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