Richard Gere praises monks who set themselves on fire

During a TV interview broadcast Tuesday night on English news channel NDTV 24×7, longtime Buddhist Richard Gere spoke up in praise of the Buddhist monks who have set fire to themselves to demand freedom in Tibet. He says, “It all really comes down to motivation. I mean none of these self-immolators have harmed anybody else. It is totally a self-sacrifice for their people, for others. So on that level it’s a pure act. But I think it’s more important to look into the causes of why people would feel they would need to do these kind of things?” He went on to criticize China and its occupation of Tibet, saying, “No one wants to live in hypocrisy, and China is the largest hypocrisy in the world right now…. China is a very difficult place to live if you are a free thinker, if you are an artist, if you are a religious person, but especially in Tibet. I think they have so wrongly gauged the Tibetan people, thinking they could subvert the deep, deep, deep religious beliefs and make them true Communists. It’s never going to happen.”

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Comments & Discussion

  1. Jon • January 12, 2012 @ 12:10 AM

    It’s about time China got out of Tibet and left those people alone. Kudos to Gere for speaking up and telling it like it is.

  2. anonymous2 • January 12, 2012 @ 1:33 AM

    Praising a person burning themselves is dumb.China has over a billion people they won’t care if Tibetan monks burns themselves.

  3. GrimInProspect • January 12, 2012 @ 10:35 AM

    @ anonymous2

    Why is it every website has to have an asshole? Praising a person for lighting themselves on fire in a bar on a dare is dumb. Praising someone for believeing in something so completely that they would give up their life for is in no way dumb.

  4. janice • January 12, 2012 @ 10:42 AM

    I agree with Richard Gere China has to come out of the dark ages and let the monks live.There is honor in setting yourself on fire for something you believe in no matter how many western people are repulsed by it the same people who are repulsed by the fact that war is an honorable way to die for your country and spend billions of dollars on arms race when education and unemployment should be more of a priority.

  5. Andy Hawkins • January 12, 2012 @ 11:25 AM

    “No one wants to live in hypocrisy” from a citizen of the US, a country that has invaded many countries and abuses personal freedom and human rights on a daily basis. How ironic is that?

  6. Mojoel • January 12, 2012 @ 12:05 PM

    @Andy Hawkins
    I think you’re missing the point.
    Is Richard Gere responsible for invading all of those countries? Of course not. What do you think his opinion of those acts would be?
    Should he set himself on fire in protest of those acts? Is that what you’re saying? I don’t think he’s condoning setting yourself on fire for anything. He’s just explaining why a Tibetan Buddhist monk would do it.

  7. pete johnstone • January 12, 2012 @ 12:05 PM

    What’s wrong Richard? Are you looking for attention? Maybe you should light yourself on fire to show your support!!! How about it? Wooooooooo!!!! Three cheers for Richard!!!!!!

  8. Nichole • January 12, 2012 @ 12:15 PM

    I understand exactly what he is saying. I don’t think Richard Gere is saying he would burn himself, but the fact that they are so firm in their beliefs that they would be willing to burn themselves is a pure act. I admire their staunch beliefs and that they are willing to show the world that they will not stand for any more oppression, at the same time they are not setting off suicide bombs or harming anyone other than themselves. It is like admiring someone who loves tattoos. I would never get one myself, but it doesn’t hurt anyone excpet the one getting the tattoo. Way to go for showing your support Mr. Gere. You are a truly inspiring man.

  9. Roger • January 12, 2012 @ 1:25 PM

    Someone setting themselves on fire will do about as much good as Richard Gere’s babbling about it.
    They should try actually doing something that would let their death make a difference. And for all the responses regarding the awareness they will generate by this “pure self sacrifice” how much has it achieved for them up to now? Right, nothing. A Rage Against The Machine album cover and a few old newsreel highlights. Keep up the good work.

  10. mike • January 12, 2012 @ 1:29 PM

    my mind is made up there are more important things going on in the world so if he burns like they say burn baby burn. go for it i dare you

  11. Lady Mills • January 12, 2012 @ 1:53 PM

    China is about control, ignorance and self gratifying hate. If anything China should stick to themselves and stop trying to make people follow something they are not a part of.

  12. Joshua • January 12, 2012 @ 2:05 PM

    The world is f*cked up. China isnt the only problem. Even the US is f*cked…

  13. Terry • January 12, 2012 @ 2:21 PM

    China wants to take over the world and make it totally communist and controlled by China. They are a dangerous people never to be trusted and far too much land is being sold to them in our western countries.

