Immolate – to sacrifice, to destroy by fire.

I had never heard the word used until I read a New York Times article on a Buddhist monk who did just that — killed himself with fire.

The article made me sad. Do people really believe that setting themselves on fire for a cause they believe in will bring change in government? Sacrificing oneself for a cause is admirable — but to the point of death? Perhaps the monk believed that his sacrifice would inspire other people to stand up in protest.

Immolation is different from martyrdom – with immolation a person kills himself, in martyrdom a person is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of a belief or principle. And yet, a person who immolates oneself has suffered — they just bring about their own demise in the end.

It makes me think of Christ who “laid down his life” for us so that we might live. The cross stands as a stark contrast between those who endure to the point of death and those who can’t endure anymore and cause their own death.

My sympathy to the family, friends and the community of the monks (this is the 2nd one). I know there’s always more to the story than what meets the eye.



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2 thoughts on “Immolate”

  1. Self-immolation has some successes, actually. Thích Quảng Đức is the best known case of a monk self-immolating and while it didn’t directly result in change, eventually it did.

    That said, more recently, self-immolations were the start of what became Arab Spring, the ongoing protests and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa. In fact, Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation was the start to Tunisia’s eventual revolution, which started the chain of events that led to the entire Arab world being turned upside down. (And hey, now Israel is having problems too.)

    So, to answer your question, yes, people believe that setting themselves on fire will result in governmental change. And sometimes they’re right!

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