16 March 2012

A blessing at Vipassana Dhura

Thirty-five kilometers from Phonm Penh is another world. Oudong was an ancient Khymer stronghold until King Norodom re-established the capital at Phnom Penh in 1865. Located on the hilly ridge of Preah Reach Throap, Oudong once boasted dozens of temples and royal stupas. Most were destroyed in air strikes against Khmer Rouge installations ordered by Lon Nol, a general who took power in Cambodia through a 1979 coup. (Believe me when I say that the history of Cambodia is complicated.) A few monasteries have survived along with some the royal funerary stupas. The domed and spired towers below are stupas.

We visited Vipassana Dhura, the biggest Buddhist monastery in Cambodia. The temple (directly above) is new and serves as a Buddhist study center. We entered the temple and were immediately impressed with the size of the building. A huge Buddha dominates the space.



We joined a large group of tourists who had come for a blessing from two monks. We sat before them on mats. The chanting, which is the main part of the blessing ceremony, began. We bowed our heads and allowed the chanting to center us. Even in that large group, in the humidity and heat, it was possible to still my thoughts.


Again and again, the monks tossed fresh jasmine blossoms over the crowd. They gently rained down on us, falling in our clothes and the mat around with a soft pattering. I gathered a handful to hold the blessing a little longer.


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