Cambodian women take novice ordination
The following wonderful news was sent by Bhikkhuni Sudhamma of the Carolina Buddhist Vihara.
Good news! The historic temporary ordination of Khmer (Cambodian) women happened at the Khmer Wat (temple) yesterday morning, along with 2 little kids joining the Sangha permanently. It was very moving.
The ceremony had historic meaning, because we know of no previous temporary ordination ceremony for Khmer women. (Being locked out of this role, especially while honoring their male relatives who do ‘go forth’, hurts women’s esteem.) Khmer men often take temporary ordination on special occasions, as 170 men & boys did at the Wat for a celebration last summer, but never the women… Until yesterday morning. Three women of Cambodia reverently put on the beautiful robes to wear until after Vesak, paying homage to the Buddha by renouncing the duties of family life to embrace solely religious duties for the short time that they can. Clearly their gratitude overflowed for this opportunity.
The ceremony also touched emotions due to the heroic going forth of two children: our friend Sokha’s little 9 year-old daughter Sri Lakh (now Samaneri Ratanayani), & her 10 year-old son Jedtha (now a Samanera). You may recall my description last December of two specially generous children who eagerly used their savings to buy gifts for kids in need; and the boy who gave up his favorite game, handing it to a less fortunate child? These are the same kids.
Their ordination was the children’s idea, not their parents’. (The boy didn’t even tell his parents until after asking the monks!) Thinking of the painful sacrifice by Sokha and her husband, Chom, in giving up both their precious children, made it a solemn occasion. Sokha and Chom are to be admired for their fortitude, refusing to focus on their personal loss, wisely seeing, instead, the world’s great gain. This mother & father earned extraordinary merit! They should be admired for respecting their children’s urgent wish to go forth into the holy life. They should be admired, too, for having raised their children so skillfully that they will embody the Sangha’s future.
Rejoice with them!
All 6 new monastics earned great merit, as did the people who assisted in the day’s program. Ven. Sim Bo, resident monk of the Wat, gave the Going Forth for male novices; Ven. Sudarshana Bhikkhuni of Sri Lanka (who flew in from Florida just one day for the ceremony) gave the Going Forth for female novices. Witnessing monastics were Ven. Singh Hom of Charlotte (Lao); an elder monk (Khmer or Lao) from Lexington; Ven. Bhikkhu Joe of Spartanburg; myself; Ven. Chitta Bhiksuni of LA (Tibetan tradition); Ven. Pannavati Bhikkhuni of Hendersonville; and Ven. Poonsirivara of Thailand.
Several women in monk-robes at the Wat for Vesak this weekend will be an amazing & uplifting sight for the Khmer people. When Khmer women first met me at a big celebration last summer, many of them burst into tears, never having seen a woman in robes before.