Saturday, April 29, 2006

Hue's Last Buddhist

Hue, Vietnam, March 26, 2006

Our motorcycle tour takes us to a site on the river with many Tombs and walking areas.

As we arrive, our guide tells us of an obscure relic that many people miss. He says it's tucked away in a back corner. You will see it if you are meant to, he says.
I am captivated by the small forest at the back of this property. I find myself enjoying the aesthetics of this magical place.
The flowers around one tomb seem surreal to me as I continue to explore and search for the relic, hidden away in this place.
Finally I see it in a small garage with a sign in front of it and it makes the hair go up on the back of my neck. This sign tells of 'the venerable Thieh Quang Duc, who on June 11th, 1963 drove his car to downtown Saigon. He got out of his car and doused himself with fuel. Then he sat in lotus position and lit himself on fire. The North Vietnamese had declared Buddhism illegal so this humble monk decided to make the ultimate sacrifice to protest this evil action.
This is the photo of his last moments. It is as if I was there on that day because I had a dream many years ago that I have never forgotten. It was a waking dream. I was a monk in India in the time of Mahatma Gandhi. I sat on a busy street like this one, and doused myself with kerosene in protest to the political situation in India in 1946. As I was burning, I felt no pain but it suddenly occurred to me: 'now I get to find out where I go when I die.' Suddenly I woke up here in this life.

I stood for a few minutes in front of this car and cried. Sometimes I feel I travel thousands of kilometers just for moments like this, to meet kindred spirits and pay homage to the heroes who quietly change the World.

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