His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej adopted the concept of a righteous monarch with his first words uttered as a reigning king upon performing the coronation ceremony in accordance with the ancient royal tradition on 5 May 1950: "We shall reign with righteousness for the benefits and happiness of the people of Siam."
To His Majesty, and all his subjects, it was more than a traditional first utterance of a monarch. He turned it into a firm pledge adhered to and proven with royal activities throughout the past 60 years of the reign. He made the nation and the people his focus of attention and devoted his time and energy to solve problems faced by all groups of people in the Kingdom, giving practical advice and solutions to a wide range of issues, from political stalemates to difficulties in agricultural practices in the rural areas, including drought, flooding, irrigation, education, health, and traffic problems, all meant to develop the people's quality of life and contribute to national progress and security through Dhamma.
In the Dictionary of Buddhism by the Venerable Phra Brahmagunabhorn (P.A. Payutto), "Dhamma" is defined as states, things, phenomena, and ideas, and the "Noble Eightfold Path" as Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.
His Majesty the King is a model of a Dhammaraja, or the king of righteousness, strictly upholding Buddhist principles. In his royal address given to well-wishers on the eve of his birthday anniversary on 4 December 1969, His Majesty said:
One needs a faith, that is the idea, or the line of thought, as the principle governing one's actions, and one needs education, for knowledge, spiritual and material, so that life can be sustained. Faith and education are both important, and cannot be separated.
As a child, His Majesty was trained in Buddhist principles by Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother, who was intent in instilling morality in her royal children. She gave them simple and obvious lessons suitable for their age. They were not just told to follow what was taught, but were given the reason for it. The royal children were taught to adhere to the Triple Gem with simple verses for them to recite in worshipping the Lord Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha on a daily basis. They were told to concentrate, making a wish or seeking refuge in the Lord Buddha, with simple explanations given for the actions.
At the same time, they were taught to give to the needy, with explanations as to why they should be helped. By this method, the Princess Mother inculcated in her royal children the principles of morality and rationality at the same time. Her teachings had great influences on the habit and conduct of her daughter and sons.
His Majesty the King is a practitioner, based on his character of putting theories to practice. He studies Dhamma and meditates. When he visited the Venerable Kasem Khemako, a record was made by the secretary to the revered monk on the dialogue on practicing meditation:
In practicing, the monks have ample time and can achieve the success. But for laymen who have little time and cannot practice like Your Eminence does, what should be the course of action? Can the time be shortened from one hour or half an hour to ten minutes or five minutes, with the same results achieved? For example, can it be done during a ride from Chiang Mai to Lampang, or while here at the ceremony, with some spare time in between? Can it be done periodically? Is that the right practice, may I ask Your Eminence?
May it please Your Majesty, that can be done, if one can manage the time properly.
His Majesty's concept of studying Dhamma in tandem with practicing the principles taught was contained in the royal address given to the 30th General Assembly of Buddhist Associations Nationwide on 25 December 1982:
I have spoken to you several times about the preferable ways and means to promote Buddhism and the principles of morality. This time, I would like to touch on another important means that should be considered, that is, the right way of studying Dhamma and morality. In fact, it was established in Buddhism that the accomplished way of studying Dhamma comprises theoretical and practical studies, properly and equitably conducted, so that an insight is attained, that is, getting the result and seeing the result of Dhamma oneself. Therefore, no matter how much one learns, if an insight is not attained, the learning is not accomplished, with no real result realized. And then further propagation or teaching of that Dhamma can never be properly done. To study Dhamma at any level, one needs to become well-versed in the teaching, and put it to practice in action, in speech, and in thought. Only then can insight be achieved.
H.R.H. the Princess Mother promoted Iddhipada - the four-point path for achievement - among her children, helping them grow attached to and enjoy their work and play, so as to create chanda, the will to learn, leading to exertion or making their best effort, viriya, to achieve the result, consequently leading to citta, thoughtfulness or concentration on the work, and vimansa, investigation, examination or testing, to improve the outcome. Iddhipada, tactfully taught as the royal children were playing freely in an atmosphere of love and understanding, became a powerful force in their lives as adults.
