As recipients of Khyentse Foundation scholarships complete their studies and go out into the world, their efforts to provide Buddhist education to traditionally Buddhist communities are flourishing. Since 2006, KF has partnered with the Khmer-Buddhist Educational Assistance Program (KEAP) as part of our commitment to help revitalize the Theravada Buddhist tradition in Cambodia.
KEAP was established in 1988 to address the challenges of Buddhist renewal following decades of war and social upheaval, including the near-destruction of Buddhism and all forms of religious and spiritual life. Although this renewal is surely taking place, there is still no opportunity for Buddhist postgraduate study in the country. Through KF scholarships, KEAP is sending highly qualified Cambodian monks to Sri Lanka to pursue masters’ degrees and doctorates in Buddhist Studies at some of the best Theravada institutions for higher learning in the region. After completing their studies, the monks return to Cambodia prepared to teach both lay and monastic students.
In 2007 Ven. Hour Sarridh was the first recipient of a KF scholarships for the one-year master’s degree program at the Postgraduate Institute for Pali and Buddhist Studies at Kelaniya University in Colombo. Now he teaches Buddhist philosophy and other subjects at both the Suramarit Buddhist High School and the Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University in Phnom Penh. In 2009 he was awarded the philosophy chair at the university, and in 2010 he published his first book, Buddhism as a World Idea.
One evening in July of 2011, KEAP founder and executive director Peter Gyallay-Pap by chance came upon Ven. Sarridh giving a dharma talk to more than 100 lay students at Wat Lanka in Phnom Penh. According to Peter, “He introduced me and KEAP to the group and took ‘pride’ in explaining that he was the first Khyentse Foundation scholarship recipient to study for a master’s degree in Sri Lanka. He later told me that he remains keen on pursuing his PhD at Delhi University’s Buddhist Studies department.”
Ven. Hak Sienghai, who received an MA in Buddhist Studies from Kelaniya University in 2009, has officially established an ambitious nonprofit organization in Battambang Province, called Buddhism for Education of Cambodia (BEC). The group, headquartered in Wat Kamphaeng, is run by volunteer monks who teach students from Buddhist universities, private universities, schools, villages, monasteries, and prisons. BEC’s projects include Inmate and Youth Morality Education in Battambang prisons and Poor Children Hope, in which more than 100 children are taught English and Buddhist Studies. BEC also broadcasts a daily radio program called “The Resolution of Life Based on Buddhism,” which focuses on promoting virtuous social values. In the future, BEC hopes to open a Buddhist Sunday school, to create programs for orphans and for the conservation of monastic education, and to fund the printing of notebooks with basic Buddhist teachings to distribute to poor children.
Recently the committee of senior monks at Buddhist University who are responsible for selecting qualified candidates has sought Pali and Sanskrit majors for the scholarship program. In December 2012, Ven. Sem Chhungly was selected. In February 2013 he began a 2-year MA program in Pali Studies at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.
Top Photo: Mr. Keo Vichith, field coordinator, with 2011-2012 scholarship recipients Vens. Chamroeun Chhen, Sok Theavy, and Suy Sovann, departing for Colombo from Phnom Penh’s international airport, January 18, 2011.
Middle Photo: Ven. Hour Sarridh giving a Dharma talk at Wat Lanka in July 2011
Bottom Photo: Young students in BEC’s Poor Children Hope weekend program.