Nuns pray during the March 12 to April 1 peace march through Takeo province, which coincided with the death of the march’s founder, Samdech Preah Maha Ghosananda, one year ago.
The 2008 Dhammayietra from March 12 to April 1 started with a ceremony for Samdech Preah Maha Ghosananda on the one-year anniversary of his death. Ghosananda, who founded Cambodia’s Peace Walk in 1992, died last year at the age of 83, after a life of service that had a profound impact on the long walk towards peace in Cambodia.
This year, for the first time since the Peace Walks began, authorities refused permission for the 18th Dhammayietra to walk through Takeo, citing the possibility that “bad elements” would disrupt the walk in the run up to the elections.
Several hundred participants who had planned to walk returned home, leaving 24 monks, eight nuns, lay temple leaders and the Dhammayietra organizers to attend, traveling from wat to wat by truck.
Nevertheless, in each temple, hundreds of supplicants came to attend the Ban Skoal (funeral ceremony) for Maha Ghosananda and the Tessna (teachings), which were held three to four times per day. The Dhammayietra was joined for portions by members of NGOs and other individuals, many of whom who had participated in previous years’ marches.
Each day the Dhammayietra visited two to three temples, covering eight districts in Takeo, and provided educational materials and teachings to the community.
The monks began their day at 5am, attending and leading ceremonies, giving water blessings, teaching children and planting trees.
The participants said they were disappointed they could not walk not only because they considered the act of walking as part of the meditative process but because it also allows thousands of people to receive blessings from the monks.
Although villagers were not able to have contact with monks along the walk, they were still thrilled to see the Dhammayietra and often remarked how happy they were to know about it.
Maha Ghosananda and the Coalition for Peace and Reconciliation organized the first Dhammayietra in 1992, bringing Cambodian refugees across the Thai border back to their homeland.
Many other Dhammayietras have walked into contested and war torn areas, bringing the message of peace, reconciliation and land mine awareness.
Dhammayietra organizer Oddom Van Sivorn said the purpose of this year’s walk included increasing awareness of alcohol abuse, environmental conservation, compassion for people living with HIV/AIDS, and bird flu.