  14. Carlie • January 12, 2012 @ 2:41 PM

    To add to Terry’s comment — and we buy too many of their products, which makes them richer so they can buy our land and eventually take over and turn everyone into communists.

  15. sushispike • January 12, 2012 @ 2:59 PM

    I can only dream of being half as humble as these monks.

    peace & prayers

  16. Caligari • January 12, 2012 @ 3:15 PM

    I do understand the motivation, but I also feel for the poor sod with the gruesome and unenviable task of cleaning that up.

  17. C-Dub • January 12, 2012 @ 3:56 PM

    I think the burning Monk comment DID actually raise awareness. It’s horrible that someone had to do that. It doesn’t matter like someone said that it might make an album cover and new for a day, but really, it’s clearly still being brought up, so it DOES make an impression and can be referenced to prove a point. Tibetans do not need to be under a communist thumb. They want to be their own people and sadly it’s too difficult to revolt (see American Revoltution, since people cited USA), because China has a billion people and massive army..tibet not so much.
    So they can only do so much to draw attention and then resort to asking the world to take notice and help. If they fought and died for their freedom, who wants to be dead? Can’t enjoy freedom if you’re dead. One or two people dying in an extreme manner with the hopes that their family might be free one day might let us know it’s serious.

  18. Den • January 12, 2012 @ 5:25 PM

    If any person looked up the Buddha religion and understood what it stands for no body on here would be judging believe me.

    The fact is they live LOVE, they think LOVE. They think positively ALL the time, they live GOODNESS, they INSPIRE to be BETTER PEOPLE. There is no room for negativity. For instance, a man comes in freaking out, swearing in front of children, getting everybody angry. Most people would think…..what an freak, idoit, whatever negative word you would use. Munks would not judge. they always have a positive spin on EVERYTHING!!!! They would think…..I wonder what this poor child has experienced for him to act that way. Then they would send him healing.

    Anyone who really understands this would know that what they did DOES HAVE MEANING! More meaning than you can possibly imagine!!

    What is it going to take for us to live in peace? NOW the question is what is PEACE to you. We can’t change if we don’t know what we want. Peace just isn’t ending war. To me peace is when everyone chooses to do the RIGHT thing (and that my friends, only comes from the heart…not because it’s their job). Be good !! PERIOD!

  19. My opinion • January 12, 2012 @ 8:35 PM

    These monks acts have only brought temporary awareness which doesn’t always bring change. In this case it won’t change China’s way of thinking. Instead it may insight others, especially those with borderline psychic tendencies, to act in this manner toward themselves or on others in order to draw attention. I cant understand why any true religion would accept this type of sacrifice as a pure act.

  20. shirley kerr • January 12, 2012 @ 8:37 PM

    the monks are standing by their beliefs!

  21. Andy Hawkins • January 12, 2012 @ 10:07 PM

    @ Mojoel I think you might be missing the point.

    Richard Gere is a citizen of a country who’s recent actions regarding human rights are on a par with the one he is criticizing but rather than say anything about it he chooses to condemn China. That’s the point, its the old pot/kettle/black dilemma.

    China has no more reason to be in Tibet than the US have to be in any number of the countries it currently occupies, I fail to see how someone can condemn one but not the other.

  22. LuvMyVamps! • January 13, 2012 @ 12:07 AM

    Kudos to Gere for speaking up and telling it like it is!!!

  23. gbh999 • January 13, 2012 @ 6:14 AM

    I suppose that it would be alright for anybody else to set themselves on fire… If that is what they want to do. Just as long as it’s not you.
    If they manage to live, they will wish they didn’t. The pain would be unbearable.
    Where is the benefit? Do you really think that China will change it’s mind, and relent? Just because somebody lost it, and went up in a puff of smoke?
    Not likely!!

  24. Fay • January 13, 2012 @ 9:25 AM

    The thing those that are gone will not hear the praise, It’s those that will be a copy cat and also harm others in the event. Then again the Bible say in the last days there will Signs and Wonders and the Bible must fulfill. For me I love life I would rather walk away than to get the guts to set myself on fire, they probably thought someone would stop them but no one want to endanger themselves so the just say “Burn Baby Burn” It’s very sad. The World is coming to an end and then they will have to endure another fire, HELL.

