His Holiness Somdet Phranyanasamvara Suvaddhana Mahathera The 19 th Supreme Patriach Of Thailand

H.H. Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara the Supreme Patriarch was in his early days known as Charern, his family name being Gajavatra. The first son of three children, he was a native of Kanchanaburi, a province bordering Burma, 130 km. to the west of Bangkok. He was born on the third of October 1916 (B.E.2456). His father’s name was Noi Gajavatra, his mother’s, Kimnoi. It is said that H.H. Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara became distinguished for his serenity of spirit and very high intelligence early on, showing signs of his future profession. Even as a child, his favorite playthings were centered around the monkhood. Sometimes he dressed himself like a monk and imitated monks activities; carrying an alms-bowl, reciting Pali verses after alms collecting, preaching a sermon and so on. His secular education began when he was 8 years old. Being admitted to an elementary school located in Wat Devasangharam in the city of Kanchanaburi near his home, he completed Prathom 5 (5th grade), equivalent to Mathayom 2 of the present national education curriculum. After completion of his elementary education, he was ordained a Samanera (novice) at Wat Devasangharam (Temple), in Kanchanaburi, at the age of fourteen, Phra Kru Adulsamanakit, the abbot of Wat Devasangaram, was his preceptor.When a year of novicehood had elapsed, he began his higher Buddhist education. At that time, Pali language instructors were not available in the province of Kanchanaburi, therefore, with his preceptor’s consent and help, he journeyed to Wat Saneha in Nakhon Pathom, a province 77 km. east of Kanchanaburi, to study Pali language. He spent 2 years there and to further his Pali and Dhamma study while still a Samanera, he moved to Wat Bovoranives, the most important center of Gana Thammayuttika’s activities and the royal residence of the three late Supreme Patriarchs. There in 1941 (B.E.2484) he completed his Pali language study and passed the 9th grade, the highest level of Pali examination as constituted by the Thai Sangha. In 1933 (B.E.2476) at the age of twenty, he returned home to Kanchanaburi and was ordained as a bhikkhu (monk) at his former monastery, Wat Devasangharam, a temple of the Mahanikaya sect and passed one rains retreat there. At the end of the rains retreat in the same year, he returned to Wat Bovoranives and was reordained as a monk belonging to the Thammayuttika sect. His reordination ceremony was presided over by Somdet Phra Sangharaj Chao Kromma Luang Vajirananavangsa, the thirteenth Supreme Patriarch and the fourth lord abbot of Wat Bovoranives. His Holiness’ exceptional ability moved him rapidly through the lines of ecclesiastical promotion. First the title of Phra Sobhonganaphorn (Rajagana) was bestowed upon him at the age of thirty four in 1947 (B.E.2490) and was later promoted to a higher rank of the same titular name in 1952 (B.E. 2495) at the age of thirty-nine. His third hierarchical promotion bearing the same titular name took place in 1955 (B.E. 2498) when he was forty-two years old. A year later, in 1956 (B.E. 2499), the fourth hierarchical promotion entitled Phra Dhammavarabhorn was given when he reached his forty-third year. This auspicious event coincided with the royal ordination of H.M. King Rama IX, Bhumiphol Adulyadej, present monarch of Thailand. On this occasion Phra Dhammavarabhorn was chosen to act as the guardian bhikkhu to His Majesty the King during the period of royal ordination. At the age of forty-eight, he was appointed to the position of Phra Sassanasophon which was next in rank only to the 7 top ecclesiastical administration leaders who held the title of Somdet. The special titular name of Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, which was not given to any bhikkhu for one hundred and fifty years since the reign of King Rama II, was again bestowed upon His Holiness in 1972 (B.E.2515) when he was fifty-nine years of age. In 1989 His Holiness was consecrated by Their Majesties the King and Queen as the Supreme Patriarch (Sangharaja) with the special titular name of H.H. Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, Somdet Phra Sangharaja Sakolmahasanghaparinayaka. In short, he rose rapidly through the ecclesiastical ranks. In 1956(B.E.2499) the present monarch, H.M. King Bhumiphol Adulyadej, chose to be ordained as a bhikkhu for a period of fifteen days from October 22,1956 to November 5, 1956, during which he resided in Wat Bovoranives. Kromma Luang Vajirananavangsa, then the Supreme Patriarch also became Upajjhaya-Royal Preceptor to His Majesty. His Holiness, when he held the title of Phra Sobhonganaphorn, was also chosen to be an adviser and guardian to the Royal Bhikkhu. This special and important occurrence added precious memories to His Holiness’life history. In 1978, a special assignment was entrusted to His Holiness when the Crown Prince chose to become a monk for fifteen day, residing in Wat Bovoranives, between November6-20, 1978. His Holiness became the Crown Prince Bhikkhu’s instructor and adviser in monastic codes of discipline and the Buddha’s teachings. Hierarchical and ecclesiastical responsibility in various departments from the bottom to the highest positions and ranks, were also assigned to Somdet and the burden increased proportionately to the hierarchical promotion. His Holiness has had a remarkable ecclesiastical administration record which can be summed up as follows: When the Buddhist Order was still under the Act on Buddhist Brotherhood 1941 in which the Gana Sangha was mounded on the civil system under the National Constitution, His Holiness was appointed acting Chief of Administration Department, Thammayuttika affairs only. In 1962, the 1941 Act was replaced by a new law entitled “Act on the Administration of the Buddhist Order of Sangha, Buddhist Era2505 (1962)”, again His Holiness became a member of Maha Thera Samagom (The Elders’ Council) on the very day that the new act became effective. He was also Chief Administrative Authority of the Bangkok-Samutprakan municipality dealing with Thammayuttika affairs only. As regards ecclesiastical education, His Holiness was Chairman of the Ecclesiastical Education Board of the Tai Sangha and also Chairman of Executive Committee of the Training Institute for Dhammaduta Bhikkhus Going Abroad. He was also Chairman of the Executive Board of Mahamakut Buddhist University, the first Buddhist University established in Thailand, under the Patronage of Thammayuttika Administration. After the passing away of Phra Brahmamuni (SuvacaMahatherwthera), the fifth abbot of Wat Bovoranives in 1961, His Holiness was appointed the sixth abbot of Wat Bovoranives, while holding the title of Phra Dhamma Varaphorn. The renovation and decoration of the aged and dilapidated buildings and residential quarters in the monastery took place immediately after his appointment. The one hundred year-old Uposatha hall (Main Assembly Hall), originally made of bricks and plaster, was replaced with beautiful white marble slabs over the outside columns and walls.The old doors and windows of the

