Saturday, 23 June 2007

The Supreme Patriarch

The Supreme Patriarch or Sangharaja (Thai: พระสังฆราช) is the head of the order
of Buddhist monks in Thailand. The position is formally appointed by the King of Thailand , although the actual selection is made by senior clergymen. It was first established in 1782 at the founding of the Chakri Dynasty by King Rama I.

The incumbent Supreme Patriarch is Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara Suvaddhana Mahathera, who has served in this position since 1989. He is currently aged 93 and suffers from increasingly serious health problems. 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.

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.

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