Sunday, October 05, 2014

Siem Reap Ranked World’s Fourth Best City for Tourists

Siem Reap Ranked World’s Fourth Best City for Tourists
JULY 4, 2014
Siem Reap is the the fourth best city in the world for travelers, according to readers of Travel + Leisure magazine.

The city received a score of 89.82 out of 100 in the magazine’s 2014 World’s Best awards. Among the categories readers were asked to rate were hotels, airlines, spas and city attractions.

Siem Reap’s best-ever showing on Travel + Leisure’s list comes about two weeks after Siem Reap’s Angkor Wat and Bayon temples placed 6th and 7th, respectively, among the world’s top 10 tourist attractions, according to TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice awards.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

In Cambodia, A Lost City Is Found

In Cambodia, A Lost City Is Found

(Photo : Phnom Kulen Program) The ancient royal city of Mahendraparvata was little more than a legend until modern technology spotted it.
Archeologists working in the Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia announced the discovery of a city once thought to be legend.
The nation is most famous for Angkor, the illustrious capital of Khmer Empire, that rose near the Tonle Sap Lake around 1150 AD. But a rare few inscriptions tell of another, older city called Mahendraparvata that may be the true birthplace of Khmer culture. But nobody knew where it was.
Until now Archeologists flew over a plateau northeast of Angkor called the Kulen Hills using lidar, a technology that strips away otherwise impenetrable vegetation. The region is mentioned as the site of Mahendraparvata, but is so vast and so over grown by near-impenetrable rain forests that work on the ground would have taken years.
Before the survey team's eyes, a neat grid of streets and boulevards appeared out of the jungle, dotted with temples, man-made ponds, and evidence of hydraulic architecture that is the hallmark of Angkor's dazzling water-controlling civilization.
Even more impressive, the street grid defied geography; roads and ceremonial pathways cut straight through hills and dales across the plateau.
"You have this kind of sudden eureka moment where you bring the data up on screen the first time and there it is - this ancient city very clearly in front of you," said Dr. Damian Evans of the University of Sydney in Australia, who led the lidar survey.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The lost Buddha relic impacts on the treasure of Cambodia nation

The lost Buddha relic impacts on the treasure of Cambodia nation

Buddha’s relic is very important and sacred treasure for Cambodian Buddhists while it was stolen on December 10, 2013 at the Udong Sakyamuni Buddha stupa in Kandal province about 20 km. from Phnom Penh. The loss of this 1506866_511098022321784_141662894_ntreasure has triggered sadness for all Cambodians. The relic has symbolized the national holiness, the faith, the pride and the soul of this nation. To be known as Buddhism institution in this nation, the strong pillars comprise of:
  1. Buddha or the Founder refers to Buddha statue (imitating the actual Buddha image in shape of iconic statue or painting. Buddha said Yo Mam Passati So Dhammam Passati means one who see him see his teaching) and the actual relic of the Buddha. Relic was spared to different locations by the Tona Brahma after the cremation of the Lord Buddha and Cambodia is believed to receive on piece of hair offered by Sri Lanka government during the reign of King Norodom Sihanouk and Supreme Patriarch Chuon Nath.
  2. Dhamma or the Teaching refers to the Tipitaka, Pariyati and Pali language school, Samadhi practice and Buddhist learning.
  3. Sangha or the Community refers to four disciples such as Bhikkhu, Bhikkhuni, Upasaka and Upaseka
  4. Rituals or Sasanapithi refers to both disciplinary rituals such as ordination, pavarana-kamma and Kathina etc.; and ordinary rituals such as Visakha Bochea, Pchum Ben etc.
  5. Sacred Place/Worshiping Place or Sasanasthan refers to Bodhi tree, Temple, Buddha Statue and Relic
Observing from these five pillars, the loss of relic is comparing like losing one of the key pillars. Note that, in Cambodia, the stolen relic is the most important one in this nation.
If the authority can not return back the relic from thieving this time, there will be disastrous consequences in the future.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Buddhism and the rituals

An email of CAN and Campro member questioning on the daily Dana or charity in Cambodia has drawn attention members a lot to further explore this social recurring puzzling question. Sophal Chan who initiated this question upon his field research and observation over Tver Bon or Making Merit by Cambodian people. It has not been consistent with the well-being and living standard of those religious people at all while those poor donors have will to donate huge amount of materials rather than use those material for the demand of their daily living. The question possibly falls upon what term Tver Bon's equivalency to the English one ie ceremony, making merit or ritual etc? Why many Cambodian people can afford to donate and prepare luxurious rituals to dedicate to their dead relatives or parents more than plan to inject those money to the present daily living or make their living standard well off? Does the belief in next life overturn this life in term of making merit?

