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My Take: Dalai Lama should condemn Tibetan self-immolations
Tibetans at a protest in Taipei in 2011 display portraits of people who killed themselves by self-immolation.
July 12th, 2012
09:28 AM ET

My Take: Dalai Lama should condemn Tibetan self-immolations

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

When the Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Duc immolated himself in Saigon in 1963 to protest the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government of Ngo Dinh Diem, the world took notice. Malcolm Browne’s photograph of the monk becoming a martyr won the Pulitzer Prize, and Diem's Roman Catholic regime fell before the year’s end.

Today, Tibet is witnessing an epidemic of self-immolations. In fact, since March 16, 2011, more than 40 Tibetans have followed Thich Quang Duc’s lead, setting themselves on fire to protest the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

Westerners react with revulsion to sati, the Hindu practice of widow-burning outlawed by the British in 1829, and of course to Islamist suicide bombers. The New Atheists are right to protest all this killing in the name of God (or the Buddha) - the way believers both prompt violence and justify it in the name of some higher good.

So where are the protests against these Tibetan protesters?

When asked about the recent spate of self-immolations in Tibet, the Dalai Lama has offered the response of no response. In a July 9 interview, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people said he wanted “to remain neutral,” telling The Hindu:

This is a very, very delicate political issue. Now, the reality is that if I say something positive, then the Chinese immediately blame me. If I say something negative, then the family members of those people feel very sad. They sacrificed their own life. It is not easy. So I do not want to create some kind of impression that this is wrong. So the best thing is to remain neutral.

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I know it is impolitic to criticize the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is revered as a bodhisattva by many Buddhists.  But he deserves criticism in this case. Why not "create some kind of impression" that killing is wrong? Why not use his vast storehouse of moral and spiritual capital to denounce this ritual of human sacrifice?

If the Dalai Lama were to speak out unequivocally against these deaths, they would surely stop. So in a very real sense, their blood is on his hands. But the bad karma the Dalai Lama is accruing here extends far beyond Tibet and these particular protesters.

In an important article on suicide in the Boston Globe, Jennifer Michael Hecht has noted that suicides beget suicides. “One of the best predictors of suicide is knowing a suicide,” she writes. “That means that every suicide may be a delayed homicide.”

And so it goes with self-immolations. The suicide by fire of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi is widely seen as a key catalyst of the Tunisian revolution and the wider Arab Spring. Less well known is the fact that over a hundred Tunisians later set themselves on fire in copycat incidents.

I understand that there is a tradition of self-immolation in Buddhism dating back at least to the fourth century. But there is also a strong ethic of compassion. So where is the compassion here?

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The Dalai Lama isn’t just a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He is also a man of peace. It is time in this crisis that he started to act like one.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Asia • Buddhism • China • Dalai Lama • Death • Ethics • Opinion • Politics • Protest • Tibet • Tibet • Violence

soundoff (268 Responses)
  1. JESUS

    Stephen Prothero,

    DISCIPLE OF JESUS? I AM ASHAMED OF YOU KOWTOWING TO THE BRUTAL REGIME OF THIS WORLD AND BLAMING THE DALAI LAMA. DALAI LAMA IS NOT ONLY BUDDHIST BUT A GREAT CHRISTIAN. HE SPOKE THE TRUTH AND MADE VERY CLEAR HE WAS AGAINST ANY FORM OF VIOLENCE INCLUDING SELF-IMMOLATION. UNFORTUNATELY, YOU TOOK A SNIPPET OF ONE INTERVIEW AND DREW CONCLUSION. THAT DIDN'T SOUND INTELLIGENT AT ALL.
    TWO REQUESTS:
    1. DON'T BLAME THE POPE NEXT TIME FOR STARTING UNDERGROUND CHURCHES IN CHINA BY THE CHINESE CHRISTIANS.

    2. BE HONEST- REMEMBER, A HALF TRUTH IS A WHOLE LIE ACCORDING TO YIDDISH PROVERB. THOMAS JEFFERSON RIGHTLY SAID, "HONESTY IS THE FIRST CHAPTER OF THE BOOK OF WISDOM." BE HONEST AND YOU WILL KNOW THE TRUTH.

    YOUR BROTHERS IN TRUTH

    July 27, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Kelsang

      Doesn't his religion teaches compassion? Then, where is Mr. Stephen's voice for the voiceless. He has regurgitated the words of Chinese masters and quoted excerpt of "The Hindu" newspaper (another Chinese mouthpiece in India).

