Setting Fire to the Sacred: Esoteric Suicide and its Relation to Tibetan Self-Immolation

  • Mark David Eskridge Graduate Student at George Mason University in the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies Program (MAIS) with a concentration in Religion, Culture, and Values.
Keywords: self-immolation, Tibet, Tibetan, Buddhism, suicide, esoteric

Abstract

In protest to China's ongoing human rights violations in Tibet, a wave of self-immolations has rocked the Tibetan Plateau since 2009. Such acts, performed mostly by Buddhist monks and nuns, have, for the first time since the 1960's, raised questions on the spiritual validity of suicide in the Buddhist religion. The following article will explore sanctioned practices of suicide common to Tibetan Buddhism and examine their legitimacy as spiritual acts. The article consists of three major sections relevant to the problem of Tibetan self-immolation. The first addresses the importance of human life as an indispensable factor in comprehending the basis from which esoteric suicide operates. The second addresses the path of the bodhisattva and the appropriate conditions required to offer one's body in pursuit of the perfection of generosity. And the third addresses the esoteric practice of transference of consciousness as an act of suicide and its relationship with divine perception and tantric morality. Finally, the philosophical points discussed in each section will be linked with the problem of Tibetan self-immolation to offer the reader a unique understanding of the philosophical gravity and embedded meaning in the performance of such acts.

Author Biography

Mark David Eskridge, Graduate Student at George Mason University in the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies Program (MAIS) with a concentration in Religion, Culture, and Values.
I am a former Tibetan Buddhist monk persuing a graduate degree in religion at George Mason University.
Published
2018-05-08