Home > China, History, India, Politics > Powerful China Afraid of 11 Buddhist Monks?

Powerful China Afraid of 11 Buddhist Monks?

Why does the death of 11 Buddhist preachers in Tibet by self-immolation make the Chinese quake in their jack-boots!

Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation that set of the Vietnam War and end of colonialism in Vietnam.  |  Image by Malcolm Browne; source and courtesy - iconicphotos.files.wordpress.com|  Click for larger source image.

Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation that set off the Vietnam War and end of colonialism in Vietnam. | Image by Malcolm Browne; source and courtesy - iconicphotos.files.wordpress.com| Click for larger source image.

Quaking in their jack-boots

The Chinese regime, which so easily managed Tienanmen Square protests; engaged in stare-wrestling with the world’s super-power, USA, is afraid of 11 dead monks from Tibet.

What power do these monks have – after being out of power for 50 years now?

The Chinese who have made pious noises about wanting to resolve border issues with India, cancelled talks with India because of an out-of-power monks.

Like the Dalai Lama.

one of the most senior Tibetan religious figures—a young man who is likely to step into the shoes of the Dalai Lama as de facto religious leader of the Tibetan people—this week called on Tibetans to end a string of spectacular acts of self-immolation in protest against Chinese rule.

In the statement he issued in India, where he’s lived in exile ever since his dramatic escape from Tibet a dozen years ago, the youthful 17th Karmapa praised the “pure motivation” of the Buddhist devotees who set themselves on fire, saying “these desperate acts… are a cry against the injustice and repression under which they live.” However, in the first such statement from a senior Tibetan religious figure, the Karmapa went on to request that Tibetans “preserve their lives and find other, constructive ways to work for the cause of Tibet… We Tibetans are few in number, so every Tibetan life is of value to the cause of Tibet.”

The fact that the 17th Karmapa is recognized by both Tibetan exiles and by Beijing makes him a powerful figure. When the Dalai Lama dies, the Karmapa is likely to take the Dalai Lama’s place as the most influential adult spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.

So far this year, 11 Tibetan Buddhist monks, former monks, and nuns have set themselves on fire in Tibetan communities of China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, in acts of protest against official Chinese repression. In a 12th case, a man dressed in monk’s robes and draped in a Tibetan flag reportedly chanted “Long live Tibet” before setting himself on fire Thursday in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, which shares a long border with Tibet.

while suicides are rare among Tibetans, the recent self-immolations evoke a similar phenomenon during the 1960s, triggered by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc, who set himself on fire and burned to death in a Saigon intersection to protest the anti-Buddhist policies of South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem administration—a fiery act that was captured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph. (via Tibetan Leaders Struggle to Cope With Spate of Self-Immolations – The Daily Beast).

Chants and Idols?

What made Buddhism so powerful in these lands?

Buddha could not have gained so may followers with trite messages like follow-the-path-of-ahimsa, life-is-full-of-misery, respect-life. Obscure ideas (at least now) like Nirvana, dukkha, et al, could not have been the reason.

People don’t change so much for so little! Or resist change so much when confronted by the sword!

This was obviously not because Buddha’s statues were prettier than the statues of previous deities. If that, anyway, was the reason, the statues of previous divinities could have been prettified.

Or because Buddhist chants sounded better.

Threats and Fears

The real story!

Back then, Buddhism ended Confucian governance – and brought भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra to these oppressed lands.

Will history repeat itself? Is that the fear of the Chinese leaders?

  1. x
    December 8, 2011 at 8:27 am

    For monotheistic cultists even existence of the ‘other’ is disturbing.

    That Buddhism brought Bharattantra to oppressed lands is ur imagination.

    If Buddhism was such a threat to Confucian authoritarian rulers, they wud have done something against Buddhism’s spread. Instead rulers actively promoted this ‘ism’, sending out people to india to learn and spread this ‘ism’.

    Precisely because, it converted ppl into sheep, who will maximum burn themselves in extreme distress. and therefore easy to control.

    Buddhism spread due to state patronage and collapsed when monotheistic cultist rulers did not give it support. By making ppl passive, it allowed those monotheistic cultists to gain control over society.

    Anurag, u r trying to see beautiful clothes on an emperor who is not wearing any.

  2. December 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    In the Sri Lankan Buddhist tradition, Vibhishana was one of the satara varam deviyo until the Kotte period. According to the Ravana Katha of Wickramasinghe Adigar, after the defeat of Ravana, Vibhishana transferred the Yaksha capital from Alakamandawa to Kelaniya.

