Monday, February 9, 2009

The Vipassana Dhura Meditation Centre and the preserved monk

The huge grounds and buildings of the Cambodia Vipassana Dhura Buddhist Meditation Center, the largest Buddhist Centre in Cambodia, can be seen from on top of Phnom Oudong.

The huge pool in front of the meditation centre is used during celebrations and festivals like P'Chum Ben.

In one of the smaller buildings lies the preserved body of, Sam Bunthoern, the well respected and popular monk who founded the teaching centre, in a raised glass case. Bunthoern was only 47 when he was shot, in 2002, in broad daylight, at Wat Langka in the centre of Phnom Penh by two unknown and unapprehended assailants in what many think was a contract hit. He died two days later. A regular radio gig and a rapidly growing following meant he was quite famous in Cambodia in the 1990's. He was apparently quite outspoken in his support for the rights of monks to vote, which due to the shear numbers of monks in Cambodia may well have swayed the balance of power.

The issue of voting is a sensitive one since monks often play the role of opinion leaders on social issues and as such can influence the political choice of millions Buddhist laymen. With their relatively high level of education and moral standards, monks can be persuasively critical of corruption and social injustice and are possibly more immune to vote buying.

Apparently the showcasing of the preserved body of Sam Bunthoern was meant to be a temporary measure while the monks waited for a new preah vihear on the meditation compound to be built.

He was to have been replaced by a wax image which is already in the corner of the room.

We were blessed, for a small donation, by a couple of monks sitting guard beside Bunthoern's body and quietly paid our respects before leaving.

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