The controversial words from
a French Catholic Priest in Cambodia, Francios Ponchaud
about Somdech Preah Maha Ghosananda and Cambodian Buddhism
with a responding to him from Bhikkhu Vodano Sophan, a Cambodian Buddhist
|I don’t see any advantage from the comment and answer of
François Ponchaud, a French Catholic Priest in Cambodia.
His sharp criticism towards Buddhist leaders of Cambodia, especially
Somdech Preah Maha Ghosanada, Ghandi of Cambodia, is extremely unacceptable.
Some of his opinion about Buddhism in Cambodia is relevant, but
generally he doesn’t get deep into Buddhist’s heart
as he is a Catholic priest missionary.
Preah Maha Ghosananda aka Ghandi of Cambodia is worldwide recognized
through his serene, intellectual and compassionate attitude that
this quality can be illustrated only by attainment in some level
of Buddhist meditation. François looked over this profound
quality from his mundane Catholic perspective and said it according
his worldly experience. He regarded Somdech Maha Ghosananda as
“an empty brain with no idea or stupid boy.” This
is really controversial and arrogant towards a respectful Cambodian
Ghandi. I can assume that this word is fatally looking down Somdech
Maha Ghosananda as well as the Cambodian Buddhist community. François
should be aware and meditative with his thought, speech and action.
He should submit a letter to apologize all Buddhist followers
if he wants to maintain religious tolerance and sharing similarity
of religious interfaith dialogue with Cambodian Buddhist Sangha.
There are many words and phrases regarding the virtue and dedication
of Somdech Maha Ghosananda. Many reporters and observers called
Somdech as a great spiritual leader, a peace maker, a founder
of pilgrimages of truth and the father of step by step march.
His teaching is simple, moderate and egoless. Somdech always repeat
one simple sentence:
“our journey begins today,
and every day.
Each step is a prayer,
each step is a meditation,
each step will build a bridge.”
Build a bridge, that this concept is universal truth. The teaching
of Somdech had no distinction of race, gender or faith. Once Somdech
"We must find the courage to leave out temples
and enter the temples of human experience,
temples that are filled with suffering.
If we listen to the Buddha, Christ or Gandhi, we can do nothing
The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos
and the battlefields will then become our temples."
On behalf of the father of step by step march, Preah Maha Ghosananda
always valued individuals as the critical origin of war and peace.
His compassion is boundless, and his peace vision is to build
individual’s peace capacity. He said:
“The suffering of Cambodia has been deep.
From this suffering comes great Compassion.
Great Compassion makes a Peaceful Heart.
A peaceful Heart makes a Peaceful Person.
A Peaceful Person makes a Peaceful Community.
A Peaceful Community makes a Peaceful Nation.
And a Peaceful Nation makes a Peaceful World.
May all beings live in Happiness and Peace.”
His mantra originated in Metta Sutta or word of love that he
With a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating love over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths...
He moved on with a simple, not complicate word to everybody,
young and old, poor and rich, soldier and villagers that:
For the pure-hearted one
Having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.
And he stressed repeatedly that “Hate can never
be appeased by hate; hate can only be appeased by love. This is
the immortal truth.”
The restlessly work Somdech Preah Maha Ghosananda has its origin
from the first teaching of Buddha that:
"Go forth, and walk for the welfare of the many,
for the happiness of many,
out of compassion for the world, for the profit,
for the welfare, for the happiness of gods and mankind.
Expound the Dhamma (teachings).
Live it in its spirit and its letter."
I can also say that the teachings of Christianity allowed me
to become a better Buddhist Bhikkhu monk because I have understood
that any action we have done is our own responsibility. No body
else can compensate or take in charge or redeem it on behalf of
us. It is universal truth that when ones do good result good,
ones do bad result bad. The doer must be responsible; not others
or any superficial being will be responsible for it. The teaching
of Buddha is middle path, the path leading to liberation. Buddha
said: “Two extremes should be avoided by human
beings: indulgence in sensual pleasures and addiction to self-mortification.
