Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A lotus in a sea of fire

Since March, 11 Buddhist monks and nuns have set themselves on fire to protest China's policies toward Tibet.

Roshi Joan Halifax of Upaya Zen Center reflected on the self-immolation of Buddhist monks during the 1960s:

I remembered the image of the first monk who immolated himself. His body in flames, he sat still in his own inferno, a "lotus in a sea of fire." ... I believe that the precepts protected him as he gave his flesh to the flames. In taking his own life, he knew he might save many. And it takes keen and radical discernment, as well as great love, to make such an offering to others. Breaking the precepts, he kept the precepts.*

(From the introduction to For a Future to Be Possible: Buddhist Ethics in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh.)

The Karmapa has asked the monks and nuns to stop.

The Dalai Lama has neither endorsed nor condemned the practice, but has said he believes it is a desperate response to "cultural genocide" by the Chinese.

I breathe in the thick oily smoke that must result when human flesh soaked in gasoline, both internally and externally, burns.

I breathe out peace.

May it reach all beings. May I help bring it to them.

ItalicThe precepts:

*1) To abstain from killing
2) To abstain from stealing
3) To abstain from false speech
4) To abstain from sexual misconduct
5) To abstain from intoxicants

Read more about the recent self-immolations
from Reuters here
from London's Daily Mail here
from the (Chinese) People's Daily online here

Photo by Malcolm Browne won the 1963 Pulitzer Prize.

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