A caravan of female and male Buddhist monks and lay practitioners from Thailand concluded a 700 kilometer peace pilgrimage for peace, or pad yatra, at the Mahabodhi International Meditation Center in Ladakh, in India's mountainous far north on Sunday. The 150 pilgrims began their peace march under the leadership of senior Venerable Thai monk Phrateppariyattisuthi Thongsukas in Dharamsala on June 10, after receiving a blessing from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
" This padyatra is truly worthy of the highest appreciation and admiration,” Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena, president of Mahabodhi International Meditation Center (MIMC) in Leh city, shared with BDG. “Only those with deep faith in themselves and great compassion for the world can undertake such a difficult and arduous journey through the high mountains of the Himalayas. »
Fri. Bhikkhu Sanghasena, who founded the non-profit MIMC in Leh, the capital city of Ladakh, in 1986, is an example of socially engaged Buddhism in the region, initiating numerous humanitarian projects, events and initiatives. Its outreach work includes educational opportunities and shelter for underprivileged children, empowerment and literacy programs for women and other socially disadvantaged groups, health care for the sick and needy, and a home pensions for the elderly and the poor. MIMC's expanding campus has become a hub for a multitude of socio-cultural and community programs.
In addition to being president and spiritual director of the MIMC, Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena is also the founder of the Mahakaruna Foundation, the Save the Himalayas Foundation and an advisor to the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB).
The peace walkers had entered Ladakh on July 12 and were met at Gya Meru village near the border between Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh state by Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena and a group of sangha members and local students, who welcomed weary travellers. A traditional khata a scarf was offered to each pilgrim as a sign of honor and respect, while MIMC students gave a musical performance in tribute. Buddhist devotees from the village also attended in traditional dress with a generous lunch offering.
"Today is truly a very auspicious day," said Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena. "On the same day as those peace-loving padyatris entered Ladakh through Manali-Leh, His Holiness the Dalai Lama also arrived in Leh. This is indeed a great blessing for the people of Ladakh!
After accomplishing the most difficult and challenging part of their pilgrimage through the foothills of the Himalayas, accounting for 90% of their spiritual journey, the pilgrims arrived at the MIMC campus on July 16. Members of the local Buddhist community, including the Buddhist Association of Ladakh, the Gonpa Association of Ladakh, had gathered there to welcome their arrival.
"We hope that the great example of these members of the sangha of Thailand will motivate and inspire millions of people around the world to walk and work for the peace and stability of this world which is our home," said Ven. . Bhikkhu Sanghasena.
In addition to integrating spiritual development and human well-being, Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena and the MIMC are also closely involved in peacebuilding and interreligious dialogue, environmental conservation, and the promotion of Buddhist and Himalayan cultural heritage through national and international festivals. Fri. Bhikkhu Sanghasena has traveled extensively to participate in international conferences, seminars and workshops aimed at promoting spiritual and cultural values, environmental awareness, non-violence and world peace, and raising the status of women in society , especially those from disadvantaged communities.
In 2021, Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena led an MIMC team on a humanitarian relief mission in the border areas of Ladakh, providing material aid against COVID-19 as well as much-needed emotional and spiritual guidance to local residents who lived in fear during the double crisis of the pandemic and the military border clash between Indian and Chinese troops. The same team also led a peace campaign in the conflict zone, calling on both nations not to resort to violence, but to resolve the impasse through peaceful means.**
* Committed Buddhism: Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena announces Mahakaruna Diwas 2023 celebration for global compassion (BDG)
** Work, Walk and Pray for Peace: Bhikkhu Sanghasena embarks on peace pilgrimage to Ladakh (BDG) and Buddhist monk Bhikkhu Sanghasena calls for peaceful resolution amid Sino-Indian border tensions (BDG)