Abandoning both these extremes the Tathagata has comprehended
the Middle Path promoting sight and knowledge and tends to peace,
higher wisdom, enlightenment and Nibbana.”
This intensifies the tendency of present human beings’ fallacy
that always extreme of indulgence in sensual pleasure or materialism
and indulgence in self-modification. The peace mantra can be formulated
only through the practice of middle path (in this matter Somdech
Preah Maha Ghosananda termed it step by step march). Middle path
is the realization of reality in our daily life, moment of change,
moment of breathing. This middle path is the wheel constituting
of eight essential spokes: right view, right understanding, right
speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration
and right meditation. In this matter, Francios may observe the
distinctive teaching that Christianity believes in salvation come
from some being outside us while Buddha said “I
am the path, my teaching is the path. The path to salvation is
through my teachings.” This concept may be
very similar to the teaching of Jesus Christ which he is also
The situation of losing moral value in Cambodia is not caused
by the teaching of Buddha, but it is caused by the loosing of
national law compliance.
I am appreciating to debate with Francios anytime
on behalf of Somdech Preah Maha Ghosananda’s student as
well as a Cambodian Buddhist monk.
Bhikkhu Vodano Sophan, April 1, 2007
Responding from François
Ponchaud and Other Catholic Priests in Cambodia in Phnom
Penh Post Letters
|Esteem for Buddhism
Thank you for all your interesting pages of Phnom Penh Post.
We read them with a lot of appreciation for your concern to inform
the people and help them especially the poor, needy and the marginalized.
However, in your last issue dated March 23-April 5, 2007, we,
the Catholic Church in Cambodia, are worried about the interview
published on page 2 titled "God's paratrooper fires shots."
This article expresses negative ideas about Buddhist leaders.
We regret any hurt feelings and misunderstandings this article
could have caused.
We would like to affirm our profound respect and desire to have
good relationships with the venerable leaders of Buddhism. We
assure our great esteem towards Buddhism, the national religion
Bishops Emile Destombes, Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh
Kike Figareddo, Antonysamy Susairaj and all members of
Catholic Church in Cambodia
Stupefied and saddened
Returning from the province, it is with stupefaction
and much sadness that I read the article "God's paratrooper
fires shots" (PPPost, March 23). I feel humiliated and
deeply wounded, because this article reflects absolutely neither
my thoughts, nor my words.
I ask to the high religious dignitaries who could
have been offended by the remarks attributed to me, and likewise
to all the people "of good will" who believe in the
spiritual values for the construction of a better world and
who could have been hurt by this article, to really accept benevolently
my most sincere and profound apologies. I feel so fraternally
in solidarity with the Buddhist clergy, of which I share a certain
number of views and practices, not to feel myself offended.
Here is my version of the facts:
Mr. Charles McDermid, through his Cambodian interpreter,
asked me to grant him an interview on the impact of Buddhism
in the present Khmer society. Never it was mentioned of a personal
interview to be distributed as such, but of an article, like
the Phnom Penh Post is used to publish, and to which I sometimes
contributed in the past. I accepted, thinking of thus being
able to help to better understand the Khmer society at the sides
of which I have walked for 41 years. We spoke in English, a
language that I know very little, and of which I ignore all
the nuances. Often I did not understand the questions, and undoubtedly
the author of the article did not understand all my answers.
He wrote his article afterwards, asked himself his own questions
to which he answered by including bits of our conversation.
This way of working is dishonest, because it can only deform
my thoughts, on such a delicate topic.
This mister should have observed the most elementary
principle of the journalistic deontology (at least in the French
way), consisting in making read again an interview by its author
before publication, especially an interview of such an aggressive
virulence that I deplore. He did not do it, so my stupor and
consternation, at the reading of this article which I estimate
defamatory and offensive for many of my Buddhist friend monks.
