“Why Does the Number of Tibetan Self-Immolators Vary?”

High Peaks has another really important translation of a Woeser post here. This time the topic is Thubten Nyandak Rinpoche and Ani Atse, two Tibetans who have caused a great deal of confusion for the self-immolation tallies over the last few months. Word belatedly broke of their deaths, which were initially attributed to a fire in their home. There have been suspicions that they actually committed self-immolations since then, however, and now Woeser makes a very convincing argument that they should be added to the lists:

On April 6 (the 15th day of the 2nd month according to the Tibetan calendar), their bodies went up in flames inside their wooden home in the Lhagang Township of Dartsedo, Kham, (today’s Kangding County, Garze Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province) while burning butter lamps and praying for all the martyrs who have self-immolated; their dead bodies were still in the position of a person praying. Thubten Nyandak Rinpoche, 45 years of age, was the Rinpoche of the Nyingma monastery, Dragkar monastery, once held the position of the Abbot of Dzogchen Monastery, and had until now been the Abbot of the Lhagang Tibetan Buddhist Institute. Ani Atse was 23 years old and was a nun at Serthar Tibetan Buddhist Institute.

Not long ago, on July 4, some photos of Thubten Nyandak Rinpoche and Ani Atse were put up on Sina Weibo by Tibetans; it was explained that after the two had self-immolated, the work team and military police stationed in the area tried to conceal the event by making up the story of an accident; simultaneously, they also threatened Tibetan monks and common people that if they revealed this case, their monastery, Buddhist institute and primary school would be closed down. As a result, the monastery management committee had to approve of this fabricated story to avoid such actions.

In June this year, a foreigner who is closely observing the Tibetan self-immolations went to visit Dragkar Monastery in Lhagang Township, Kangding County – the monastery of Thubten Nyandak Rinpoche. Even though the locals did not dare to tell him the truth, they secretly let the visitor film Rinpoche’s photos, which they had saved in their mobile phones and they also took him to the house of the two self-immolators, a simple and crude Tibetan-style wooden, three-room apartment situated on a slope; only a third of their house shows signs of a fire, anyone with a good sense can see that if there had really been an unexpected fire accident, everyone living inside the house would have been able to escape. From this it becomes obvious that Rinpoche and Ani Atse who burned to death inside, purposefully self-immolated.

On Twitter now there are a few reports of another new self-immolation, apparently committed by the grandfather of the current Gungthang Rinpoche, an important reincarnate lama at Labrang Monastery. More on that when it’s confirmed.

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Filed under Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

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