Thich Quang Duc
Thich Quang Duc

Thich Quang Duc, born in 1897, aged 73, was a Vietnamese Mahāyāna Buddhist monk who burned himself to death in a busy street in Saigon on June 11, 1963.

Thích Quảng Đức did so in protest against the persecutions suffered by Buddhists by the government of Ngô Đình Diệm. The photographs of the event went around the world and served to question the policies adopted by the Diệm regime.
Towards 9 o’clock on the afternoon of June 10, 1963, Thich Duc Nghiep, spokesman for the activist movement Xa Loi Pagodaun, telephoned the journalist Malcolm Browne to warn him that an important event would occur at the Saigon Center the following day, recommending him I strongly wanted him to be present. Following his instructions, the following day Browne and other journalists arrived at 7:45 at the Tu Nghiem pagoda, 15 minutes before the agreed time. After attending the religious services of the Buddhist community, at 9 in the morning, about 350 monks went in procession to the Xa Loi pagoda, slowly preceded by a gray Austin.

In an agreed place, the car stopped and 3 monks got off. While Thích Quảng Đức sat on a pillow in the middle of the street, another monk sprayed him with gasoline before the silent gaze of the crowd. He then recited the words “Nam Mô A Di Đà Phật” (“tribute to Buddha Amitābha”), then lit a match and threw it into the body, which began to be consumed in silence. At no time were laments or cries of the fiery figure heard.

The monk in a supernatural state did not move or complain while burning, which contrasted with the prayers and sobs of the monks who accompanied him and who were on their knees. After ten minutes of burning, the monk’s burned body fell and was wrapped by other monks in a saffron-colored robe and transferred to a nearby pagoda.

Monument to the Fiery Monk
Monument to the Fiery Monk

The last words of Thích Quảng Đức were recorded in a letter he wrote before committing suicide:

“Before closing my eyes and turning to the figure of Buddha, I respectfully beg President Ngô Đình Diệm to have compassion for the inhabitants of the nation and to develop a religious equality that maintains the strength of the fatherland forever. , reverends, sangha members and Buddhist preachers to organize and make sacrifices with the aim of protecting Buddhism. “


The act of Thích Quảng Đức increased the international pressure against Diệm, for which he announced various reforms with the intention of appeasing the Buddhists. However, these measures were not implemented at all, generating a deterioration in the dispute. The protests continued, and the Special Forces of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (VNRV), loyal to Diệm’s brother, Ngô Ðình Nhu, attacked several Buddhist pagodas causing numerous deaths. Several monks followed the example of Thích Quảng Đức and burned to death. Finally, a coup d’etat overthrew and killed Diệm in November. The immolation was seen as a turning point in the Vietnamese crisis, which led to a change in the regime. The repeated practice of this sacrifice by Buddhist monks (also called bonzos) led to the act was known as “burn to the bonze” or “commit suicide in a bonze.”

Although the body was cremated during the funeral, supposedly the heart of Thích Quảng Đức remained intact.3 4 21 The organ was considered sacred and kept in a glass chalice in Xa Loi’s pagoda. The relic was seen as a symbol of compassion and Thích Quảng Đức came to be revered by Vietnamese Buddhists as a bodhisattva (Bồ Tát), receiving the name of Bồ Tát Thích Quảng Đức.7

Seeing a Buddhist monk what comes to mind is a feeling of peace and tranquility, anything less catch fire. However, the self-immolation of Buddhist monks is a frequent occurrence in their history, formerly burned as an offering to the wise Buddha.

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