With regard to Samdech Akéa Bandet Moha
Sang Tep Vong, I spoke to him lengthily of its regretted predecessors:
Samdech Chuon Nath, Samdech Préah Samdech Sangkréach
Huot That, Préah Vannarat, Préah Khieu Choum,
Préah Pankhat, etc. who were then the intellectual guides
of my youth. I explained to him that all the religious dignitaries
had been killed by the Khmer Rouge, and that it was a considerable
loss, because much time was needed to train monks. I also explained
to him the reasons which pushed the government of the RPK to
place Samdech at the head of the Buddhist clergy in 1979, in
a precise political context, and reported the comments of a
person in charge in the cultural ministry that McDermid attributes
to me wrongly. May Samdech please excuse me.
It is the same for Samdech Bou Kry, who is a friend
of long time. I have evoked old memories at the time when he
was in Créteil, and also at the time of one conversation
on the radio and in various pagodas of France.
It does not belong to me, a foreigner, and of
another religious tradition, to judge these venerable monks
who live Buddhism from the inside. The difficulty of interreligious
dialogue is not due to the persons, but to the cultural and
philosophical universes so distant that are ours. The only dialogue
which seems possible to me is that of the Christian who let
himself be influenced deeply by Buddhism, and of the Buddhist
who let himself be influenced by Christianity and who tries
to dialogue inside of himself. But that the author did not retain.
It is true that I voiced a somewhat discording
tone in the concert of praises concerning the venerable Samdech
Préah Moha Gosananda, called Moha Yao, the Cambodian
Gandhi. I knew him in 1983 in his American residence of Hanover
Street, Providence (RI). I voiced some reservations on his attitude
at the time of our audience with Jean Paul II in Rome in 1985,
but I leave the whole paternity to the author of the article
for the qualifications, several times repeated, by which he
qualifies this venerated monk, and of whom I respect the memory,
like many Cambodians.
I do not see, on the other hand, why using my
personal history of a conscript of the French Republic, against
my liking, to do a shock article, of which I ignore the deep
motivations. The hazards of my personal life of yesteryear,
once again that I did not choose, have no direct links with
my spiritual commitment to the Khmer people that I try to serve
the best I can, even if I do it sometimes awkwardly.
In ending, I renew my most sincere and deepest
apologies to the religious dignitaries who could have felt offended
by the odious words attributed to me, but that
I deny. I feel as much offended as themselves.
Je loue le courage du Père Ponchaud de vouloir s'attaquer
aux USA sur ce dossier khmer mais je déplore, par contre,
très profondément ses déclarations virulentes
à l'encontre de la mémoire de Samdech Preah Maha Ghosananda
considéré par le peuple khmer avec le clergé
bouddhique en tête comme un Mahatma ou un saint. J'en ai été,
à la suite de la publication de cet article ci-dessous par
le Phnom Penh Post, tenu informé par Email par le vénérable
S.S.(USA) auquel j'ai fait part de mes sentiments ci-dessous :
"I feel very sad that Father Ponchaud has gone
beyond the limit of the decency by uttering this sharpest criticism
against the late Samdech Preah MahaGhosananda at this very moment
all the khmer people are mourning his passing away. I am afraid
that such an assertion would not contribute to the good comprehensiveness
between both religious communities..."
Ensuite, j'ai donné mon appui moral à l'intention
du vénérable S.S. d'écrire au PPP afin de défendre
l'honneur de la mémoire du saint homme. Voici l'extrait de
ma réponse à son Email :
"I completely agree with your legitimate idea to
write back to the PPP about this undevised verbal aggression against
the posthumous person of Samdech Preah MahaGhosananda and I fully
support your Venerable in your noble efforts to rectify this insult
to the memory of our late Samdech. As you've correctly put on, "He
is not appropriate to say like that and he is not a man among religious
tolerance and interfaith dialogue leaders." There must be a
complete tolerance between religions since everyone proceeds towards
the same source. Emperor Açoka of India took the same stand
regarding the practice of religions in this ancient empire.One religion
does not afford to sit on another to progress itself. Mutual respect
between religions is a criteria for the development of all."
