Samdech Maha Ghosananda - greed, anger and ignorance are the obstacles to peace.
In the ancient Pali language, the name Maha Ghosananda means Great Joyful Proclaimer.
The Venerable Ghosananda, 79, who lives in the United States, has spread his message
of peace by leading several Dhammayietras - walks for peace - during the 1990s when
the country was wracked by violence with the Khmer Rouge. Hundreds of monks and their
supporters followed Ghosananda through the war-ravaged areas of Cambodia to seek
Is there a need for another Dhammayietra in the world, and if so, where?
Yes. Everywhere and at every moment, we need the Dhammayietra, like breathing
in and breathing out.
What do you think Cambodia has learned from the Dhammayietra?
It has changed from greediness, to non-greediness. From anger, to non-anger.
How do you think Cambodia can overcome what happened during the Pol Pot period?
We have to overcome greediness through charity, anger through loving kindness,
and ignorance through wisdom.
What should ordinary Cambodians do to achieve that?
They have to [be treating each other] ... with truthfulness and gratitude.
What role do you think monks should have in Cambodia's political future?
Monks are the leaders of the country. If [the people] have difficulties, they
come to the temple to solve their problems.
Do you think that monks should be able to vote in an election?
Monks are neutral.
Then they should be able to lead, but not to vote?
Yes, monks are also the teachers of the country.
Do you have advice for the next political leaders of Cambodia after the election?
Yes, three things: saija, khantie, khatanu. Saija means truthfulness, Khantie
means forbearance. Khatanu is gratitude. Every day we have to [give] thanks in six
directions ... our mother and father, our own teachers, our own family, our friends,
our religion, and the servants of the government.
What do you think about the destruction of Cambodia's forests? Is there a spiritual
value to Cambodia's forests for Khmer.
The destruction is because they are ignorant. Because they are greedy, because
they are angry ... We have to keep the triple precepts: morality, concentration and
wisdom. Yes, the middle path.
How can the destruction of Cambodia's forests be stopped?
We can stop [the destruction] through these precepts of morality, concentration
Regarding the terrorist attacks of 2001 - how should the world respond to this
threat of terror?
We have to do the opposite thing. We have to do the opposite thing - if we are
greedy, we have to practice charity. If we are angry, we have to practice loving
kindness. If they are ignorant, we have to practice wisdom.
A lot of Buddhist philosophy is about being free from fear. How can people live
free from fear under the threat of terrorism?
Fear comes from ignorance. If we know the truth, then we become fearless.
And how do you learn the truth?
The truth is always [in the] here and now. Right now you are learning the truth
Is meditation a part of that?
Meditation is always present. Or mindfulness, like lightly breathing. Breathing
in mindfully, breathing out mindfully.
I know you spend much of your time in America. How would you compare life in
America to life here?
America [has] so much restlessness. [They are] always travelers.
What do you think America can learn from Cambodia, and Cambodia from America?
That everything comes from mindfulness.
Do you think that in the world today, there is a reincarnation of the Buddha?
The Buddha is a man who knows the truth. The four noble truths: suffering, the
cause of suffering, the ceasing of suffering and the middle path that leads to the
ceasing of suffering.
So there may be many or none?
Yes, now you learn it. Now you become Buddha also.
Many Khmers these days seem to be putting money into building temples and wats.
What kind of advice do you have for Khmers to earn good karma?
The true temple is in the heart. Yes, everything comes from the heart. When you
speak, it also comes from the heart.
You've been nominated for the Nobel Prize several times. Has that changed anything
in your life?
We change every moment. Now, you change your ideas.
And how did your ideas change after the Nobel Prize nomination?
We become more stable.
Has it helped you spread your message?
Yes it helped us. It supports us.
What goal, or idea, have you dedicated yourself to these last few years?
We always take care of the present moment. Now we take care of this conversation
with you. If things are very good, then next time we will meet each other very peacefully.
The present is the mother of the future. And the mother will take care of her children.
If now is good, you will become very happy again.
What do you think is the greatest obstacle for peace today?
Only greediness, anger and ignorance.
Has that improved in your lifetime?
Yes, if they come to the temple.
What are your hopes for justice in Cambodia in the future?
The same thing. I hope that the judge will come to learn the truth from the temple.
Do you think the Dhammayietra will happen in Cambodia again?
Yes. Dhammayietra means walking with dharma. Now, you are walking with dharma.
Like breathing, If you take care of your breathing you become enlightened. This is
a journey in a never ending process. The Dhammayietra continues everywhere, step
Do you have any wish for the New Year?
I always wish for good things for the New Year. Always new, every moment. We always
say Suosdey ch'nam thmei. [It is] always a Happy New Year, every day.
Ghosananda returned to Cambodia on December 11. Although he planned to return to
Leverett, Massachusetts on January 23, he may stay until March. He talked with the
Post on January 1 at Wat Lanka.