Lam Van Tuc was born in 1897 in a small village in central Vietnam. He entered the Buddhist monastic order at the age of seven, under roshi Hoang Tham, and was ordained as a bhikkhu at the age of twenty, taking the name Thích Quảng Đức. In the early 1930s he began teaching and helping rebuild temples. By 1943 he had helped rebuild almost twenty temples, and moved to the Quan The Am temple in Saigon. He was named Director of Rituals of the United Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation in 1953, an office he held until his death ten years later.
Most Venerable Thích Quảng Đức was doused in equal parts gasoline and diesel fuel because gasoline burned too quickly to completely destroy a human body, and diesel did not burn hot enough. With mala in hand, he sat on a square cushion and burned as his fellow monks chanted a mourning sutra. He did not utter a sound as flames four meters tall engulfed his body; he did not move until his charred dead body fell over backwards.
There are a few very moving photos taken by Malcolm Browne available, but they do not convey anything near what onlookers saw and felt and smelled that day. "In the air was the smell of burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think..." (David Halberstam, reporter for the New York Times, 1965).
Almost all of Most Ven. Đức's body was burned to ashes the only part of his body that remained was his heart. Wishing to give Most Ven. Đức a proper Buddhist funeral, bhikkhus tried to cremate the remaining organ twice but his heart would not burn. It was placed in the Reserve Bank of Vietnam, and is considered a sacred relic, an example of the Holy Heart.
Thích Quảng Đức's death is not considered suicide among Buddhist scholars, notably Jan Yiin-Hua who in 1965 published an article examining the self-immolation in the context of traditional Chinese Buddhist beliefs and doctrines.
What the monks said in the letters they left before burning themselves aimed only at alarming, at moving the hearts of the oppressors, and at calling the attention of the world to the suffering endured then by the Vietnamese. To burn oneself by fire is to prove that what one is saying is of the utmost importance.... The Vietnamese monk, by burning himself, says with all his strength and determination that he can endure the greatest of sufferings to protect his people.... To express will by burning oneself, therefore, is not to commit an act of destruction but to perform an act of construction, that is, to suffer and to die for the sake of one’s people. This is not suicide.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Thích Quảng Đức is considered a bodhisattva among many sects of Buddhism. His actions are, in my opinion, awe-inspiring.
Quotes from http://www.uwec.edu/greider/BMRB/culture/student.work/hicksr/.