A ceremony in honor of two distinguished Shan monks who had received honorary doctorate degree from Thailand’s prestigious Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University on Sunday, 9 May, was held on Tuesday, 11 May, by Shan and Thai devotees.
One was Venerable Panyananda, 59, President of the Shan State Sangha and Member of the State Sangha Mahanayaka Committee, the highest executive body of the Sangha in Burma. He has, since 2003, been the head of the Pali-to-Shan Translation of the Tripitaka project. “Most Thai monks can read and write Pali,” said Venerable Associate Professor Dr Phra Sutthivorayan, Deputy Rector of Mahachulalongkorn. “But, Venerable Panyananda, he can also speak it fluently.”
He compared Burma’s Panyananda favorably with Thailand’s own Panyananda, better known as Panyananda Bhikkhu (1911-2009), one of the kingdom’s most respected monks.
Venerable Panyananda and Venerable Khammai Dhammasami
The Shan Panyananda is modest about his achievements. “Honor is like a shadow: when you seek it, it runs away. But when do not seek it, it follows you,” he said.
The other recipient, Venerable Khammai Dhammasami, 46, is already a world reknown Shan monk for his leading participation in the International Day of Vesak held annually in Bangkok since 2005. “Not only he is one of the few monks teaching in a western university,” one of his Thai admirers exclaimed, “but at Oxford, of all universities.”
Dr Khammai Dhammasami, also known as Sao Khu (Chao Khru in Thai) to his disciples, widely respected for his Dhamma Made Easy for today’s generation sermons, said, “ We have to balance the two kinds of progress: spiritual and material. If there is imbalance between the two, there arises conflict.” He then said in Shan, “What I’m teaching is not only for the heaven goers, but also for those who still live on earth (Kya Mongphi, Li Mong-kon).”
The ceremony, held at the Royal River Hotel near the Chao Phraya, was attended by some 300 monks and lay people. Among them were Venerable Dr Anil Sakya Sudgandho, Assistant Secretary to Thailand’s Supreme Patriarch, Venerable Phrakhupalad Suwatthanawachirakhun, Director of Buddhist Research Institute, General (retired) Phon Wanakamol (once known as ‘the only Shan general in Thailand’), Professor Sai Aung Tun, who last year published the much-acclaimed “History of the Shan State.” and some Thai alumni of UK universities.
Many Shan migrants in Bangkok expressed disappointment at not being allowed to attend the event. “Our quota is only 30,” complained Hsai Khong, executive member of the Phra Dhammaseng Fouondation chaired by Gen Phon. “But there are at least 500,000 Shans in Bangkok.”
The first Shan monk to be awarded the honorary Ph. D from the Mahachulalongkorn is Khruba Sengla Aggamahapandita of Tachilek last year for his efforts in modernizing the Tripitaka in the Tai-Khuen language.