Lucky Children

The heavy rain was a blessing. Running to avoid getting wet, I went to take a shelter to the ‘library’ of Angkor Wat. I had to wait in silence, with nobody there, just the sound of the rain and the damp smell inside the ancient building.

Standing alone inside the ancient building waiting for the rain, made me a little bit upset and bored. I felt trapped in the small library of Angkor Wat, doing nothing but taking photos and enjoyed the view of the majestic temple. It’s my first visit to Angkor Wat and doing nothing in the library might be wasting my limited time. The only I had to do was waiting for the rain to stop.

Minutes passed by unnoticeably, the heavy rain became lighter now but I still could not get out from the building. I walked to the north side of the building and turned my head through the stone-window to the restaurants at the northern side, in front of the pond. And I was surprised!

There was a group of young monks and nuns near the small pond. The young monks wore their yellow robes and the young nuns wear white. Among from them were very young girls. I really did not know about that. Was it a ceremony or just an event for a field trip? Was it a beginning of study? Because it was just a week after Khmer New Year.

The lucky children

Seeing those children, I thought lots of children in Cambodia who could not have their own happy childhood because of poverty. In those poor households, the children have to work to help their parents. Going to school was just a low priority to them.

I had read somewhere in the internet that usually a child in very young age goes to the pagoda instead of a school. It was not the reason to be a monk or a nun, but having the chance to study. When the poor people struggled in life, they decided to work and earn some money so they could eat. In that situation the parents allowed their children to help them to get some money and the parents might do a half force for the children. School was not the option.

But being a monk or a nun living in a pagoda, -living separated with the core family in a period of time-, the children had the chance to study everything, mainly the Buddhism, with the older monks. The children also get food and somewhere to live which is better than their own house.

Sometimes the child was an orphan, and he or she could not live with their siblings because of many reasons. It’s the common situation, the child could not find food and support to live. Going to pagoda is the better option because the pagoda and its community as a refuge or a shelter, had a higher & better “label” than other non-profit organisation.

Young monks in Angkor Wat
Nuns to Be

I was not sure that the children really want to be a monk or a nun for good. Perhaps being a monk or a nun is just good, following their parents into the brotherhood or sisterhood of Buddhism. At least bring peace and better mind.

But the pagoda perhaps was too tempting. Being a monk, -in some schools-, means a free-of-charge to study: Buddhism or other knowledge. And pagoda did not limit the age to learn. Everyone with any range of age, young or old, are welcome.

But was it really a happy place to live in a Pagoda? I read somewhere that living a in a pagoda, a child should follow its rules. A lot of rules. Like, no eating after midday, have to do routine meditations, reading a lot of books, having simple meals all the time, learning Pali language for learning Buddhism and also English, no sleeping on a too-comfortable bed (very basic dormitory room), no participating in entertainments like dancing, watching movies, cannot handle lot of money and many more. Every morning the monks have to do the alms-giving; people stop the monks and give them food and the monks give them blessing in return.

I saw the young monks and nuns to-be in the courtyard of Angkor Wat. I did not know whether they will continue to be a true monk or nun in the future or be back to the common people in community. But perhaps, it’s good to have a better way to get some knowledge for better life.

Leaving Angkor Wat

This post was written in response to the weekly challenge from Celina’s Blog, Srei’s Notes, Cerita Riyanti, and also A Rhyme In My Heart, which is the 41st week of 2020 has the theme of  Group, so we are encouraged ourselves to write articles weekly. If you are interested to take part in this challenge, we welcome you… and of course we will be very happy!

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