Modernization and urbanization along with consumerism can change the face of a whole country. In Cambodia, Theravada Buddhism is the official religion and is an integral part of the national identity. However, today the real practice of Buddhism became scarce. The rapid modernization of the country in recent years have brought numerous technologies and comfort to locals who until then had to live with what was left by the Khmer Rouge. Cambodia lost one-third of its population during the dreadful genocide lead by Pol Pot and lost a significant part of its heritage and culture due to the systematic eradication of the educated people. After this unfortunate time, the country’s memory was gone with the enlightened ones who held it. Despite this dark period, the country fought to get a brighter future, but today some precepts disappeared with the big Modernization wave. Nowadays, monks do not have anymore the same honorable reputation they used to have. Now stuck in sex and drugs scandals, the image of those wrapped in saffron robes is no longer esteemed.
Is it worth to be a monk today in Cambodia? Maybe not anymore. Although some young people want to enter in the monkhood to live a humble life guided by Buddha, some others use it as a way to obtain a minimum of education. Indeed, before the French provided the country with a Western-style education, education was essentially provided in Cambodia by the Buddist Wat.
Sangha, the Buddhist community of monks, nuns, novices and laity, is still today the only resource for the unprivileged to get access to knowledge and young boys who decide to become monks because they don’t have other choices. And that brings consequences on some monks’ behavior. Often, monks have been seen engaging sexual relationships or watching pornography. Lately, different shameful cases have been reported concerning the Buddhist community: the superior of a province temple was seen hitting a subordinate, drunk. More recently, other monks filmed naked women while they were rinsing themselves with holy water…
But as the respected Chan Nim who studied the behavior of his fellow monks certifies, “the use of modern technologies is up to the morality of the user.” Despite these unfortunate cases, many monks still try to spread a profound teaching of the Buddhist philosophy and continue do it online to reach a larger audience.