The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Wednesday decided to delete a video clip published by professor Long Sarin which compared the two dominant sects of Buddhism in Cambodia – Maha Nikaya and Dhammayuttika.
In the video, Sarin raises questions about the authenticity of Maha Nikaya monks, which drew criticism from its leaders.
The decision to delete the video was made after Great Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong and Supreme Patriarch Non Nget – the two most powerful leaders in the Maha Nikaya sect – sent a letter to minister Hang Chuon Naron stating the video had seriously harmed the perception of Maha Nikaya monks.
In the video, which was posted on social media, Sarin compares the levels of discipline between the leaders of the two sects.
In the video, Sarin says: “The monk leader of the Maha Nikaya sect wears shoes, uses large phones and even has bodyguards. The monk leader of the Dhammayuttika sect holds fast to strict discipline. In the age of money, they can’t hold money, walk on paved roads or even wear shoes.
“When the monk leader of the Dhammayuttika sect collects alms, he walks upright. We give him alms and invite him to sit in our homes, and he rescues creatures.
“But the monk leader of the Maha Nikaya sect should know that some of his monks are not real, but impostors.
“They [disguised monks] arrive at houses asking for alms before we even open our doors. I don’t desecrate Buddhism, but it is true. I once saw them, but I don’t know how to catch them. I would like to speak the truth to the Great Supreme Patriarch to uphold the religion,” he said.
Nget regarded the comparison as a slight to Vong.
He said Sarin sent Vong “to the mythical world below the earth” while elevating the monk leader of the Dhammayuttika sect “to the top”.
In the letter, Nget and Vong wrote: “The example used by Long Sarin that monks of the Dhammayuttika sect practice discipline rigorously like Dhutanga [a group of 13 ascetic practices], is wrong. Sarin degraded the monks of the Maha Nikaya sect.
“He said monks practice discipline in a lax manner and deviated from their discipline. This sounds very bad to monks and it makes it difficult for them to gain respect. Nget finds that the professor’s teachings are baseless. He lacks integrity, in-depth research and has no right to be a teacher.
“His conclusion is contrary to the true situation and opposed to the principles of the government on religious harmony.”
In response to the controversy, Uy Bun Dara, the general manager of E-School Cambodia, where Sarin teaches, sent a letter to Vong on Tuesday expressing regret, but he didn’t agree with Vong and Nget’s assessment of the video.
“Our company has repeatedly seen and listened to the video. We find the professor’s explanation did not denigrate Buddhism.
“Conversely, he [the professor] wants to firmly support Buddhism and show respect to Buddhist practitioners. More than this, before citing the examples in question, he reached out to Vong to apologise and explain his teachings.”
Vong didn’t accept Bun Dara’s clarification because in his mind, it didn’t erase Sarin’s wrongdoing.
Nget requested the ministry to reprimand Sarin, rectify his teaching points, and make a public apology to monks.
Ministry spokesman Dy Kamboly confirmed to The Post on Wednesday that the ministry decided to delete and rectify the video after it received the letter from Nget and Vong. The video may be reposted after it is edited.
“The video clip failed to undergo checks from the Ministry of Education, thereby creating the disagreement. The ministry would like to express its regret that the video can influence the mindset of Buddhist followers and youths who practice Buddhism.
“The ministry will scrutinise the video well for the sake of students and the public,” Kamboly said.
Chhot Bunthorng, a sociology professor at the International Relations Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said in general, describing hard truths about society has always harmed the interests and dignity of some individual or community.
However, he said Sarin’s wrongdoing was not serious enough to warrant legal consequences.
“Professor Long Sarin could make a public apology to the chief of monks or an apology in writing for the mistake and rectify the teaching. He could cite other examples for comparison.
“If Sarin is subjected to punishment, a jail sentence or if he’s fired, it will affect the spirit of other teachers. It would make all teachers doubt their capacity and talent for teaching and it will weaken the education system,” he said.