Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Sacred Heart

Thich Quang Duc The Burning Monk Malcolm Brown
I was confused with the title to set - whether it would be 'The Man on Fire' or 'The Sacred Heart'. Later I chose the second one as I realized that there are a lot of men on fire (metaphorically as well), but very few of them have a sacred heart.

It all started with religious conflicts between Buddhists, and Roman Catholics. Thich Quang Duc was a Vietnamese monk who was fighting against the regime of president Diem. The Kennedy-backed President Mr. Diem was elected from the minority of Catholics. But showed a blind-eye to the atrocity of the Catholics upon the Buddhists. The pains and agonies piled up and suddenly burst into the horrific burning of the monk.

On 10 June 1963, the bonze set fire on himself as the most horrible, and grisly protest ever possible. Witnesses said it took 10 minutes to burn, but the most amazing thing is he moved no muscles, nor uttered a single sound, nor cried out in pain. I believe he knew how to attain nirvana in his meditations. Or, I don't know what really happened. Nobody knows. Interestingly, his supreme sacrifice and protest succeeded in overthrowing Mr. Diem's regime. And the news spreaded like wind and produced deep impact in every corner of the world. The burning picture snapped by Malcolm Browne is still regarded as one of the most influential pictures in the world. More interestingly, after cremating his body what was found that, fire didn't touch the heart of the monk. It refrained from burning it.
The Burning Monk's picture - taken by Malcolm Brown

Now a lot of controversy might flood in. Atheists might jump in with the statistical probability theory that, the heart might have 0.000001% probability that it would fail to burn and it used that probability and evaded burning. Or the question might be aired as, if he would be so sacred, fire shouldn't touch him at all - why only the heart? Someone else might rush in with an electric saw and say, "Let me see if it can resist this saw." Religious people might start debating that self-immolation is kind of suicide and he is suppposed to be put in hell for this action. Some other psychotic might want to try with oxy-acetylene flame to see how come the heart doesn't burn with it. But whoever is saying whatever, I believe it proved what it meant to prove. May be like the theme of the famous TV serial The X-Files, I like to say, "I want to believe".

When one is fighting for his/her country, s/he bets on his/her life in the fight. S/he knows about the sacrifice and is also aware of the probability and possibility of death in the fight. Monk Duc's sacrifice is similar only that the probability of death was 100% in the way he fought for his countrymen/group.

The heart is placed in a glass chalise and is in the Xa Loi Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. If you ever visit Vietnam, don't miss a chance to see the holy heart in your eyes. Present world has become sufficiently complex with knowledge, lack of knowledge, self-esteem, obscure thoughts, fear of God, also denial of God, anger, hatred, wrath and whatever... whatever! But apart from these, there are times when we need to set these aside when there is really something holy in front of us. Then it is the time to feel the holiness of nature, of a sacred heart...

I want to live,
I want to give
I've been a miner
for a heart of gold.
It's these expressions
I never give
That keep me searching
for a heart of gold
And I'm getting old.
Keeps me searching
for a heart of gold. (- Neil Young)

Google, or wiki, or tube with "Thich Quang Duc" to see more.


1) Whatever Thich Quang Duc did is not an example to follow. It was the supreme sacrifice with a horrible effect - the sacrifice of life in the most painful gait. Life is so precious!

2) There is something called 'a sacred heart'.

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