  25. Samsquanch • January 13, 2012 @ 1:50 PM

    I’m surprised that most posters actually understand Richard Gere’s point about self sacrifice for a cause.

    But what most China bashers don’t understand is that China is using its cheap labour and industrial base to manufacture Western products. Western companies go to China, strike a deal with some factory there, and next thing you know is that you are buying something Made In China. You can’t blame China for that.

    But I do agree that China should get out of Tibet.

  26. Heather • January 13, 2012 @ 2:56 PM

    I appreciate the comments made from all of you and the different perspectives that you bring to the table. I feel there are some areas in many of your comments that I would like to define and distinguish some subtle definitions in order to enhance the conversation and debate.

    I am not a Buddhist and don’t know much about the underlying principles of Buddhism. Richard Gere, being a devote Buddhist, would likely know whether or not these monks setting themselves on fire is a pure act based on Buddhist principles.

    A Christian perspective would not necessarily see the monks’ act of death as pure. Suicide is considered a sin. Life is a gift from God. When we choose, freely, to take our own lives, we are basically saying to God that we do not want the gift life. Under that definition of an act of death, I do not see the monks as making a pure act.

    In contrast, when one is at war (not in all circumstances, mind you), one is is not choosing to die (accept in the case of a suicide bomber, etc.). One is freely choosing to face death at the hands of another (not oneself). From a Christian perspective, this would be seen as a Christ like act – laying one’s life down for the sake of another as is spoken about in the Gospels or in the writings of St. Paul. WWII, would certainly be a world wide example of this. Police officers and Firefighters would be a great example of this. A mother or father not eating and giving food to their children when food is scarce, would be another great example of this.

    We have to remember to keep things in context. The idea that dying in a war as being glorious is often taken out of context and taken too far to justify our own actions.

    There is hypocrisy everywhere, from the US government to China to many other nation states, religions, institutions and so on. We must always remember that it is most often individuals, not whole institutions, not whole countries who are hypocrites. It is the few individuals who choose to live contrary to what they profess, who are hypocrites.

    I think it is important to recognize these subtle differences in definitions of suicide and subtle definitions in perspectives (from Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Easter and Western Culture) as we comment and debate the events of the world today.

    Dear Fay, regarding the end of the world, you sound as if you may come from a Christian background. That being so, you know from the scriptures, Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36, that no one knows the day or the hour of Jesus’ second coming or of the end of the world. Jesus does speak of signs by which we will recognize that the time is near, true.

    If you read all of Matthew chapter 24, you will notice (in the NRSV translation) that he speaks about “the end of the age,” versus the end of the world. There will be an end to the world as we know it, but before that happens, we will have an end of the age.

    Many of you will hear this year about something big happening the year of 2012. Specifically, people are speaking about December 21st, 2012. Since the 1960’s or 1970’s there has been talk about the end of the time of Pisces (the age of the fish – often seen as a symbol of Christ or Christianity) and a coming into the age of Aquarius (the age of water). 2012 marks this particular change. Does it mean that the world will soon come to an end?

    There are many religious perspectives out there on this. We are pointed to the end of the Mayan calendar. I think we all need to educate ourselves on what this really is. From what I have heard (not read), the Mayans believed that every 4000 years there would be significant changes in the earth and cosmos. I have also heard that the calendar simply ends and begins again at the beginning, or that the calendar simply ends and they just didn’t write any more calendar because they died out. I need to learn more about this for sure

    There are certainly a number of Christian perspectives on the end of the world. Harold Camping, American radio host predicted the end of the world to be last October 21st, 2011. However, we are still here, unless there is simply some artificial intelligence that is writing these comments in cyberspace at this moment in time.

    Dr. David Jeremiah is a prominent Christian TV, Radio and Book personality that has written a number of books and spoken about biblical prophecies of the end.

    I have my own view on the end of the world. Even more than that, I have my view on the end of the age, when the world will simply change, politically, geopolitically and geographically. There will be a time of great turmoil and persecution of Christianity. We will be asked to make defining choices in our lives. It will be a very difficult time, more than any other time the world has seen. This will be followed by an era of peace where we will know the bounty of the earth again, we will experience little disease (if any), the environment will go back to normal and there will be little or no criminal activity.

    There are various books written (The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life by Father Charles Arminjon, The Final Confrontation by Mark Mallett) and various scripture references to the coming of the end of the age and so on. There are a few different things that must take place before the end of the age happens. But, do distinguish, that this is not the end of the world.

