Venerable P.A. Payutto (Phra Brahmagunabhorn) was born on January 12, 1939 in Suphanburi Province, in the central region of Thailand. The initials P.A. stand for his secular name: Prayudh Aryankura. He entered the monastic life as a novice at the age of 12 and after completing the highest level of Pali studies in 1961, he was ordained as a monk under His Majesty the King’s patronage. He has the monastic name Payutto, meaning ‘He who applies himself.’ A year later, he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Buddhist studies with top honors from Mahachulalongkorn Rajavidyalaya Buddhist University.
After graduating, he became a lecturer at his alma mater. Apart from teaching Buddhism at various universities in Thailand, he was invited to lecture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1972 and at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, in 1976. In 1981, he was invited to be a visiting scholar and subsequently appointed as a research fellow at the Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University.
A highly-revered monk and eminent scholar, he is also widely-respected as an eloquent preacher and authoritative writer, with thousands of Dhamma talk recordings and over three hundred books on Buddhism to his credit. He is especially renowned for his magnum opus on Theravada Buddhism titled Buddhadhamma. In recognition of his outstanding scholarship and significant contribution to Buddhism, institutions in Thailand and abroad have conferred upon him honorary doctorate degrees and other prestigious titles. Among such accolades is UNESCO’s Prize for Peace Education, which was given to him in 1994. In his acceptance speech, he made clear that the real prize is ‘a truly peaceful world for humankind,’ and the prize ‘will be won only when that goal has been realized.’
Due to his dedicated service to Buddhism, he has been successively elevated with royal sanction to the following ecclesiastical titles:
- Phra Srivisuddhimoli
- Phra Rajavaramuni
- Phra Debvedi
- Phra Dhammapitaka
- Phra Brahmagunabhorn