Buddhists welcome promotion of Phra Payutto Outsider is highly regarded for his contribution to Buddhism

The Bangkok Post, 11 Dec 2016

Bangkok, Thailand -- His Majesty the King presided over an annual ceremony on Monday to promote senior Buddhist monks in the cleric ranking system.

<< Phra Prayudh Payutto has been promoted.

Among the 159 promoted monks, Venerable Bhikkhu P A Payutto received the title Somdej Phraracha Khana, the second-highest position after Supreme Patriarch in the ecclesiastical nine-tiered hierarchy.

Speaking to his followers after the appointment on the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej's birthday, Bhikkhu P A Payutto told his followers to feel grateful to the late King Rama IX for his contribution to Buddhism.

He also said humbly that much of the work to promote Buddhism at the temple came from his Buddhist followers as he has not done much in recent years due to his poor health. He told people to treat him the same way they always had.

Widely called Phra Prayudh Payutto, his appointment was unexpected. "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 who formed a network of progressive monks on Facebook.

Yet his promotion was welcomed by Buddhists who believe his presence will help boost the credibility of the Sangha Supreme Council, which has been criticised for failing to tackle a series of monastic issues.

Phra Palad Wisarut said: "His promotion may help restore the image of the Sangha Council, which has been criticised for being inefficient in tackling the Phra Dhammajayo scandal."

With the title of Somdej Phraracha Khana, Phra Prayudh Payutto will automatically be a member of 21-member Sangha Supreme Council, the Buddhist governing body.

Phra Payutto, a prolific and authoritative writer and eloquent preacher, has written articles criticising the Dhammakaya teaching for deviating from real Buddhist principles. However, his supporters said the 77-year-old is unlikely to reform the Sangha administration.
"Phra Prayudh Payutto's health is not good and he does not bother with the title. I think he would rather continue writings and preaching," said Phra Palad Wisarut.

Phra Prayudh Payutto fills the position left vacant by the passing of the late abbot of Wat Suthat, who was also a Somdej. One Somdej position is available for promotion this year.

"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 Sangha Supreme Council. The decision is based on a committee under the Sangha Supreme Council.

Under the ecclesiastical organisation, there are eight Somdej, excluding the Supreme Patriarch who is traditionally selected from these eight Somdej monks based on seniority or the duration that the monks have assumed the position of Somdej.

The eight Somdej monks consist of four monks from the Dhammayut branch and the other four from the Mahanikaya branch of Buddhist teaching. Phra Payutto represents the Mahanikaya branch.

Mano Laohavanich, a former monk and Buddhist lecturer, said: "Phra Prayudh Payutto is unlikely to be a front-runner for the currently vacant Supreme Patriarch position because he just assumed the Somdej title."

At present, Somdej Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn of Wat Paknam, also known as Somdej Chuang, has the longest seniority in terms of the Somdej title. However, he was said to have ties with Phra Dhammajayo and to be involved in the possession of luxury cars.

Under the new Somdej title, Phra Prayudh Payutto will be named Buddhaghosa after the respected 5th-century Indian Buddhist monk whose best-known work is Visuddhimagga "Path of Purification".
"Phra Payutto deserves the name of Buddhaghosa because he is a prominent scholar," said Sulak Sivaraksa, social commentator and Buddhist scholar, who publicly campaigned and supported the promotion of Phra Prayudh Payutto.

Mr Sulak said that his promotion would mark an auspicious moment and boost the morale of Buddhists. "He is highly disciplined. He lives with austerity and is not attached to materials. He is an eminent monk scholar."

Born in 1939 as Prayudh Aryankura, Phra Payutto has written many articles. His seminal single-volume treatise on Theravada Buddhism entitled Buddhadhamma is considered a crown gem of Buddhist teaching. Among accolades he received is the Unesco Prize for Peace Education in 1994.

Mr Mano said Phra Prayudh Payutto's rise was unconventional because he was the first abbot from a non-royal and upcountry temple to become a Somdej since the introduction of the Sangha Act, which has centralised monk administration since 1902.
Phra Prayudh Payutto 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.

According to Mr Mano, King Rama V restructured monk administration in 1902 based on the structure of the Church of England to promote the unity of the Sangha and the state when Siam faced colonisation threats from England and France.
The Sangha Law was later amended in 1941 to incorporate the principle of democracy, creating three branches to decentralise the administration consisting of the ecclesiastical assembly, ecclesiastical cabinet and ecclesiastical court.

However, Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat amended the Sangha Law in 1962 to centralise the cleric administration. The monastic structure became hierarchical with a cleric ranking consisting of nine levels. Since then, the monastic governing body was seen as centralised and at times lacking transparency in its decision-making processes.

The appointment of Phra Prayudh Payutto thus represents fresh air in the rigidly structured monk governing body, said Mr Mano. "It is a positive sign. The Sangha administration faces a crisis of trust for failing to address many cleric issues," said Mr Mano.

Phra Palad Wisarut, however, said: "Phra Prayudh Payutto might not be able to do much to change the system because the Sangha Council's decision is based on the agreement of all members."
Mr Sulak also did not think his promotion would lead to the reform of the Sangha administration.

Asked what should be done to reform the Sangha administration, Mr Sulak said: "Just change the cleric law and go back to the Sangha Law in 1941 to make monastic governance more democratic."
We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Omniscient Robotic-Being for Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv