Tibet

Four Tibetans set themselves on fire

At least four people set themselves on fire in ethnic Tibetan parts of China on Wednesday, a rights group and media reports say.

Three teenage monks set themselves alight in Aba county in Sichuan province, where many self-immolations have taken place in recent months.

One of the boys died and the other two were taken to hospital.

Later the same day a 23-year-old woman died after setting herself on fire in Qinghai province.

More than 60 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since early 2011, in what rights group say are acts of protest against Beijing’s rule.

Beijing says Tibetans have religious freedom and accuses …

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Buddhist statue with Nazi connections discovered to be made from a meteorite

It sounds like an artifact from an Indiana Jones film; a 1000 year-old ancient Buddhist statue which was first recovered by a Nazi expedition in 1938 has been analysed by scientists and has been found to be carved from a meteorite. The findings, published in Meteoritics and Planetary Science, reveal the priceless statue to be a rare ataxite class of meteorite.

The statue, known as the Iron Man, weighs 10kg and is believed to represent a stylistic hybrid between the Buddhist and pre-Buddhist Bon culture that portrays the deity Vaiśravana, the Buddhist King of the North, also known as Kuberu, and as Jambhala in Tibet.

The statue was discovered in 1938 by an expedition of German scientists led by renowned zoologist Ernst Schäfer. It is unknown how the statue was discovered, but it is believed that the large swastika carved into the centre of the figure may have encouraged the team to take it back to Germany. Once it arrived in Munich it became part of a private collection and only became available for study following an auction in 2009.

The first team to study the origins of the statue was led by Dr Elmar Buchner from Stuttgart University. The team was able to classify it as an ataxite, a rare class of iron meteorite with high contents of nickel.

“The statue was chiseled from an iron meteorite, from a fragment of the Chinga meteorite which crashed into the border areas between Mongolia and Siberia about 15.000 years ago. “While the first debris was officially discovered in 1913 by gold prospectors, we believe that this individual meteorite fragment was collected many centuries before”, said Dr Buchner.

Meteorites inspired worship from many ancient cultures ranging from the Inuit’s of Greenland to the aborigines of Australia. Even today one of the most famous worship sites in the world, Mecca in Saudi Arabia, is based upon the Black Stone, believed to be a stony meteorite. Dr Buchner’s team believe the Iron Man originated from the Bon culture of the 11th Century. “The Iron Man statue is the only known illustration of a human figure to be carved into a meteorite, which means we have nothing to compare it to when assessing value,” said Dr Buchner. “Its origins alone may value it at $20,000; however, if our estimation of its age is correct and it is nearly a thousand years old it could be invaluable”

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What should the Dalai Lama do about Tibetan self-immolations?

On CNN, we see two dramatically different views on the Dalai Lama’s position on the wave of self-immolations by Tibetans protesting the Chinese occupation of their country and the persecution of their religion and culture.

Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar, author of “The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation,” and regular CNN Belief Blog contributor, calls on the Dalai Lama to condemn the protesters.

Tenzin Dorjee, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, responds, saying that Prothero’s post is a “crass display of moral blindsight” that “blames the victim.”

Dorjee praises the courage of the self-immolators and compares them to past non-violent protestors:

How can the Dalai Lama condemn the self-immolators when their motivation was evidently selfless and their tactic nonviolent? Would we ask Gandhi to condemn activists in the Indian freedom struggle who were killed while lying on the road to block British police trucks? Or the hunger strikers who were starving themselves to death in order to protest the injustices of British rule in India?

He also rightly calls into question some of the odd rhetoric that Prothero employs.

They sacrifice their own lives not in the name of “God” or “Buddha,” as Mr. Prothero so dismissively suggests, but in an altruistic intention of alerting the world to their people’s suffering.

and

From all of Mr. Prothero’s accusations, the most offensive is his comparison of self-immolations to sati – a social system in ancient India where widows were pressured to throw themselves into the funeral pyre of their deceased husbands. Self-immolation – a political act of reason – is the polar opposite of sati – a blind act of superstition.

