Monk-y business

Cindy J. Austin

On the way to visit Angkor Wat, our tour guide, Yut, informed us of his 10 years spent as a monk. A picture of a bald, orange clad man sitting silently in meditation immediately popped into my head. Little did I know, however, what monks were really about.

One rule that was mentioned multiple times was that monks are not allowed to touch women. When hopping in a picture with one, I was told to stand a decent distance away from him. Later Yut shared that monks miss dinner so that they can focus on prayer, don’t see their families for years at a time, live by hundreds of rules, and there are different levels of being a monk that come with different levels of responsibilities. Buddhism is focused on finding oneself in order to reach nirvana; in taking time to tackle demons and break things down into basic elements.

The simple life wasn’t so evident, however, in the monks seen walking around Angkor Wat. One smiled for his camera that he had put on timer and one walked by casually wearing aviator sunglasses and checking his cell phone.

It is obvious that Buddhism has changed throughout the years, not only by looking at the culture of Cambodia as a whole, but even looking at the most devout.


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