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Themes and Outcomes of International Conference on "Buddhism in Southeast Asia"

H.E. Manika Jain, Ambassador of Indian Embassy in Phnom Penh and H.E. Him Chhem, Minister of Cult and Religion, Samdech Preah Sumedhadhipati Nand Nget, Patriarch of Mahanikaya Buddhist Order of Cambodia, Samdach Uddomcarya Chhoeng Bunchhea, cabinet chief for Patriarch (Sangharaja), and Dr Sonia Jasrotia, ICCR Chair of Buddhist and Sanskrit Studies, SBU, Candle lighting ritual at the commencement of the International Conference, Phnom Penh Hotel, 04 Sep 2018. @FN

This international conference achieved a profound success with the participation by national and international scholars, professors, wise men, and researchers who made presentations of research papers to a large number of audience.

Phnom Penh: Kingdom of Cambodia through Preah Sihanoukraja Buddhist University (SBU), Phnom Penh, in collaboration with the Indian Embassy in Phnom Penh, has the honour to organise the Two-Day International Conference on "Buddhism and Southeast Asia" at Phnom Penh Hotel, on 4-5 September 2018/2562. The conference received 65 speakers from 12 countries such as Southeast Asian countries, India (majority), South and East Asia and hundreds of national and international distinguished guest, laymen and monks.

The international conference was inaugurated by Samdech Preah Sumedhadhipati Nand Nget, Patriarch of Mahanikaya Buddhist Order of Cambodia, H.E. Manika Jain, Ambassador of Indian Embassy in Phnom Penh and H.E. Him Chhem, Minister of Cult and Religion, in the morning, 04 Sentiment 2018.

The international conference successfully achieved its expected aims. Preah Dhammagosacarya Prof. Dr Khy Sovannratana, Vice-Rector of SBU, played a vital role in the organisation of this important conference. He gave an interview to a few local radio and television during which he summarised aims themes and outcomes of the conference that had been achieved beyond expectation and with pride.

He said that the aims of the international conference are:

  • (1) to show roles of Buddhist in Cambodian society,
  • (2) to reflect the influence of Buddhism in man fields such as economics, politics, culture, civilisation, arts, architecture and philosophy etc.,
  • (3) to promote Buddhism nationally and internationally through media that published on this conference, 
  • (4) showcase a strong presence of Buddhism in the Kingdom of Cambodia to foreign guests who have never known that before,  
  • (5) to show as well as to strengthen the close relationships between Cambodian and India, and Cambodia and the world especially the Buddhist countries in Asia, and 
  • (6) most importantly to spread the recent discovery about Buddhism and particularly the inscription in the 6 century C.E. which was recently discovered in Kampong Speu province which re-confirmed that the Khmer king, Isanvarman I, ruled the Suvannadvip (Golden Land); no such a clearly mentioned record has ever been revealed before. 

He further said that by organising the international conference with a profound success, it also showed that Cambodian Buddhist human resource has a capability in organising and managing such an international conference well. This can be seen with participation by professors, pandits and researchers who have profound knowledge and experiences in Buddhism possessing numerous students under their guide. They had managed their busy schedule to participate in this international conference with our invitation.

Moreover, research papers presented by scholars at the conference has been published in the form of an editorial book for long term interest. Apart from sharing knowledge to the audience, international scholars would carry back the information about Cambodia to their home countries.

By arranging tourist trips for international speakers to various resorts and tourist sites in Cambodia, especially to the wonderful Angkor Wat, it also helps promote tourism potentials of Cambodia. This is one of the important roles of Cambodian Buddhism in contributing to national development.

However, there are a limited number of local speakers and paper presenters with 4-5 persons only of a total of 64 speakers. Moreover, they were mostly with same old face repeatedly participated in such an event such as Samdech Preah Uddomcarya Chhoeng Bunchhea and Dhammapandit Mr Heng Moneychenda while there were not many the younger scholars with similar capability and knowledge participating in this conference. This could be a reflection of the situation of quality and effectiveness of Buddhist education in Cambodia, which was also raised by some speakers during the conference.

Incorporation of subjects other than Buddhism-Pali and Sanskrit in Buddhist education programmes and the studies for only acquiring certificate or degree by completing the course of studies with real knowledge (as Ven. Dr Sovannratana called it the education system influenced by colonial power) had caused Buddhist studies shallow and or narrow.

In responding to this challenge, Preah Dhammagosacarya Ven. Dr Sovannratana said that for Buddhist studies in Cambodia, we have not only to catch up with the modern education system but also to strengthen Buddhist studies to a higher standard.

Lastly, he requested the public and Buddhist devotees to strongly support mentally and physically and encourage the organisation of the international-level conference like this.
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