THE LIFE OF THE MONKS
In Cambodia, Buddhist monks occupy a specific social class and are highly respected. To speak with them, there is even a separate vocabulary from that used by ordinary people, with completely different terms, effectively forming another language.
Traditionally, as in other Southeast Asian countries, they wear orange robes and have their heads shaved, and are busy begging every morning.
Although not as widespread as in Thailand, Laos, and especially in Myanmar, there is the custom of sending sons when still young to try their hand at monastic life. Buddhist monks do not take perpetual vows although in fact some remain monks permanently.
The five precepts for monastic asceticism prohibit:
- eat after noon
- participate in any entertainment (singing, dancing, and watching movies or television)
- use any personal adornments
- sleeping on a luxurious bed and handling money
- a monk is also expected to be celibate.
Furthermore, the monks allegedly avoid any involvement in political affairs, cannot vote or hold political office, and cannot testify a legal document or testify in court.
Since the person of a monk is considered sacred, she is considered outside the normal civil laws and public duties that concern the laity.
Buddhist monks are traditionally called to perform a number of functions in Cambodian life: they participate in ceremonies, weddings and funerals, are sometimes healers, some practice a role similar to that of psychiatrists, others are skilled in astrology and can read the future.
The monk especially in the past occupied a unique position in the transmission of Khmer culture and values. With his way of life he must be a model of life that every Buddhist should follow.
Below is a selection of photos I took over the years during my photographic tours, which document some moments of the monks’ daily life.