Scholarships for the Cambodian Sangha


During the massive turmoil of the 1970s, the Cambodian Buddhist sangha was virtually annihilated by the Khmer Rouge.  With the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, the country began to heal, and Buddhism was desperately needed as a support for the lay society.  However, it was not until the late 1980s that the Buddhist community was free to practice and grow, but few were left to teach the new generation of monastics. Only a handful of learned teachers, nearly all non-monastics, emerged from hiding, and with government support a monastic education system modeled after western-style education was slowly reestablished.

In the early 1990s, after a break of some 15 years, Dhamma-Vinaya and Pali (elementary) schools for monks reopened, and the first high school for monks reopened in Phnom Penh in 1993. In 1997, Preah Sihanouk Raj Buddhist University in Phnom Penh reopened with a pre-BA program. To date, although 15 to 20 monastics have graduated with BAs from this program since 2001, most disrobe upon completing their studies. It is estimated that in 2006, there were fewer than 50 educated monastics in Cambodia.

Khmer-Buddhist Educational Assistance Project and the Khyentse Foundaton

A US based charity with offices in Cambodia, the Khmer-Buddhist Educational Assistance Project (KEAP) is the only organisation that provides scholarships for monastics at the undergraduate level.  Since 2002, it has provided annual scholarships to 3rd- and 4th-year monk students at the Preah Sihanouk Raj Buddhist University who have demonstrated high academic potential and financial need.  As part of the conditions of the scholarships, the beneficiaries are required to acknowledge and report on their studies to their respective sponsors.  In addition, another US based charity, the Tibetan Buddhist Khyentse Foundation, then selects and provides scholarships to outstanding monastics with a BA in Buddhist studies to attend a three-year MA program at recognized Buddhist universities in Sri Lanka. During the university summer break, the monks are required to attend meditation retreats in the host country.

Towards the Future

Cambodia's single greatest need is a Sangha with renewed standards. The KF-KEAP scholarship program for monastics in Cambodia is highly recommended and appreciated by Buddhist, government, and education leaders in Cambodia. It has made a marked difference in promoting serious learning habits and attitudes among the students at the Buddhist University.

The rebirth of the Khmer culture and society will to a large extent depend on the renewal of standards in the Buddhist sangha. With planning and support from sympathetic friends, and the revival of the monastic community itself, Buddhism will again play a leading role in shaping a better future for Cambodia.

Your continuous support of DAC will in turn allow us to support this project.

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