The burning image of Thích Quảng Đức, a Vietnamese monk who self-immolated at a busy Saigon road intersection on June 11, 1963. Đức was protesting the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam's Roman Catholic government.
DHARAMSHALA, February 17: In a powerful message of solidarity, Vietnam’s Supreme Buddhist Patriarch, currently held under house arrest, expressed his support for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people’s struggle for freedom.
The Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, Patriarch of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, in a letter dated February 11 called the ongoing human rights violation in Tibet and the recent wave of self-immolations by Tibetans, a “challenge to all humanity”.
“I call upon world leaders to take urgent action, demand an end to the violence and press for an independent international investigation into these cases of self-immolation,” the activist monk who has received multiple international honours for championing democracy and human rights said.
The Buddhist Patriarch specifically quoted the last words of Sopa Tulku, a learned Buddhist Lama, who passed away after setting his body on fire on January 8. In a tape recording made prior to his immolation, Sopa Tulku had explained the reasons for his immolation and said: “I am giving away my body as an offering to chase away the darkness, to free all beings from suffering”.
The Most Venerable Thich Quang Do noted the shared vision of Buddhists in Vietnam and in Tibet that self-immolation is “indeed a tragic and extreme act, one that should be avoided at all costs”.
“But there are moments when this ultimate gesture, that of offering one’s body as a torch of Compassion to dissipate darkness and ignorance is the only possible recourse.”
Invoking one of the best-known cases of self-immolation, the 1963 burning of Thich Quang Duc in Saigon, the Buddhist Patriarch said that it was therefore with a “deep sense of communion and understanding” and also with “infinite pain and grief,” he learnt of the self-immolations inside Tibet and the “escalation of violence by China’s communist regime”.
“I wholly support the Tibetan people’s courageous struggle for survival, and share your aspirations for the right to freedom and life. Your suffering is our suffering. Your struggle is our struggle,” Patriarch Do, who has been held under various forms of detentions and house arrests for the last three decades said.
“The Buddhists of Vietnam stand beside you in this non-violent movement for religious freedom and human rights,” the letter said. “For without human rights, human beings can never fully and freely exist.”