[Buddha-l] Rare Footage of Tibetan Nun's Self-Immolation Smuggledout of Tibet

Stefan Detrez stefan.detrez at gmail.com
Tue Nov 22 01:08:10 MST 2011

Hi Joanna

OTOH, Tibetan Buddhists (speaking as an anthropologist here) tend to
> consider their brand of Buddhism exceptional and worth preserving.  I have
> no problem with that because I see it also among Theravadist publications
> and attitudes and among other non-Buddhist religions as well. The Tibetans
> are not alone in wanting to preserve their religious culture. Hence
> nationalistic attitudes and propaganda. Without a nationalist motive and
> energy, their culture would be totally erased by the Hans and their
> collaborators in Tibet-- as, outside Tibet/India in the west, it will
> eventually be erased or much modified by western influences.  This latter
> effect has already happened.
I'm not sure if 'Western influences' (it almost sounds as if that's a bad
thing) are so detrimental to Tibetan culture. The preservation of Tibetan
culture and its study is largely thanks to the interest the West puts into
it (I'm thinking of Cabezon, Thurman, and Hopkins, to name a few, and major
publishers like Snow Lion and Shambhala) . A large part of the anti-Chinese
lobby - in this context - is in fact a Western engagement.

> I fail to see the urgency of your concern here. In any case, the Karmapa
> recently brought out a few good Buddhist reasons why not to make immolation
> a response to oppression. (See links I posted today.)
> The urgency is the paradox of trying to preserve a culture, which as a
core tenet says that nothing is preservable. I also sense a whiff of
'attachment to views'. A similar discussion was held when the Bamiyan
statues were demolished: is it, in the context of impermanence, a bad thing
that stuff perishes? As an anthropologist the destruction of artefacts is
obviously a bad thing, but from a Buddhist point of view, it's more complex.

I'm also not sure how selfimmolation is justified. 'Not to cause suffering'
might just as well be understood to mean 'don't hurt yourself'. Immolation
also implies suicide, the destruction of goods and the improper use of
combustibles. I'm not a specialist of Buddhist texts, but it'd be quite
ironic that some passage has the Buddha say that he endorses such acts.


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