Monday, January 5, 2009
Wat Botum and whilst I was admiring the brightly painted and ornate stupas that point skywards, I got into a conversation with a monk who'd just been for religious instruction at Wat Ounalom. We talked about the Buddhist teachings within a set of paintings by Khmer artist Svay Ken, who the monk had heard had passed away the previous month. He was interested to see my digital photos of some of Svay Ken's paintings and we talked about some of the behaviours that are contained within the paintings. He said he was very pleased to see these paintings and hoped they would be made available to the public as a way of strengthening the bond between Buddhist teachings and the public. I had to agree that if good behaviours can be made more appealing, either by way of painting or even music, then that is a great way to instil such morals and teachings to a wider audience. It was only a brief meeting but I think we both went away happy with our connection and agreement on the topic. By the way, Wat Botum is one of Phnom Penh's five original wats and dates back to 1422. In those days it was a small island surrounded by a lotus blossom-filled pond. Today, Wat Botum has been extrensively rebuilt and the main vihara dates from 1937. The compound contains many decorated stupas, some of which house the ashes of members of the royal family. It is also the seat of the Thammayut (royalist) Buddhist sect, the smaller of the two main Buddhist sects in Cambodia and which gained prestige because of its adoption by royalty and the aristocracy.