Thursday, October 6, 2011

Protest in silence

Thich Quang Duc was born in 1897. He was a Vietnamese Buddhist monk (also called a bonze) who burned himself to death on a busy street in Saigon on June 11, 1963. His act of sacrifice, which was repeated by other monks, was memorable. It was witnessed by David Halberstam. As his body burned, the monk remained motionless. He did not cry. He did not even make a sound.

Thich Quang Duc was protesting against the way the US-backed administration of South Vietnam was manipulating Buddhism to further its goals. After his death, his body was cremated according to Buddhist tradition. During the cremation, his heart remained intact. Thich was considered a saint and his heart was kept as a relic at the Reserve Bank of Vietnam.

This was the origin of the term ‘self-immolation’, which, contrary to what people think, is not about committing suicide but about sacrificing oneself –a form of political protest.

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