I’m very intrigued with Buddhism, and before arriving In Cambodia I had very little understanding of it. Below is an explanation from Wikipedia. I believe about 95% of Khmers’ practice buddhism, in particular Theravada Buddhism, the remaining percentage are mainly christians and muslims. The Khmer rouge had a massive impact on all temples in Cambodia from April 17 1975 until 1979, throwing the monks out of their temples to work in the rice fields with all other Cambodians. The temples were then overtaken to house their military headquarters and prisons.

Today the temples have revived often adjacent to a school and are a central and integral part of Khmer communities. I’ve learnt that most men are encouraged to practice Buddhism as a monk, with younger boys becoming Temple “servants” and go on to serve time as a novice monk. Talking to Sang Hai, he told me how he practised as a buddhist monk for seven years, and of course it’s not an easy thing to do. The monks stipulate wholesome courses of action and unwholesome courses of action, they are:

The good things to do in life, namely

1- Avoidance of taking life
2- Avoidance of taking what is not given
3- Avoidance of sexual misconduct
4- Avoidance of lying speech
5- Avoidance of slander
6- Avoidance of using rude speech
7- Avoidance of idle chatter
8- Avoidance of greed
9- Avoidance of malevolence
10- Avoidance of wrong view

In the same way, there are ten unwholesome courses of action‘:

1- Taking life or harming other living beings
2- Taking what is not given
3- Committing sexual misconduct
4- Lying speech
5- Slander
6- Using rude speech
7- Idle chatter
8- Greed
9- Malevolence
10- Wrong view

Some men will practice with the monks maybe for only a week, could be a month, years or a life time. Buddhist monks are very much integrated into Cambodian society and I can’t help but feel that they have a strong moral impression on society.

Whilst on our way to Oudan mountain, we stopped off at an overgrown, secluded Pagoda. It was quite beautiful. As I photographed some novice monks appeared at the door…



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This young lad was a novice monk learning about Buddhism.

The explanation….

“Buddhism is a nontheistic religion[1][2] that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly known as the Buddha, meaning “the awakened one”. According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha lived and taught in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.[1] He is recognized by Buddhists as an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beings end their suffering through the elimination of ignorance and craving by way of understanding and the seeing of dependent origination and the Four Noble Truths, with the ultimate goal of attainment of the sublime state of Nirvana, by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path (also known as the Middle Way).[3]

Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized: Theravada (“The School of the Elders”) and Mahayana (“The Great Vehicle”). Theravada has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar etc.). Mahayana is found throughout East Asia (China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan etc.) and includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Shingon, and Tiantai (Tendai). In some classifications, Vajrayana—practiced mainly in Tibet and Mongolia, and adjacent parts of China and Russia—is recognized as a third branch, with a body of teachings attributed to Indian siddhas, while others classify it as a part of Mahayana.

Buddhist schools vary on the exact nature of the path to liberation, the importance and canonicity of various teachings and scriptures, and especially their respective practices.[4] One consistent belief held by all Buddhist schools is the lack of a Creator deity. The foundations of Buddhist tradition and practice are the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings), and the Sangha (the community). Taking “refuge in the triple gem” has traditionally been a declaration and commitment to being on the Buddhist path, and in general distinguishes a Buddhist from a non-Buddhist.[5] Other practices may include following ethical precepts; support of the monastic community; renouncing conventional living and becoming a monastic; the development of mindfulness and practice of meditation; cultivation of higher wisdom and discernment; study of scriptures; devotional practices; ceremonies; and in the Mahayana tradition, invocation of buddhas and bodhisattvas.”

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