Between 500 and 700 monks will take part in a ‘spiritual blessing journey’ through Temple Town on Monday, the first of its kind and the biggest ever monk procession in Siem Reap.
Orchestrated by Wat Damnak head monk and director of Life and Hope Association, the Venerable Hoeurn Somnieng, the procession will travel through the centre of town, stopping at some hotels and ending up at Sokha Angkor Resort for a silent meditation and prayers.
“The spiritual journey for Siem Reap city on May 12 is one of the many activities of the mass ordination ceremony at Angkor Wat from May 10-15,” says Venerable Somnieng. “So we want to make it more interesting, related to our own roots and culture, through this journey of bringing the great blessing to the city of Siem Reap by over 500 monks.”
He adds, “First of all I want to revitalise our culture by bringing the spiritual blessing to the people, let’s say bringing it home.
“And the second thing is, spiritually, Cambodia is still confusing, and we want to bring that clarity to people. Angkor Wat is something that Cambodian people will always look up at and see as home, and we want to connect history as well as the present life to people.
“We also want to include foreigners who come to Siem Reap. What can they experience? I believe that coming to see Angkor Wat is one part of their journey, but how can they see more than just Angkor Wat which is made of stone? There is more to it – there’s the culture, the spirit and the soul of the Cambodian people. So I think this idea is to have the inclusion of both spiritual and cultural elements for Cambodian people, as well as for the foreigners.
“I feel like we haven’t done enough to wake up people, and to include the foreigners. We want to make it real, and an experience for everyone.”
Harvard-educated Venerable Somnieng has the backing of the governor of Siem Reap, who described his idea as “very creative.”
Several roads will closed on May 12 for the procession, which will start from the East Gate of Angkor Wat. The monks will be transported from here to National Road Six, where they will stop off at Borei Angkor Resort and Spa, then continue on foot towards the Royal Residence area.
“We will go to Park Hyatt, stop there for a few minutes and then walk through to Shinta Mani,” says Venerable Somnieng. “We will continue to National Road Six again and come straight to the Sokha Hotel where we finish. We plan to start walking from National Road Six at 5pm, and take around two and a half hours.”
At the Sokha Angkor Resort, Venerable Somnieng will lead a silent meditation and blessings at approximately 7.30pm.
“We’ll do the moment of quietness for about ten to fifteen minutes, then the chanting blessing, and then the giving out of the blessing strings,” says Venerable Somnieng. “Then we’ll walk slowly and quietly back to the transportation and go back to Angkor Wat.”
Also next week, on May 14, there will be a food offering ceremony at Angkor Wat, to which everyone is welcome.
“From 7.30am-10.30am in front of Angkor Wat we will have a food offering for up to 1000 monks,” says Venerable Somnieng. “We’ll have a ceremony but that day it will be a lot more Cambodians I think because May 13 is Buddha Day, Visak Bochea Day, and traditionally on those few days people like offering, especially on the last day, May 14. So we’ll do that in front of Angkor Wat and I believe the governor and the government office officials will be there with their families, and also the general public.”