The revered Theravada monk Venerable Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn (better known as Ven. Somdet Chuang), abbot of the royal Thai monastery Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen, died peacefully on Thursday morning. He was 96 years old.
The Bangkok Post newspaper reported that the senior monk had been receiving kidney dialysis treatment for the past for five years, but had no other underlying medical conditions. He passed away early on Thursday at Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital, where he had been admitted for treatment since 26 March last year.
Ven. Somdet was born was born Chuang Sutprasert in 1925, during the reign of King Rama VI, in Bang Phli District of Samut Prakan Province neighboring Bangkok. He was the second of four children. He was ordained as a samanera or novice monk in 1939, at the age of 14, at Wat Sangkha Racha in Bangkok, and received full ordination in 1945 at Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen under Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro (1885–1959). As a monk, Ven. Somdet continued to study the Pali Canon and temple management. He became abbot of Wat Paknam in 1965.
Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen, in Bangkok’s Phasi Charoen District, on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, was established in 1610, during the Ayutthaya period. In contemporary times, the monastery has become known for its charitable works and for initiating a nationwide project to propagate the five precepts. The temple is popular among mae chi (Buddhist nuns), with a full-time population of some 200–400 monks, 80–150 novices, 160–300 mae chi, and 30–100 resident volunteers.
Although he seldom gave public interviews, Ven. Somdet was active in addressing social issues. In 2014, he called on the Thai government to offer more support for Buddhist monks living in the Thailand’s insurgency-torn southern provinces. He also urged Thai television broadcasters to promote the five precepts observed by lay Buddhists to TV audiences.
Ven. Somdet established the Luang Phor Sod Wat Pak Nam Foundation to promote the Buddhist teachings and the Dhammakaya meditation practice propagated by Luang Pu Sodh, a renowned meditation teacher. He also contributed to the compilation of a special volume of the Tipitaka texts in honor of Thailand’s former King Rama IX, the late Bhumibol Adulyadej.
In 2014, Ven. Somdet was appointed the acting Supreme Patriarch or Sangharaja of Thailand—the head of the kingdom’s monastic sangha. However, the position was subsequently given to Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana IX, abbot of Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram in 2017, following a controversial amendment of the appointment process by the Thai government.
In a message posted to social media, Ven. Dr. Dhammapiya, secretary general of the International Buddhist Confederation in New Delhi shared:
It is with profound sorrow that we have received the news about the demise of His Holiness Somdet Phramaharatchamangkhlachan (Chuang Varapunyo), the former Acting Supreme Patriarch of Thailand and the Chief Abbot of Wat Paknam, Bangkok, Thailand.
His Holiness was an Eminent Buddhist master who worked tirelessly for the uplift of the Buddha Sāsana not just in Thailand but also all over the world. With his passing away, the entire Buddhist World has lost a great Dhamma leader who was able to guide people on the path of Dhamma.
On behalf of all IBC members and myself, I wish to express our condolences and prayers to all the members of Wat Paknam and all the disciples and followers of the late Master.
May Most Venerable attain the supreme Bliss of Nibbāna!
Aniccā vata saṅkhārā
Uppāda vaya dhamminō
Tesaṃ vūpa samō sukhō
Revered Somdet Chuang of Wat Pak Nam dies, aged 96 (Bangkok Post)
Revered abbot Somdet Chuang dies (Bangkok Post)
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