Supreme Patriarch of Thailand

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The Supreme Patriarch or Sangharaja (Thai: สังฆราช; RTGS: Sangkharat) is the head of the order of Buddhist monks in Thailand. Its full title is Somdet Phra Saṅgharāja Sakalamahāsaṅghapariṇāyaka (Thai: สมเด็จพระสังฆราช สกลมหาสังฆปริณายก; RTGS: Somdet Phra Sangkharat Sakonlamahasangkhaparinayok; "the Supreme Patriarch, the Head of all Members of the Sangha").

Nowadays the Supreme Patriarch is formally appointed by the King of Thailand upon advice of the Prime Minister and with the approval of the Supreme Sangha Council, an administrative body of the Thai Sangha. The Supreme Patriarch has legal authority to oversee both of Thailand's Theravada sub-orders, the Maha Nikaya and the Thammayut Nikaya, as well as the small minority of Mahayana Buddhists in the country. He is also the President ex officio of the Supreme Sangha Council

There has been recent discussion about reforming the Thai Sangha's leadership structure, including a 2002 proposal which would have moved many of the Sangha Council's and the Supreme Patriarch's powers to a new executive council.[citation needed]

The incumbent Supreme Patriarch is Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara Suvaddhana Mahathera, who has served in this position since 1989. He was currently aged 100, and after suffering from increasingly serious health problems, died on 24 October 2013, as mentioned in a headlines article on the Bangkok Post website. In 2003, because of questions about the Supreme Patriarch's ability to fulfill his duties, the government of Thailand appointed a special committee to act in his stead. In early 2004, Somdet Kiaw (also known as Buddhacharya) was appointed acting Supreme Patriarch, an office that he held until his death in 2013. The role of the Supreme Patriarch, even the existence of a Sangha Council, is debated in Thailand.

Recent news of the Supreme Patriarch's worsening condition has led to considerable speculation in the Thai media about the identity of his eventual successor, similar to the speculation that surrounds the Pope at the end of his life. By tradition, the Supreme Patriarchate alternates between members of Thailand's two main Theravada Buddhist orders. Because Nyanasamvara Suvaddhana is of the Thammayut Nikaya, this implies that the next Supreme Patriarch will come from the Maha Nikaya. The acting Supreme Patriarch, Somdet Kiaw, is seen as a favorite, but he was actively opposed by Venerable Ajahn Maha Bua, an influential northeast Thailand temple abbot and religious leader, who has since died.[1][2]

List of Supreme Patriarchs[edit]

Ceremonial name Secular name Religious name Tenure
(Buddhist Era)
Tenure (common era)
1. Somdet Phra Ariyavongsanana Sri BE 2325–BE 2337 1782–1794
2. Somdet Phra Ariyavongsanana Suk BE 2337–BE 2359 1794–1816
3. Somdet Phra Ariyavongsanana Mee BE 2359–BE 2362 1816–1819
4. Somdet Phra Ariyavongsanana Suk Ñānasaṃvara BE 2363–BE 2365 1820–1822
5. Somdet Phra Ariyavongsanana Don BE 2365–BE 2385 1822–1842
6. Somdet Phra Ariyavongsanana Nag BE 2386–BE 2392 1843–1849
7. Somdet Kromma Phra Paramanujit Jinoros Prince Vasugri Suvannaraṅsi BE 2394–BE 2396 1851–1853
8. Somdet Krom Phraya Pavares Variyalongkorn Prince Rurk Paññāaggata BE 2396–BE 2435 1853–1892
9. Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana Sa Pussadeva BE 2436–BE 2442 1893–1899
10. Somdet Krom Phraya Vajirananavarorasa Prince Manusyanag Manob BE 2453–BE 2464 1910–1921
11. Somdet Kromma Luang Jinavorn Sirivaddhana Prince Bhujong Jombunud Sirivaddhana BE 2464–BE 2480 1921–1937
12. Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana Phae Tissadeva BE 2481–BE 2487 1938–1944
13. Somdet Kromma Luang Vajirananavong Momrajavong Chuen Nobbavong Sucitta BE 2488–BE 2501 1945–1958
14. Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana Plod Ketuthat Kittisobhaṇa BE 2503–BE 2505 1960–1962
15. Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana Yoo Ñāṇodayo BE 2506–BE 2508 1963–1966
16. Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana Chuan Sirisom Uṭṭhāyī BE 2508–BE 2514 1965–1971
17. Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana Pun Sukcharoen Punnasiri BE 2515–BE 2516 1972–1973
18. Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana Vasana Nilprapha Vāsana BE 2516–BE 2531 1973–1988
19. Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara Charoen Khotchawat Suvaḍḍhana BE 2532–BE 2556 1989–2013

See also[edit]

External links[edit]