    It’s important that we educate ourselves on these different perspectives, definitions and pray about these things. We do need to be ready, watchful and wait. We must use critical thinking when trying to understand religion, government and the world before we make decisions, act or comment.

    And do note, that by definition, only God knows what was in the hearts of those munks who lighted themselves on fire. We only see the surface of their actions. We can say that the act they committed was suicide and that, yes, it is a sin (within the Christian understanding). We cannot judge them, but leave them to be judged by God. Does this mean we should condone what these monks did? Does this mean that we should not teach or encourage others to respect their own lives?

    As Christians, we are called to respect life and encourage others to live and to choose life. Jesus was not the political leader and fighter that the Jews were waiting for. We are called to love, to pray, to have a relationship with God through Jesus. We are not called to wage war or Lord it over others or judge others.

    As we take a look at the world and the things happening today, we often point the finger and say, you are wrong, you are a hypocrite, you are this and you are that. What is more important, is that we look at our own lives and see where we can be honest and truly live according to our principles and way of life we have chosen. We must hold ourselves accountable and ask others to hold us accountable for our actions. It is only then that we can act justly in the world and call others to do the same, whether they be our own institutions and governments or those of another country.

    We must understand how our actions effect others, whether we do something directly to another person or not. The actions of those monks effect us, regardless of whether they killed only themselves. We are talking about them therefore their actions are effecting us on an intellectual level. If we understand that the world is also a spiritual entity (as perhaps Buddhists and certainly Christians do), these monks actions effect us on a spiritual level.

    Christians believe that we are all part of the “Body of Christ.” So if my brother in Tibet kills himself by setting himself on fire, he is killing a part of the Body of Christ. Therefore, in light of that understanding, I do not agree with Richard Gere in saying that these monks only hurt themselves. However, I do think he is right in pointing out the reasons why an individual or individuals would come to a place where they would decide to take this action. We must stand up and we are called to stand up for others so that they never think or feel that this is their only option or that it should even be an option at all.

    Where, in our every day lives here in North America, can we take a stand so that the taking of a life, whether it be ones own or another’s, can be taken off the list of choices and alternatives that others look to. What changes in my life (at work and home and in the world) can I make that will help others to choose life? How can I effect my government, in a positive way, to make changes in policy that will protect individuals here in my country and those in other countries?

    I realize I have gone on for quite a bit. I do not mean this to be a rant at all. I do hope that my comments shed some light on how we all might view this incident in the world with a different perspective, with some critical thinking and with a few definitions to give foundation to our understanding and conversation.

    In Christ,


  27. Nina • January 13, 2012 @ 6:07 PM

    I don’t understand people who encourage other people to burn themselves, if they need a psychologist or psychiatrist, go get one. Moreover, talking about buddhist and China, China was never an uniform ethnicity. By Chinese, you include 56 ethnicities including the Tibetans, so when someone say there are over 1 billion of Chinese people, you mean there are a billion of people with Chinese nationality, not the Han ethnicity.
    Second, the different ethnicities lived together for thousands off years in relative peaceful way with different kind and forms of government. I don’t understand people who would like to incitate hatred between two different ethnicities just because they are different. I think what happened in Eastern europe is enough to tell us to be tolerant to other people’s traditions and culture. That being said, I’m not denying the fact that there is discrimination in China between different ethnicities, but it’s important to consider the extent of it. It’s like you can’t deny racism and discrimination in the US and everywhere else in the world. However, it’s important to see the context and how it is translated as examples.

    I think one important thing people forgets is Buddhist is THE biggest and most important/popular religion in China right now. A moderate Tibetain buddhist is regarded and treated like a “God” by its million of followers in the mainland China. If you are talking about mistreatment towards a Buddhist monk, you should first check their bank account……

  28. Bug • January 15, 2012 @ 1:06 PM

    You all miss the point. Why bother talking about it.

  29. Jo-Anne • January 15, 2012 @ 3:09 PM

    Gere wasn’t “condoning” it? I beg to differ…

  30. David • January 24, 2012 @ 3:01 PM

    Burning oneself to death inprotest will not work, the China government would love if every monk did the same, less monks = less resistance to the China policies, they need a more effective international strategy, something that will have a direct impact on government revenues, trade, etc that will be what the government will notice, not one more dead monk.

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