Fifty years ago today, in what has been described as a revolution ignited by a single match, a 66-year-old Buddhist monk named Thich Quang Duc sat down calmly in the lotus position in a busy intersection in Saigon and lit himself on fire. The first and most famous public self-immolation was to protest the US-backed South Vietnamese Ngo Dinh Diệm's Catholic Government’s repression of Buddhists. Ultimately, this one act helped lead to the toppling of Diệm, and all that followed. Video of the event is horrifying, but in the words of one observer, sometimes - think of our wars- we need to be horrified.
Thich Quang Duc’s last words in a letter:
“Before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngo Dinh Diem to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally. I call the venerables, reverends, members of the Sangha and the lay Buddhists to organise in solidarity to make sacrifices to protect Buddhism.”