3 Months for Buddha Bo Ti Banteay Che Pagoda, Siem Reap, Cambodia

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In Cambodia, Theravada Buddhism is deeply rooted in the culture. The Buddhist teachings of Love, Compassion, and Honesty are the moral standard of the people. Traditionally, most young boys and men become monks for some period of their life. Many, as a means to obtain an education. Others to show devotion to their beliefs.

Laypeople also show their devotion to the Buddha during an annual celebration called Chol Preah Vasa. Beginning in July and continuing for 3 months, laypeople perform a rain-retreat - a period to devote themselves to study and practice Dhamma (mindfulness of the plain, undistorted truth of the Buddha's teachings). During this period, these laypeople take up residence in a local Pagoda where the monks are also performing a similar devotional ritual.

I arrived in Siem Reap and at Bo Ti Banteay Che Pagoda during the last few days of the rain-retreat. I met the charming Scosapany, a layperson staying at the Pagoda for the Vasa. She generously let me into her life for the last 4 days of her Vasa, introducing me to her friends and her teacher, an elder monk named Li Chien, patiently explaining the 3-month celebration and the rituals of her daily life at the Pagoda.

At the Pagoda, Scosapany is called Pich, which means diamond. A very fitting name for such a sparkling lady. At 69, she was a teacher for most of life. She speaks excellent English and French. She has lived through the worst of times in Cambodia. Yet, she remains full of life and hope, with a warm smile and an irresistible laugh.

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Life teems throughout the Pagoda, as the monks and laypeople and workers go about their daily lives.

Scosapany embodies passion for her faith and the Vasa
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The students live in small rooms behind the main pagoda.
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The monks show their respects to the head monk before making their confession.
The women gather in a small temple for group prayer and meditation and to meet with their teacher, Li Chien, to pay their respects, give confession and receive his wisdom and his blessing.
Confession is seeing what you have done as being wrong and purifying it with the help of your confessor. As the confessions are made, negative habits lose their grip, obscurations slowly lift, and the confessor becomes more in touch with her Buddha nature and potential for spiritual awakening.
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Entering the main temple where the eldest monk, Nutoi, holds audience.
This is Nu Toi, the elder monk at the Po Banteaychey Pagoda (Bo Ti Banteay Che) on the outskirts of Siem Reap. In the background is Yim Han, the young monk who looks after the elder. Getting around for Nu Toi is difficult, so he spends most of his days on a bed in this room in the pagoda where Yim Han is never far away. People come to see NuToi throughout the day to pay their respects, ask for advice or receive a blessing.
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Everyone takes their meal before noon and spends the afternoon attending to their chores and commitments or in quiet study. An early evening group prayer and a humble meal ends their day.
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On the last day of the rain-retreat is the celebration of Chenh Preah Vasa. The Vasa students bring gifts for the Pagoda and for their teacher. The monks and the laypeople are joined by others from the community in a celebration of prayer and music in the main hall of the Pagoda followed by a meal shared by all.

Days begin very early for the women at the Pagoda. Meal preparation begins as early as 4am, followed by private meditation and study alone in their small rooms.

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Preparations for the Chenh Preah Vasa begin early as the main hall is decorated and music fills the air.
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Created By
Lisa Brockman
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