|Birth:||12 February 1889|
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
|Death:||26 June 1999|
Stockton, California, USA
|Age:||110 years, 134 days|
Samdach Vira Dharmawara Bellong Mahathera (12 February 1889 – 26 June 1999), also known simply as Bhante Dharmawara, was a Cambodian-born American Theravada monk, teacher and supercentenarian who died at the age of 110.
Bellong Mahathera was born on 12 February 1889 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to a wealthy and illustrious family.
He was well educated and became a lawyer, judge and district governor before he began studying Buddhism and became a monk in his 30s. Bhante practised in the Forest Tradition in Thailand before travelling through Burma to India, where he spent much of his life. He studied natural healing and became well known for his healing abilities, in recognition of which he was given the land on which to found The Asoka Mission in New Delhi by Jawarharalal Nehru, first Prime Minister of Independent India.
He returned to Cambodia to visit in 1952 and established a connection to Norodom Sihanouk, then still king. In 1955 he accompanied Sihanouk to the Bandung Conference in Indonesia.
He first visited the U.S. in late 1955 and early 1956 when he was invited by the US Information Agency to attend a conference on education. In California, the yoga teacher Indra Devi introduced him to wine critic Robert Lawrence Balzer, who was already interested in Asian religions. With Dharmawara´s invitation, Balzer traveled to Cambodia and ordained for two weeks in the temple where Dharmawara was staying, later writing about it in the book Beyond Conflict.
He was fluent in many languages and travelled to teach meditation and healing to groups in many countries. Starting in 1973, he taught meditation, particularly on colour, every year to the students at John G. Bennett's Academy for Continuous Education in Sherborne, Gloucestershire.
Later, Bhante moved permanently to the United States and worked to help settle the thousands of refugees who fled there from the war in Cambodia. He founded the first Cambodian Buddhist temple in America in the area of Washington, D.C.and later Wat Dharawararama in Stockton, California.
He died on 26 June 1999, at aged of 110 years, 134 days and his ashes have been interred in a memorial at Asoka Mission in Delhi where a celebration of his life is held every year on his birthday on 12 February.
- "Bellong Mahathera Is Dead; Cambodian Monk Was 110" The New York Times