His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara The Supreme Patriarch of the Kingdom of Thailand (Suvaddhana Mahathera, Charurn Gajavatra) (3 October 1913-24 October 2013)
His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, the Supreme Patriarch of the Kingdom of Thailand (Suva??hana Mahathera) whose birth name was Charurn Gajavatra was born in Kanchanaburi Province, on 3rd October 1913 (B.E. 2456). His Holiness was ordained as a Buddhist monk at Wat Bovoranives Vihara on 15 February 1933 (B.E. 2476) by His Holiness Prince Kromma Luang Vajiranyanavamsa. His Holiness passed the ninth grade, the highest level of Pali examination as constituted by the Thai Sangha in 1941 (B.E. 2484) at Wat Bovoranives Vihara.
His Holiness had moved through the lines of ecclesiastical promotion. Firstly, he was promoted to the higher rapidly ecclesiastical Rajagana title in ordinary, Raja and Deva levels respectively with the same title name of Phra Sobhonganaphorn. After that, he was promoted to a higher ecclesiastical rank on the Dhamma level with the name of 'Phra Dhammavarabhorn,' beforebeinggiventhetitleofPhraSasanasophon. Later on, he was bestowed the special title of Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, and finally consecrated as the Supreme Patriarch Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, Somdet Phra Sangharaja Sakalmahasangha-parinayaka on 21 April 1989 (B.E.2532). His Holiness is the 19th Supreme Patriarch of the Rattanakosin Period and head of both Mahanikaya and Dhammayut lineages.
An enthusiastic learner, His Holiness was keenly interested in education, especially language studies, since he was a Pali scholar. He had learned and mastered several languages, such as English, French, German, Chinese, and Sanskrit. His Holiness Prince Kromma Luang Vajiranyanavamsa, his preceptor, was concerned that he might be tempted to overindulge in secular education, and therefore had reminded him to allocate time for meditation. As a result, His Holiness had started practicing meditation ever since, and kept doing it consistently, making him a Mahathera who was knowledgeable in both Dhamma studies and practice.
As His Holiness was an expert in foreign languages, particularly English, he obtained modern knowledge through reading English books, of both secular and religious subjects, thus making him a visionary person who always caught up with what was happening in the country. That was a great benefit to his teaching and propagation of Buddhism. The religious books authored by His Holiness were up to date and timely for the people and circumstances of modern times. Apart from that, he also played a vital role in teaching the Dhamma to Thais and to foreigners alike. His Holiness had a far-sighted view on education. He was involved in the founding of Thailand's first Buddhist University, 'Mahamakut Buddhist University', and initiated for the first time the Training Institute for Dhammaduta Bhikkhus Going Abroad.
Besides promoting education for all including the disabled, by establishing a total of 10 schools around the country, His Holiness performed as Head of a member of social Welfare Foundations. These included a foundation for the relief and care of leprosy patients, for the welfare and recovery of people with addictions, and established many scholarship funds for youth to promote and sustain their education. Most notably, His Holiness contributed to public welfare by constructing and running a total of 20 hospitals dotted around the country in remote locations.
All of these institutions including schools, welfare foundations and hospitals, are run on a charitable basis, free of charge for everyone. His Holiness was the first senior monk who played a vital role for the propagation of Buddhism overseas. He presided over the opening ceremony of the first Thai temple in Europe, that is Wat Buddhapadipa in London. His Holiness brought Theravada Buddhism to Australia for the first time by establishing Wat Buddharangsee Temple in Sydney. He paid an official visit to Nepal to be the preceptor for Nepalese Sakya Novices. This had the effect of reviving the temporary ordination ceremony in modern Nepal. The Supreme Patriarch also developed a religious connection with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and become good friends, meeting many times for Dhamma exchanges. Besides, he was the first Sangharaja who was officially invited to the Peoples Republic of China for the first time in its history.
His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara performed several tasks locally and internationally. He was both academic and Dhamma analyst, or what is called 'Dhamma-vicaya', to demonstrate that the Buddha Dhamma is applicable to all levels of mundane activities, from the most basic to the highest ones. His Holiness has composed more than 100 books, both in Thai and in English. His written works concerning the teachings of Buddhism at the beginning, intermediate and advanced levels, as well as a number of religious essays, all with great educational value. In recognition of His Holiness exceptional capabilities, the value of his written compositions, and the multiple tasks he performed, many well-known national universities bestowed upon him hounorary doctorate degrees in various fields of education.
Apart from the duties associated with his titles, His Holiness was given special duties on many occasions. One of them was to be the advisor and guardian of the present monarch, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, when he was ordained as a Bhikkhu at Wat Bovoranives Vihara in 1956 (B.E. 2499).
Later on, when HRH Crown Prince Mahavajiralongkorn was ordained as a Bhikkhu in 1978 (B.E.2521), His Holiness was also the Crown Prince Bhikkhus instructor and advisor on monastic codes of discipline and the Buddhas teaching.
Having held important ecclesiastical titles through out his lifetime, His Holiness performed duties that were of great benefit to the religion, the nation and its people. Thus, he was a great monk who achieved great honours for himself and for the benefit of others. That made him a highly respected person both for Buddhists and for the kingdom.
His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara was highly revered even among Buddhists in foreign countries. As such, the Myanmar Government bestowed upon him the title of 'Abhidhaja Maharattha Guru', the highest ecclesiastical title of the Myanmar Sangha.
The Buddhist Summit, World Buddhist Supreme Conference, along with the Supreme Buddhist leaders of 40 countries in September 2012 also bestowed upon him the title of 'Supreme Holiness of World Buddhism'. His Holiness celebrated reaching his 100th birthday on the 3rd of October, 2013. This made him the longest living Supreme Patriarch in the history of Thailand. Moreover, he was the longest reigning Supreme Patriarch in Thai history with 24 years in the position of the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand. This was indeed a delightful occasion for Thai Buddhists. As a tribute, on the auspicious occasion of His Holiness 100th Birthday Anniversary the Thai government, the Sangha and all Thai Buddhists together celebrated a week long celebration from 1-7 October 2013. The nationwide celebration was made possible due to the Royal Patronage of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
His Holiness s health began to wane in 2000, when he was 87 years of age, making it difficult for him to perform the duties of his office. On February 20, His Holiness was admitted to the Vajiranyan Samaggibayabarn building of the King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital. Initially, His Holiness
made frequent visits to Wat Bovoranives Vihara and attended some official activities elsewhere too. These visits were timed to coincide with the lunar observance days, especially the fortnightly recitation of the Monastic Code (Patimokkha), which falls on the full new moon day of each month. Later, in 2007, the team of physicians attending His Holiness observed a decline in his health, and therefore, requested that he discontinue any further visits to Wat Bovoranives Vihara and elsewhere.
On 13 October 2013, His Holiness condition worsened. The team of physicians, after discussing his case, decided that His Holiness required an operation on the large and small intestines. The operation was successful and stabilized his condition.