Ven. Prayudh Payutto Bestowed Somdej Rank in Thai Supreme Sangha Council
On 12 December, Ven. Prayudh Payutto was appointed to the rank of somdej phrarachakhana, one of the highest positions within the Supreme Sangha Council (SSC) of Thailand. Ven. Payutto was promoted along with 159 monks at an annual ceremony in the presence of Thailand’s new king, Maha Vajiralongkorn. Monks holding the somdej title belong to the country’s most senior monastic echelon. Numbering 21 members, the SSC is Thailand’s Buddhist governing body.
“The annual monk promotion is based on the old tradition that each monk is promoted based on their individual contribution to the society,” said Boonchert Kittithara, director of the secretariat of the SSC, adding that the decisions are made by a committee under the SSC. (Bangkok Post)
Born in 1939 as Prayudh Aryankura, Ven. Payutto is a well-known monk with a reputation as an intellectual and prolific writer. His book Buddha Dharma is widely acclaimed as a contemporary masterpiece of Buddhist teaching. He was awarded the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education in 1994.
According to the Bangkok Post, under the new somdej title, Ven. Payutto will be given the name of Buddhaghosa, in honor of the renowned 5th-century Indian Buddhist monk, a great commentator who is best known for the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification). “Phra Payutto deserves the name of Buddhaghosa because he is a prominent scholar,” said Sulak Sivaraksa, social commentator and Buddhist scholar. (Bangkok Post)
According to Mano Laohavanich, a Buddhist lecturer, Ven. Payutto’s promotion was unusual because he was the first abbot from a non-royal and rural temple to become a somdej since the introduction of the Sangha Act in 1902, which was signed into law to manage the national sangha.
“Phra Prayudh Payutto is unlikely to be a front-runner for the currently vacant Supreme Patriarch position because he just assumed the somdej title,” said Mano. (Bangkok Post)
“Phra Maha Prayudh Payutto was an outsider from the administration of the monks’ governing body, even though he is widely respected and revered for his discipline and intelligence,” said Phra Palad Wisarut Thirasaddho, a monk from Wat Thumkaocha-ang Temple in Kanchanaburi. (Bangkok Post)
Ven. Prayudh’s promotion was welcomed by many Buddhists, including Phra Palad. They believe Ven. Prayudh’s presence will help to boost the credibility of the SSC, which has been criticized for recently failing to tackle a series of monastic issues. “His promotion may help restore the image of the Sangha Council, which has been criticised for being inefficient in tackling the Phra Dhammajayo scandal,” said Phra Palad Wisarut, referring to a corruption scandal involving the abbot of the famous but controversial Wat Phra Dhammakaya organization. (Bangkok Post)
According to the Bangkok Post, Ven. Prayudh’s promotion fills the position left vacant by the late abbot of Wat Suthat, a royal temple of the first grade in Bangkok.
Under the SSC, there are eight somdej, excluding the supreme patriarch. The eight somdej monks include four monks from Thailand’s Dhammayut branch and the other four from the Mahanikaya branch. Ven. Payutto represents the Mahanikaya branch.
Ven. Prayudh is currently the abbot of Wat Nyanavesakavan in the province of Nakhon Pathom. He was also the abbot of Wat Phra Phiren in Bangkok from 1972 to 1976.
Buddhists welcome promotion of Phra Payutto (Bangkok Post)
Prayudh Payutto (Wikipedia)