Après l'intervention du vénérable et peut-être
d'autres membres du clergé bouddhique, une mise au point
a été publiée par le PPP venant du Père
Ponchaud lui-même et des dirigeants catholiques du Cambodge.
Voici les principaux extraits :
"I myself feel profoundly relieved and I would
hope so from the Buddhist Community following the publication of
the regrets and apologies in the columns of the PPP, edition of
April 6 to April 19, 2007 presented respectively by the leaders
of the Catholic Church in Cambodia and by Father Ponchaud himself.
1 - Bishop Emile Destombes, Apostilic Vivar of Phnom Penh, Kike
Figareddo, Antonysamy Susairaj and all members of Catholic Church
in Cambodia wrote, I quote : "This article expresses negative
ideas about Buddhist leaders. We regret any hurt feelings and misunderstandings
this article could have caused... We would like to affirm our profound
respect and desire to have good relationship with the venerable
leaders of Buddhism. We assure our great esteem towards Buddhism,
the national religion of Cambodia."
2- Father Ponchaud who confesses his sadness for having caused offense
to the Buddhist Clergy in Cambodia and outside Cambodia, wrote,
I quote : " I ask to the high religious dignitaries who could
have been offended by the remarks attributed to me, and likewise
to all the people "of good will" who believe in th spiritual
values for the construction of a better world and who could have
been hurt by this article, to really accept benevolently my most
sincerte and profound apologies... I renew my most sincere and deepest
apologies to the religious dignitaries who could have felt offended
by this odious words attributed to me, but that I deny. I feel as
much offended as themselves."
A mon avis, l'affaire est maintenant close.
|Dear Devoted Ubasok,
I make my time too busy to those things. I cannot see from my
eyes, but see them from my sight. I am busy with study, but to
complete something for fair and peace, I have to take time with
it. I will try the best!
However, only one me is not enough. All Cambodians who have sight
should overwhelmingly patrol this. I got message back from PPP's
editor saying Francios expressed sorry about what he said seem
quite so offensive. PPP will publish Francios's letter. I am looking
forward to see that letter.
I also write to Lowell
Sun about its controversial headline, the writer responded
to me with unresponsible action by saying that only editor has
rights to put such headline. I also send more message to LS's
editor, but not yet received the response.
Thank you very much Ubasok for your patriotic endeavor to reply
me such a powerful message; and I admire your endurance effort
for the sake of Cambodia.
Yours in Dhamma
On 4/4/07, Siphal MEY <email@example.com> wrote:
Very respected Venerable S. Sophan,
Please your Venerable accept here my very sincere and profound
gratitude for having been so kind to forward to me the book on
the extraordinary life of late Samdech Preah MahaGhosananda and
your own outstanding reply to Father Ponchaud's virulent assertions
against his memory.
Be your Venerable sure that I'am going to read this special book
about Samdech Preah MahaGhosananda with special attention and
interest and with my very profound respect. Through your Venerable,
I wish to extend my very respectful homage, appreciation and admiration
to Venerable Santi for having written this book of high interest
for all the Buddhist Community.
On the other hand, I would like to say that I enormously appreciate
your timely and very objective reply to Father Ponchaud. The argument
based on Samdech Preah MahaGhosananda's teachings and on Buddha's
tecahings you've used in your reply is wonderful.and very persuasive.
I feel personally honoured by your noble and just stand in favour
of the memory of late Samdech Preah MahaGhosananda in this subject
and by your well argued reply to his offender. I am convinced
that your Venerable honours the Khmer Buddhist Community inside
and outside the country by your patriotic and buddhist stand before
this unacceptable assertions of Father Ponchaud against the memory
of our late commonly venerated deceased.
With my very respectful homage and admiration to you,
Note: Few current news
above have been updated in this page in order to inscribe the remembrance
the day of our loss the Extraordinary Master, Maha Ghosananda, Gandhi
of Cambodia. His whole life has dedicated for peace, compassion, non-violence
and step by step practice for peace development of human beings.
Last Updated: March 30,
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