Buddhist Institute Honors ‘Symbolic Leader’

Chuon Nath, one of the country’s best known Buddhist sociologists and the only author of a Khmer-language literature dictionary, was considered the “symbolic leader” of modern Khmer history for his teachings of peace and nonviolence.

In honor of his life and prolific work, a foundation in his name was opened Sunday at the Bud­dhist Institute at the close of a three-day celebration commemorating 30 years since his death.

“We want Cambodian people, especially the younger generation, to respect life and human rights,” former minister of cul­ture Nouth Narang said at Sun­day’s closing ceremonies. “So we have to disseminate the Buddhist teachings of Chuon Nath to re­build a culture of peace and non-violence that we lost to decades of war.”

Also present at the ceremony were about 100 monks, Buddhist patriarch Maha Ghosananda, Min­­ister of Cabinet Sok An, US Am­bassador Kent Wiedemann, Minister of Agriculture Chhea Song and Minister of Posts and Telecommunication So Khun.

At the time of his death at age 86, Chuon Nath had written roughly 20 books on Buddhism. The multilingual monk also wrote about Khmer history and language, published in magazines and crafted countless poems.

A translator of the Pali script, he completed the well-known Khmer-language dictionary and was the first monk to found a Pali grammar school for monks.

Chuon Nath’s message speaks to every level of society, Nouth Narang said, from the villagers to the heads of government.

“If each of us abides by the teaching of Chuon Nath in daily life, our fractured society could be quickly repaired,” Nouth Na­rang said.

Maha Ghosananda, who is con­sidered the country’s current spiritual leader, on Sunday honored Chuon Nath the intellectual.

“I myself have learned a lot from him about and beyond Bud­dhism,” Maha Ghosananda said briefly at the closing ceremony. As leader of the annual Dham­­mayietra peace marches across Cambodia, Maha Ghosan­anda also is known throughout the country for his nonviolent teachings.

The three-day event at the Bud­dhist Institute included workshops, food offerings, an exhibition of arts and crafts and music by a traditional Khmer orchestra.

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