The Founder of Mahapanya Vidayalai —Venerable Ongpotjanagongosol
The Most Venerable Ongpotjanagongosol, the Founding Master of MPV was born in 1962 at Kanchanaburi, Thailand, a small town about 100 kilometers to the west of Bangkok, from his parents of Chinese origin. As a youth, the venerable possessed distinct talent in languages and with his diligence and hard work, he learned languages of many countries in his twenties.
The Venerable came from a poor family. Once, when he was 16 years old, he accompanied his mother to a temple to say prayers. Seeing him, the temple’s abbot remarked to his mother, “Your son is predestinated to renounce a householder’s life”. Then and there, as the Venerable possessed very strong curiosity in pursuing knowledge, he resolutely said good-bye to his parents and attended his tonsure at the Ts’ao Tung temple of Mahayana Buddhism.
During his years as a novice, the Venerable strictly observed the Vinaya disciplines to the extent that he would not even break a minor rules and regulations of the temple. He impressed his elders with his devotion and diligence and the senior abbot handpicked and trained him in all areas of Buddhism. He celebrated his twentieth birthday by receiving the full ordination of a monk, and following this he was dispatched to Taiwan for furthering his knowledge and realization through Chinese Sangha education.
He received excellent education during his five years of studies in Taiwan. Then he spent his time in Fo Guang Temple for few months and also at other temples while advancing his meditation and insights. He also obtained a diploma in Chinese Language from the University of Education, Taiwan. In addition to his mastery in spoken mandarin, he has an outstanding skill in writing Chinese calligraphy. The venerable also stayed in Chao Chou, China, for nine months and subsequently few more years there. Then the venerable traveled to Europe (England, Germany, and France) and learned their languages as well as to the western approach and understanding of Buddhism.
The venerable also had the fair share of ups and downs of life. But one notable incident worth mentioning here is his tuition-fee story. Once, the venerable was penniless yet needed to pay for his new term’s tuition fees. While sweeping the monastery, he pondered, “How I can solve my financial predicament?” Then the venerable continued, “Suddenly, an old lady appeared and gave me a parcel wrapped with old newspaper. Soon after this the old lady disappeared. I opened the parcel and was surprised to see banknotes in it. I counted the money and found that it was exactly the amount I needed. This incident led me to a deeper faith in the blessing of the Bodhisattva. Hence, I reinforce my dedication and confidence in the teachings of the Lord Buddha.”
In 1991, Venerable went back to his hometown, Thailand. Due to his educational background as well as his competence in managing his work and proficiency in socializing with people, he was therefore regarded very highly by the Supreme Patriarch of the Anamikaya and was soon entrusted as the Secretary General of the Anamikaya. The venerable became the longest serving Secretary General of Anamikaya Sangha ever after it received full recognition and legal status from King Rama the Fifth. In 1994, the Supreme Patriarch of Anamikaya deputized the Venerable as the Abbot of Wat Thawornwararam (Taworn Temple), Hatyai, Songkhla, Thailand. In his capacity, as the abbot of Taworn Temple, he skillfully settled all the legal issues and secured the area. He had to demolish the existing but irreparable wooden temple and then built the present four-storey temple. The same year, due to his compassion to the local underprivileged children, he started the Taworn Secondary School and later, he also started a course for the High School students. And his only demand he imposed is that all these children must ordain as novices.
In 1998, the Venerable reclaimed and converted an abandoned land into the Park of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva by erecting 222 Ksitigarbha (Dizang) Bodhisattva statues. The place was named Dizang’s Park.
In the same year, recognizing his accomplishment and learning in the Buddhism, the Venerable was vouchsafed the title “Onganatasoranat” by The His Majesty, The King Bhumibol Adulyajej, during the Annual Sangha Feudatory Ceremony (5th December), becoming the youngest Sangha who has, in Thai History, bestowed entitlement by the king.
He continued to develop the Dizang Park further in the following year. Working round the clock, he began three major construction projects of the 33-meter-tall Ksitigarbha (Dizang) Bodhisattva; the Hall of Guan Yin Bodhisattva; and the Hall of the Three Hua-Yen Bhadra (Amitaba Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha and Medicinal Buddha) almost simultaneously.
During the same year, he accepted the inheritance from the Most Venerable Dao Xuan, becoming the 42nd Dharma Child of the Hsien Shou Tsung School. And in the same year, he was bestowed entitlement by His Majesty, the king and his feudal title is Ongpotjanagongosol. (With accords to the Sangha Feudatory System in Thailand, the title is given only to those who made great contribution to Buddhism. Should such Bhikkhu receive a re-nomination, he would then be bestowed with a Feudality two years after his first Feudality. But Venerable Ongpotjanagongosol made a history by obtaining the prestigious title within the subsequent year.)
In late 2000, Venerable Ongpotjanagongosol had a night long conversation with the Supreme Patriarch of Anamikaya. The Supreme Patriarch rued tearfully, “I am in seventies now. I have devoted my life to imparting the Sangha education. But I have not yet fulfilled my dream to establish a Buddhist University.” Knowing how indebted and grateful he was to the Supreme Patriarch, he honored the Supreme Patriarch by accepting the task of establishing a Buddhist University. Following this the venerable had to make hard decisions. In mid 2001, he scrapped his plan to construct a 52 meters high Sakyamuni Buddha Statue and diverted the funds towards establishing a university. The change of the plan did not backfire but it did raise some confusion among the devotees which eventually got pacified. Of course, erecting a giant Buddha’s statue would enable anyone who supports or reveres to it, to accumulate huge merits, nonetheless, establishing a Buddhist University would facilitate infinite venues of merit makings. It would become the center or the source of Sangha Ratana (talented Buddhist monks) who can propagate Buddha Dharma far and wide and benefit extensively. After running exhaustive errands and fulfilling all legal documents and requirements, the present Mahapanya Vidayalai (The University for Great Wisdom) was born. It was launched on June 10, 2002, after receiving full affiliation and support from Mahachulalongkorn Rajvidayalai University (MCU). A Chinese Language Centre was also launched on the same day.
Also, the launching of MPV by His Holiness Somdej Phra Buddhacarya coincided with the Convocation of the Hatyai College (now upgraded as Hatyai University) and His Holiness presided over this event. Following this a general meeting entitled “Five Year Development Plan for Mahapanya Vidayala” was convened. The Most Venerable Professor Dr. Phra Brahmapundit, Rector of MCU, chaired the meeting which was attended by Mahayana and Theravada Sangha along with specialists and researchers of all fields. This convention’s conclusion became the vision and mission of MPV. Furthermore, this gathering also served as an important prelude for the Mahayana and Theravada Sangha to collaborate as well as a major instigation for MPV to wedge into the Buddhist Educational sphere in Thailand.
In mid 2004, with the assistance of the disciples in Singapore, the Venerable established Sheng Shou Buddhist Centre, Singapore. He wired all the funds he raised through this center to MPV and constructed the present “Nine-tier World Peace Pagoda” usually built to invoke the blessings and compassion of the Kuanyin or the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, to promote peace and happiness in the locality and in the world.
Over the years, with increasing responsibilities and dharma activities the Venerable is faced with itinerant schedules. He travels through many countries while administering the much needed dharma and guidance to the devotees. He has already established a center in USA. Currently, he is stationed in MPV guiding devotees and overseeing the construction of the 7-storey multi-purpose building block inside MPV campus.
What is MPV today is all because of the Most Venerable Ongpotjanagongosol’s tireless and selfless effort to preserve the Buddha dharma through teaching and practice.
We pray for his good health and long life and may his dharma activities benefit all sentient beings!