I’m broadly with Dorjee, and think that as well as distorting what’s going on in Tibet and China, Prothero overlooks the complexities of the Dalai Lama criticizing those who protest against China. There are two prominent problems that spring to mind. First, if the Dalai Lama says “stop the protests,” the Chinese are able to say he’s responsible for them. Second, the Chinese can then say to Tibetans that their own leader has turned against them.

The Dalai Lama walks, as he has acknowledged, a fine line. He can’t approve of violent acts, even if they are violent only to the perpetrator but he also can’t walk into the trap of outright condemning the protests. He is also sensitive to the feelings of the protestors’ families:

If I say something negative, then the family members of those people feel very sad. They sacrificed their … life. It is not easy. So I do not want to create some kind of impression that this is wrong.

He certainly hasn’t encouraged the protestors, but in a BBC interview he in fact questioned their wisdom and the effectiveness of their actions:

In an interview with our correspondent, he said he was not encouraging his followers to sacrifice themselves – as alleged by China.

“The question is how much effect” the self-immolations have, the Dalai Lama said.

“That’s the question. There is courage – very strong courage. But how much effect?

“Courage alone is no substitute. You must utilise your wisdom.”

My own view is that the Dalai Lama displays far more wisdom here than Stephen Prothero, who asks, rather absurdly, “Where are the protests against these Tibetan protesters?”

If we’re going to protest against anything, let it be against the oppression and torture that has driven the Tibetan people to such desperate acts of protest.

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Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys dies at 47

Adam Yauch, one of the founders of the hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, has died of cancer at the age of 47.

Yauch, who went by the name MCA, had been battling cancer since 2009.

Yauch was a practicing Buddhist, who actively supported Tibetan causes.

In 1994, he established the Milarepa Fund — an organization dedicated to the promotion of nonviolence — and became a leader of the movement to liberate Tibet from Chinese occupation. The fund was named after the 11th century Tibetan singer-yogi Milarepa, and was originally intended to distribute royalties from Yauch’s Beastie Boys’ 1994 songs “Shambhala” and “Bodhisattva Vow,” which had sampled the chanting of Tibetan monks, to support Tibetan independence.

He organized the first “Tibetan Freedom Concert” in San Francisco in 1996.

 

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Tibetan self-immolations rise as China tightens grip

Andrew Jacobs, New York Times: Like many children of Tibetan nomads, Tsering Kyi started school relatively late, at age 10, but by all accounts she made up for lost time by studying with zeal.

“Even when she was out at pasture with her parents’ flock, there was always a book in her hand,” a cousin said.

That passion for learning apparently turned to despair this month when the Maqu County Tibetan Middle School, in Gansu Province near Tibet, switched to Chinese from Tibetan as the language of instruction. The policy shift has incited protests across the high-altitude steppe that is home to five million …

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Dying as a political act: Centuries-old Buddhist tradition of self-immolation continues in China

Peter Goodspeed: On Wednesday, Jamyang Palden, a 39-year-old monk, described as “calm, humble and virtuous,” set himself aflame in Drolma Square in the town of Rongwo in the Chinese province of Qinghai, along the border with Tibet.

He prostrated himself three times beside a Buddhist monastery that was founded in 1301, said a silent prayer, then set himself alight, according to the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet.

In a matter of minutes more than 500 crimson-robed monks and 700 students from nearby schools were swarming over the site of the attempted suicide, chanting prayers for the monk’s soul, shouting political slogans, waving outlawed photographs of the …

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Meet the monk who spent spent 19 years in one room after China invaded Tibet

Joyce Morgan, Sydney Morning Herald: After China invaded Tibet in 1959, a young monk went into solitary confinement. He remained in a tiny dark room in the capital Lhasa for 19 years.

Choden Rinpoche’s confinement was self-imposed and he spent the two decades secretly meditating and reciting sacred texts he had memorised.

Rinpoche had none of the ritual objects, no altar, or books associated with a monk, just a set of rosary beads he hid under his blanket. Even retaining these was dangerous.