Mr. Khwankeo Vajarodaya, who was sponsored by the Princess Mother to study hotel management and who was staying at Villa Vadhana in Lausanne at the time, gave accounts of the Princess Mother and her children with appreciation:
His Majesty never remains idle. He is so industrious, so persistent, in everything he does, both personal undertakings and public functions.
He pointed out that the Princess Mother was an excellent model of industriousness. She was always engaged in some tasks:
Her Royal Highness did everything herself. I have never met any lady as hard-working in my life. She did everything by herself, never asking for help. Anyone wanting to lend her a hand had to monitor where she would be, and make his or her own effort to be there for her. She never called anyone, never gave an order.
His Majesty undoubtedly inherited this trait from his mother, as Mr. Khwankeo illustrated in this anecdote:
While staying at Villa Vadhana, when I returned from school, I saw His Majesty cleaning the car by himself, calling no one to help. I then helped him without being asked. When he performed jazz at O So Radio Station in Chitralada Villa, he always cleaned the instrument and packed it afterwards himself.
Iddhibada had obviously been inculcated in His Majesty the King in his youth, when he assembled a small cardboard boat, and later a model of the ship HMS Sri Ayutthaya. He went on to design and build yachts, in one of which he raced and won a gold medal at the Southeast Asian Peninsula Games in Bangkok.
His Majesty also used Iddhibada quite admirably in learning computer science. Privy Councilor M.L. Assanee Pramoj, a keen musician, presented to His Majesty a McIntosh Plus capable of printing musical notation and connectible to various musical instrument and accessories. His Majesty uses the computer in his musical works, writing notations and lyrics. He taught himself how to use the three sets of software: Concertware, Deluxe Music Construction, and Professional Composer.
His Majesty also paid great attention to fonts and word processing. He designed several Thai fonts, using such software as Fantastic and Resource Editor. His inventions included the Chitralada and Phuping Thai fonts, in various sizes, from the smallest to the largest. With the principle of Iddhibada in him, he mastered the use of the computer, and each year, the Thai people have been granted a computer-generated card designed by His Majesty the King as an auspicious start of the year, along with the royal address televised nationwide in the evening of New Year's Eve and His Majesty's composition blessing the people and the nation on the occasion.
In Buddhism, The Ten Guiding Principles for a King are defined as the virtues of a righteous ruler. The principles have been adhered to by His Majesty the King throughout the past 60 years of his reign. The Ten Guiding Principles for a King comprise dana, sila, paricaga, ajava, maddava, tapa, akkodha, avihimsa, khanti and avirodhana. The meanings are explained by Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, the Supreme Patriarch:
Dana, "giving": This principle advises giving help to those that need help because they lack certain things. We help starving people by giving them food. If they lack clothing, then help should given in the form of garments. If they need a place to live, then we should give them shelter. If they need medicine to cure their illness, then medical help should be given. In short, we should help by giving them what they need. This is dana.
Sila, "self conduct": We should refrain from doing evil things. We should refrain from doing anything that is bad and will create enmity. We should also refrain from saying evil things. We should both physically and verbally abstain from doing what should not be done.
Paricaga, "giving up": By this is meant giving up something of lesser use for something of greater use. For example, we should give up or spend some money to keep our body or parts of it in good shape. When we or others are ill, for instance, we should be willing to give up some wealth for the cure. We should be willing to give up a part of our body in order to save our life, if we wish to save it. And we should be able to give up everything, namely wealth, a part of the body, or even our life itself in doing what is right or in performing our duty. For example, if a soldier gives up everything willingly in the performance of his duty, namely the protection of his country, he is giving in the sense of paricaga.
Ajava, "straightness": This means to behave honestly toward one's friends, colleagues and all the people and to be honest in carrying out one's work and duty.
Maddava, "gentleness": This means to speak gently and to act gently, not showing roughness and rudeness. This does not, however, mean weakness, it means gentleness, politeness with the absence of arrogance and absence of conceit. One should be polite in action as well as speech. Whenever one speaks one should speak gently and politely.
Tapa, "perseverance": A ruler should have courage to do what should be done and should not have any fear in doing it. He must not be lazy; he should do his duty with regularity and without any shortcomings. He should be strong-willed and not become easily discouraged. If a ruler conducts himself in this manner, he will be properly respected by those who have dealings with him and they will not ever think of disobeying him.
