Khyentse Foundation continues to fund the Khmer-Buddhist Educational Assistance Project (KEAP) Cambodian Monk Postgraduate Scholarship Program. The program supports recovery of the Theravada lineage of the Cambodian sangha through higher education of qualified monks. Since the near-destruction of its Buddhist traditions in the 1970s, Cambodia’s sangha has struggled to renew itself, and monks still have no opportunities for in-country, postgraduate Buddhist studies. Khyentse Foundation and KEAP currently provide scholarships for four monks to attend what KEAP deems the best English-language Theravada program in the region: the Postgraduate Institute for Pali and Buddhist Studies, Kelaniya University, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Scholarship recipients for 2011-2012 are Ven. Suy Sovann, Ven. Sok Theavy, Ven. Chamroeun Chhen, and Ven. Chhun Sophal (a previous recipient). After obtaining a master’s degree, the monks may continue to work toward a doctorate in order to help establish postgraduate education at home. Cambodian Buddhist University needs qualified instructors with PhDs in Buddhist Studies to initiate a master’s program; currently only one Khmer monk has that degree.
As the country with the longest continuous history of Buddhism, Sri Lanka keeps the Theravada tradition alive and inspirational for Cambodian monks. Ven. Suy Sovann, a webmaster for several Buddhism blogs (see krayayouth.blogspot.com), says that he values Sri Lanka’s monastic relationship with society as a whole and its emphasis on providing “mental food” for the people through ethics and philosophy. At university, he is studying Buddhist Doctrine of the Pali Nikaya: Analysis and Interpretation; Theravada Tradition: A Historical and Doctrinal Study; Research Methodology; Buddhist Vinaya and the Monastic Organization; Buddhist Psychotherapy; and Social Dimensions of Buddhism.
Ven. Suy Sovann also works with KEAP, Dhamma Aid Asia, and the Child and Youth Educational Organization to print Buddhist books for free distribution in Cambodia. To his sponsors, he writes, “Thank you so much for the great help. May you live with the light of Dhamma!”
Photo: Mr. Keo Vichith, KEAP’s part-time field coordinator, with scholarship recipients Vens. Chamroeun Chhen, Sok Theavy, and Suy Sovann departing for Colombo from Phnom Penh’s international airport, January 18, 2011