    In the 15th century poem of Totaga-muwe Sri Rahula, the sælalihini sandesaya, the Myna is ordered to carry the missive to Vibhishana at his temple in Kelaniya. After the 16th century he was replaced as a God of the four warrants by the goddess Pattini. He continues to be worshipped by a diminishing number of adherents, mainly in the Kelaniya area. (Source: Wikipedia)

    Modern history tells us that till Ashoka Maurya sent his daughter, Sanghamitra, to Sri Lanka, there was no Indian influence on Sri Lanka. The truth is that for centuries before Ashoka Maurya, the world has been trying to implement Bharattantra.

    What the above extract tells us is that Vibhishana implemented the चातर वर्णाश्रम Chatar-varna system in Sri Lanka, for which he was revered. The reason why Vibhisheena defected from the Asuric Ravana to Raghu Ramachandra was to learn about implementation of Bharattantra – then called dharma.

    This is the key to understanding the चातर वर्णाश्रम Chatar-varna system.

    Bharat-tantra – Prequel To Modern History!

    Much after Vibhishina, to the novice Asslaayana, Gautama Buddha explained the risk of dual-mode, slave-master societies, like Yavana-Khamboja (Greece-Cambodiya) compared to a चातर वर्णाश्रम Chatar-varna society like India.

    Till भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra became popular, the axis of Confucian-Platonic authoritarian, ‘wise’ rulers, who were not accountable, was (and again) the overwhelming model for the world. Property rights remained with less than 0.1% of the people.

    Buddhism changed that.

    Buddhism gained not because Buddha’s statues were prettier than the statues of previous deities. Or because Buddhist chants sounded better.

  3. December 8, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    x :
    If Buddhism was such a threat to Confucian authoritarian rulers, they wud have done something against Buddhism’s spread.

    Buddhism was fought tooth and nail in China for hundreds of years – especially by the those who supported Confucianism. Communist China, after its attempted decimation of Buddhism has attempted to bring back Confucianism.

  4. x
    December 9, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Buddhism was welcomed into china by Emperor Ming in 1st century CE. Ppl were sent to India to learn about Buddhist texts and spread it.

    After 800 years, seeing the damage to society due to Buddhism, it was discouraged.

    Buddhist missionaries did spread fiction, like other missionaries. Dont take everything at face value

  5. December 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm
    Your version of history begs a simple question. In one word.


    did the Ming Emperor ‘welcome Buddhism’?

    After 800 years, seeing the damage to society due to Buddhism, it was discouraged.

    You are factually wrong.

    During the time when Buddhism at its peak in China, in early Tang dynasty (618 AD – 907 AD), aggressive land reforms were started and ‘death penalty was abolished for a time during the reign of Tai Zong emperor (627-650), one of the Tang dynasty’s most admired rulers.’

  6. December 9, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    I think @x is making a value judgement of Buddhism when that is not the point. Whatever may be the result of Buddhist philosophy, it is still embedded in Indian ethos and spreads that ethos where ever it goes. Even if Samkhya or Jaina system had spread elsewhere, the result would have been the same.

  7. x
    December 9, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    for the same reason Asoka spread it. explained in first comment. It made ppl passive, easy to control, prevented revolts. Good to hav in large kingdoms with distant borders.

    But that short sighted policy of some greedy kings destroyed Dharmik fabric of society.

    Tang dynasty itself, seeing the damage Buddhism did to society later discouraged it too.

    Buddhist missionaries had ample time at monastries. so they cooked up lot of fiction. they were the presursors to WendyDonkeygers and William Joneses and MaxMuller & Michel Witless

    Jesus may hav been a good man. but what Church sells is detrimental to society. Similarly, Buddha may hav been decent . but Buddhism sold by the likes of Asoka is poison. it facilitates ascendance of adharma.

  8. December 10, 2011 at 1:57 am
    You are not answering any of the contradicts – not links; no data; no original sloka. Only sweeping statements.

    The important thing is that the world’s worst dictatorships and rulers came from the Desert Bloc – and the worst atrocities they committed were on each other. Communism, Colonialism, Fascism, Alexander, Julius Caesar, The Vatican, et al.

    On the other hand, the Indic cultures (and those that were influenced) always fought back and threw out these rulers.

    So, this portrayal of sheep and passive victims is not based on fact or history – but a figment of Western propaganda – which you are regurgitating.

    Terrible idea. This regurgitation.

  9. December 10, 2011 at 2:01 am
    X’s portrayal of Buddhist peoples as sheep and passive victims is not based on fact or history – but a figment of Western propaganda – which he is regurgitating.

    Terrible idea. This regurgitation.

  10. x
    December 11, 2011 at 1:29 am

    U r seeking the word of gad or word of its prophet, authority as proof, overlooking pudding provided by past events!. result of western training.

    The worst atrocities they committed were on each other?

    U say that when all of them r alive thriving, and all native systems they preyed upon hav been decimated? inability to see reality? result of western influence!

