About 120 monks and Buddhists from Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar plan to conduct a Dharma Yatra, a pilgrimage of peace, spanning 2,000 kilometres across the five countries next month.
The announcement of the pilgrimage was made at a press conference on “The 2nd Dharma Yatra in 5 Mekong River Basin Countries” in Phnom Penh yesterday.
Sopachai Verapuchong, secretary-general of Bodhigayavijjalaya 980 Institute, said at the conference that the pilgrimage is scheduled for October 14 to 31, starting from Wat Phrathat Pha Ngao pagoda in Thailand to Shan State in Myanmar, then continue to Dien Bien province in Vietnam, Luang Prabang province in Laos, and return back to Thailand before heading to the final destination in Cambodia’s Siem Reap province to close the journey.
“Buddhism has a long history in these five countries of the Mekong River, especially the Angkor Thom Empire in Cambodia’s Siem Reap province, which also used to disseminate Buddhism for hundreds of years,” Mr Verapuchong said. “So the goal of this pilgrimage is to spread Buddhist dharma to the next generation of people.”
Mr Verapuchong added that there will also be ceremonies carried out during the pilgrimage, including planting 18 Bodhi trees taken from India in key destinations in the five countries, Vipassanā, mediation, and the dissemination of Buddhism dharma to Buddhists participating along the roads in the pilgrimage.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said that in addition to promoting Buddhism, the pilgrimage will also promote people to people relations between the five countries, which are also members of Asean.
“As Mr Sopachai has already raised, the five countries have the same ‘father’ and ‘mother’, meaning that the Buddha is the father and the Mekong is the mother,” he said. “So this pilgrimage is to connect the people of the five countries in the Mekong River region, which is also in line with what Asean stands for, that of one community, one destiny.”
He also urged all media to increase programmes to promote Buddhism, as the state religion, and also for mental education to the public.
General Neang Phat, a secretary of state at the Defence Ministry and also Vice President of Cambodia-Thailand Friendship Association, expressed support for the upcoming Buddhist pilgrimage, adding that he expects the event will be carried out successfully.
The upcoming event will be the second Dharma Yatra pilgrimage organised by the Bodhigayavijjalaya 980 Institute and the Mekong River Alliance, after the first pilgrimage was conducted in 2017 across the five countries, bringing together Buddhists of the Mekong River region. The event upholds the Buddhism principle of solidarity and an understanding of cultures between the countries of the Mekong region.