Uposatha were replaced with new and beautifully carved teak ones. Other buildings throughout the monastery were renovated and remodeled. The construction of new buildings to accommodate and support new activities was undertaken. The compounds of the monastery were furnished with a variety of shrubs and trees. At this time, the whole of Wat Bovoranives was renovated, reshaped, and rebeautified. Concerning monks and novices in the monastery, His Holiness supports and encourages monastic education in every way. His Holiness continually selects instructors and tutors in Dhamma and Pali studies for new bhikkhu and novices, and scholarships for higher studies, both national and international, are given away every year. Regarding education outside Wat Bovoranives, more new schools and institutions, through his initiation and guidance, are constructed to meet the needs and requirements of the Thai people.

The construction of Wat Nyanasamvararam in Bang Lamung District near Pattaya, Chonburi province, is a most significant event. Its majestic beauty and beautiful buildings are known far and wide. The significance and importance of this monastery is proven by their Majesties royal patronage. Their Majesties the king and Queen graciously accepted it and placed it under the first grade (top grade) of Royal Monasteries under royal patronage. Moreover, His Holiness is called upon by people from all walks of life to assist in establishing public places such as schools, colleges, hospitals and so on. The bhikkhu annex and the new 24 story-out patient building in Chulalongkorn Hospital are the best examples of His Holiness’ patronage and generosity given to the public. His Holiness’ backing of education is rooted in his own inner love of learning, which he has had since his childhood. His unceasing energetic striving for knowledge and perseverance has resulted in excellent success in his study. His Holiness is not only well-versed in Sanskrit and Pali, which is the Buddhist language, but he also studied Chinese, French, German and English languages. Monastic responsibility and administrative duties, however, caused him to put aside further study but His Holiness did not give up his study of English. His Holiness is quite fluent in English who has led him to encourage extensive exchanges of religious dialogue and ideas in Wat Bovoranives. He himself used to give lectures on Dhamma in English to foreigners.

Apart from his secular and religious proficiency, His Holiness is keenly interested in meditation and concentration practices. When he was a young monk, he went to visit many forest-meditation centers up-country, staying there for two to three months a year devoting himself to spiritual practice. Later the burden of ecclesiastical administrative duties was so great, he was unable to spare his time to enter forest -meditation centers as before. His Holiness does not surrender to the situation. He creates his own forest-like seclusion in his own shelter in the city, because he is of the view that one should practice meditation and concentration wherever one dwells by creating forest-like seclusion in one’s mind. It can therefore be said that His Holiness is imbued with three unique qualifications; administrative and academic ability, meditation and concentration practice, His Holiness being able to balance all three. As regards administrati and academic ability,His Holiness closely follows the example of the Wat’s predecessor, namely the late Somdet PhraMaha Samana Chao krom Vajirananavarorasa who was a master of Buddhist studies and an ecclesiastical administration reformist. He wisely emulates the meditation and concentration practice of the late Somdet Phra Sangharaj Chao Kromma Luang Vajirananavangsa, his preceptor. With an academic and meditative nature present within him His Holiness’ teahings on various occasions attract Buddhists from all walks of life, because he can properly apply the Dhamma to the present world and its situation. His teachings or sermons, are therefore, very interesting, listeners derive benefit and advantage from his theoretical and practical explanations. His Holiness gives sermons in the Uponsatha (main hall) every fortnight and lectures on meditation and concentration. Wat Bovoranives, therefore, is known as an important meditation center in the Bangkok Metropolis and in Thailand. Apart from the sermons and meditation lessons mentioned above, His holiness has written many books on Dhamma, explaining the Buddha’s teachings and meditation practice, such as Principles of Buddhism, 45 Years of the Buddha, Solasa Panha (16 Questions), A Guide to Awareness, etc. All his books arouse interest among readers and are well-known. Regarding Buddhist propagation and dissemination abroad, His Holiness was once the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Training Institute for Dhammaduta Bhikkhus Going Abroad. In his tenure he has often been visited to foreign countries in Asia, Europe, America and Australia to observe religious practices and to meet people. Since His Holiness supports Dhammaduta bhikkhus in Indonesia and Australia, he has often visited there. During His Holiness’ tenure as abbot, Wat Bovoranives has become a center of foreign relations and is well-known among foreigners who are interested in Buddhist studies. Many foreigners from both eastern and western countries, therefore, come to Wat Bovoranives to study Buddhism. Some become ordained as bhikkhu or samaneras for a certain period. It is no exaggeration to say that His Holiness has reestablished Wat Bovoranives to its former magnificent and dynamic role of spreading the Dhamma, the same role as seen in the time of King Mongkut, the first abbot, and of Somdet Phra Maha Samana Chao krom Phraya Vajairananavarorasa, the third Abbot.

English language connect to http://home.earthlink.net/~watpa/menu1.htm

Thai language connect to http://home.earthlink.net/~watpa/thaimenu.htm

This page was last updated on 19/06/44

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