Suicidal Societies

 Quang Duc, Saigon, 11 June 1963

It emerged on Monday that the CIA ‘had disrupted an al-Qaeda plot to bring down a US-bound airline using a new underwear bomb around the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death [on 2 May]. Terrorists in Yemen reportedly planned to use a device similar to the one that failed to explode on a plane to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009 but American officials said the new bomb was significantly more sophisticated.’ (Telegraph) The bomb ‘was of a new non-metallic type aimed at getting past airport security’. (Guardian)

Yesterday, a rush hour bomb killed 55 in Damascus, Syria’s ‘worst terrorist attack since the start of the uprising… “Two booby-trapped cars loaded with more than 1,000kg of explosives and driven by suicide bombers carried out the terrorist blasts,” said the interior ministry. The explosions left two large craters.’ (Guardian)

To my mind, there is one fundamental difference between these actions and those of the nearly 30 Tibetan monks and nuns who have set themselves alight in protest at the Chinese occupation of their country: in the latter case, the ultimate act of self sacrifice doesn’t harm others. What the monks and nuns teach us, in the act of self immolation, is that there is no end to the responsibility we can take for ourselves and others in pursuit of a better society. Every true act of kindness or generosity that we engage in, however small, has something of this flavour of self-transcendence about it.

I feel certain that, by training ourselves in awareness, kindness and generosity, we can quietly, collectively and quite undramatically bring about a world in which suicide bombing becomes utterly unthinkable, a world in which the terrible act of self immolation is no longer necessary. And if you want a suggestion for an act of generosity today, why not give to the International Campaign for Tibet, which was supported by Adam Yauch who died last week, to help quench the fires of the Tibetan Spring.

4 Responses to “Suicidal Societies”

  1. f says:

    Thank you for posting this,this issue needs to be discussed more fully in Buddhist circles.
    Can suicide really be an act of generosity?

  2. f says:

    Dalai Lama silent on monk self-immolations

    London (CNN) — The Dalai Lama refused to answer a question Monday about whether Tibetan monks should stop setting themselves on fire to protest China’s occupation of Tibet.

    “No answer,” he said, saying it was a sensitive political question and that he had retired from politics.

    He handed over political leadership of the Tibetan community to an elected prime minister last year.

    Self-immolation is becoming an increasingly common form of protest for Tibetans who want genuine autonomy from China and accuse Beijing of repression.

    More than 30 of them took place in the last year in China, Tibetan advocacy groups say.

    The Dalai Lama was speaking in London, where he is accepting the Templeton Prize, an award worth £1.1 million ($1.74 million) which honors “outstanding individuals who have devoted their talents to expanding our vision of human purpose and ultimate reality.”

  3. Manjusiha says:

    Dear Manjusiha,thanks for very moving and thoughtful item on suicide bombing and self immoliation.Paul

  4. Shane says:

    Manjusiha, thank you for provoking much needed thought on this topic.

    Re – above response to the Dalai lama’s lack of response. Yes he has retired from politics and I should imagine it is a sensitive issue within both Tibetan political and religious circles. I think that, what I take away from the suicides is that we can all do more for our Tibetan brothers and sisters. We can give up some of our comforts, our securities and really make a difference. I am saddened every time I read of a self immolation. I am also ashamed that the world’s powers have not done more to support the Tibetan community regarding China’s occupation of Tibet. Time and again governments, politicians and us, as individuals, have stood back and done little. I do not wish to enter into the debate and long history of occupation and inaction. What I would like each of us to take away from this is that we can each do more. We can show that these tragic loss of lives, the self immolations and the many other Tibetans who have severely suffered and died as a result of Chinese occupation, has not occurred in vain.

    One person can make a difference, and so can you. Talk to your friends and colleagues to build awareness and support for the Tibetan people. Talk to your politicians. Get involved with your local Tibetan activist group. Put aside a cup of coffee a day and donate the money towards supporting displaced Tibetans. Run your own fundraises at work, or information days.

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