      July 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  2. Phurbu

    So where are the protests against these Tibetan protesters? This is your thoughtless question when you have already led or fueled one from the free world. In my view the self-immolators themselves will condemn you for raising this question.

    The wave of self-immolations is a political movement for freedom, and Protero must understand that it is not a case of mere religion. Protero must be clear of this understanding. Lhakar movement and farming boycott movement are other forms of movement initiated after the massive 2008 uprising in Tibet to show popular discontent against Chinese rule and the oppressive policies that are implemented in Tibet. The Dalai Lama has already devolved his political power to an elected leadership and it is now for the Tibetan people through their collective effort to decide the future of Tibet. I think it is too hasty and too early on the part of Prothero to comment on a situation facing Tibetans in Tibet.

    In Tibet China is cracking down on mere mention of Free Tibet, leave alone other forms of protests. Right after shouting freedom slogans the Tibetan protesters have no choice but to douse themselves on fire so that they don't have to wait for armed Chinese police to torture them to a slow death or open fire on them.

    May be it’s time Prothero and his likes can suggest another form of protest for Tibetans that can be tolerated by Communist Chinese regime and at the same time that would not attract criticism from the free world.

    If you ask the Dalai Lama to condemn the supreme self-sacrifice made by brave Tibetans who are facing oppression first hand; I like any other freedom-loving Tibetans must condemn Protero for writing this piece in the very first place.

    I urge Protero to travel across Tibet and see what is on Tibetan people's mind there. Of course you won't get a visa now, unless Chinese give one for you as an exception for writing this piece. Protero you must understand that it is not for the Dalai Lama alone to decide or comment on what is happening in Tibet or how Tibetans are carrying forward their struggle. Tibetans in Tibet and outside of Tibet have long urged His Holiness to refrain from condemning those non-violent acts whether it is a mere street demonstration or self-immolation. I hope Protero will not compare these selfless self-immolations to acts terrorism in his next piece. As a self-claimed scholar on religion, Protero must condemn China for not respecting Tibetan people’s religious freedom and apologize Tibetans for hurting their political sentiments through this thoughtless piece.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  3. tsering ngodup

    tsering ngodup
    In the human history, the 14th Dalai Lama is a rare soul. Today, the Dalai Lama is a global icon: respected, revered and looked up to by people all over the world for his great moral authority, for his tireless work and teachings on world peace, compassion and harmony among the different religious faiths in today's world. The Dalai Lama message is very simple yet very powerful in today's troubled world. His message is consistent: always the same.

    Now coming to Stephen Prothero's blog on the self-immolations by the brave and courageous freedom fighters in occupied Tiibet and his demand that the Dalai Lama condemn the brave Tibetan self-immolaters. Excuse us(Tibetans) , Mr. so called blogger Stephen Prothero, how can the Dalai Lama condemn the brave freedom loving Tibetan self-immolaters ln occupied Tibet. Not a single self-immolaters: some of them were teenagers, some were monks & nuns and some everyday folks with kids and family, had NOT resorted to any forms of voilence NOR harmed anyone. All of them made the ultimate and the supreme sacrifices of their precious lives for freedom and human diginity in Tibet. Their common demand is freedom in occupied Tibet and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

    Majority of the 44 self-immolaters were born after 1959, the year communist China invaded and illegally occupied Tibet. Even after well over 50 plus years of Chinese communist rule ln Tibet, the Chinese rule has utterly and miserably failed to win the hearts and the minds of the Tibetan people. This clearly shows that China's repressive Tibet policy and treatment of Tibetans is a huge failure.

    Mr. blogger Stephen Prothero, before blogging about the brave and courageous Tibetan self-immolaters, get your facts right and please don't add salt to wounded Tibet.The practice of sati in ancient India and self-immolations by Tibetans in occupied Tibet under the presen dayt repressive and draconian Chinese communist rule are totally totally different for your information.

    Please have some respect and show some compassion and human dignity to the souls of the brave and courageous 44 self-immolaters from the roof of the world.

    July 25, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply

    July 26, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  4. thupten

    you are assuming that if Dalai lama spoke against the self immolations that they would immediately stop. WRONG! these people know very well that Dalai Lama is agaisnt such acts and even if He did speak against they still would go ahead. not that they dont respect the Dalai lama but because they just cannot bear to live in such humiliation., they would rather lay down their lives than bend their knee before the agressor. Your saying the HHDL has blood on his hands is like saying the whole international community has blood on their hands as they continually failed to take any action to help the tibetans and Tibet. Now, that they're being stifled and choked and have taken to this extrerme measure, nobody, has the right to condemn these people. not even the Dalai Lama. so, you who know nothing just keep shut.