Akkodha, "non-anger": By this is meant having a heart full of kindness based on good wishes. A person practicing this principle does not become touchy and irritable. On the contrary, such a person would be calm, cool, and collected, he would not indulge in putting blame on other people, he would know how to accept and to forgive, and he would be merciful.
Avihimsa, "not causing injury": By this is meant not causing troubles for other people, either directly or indirectly. Living by this principle, a person would have a kind heart and would seek ways to help and would regularly help other people.
Khanti, "endurance or patience": This means the capacity to endure hardship. For instance, to endure, when necessary, cold, heat, hunger, thirst, and all other unpleasant and unenjoyable things. Endurance also includes enduring misery and physical pain during illness. One should also learn to put up with mental pain brought about by other people's occasional harsh or unkind words. Slights and insults can bring pain and bruise one's heart (if our heart is not fully pure), but in following this guiding principle one must learn to bear them.
Avirodhana, "not going wrong": A ruler should not do what he knows to be wrong. People occasionally do wrong things, some more often and some less. This arises out of their ignorance or through their carelessness. But one should not knowingly do what one already knows to be wrong. One should be careful while doing things and should try not to do any wrong things, or as few as possible. When one is in a high position, one must try to maintain fairness. One must never be biased because of love, hatred, delusion, or fear. This is what is meant by "not going wrong."
His Majesty the King possesses these ten guiding principles for a ruler, and he follows the teaching of the Lord Buddha on Cakkavatti-vatta, the duties of a great ruler:
Protecting inner people, those in the royal entourage, and the royal household
Promoting relations with other states
Providing for relatives in cases of illnesses and death
Supporting Brahmins, householders, and city people
Giving help to people in regional and rural areas
Supporting the ordained and the pious subjects
Protecting wild animals, beasts, and birds
Letting no wrongdoing prevail in the kingdom
Providing for the poor, to keep them from mischief
Keeping close to the learned and the ordained to seek wisdom
Keeping self-restraint, never going to places unbecoming for a king
Refraining from greed, not taking possession of what is not given.
According to the Lord Chamberlain, Mr. Keokhwan Vajarodaya (the brother of Mr. Khwankeo above), officials of the Bureau of the Royal Household are presently taken care of in terms of accommodation, while their children are cared for in all aspects. Fifty-six housing units have been constructed for the aged, with healthcare and recreational facilities provided. At the same time, schools are provided for children and youth, including the Suan Kulap Palace School, Rajavinit School, In-Palace College for Girls, In-Palace College for Boys, and Royal Goldsmith College, for instance.
In other cases, Mr. Khwankeo, who is also President of the Rajaprajanugroh Foundation under His Majesty the King's patronage, pointed out that people in distress, affected by public disasters such as storms, floods, fires, and the recent tsunami, all looked up to His Majesty the King for help. The Rajaprajanugroh Foundation thus came into being on 23 August 1963, after a storm devastated the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat. The name of the Foundation, which means "the King and the People Helping Each Other," has been the governing theme for the work of the Foundation, that is, the King giving help to make people happy, so that he himself can be happy. When the people suffer, the King also suffers. His Majesty, therefore, solicits help for the King and the people to mutually alleviate sufferings.
As a righteous king, His Majesty practiced Dhamma for a ruler, especially the four virtues in Raja-sangahavatthu, a king's virtues that bind the nation:
Sassamedha - skill in agricultural promotion, making food crops abundant in the kingdom
Purisamedha - astuteness in the promotion and encouragement of government personnel, both military and civilian
Sammapasa - the ability to bind subjects' hearts, through alleviation of their plight, and promotion of peace and happiness
Vajapeya - affability in address, kind and convincing speech.
His Majesty the King possesses all the mentioned virtues, making him the uniting force of the nation and the center of affection of the people. He excelled in the first virtue, the skill in agricultural promotion, making food and food crops abundant in the Kingdom. He revived the Royal Plowing Ceremony to encourage agriculturists, and devised the New Theory to promote the self-sufficiency and prosperity of his people.
