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Title : The practice of Cambodian Buddhism before the 1970s and Today: A Comparative Case Study of Wat Tep Pranam
Type : Master Degree Thesis
File Size : 1.79 MB
Date of Submitted :
Author : Mr. Pong Pheakdey Boramy

ABSTRACT 

The aim of this thesis was to carry out a comparative study of two different periods at Tep Pranam pagoda in Tep Pranam village, Vihealaung commune, Ponhea Leu district, Kandal province, which was the basis of studies by Royal University of Fine Arts students (1969) and by Choan and Sarin (1970) before the civil war. The key question now was whether the pagoda could still create community, or whether this was no longer possible following the war, despite the restoration of Buddhism in the country.

According to many foreign and Khmer researchers, pagodas played a crucial role in the community until at least the 1960s. Tep Pranam, under the leadership of the Head monk, Oum Kev, was one of those that helped develop its community by functioning as an educational, social, cultural, moral centre. Nowadays, it is no longer able to function as before; firstly because, during the Democratic Kampuchea period, (1975-1979) many educated monks, pagodas and Buddhist texts were destroyed, and then there was a strict restriction on Buddhism for nearly ten years until the nineties. Secondly, as a result of the low level of education and lack of management skills at the pagoda, there has been a weakening of its capacity to build community in the village. The actions (or inaction) of the monks have been strongly criticised by the villagers, which has led to mistrust and a lessening of support from the community. Finally, the monks have a low level of knowledge because there are no longer any good teachers in the Pali primary schools. The school has to use its newly graduating students as teachers. They are poorly qualified to preach morality and Dhamma to the people or the secular students in the pagoda, who are considered more educated than themselves. As result, Buddhist beliefs are upheld through custom, rather than through the teaching of monks or in the family. The breakdown of community is evidenced by the presence of criminal elements (“gangsters”) in the village. They provoke conflict not only with the villagers but also with the monks who before had been considered as pious persons beyond reproach. Moreover, the pagoda itself has provoked conflicts between the Dhammayut and Mahanikay sects pagodas, and between the modern Mahanikay, and traditional Mahanikay Buddhism. Leadership is now required from the Ministry of Cult and Religion and from monk officials to support the role of the head monk, the education of monks in the province, and eliminate corruption as promised in the Anusangha Vacchāra. Funds also are needed for the recruitment and retention of qualified monk teachers, rather than for the building of new Vihara.

Source: Buddhist Institute of Cambodia