Self-Immolation Post 4 – Davin Gooch

After researching more about the history and practices of self-immolation I decided to take a closer look at the events and proceedings of the Buddhist monks on June 11th, 1963. In an interview with Time Magazine, Malcolm Browne described the events leading up to the immolation, and the ceremony itself. He had decided to attempt to get on good terms with the Buddhist monks because he felt they would be the “movers and shakers in whatever turned up next.” This being said, they notified him and authorities that they would be doing something big. Most wrote this off as a bluff and went on with their lives. However, Malcolm believed it to be true. On June 11th, Browne showed up to the pagoda that the monks were beginning their proceedings. They essentially did a funeral march to the middle of Saigon. This was with full funeral chants and everything. Browne was able to take pictures through the entire thing. Upon getting to a main square, they stopped and circled up. A car had pulled up with two young monks and one older monk. The younger monks douse him in gasoline and leave. The older monk then strikes a match and drops it into his lap. He was immediately engulfed into flames. As we’ve discussed in class, Browne describes how Thich Quang Duc didn’t move an inch. He talks about how he wasn’t sure when the monk even died because there was no change until his body was consumed. During the immolation, the rest of the Buddhist monks were wailing and mourning the loss of their friend. Throughout this, other Buddhists were blocking fire trucks and authorities in order to make the self-immolation run smoothly. Pictures were taken of the entire thing, and available in the link provided.

This interview really illustrates what type of auto-cremation this was. It was an extensively planned and organized event. It wasn’t a rush of emotion thing such as many of the previous ones I’ve researched. This was calculating and for a specific purpose in order to achieve a political end. Knowing this, I can understand how it relates to today’s society with more clarity. This lessens the relativity to more spur-of-the-moment self-immolations such as many of the current ones in the Middle East. It also means, I’ll have to dig deeper to see if any can truly relate from today’s society.



One thought on “Self-Immolation Post 4 – Davin Gooch

  1. Davin,

    This is really compelling material. I think the planning and ritual aspects of the immolation tell a remarkable story about how these monks planned to protest the Diem regime. As you say, keep connecting this up with the more recent immolations. Were they spontaneous or as carefully planned?

    I have a book with some photos shot that day that I will scan and share with you this week. Good work.

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