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Declaring Meak Bochea as A Buddhist Education Day in Cambodia

MP Nguon Nhel Offering alms to Buddhist monks during Meak Bochea at Preah Reachtroap at Oudong, Ponhea Leu, Kandal, Feb. 2018. Photographies : Chim Nary & Khem Sovannara – AKP

Meak Bochea/Magha Puja was observed enthusiastically and in a big preparation in many parties of the country—processions and decoration magnified the auspicious event.

However, to make the Meak Bochea Day a more meaningful than a mere religious ceremony, we should have noticed that near about three millenniums ago, or ten months after Buddha’s Enlightenment, it was the day of the greatest gathering of 1250 enlightened (highly educated) monks who had been ordained by Buddha himself (Ehibhikkhu). It was the day that might be called the Buddhist Summit (Chaturanga Sannipada) presided over by the Great Master Gautama Buddha.

What is reflected here? Some scholars convincingly regarded it as the beginning of Buddhist Organisation when two deputy monks (Sariputra and Mogallana) were appointed and the basic tenets of Buddhism (Ovadapatikkha) were laid down. Adding to that, to be relevant in the contemporary context, we should mark this day as “Education Day for Buddhist Monks” in Cambodia. It should be the day that Buddhist monasteries take a vow to establish special “foundations” for monk studies/education and to prioritise education and slow down unnecessary constructions in monasteries.

We all know that education is very, very important in Buddhism. And Buddhist monks must be educated so that they can be in pair with the youths in public education. But unfortunately, monks have to struggle on their own in financing their studies. The Buddhist monasteries often take their studies for granted. Therefore, for better monk education, monasteries should have “education budget”. And Meak Bochea Day should be the day that inspires such an initiative.
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