    The worst atrocities hav always been on the ‘other’. The native systems- non-aggrandizing, are always the ‘other’, ‘unlike them’.
    Like beasts of prey, they launch coordinated attacks on native systems and fight each other only when their preys r no more left.

    The buddhists fought back whom in Sindh/Afghanistan? r they fighting chinese commies in tibet?

    buddhism spread by the likes of asoka was tool for stupifying ppl.

    Westrn propganda is that buddhism is sublime, refined.
    it is not.

  11. Parag Tope
    December 13, 2011 at 6:06 am

    Buddhism from India to China – good analysis


    Worth a read

  12. x
    December 13, 2011 at 7:55 am

    Like anything churned out by a western mind, that article by Linda Brown is worth the dustbin.

    Do clean the dust bin later, for good Chi.

  13. December 13, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Parag Tope :

    Buddhism from India to China – good analysis


    Worth a read

    I seriously doubt if Buddhism caught on in China due to: –

    The Four Noble Truths are as follows:

    1. That suffering exists.
    2. There is a cause to suffering.
    3. Suffering can cease.
    4. There is a path which leads to permanent cessation of suffering.

    Especially if

    the Chinese have always been utilitarian, down-to-earth people, more concerned with creature comforts and practicality than the abstract concepts addressed by Buddhism. If this were so, however, would Buddhism have made any inroads at all? It may have been this hunger for intellectual satisfaction, as well as the universal need to imagine a meaningful afterlife and to discover that there is a purpose to living, which led many Chinese to embrace the new system of thought and morality encroaching from the south.

    I am more likely to believe that the reason why Buddhism gained traction in China is because

    What started out in India as an abstract concept, in China took root because it was an idea with practical consequences. From the first century onward, Buddhist ideas about man’s responsibility to others resulted in the growth of relief measures to aid the poor, medical treatment even for the indigent and education offered through the temple.

    The overall analysis follows a rather Western view and mental models about Buddhism – like altruism, which are alien to India and Buddhism. For instance, trying to interpret Buddhist ideas that lay less

    emphasis on personal salvation and more focus on helping others achieve the goal of liberation. While the Buddhist was likely to become a self-focused renunciant and pursue personal realization, the Mahayanist was enjoined to defer spiritual gratification until “all sentient beings” were liberated. This led to the ideal of the bodhisattva, the saint who comes to the threshold of Nirvana and proceeds no further, accepting reincarnation in the world until others experience freedom.


    practice of Buddhist moral precepts, combined with the tangible, positive results of their implementation in society, may have been responsible for the growth of altruistic activity, rather than any idea of salvation through selfless service.


    An interesting character in Chinese history is Shennong (Chinese: t 神農, s 神农, p Shénnóng; Korean: 신농, Sinnong; Vietnamese: Thần Nông) or the Emperor of the Five Grains – reputed to have lived some 5,000 years ago. A forgotten historian links him to the Akkadian King Sargon.

    Based on limited research and weak evidence, I think probably, Shennong was the the first Indian export to China – way before Buddhism.

  14. January 22, 2012 at 1:14 am

  15. March 5, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    I am trying to think with respect to karm philosophy of Indic tradition. The higher the motivation to do any task, the higher the outcome from it. The tibetan monks are setting themselves on fire to protest the Chinese oppression,
    1. What is the ‘Reason’ that makes them decide to set them ablaze?
    2. If you believe in Karm, please try to explain the expected consequences of this.
    3. Is the self immolation exercise becoming a me too event? If it is, then I think those will have low Karm weightage.

  16. March 5, 2012 at 6:16 pm
    The way I am seeing it is:-

    1. That at a point, people believe that it better of dead than alive.

    2. Till a few hundred years ago, Rajput warriors thought it was better to die in battlefield than to be taken as prisoner and sold as slaves in Central Asian markets.

    3. Same story – that Indian women thought it better to commit jauhar – rather be taken as slaves. Where the women saw diminished protection after a husband’s death, they committed sati.

    4. Senthil, a 2ndlook reader gave a great piece of info some time back. Shivajis’s mother was captured by slave traders – and she was ransomed by her brothers finally.

    5. Moksha, liberty is seen as one of the four purusharth – and probably, these Tibetan priests thought they would gain moksha – better off dead than alive.

    6. Then there is precedent effect. A similar incident in Vietnam set off the Vietnam War.

  17. March 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    These monks have denounced the world, so atleast there is nothing personal for them like Rajput warrior and rajput women (I think Jauhar was limited to Rajput women only. Will call it Sati for non Rajput women). The monks are in pain as they see the fellow tibetan in pain (thinking they idolized Bodhsattva). But how they are trying to alleviate this pain and suffering of fellow Tibetans by self immolation?

  18. March 5, 2012 at 6:44 pm
    Well … I hope, it is not for long!
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