Nepali Times
Nepal’s permanent envoy to Thailand


In Bangkok, they call Anil Sakya Nepal's permanent ambassador to Thailand. Not only is he an authority on Thai Buddhism, speaking the language fluently, but he is also close to the two most important institutions in Thailand: the Buddhist sangha and the monarchy.

Anil Sakya's Buddhist name is Phra Sugandha ('phra' is the Thai word for monk) and he is assistant secretary to the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, something like Nepal's rajguru. Being close to the supreme patriarch has brought Phra Sugandha close to Thailand's King Bhumibol on numerous occasions while helping on his research into Buddhism in Nepal.

Phra Sugandha is also a senior lecturer at Mahamukut Buddhist University where he teaches anthropology and is visiting professor at Mahidol University where he teaches Buddhist studies. He is fluent in Pali, English, Thai, Nepali and Newari, and travels often on lecture tours.

After doing his first masters from Tribhuban University, Anil Sakya received a royal scholarship from the king of Thailand to do an Mphil from Cambridge and then a PhD in social anthropology in 2000 from Britain's Brunel University under the Nepal specialist, David Gellner. His PhD dissertation is on Newar marriage and kinship in Kathmandu.

We asked Anil why he chose that subject, being a celibate monk himself. "In anthropology, you chose a topic to which you are an 'outsider' so to speak. As a monk, I am an 'outsider' to the institution of marriage, thus my interest in choosing it."

Anil was born in 1960 in Lagan Tole in Kathmandu to a middle-class Sakya family, Anil remembers his destination was pre-ordained. "When my mother conceived me she had a dream of the Buddha visiting her house for alms," he recalls, "She offered alms to the Buddha and other monks in return the Buddha blessed her with a son." He became a Samenera, a Buddhist novice at 14, and after completing Class 8 from Paropakar Adarsha High School in Kathmandu, he was sent to Thailand where he ordained as a monk at age 22.

Today, as Phra Sugandha, Anil takes a keen interest in informing the Thai public about Nepal and is a recognised face on Thai television and media where he is called 'Phra Nepal' (Nepali monk). Lately, Anil is also gaining international recognition as a monk-anthropologist. One subject that fascinates Anil is the historic link between Nepal and Thailand. Mahayana and Vajrayana icons such as those found in Kathmandu Valley have been unearthed in Ayuthya, the former capital of Siam, north of Bangkok. Anil believes this is evidence of the trade and religious links that used to prevail between the two kingdoms and he wants to research these links further.

Anil was also a consultant to King Bhumibol when he was working on his book Mahajanaka in late 1988 (see article, above). They worked together while the king was learning Sanskrit and the Devnagari script. "I remember His Majesty's humility towards Nepali monks as well as his interest in Nepal and Buddhism in Nepal," recalls Anil.

In 1985, Anil remembers the king kneeling in front of the Sanghanayaka Bhikshu Pragyananda of Nepal, who was seated on a chair while giving a sermon at the royal monastery. Thailand's Queen Sirikit has also shown keen interest in Nepal, and a vihara built in Kirtipur carries her name: Sirikitti ('Srikirti' in Sanskrit).

Aside from the daily rituals of monkhood, Phra Sugandha is often giving discourses and sermons, or preparing papers and articles at Wat Bovoranives Vihara, Thailand's royal monastery.

Sudhindra Sharma in Bangkok

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)