“If you kept even one scripture text, that is a serious crime – more serious than keeping a gun,” he said through an …

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Three Tibetan herders self-immolate in protest

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Sharon LaFraniere, NY Times: In a fresh illustration of growing turmoil among ethnic Tibetans in Sichuan Province, three livestock herders set themselves on fire to protest what they saw as political and religious repression at the hands of the Chinese authorities, according to a Tibetan rights group and an ethnic Tibetan living in Beijing.

If confirmed, the latest cases would bring the total self-immolations over the past year to 19, an unprecedented wave of self-inflicted violence among the tiny ethnic minority in China, according to scholars. They were also apparently the first by lay people, rather than current or former members of the …

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China’s bloody crackdown on Tibetan protesters escalates, as self-immolations continue

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Xeni Jardin (BoingBoing): Ethnic Tibetans throughout Tibet this week held some of the largest demonstrations against Chinese rule in four years. Chinese forces responded by shooting protesters. Up to 5 are said to have been killed and more than 30 wounded, according to Tibetan advocacy groups.

On January 9, a 42-year-old monk became the latest in a continuing string of desperate protesters who burned themselves alive to protest Chinese military rule and cultural repression.

A New York Times report gathered accounts from a number of human rights groups. NPR’s Morning Edition today aired an extensive report on the worsening human rights crisis in Tibet.

Details are hard to confirm, as foreign press access to the areas involved is all but impossible. Free Tibet has more, and Radio Free Asia has compiled various reports.

Dr. Lobsang Sangay of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, issued a statement on the conflict, published in video on YouTube (and embedded above). [YouTube account has since been terminated.]

 

I want to tell my dear brothers and sisters inside Tibet that we hear your cries loud and clear. We urge you not to despair and refrain from extreme measures. We feel your pain and will not allow the sacrifices you have made go in vain. You all are in our heart and prayers each and every day. (…)

To demonstrate our solidarity with Tibetans in Tibet, I urge Tibetans and our friends around the world, to participate in a worldwide vigil on Wednesday, February 8, 2012. Let’s send a loud and clear message to the Chinese government that violence and killing of innocent Tibetans is unacceptable! I request everyone to conduct these vigils peacefully, in accordance with the laws of your country, and with dignity.

The Chinese government responded to activist groups’ reports on one recent shooting incident with a statement blaming monks and protesters, saying they attacked stores and a police station, and started a riot.

“The mob, some armed with knives, threw stones at police officers and destroyed two police vehicles and two ambulances,” read the report from China’s official news agency Xinhua.

And there are reports of fresh protests again today, with more shootings. From an item at Phayul.com, posted just three hours ago:

In reports coming out of Tibet, another Tibetan was killed and several others seriously injured in police firings in eastern Tibet earlier today. This is the third bloody incident this week when unarmed Tibetan demonstrators have been fired upon by Chinese security personnel.

At around 12 noon local time, a Tibetan man named Tharpa put up signed flyers around Zu To Bharma Shang, declaring that until the demands of the Tibetans who have self-immolated are met, Tibetans will never abandon their struggle and continue to organise more campaigns.

Since March 2011, 16 Tibetans have set their bodies on fire demanding the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile and protesting China’s continued occupation of Tibet.

In a release today, the exile base of Kirti monastery said that Tharpa had himself gone around the town putting up the flyers with his name clearly signed on it.

“You, Communist Chinese, come and arrest me,” Tharpa had challenged.

Following the wave of self-immolations, numerous flyers and pamphlets have been reportedly cited in Ngaba and Drango areas, stating that many more Tibetans were ready to set their bodies on fire.

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More monks die by fire in protest

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Sharon LaFraniere, New York Times: Three Tibetan monks in central China set themselves on fire this weekend, raising to 15 the number of suicides in the last year by Buddhist clergy members protesting aspects of Beijing’s rule in Tibet.

The deaths suggest that self-immolation is gaining favor as a form of political protest for Tibetan clergy. And they underscore the challenges the Chinese authorities face in controlling more than five million ethnic Tibetans living in what China calls the Tibet autonomous region and adjacent Sichuan and Qinghai Provinces.

China’s central government has cracked down hard on religious activism in Tibet since ethnic riots in 2008 killed 19 people, many …

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