    July 23, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  5. True Scholar

    I will not let my children go to school where Mr. Prothero went. It's pretty obvious that there's nothing much to get from going there.

    July 22, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  6. manuelo

    Me,Pothero, you are correct. The blame for these suicides are results of Dalai Lama chosing not to promote peace , but violence, either towards Han people , or towards themselves,Also, Notice how the suicides were commited outside of L hasa, as if those monks from Lhasa are instructred not to participate in such eansdavor, Yet you got one thing wrong : Tibet us already part of china , be it the prc or the Roc. Thst's why the US never demanded the r.o.c. to relinquish nor give refenrendum to the Tibetans. '

    July 22, 2012 at 3:54 am |
    • MadMonk

      You my friend are ignorant and misinformed. Do your homework.
      And Mr. Prothero, is a self-righteous fool.
      China, I repeat CHINA, is the root cause of any and all problems in the area known to any informed individual, as belonging to the Tibetans. Because China invaded and killed a million + people does NOT make their presence there right. Do you understand any of that?
      Are you aware that the US had a covert operation in place to train Chushi Gangdruk (my spelling, The Tibetan Freedom Fighters), and then simply bailed on them? Learn, my friend, LEARN. And only then make informed comments.

      July 22, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  7. karma

    Dear Mr. Prothero
    i believe that you are directing the question on how to stop these immolation to the wrong person ( H.H. the Dalai Lama), instead you should be asking the Chinese government why they are turning a blind eye to the pleas of the Tibetans for their rights. His Holiness has urged the Tibetans in Tibet to stop sacrificing themselves but their suffering are far too great for them to stop themselves from making these decisions, so please stop accusing H.H. the Dalai Lama for supposedly not caring for them. I hope your views will be different after realizing your misconceptions.

    July 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  8. Jason Guy

    Amidst pain, suffering, and darkness, I find the comments on Mr Prothero's post to be both life-affirming and a testament to the public know. How he can be given a voice by CNN after showing such myopic unawareness of history (and insensitivity to the present) is baffling. But we must be thankful because the outpouring from readers eager to correct his misunderstandings (and set the record straight) is inspiring.

    July 20, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  9. Gephel

    Dear Mr. Stephen Prothero,
    With my respect, you have to sorry for Tibetan people to write this article. The dedication of lives in the form of self-burning is not for Buddha or God. Tibetan struggle and self-immolations are for the nation Tibet, its six million people, freedom and preservation of compassionate culture in this planet. These are not in the religious texts; you need to take another view to understand better.
    I am also sorry for you to say that this short article that may have taken for you 10 minutes to write, but deeply hurt millions of people and pleased some world’s merciless Chinese regime and support them carry on their repression arrogantly in Tibet. Sir, Are you satisfied now after you destroyed your value and moral ethics of the World religion while you are Cnn religion reporter? Is the main thing that bothering you gone now? Or you still wish to win some kind of award like “Pulitzer Prize” from the rich Chinese hardliners.
    Sir, I am sorry to say that for you, your short article must be a big fund raising letter which included blaming simple Buddhist monk, most respected world peace leader, HH the Dalai lama; you ignored suffering of Tibetan people. Please, understand that there is Tibetan blood in your money, food, and houses. Because, you gave your hands with bloody Chinese repressors. Please blame and ask right people, Chinese government to stop the repressive policy in Tibet to end the
    self-immolation.
    However, human being make mistakes and can do self- correction to live with success and values. You are great learned and have responsible for the universal peace. Please give a hand with the Dalai Lama and stand with Tibet to fight against CCP’s brutal repression over Chinese people and Tibetans. I request you to speak for the justice of Tibetan people when you go to speak public medias.

    July 19, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  10. Camilo Posse

    Que verguenza que CNN tenga esta clase de editorialistas.......

