As the two-year funeral ceremony for revered monk Maha Ghosananda approaches, he is being remembered worldwide for his contributions to peace during Cambodia’s time of war.
Venerable monk Nhem Kim Teng, head of Prey Thlork pagaoda, in Svay Rieng province, who is currently doing his doctoral studies in Buddhism at Delhi University in India, recalled Maha Ghosanda’s book, “Step by Step.”
“Maha Ghosananda said we must make one step at a time,” Nhem Kim Teng said in a recent interview.
“The book is divided into two main parts,” he said. “The first part focuses on compassion and sympathy, and the second part focuses on wisdom, utilizing the wisdom each person has. He explained that compassion and wisdom can be compared to two feet, left foot and right foot. If we have only one foot, we can’t move forward properly and might be dangerous.”
A celebration will be held for Maha Ghosananda in an official second-year funeral ceremony at Trai Ratanaram, in North Chelmsford, Mass., March 12 through March 15.
Maha Ghosananda “prayed for all human beings to have wisdom within compassion, metaphorically speaking head in heart, or precious stone inside the lotus,” Nhem Kim Teng said.
“He wrote an article, ‘Peace bridge building,’ in which he suggested that all conflicting factions sit together and negotiate in a friendly manner to quest for peace, because peace cannot be made when we are distant,” Nhem Kim Teng said. “The most important characteristics of peacemakers are to disregard personal interests, the interests of one’s own parties, but to be concerned about the interests of human beings, of society as a whole, and to be honest.
“He said though we have four faces, we must have only one heart. During the Angkorian period, Prom Bayon was built with four faces with only heart. He called for four Cambodian conflicting factions in 1993 to have one heart, a Khmer heart.”
“He was a peaceful individual,” Nhem Kim Teng said. “He always advised everyone who went to see him to do everything in a peaceful manner. Use both wisdom and compassion. A peaceful manner is more powerful than violence.”
Matha Bauditho Rithipol, secretary-general of the Maha Ghosananda International Peace Foundation, said the honored monk “had an invaluable mission to promote Buddhism and peace for Cambodia.”
“He sponsored many Cambodian Buddhism monks from refugee camps in Thailand go to the United States to help promote Buddhism,” Matha Bauditho Rithipol said, “and he helped build many Buddhist temples in the United States in the 1980s.
“In international circles, he was the first Cambodian monk who was internationally recognized as an active individual, contributing to peace-building in the world as well as in Cambodia,” Matha Bauditho Rithipol said. “In 1983 he met with Pope John Paul II in Rome for the first time to discuss a religious basis for the world and Cambodian peace-building.
“In 1987, he led Buddhist monks to the United Nations to discuss a way to quest for peace. In 1988, he went to Jakarta, Indonesia, to meet with King Norodom Sihanouk and four other Khmer factions to discuss the peace process.
“In addition, he worked with the Dalai Lama of Tibet for the sake of peace-building in the world, in Cambodia and in Tibet. He used the concepts of truthfulness, forbearance and gratitude to educate Khmer leaders and political elites and Khmer Mass in Dhammayatras,” Matha Bauditho Rithipol said. “I myself participated in his Dhammayatra [peace walks] three times in Cambodia, in 1993, 1997 and 1998. He was an honorable and peaceful individual. I have never seen as great an individual as honorable Maha Ghosananda.”