Bhante Dharmawara

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Bhante Dharmawara
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Bellong Mahathera

(1889-02-12)February 12, 1889
DiedJune 26, 1999
(aged 110 years, 134 days)
  • Cambodian
  • American
Known forFirst Cambodian American Buddhist monk

Samdach Vira Dharmawara Bellong Mahathera (February 12, 1889 June 26, 1999), also known simply as Bhante Dharmawara, was a Cambodian-born Theravada monk and teacher who died at the age of 110. [2]


Bhante is the polite particle used to refer to Buddhist monks in the Theravada tradition. Bhante literally means "Venerable Sir."

Cambodia Southeast Asian sovereign state

Cambodia, officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is 181,035 square kilometres in area, bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest.

Theravada Branch of Buddhism

Theravāda is the most commonly accepted name of Buddhism's oldest extant school. The school's adherents, termed Theravādins, have preserved their version of the Gautama Buddha's teaching in the Pāli Canon. The Pāli Canon is the only complete Buddhist canon surviving in a classical Indian language, Pāli, which serves as the school's sacred language and lingua franca. For over a millennium, theravādins have endeavored to preserve the dhamma as recorded in their school's texts. In contrast to Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna, Theravāda tends to be conservative in matters of doctrine and monastic discipline. Meditation practice was reintroduced in the 19th century and has since become popular with the laity in both traditionally Theravāda countries and in the west.



Bellong Mahathera was born on February 12, 1889 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to a wealthy family. [1]

Phnom Penh Autonomous municipality in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, formerly known as Krong Chaktomuk or Krong Chaktomuk Serimongkul, is the capital and most populous city in Cambodia. Phnom Penh has been the national capital since French colonization of Cambodia, and has grown to become the nation's economic, industrial, and cultural center.

He was well educated and became a lawyer, judge and district governor before he began studying Buddhism and became a monk in his 30s. Bhante practised in the Forest Tradition in Thailand before travelling through Burma to India, where he spent much of his life. He studied natural healing and became well known for his healing abilities, in recognition of which he was given the land on which to found The Asoka Mission in New Delhi by Jawarharalal Nehru, first Prime Minister of Independent India.

Thailand Constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia

Thailand, officially the Kingdom of Thailand and formerly known as Siam, is a country at the centre of the Southeast Asian Indochinese peninsula composed of 76 provinces. At 513,120 km2 (198,120 sq mi) and over 68 million people, Thailand is the world's 50th-largest country by total area and the 21st-most-populous country. The capital and largest city is Bangkok, a special administrative area. Thailand is bordered to the north by Myanmar and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Myanmar. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast, and Indonesia and India on the Andaman Sea to the southwest. It is a unitary state. Although nominally the country is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, the most recent coup, in 2014, established a de facto military dictatorship under a junta.

India Country in South Asia

India is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

He returned to Cambodia to visit in 1952 and established a connection to Norodom Sihanouk, then still king. In 1955 he accompanied Sihanouk to the Bandung Conference in Indonesia. [3]

Norodom Sihanouk 20th-century King of Cambodia

Norodom Sihanouk was head of state of Cambodia numerous times. In Cambodia, he is known as Samdech Euv. During his lifetime Cambodia was variously called the French Protectorate of Cambodia, the Kingdom of Cambodia (1953–70), the Khmer Republic (1970–75), Democratic Kampuchea (1975–79), the People's Republic of Kampuchea (1979–93), and again the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Bandung Conference 1955 meeting of Asian and African states

The first large-scale Asian–African or Afro–Asian Conference—also known as the Bandung Conference —was a meeting of Asian and African states, most of which were newly independent, which took place on 18–24 April 1955 in Bandung, Indonesia. The twenty-nine countries that participated represented a total population of 1.5 billion people, 54% of the world's population. The conference was organised by Indonesia, Burma (Myanmar), Pakistan, Ceylon, and India and was coordinated by Ruslan Abdulgani, secretary general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia.

He first visited the U.S. in late 1955 and early 1956 when he was invited by the US Information Agency to attend a conference on education. In California, the yoga teacher Indra Devi introduced him to wine critic Robert Lawrence Balzer, who was already interested in Asian religions. With Dharmawara´s invitation, Balzer traveled to Cambodia and sojourned for two weeks in the temple where Dharmawara was staying, later writing about it in the book Beyond Conflict. [4]

Indra Devi yoga teacher

Eugenie Peterson, known as Indra Devi, was a teacher of yoga as exercise who was an early disciple of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. She helped to popularise yoga in America through her many celebrity pupils in Hollywood.

Robert Lawrence Balzer has been called the first serious wine journalist in the United States. He was born in Des Moines, Iowa. At the age of 24, he was put in charge of the wine department of his family’s grocery/gourmet market in Los Angeles, California. Because he knew nothing about wine, he quickly educated himself on the subject. Balzer soon championed quality California wines and stocked his shelves with the best American wines available. He promoted wine in his customer newsletter and was asked by Will Rogers, Jr. to write a regular wine column in his local newspaper in 1937.

He was fluent in many languages and travelled to teach meditation and healing to groups in many countries. Starting in 1973, he taught meditation, particularly on colour, every year to the students at John G. Bennett's Academy for Continuous Education in Sherborne, Gloucestershire. [5] An extended meditation course he taught at the Asoka Mission from October 1974 to March 1975 is described in the book Leaving Lucifer. [6]

John Godolphin Bennett was a British scientist, technologist, industrial research director, and author. He is best known for his books on psychology and spirituality, particularly on the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff. Bennett met Gurdjieff in Istanbul in October 1920 and later helped to co-ordinate the work of Gurdjieff in England after the guru had moved to Paris. He also was active in starting the British section of the Subud movement, and co-founded its British headquarters.

Later, Bhante moved permanently to the United States and worked to help settle the thousands of refugees who fled there from the war in Cambodia. He founded the first Cambodian Buddhist temple in America in the area of Washington, D.C. and later Wat Dharawararama in Stockton, California.

In 1989, following a shooting in which five schoolchildren were killed at a Stockton school, there was national press coverage when he went to the school to perform a ritual cleansing of the site. [7]


He died on June 26, 1999, aged 110 and his ashes have been interred in a memorial at Asoka Mission in Delhi where a celebration of his life is held every year on his birthday, February 12. [8]

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  1. 1 2 Stewart, Barbara (July 18, 1999). "Bellong Mahathera Is Dead; Cambodian Monk Was 110". The New York Times . Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  2. Bhante
  3. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1955) Asia-Africa Speaks from Bandung. Djakarta: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Indonesia.
  4. Balzer, Robert Lawrence (1963) Beyond Conflict. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.
  5. Roth, Allen (1998) Sherborne: An Experiment in Transformation. Santa Fe, NM: Bennett Books.
  6. Romig, Elizabeth (2016) Leaving Lucifer: Part 1, The Beginning. Bloomington, IN: Balboa Press.
  7. Times, Jane Gross and Special To the New York. "Stockton Journal; Where 5 Died, a Monk Gives Solace" . Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  8. "Bhante Dharmawara" (PDF) (Press release). Forest Sangha Newsletter. October 1999. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2008-09-13.