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Meditation a key lesson at Buddhist university

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People meditate at a pagoda in Kandal province. KOU SOPHEAP

Meditation a key lesson at Buddhist university

The age of technology has left many people in a state of stress and competition to survive has increased. People need at least 10 minutes a day of meditation to clear their minds, according to Prof Prak Samphors of the Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University.

He said that meditation is very important for everyone because it helps them concentrate and focus and accomplishing things. It also helps to reduce stress and purifies the mind, he added.

“The main essence of meditation is to understand how to live in the present. The Buddha gives the most value to living in the present, not the past or the future. Dwelling too much on the past can lead to complex crises,” he said.

Venerable Pin Sem, the supreme adviser to Supreme Sangha Council of Cambodia and the chief monk of Wat Reachbo in Siem Reap province said that meditation helps a person to remain calm in a crisis. If the mind is not calm, it will invite trouble, even when a person is sleeping.

“Meditation teaches a person to remain calm. This is an important lesson not just for Buddhists, but for all of the world’s people,” he said.

Nuon Thong, a professor of philosophy at the Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University and also a meditation instructor in Romduol village, said it provided a lot of benefits to practitioners by purifying both body and mind in daily life.

“Everyone should practice meditation regularly, whether for 10 minutes a day, or even four or five. It is not a waste of time, but will increase our mental energy,” he said.

He added that he wanted all people to meditate because it is a natural medicine. According to the Buddha’s teachings, it is very effective at making people healthier, both physically and mentally.

Samphors said there are two things people should not lack over the course of their life. The first is meditation, which helps to train the mind. The second is physical exercise, which strengthens the body.

“In my view, we should consider meditation as an important part of protecting our mental health. It does not matter what the age of the practitioner is, everybody is capable of learning to meditate,” he added.

Bopha is an author who almost lost her life due to a severe mental health crisis. She had decided to end her life when a phone rang and snapped her out of the attempt.

She said that when people were in the depths of a mental health crisis, they should consult an expert or speak to someone they trusted to talk about their hardships.

“This choice is the hardest one for people to make when they are suffering from severe depression, but are determined to remain strong. I failed to do that because I was feeling ashamed and felt like there was no one I could trust. Finally, I found that I could calm my mind through meditation,” she added.

Her particular crisis came when members of her family made embarrassing accusations that Bopha had had an affair. They told all of all her close friends, and even her father believed the rumour. He accused her of it being true, and would not believe her denials.

She said she never thought that keeping calm by meditating and listening to the teachings of Buddha would be an effective treatment for her illness, but through them, she was able to recover.

“Not everybody’s mental health problems can be cured by meditation, but it certainly plays a part in relieving us emotionally to some extent. I also tried to keep busy and avoided being alone,” said Bopha.

Samphors said that some levels of depression or anxiety require therapy. Meditation can help to a certain degree, but severe conditions require medical treatment or medication.

Nuon Thong added that if people with depression were cured by a doctor but they did not use medication, the disorder may reoccur. If they are cured and then regularly practice meditation, the disorder was unlikely to return, because meditation improves mental health.

Yim Sobotra, chief of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, explained that depression was divided into three levels: mild, moderate and severe. There are two therapies for depression – drug therapy and non-drug therapy.

“With non-drug therapy, we need to look for clear reasons, do psychological counselling and give them moral support. Meditation can also contribute to the treatment,” he said.

Asked if patients with mental health problems were treated with medication first and then the meditation method, Sobotra said: “We can offer them at the same time if the person is in a serious condition. In an emergency, they are treated with medication first, and then they can resort to non-drug therapy.”

He agreed with the practice of regular meditation among the general public, saying it would help them remain calm and free of the pressures encountered in daily life. It taught them how to accept the truth and cope with challenges, and relieved them of emotional pressure.

Nuon Thong said meditative practice was not difficult. Devotees simply concentrate their minds on the tip of the nose and focus on inhalation and exhalation without any distraction.

Ros Visal, a resident of Phnom Penh, took his children to meditate at Kol Tor Teng Pagoda, along with many monks and other children because he thought it was a good way to help his children regulate their feelings.

“We should think of ways to educate and train our children from infancy to adulthood on how to regulate their thoughts and feelings. We teach them what to do and what not to do, and I think one of the things we should teach them to do is meditation,” he said.

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