The Austin that drove a Buddhist Monk to his Death

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Is there nothing more macabre than googling Buddhist Immolation. Granted it’s not always the best way to start the day, and Christ knows what I’ll be spammed with now, but I wanted to know more about the Austin Westminster, the car that transported Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk Thích Quang Duc to Saigon in June of 1963. Duc was chagrined with South Vietnamese Diem regime’s pro-catholic policies and discriminatory Buddhist laws, so he sat in the middle of the road, encircled by about 300 other Buddhist monks, had his mate poor petrol over him, said a couple of words and then struck a match. Very sad. This car is now fully restored and now resides along the Perfume River at the Thien Mu pagoda in Hue. If you want to read up on this car then you should check out this article on Hooniverse by Robby DeGraff.


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A couple of things I found interesting. Duc was driven from Hue to then Saigon which is about a 20 hour road trip. Imagine how torturous that drive must have been for everyone involved, knowing what was coming.


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I also read in the late A.A Gill’s book, Previous Convictions, that there is a petrol station directly opposite the intersection where Duc immolated. That has now been torn down and rightly, a memorial commemorating Duc has been erected. Although Duc wasn’t the first Monk to perform self-immolation, it did introduce the act to the western world and sparked numerous similar acts between 1963 and 1971, most of which occurred in Asia and the United States in conjunction with protests opposing the Vietnam War. Researchers counted almost 100 self-immolations covered by the New York Times and The Times.


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