16.Sonam Wangyal

Name: Sonam Wangyal (popularly called Sopa Rinpoche)

Age: 40s

Sex: Male

Profession: Monk at Dungkyob Monastery, Darlag County, Golog

Date of Self-immolation: 8 January 2012

Location: Darlag County, Golog, Amdo, Northeastern Tibet

Current whereabouts/wellbeing: Deceased, 8 January

On 8 January 2012 Sopa Rinpoche — a well-respected religious figure in Darlag County — drank kerosene and set himself on fire in front of Darlag County police SonamWangyalstation. Eyewitnesses reported that he shouted slogans calling for Tibet’s freedom and the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.Sopa Rinpoche passed away the same day. His cremation service attracted thousands of followers from around the Golog region of Eastern Tibet. And elsewhere in Golog, hundreds of Tibetans took out a day-long peaceful protest carrying photos of the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa in Amdo Golog Pema district from 9 am until 5 in the evening. The demonstrators were raising slogans for the return of the Dalai Lama and freedom in Tibet. Chinese security personnel had reportedly allowed the demonstration to continue while taking photos and videos of the demonstrators. In a message he recorded before his self-immolation protest, Sopa Rinpoche stated: “to all the six million tibetans — inCluDinG those livinG in exile — i am Grateful to pawo thupten nGoDup, anDall other tibetan heroes, who have saCrifiCeD their lives for tibet anD for the reunifiCation of the tibetan people. thouGh i am in my forties, until now i have not haD the CouraGe liKe them. but i have trieD my best to teaCh all traDitional fielDs of KnowleDGe to others, inCluDinG buDDhism.this is the 21so many tibetan heroes have DieD. i am saCrifiCinG my boDy both to stanD in soliDarity with them in flesh anD blooD, anD to seeK repentanCe throuGh this hiGhest tantriC honour of offerinG one’s boDy. this is not to seeK personal fame or Glory.i am GivinG away my boDy as an offerinG of liGht to Chase away the DarKness, to free all beinGs from sufferinG, anD to leaD them – eaCh of whom has been our mother in the past anD yet has been leD by iGnoranCe to Commit immoral aCts – to the amitabha, the buDDha of infinite liGht. my offerinG of liGht is for all livinG beinGs, even as insiGnifiCant as liCe anD nits, to Dispel their pain anD to GuiDe them to the state of 21stCentury, anD this is the year in whiCh enliGhtenment. i offer this saCrifiCe as a toKen of lonGlife offerinG to our root Guru, his holiness the Dalai lama, anD all other spiritual teaChers anD lamas.i am taKinG this aCtion neither for myself nor to fulfill a personal Desire nor to earn reCoGnition. i am saCrifiCinG my boDy with firm ConviCtion anD a pure heart just as the buDDha bravely Gave his boDy to a hunGry tiGress to stop her from eatinG her Cubs. all the tibetan heroes too have saCrifiCeD their lives with similar prinCiples. but in praCtiCal terms, their lives may have enDeD with some sort of anGer. therefore, to GuiDe their souls on the path to enliGhtenment, i offer prayers that may leaD all of them to buDDhahooD.may all spiritual teaChers anD lamas insiDe tibet anDin exile live lonG. espeCially, i pray that his holiness the Dalai lama will return to tibet anD remain as tibet’s temporal anD spiritual leaDer.”

[lama soepa then reCites the lonG-life prayer for the Dalai lama.]

(Translated from Tibetan by Bhuchung D. Sonam)

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