The ultimate objective of Cambodia as a country is “Nation, Religion, King.” Through this statement, you might have understood the kind of importance the locals give to Buddhism – their national language in their cultural and social life. If you are interested in visiting this place, avail an excellent Cambodia tour package from a reputed travel agency and embark on the holidays to Cambodia. However, before opting for the Cambodia holidays, it is imperative to understand the religion followed in the country.
It has been observed that 95% of the Cambodian population is Buddhist. You will see the Buddhist philosophy being followed in all aspects of the culture in the country. At times it becomes difficult to differentiate the religious traditions from the cultural festivities. The older generation follows the Buddhist religion more; however, major festivals are celebrated with much zeal and enthusiasm by the entire population.
The Rich Cambodian Religion History
Hindu was regarded as the primary religious influence in the Khmer empire. And only a few Buddhist Kings used to rule. The largest Hindu temple in the world is situated here – Angkor Wat, which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Thanks to the influence of Hindu trading merchants and the Mon kingdoms, Buddhism came to Cambodia in the 5th Century A.D. This was the time when Buddhism and Hinduism co-existed peacefully for several years. It was under the rule of Jayavarman VII that Buddhism became a national religion encompassing Hindu symbolism and traditions.
Jayavarman popularized Buddhism as a religion in Cambodia by sending his son to study Theravada Buddhism and then asked him to become a monk. Due to the transition from Hinduism to Buddhism, the idea shifted from god-king to becoming monks. The resources used to work on constructing magnificent temples for these kings were now used to build hospitals, libraries and educational facilities. It was all directed towards the development of people instead of worshipping a deity. This is perhaps the most prominent reason for the whole shift for the entire Khmer population in a short period.
Buddhism in Present Times
The pagoda has a special place in the heart of Cambodian life. In fact, there are several towns, villages and cities that have been built around active pagodas. The pagodas were traditionally a place for young men to study. Today, we see young Cambodian men (especially from poor backgrounds) entering the pagoda for 1 to 10 years to get the relevant education.
The concept of Buddhism religion is solely related to reincarnation and karma. It tells that good deeds are rewarded with good consequences and an elevated status in the forthcoming lives.Whereas, bad deeds resulted in worst consequences and a lower status in the upcoming lives. This is where the dismissive treatment of poor or disabled people in the Cambodian society can be seen as people believe the misfortune is due to the results of actions done in their past life.
Buddhism religion follows five precepts that help people’s behavior and make them lead a happy life:
- Never take life, i.e., murder someone
- Never take anything that is not given, i.e., theft
- Never perform sensual (sexual) misconduct
- Never lie
- Never take intoxicants that lead to loss of mindfulness
Buddhist monks follow additional precepts like celibacy, not eating after midday, no entertainment, or personal possessions.
Several teachings of Buddhism encourage followers to overcome suffering, dissatisfaction, or anxiety. This is a commonly found thing in human life. Cambodian people believe in peace and harmony instead of fighting for their right or independence. People who are loud and aggressive are considered rude and disrespectful. They avoid confrontation at all costs.
Most of the festivals in Cambodia are related to Buddhist festivals. The Khmer New Year is celebrated in April where they showcase large statues of Buddhas and offerings at the pagodas. Next is Pchum Ben (festival of the ancestors), celebrated in October as a part of the end to the traditional three-month retreat for Buddhist monks.
It is a tradition in the country which requires monks and nuns to attend weddings and funerals. Most often, new houses, premises, or purchases are also blessed by monks to get good luck in the new endeavors. Water blessing is also a prevalent part of their religious culture where people, and sometimes possessions are sometimes doused from head-to-toe in blessed water to get good luck and protection.
So, these are some of the fascinating things about the Cambodian religion. Curious to visit this country? If yes, book your tour package today!