Before the Vietnamese monk
Thich Quang Duc burned himself alive
in 1963, he meditated for several weeks and
then wrote very loving letters to his government,
his church, and his fellow monks and nuns
When you are motivated by love and
the willingness to help others attain
understanding, even self-immolation can be
a compassionate act. When Jesus allowed
Himself to be crucified, He was acting
in the same way, motivated by the desire
to wake people up, to restore understanding
and compassion, and to save people.
When you are motivated by anger
or discrimination, even if you act in
exactly the same way, you are doing
When you read Thich Quang Duc's
letters, you know very clearly that he
was not motivated by the wish to oppose
or destroy but by the desire to communicate.
When you are caught in a war in which the
great powers have huge weapons and complete
control of the mass media, you have to do
something extraordinary to make yourself heard.
Without access to radio, television,
or the press, you have to create new ways
to help the world understand the situation
you are in. Self-immolation can be
such a means.
If you do it out of love,
you act very much as Jesus did on the cross
and as Gandhi did in India. Gandhi fasted,
not with anger, but with compassion,
not only toward his countrymen but also
toward the British.
These great men all
knew that it is the truth that sets us free,
and they did everything they could
to make the truth known.
Buddhist and Christian practice
is the same - the truth about ourselves,
the truth about our brothers and sisters,
the truth about our situation.
This is the work of writers,
preachers, the media, and also
practicioners. Each day we practice
looking deeply into ourselves and into
the situation of our brothers and sisters.
It is the most serious work we can do.
From Living Buddha, Living Christ
by Thich Nhat Hanh