    July 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  11. Tsering Woeser

    12位自焚藏人留下的遗言、写下的遗书或录音的遗嘱:

    至目前,有12位自焚藏人留下的遗言、写下的遗书或录音的遗嘱,已被陆续找到并披露(注:如有遗漏,恳请指出并提供相关资料为谢)。而这都是至为宝贵的证据,故一并呈示于此:

    1、
    扎白(法名洛桑扎西):安多阿坝(今四川省阿坝藏族羌族自治州阿坝县)格尔登寺僧人,20岁。2009年2月27日自焚。遭军警枪击,重伤,被军警强行带走。只知已残,更多情况不明。

    据纽约时报2012年6月2日的报道:为什么格尔登寺成为自焚藏人的中心?(译文),其中两次提到第一位自焚藏人扎白在自焚前留下遗书:

    “一名年轻的藏族喇嘛走在街上,用脚去踢解放军的军车,然后留下了一份自杀遗书,谴责官方禁止他们举行一项宗教仪式。”

    “2009年2月27日,一名高层的喇嘛在僧侣聚会时通知说,格尔登寺不得不取消当天一个重要的祈祷仪式。洛桑说,半小时后,札白就在市场上点火自焚;他留下了一张纸条,说如果政府禁止该宗教仪式,他会自杀。”

    2、
    彭措(又写平措或洛桑彭措):安多阿坝(今四川省阿坝藏族羌族自治州阿坝县)格尔登寺僧人,20岁。2011年3月16日自焚,重伤,遭军警殴打,牺牲,后由藏人隆重火葬。

    据“他们认为我们害怕武力镇压,他们想错了”——与格尔登寺僧人的访谈,纪念彭措自焚一周年,彭措在寺院的同学说彭措自焚前“对几位朋友说:‘我无法继续忍受心中的痛苦,2011年3月16日我将向世人表现一点迹象。’”

    并讲述彭措自焚牺牲之后:“在处理他的遗物时发现了他在笔记本上的一段话:‘运气和信心是胜利,失望和疑虑是失败。’”

    3、
    丁増朋措:康昌都(今西藏自治区昌都地区昌都县)嘎玛区农民,原为噶玛寺僧人,后还俗成家,41岁。2011年12月1日自焚,重伤,被军警强行带走,后牺牲。而西藏自治区当局掩盖这起自焚,对外声称“目前西藏没有自焚事件,总体上是非常平稳的……”。

    丁增朋措在自焚前留下四份遗书——

    遗书之一:
    信封上写着:请张贴到噶玛寺的大门上
    信中内容:
    面对继承和弘扬纯正无误的藏传佛教之噶玛寺堪布洛珠绕色、朗色索朗和全体僧侣遭受抓捕、殴打——我宁愿为我们噶玛寺的堪布和僧侣们的痛苦去赴死。
    持尊严者丁増朋措

    遗书之二:
    同胞们,勿要失望!勿要怯懦!自他交换的道友们,请为持佛法的两位堪布和僧人们想一想,我们怎能相信一个不允许我们信仰宗教的政府?
    丁増朋措

    遗书之三:
    噶玛寺的同胞兄弟们:
    想到堪布和僧人们的处境,我们坐在这里担忧有什么用?起来吧!
    利养恭敬八法与荣誉,如野鹿远远躲避猎人。
    向世间法无法欺骗之,大彻大悟的佛祖顶礼!
    充满痛苦的丁増朋措

    遗书之四:
    想到整个西藏和今年噶玛寺的苦难,我无法继续活下去空等。

    4、
    索巴仁波切(年格.索南竹杰):安多果洛(今青海省果洛藏族自治州)甘德县人,42岁。2012年1月8日在果洛州达日县自焚,当场牺牲。后由藏人隆重火葬。

    他在自焚前录音遗嘱,他的声音在这里可以听到,经记录后译为中文——

    国内外六百万藏人兄弟姐妹们,在此,我向为藏人的自由而牺牲的以图丹欧珠为主的英雄们、为六百万藏人的团聚和藏地的幸福而献出宝贵生命的英雄儿女们,表示无比地感谢和钦佩。我已经四十多岁,一直没有勇气像你们那样做,以致苟活到今天。所幸的是,我也努力地为藏文化的大五明及小五明的弘扬做了一些贡献。

    在21世纪尤其今年,是雪域的许多英雄儿女献出宝贵生命的一年,我也愿贡献自己的血肉来表示支援和敬意。我的牺牲不是为了显示自己有多么伟大,我诚心诚意地忏悔所犯三昧耶戒以及一切罪业,特别是金刚密乘的誓言戒——不允许对自身的虐待和牺牲,我在此虔诚忏悔。

