Tell A Tale in 500 Words

A Peaceful Protest By Connor Wray

“Before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngo-Dinh-Diem to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally. I call the venerables, reverends, members of the sangha and the lay Buddhists to organise in solidarity to make sacrifices to protect Buddhism.”

Thich Quang Duc carefully folded and sealed the single paragraph, which formed the last letter he would send. As he placed it upon his desk a sense of finality gripped him, as he prepared for the day ahead.

Aged 65, Duc had no disputes with dying. He was content with how his life had panned out, and as he relocated to the kitchen for his last meal, he smiled silently to himself. There was no grandeur about the day in Duc’s mind; his humble plate of bread and cheese echoed these thoughts. He was still eating when there was a quiet knock at the door. The countdown had started; Duc had mere hours until oblivion. Today was a day of protest. Today, Duc would end his life in the hope of ending the struggle against the Diem government.

The two visitors were invited inside, and they prayed together before leaving in silence. Upon reaching Duc’s car, an old Austin Westminster, the visitors – friends of Duc’s, checked that everything was packed and ready, before sitting in the back. Duc didn’t get straight into the car; instead he walked the short distance to the end of his garden and looked out over the valley. The view was the reason he’d chosen the house. He tried to capture the image in his mind as a single tear meandered its way down his wrinkled cheek.

He returned to the car and turned the key. The engine rattled, as it always did. Familiar grey smoke issued from the exhaust. The journey was made in silence, slowly, toward the Cambodian embassy in Saigon. At one junction he stopped to allow two small children to cross the road, they were brother and sister, and as Duc contemplated their life, and how much they had ahead, he again began to cry. Still no words were spoken.

As the procession reached its destination, Duc brought the car to a stop. There were a handful of reporters present - that would suffice. Duc got out of the car and walked calmly to the middle of the road, where his friends had placed a cushion. Sitting in the lotus position, he removed his old wooden prayer beads from his pocket. Rolling these around his palm Duc closed his eyes. Picturing the view from his garden, he cleared his mind of how cold the petrol was, and of the pain he was about to experience. Duc raised the solitary match he’d brought. With a tear wetting a line down his cheek, and words he had chosen years before, “Nam Mô A Di Đà Phật,” he struck it.

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