Monks' Morality Important to Cambodia

Niigata, Japan ? In Cambodia Buddhism is the state religion, guaranteed by the Constitution, and about 95 percent of the people are Buddhists. However, in recent times, a gradual decline in moral standards among Buddhist monks and the political affiliations of some of their leaders have raised serious concerns.

The current Great Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia Tep Vong has been accused of favoritism toward the ruling Cambodian People?s Party. Some of his controversial orders include the February 2005 ban on the use of pagodas for public forums hosted by non-governmental organizations, particularly the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

Instead of believing that public forums on human rights create chaos, Tep Vong should view them as a platform for people to voice their concerns and appeal to the government to look after their needs. Buddhism supports such a peaceful approach and nonviolent means to highlight problems and seek solutions.

Tep Vong usually makes speeches on political holidays ? such as Liberation Day on Jan. 7, the day the former Khmer Rouge regime was toppled ? to reaffirm his support to the ruling party. He rarely touches on issues such as moral standards or the role of monks in Cambodian society.

Several reports of monks having sex, watching pornographic materials and other social misconduct have largely gone unnoticed by the supreme patriarch. Recently a chief monk reportedly got drunk and beat some of his followers, who did not file a complaint out of fear for their safety.

Unlike the case of Tim Sakhorn ? a monk who was charged with misconduct and defrocked in 2007 for allegedly destabilizing relations between Cambodia and Vietnam ? the supreme patriarch has not reacted to the recent issue involving the drunken monk. This shows that the decision to defrock Sakhorn was politically motivated, and that the Buddhist leader is unconcerned about the decline of morality among the monks under his charge.

If such abuses continue, Buddhism will be less respected in the Cambodian community. This will affect other monks who devotedly follow and respect Buddhist principles. Besides, it would create a dangerous society if citizens were to lose faith in their religion, which contributes to people?s behavior and social conduct.

Buddhism has also played a significant role in national reconciliation and peace for survivors of the former dreaded Khmer Rouge regime. Cambodian people are likely to advise their children to apply Buddhist teachings as a way to solve conflicts in a peaceful manner and also to attain inner peace.

Therefore, the supreme patriarch and other monks need to maintain their gracious role and morality so that the religion is respected and valued. Monks should look back on their past roles in developing the community and the country.

Throughout history, pagodas and monks have contributed immensely to Cambodia?s cultural and educational sustainability, despite civil conflicts. However, their roles and contributions are diminishing in present times.

There are many issues like poverty reduction, corruption, social injustice, land disputes and social conflicts that confront Cambodia?s government as well as civil society. Monks should play a greater leadership role by introducing peaceful mechanisms to solve problems. This would go a long way toward helping Cambodians build a better society and future.

(Chak Sopheap is a graduate student of peace studies at the International University of Japan. She runs a blog, www.sopheapfocus.com, in which she shares her impressions of both Japan and her homeland, Cambodia. She was previously advocacy officer of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.)Mo

6 thoughts on “Monks' Morality Important to Cambodia

  1. I think, this is good, can be taken as the idea but if you dare openly talk like this, how many of them will be affected and how well do you know monks. I have been living under the ruling of Buddhist monk for 8 years. and what did i gain from them. My Live!! they gave me the new life. and took only a few of them who are not considered as Buddhist monk and accuse to all. If the public see your narrowed opinion on buddhism they will laugh at you of barking on the wrong tree. you said that you highly respected Buddhist Philosophy. don’t you even think of how hard is their lives. you only learning with no real experience like then and just use your tongue to talk about this and those. OK let me tell you something this is a real tough time, how is monks’ lives you can do everything, whatever you wanted to but what about them can they do that ?
    if they need to go out would they go with no any purpose?
    look at you and me we can do whatever we want, eating drinking joking, chatting dating……everything is available for us. But they can do that..NO please do not take a very few misconducted of monks who miss behaved. they left their families, sexual enjoyment, everything. at least they would know how to live their live. OK? please, if you really like Buddhism flouring in Cambodia, do not use you BA,MA, or whatever it is to talk about the bad signs of Buddhsit monks in Cambodia because i also can use it as well but it has to be in proper way. take a look at the other countries that they are buddhist as well as we are, and how is their freedom in expressing opinion and way of life.

    Canada
    Dr.Dara Rong

  2. Dear Mr. Dara,

    I thanks for your comment. If you would read my article carefully, i am not trying to accuse all monks. Also, this article is not intended to criticize the monk. It is aimed to express concern on the recent decline of those (who if you think are only few) monks who do not take Buddhist principle into account. They are misusing the rule and the role as monks and if it would continue, i am afraid that this will affect the whole Buddhism and other good behaved monks as you mentioned.

    As a lady, of course i could not become monk, but i learned a lot of Buddhist Philosophy and conduct which i agree that normal person could not behave so. That’s why i am concerned that this hardship will be damaged only by those few who violate the rule.
    Buddhism is a strong foundation of peace and morality teaching in Khmer society, therefore, strengthen the role of monk as what they used to behave in the past (like teaching, helping community, maintaining the cultural strength) are important.

    If we just ignore the recent decline, what will be the future of Buddhism? I am not using my degree to just bark on the wrong tree, but as a Buddhist citizen and a young generation which perceived that Buddhism have been ignored, so i hope my article would raised people awareness (not only the monk but those who concern) to strengthen this morality, so that Buddhism can be continue playing important role in our society. If you would not agree with me, i think you can reflect to our current society, asking the young or randomly individual, what they are thinking about Buddhism? Whether or not they know about Buddhism? (“Know” here, i refer to respect, learn, and follow). Thus, again, my article is aimed to awake the concerned institutions, the monks and individual to see what problem we are facing, and how we can improve that.

    Again, i appreciate your comment.

    Regards,
    Sopheap

  3. That is great post. Commonly, I have met somethings wrong that Cambodia’s months are using Buddhism for politics and personal issues. the Buddhism is declining from day to day because of the decrease of monk discipline…

  4. It’s very controversial to talk about the monks in Cambodia. Politics can lure Great Supreme Patriarch and monk masters. For the sake of political favor, they do everything bad and anti-Buddhist’s disciplines and against the law of the state. But those who are a real monks cannot enjoy their human rights which is guaranteed by the Constitutions.

  5. Buddhism is of the very wide range and is the center of educating people as a whole to have good morality, dignity and virtue and especially Buddhism plays important roles in developing nation and khmer youth. We buddhists should unit to develop and improve our religion. We should not see a small negative point or the a bad activity of a small number of people that make the value of buddhism declined.

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