    一切众生未有不曾做过我们的父母,无边的众生由于业际颠倒,做下了不可饶恕的罪业,我诚心诚意地为他们清净业障。并且我发愿,希望遍法界的一切众生,乃至如虱子等一切微小众生,临终时未有恐惧,不受痛苦,往生无量光佛的身边,获得圆满正等正觉的果位。因此我愿供养自己的寿命和身体。也为了人天导师尊者达赖喇嘛丹增嘉措为主的所有高僧大德长久住世,而把我的寿命、身体化作曼札供奉给他们。

    诸香涂地缤纷雨妙花
    严饰须弥四洲并日月
    观想变现供养诸佛刹
    修习愿达诸佛清净刹
    (译者注:以上是曼札偈)

    自他身语意三世善法、珠宝、妙善、曼札、普贤诸云供意幻供养上师三宝尊,慈悲摄受赐予我加持:“俄当,格热,然那曼札拉,康呢尔亚,答亚么”。(译者注:此为曼札偈咒语)

    再次说明,我做出这一行为,绝无贪图名誉、恭敬、爱戴等自私自利的心态,而是清净的,虔诚的,如佛陀当年舍身饲虎一般,其他牺牲的藏人同胞也是如我一般,为了真理和自由而舍生取义。

    事实上临终之际,若有嗔恨心很难得解脱,因此我希望我能做他们的引导者,愿以此供养的功德和力量使一切众生未来获得究竟佛的果位;并为国内外诸多高僧大德长久住世,尤其希望尊者达赖喇嘛丹增嘉措为了雪域政教永世长存:

    雪山绵延环绕的净土
    一切利乐事业之缘源
    丹增嘉措慈悲观世音
    愿其足莲恒久住百劫
    (愿事业如日中天)
    (译者注:此为尊者达赖喇嘛长寿祈请文)

    愿恶缘毁坏教法者
    业际颠倒有形无形
    思想行为入恶劣者
    三宝谛实加持永断除
    (译者注:此为尊者达赖喇嘛所著的雪域祈祷文)

    (愿此等善法等两偈,略)
    殊胜之最发愿王
    利益无边诸众生
    圆满普贤行愿力
    三恶道众尽解脱
    达雅塔,班赞哲雅阿瓦波达呢耶所哈。(成就所愿咒,念诵了三遍)

    呀!诸多的金刚道友和各地的信徒们,大家要团结一致,同心协力,为雪域藏人未来的自由,为藏地真正成为我们自己的家园,为这样的曙光,大家要团结一致,为了这个共同目标而奋斗,这也是所有献出宝贵生命的英雄们的心愿,因此无利益的一切行径必须要放弃,比如那些为了争夺草山而自相争斗等。

    年轻的藏人要努力、勤奋地学习十明等藏人的文化及理论知识,年老的藏人也要把自己的身口意融入到善法之中,大家要共同弘扬和发展我们民族传统的文化、语言、文字、风俗习惯等,大家都要力所能及地,为了藏人的幸福和一切众生暂时获得世间圆满以至究竟获得佛的果位而多做善事,这非常重要,祝愿大家吉祥如意!

    我还要告诉我的家人和亲朋好友、×××(译者注:提到一个名字但听不清楚):我身无分文,我的一切财产早已布施在佛法方面,请你们不要说这里有我的财产、那里有我的财产,或者这里那里有我的东西。我什么都没有,我的兄弟姐妹、亲戚朋友和施主们请记住这一点。还有,希望我做担保的一些乡亲、喇嘛、祖古的物品,你们要按约定的时间如数交还。

    自他三世一切善法回向给一切众生等,特别是在地狱等三恶趣的众生。

    (殊胜之最发愿王等一偈,略。)
    (此生三世一切功德一偈,略)

    最后,国内外的所有法友们,请你们不要难过,请你们为善知识们祈祷,乃至菩提间我们未有离别。依怙我的老人们和百姓们也请如是发愿,无论快乐与痛苦、好与坏、喜与悲,我们都要依靠上师三宝,除了三宝再没有依靠处,请你们不要忘记,扎西德勒!