On several occasions, His Majesty the King taught some aspects of Dhamma for the people to adhere to for right livelihood. In a royal address to new graduates of Srinakharinwirot University on 23 June 1979, he explained that, apart from qualifications and knowledge, graduates must possess the following life virtues:
In 1982, when Thailand celebrated the bicentenary of Bangkok, also known as Rattanakosin, as the royal capital, His Majesty the King gave a royal address during the royal ceremony to pay homage to former kings on 5 April 1982 at the ceremonial ground of Sanam Luang, enunciating Gharavasa-dhamma, four virtues for lay people, for all Thais to adhere to in their lives:
Firstly, truth and honesty.
Secondly, self-taming and training.
Thirdly, tolerance, forbearance.
Fourthly, liberality, generosity.
Gratitude is one of the human virtues included in the 38 blessings or auspices for a good life.
His Majesty the King is admired for the gratitude towards his benefactors. When the Princess Mother was taken ill at Siriraj Hospital, the Thai people witnessed the daily visit made by His Majesty the King to his mother as a dutiful and grateful son.
In the Sapparisa-pannatti -- principles for virtuous persons - the three following virtues are defined:
Dana - giving, generosity, benefaction
Pabbajja - restraint and self control, non-violence and peaceful coexistence
Matapitu-upatthana - proper support for father and mother.
The royal address on the occasion of His Majesty's prospective entrance into monkhood on 18 October 1956, clearly reflected the Sapparisa-pannatti he upheld:
From the training which I have received, as well as out of my own personal belief, it is my view that Buddhism, which is our national religion, is one of the great religions of the world. Buddhism comprises teachings to lead men to good conduct and is rich in veritable precepts which are logical, highly impressive, and inspiring. I have always entertained the idea of being ordained as a monk under the great religion and in accordance with royal custom for a period of time, should the opportunity arise, which would also be the traditional way of expressing gratitude to my august ancestors. Some 10 years have elapsed since my ascension to the throne, succeeding my late brother, and it now seems an appropriate occasion to implement my wish. Moreover, the recovery from recent illness of His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch, who has favored me personally with his kindness, has given my great satisfaction. If, for my ordination, I could have His Holiness act as my preceptor, I would, in my considered view, be making an appropriate expression of my faith and reverence for him at the same time. For these reasons, I have decided to be ordained.
In The Story of Tongdaeng, a book written by His Majesty about a stray dog he adopted, and a book now famous among the Thai people, he made this remark on Tongdaeng's character:
(She is) different from many others who, after having become an important personality, might treat with contempt someone of lower status who, in fact, should be the object of gratitude.
His Majesty praised Tongdaeng for her gratitude to her mother, Daeng, (Red), who could not feed her pups. Tongdaeng came to Chitralada Villa and was fed by Mali, a pet dog there. Later, whenever Tongdaeng met Mali, she recognized her out of respect.
His Majesty is known for self-taming or training. He often has to sit in one position for hours handing degrees to graduates from various universities, an activity he conducted without fail for decades.
In the book entitled In Memory of the State Visits of His Majesty the King, composed by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, this account was given:
When we first arrived in Belgium, His Majesty began to catch a cold. If he had taken time to rest for a day or two, his symptoms would not have become aggravated, but instead, he had to attend many activities from morning until evening, Besides, with traveling to different cities in such cold, rainy weather every day, the King had been exposed to very cold drizzle all of this time. Hence, the King had a fever on the second day of our visit. His personal doctor prescribed a dose of medicine for him to take every four hours. This made him feel sleepy and drowsy, but his temperature did not abate. Nonetheless, he actively participated in each event of the day. No one, except for our entourage and myself, knew that he was sick. He spoke French and English alternately. Every day he had to shake hands with about one thousand people. I sympathized with him so much. lf I had been as terribly sick as His Majesty was then, I am not sure that I could have endured it. When I saw his pale face and his eyes so sleepy with fever, I felt so anxious. But it was beyond my control. I knew that he would try the best that he could and that he would not give in.
Perseverance is an aspect of Dhamma that is emphasized in His Majesty the King's composition The Story of Mahajanaka, as he said in the introduction:
This book is dear to me.
It is incomparable, and should bring much joy to readers.
It is meant to show that one has to persevere to achieve an aim.
May all of you have right exertion, sharp wisdom, and good physical strength!
