United Nations to honour Buddhataspikku

by Weena Kowitwanij, AsiaNews.It, Nov 1, 2005

Throughout last century, the Buddhist monk was a paragon of Buddhist virtues such as tolerance and peace. He founded a monastery in the jungle open to every believer.

Bangkok, Thailand -- At the last general meeting of the United Nations on the study of Science and Culture held on 20 October, Thailand requested that Buddhataspikku be honoured on the 100th anniversary of his birth as one of the significant people in the year 2006-2007.

Participants at the meeting agreed that Buddhataspikku of Mok Jungle (or Suan Mok, or garden of the Mok tree) is a world significant figure, the 18th to be honoured by UNESCO, for his contribution to tolerance, peace and culture.

Buddhataspikku is the name Nguem Panich took on when he decided to devote his entire life to the Buddha. He was born on May 27, 1906, in Surat Thani, during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V, fifth from the Chak-kri dynasty). His father was Chinese. And King Rama VI gave the family the name ‘Panich’ in lieu of the Chinese ‘Kow’.

After high school, Nguem chose the life of a monk at the age of 20 until his death at 87, on July 8, 1993

Once, talking about his monastery in the jungle, he recalled how “at first, when I left my village to stay in the jungle, I felt that everything around me reflected on me and stirred various ideas in my mind, so much that I was incapable of understanding its significance and meaning. I believed that pure nature (left unchanged from its original state) would help me solve big problems.”

Buddhataspiku founded a monastery called “Suanmokaplaram” (a place where sufferings are relieved) for people of every faith who wished to live in harmony with nature, respecting its fundamental principles and free themselves from material things.

His name—Buddhataspikku—embodies the decision to follow his chosen path for three reasons. It shows how Buddhists and believers of other faiths can find the true meaning of their faith. It encourages everyone to understand all religions. And, finally, it helps everyone leave behind all things material.

Tireless, he prayed, he preached, and he wrote more than 140 books, many of which were translated into English, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Bahasa Indonesia.

His book on The Core of Buddhism, which is a collection of his lectures to doctors and medical students at Siriraj Hospital (the oldest government hospital in Thailand), won the UNESCO Best Book Award in 1961.

Thailand’s Sathienkoses Foundation has proposed Buddhataspike to the UN, emphasising his devoted contributions to the teachings of the Buddha about how humans can live harmoniously with their environment.

Some 95 per cent of Thailand’s 62 million people are Buddhist, 4 per cent are Muslim and 1 per cent is made of other denominations, including less than 300,000 Catholics.