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The incredible story of Thích Quảng Đức

The incredible story of Thích Quảng Đức
By Shivan Sivakumaran • Issue #53 • View online
Kia ora e hoa,
I want to talk about the story of Thích Quảng Đức. I got this from the book I’m reading, Everything is Fcked* by Mark Manson.
In this part of the book, Manson is talking about fragile values. Fragility is the intolerance to pain. Pain of starvation, of homelessness, and even boredom have been eliminated in the first world. Manson postulates this is why mental well-being is so poor in developed nations compared to developing nations. If we avoid pain, the more fragile we become.
Pain is both physical and mental.
For example, a child’s life is fragile. Their whole purpose is to avoid pain. Hence, they have a low tolerance for it.
An adolescent’s life is a little less fragile. They understand that there is a trade-off between pain and pleasure. For instance, the adolescence puts up with the pain of studying in order to get good grades and a fulfilling job. This value only starts faltering when the adolescent sees their outcome is not worth the pain. Studied so hard to not get the result — so the teacher must be at fault!
Finally, we have the adult. The adult accepts that pain without reward is necessary for life. Pain is what adults face when they stick to their values. To see their child succeed at all costs. To painful give up dreams and luxuries to provide for the family.
Manson postulates that the “pursuit of happiness” is the avoidance of pain. Avoiding pain, like avoiding the gym, makes us fragile and weak.
How does this link to Thích Quảng Đức? Here’s some background.
It’s the era of the Vietnam War. Tyrannical South Vietnamese President, Ngô Đình Diệm, born Roman Catholic, outlaws Buddhism. This is despite the majority of the population practising Buddhism.
Outside the Cambodian Embassy, on a busy street in Saigon, in front of many protestors and media, Thích Quảng Đức sits in a meditative pose. His colleague doses petrol all over him. His body and clothes were saturated with the hydrocarbon. A prayer is said, then the unthinkable. Thích Quảng Đức lights a match and sets himself aflame.
Self-immolation. Skin burning. Not to mention the pain. But Thích Quảng Đức displayed no pain. That’s to say did he experience any?
Buddha says the very act of living is suffering. To sit and meditate with one’s thoughts is not an easy thing to do. The pain of boredom. The pain of listening to one’s own thoughts. The witnesses on that day saw a man who had dedicated his life to accept pain.
The pain of fire, or losing his life was outweighed by the value of preserving Buddhism.
Why did this strike a chord with me?
Where I am now, I think I am trying to avoid pain. This in effect makes me more fragile. I yearn for happiness in my life, and does the yearning make me more fragile? Maybe we need to accept the pain that is around us?
What do you think?
Thanks for reading and all the best for the week ahead.
Ngā mihi nui,
Shivan :)

By Malcolm Browne for the Associated Press
By Malcolm Browne for the Associated Press
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Shivan Sivakumaran

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