Self-immolation as Trans-cultural Buddhist Practice

James A. Benn – Keynote speech of Global Eurasia Workshop I

Thich Quang Duc’s self-immolation during the Buddhist crisis in South Vietnam, 1963; source: Wikimedia Commons

Self-immolation in Chinese Buddhism has a long and well-documented history. From written historical records we know of several hundred Buddhist monks, nuns and laypeople in China who offered up their own bodies for a variety of reasons (usually not in protest against the state) from the late fourth century to the present. The majority of them burned themselves to death (“auto-cremation”), often in public as a dramatically-staged spectacle. Reading the numerous accounts and discussions of self-immolation in Chinese sources it is clear that many Buddhist authors did not condemn self-immolation as an aberrant or deviant practice but understood it as bodily path to awakening. But, as they struggled to make sense of self-immolation, Chinese Buddhists confronted an apparent contradiction—self-immolation was extolled and explicitly endorsed in some fundamental Buddhist scriptures, but the monastic regulations (vinaya) prohibited monks from killing or harming themselves. What was the relationship between scripture and practice? And how did such an extreme bodily practice move across Buddhist cultures, from India to China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and (much later) to Tibet?



2. Dezember 2019
Beginn: 1700 Uhr



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