90-year-old new Supreme Patriarch is much-loved figure | Bangkok Post: learning


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90-year-old new Supreme Patriarch is much-loved figure

The ornate murals of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha where the ceremony of the investiture of the new Supreme Patriarch was held. Inset: His Majesty King & the new Supreme Patriarch (Source: ThaiPBS & Royal Household Bureau)

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On Sunday, His Majesty the King presided over the investiture of the new Supreme Patriarch of Thailand on Sunday who has served as a model for living the life of a monk.


The 90-year-old new Supreme Patriarch is a much-loved figure

Nattaya Chetchotiros

Over the weekend the formal ceremony of investiture was held for the new Supreme Patriarch of Thailand Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong.

The new Supreme Patriarch through his committment to the ascetic life, staying away from the pleasures and comforts of the physical world, and serving as the abbot of Wat Rajabopit in Bangkok, promises to be a worthy successor to the late, highly-revered supreme patriarch, Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, who passed away on Oct 24, 2013.

His Majesty King & the new Supreme Patriarch (Source: Royal Household Bureau)

On Feb 7, the prime minister announced his appointment by His Majesty the King as the 20th Supreme Patriarch, to the joy of Buddhists nationwide (see here).

His Majesty the King then presided over the investiture ceremony of the new Supreme Patriarch at Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha at 5pm Sunday.

The ceremony, the first in many decades, was broadcast live on TV.


He is the third abbot of Wat Rajabopit to serve as the Supreme Patriarch.

Somdet Kromma Luang Jinavorn Sirivaddhana, was the 11th Supreme Patriarch who was made Supreme Patriarch between 1921 and 1922 and again from 1937 to 1938.

Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana, Vasana Vasano, was the 18th Supreme Patriarch who occupied the top position from 1973–1988.

Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong belongs to the Dhammayuttika Nikaya, one of the two major sects of Theravada Buddhism in Thailand. The other is the Maha Nikaya.

Traditionally, the Supreme Patriarch position alternates between the two sects.


Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong strictly follows the rules and regulations of the clergy set forth in the sacred scripture of the Patimokkha of the Vinaya Pitaka, the disciplinary code of conduct for Buddhist monks. This has won him recognition from monks of the two Buddhist sects.

Residents who live in the neighbourhood of Fueang Nakhon Road near Wat Rajabopit are said to hold the new top monk in the highest esteem and admiration.

They witness him take the early morning alms with the other monks bare-footed.

When invited to attend a religious function outside the temple, he catches a taxi rather than take a chauffeur driven luxury sedan as is the preference of some other senior monks.

Despite his high monastic ranking, Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong remains accessible and approachable to the people.

He always sees to it that the monks at the temple behave properly and are looked after well.

Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong is committed to a simple life.

The bell rung during the Supreme Patriarch investiture ceremony.


When he was a young monk, he often visited and sought advice from monks who were renowned meditation masters widely respected for their monasticism in the Northeast.

While in the Northeast, he also practised in the style of an ascetic monk in the so-called forest tradition, going on forest retreats, spending most of his time on meditation and eating only once a day.

Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong is also known to be a disciple of the late Phra Ajarn Fahn Ajaro, a highly-revered Vipassana meditation master and the former abbot of Wat Pa Udom Somphon in the northeastern province of Sakon Nakhon (see here).

Devotees in the courtyard outside the ubosot of Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)


Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong assumed a crucial role in spreading Buddhism overseas.

He was among the first group of phra dhammaduta - a delegation of Buddhist monks sent to spread Buddhist teachings overseas. Dhammaduta means "a messenger of Dhamma or an ambassador of Dhamma".

In 1973, the monk led a delegation of phra dhammaduta to Sydney, Australia, to blaze a path and lay the foundation for Theravada Buddhism to gain a foothold there.

Thanks to the monk's pioneering role, Buddhism has since gained a wider following and spread to other major cities such as Canberra, Melbourne and Darwin.

He has been noted and credited with spreading knowledge and teachings in Buddhism to Australia and elsewhere.

Monks deliver a mass prayer before the picture of the Supreme Patriarch at Wat Khienkhet in Pathum Thani. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)


The new Supreme Patriarch was born to Nab and Tarn Prasatthapong, a local business family, in Ratchaburi's Muang district on June 26, 1927.

He attended the Thewa Nukhro primary school in Lop Buri's Muang district before being ordained a Buddhist novice at a temple in Ratchaburi in 1937.

The young novice studied Buddhist teachings in Pali and graduated with a certificate in Pali studies at the fourth level in 1947.

He later moved to Wat Rajabopit where he was ordained a monk on May 9, 1948, with the late 18th supreme patriarch, Vasana Vasano, as his mentor.

There, the monk continued with his Pali studies and went on to receive a certificate at the sixth level in 1950.