The Story of Mahajanaka extolled perseverance in an episode from the story of King Mahajanaka, whose ship capsized in a storm on the ocean. All his men had died, and he survived alone on the ocean for seven days and seven nights before he met the goddess Mani Mekhala, the Goddess of Clouds and Rains. In their discussion on perseverance, he told her: "I see the way of the world and the merit of perseverance. Therefore, even without the shore in sight, I have to keep afloat on the ocean." Finally, the goddess Mani Mekhala carried King Mahajanaka to his city, Mithila.
In fact, the production of the book represents His Majesty's own perseverance. He spent 19 years researching the Mahajanaka story in the Tripitaka, the Suttantapitaka - the second main division of the Pali Canon , Khuddaka Nikaya Jataka, volume 4, part 2. In the year 1977, His Majesty composed the story in his own words. He then translated it into English, with the ancient Devanagri script transcribed alongside the translation. At the completion of the book in 1988, artists were commissioned to make illustrations. It was completed and published by Amarin Press in 1996, in time for the celebrations on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of His Majesty the King's Accession to the Throne.
Mr. Khwankeo Vajarodaya, the Grand Chamberlain, explained that the Story of King Mahajanaka represented perseverance, from His Majesty the King's direct experience over 50 years of his reign at the time. He faced various obstacles but was not discouraged. He survived because of perseverance. It was His Majesty's conviction that only perseverance brought about success, and perseverance would lead to world peace and progress. His Majesty wished for all Thais to persevere in their lives.
Dhamma in The Story of Mahajanaka is thus an encouragement to everyone, so that they face problems with courage and persevere in all circumstances.
His Majesty's strong ties with his subjects were recorded in his diary Traveling from Siam to Switzerland, when he was leaving to further his studies in Switzerland; the entries start on 16 August 1946, three days before his departure, and continue up to 22 August 1948. The entries reflected his activities, his views on persons and places, and the ties he felt with his subjects:
18 August 1946 - I shall have to leave tomorrow...I must humbly take leave [from the late King Ananda's body] today, not tomorrow as originally planned. I need to hasten, so that there would be time for a slow ride tomorrow, for the people to see me as they wish.
As I proceeded from the Phaisan Thaksin Throne Hall to the Amarin Winitchai Throne Hall, such a big crowd was there! Yesterday, officials asked if the people should be allowed in while I paid respect to the royal remains [of the late King Ananda]. I told the officials that they should allow the people in. It was Sunday, the day for the people. How could we forbid them? Moreover, it would be my last day before leaving and I would like to see the people. It would be a long time before I returned to see them again.
19 August 1946 - Today I had to leave the country… The roads were filled with people. On Ratchadamnoen Klang Road, people surged so near the car. I feared that the wheels would roll on somebody's limbs. We made it slowly through the crowd, up to Wat Benchamabophit, where we could pick up some speed. Along the way, someone cried out loudly, "Don't forsake the people!" I wished to answer him that if the people did not forsake me, how could I ever forsake them...
On the plane...I recalled the trip made nine months ago in the opposite direction. Then we were on a visit to the country, to visit the people that we had left behind for seven full years. We did not hear anything about our country and people at all.
Today, 59 years after that departure by His Majesty the King, the Thai people have lived under a righteous reign by a caring monarch who has devoted his time and energy visiting his people in all regions, from his regional palaces built in the North, the Northeast, and the South. His Majesty has been working closely with the people, holding his map in one hand, with his camera slung from his neck and a walkie-talkie at hand. He sat down on the floor or on the ground among the people, listening to their tales of woes, while collecting information and seeking solutions to problems and crises, giving advice, initiatives, funds, and personnel. Why did he have to work so hard, shouldering the burden of the nation in such a way? An explanation may be found in something His Majesty said in an interview to a correspondent for National Geographic, in an article published under the title "Thailand's Working Royalty":
They say that a kingdom is like pyramid: the king on top and the people below. But in this country, it's upside down. That's why I sometimes have this pain around here.
The serious scholarly face breaks into a smile as he points to his neck and shoulders.
It is clear from everything that he does that His Majesty the King willingly shoulders the burden of relieving the people's suffering.
Sixty years on, and the Dhammaraja, the King of Righteousness, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, forever reigns in the hearts of all Thais!