    5、
    朗卓:安多壤塘(今四川省阿坝藏族羌族自治州壤塘县中壤塘乡)人,18岁。2012年2月19日自焚,当场牺牲。后由藏人火葬。

    他在自焚前写下遗书,其实是一首诗:

    昂起你坚强的头,为朗卓之尊严。
    我那厚恩的父母、亲爱的兄弟及亲属,我即将要离世。
    为恩惠无量的藏人,我将点燃躯体。
    藏民族的儿女们,我的希望就是,你们要团结一致。
    若你是藏人要穿藏装,并要讲藏语,勿忘自己是藏人;
    若是藏人要有慈悲之心,要爱戴父母,要民族团结,要怜悯旁生,珍惜动物生命。
    祈愿(嘉瓦丹增嘉措)达赖喇嘛尊者永久住世。
    祈愿雪域西藏的高僧大德们永久住世。
    祈愿藏民族脱离汉魔。在汉人魔掌下藏人非常痛苦,这痛苦难以忍受。
    此汉魔强占藏地,此汉魔强抓藏人,无法在其恶法下续留,无法容忍没有伤痕的折磨。
    此汉魔无慈悲心,残害藏人生命。
    祈愿(嘉瓦丹增嘉措)达赖喇嘛尊者永久住世!

    6、
    才让吉:安多玛曲(甘肃省甘南藏族自治州玛曲县)藏族中学初三学生,女,19岁。为抗议藏语文教育遭严重削弱的教育政策,2012年3月3日自焚,当场牺牲,被军警抢走遗体。而当局却称她“头脑有病”,“学习差”。

    在卫报:一位藏人少女悲惨的自焚之路中,去当地采访的卫报记者写到:“一月初,才让吉在与她的一个亲戚谈到一连串的自焚事件时表示,她很理解他们为什么要这样做。‘没有人可以像这样继续生活下去。’ 她说。”
    7、
    江白益西:康道坞(今四川省甘孜藏族自治州道孚县)人,2006年流亡印度,27岁。2012年3月26日在新德里自焚,抗议中国主席胡锦涛访问印度。被同时集会抗议的藏人送往医院,但因伤势太重,于3月28日即所谓的”百万农奴解放纪念日“牺牲。

    他在自焚前写下遗书:

    为了抗议中共国家主席胡锦涛到访印度,点火自焚而被送至印度医院抢救的流亡藏人江白益西之前留下的相关遗嘱被公布,他在遗嘱上鼓励藏人团结奋斗,为六百万藏人争取人权和自由。

    遗嘱5点诉求分别是:

    第一,祝愿世界和平导师达赖喇嘛尊者万岁,希望能够迎请达赖喇嘛尊者返回西藏,坚信境内外同胞早日团聚在雪域西藏,并在布达拉宫前齐声高唱西藏国歌;

    第二,同胞们,为未来幸福和前景我们要有尊严和骨气。尊严是一个民族的灵魂,是寻找正义的勇气,更是未来幸福的向导。同胞们,寻求与全球民众同等的幸福,必须要牢记尊严,大事小事都要付出努力,总而言之,尊严是辨别是非的智慧;

    第三,自由是所有生命物的幸福所在,失去自由、像是在风中的酥 油灯,像是六百万藏人的趋向,如果三区藏人能够团结力量必会取得成果,请不要失去信心;

    第四,本人所讲的是六百万西藏人民的问题。在民族斗争中,若有财富现在就是该使用的时候,若有学识就是该付出力量的紧张时刻,更觉得现在正是该牺牲生命的时候。在21世纪中,用火点燃珍贵的人生,主要是向全球民众证实六百万藏人的苦难、无人权及无公平的处境,如果有怜悯和慈心,就请关注弱小藏人的处境;

    第五,我们要使用传统宗教、文化和语言的基本自由,要有基本人权,希 望全世界人民能够支持我们。藏人是西藏的主人,西藏必胜!

    道孚•江白益西。
    (右上方则留下遗嘱的日期为2012年3月16日。)

    8、9
    曲帕嘉:安多壤塘(今四川省阿坝藏族羌族自治州壤塘县中壤塘乡)人,学生,25岁。2012年4月19日在觉囊派壤塘大寺附近与堂兄弟索南同时但不同地点自焚,当场牺牲。后由藏人僧俗将他隆重火葬。

    索南:安多壤塘(今四川省阿坝藏族羌族自治州壤塘县中壤塘乡)人,学生,24岁。2012年4月19日在觉囊派壤塘大寺附近与堂兄弟曲帕嘉同时但不同地点自焚,当场牺牲。后由藏人僧俗将他隆重火葬。

    曲帕嘉、索南在自焚前录音了遗嘱,在YouTube上可以听到他们的声音,经记录后译为中文——
    藏民族是有着与众不同的宗教和文化、慈悲和善良、有利他之心的民族,但是,藏民族受到中国的侵略、镇压和欺骗。我们是为了藏民族没有基本人权的痛苦和实现世界和平而点火自焚的,我们藏民族没有最基本人权的痛苦比我俩自焚的痛苦还要大。

