WO leading monks from Sri Lanka visited Cambodia on a goodwill mission to
explore means of strengthening Buddhism in Cambodia and re-establishing the
historical ties between Cambodian and Sri Lankan Buddhists.
Venerable Professor Bellanwilla Wimalaratana Thero and the Venerable Mapalagama
Wipulasara Thero visited Phnom Penh and Siem Riep during their seven day stay
from June 23-29.
Cambodia and Sri Lanka follow identical traditions of
Buddhism, the Theravada tradition, which the monks hope to rebuild.
monks had meetings with Prince Ranariddh, Prince Yuveaneath, and Cambodia's two
spiritual leaders, the Supreme Patriarch the Venerable Tep Vung, and the
Venerable Maha Ghosananda.
Wipulasara said: "Prince Ranariddh told us
that freedom of religion had been given to everyone in Cambodia, but one of the
biggest gaps is the lack of books in Cambodia.
"The Prince also said that
traditionally Cambodian monks had been involved in education. He felt that monks
can do a lot in lay education in Cambodia, returning to one of their traditional
Wipulasara said: "Because of the last 20 years, the education and
development of the monks in Cambodia has been interrupted.
"It is the
duty of Sri Lanka to give a helping hand to rebuild traditional Buddhist
"Our plan is to take 25 Cambodian monks to Sri Lanka. The
first group of five will go this year to start a five year course of study. This
will be basic monk training.
"Some will continue for a further five
years of university level education.
"With 10 years of education, we hope
to produce some good monk scholars for Cambodia.
"All arrangements for
housing, living expenses and training will be covered by Sri
"Since 90 percent of the books in Cambodia were destroyed, we also
brought books from Sri Lanka. In the future we will try to publish books in
Khmer, Pali, and English."
The monks going to Sri Lanka will be selected
by the Ministry of Religion.
"They must have a basic knowledge of
English, be between 20-25 years old, and successfully complete a basic training
course in Cambodia.
Secretary of State for Cults and Religion Nouth
Narang told the Post : "Buddhism is the soul of Cambodia. It is the State
religion. Ninety percent of the people are Buddhist.
"Its teachings of
the virtue of peace and non-violence are at the heart of Cambodian morality. It
is important to re-establish the relationship between Sri Lanka and Cambodia.
"This relationship is hundreds of years old, but was broken during the
Khmer Rouge period."
Wipulasara said: "In Sri Lanka we have kept in touch
with the tragedy in Cambodia.
"I have been deeply moved and sorry about
the difficulties that Cambodia has faced. On this visit it was wonderful to see
how well Cambodia has recovered from those difficult days.
Cambodia for the first time more than 10 years ago. During the Heng Samrin
regime I came with a six-member delegation from Sri Lanka.
destruction was terrible. Houses were not inhabited. There did not appear to be
anyone in the city. Phnom Penh was like a ghost town. We were received by Heng
Samrin in the Royal Palace. We traveled in a military truck.
saw the truck, they would run and hide. We visited a school building where hair,
clothes, blood, and the robes of monks were scattered on the floor. We saw
instruments of torture, and the metal beds where the torture seemed to have
"We went by the National Bank. Bank notes were scattered on the
ground like leaves. We went to the Sangha Raja. The building was empty. Slogans
were written in red on the walls. We saw no monks at all.
"We needed an
interpreter, but there was no one in the government who spoke English, and all
the monks who spoke Pali were dead or gone.
"The government broadcast an
appeal for someone who spoke English, but the people were scared. Finally an old
man came forward to accompany us to the countryside.
"Hundreds of people
would meet us at a time. They would try to tell us about the disaster. One old
man came forward to tell us that he had been disrobed by the Khmer Rouge.
A former monk, he still kept the 10 precepts. He told the Post there
were many people like him but they were all afraid to say anything.
this trip, my second trip, we saw the vegetation from the air, and the friendly
"We saw the joy on their faces. And our joy was
magnified by the contrast between this visit and our last
Wipulasara is the chief monk of Parama Dhamma Dhetiya Pirivena, an
important monk training center in Colombo.
The then Prince Sihanouk
visited the Center in 1956 to commemorate the 2500 year anniversary of the
founding of Buddhism.