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Ven. Achaan Maha Ghosananda

"Our journey for peace begins today
and every day.
Each step is a prayer,
each step is a meditation,
each step will build a bridge."

Reports of the "disappearance"
of Ven. Maha Ghosananda
are false

Updated OCTOBER 4:

I am relieved to report that the Coalition for Peace and Reconciliation (CPR) in Cambodia has confirmed that the story of Ven. Maha Ghosananda's "disappearance"  in Cambodia is false.  He is SAFE -- and currently on retreat in Austria.

On Friday, October 2nd, the Coalition for Peace and Reconciliation stated the following:

We now know where he is at.  Though we don't wish to bother him now at his retreat we have confimed that he is in Austria and a member of our sister organization has spoken with him.  His plans are to finish the retreat then go straight to Oslo for a peace conference, and be back in Phnom Penh a week after that.

This news we have sent off to the papers, though they have been reluctant to print this news after printing so many rumors. You are welcome to send this good news off to all your friends.

The Ven. Maha Ghosananda (popularly known as "Cambodia's Gandhi") is a peace activist, winner of the Alternative Peace Prize, nominee for the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, Buddhist monk, and the Supreme Patriarch of Buddhism in Cambodia.

"The fact that Maha Ghosananda had taken Christ's teaching, `Love thine enemy',
further than any Christian I had ever heard of, put me in awe." -- Alan Channer

A profile of Ven. Maha Ghosananda

1.  From The Gethsemani Encounter by Donald W. Mitchell and James Wiseman, O.S.B.:

On the eve of our dialogue, Buddhists and Christians gathered together in front of the monastery wall to plant a tree of friendship. When His Holiness the Dalai Lama joined us, he went directly to greet an elderly Cambodian monk, the Ven. Ghosananda, who is the Supreme Patriarch of Cambodian Buddhism. As he approached the Ven. Ghosananda, His Holiness bent over so low that his hands, pressed together in a gesture of reverence, seemed to brush along the tops of the grass. When they met and embraced, the smiles on their faces were radiant with joy and loving kindness.

Looking at the Ven. Ghosananda, one has the impression that not only his smile, but his whole body is radiant. It seems as if his skin has been washed so clean that it shines. One can only wonder what this man has seen, what he has experienced of the terrible killing fields in his home country. One thing however is obvious: whatever his experience has been, it has brought forth extraordinary growth in the spiritual life."

2.  An excerpt from Ven. Ghosananda's teaching at Gethsemani
     (on the day dedicated to spirituality and society):

I do not question that loving one's oppressors -- Cambodians loving the Khmer Rouge -- may be the most difficult attitude to achieve. But it is the law of the universe that that retaliation, hatred, and revenge only continue the cycle and never stop it. Reconciliation does not mean that we surrender rights and conditions, but rather that we use love in all of our negotiations. It means that we see ourselves as the opponent -- for what is the opponent but a being in ignorance, and we ourselves are also ignorant of many things...

What can Buddhism do to heal the wounds of the world? What did the Buddha teach that we can use to heal and elevate the human condition? One of the Buddha's most courageous acts was to walk onto a battlefield to stop a conflict. He did not sit in his temple waiting for the oppressors to approach him. He walked right onto the battlefield to stop the conflict...

We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of contemporary human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to the Buddha, Christ or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefield will then become our temples. We have so much work to do.

2. The following is taken from a lengthier biography on the 1998 Niwano Prize homepage:

Maha Ghosananda, 69, is a Supreme Patriarch of Cambodian Buddhism and a well-known Buddhist leader worldwide. In particular, he has played a major role in various nonviolent activities to promote reconciliation among the Cambodian people following the nation's civil strife, offering support to refugees and encouraging the rebuilding of the nation. His warm personality and great compassion have won him accolades as "Cambodia's Gandhi," "a Living Treasure," and "the Living Truth."

Cambodia achieved independence from French colonial rule in 1953. In 1970, a coup took place after which the monarchy was replaced by a pro-American democratic government, but there was no end to the internal strife, and in 1976, Pol Pot established Democratic Kampuchea. That government pursued extreme communist policies, moving people from urban centers to the countryside for forced labor. Those other than farmers were severely persecuted, and it is said that more than two million Cambodians, including the country's leading intellectuals, died of illness or starvation or were executed during the three years and eight months of the Pol Pot regime. Cambodian Buddhism was especially hard hit, with the country's 3,600 temples totally shut down, and many members of what had once been a 60,000-strong Buddhist clergy persecuted and slain. Only 3,000 names were listed again as members of the priesthood after the Pol Pot regime collapsed in 1979.

Maha Ghosananda is one of those few remaining Buddhist clergy. When civil war broke out in Cambodia he was in southern Thailand engaged in the discipline of meditation and escaped the worst of the turmoil. Regrettably, however, most of his family in Cambodia was slain by the Pol Pot forces. Confronted by the tragedy that was engulfing his country, Maha Ghosananda threw himself with vigor into the nonviolent peace movement, doing all he could for his fellow Cambodians. He established temples in all of the Cambodian refugee camps on the Cambodia-Thailand border, including Sakeo and Khao-ee-dang, and traveled from camp to camp to preach. The sight of Ghosananda in his saffron robes stirred the Cambodian refugees to tears. Their weeping is said to have echoed throughout the refugee camps.

After the signing of the 1991 peace accord, Maha Ghosananda led the first of the Dhammayietra Walks for Peace and Reconciliation in emulation of Shakyamuni, who led his disciples to places of strife and warfare while practicing meditation and preaching detachment from suffering and the way to peace. When a procession led by Maha Ghosananda passed through villages, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people are said to have followed it. Through these Walks, Maha Ghosananda became a bridge of peace, bringing together people who had been separated by war, and wiped away their fears with his call for peace. He has continued to promote nonviolent means, not only for peace, but also for solutions to a wide range of peace-threatening issues such as deforestation and the use of land mines.

Maha Ghosananda has had a profound influence upon movements for peace around the globe through his advisory role in such NGOs as the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF), and the Ponleu Khmer, the citizens' advisory council to the Cambodian Constitutional Assembly. He has been a leader in inter-religious communication, as evidenced by his attendance at the sixth World Conference on Religion and Peace held in Italy in 1994.

Maha Ghosananda offers his unlimited compassion to all people, whether friend or foe. In both spirit and deed, he has shown the way to a fundamental resolution of regional and ethnic strife around the world.

Relevant links

A Prayer

The suffering of Cambodia has been deep.
From this suffering comes Great Compassion.
Great Compassion makes a Peaceful Heart.
A Peaceful Heart makes a Peaceful Person.
A Peaceful Person makes a Peaceful Family.
A Peaceful Family makes a Peaceful Community.
A Peaceful Community makes a Peaceful Nation.
And a Peaceful Nation makes a Peaceful World.
May all beings live in Happiness and Peace.

-- Ven. Maha Ghosananda

Julia Milton<>
Last updated October 4, 1998.