Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Saigon - Thich Guang Duc Monument

Date of visit: 30th December 2014

The cyclo driver allowed us to have our photo shoot session at where the monument to remember Thic Guang Duc is located after seeing how hard I focused my lenses to snap a sharper image from a far distance. He even tried to explain what the place are about. Knowing that he failed to do so, he took me to read what was written on the monument stone and the big banner about the plight of Thich Guang Duc and his followers.

Beautiful grandmother and her granddaughter didn't know that I wanted to snap the foundation stone behind. In the end, I decided having them both with the monument stone added even more beautiful background

Thich Quang Duc, born in 1897, was a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who burned himself to death at a busy Saigon road intersection on 11 June 1963 (where the monument was located). He was protesting the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government led by the then dictator, Ngo Dinh Diem. Photographs of his self-immolation were circulated widely across the world and brought attention to the policies of the Diem government. Journalist Malcolm Browne's photograph of Quang Duc during his self-immolation has won the 1963 World Press Photo of the Year, a Pulitzer Prize. John F. Kennedy said in reference to a photograph of Duc on fire, "No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one”.

Later on, Quang Duc's act increased international pressure on Diem leading him to announce reforms with the intention of mollifying the Buddhists. However, the promised reforms were not implemented, it led the dispute to deteriorate further. With protests continuing, the ARVN Special Forces loyal to Diem's brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, launched nationwide raids on Buddhist pagodas, seizing Quang Duc's heart and causing deaths and widespread damage. Several Buddhist monks followed Quang Duc's example, also immolating themselves. In the end, an Army coup toppled Diem, who was assassinated on 2 November 1963, 5 months after Thich Guang Duc heroic moves.

Despite the shock of the Western public, the practice of Vietnamese monks self-immolating was not unprecedented. Instances of self-immolations in Vietnam had been recorded for centuries, usually carried out to honor Gautama Buddha. The most recently recorded case had been in North Vietnam in 1950. The French colonial authorities had tried to eradicate the practice after their conquest of Vietnam in the 19th, but had not been totally successful. They did manage to prevent one monk from setting fire to himself in Hue in the 1920s, but he managed to starve himself to death instead. During the 1920s and 1930s, Saigon newspapers reported multiple instances of self-immolations by monks in a matter-of-fact style. The practice had also been seen in the Chinese city of Harbin in 1948 when a monk seated down in the lotus position on a pile of sawdust and soybean oil and set fire to himself in protest against the treatment of Buddhism by the communists of Mao Zedong. His heart remained intact, as did that of Quang Duc.

For the record, Islam prohibited this kind of act, as what beliefs and written in the Quran as well asin the other Holy Book, Torah and Bible.

The body was re-cremated during the funeral, but Quang Duc's heart remained intact and did not burn. It was considered to be holy and placed in a glass chalice at Xa Loi Pagoda. The intact heart relic is regarded as a symbol of compassion. Duc has subsequently been revered by Vietnamese Buddhists as a bodhisattva. During the ARVN Special Forces of Nhu’s attacked to all Buddhist pagodas across Vietnam, they have intended to confiscate Quang Duc's ashes, but two monks had escaped with the urn, jumping over the back fence and finding safety at the U.S. Operations Mission next door. However the special police managed to confiscate Quang Duc’s charred heart.
Remarks: A bodhisattva is an ordinary person who takes up a course in his or her life that moves in the direction of Buddha. Actually, anyone who directs their attention, their life, to practicing the way of life of a buddha is a bodhisattva.

The location chosen for the self-immolation, in front of the Cambodian embassy, raised questions as to whether it was coincidence or a symbolic choice. Trueheart and embassy official Charles Flowerree felt that the location was selected to show solidarity with the Cambodian government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk. South Vietnam and Cambodia had strained relations. Prince Norodom Sihanouk in his speech had openly accused Diem of mistreating Vietnamese and ethnic minority Khmer Buddhists.

Source of info: Wikipedia
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