As a member of both CAN and Campro, and as my keen research interest has tremendously fallen up Cambodian Buddhism, Cambodian leadership and culture; I wish to take this opportunity to elaborate to the best of my ability.

I will not try to answer those questions substantially but I will pick up some important agenda on the core value of Buddhism and the way of practices that Cambodian Buddhists should do.

Is ritual important in Buddhism?
In general, Buddhism is composed of five fundamental pillars:
1. Founder or Saasadaa  which refers to Lord Buddha or the term means Enlightened One or Awaken One
2. The teaching or Dhamma or Saasanathir which refers to His teaching totaling of 840,000 chapters comprising of 110 books within Cambodian Tripitaka version.
3. The monk community or Sangha or Saasana Saavaka which refers to four different types of followers such as Bhikkhu monk, Bhikkunii monk, lay man or Upaasaka, and lay woman or Upaasikaa
4. The rituals or Saasana Pithii which refers to rites, ceremonies, function, celebration, commemoration, charity, volunteering, worshiping and other activities to accumulate merits
5. The sacred places or pilgrimages or Saasanasathaan which refers to holy places of Buddhism such as Birthplace, Stupa for Relics, Bodhi tree, temples and other sanctuaries.

By mentioning above five fundamental pillars, ritual is important in Buddhism.

What are those rituals?
In general, we can distinguish rituals into two types:
1. Pure Buddhist rituals which refer to any ceremonies are conducted to honor Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Those activities are including daily worshiping or chanting, Vishaka Bochea day, Magha Bochea day, Asalaha Bochea day, Buddhist Lent, Buddhist out of Lent, Kathina, ordination etc.
2. Traditional Buddhist rituals which refer to any ceremonies are conducted to get along with tradition, culture and local belief. Those activities are including Khmer New Year, Bon Pchum Ben or Ancestor Festival, Bon Pachai Boun or four necessities offering, Bon Teakenaanupatean or Offering for the Death, wedding, funeral, gratefulness or longevity parita chanting etc.

Beside these, there are many merit making or social activities such as volunteering, charity to the poor and destitutes, the engaging in protecting environment, the engaging in treatment of the HIV/AIDS population, or the engagement in the guarding on those peaceful rallies etc.

Pressing Issues
Political Scientist Jean-Jacques Rousseau said in his book on "Social Contract" that political leadership is the distribution between "leaders" and "followers". Leaders can shape and change attitude of followers; and followers can shape and change capacity building of the leaders. The interaction of these two contracts has evolved in accordance to culture, geography, political climate and norms etc.

Cambodia has been known for her history of great Angkor civilization and the renewal of this pride has been strongly embedded within Cambodian mindset. Among other means to legitimate power and the effective communication of the political contract is the charity activities.

Rousseau pointed that the leaders can apply all his capacity to utilize the existing pattern of culture and belief to infuse their power. It is the comprehension of the leaders to know their followers very well in order to lead them. If leaders don't know the mindset of their followers, the interaction and power communication will vanish spontaneously. Thus, Rousseau encouraged legislators to draft and amend the neutral laws to mediate and neutralize any types of power abusing by the leaders.

Buddha's principle teaching is not different from Rousseau's. All rituals are encouraged to cultivate all good, to give up all evils and to cleanse one own's mind. Any rituals which are not supportive to the practice of the Dhamma were dismissed by the Buddha. Buddha dismissed Bhikkhu monks who have conducted rituals such as charming spell, good luck writing, palm reading, tattooing, fortune telling, water sprinkling and others in which He addressed that Bhikkhu monks are highly revered and if any Bhikkhu monks conducted such rituals, it is comparing like lowering themselves down to the lowest level and they are running a business which is not the duty of the Sangha.

In my book "Political Leadership: Which Way Cambodian Leaders Should Choose to Pursue?" (it will be for the public soon) has thoroughly elaborated on the way Charity in Buddhism for Cambodian people should be undertaken. The premises that all leaders and followers must be mindful to practice in accordance to the Buddha's teaching are:
1. Giver (Daayaka/Daayikaa) must be in good stand of morals, pure mind and courteous.
2. Receiver (Padikhaahaka) must be in good stand of discipline (Vinaya), pure mind and behaviour.
3. Material (Teyavattu) must be in good stand of right livelihood, pure and unconditional.

Merit and sin in Buddhism cannot be traded off or interchangeable. If one stole and killed, one cannot expect to make merits in order to redeem sins at all.