Animism of Cambodian People - Buddhism, Philosophy, and Khmer Literature


Buddhism, Philosophy, and Khmer Literature

The teachings of the Buddha are aimed solely at liberating sentient beings from suffering. The Basic Teachings of Buddha which are core to Buddhism are: The Three Universal Truths; The Four Noble Truths; and The Noble Eightfold Path.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Animism of Cambodian People


CAMBODIAN people recognize the spirit of a death person that when the physical body was decomposed and then died, the spirit did not totally lose—the spirit of the dead always floats everywhere above the earth. It is called ghost including evil spirit, mischievous spirit, specter, genius, guardian spirit, etc.

According to the observation of this belief, there are two kinds of spirits:—the spirit concepting from dead person and the spirit concepting from the convention of people and there are the spirits of good ghost and bad ghost. The places or planes of the invisible corporeal creatures, according to the belief of Cambodian people, habit on the earth the same as the human beings’. In the house, the spirit is called genius of a house, in the villa called the land genius, in the region called guardian spirit, in tree and cemetery called ghost, in the river called water demon, in the family called guardian genius, and in the monastery called either ghost or powerful spirit or some time called Agrork (Agra), but nowadays Agrork does not exist. Historians found out that Cambodian people have had animism tradition since a very long time before immigration of Indian. The animism was general uniform belief in Khmer tribal society, with non-leading by any person or social caste like the other nations. Indian people are deists caused by Brahmins and though the human sacrifice was considered by the members of the Brahmin caste as merit making. Afterwards they reformed to only animal sacrifice.

Ancient China in Chang dynasty, religious teachers killed humans and animals and buried valuable things with dead body in the grave of a king or members of royal family. Even some moulders in the countryside killed people for blood to produce their weapon in order to make the weapon to be efficacious.

Confucius (551-479 BC) is classified as the greatest Chinese philosopher, who created the morality of parents, teacher, and older clan worship—when there is a parent died, the children have to mourn for three years to show their gratitude.

Cambodian people worship Me-Ba genius (dead parents) becoming traditional culture in many aspects of daily social activities without advice from any learned men. According to Me-Ba doctrine, we can conclude that either the social policy system of tribal society or management of each family was established according to the nature of birth with the real human activities. Therefore, Me-Ba doctrine is adhering in profound idea of Khmer people until now. On the other hand, they have recognized woman role, honoured woman as the head of a family and more approvingly appointed woman as managerial chief of society because they knew the truth that woman has hardly given birth to them. When a woman delivers a baby, Cambodian people use the word ‘cross river’ instead. In course of delivering a baby, friends and neighbouring always go to visit, keep company, and help with the burning of fire and until preparing ceremony of enthusiasm and prosperity for the new life. They believed in Me-Ba genius because parents took care, nurtured, and did great sacrifices to produce crops for rearing their children.

Grandparents always look after, educate descendents, and give good advice, good experienced lessons to them the same as or better than parents do. Likewise, village seniors who had experiences and skill never took secret their knowledge; therefore they became the important advisers in each village. During Angkorian period, they were even more honoured a title of Vāpa.

Thus, the Me-Ba genius worship’s virtue and village seniors since they were alive until dead, is the morality causing from the sublime mental states of parents’, grandparents’, and seniors’ who give the feeling compassion to their descendants equally and impartially, and made the society have no castes. Parents and grandparents have profound sublime mental states towards their descendants, so Me-Ba geniuses are sacrificed as family god because they believe those spirits still help them with happiness as when they were alive.

According to such a traditional culture, presidential regime (individualism) of the social management system has become folded idea of Khmer descendants and they much more sacrifice them when the leaders were a God or conventional god.

The things buried in the grave in ancient time found by the historians were the things which the dead person used to use, but nowadays there are only food offerings and merit-dedicating ceremony in the form of abandoning called Banlung by making marks for a monk to go to take it.

These days there are two kinds of Khmer animist culture: Me-Ba genius of one’s ancestor and the powerful spirit in the monasteries, temples, and ancient places.

The first one is the real Khmer traditional belief. This belief has taken place for a very long time ago before Indian cultures have flowed in. Belief in spirit of the dead parents and relatives made many kinds of ceremonies such as food-offering by invoking the spirit save from suffering by the power of Dhamma, intent invoking of monks and gifts. Then there is also invoking the spirit reply good wish back and help to keep them in prosperity and happiness.

Such animism was sometimes performed separately by private family. In all the Buddhist ceremonies, the form of animist belief was usually performed because both the teaching of the Buddha and admiration which are deity-congratulating and spirit-congratulating word have been prepared by Khmer learned men as praying texts similar to Brahmanist form in mixed-religion rites since ancient time, specially Lovek and Odong period.

The second kind of animism is the influence of Indian culture originating from Brahmanism and Budd-hism. This spirit usually concepts in the statues, sacrificial things, and ancient places which are Brahmanist or Buddhist shrines. The statue in which the spirit mostly concepts is the statue of Preah Sriāryamaitreya ornamen-ting royal crown. According to Cambodian people, such a spirit is called powerful spirit. For the belief is to customarily have food offering in the form of Brahmanism and Mahayana Buddhism. The food offering is performed along with invoking protocol to ask for present happiness and heavenly merit for the next life resulting from the offering and sacrificial things which were donated by themselves.

Monks have continually prayed in the form of Brahmanism and Mahayana Buddhism since the ancient time and with intent praying in order to invite deities to listen to Dhamma and to protect Buddhism and those who sacrifice the Dhamma. Meanwhile, monks also pray to the power of the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, and three-gem homage for the overcoming of bad lucks, dangers, suffering, and diseases.

As for the natural sacrifice includes offering food to Krong Pealy, Neang Hing Preah Thorany, villa genius, and house genius; this sacrifice has become animist belief. In short, Cambodian people continue to believe in animism, to invoke spirit, to give food offering, and to transfer merit to the past ones by performing big and small ceremonies with paying one’s properties for party, considered as merit making. These ceremonies are usually performed in such a way.

But in the principle Buddhist concept, the Buddha did not teach his disciples to make merit only in one way as the above (ten items of meritorious action and tenfold wholesome way). Although there are teachings about offering, but the offering is not performed with traditional party like Cambodian people.

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