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Sri Lankan monks cement spiritual ties

Sri Lankan monks cement spiritual ties

T

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.

The

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.

The

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

roles."

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

scholarship.

"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

Lanka.

"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.

"I visited

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.

"The

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.

"When people

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

occurred.

"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.

"On

this trip, my second trip, we saw the vegetation from the air, and the friendly

Cambodian people.

"We saw the joy on their faces. And our joy was

magnified by the contrast between this visit and our last

one."

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.

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