Thailand’s King Bhumipol Adulyadej has died after a reign of 70 years. He ascended the throne at a time when most nations were divesting themselves of kings and the Thai monarchy has little influence or relevance. Gradually, through the force of his upright character, his personal piety and his high-profile development projects he elevated himself and the monarchy to a position of regard and reverence almost unequalled anywhere in the world.
As head of state, he had to preside over various religious ceremonies and present the required honors and titles to the country’s often lacklustre monks, the Sangha being little more than a department of the government. However, he was genuinely pious and exceptionally well-informed about the true state of the Sangha, and when he came to know of really worthy monks he would arrange to visit them during his tours of the country. Simply by doing this the public’s attention would be directed towards often previously little-known monks, raising their status, and that of the Sangha’s at the same time. Bhumipol (bhūi = Earth, pāla = protector) was not just the protector of the nation but also protector and promoter of the Dhamma. With his passing Thailand loses a great leader and enters a period of uncertinaty.