On Friday and Saturday nights at the Peace Cafe in Siem Reap, Cambodia, there is a Monk Chat where individuals can have a small intimate chat with a monk to ask them about their lives. Recently I sat down with Monk Rann of Wat Kesararam to ask him some questions about being a monk and about his sect of Buddhism. Below are ten things you might not have known about monks in Cambodia.
1. Monks in Cambodia practice Theravada Buddhism, which is practiced in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia but it is not the same as the Buddhism practiced in Korea, China, and Japan.
2. Monks and those following Theravada Buddhism have the option of choosing in reincarnation. Some believe in it, and some do not.
3. In ancient days, monks used to have to live under trees, now they all live in temples.
4. Monks are the closest thing to Buddha; next are nuns (in the white robes), then lay people who work for the monks/nuns, and finally common people.
5. Monks are not restricted in their diet and they can eat everything. Their lay people cook their meals for them everyday.
6. Monks have no job or source of income, therefore, everyday they have to beg for food.
7. There are 110 books about Buddha that monks should read. All of the books are not required reading, most are suggested.
8. Unlike in Thailand, monks are not required to enter monk-hood at any period of their lives, it is completely voluntary.
9. Monks are allowed to use technology, most have cell phones, some have computers, and some monasteries even have televisions.
10. Monks must not drink alcohol or go out at night.
It was great chatting with Monk Ran, who at age 29 has been a monk for the last 13 years. He was a shy little man with friendly eyes and a nice smile who invited me to visit him at the temple and show me around. Unfortunately due to time constraints I was unable to take him up on his offer.
If you find yourself in Siem Reap, contact the Peace Cafe about their monk chats.