The ninth level is the highest in Pali studies in Thailand.

The monk then studied at Maha Makut Buddhist University in Bangkok and graduated in religious studies in 1957 before obtaining a master's degree in history and archaeology from Banaras Hindu University in India in 1969.

His Holiness meets the devotees who arrived at Wat Rajabopit early Sunday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)


Phra Thepsumethi, the abbot of Wat Srisuriyawongsaram in Ratchaburi and the younger brother of Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong, said the new supreme patriarch is the second son of the family of nine children - four sons and five daughters.

Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong deeply values filial piety, according to his brother.

When Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong was a young monk staying at Wat Rajabopit in Bangkok, he would make the long journey in those days home to Ratchaburi every month to visit their parents, said Phra Thepsumethi, also the Ratchaburi chief monk.

Tuenjit Mingkhamlert, 70, a sister of Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong, said family and relatives are pleased and proud the monk has been appointed as the new supreme patriarch.

"After we heard the good news, his siblings and relatives are elated and feel very proud. This brings the greatest honour to the family and people of Ratchaburi," Ms Tuenjit said.

The Supreme Patriarch leaves the Temple of the Emerald Buddha for Wat Rajabophit after the investiture in a royal ceremony presided over by HM the King on Sunday.



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abbot (noun): the head monk at a temple - เจ้าอาวาส

accessible : easy to talk to and to get to know - ที่สนิทได้ง่าย

according to (prep): as stated or reported by somebody/something - ตามคำบอกเล่า, ตามรายงาน

admiration : a feeling of respect and liking for somebody/something - การชื่นชม, การยกย่องชมเชย

advice : an opinion or a suggestion about what somebody should do in a particular situation - คำแนะนำ

alms : food, money, and other items that are given to Buddhist monks; money, clothes and food that are given to poor people - ของทำบุญ ของบริจาค

alternate (verb): to happening or follow one after the other regularly สลับกัน - สลับกัน

announce : to tell people something officially, especially about a decision, plans, etc - ประกาศ, แจ้ง, แจ้งให้ทราบ

appointment : when someone is officially chosen for a job - การแต่งตั้ง

approachable : friendly and easy to talk to; easy to understand - ที่เข้าถึงได้ง่าย, ที่เป็นมิตร, ที่สนิทได้ง่าย

ascetic : not allowing yourself physical pleasures, especially for religious reasons; related to a simple and strict way of living - เกี่ยวกับการบำเพ็ญตนอย่างเคร่งครัด

assume : to officially start a new job or position - รับหน้าที่

attend : to go to an event, such as a meeting, a show, a sports competition, etc. - เข้าร่วม (ในการประชุม, งานต่าง)

bare-footed : without shoes on -

behave (verb): to do things in a way that people think is correct or polite - ประพฤติดี

blaze a path : start something new for the first time -

broadcast : a programme that can be seen or heard on television or radio - แพร่ภาพกระจายเสียง

ceremony (noun): a formal public event - งานพิธี

certificate : an official document that proves that something is true; such as finishing a course of study at a school - ประกาศนียบัตร; หนังสือรับรอง

chauffeur : a person whose job is to drive a car, especially for somebody rich or important - คนขับรถยนต์, โชเฟอร์

clergy : the priests or ministers of a religion - คณะสงฆ์, คณะพระคริสต์

comfort : a thing that makes your life easier or more comfortable - ความสะดวกสบาย

commitment : willing to give your time and energy to something that you believe in; a promise or firm decision to do something - การให้คำมั่นสัญญา, การให้คำมั่น, การมอบความไว้วางใจ

committed (verb): to have promised that you will definitely do something, keep to an agreement or arrangement, etc - ให้คำมั่น

credit : to believe or say that somebody/something is responsible for doing something, especially something good - ให้เกียรติ, ยกย่อง, ให้เครดิต

crucial (adj): extremely important because it effects the result of something - สำคัญยิ่ง

decades : periods of ten years - เป็นสิบๆปี

delegation : a group of people chosen or elected by a group to represent them - คณะผู้แทน, คณะบุคคลที่เป็นตัวแทนของคนกลุ่มใหญ่

disciple : someone who admires a famous person such as a political or religious leader and is influenced by them - ลูกศิษย์, สานุศิษย์

discipline : the practice of training people to obey rules and orders and punishing them if they do not; the controlled behaviour or situation that results from this training - ระเบียบวินัย  

esteemed : highly admired and respected - ซึ่งได้รับการยกย่อง, น่าเคารพ, น่านับถือ

filial piety : respecting your elders; the respect that sons and daughters show to their parents - ความกตัญญูกตเวที

foothold : a secure position from which you can improve your situation - ฐานที่มั่นคง

formal : official; following an agreed or official way of doing things - เป็นพิธี,ตามแบบ,ตามระเบียบ

