Bhante Buddhaghosa, the senior most Buddhist monk of Nepal and the Sangha Nayaka (head of the community of monks) of the country, passed away on September 24 at Sumangala Buddha Vihara, Lalitpur. He was 91. A simple monk versed in the scriptures and a practitioner of the path of peace as taught by the Buddha, Bhante Buddhaghosa earned the respect of his followers for spreading the message of peace by founding Pariyatti Shiksha (Buddhist education) and teaching it to Nepal’s youth in a scientific way.
Before Bhante Buddhaghosa started the Pariyatti Shiksha classes in 1963, the study of Buddhism was limited to monks and nuns who preached the Buddha’s teachings as sermons in the monasteries of Nepal. Pariyatti Shiksha attracted hundreds of youths and children to attend Saturday Dhamma schools opened in various Buddhist monasteries. Noted monks and nuns of today — Bhante Sumangala, Bhante Sudarshan, Bhante Jnanapunnika, Guruma Madhavi and Guruma Dhammavati — are his disciples.
Bhante Buddhaghosa was born to a respected Vajracharya family of Purnananda and Surjamaya of Kwabahal, Kathmandu in 1921. In 1940, he went to Kushinagar, India and became a novice monk as a disciple of Bhante Pajnananda (the first prelate of Nepal) and Bhante U Chandamuni of Myanmar. Bhante Buddhaghosa is the first from a Vajracharya family to gain ordination in the Theravada school of Buddhism. He then went to Myanmar for monastic studies. After studying Buddhism and meditation there for over six years, he received higher ordination into a full monk in Mandalay, Myanmar in 1943.
Returning to Nepal, Bhante Buddhaghosa accepted an invitation to dwell at Sumangala Buddha Vihara, the first vihara donated to the Theravada school of Buddhism in Patan by residents of the area. There he taught visitors what the Buddha had taught by analysing the essence of Buddhism and its practices, and comparing the teachings of the two schools of Theravada and Vajrayana. The history of the spread of Theravada Buddhism in Nepal notes valuable support from Vajrayana gurus and followers that built a stronger bridge between the two schools.
Bhante Buddhaghosa has also written 22 books pertaining to the Tipitaka, the Buddhist canon, and contributed articles and translations from Pali to Nepal Bhasa and Nepali. Bhante Buddhaghosa has been honoured for his teachings and special contributions to the Sixth Dhammasanghayana canonical council of monks which was held in Yangon, Myanmar from 1954-56. The then Burmese government honoured Bhante Buddhaghosa with the degree of “Aggamahasaddhammajotikadhaja (light of supreme teaching).
Bhante Buddhaghosa does not call himself “Bhante.” Bhante is a Pali word meaning “lord”, a very respectable term used to address the Buddha during his lifetime and his monk disciples. He calls himself “Bhikkhu”, meaning “simple seeker of peace”. Even after his promotion to Thero (senior) and Mahathero (senior most) status, he has not used these titles in his articles or books. But when he became the most senior monk of Nepal in 2006, he humbly accepted the very responsible office of the Sangha Nayaka (head of the community monks). Sangha Nayaka is translated as “Chief Prelate” in English. Bhante Buddhaghosa was formerly appointed the Chief Prelate of Nepal at a formal gathering attended by monks, nuns and lay disciples led by Subhash Nembang, chairman of the Constituent Assembly.
Bhante Buddhaghosa continued to teach monks, nuns and lay followers who came to him for advice until his final days. He was cremated at Sankhamola crematorium in Lalitpur amid thousands of followers and admirers that included monks, nuns, national leaders and diplomats from Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
Vajracharya is chair, Nepal Study Centre Japan, Tokyo
Posted on: 2011-11-06 08:21