protests in 2008, that's why some set themselves on fire. And now after the immolations, they have even more pressure coming down on them. Can we hope that protests will lead to a change of thinking in Beijing? If the whole of Tibet including all her children set themselves on fire, would it move the Chinese?

I don't know either what needs to be done. Whichever way we try to look at it, it's frustrating. Different people respond in different ways to the frustration. Some set themselves on fire, some blog from an apartment in Beijing, some cooperate with the system, some turn inward, some flee to India, and for those of us who live abroad, some demonstrate, some debate, some pray, some also set themselves on fire. And Mountain Phoenix, who has a stake in Tibet, speaks her mind under a pen name for fear of not being allowed to return or compromise people associated with her. That’s our reality.

May all sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

Om Mani PadméHum
Mountain Phoenix