Driving from Camko City Roundabout to Somrong Andet Pagoda for about five kilometres, you will see a small road on the right hand side, where you will see two small wooden pillars standing and supporting a banner of the name of a pagoda.
Turn right, and you will be driving on a muddy and bumpy road. After a 50-metre driving, there is a 2-floor building, consisting of neither gate nor roof. This building is a pagoda named Koh Purthi Vong.
It stands lonely and unfinished, amidst mud and water. But inside, the pagoda is an important place for praying, eating, sleeping and studying.
Koh Purthi Vong Pagoda has faced floods every year since it was built in 2005 and as a result, not many people go during special occasions. Until now, there are only 15 monks, two wise men and one nun in the pagoda while not much improvement has been notified.
Ry Na is the only nun at the pagoda. She said, “I have a proper place to sleep, and sometimes I also sleep outside of the building but I decided to stay here despite the fact that I am the only one here. I face these problems because of my love for Buddha.”
But after seven years things at the pagoda have changed very little – especially in comparison to the good fortune of others. Mr Metta blamed the flooding, and the fact that not many people know about the pagoda.
Simlarly, Nhean Reongsey Pagoda has not developed much since it was built in 1962. Five to six monks lives in one small room. Venerable Khim Sambath said that pagoda should spend money to help poor children study and donate to people affected by natural disasters like nearby floods, rather than spending on construction.
Kong Chromrong, who has been a monk for two months at Nhean Reongsey Pagoda, said, “I am here because I admire the head of the pagoda for his meaningful advice, and the rules implemented here. I, as a follower of Buddha, believe that there is no better or worse pagoda whether rich or poor.”
Ms Sor Komsot, 35, explained that she always comes to Koh Purthi Vong to support the pagoda: “Because I see that the pagoda needs help – that’s why I come here for Pchum Ben days, in order to preserve Buddhism. By bringing food to this pagoda, I may gain more blessings than if I went to the poor one. This pagoda is in need to support, unlike others that have more than enough food.”
Some pagodas that have experienced similar difficulties have ended up becoming very famous and special pagodas, like Somrong Andet Pagoda, which faced a number of problems before becoming what it is today.
Built in the 1960s, Somrong Andet Pagoda has undergone a huge change since 2006. There are now 150 permanent monks, 350 monks who are there to study, 45 wise men,40 nuns, 60 other staff and 60 students from the provinces who are pursuing bachelor degrees. There are also buildings, roads and gardens being completed.
A senior monk, who doesn’t want to be named, said, “The success is from the real heart of people who help support Buddhism. In order to be trusted, we follow our Buddhist rules firmly, and we have right person who leads the pagoda. Moreover, we participate in assisting society such as building roads, bridges, and so on.”
As Cambodian Buddhists, we need to preserve our religion by going to both poor and rich pagodas.