former : of or in an earlier time; before the present time or in the past - อดีต, แต่ก่อน

foundation : an organisation that provides money for things such as medical research or for a charity - มูลนิธิ

function : a social event or official ceremony - งาน,พิธี

graduate : to get a degree from a university or college; to complete a course in education, especially at high school - ได้รับปริญญา,สำเร็จการศึกษา

investiture : a ceremony at which somebody formally receives an official title or special powers - พิธีมอบหมายอำนาจหรือตำแหน่งเป็นทางการ

invite : to ask somebody formally to go somewhere or do something - เชิญ

knowledge (noun): all the facts that people know about a subject (example: medical knowledge) - ความรู้

late : dead - ที่ล่วงลับไปแล้ว

live : happening now, i.e., not recorded earlier - ถ่ายทอดสด

looked after : taken care of - เฝ้าดู, มองตามหลัง, ดูแล

luxury : the best and most expensive of something - ที่หรูหรา 

major : very large or important - สำคัญมาก

master : a person who is very good at something - ปรมาจารย์

master's degree : a further university degree that you study for after a first degree - ระดับปริญญาโท

meditation : the practice of thinking deeply in silence, especially for religious reasons or in order to make your mind calm - การทำสมาธิ, วิปัสสนา

monastic (adjective): having to do with monks - เกี่ยวกับพระหรือที่อยู่ของพระ

nationwide : throughout a whole country - ทั่วทั้งประเทศ

neighbourhood (noun): a particular area of a city or town or other area - ละแวก, ย่าน

novice : someone who has entered a religious community but is not yet a full member - สามเณร

ordain : to officially make someone a monk or priest in a religious ceremony - บวช อุปสมบท

overseas : in another country - ต่างประเทศ

passed away (verb): died - จากไป (ตาย),เสียชีวิต, มรณภาพ

physical : connected with a person's body - เกี่ยวกับร่างกาย

pleasure : the activity of enjoying yourself, especially in contrast to working; a state of feeling or being happy or satisfied - ความสนุกสนาน, ความรื่นเริง

position : a job - ตำแหน่ง

practise : to do something regularly, often according to a custom, religion or set of rules, or as a habit - ทำตามหลักทางศาสนา

preference : something that you want or like most - ความต้องการ

preside (verb): to be in charge of a ceremony, official meeting, or other event - (ทรง) เป็นประธานในพิธี 

primary school : a school for young children usually between the ages of 5/6 and 11 - โรงเรียนประถมศึกษา

promise : a sign that somebody/something will be successful - ลักษณะหรือท่าทีที่ดี

properly : in a way that is correct and/or appropriate - อย่างเหมาะสม, อย่างถูกต้อง

province : one of many divisions of the government of a country into smaller parts - จังหวัด

ranking : the position of somebody/something on a scale that shows how good or important they are in relation to other similar people or things, especially in sport - อันดับ

recognition : public praise and reward for somebody's work or actions, the act of accepting that something exists, is true or is official - การยอมรับ

regulations : official rules that control the way things are done - ระเบียบ ข้อบังคับ

renowned (adj): famous and admired for a special quality, skill or achievement - ที่มีชื่อเสียง

resident : a person who lives in a particular area - ผู้ที่อาศัยในท้องที่

retreat (noun): a quiet, private place that you go to in order to get away from your usual life - สถานที่ที่สงบเงียบ, สถานที่ที่เป็นส่วนตัว

revere (verb): to respect and admire - แสดงความเคารพนับถือ

role : the position or purpose that someone or something has in a situation, organisation, society or relationship - บทบาท

sacred : considered to be holy - ศักดิ์สิทธิ์

scriptures : the holy writings of a religion - คัมภีร์

sect : a small group of people who belong to a particular religion but who have some beliefs or practices which separate them from the rest of the group - นิกาย (ทางศาสนา),กลุ่ม, พรรค

sedan : a closed car with a front and back seat for  passengers - รถยนต์ส่วนบุคคลสี่ประตู

senior : with a high rank or position - อาวุโส

so-called : used for saying that a particular word is usually used for referring to someone or something - ที่เป็นที่รู้กัน

spread : gradually affecting or covering a larger area - การแพร่กระจาย

successor : someone who has an important position after someone else - ผู้สืบทอดตำแหน่ง

Supreme Patriarch : the head of the Buddhist monks in Thailand - พระสังฆราช

tradition : a very old custom, belief, or story - ประเพณี, ขนบธรรมเนียม

traditionally : of a custom, a way of life or a way of doing things that has not changed for a long time - ตามธรรมเนียม, ประเพณี ดั้งเดิม ตามที่ปฏิบัติกันมา

value (verb): to think that somebody/something is important - ให้ความสำคัญ

worthy : deserving; having qualities that cause respect - สมควร, น่ายกย่อง


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