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Son Soubert on Tep Vong

HE Son Soubert recently wrote a newspaper editorial explicitly criticizing Ven. Tep Vong, the patriarch of the entire Buddhist Sangha in Cambodia (thanks to his recent elevation in a ceremony I witnessed in suburban Phnom Penh). It’s noteworthy for the strong language and attack, and worth publishing in its entirety here. Linked from KI Media.

Phnom Penh Post, Issue 16 / 01, January 12 – 25, 2007

In your interview with the Khmer Mohanikay Supreme Patriarch, Tep Vong, (“Great Supreme Patriarch,” Post, December 15, 2006), the Patriarch said he wanted “to have serenity for himself,” as a reason for becoming a Buddhist monk. This is contrary to Buddhist teaching: Lord Buddha was striving with much sacrifice and effort to find the way out of the sufferings born of desire, greed, and poverty, as the common lot of humanity.

Furthermore, I believe that the Supreme Patriarch is not the disciple of Lord Buddha, but the disciple of the Pol Pot Khmer Rouge, when he dares say the political parties are divided in two: “the older party or host party, and the younger party, or guest party.” This is like under the Pol Pot time when the Khmer Rouge divided the population into castes or classes: the “base” or “old” people, and those of April 17, the “new” people, who were called the capitalists… and most of them were killed.

Lord Buddha rejected the caste system born of the Vedic and Brahmanic system. Only merit leads people or a country to peace and prosperity. If we talk about history and morality, there is no basis for a man to raise himself high in the hierarchy except through building merit.

Historically, the Democrat Party, led by Prince Sisowath Yuthevong and created after the Second World War, is the oldest party. The Cambodian People’s Party was born of the Vietminh Indochinese Communist Party, which wished to control French Indochina.

On the role of Buddhist monks, the Supreme Patriarch must learn in greater depth about Buddhism, because before Lord Buddha, our Supreme Teacher, had reached illumination, he was striving to understand the root cause of the sufferings of all living beings, and the way leading to the cessation of these sufferings. He did not strive to find his own serenity at all.

Furthermore, the role of the Buddhist monks is not “to preserve Khmer spirit and to protect Buddhism for ever,” because of Anicca or impermanence. The role of monks is to wander everywhere and to preach the Dharma, to leave all possessions, reputation and official ranks; it has nothing to do with economy and culture at all. Because the role of Buddhist monks is to preach the Dharma and to teach, for that reason monks must know about different philosophical systems; either Indian or Western, the Dharma and Abhidharma.

When conflict between Funcinpec and the Cambodian People’s Party reached the extent that they fought battles in July 1997, the Supreme Patriarch for Cambodians abroad, His Holiness Preah Mahaghosananda, had the courage to lead the Khmer people, including political leaders, on a Peace March or Dhammayâtrâ. But we could not see any other Supreme Patriarch coming down the streets to beg for peace, just as during the Khmer Republic the Supreme Patriarch Huot Tat, in 1970-71 dared not lead a procession begging for peace, as Samdech Bovor Setha Thipdei Son Sann asked him to do in accordance with his role as a Buddhist monk.

Regarding society, what have the Buddhist monks done to eradicate poverty suffered by the great majority of the Khmer people? What have the Buddhist monks done to uphold the human rights that are embodied in the Buddha’s teachings, such as the opposition to the caste system or hierarchy born from bad means of existence? And what have they achieved so far to uphold knowledge, like the former Supreme Chuon Nath during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum time?

Son Soubert – President of the Permanent Committee of the Son Sann Foundation, (Soubert is a member of the Constitutional Council.)

UPDATE: I just found this other Equanimity would be supremely great in partisan Patriarch editorial letter, also criticizing Tep Vong. Worth checking out as well.

UPDATE: Apparently, criticism of Tep Vong is now considered a threat to the State.

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