    在这世上最厚恩的父母和家人和深爱的兄弟姐妹们,我俩不是没有考虑你们感受,和你们生死别离是迟早的事,也不是不珍惜自己的生命。而是我俩志同道合地为了藏民族得到自由、佛法昌盛和众生能够获得幸福,以及世界和平而点火自焚的。

    但是你们要按照我俩的遗愿行事,如果我俩落入汉人的手中,你们不要做任何无畏的牺牲,我俩不愿任何人为此而受到伤害,如能这样则是我俩的心愿。如果你们为了我俩而伤心,那就听从学者和上师大德的话,学习文化不要迷途,对本族要情同手足,要努力学习本民族的的文化,并团结一致,如能这样则是我俩的心愿,按照遗愿行事是我俩由衷的愿望。

    10、
    旦正塔:安多尖扎(今青海省黄南藏族自治州尖扎县)尖扎滩乡洛哇村牧民,64岁,2012年6月15日在尖扎县武装部门口自焚,当场牺牲。在民众的坚持要求下,军警后来将他的遗体交还其家人。当日下午,藏人僧俗将他隆重火葬。

    他在自焚前留下简短遗书如下:

    皈依三宝,
    祈愿世界和平。
    祈愿尊者达赖喇嘛回归故里。
    为了守护西藏国,
    我将献身自焚。

    11、12
    丹增克珠:康称多(今青海省玉树藏族自治州称多县)牧民,曾为僧人,24岁。2012年6月20日与阿旺诺培在称多县扎朵镇举雪山狮子旗自焚,当场牺牲。遗体由赛康寺僧人送往寺院,于23日火葬。

    阿旺诺培:安多阿坝(今四川省阿坝藏族羌族自治州阿坝县)人,木匠,22岁。2012年6月20日与丹增克珠在称多县扎朵镇举雪山狮子旗自焚,重伤,先被赛康寺僧人送往寺院,后被军警带往西宁,据称在某军队医院,但情况不明。

    两人在自焚前留下遗言:

    “对我俩来说,没有能力从西藏的宗教和文化上出力,在经济上,也没有帮助西藏人民的能力,所以我俩为了西藏民族,特别是为了达赖喇嘛尊者能够永驻世间并且尽快返回西藏,而选择了自焚的方式。告知和我俩一样的西藏青年们,我们希望而且也相信大家会立誓,永远不在藏人间进行内斗,要团结一致,守护住西藏的民族赤诚。”

    July 19, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  12. Phuntsok

    A great response to this article by Tendor, Director of Students for a Free Tibet. A must read if Mr Prothero's article is your introduction to Tibetan history and recent self immolations in Tibet.

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/18/my-take-why-the-dalai-lama-cannot-condemn-tibetan-self-immolations/

    July 19, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  13. Holy Bible

    Stephen Prothero –
    One can be ignorant because they are illiterate but you have a Masters and PhD in Study of Religion from Harvard.
    One can be illiterate because of their disability to learn but you are a perfectly functioning human being.
    One can be disabled because they could have naturally born with it but unfortunately (Mr. Stephen Prothero) you are a normal human, born and raised in a free nation (U.S.), received all higher educations.
    But regretfully, you still turned out DISABLED, ILLITERATE and IGNORANT!
    May you learn more about human rights, human struggle and yourself.
    We suggest that you take a course on human right either in socially or social work.

    July 19, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  14. Bill Gates

    Stephen Prothero – YOU ARE CRAZY!

    July 19, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  15. tenzing rigdol

    Who is this Protero? What does he know about Tibet?
    THE CENTRAL ISSUE IS NOT "THE SELF-IMMOLATIONS OF TIBETANS" BUT "WHY IS THERE SELF-IMMOLATIONS IN THE FIRST PLACE?"
    PROTERO dear, what you saw are symptoms and the root cause of these uprising is CHINA's INVASION of Tibet.
    And what is wrong with CNN, couldn’t they even find a single expert on Tibet to discuss such important issues… Or wait… may be all the experts agree with the stand that Dalai lama has taken and therefore CNN has to go after a moron, who, though not intentionally but naturally exhibits his moronity.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:15 am |
    • Art Rivarez

      Dear Stephen Prothero,

      By writing this post you have not only shown your total insensitivity to a heroic but non-violent struggle of a condemned people facing extinction, through your ivory-tower, safe-house philosophizing but have registered your utter ignorance and incompetence as a religion scholar. You compare sati, a brutal practice by a bigoted and patriarchal society where an innocent widow was beaten into submission to throw herself on the pyre of her husband in medieval India, with self-immolation by oppressed, cornered and peace-loving Tibetans who are crying out for the world to listen to their unbearable agony under Chinese rule. Since your understanding of religion and religious practices are so shallow, perhaps it would be in order to tell you that sati can only be compared with your "lynchings" in America or putting on stake a condemned witch in Europe, not with self-immolation by compassionate and caring Tibetans pushed to the precipice.

