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Patriarch celebrated

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Samdech Preah Sangkareach Choun Nath

A BUDDHIST patriarch who committed himself to helping the poor was commemorated last

weekend with a three-day seminar that looked at his teachings and life.

Samdech Preah Sangkareach Choun Nath died 30 years ago, but his example and message

are still revered in Cambodia.

The seminar, sponsored by the Buddhist Institute, the Ministry of Cults and Religion

and the Documentation Center for Khmer Civilization, comprised a photo exhibition,

displays and performances aimed at carrying on his teachings and speeches.

The Minister of the Council of Ministers, Sok An, made a speech endorsing the establishment

of a Samdech Choun Nath foundation.

"I wish to express my admiration and I would like to support the creation of

a Samdech Choun Nath Foundation for Culture of Peace and I also wish this mission

to be as highly successful as the name of Samdech Choun Nath," he said.

"In the name of the Prime Minister of the Royal Government and for myself I

would like to ask Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen to find ways to make available

actions for our young people like Samdech Sangkareach Choun Nath created with the

'Buddhist Youth'."

Samdech Choun Nath was ordained in Pur Preuk pagoda in Kum Reang commune, Kang Pisey

district, in Kampong Speu province, in 1902.

Two years later he went to Ounalom pagoda in Phnom Penh and a short time later he

was appointed senior monk in Kanak Mohanikai.

In 1922-1923, Samdech Choun Nath and a fellow monk, Huot Tath, were sent to study

Pali, Sanskrit and stone inscriptions in Hanoi under the guidance of French teachers.

Samdech Choun Nath was a scholar fluent in Thai, Lao, French, English and Vietnamese

as well as his native Khmer.

He rose swiftly through the monastic hierarchy and was appointed to the highest rank

in 1950 as a head of Mohanikai sect. In 1963, he was appointed as a supreme head

of all monks in the country by Prince Norodom Sihanouk.

Samdech Choun Nath had his life fully dedicated to Buddhism, culture and peace and

must be a reference for all Cambodians, according to the Organizing Committee President,

Nouth Narang, who spoke at the closing ceremony.

Narang continued by saying that the actions of Samdech Choun Nath and the way he

undertook them were Cambodia's common heritage and should be a guide to everyone

regardless of their position in society, so that the culture of peace becomes tangible.

Samdech Choun Nath abandoned his life for Buddhism, culture and peace. He was raised

respecting the Buddhist morality strictly, especially respect for all human life.

"I hope that through the way of Samdech Choun Nath, our Khmer people will be

brought into the Buddhist way and cooperate with each other in order to rebuild the

culture of peace for this whole country," said Nouth Narang.

Samdech Choun Nath was 86 when he died on 25 September 1969 after he suffered three

days of illness.

There were rumors at the time that Samdech Choun Nath was assassinated because he

had made a serious mistake in his Buddhist teachings; others said he was killed because

of his anti-communist stance.

However his personal secretary, Mey Yam, said the rumors were untrue. He said he

was with him continually in his last days and no-one tried to harm him.

Instead Mey Yam believes hard work and tireless research simply wore out the elderly

monk.

He said Samdech Choun Nath was an ordinary monk who always helped Cambodian poor

people, especially the sick.

Yam said Samdech Choun Nath used the coconut husk (srakay doung) for his mat, and

a locally made sheet.

"I bought the modern materials for him but he always said there was no need,"

he said.

Samdech Choun Nath used whatever money he was given to provide medicines and equipment

for hospitals throughout the country.

"Samdech always asked me how much money I had. [And would reply] "'You

keep only 10,000 riels; if more than this you take it to buy medicine to take to

hospitals'," Yam said.

He added that Samdech Preah Sangkareach Choun Nath told him that he would not be

reborn with God but rather he would return to help Cambodian poor people.

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