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Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, Thai Buddhism’s Supreme Patriarch; at 100

Supreme Patriarch Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, performing rites in Bangkok.

Associated Press/File

Supreme Patriarch Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, performing rites in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — Thailand’s Supreme Patriarch, who headed the country’s order of Buddhist monks for more than two decades, died Oct. 24. He was 100.

Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara died of a severe blood infection, doctors said in a statement.

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After he was admitted to the hospital in 2002, the Supreme Patriarch was able to perform leadership duties for a time, but in 2004, a senior Buddhist monk was appointed to work on his behalf. That monk died earlier this year, raising speculation about who the Supreme Patriarch’s successor will be.

His successor will be formally appointed by Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Thailand is the world’s most heavily Buddhist country, with about 90 percent of its 67 million people members of the religion. As head of the religion, the patriarch has legal authority to oversee sects of Buddhism.

The Supreme Patriarch promotes Buddhism and leads the Sangha Supreme Council, which oversees the country’s Buddhist monks and novices of all sects. The council’s job is to make sure monks follow Buddha’s teachings and do not violate the rules set by the council.

The Supreme Patriarch was a friend of His Holiness Dalai Lama of Tibet, who called the Thai monk ‘‘my elder brother.’’

The Supreme Patriarch was born Charoen Gajavatra on Oct. 3, 1913, the eldest of three sons. He was still a boy when his father died, and he was reared by his aunt.

He became gravely ill as a boy, and his family made a promise to sacred spirits that he would become a monk if he recovered. He became a monk in 1933.

He served as secretary of the Supreme Patriarch who preceded him, and was appointed the top Buddhist monk in 1989, when he took on the name Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara — ‘‘a person of great insight.’’

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