Three photographs of Buddhism in Cambodia

Written by on February 28, 2009 in Photo Posts, Photos and Stories in Progress with 0 Comments

This is inside the temple at Lanka Pagoda. Cambodians practice Theravada Buddhism, the same type of Buddhism found in Thailand and Sri Lanka. In Theravada Buddhism, images of Buddha are not intended as idols or objects of prayer. They are supposed to be visual aids for meditation. According to people who study it, this form of Buddhism is closer to a philosophy than a religion. It has relatively few rituals. Aside from the monks, you rarely see people “practicing” Buddhism. In the popular culture, however, I think it’s fair to say that people pray to Buddha and treat images of Buddha as objects of devotion. This happens in most religious traditions, especially when they have strong images.

Monks at Lanka Pagoda sharing a meal. My hotel is near Lanka Pagoda, so when I have time I sometimes go inside and talk to the monks. They are friendly and eager to practice English. There are some who have been monks since they were boys. Many are attending university in Phnom Penh. Being a monk is one way to have food and housing while getting an education, and many will stop being monks once they graduate.

A young boy sits as an old man emerges in the background. This was taken at the temple on top of Phnom Chisor, a hill outside Phnom Penh with ancient ruins that pre-date Angkor Wat.

You can’t understand Cambodia without paying attention to Buddhism. It is an integral part of the culture at all levels, from popular to political.

About the Author

About the Author: Andy Gray is a writer and photographer living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and working with Alongsiders International. You can find him puttering around the streets of Phnom Penh on his Suzuki Viva 125, running stoplights and driving on the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalks like a local. If you see him in a coffee shop, he'll be the one typing and deleting the same line over and over again. .

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