Interfaith Peacebuilding


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Interfaith Programs

UPF Chair Meets with Buddhist Leaders in Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand - Rev. Hyung Jin Moon and his wife Yeon Ah arrived in Thailand, the seat of Theravada Buddhism worldwide, as part of a peace trip connecting with the spiritual legacy in nations of Asia. Arriving with international UPF leaders from a visit to the Buddha's birthplace in Nepal, they were welcomed by 30 Buddhist monks and visited the temples of the Emerald Buddha and Golden Buddha.

After arriving at the headquarters, they immediately went to the home of Akkapong and Kaori Aransri, a family chosen by lottery to host them their first evening in the country. Rev. Moon asked Mr. Aransri to describe his wife’s character and point out three good things he sees in her. This continued as he talked about each child. In rotation, each member of the Aransri family shared about the closest and most important relationships in their lives.

As the meal was served and enjoyed, Rev. Moon mentioned how much he loves Thai food, especially the delicious and spicy tom yum soup and pat thai (a noodle dish). They acquired a new taste when they ate mangosteens, a tropical fruit with a purple shell and a white flesh that is both sweet and tangy, with a texture similar to a peach. A calligraphy was created for the Aransri family meaning, "With devotion and true love comes heavenly goodness."

The following day began with 3:00 am exercise and meditation, followed by devotions at 5:00. Two people gave reflections on their spiritual journey: Wonchai Sonchaisakul, a Buddhist of Chinese descent, and Delia Javamasundra, a Catholic originally from the Philippines.

Five hundred people attended a gathering at 10:00 am in which Rev. Moon talked about the exemplary lives of Jesus, Buddha, and other religious leaders. Then he described his father's life of total sacrifice, being unjustly imprisoned and nearly killed many times but never giving up his calling to build a foundation from the individual level and expanding it to the family, society, nation, and world levels. "Parental love is so great," he emphasized; "it will give up its life, body and soul so that the children can be free." He continued with a beautiful discourse on the Lord’s Prayer, describing it not just as a mantra to be memorized and repeated but as a formula for building a relationship with God.

Afterwards, photos were taken with each of the 140 families who were present. During lunch, he gave a profound discourse on the evolution of moral values, contrasting them with the absolute values that come from a Creator who is eternal (beyond time), immaterial (beyond space), personal, willful, and loving.

Special arrangements were made to visit Thailand’s Grand Palace, home of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the Royal Palace. We also visited the Golden Buddha, a statue made of 5.5 tons of solid gold, built with money donated by Buddhists all over Thailand. It was a spectacular testimony to the power of religious sacrifice. The statue is thought to be from the Ayuttaya period in the 13th century; at some point the gold was covered over with plaster, perhaps to disguise it from invaders, and its true composition was forgotten for almost 200 years, when the plaster covering it cracked as it was being moved. It is the world's largest Buddha image made out of solid gold.

Since it was pouring rain at the time, we huddled together under umbrellas trying to keep dry. Our efforts were mostly in vain but no one complained, because in Thailand rain is considered a blessing.

The outing concluded with a walking tour of Chinatown, where smells of all kinds – such as fish and fruit – mingled seamlessly in the crowded market. He noticed a beautiful Buddha statue, which he bought, as well as other gifts to take home. As we walked the streets he treated us to pork dumplings, the best quality green tea from China, and bananas (not all at the same time, fortunately).

That evening there was a banquet at the Radisson Hotel. Nearly 140 people attended, including 30 Buddhist monks. Ven. Phramaha Nopadol Saisuta Punnasuvaddhako, an Ambassador for Peace and lecturer on Pali and Sanskrit at the Faculty of Buddhism, Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, invited his 29 international Buddhist monks from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Nepal to the banquet.

Dr. Thomas Walsh, president of the Universal Peace Federation, gave an overview of recent UPF activities, including peace initiatives in Nepal, the Legacy of Peace programs, Africa Day celebrations, commemorations of International Day of Families, and the International Leadership Conference series. He invited the participants to attend the World Peace Blessing, in which couples dedicate or rededicate their marriages in a joint commitment to building world peace, this October in Korea.

Rev. Moon began by thanking the Thai government and the Royal Palace for their generous and kind hospitality. He then went on to describe his father's intense spiritual course, which began at the age of 15 with a vision of Jesus on a mountain in what is now North Korea. As if weaving a tapestry, he moved from topic to topic, connecting each thread. He challenged the myth that the worst atrocities in history have been committed in the name of religion. Acknowledging that they were wrong in and of themselves, he said that far more people have been massacred by atheistic regimes which left "a mountain of human bodies… numbering in the tens of millions."

The final day began with 3:00 am meditation. We were happily surprised when the President of the Women's Federation for World Peace-Thailand, Mrs. Kamoltip Payakwichien, joined us bringing two special gifts. The first was a painting of Lord Buddha set in a historic frame. The wood in the frame was over 700 years old, coming from the beams of a Buddhist temple that collapsed decades ago. The second gift was a rare black statue of Buddha. It was designed by the current king of Thailand and only a few such pieces are in existence. Mrs. Kamoltip had traveled with us the day before when we visited the various shrines. Deeply touched by Hyung Jin Moon's sincere devotion and love for Buddhism, she wanted to express her gratitude through these gifts.

Theravada Buddhism is the predominant religion of Thailand as well as Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, and Burma. Founded in India, Theravada is the oldest surviving Buddhist school; it is relatively conservative and generally closest to early Buddhism. It teaches that insight must come from the aspirant's experience, critical investigation, and reasoning instead of by blind faith; its scriptures also emphasize heeding the advice of the wise, considering such advice and evaluation of one's own experiences to be the standards of religious practices.

After devotions, two deeply moving accounts were given, the first by Udomporn Mortega, who lived for 14 years in the Philippines and returned to her native Thailand to develop ocean enterprises. The ocean is amazing, she said repeatedly with a smile that beamed like the wide expanse of the limitless sea she loves so much. She spoke of her experiences fishing and described how being on the ocean is spiritually cleansing because it forces one to look inward.

The second report was by a Thai woman, Maliwan Laeyoung, blessed in marriage with a Laotian man. She was in Laos sharing Rev. Sun Myung Moon's teachings from morning until night, which drew the attention of the authorities. Police pounded on her door at 2:00 one morning and took her off to prison. Given the political tensions between Thailand and Laos, she was offered the choice of being deported peacefully or going to jail. Realizing that if she was deported she would not be allowed to return to her husband, she chose jail. During her five years of incarceration, she was allowed only one visitor a month, who could stay for only 15 minutes. Despite the difficult environment, she developed a grateful heart, thinking of other couples such as Father and Mother Moon who have experienced the pain of separation during times of imprisonment because of their faith.

Hyung Jin and Yeon Ah Moon cut a celebration cake and departed with the promise of returning soon.

See also reports about visits to Nepal and the Philippines.

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