A caravan of female and male Buddhist monastics and lay practitioners from Thailand concluded a 700-kilometer peace pilgrimage for peace, or pad yatra, at the Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre, Ladakh, in India’s mountainous far north on Sunday. The 150 pilgrims began their peace walk under the leadership of senior Thai monk Venerable Phrateppariyattisuthi Thongsukas in Dharamsala on 10 June, after receiving a blessing from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
“This padyatra is truly the worthy of highest appreciation and admiration,” Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena, president of the Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre (MIMC) in the city of Leh, shared with BDG. “Only those who have profound faith within themselves and great compassion for the world can take up such a challenging and strenuous journey through the high mountains of Himalayas.”
Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena, who founded the non-profit MIMC in Leh, the joint capital of Ladakh, in 1986, is an exemplar of socially engaged Buddhism in the region, lauching numerous humanitarian projects, events, and initiatives. His outreach work includes providing educational opportunities and refuge for underprivileged children, empowerment and literacy programs for women and other socially disadvantaged groups, healthcare for the sick and needy, and a care home for the aged and destitute. The MIMC’s expanding campus has evolved into a hub for a multitude of socio-cultural and community programs.
As well as serving as the president and spiritual director of the MIMC, Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena is also the founder of the Mahakaruna Foundation, the Save the Himalayas Foundation, and an adviser to the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB).
The peace-walkers had entered Ladakh on 12 July, and were greeted at Gya Meru Village near the border between the state of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh by Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena and a group of sangha members and local students, who extended warm welcome to the weary travelers. A traditional khata scarf was offered to each pilgrim as a symbol of honor and respect, while students from the MIMC offered a musical performance in tribute. Buddhist devotees from the village also attended in traditional costume with a generous offering of lunch.
“Today is a very auspicious day indeed,” said Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena. “On the same day that these peace-loving padyatris entered Ladakh through Manali-Leh, His Holiness Dalai Lama also arrived in Leh. It is indeed a great blessing for the people of Ladakh!”
Having completed the most difficult and challenging portion of their pilgrimage across the foothills of the Himalaya, representing 90 per cent of their spiritual journey, the pilgrims arrived at the MIMC campus on 16 July. Members of the local Buddhist community, including the Ladakh Buddhist Association, the Ladakh Gonpa Association, were gathered there to welcome their arrival.
“We hope that the great example of these sangha members from Thailand will motivate and inspire millions of people across the world to walk and work for peace and stability of this world that is our home,” said Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena.
In addition to integrating spiritual development and human welfare, Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena and the MIMC are also closely involved in peace-building and interfaith dialogue, environmental conservation, and in promoting Buddhist and Himalayan cultural heritage through national and international festivals. Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena has traveled extensively to participate international conferences, seminars, and workshops to promote spiritual and cultural values, environmental awareness, non-violence and world peace, and elevating the status of women in society—especially those from underprivileged communities.
In 2021, Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena led a team from the MIMC on a humanitarian relief mission to the border regions of Ladakh, offering material COVID-19 relief as well as much-needed emotional and spiritual counseling for local residents who were living in fear during the dual crises of the pandemic and the military-led border standoff between Indian and Chinese troops. The same team also led a peace campaign in the conflict zone, appealing to the two nations not to resort to violence, but to resolve the standoff through peaceful means.**
Mahabodhi International Meditation Center
Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre – MIMC (Facebook)
Bhikkhu Sanghasena (Facebook)
Save the Himalayas Foundation
International Network of Engaged Buddhists
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