      Secondly, you ask the Dalai Lama to call upon the Tibetans to stop burning themselves. Okay, assuming that the Dalai Lama has such an unflinching hold on the Tibetans, you ask him to do something that would perhaps help your weak heart to stop fluttering at the sight of an image of a burning Tibetan with folded hands. And nothing else. Pray tell me, what else would that help. You don't ask the Chinese to talk to the Dalai Lama. You don't suggest America and other democratic nations of the West drop their hypocrisy and pressure the Chinese Communist leadership to solve the root cause of immolation amicably. Despite your scholarship that should equip you to understand nuances, you don't ask the Chinese to negotiate with the Dalai Lama, whom you think, by your own assumption, have major hold over the Tibetans. Whose purpose do you serve ? Ask yourself. And then you moralize from a pulpit to a threatened nation and a civilization, from whom the humanity has a lot to learn about how to live happily and peacefully without being self-centered and self-absorbed.
      So, Sir, take a deep introspective look and ask yourself where does your morality stand ? And be respectful and show sensitivity to people who don't enjoy your privileges and you can't even imagine the pain in their heart and the suffering they bear without resorting to violence and aggression.

      Thanks for listening,
      Art Rivarez

      July 19, 2012 at 3:44 am |
  16. Clowner

    Ali Baba rule the world.

    July 19, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  17. Sam Yaza

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kl533haJlt0&w=640&h=360]

    July 18, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_deoJLrWRo&w=640&h=360]

      July 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • MadMonk

      Nice piece of editing. I would expect nothing less from supporters of Geshe Kelsang and the Chinese Communist Government. You know, the CCG that supports financially the construction of monuments and the like of Dorje Shugden. The same Government that condemns HH Dalai Lama.
      I hope truly you make practise in peace, we need no violence. There's enough of that in the world. We need no more episodes like the one experienced in Mundgod 6 yrs ago. I was there for that. The fighting, the stone throwing. No more, please.

      July 22, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  18. Zara

    The author despite being a religious scholar seem to have no clue about what he is talking about. I don't even know where to start, every rationale behind condemning the Dalai Lama for not speaking out against the act is ridiculous. When cornered, even a hare bites...when cornered, out of compassion, for the sake of keeping what's valuable to humanity alive, some will give lives...and we call them martyrs, and that's very different from sati system.

    July 18, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  19. aeimcmahon

    To compare self-immolation to sati or death by suicide bomb is intellectually dishonest. In the former, women are compelled by cultural pressure to kill themselves. In the latter, the clear intent is not merely suicide, but murder. In contrast, self-immolation is a form of political protest, or, as you say in your article, a martyrdom. These are not equivalent concepts in any way. That is why they do not elicit equivalent reactions from "the New Atheists."

    Similarly, the opinion piece that you cite in the Boston Globe refers suicides that were, presumably, the result of depression (or any number of related mental health problems). Clearly, these individuals did not aim goal to sacrifice themselves in the name of a political cause. Surely this is not an appropriate comparison to self-immolation, which arises from a wholly different set of considerations and impulses.

    July 18, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  20. TSETEN GELEK

    Prothero, how could you be so ignorant & inhumane! if you only suffer a small fraction of what Tibetans in Tibet and exile are going through, then you would understand the reality and the urgency of the cause of the self immolators.
    You disrespect those super human carrying the ultimate act of non violence. There heroes could have easily hurt Chinese officials or do other violent acts to exhibit their frustration of Chinese Government tyranny, yet they chose to act on this purest form of non violent sacrifice not just for the freedom of Tibet but for all the nations who are under rule of tyranny and opression.
    I can express no words but "Coward" for your inhumane, indescent and ignorant opinion about His Holiness.
    FREE TIBET – LONE LIVE HIS HOLINESS THE 14TH DALAI LAMA

    July 18, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.