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Self Immolation and Buddhism by James Ben.docx

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Department
Religious Studies
Course
RELIGST 1B06
Professor
Mark Rowe
Semester
Fall

Description
Self Immolation and Buddhism by James A. Benn - Wrote the book “Burning for the Buddha” - As of today 123 Tibetans have set themselves on fire protesting Chinese law - Self immolation first case in 1998 - Thich Quang Duc, Vietnam 1963 o Protesting the policies of the south Vietnamese government which was catholic and were killing the Buddhists o Monks arrived at this intersection, got out of the car and drenched Thich Quang Duc (73, very respected, high-state, well educated) in gasoline o Sat in lotus position and burned himself o Malcolm Brown was alerted by Buddhists and was there to document it; are very popular images o Following the cremation, his heart remained unburned~ this appears to be a common relic  His heart is preserved in Vietnam today - “Auto Cremation”~ burning yourself to death o Did things like feeding themselves to insects, fed themselves to tigers, sliced their skin, etc. o Was heavily influenced by things found in Buddhist scriptures such as the Lotus Sutra - Why do Buddhists do this? o It is very common in scripture, and scripture is taken very seriously o The story of Prince Mustafa speaks of the Buddha in a former life offering his body to a starving tigress who was too weak to feed her cubs and he threw himself off a cliff; the tigress ate him, and with this strength he was able to feed his cubs  Story about compassion, charity, giving all that you have for the benefit of other beings  One of the most famous themes in Buddhist Art o In the Lotus Sutra there is a whole chapter about the bodhisattva medicine king (ch.23)  He is an advanced being who burns his body in homage to the being  Is not painful, is not suicide, he is giving his body as a gift  Presented as a higher act, respected  Very important because in his next life he becomes a Buddha  In a later chapter he burns his body, is instantly reborn and then burns his arm directing his actions to the stupid  Many acts were inspired by this text  The Bodhisattva does this many times during his long quest to become a Buddha  Does this to dramatize his way of giving up “sense of self” o People in pre-modern times had no other reasons not to believe this and take these actions seriously o Lotus Sutra  Shows people how and why to set fire to themselves
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