Bhante Dharmawara

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Bhante Dharmawara
Bhante Dharmawara.jpg
Bellong Mahathera

(1889-02-12)February 12, 1889
DiedJune 26, 1999
(aged 110 years, 134 days)
  • Cambodia
  • United States
Known forFirst Cambodian American Buddhist monk

Samdach Vira Dharmawara Bellong Mahathera (February 12, 1889 – June 26, 1999), also known simply as Bhante Dharmawara, was a Cambodian-born Theravada monk and teacher who died at the age of 110.[2]


Bellong Mahathera was born on February 12, 1889, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to a wealthy family.[1]

He returned to Cambodia to visit in 1952 and established a connection to Norodom Sihanouk, then still king. In 1955 he accompanied Sihanouk to the Bandung Conference in Indonesia.[3]

He first visited the U.S. in late 1955 and early 1956 when he was invited by the US Information Agency to attend a conference on education. In California, the yoga teacher Indra Devi introduced him to wine critic Robert Lawrence Balzer, who was already interested in Asian religions. With Dharmawara's invitation, Balzer traveled to Cambodia and sojourned for two weeks in the temple where Dharmawara was staying, later writing about it in the book Beyond Conflict.[4][5] An extended meditation course he taught at the Asoka Mission from October 1974 to March 1975 is described in the book Leaving Lucifer.[6]

In 1989, following a shooting in which five schoolchildren were killed at a Stockton school, there was national press coverage when he went to the school to perform a ritual cleansing of the site.[7]


He died on June 26, 1999, aged 110.[8]


  1. ^ a b Stewart, Barbara (July 18, 1999). "Bellong Mahathera Is Dead; Cambodian Monk Was 110". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 9, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  2. ^ "Bhante". Archived from the original on 2007-08-04. Retrieved 2007-07-12.
  3. ^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1955) Asia-Africa Speaks from Bandung. Djakarta: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Indonesia.
  4. ^ Balzer, Robert Lawrence (1963) Beyond Conflict. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.
  5. ^ Roth, Allen (1998) Sherborne: An Experiment in Transformation. Santa Fe, NM: Bennett Books.
  6. ^ Romig, Elizabeth (2016) Leaving Lucifer: Part 1, The Beginning. Bloomington, IN: Balboa Press.
  7. ^ Times, Jane Gross and Special To the New York. "Stockton Journal; Where 5 Died, a Monk Gives Solace". Archived from the original on 2018-04-09. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  8. ^ "Bhante Dharmawara" (PDF) (Press release). Forest Sangha Newsletter. October 1999. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2008-09-13.