Sayadaw Ashin Nanda bowed his head. A steady stream of vehicles passed by. Drivers stared at the monk. Fingering his prayer beads, he asked for answers.

The noise of the city faded into the background. He tried to recall what the scene would have looked like fifty years ago.


Thích Quảng Đức, the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, walked into the middle of the intersection on Phan Đình Phùng Boulevard.

He sat cross-legged. Five gallons of petrol were poured over him. He prayed, holding his beads. Then he struck a match.

The flames enveloped him, burning his flesh. He did not move, he did not scream.

The crowd watched. Placards decried the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. Some screamed, some prayed, some watched silently.

Press photographers took pictures.


Ashin Nanda opened his eyes. He thought of Myanmar, his homeland. He saw the flaming villages of the Rohingya Muslims in his country, set alight by Buddhist militants. He saw the fleeing women and children. He saw the bodies of the slain.

No-one answered his prayers.

Written as part of Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. The challenge is to write a flash fiction story in around 150 words, based on the weekly photo prompt. Thanks as always to the challenge host Priceless Joy. For more information visit HERE.

To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit HERE.

More information about the self-immolation protest of Thích Quảng Đức in Saigon in 1963 here: Wikipedia.

More information on the current plight of the Rohingya Muslims at the hands of the Myanmar military and police here: Wikipedia.

Sayadaw – a Burmese/Myanmar Buddhist senior monk or abbot.
Thích – surname taken by all Vietnamese monks.


37 responses to “THE BURNING MONK”

    • Absolutely James. Ironically in a world with so many cameras and the internet now, photos like these that have such an impact seem rarer. The Burning Monk was featured in the recent TV documentary The Vietnam War – well worth a watch if you can get it – which is why it was on my mind when this prompt came up.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think with the glut of information available to us in the digital age, nothing is able to stand out as iconic anymore. There’s just too much stuff to go through.

        Liked by 1 person

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