Religion has long been in human history. In many dictionaries, religion is defined as, a set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices pertaining to supernatural power; although it is one of those words—like love—that does not have a set definition. Like its denotation, the purpose behind the creation of a religion also remains uncertain, but of course, many theories have been proposed. One of which views religion as the means to explain the creation of the universe and life after death. Others include a conduct to govern moral behavior, an answer to the purpose of life, and a tool to maintain social order.
Among these reasons, one that has been mostly agreed upon is religion being the means to explain the universe as many religions designate goddesses and/or gods as the creator of Earth and/or the universe.
Religion has been well worshiped in the past centuries, but in this contemporary world, it seems to have lost the role it is believed to play. As more and more people are educated on science and social behavior, less and less are captivated by religion. This correlation holds true for many countries as observed that many families today do not strictly follow any religious practice or tradition.
In Cambodia, this change in trend may be conflicting since religion has become part of its national identity.
The majority of Cambodians today identify as Buddhists. Buddhism is a religion that was introduced to Cambodia by one of their most honored kings—Jayavarman VII—back in millennial time and since has been the state’s religion.
Buddhism has been practiced long enough that many national holidays of Cambodia have evolved around it. Take Khmer New Year as an example: a celebration which takes place in the hottest time of the year (April) where people come together to celebrate the new year with their family while visiting the pagodas and praying for blessings from their ancestors and the sacred immortal.
This type of celebration got passed down from generation to generation and it has become a tradition. Accordingly, it became a norm for the society to expect others to attend the religious ceremonies associated with a specific national holiday to show respect and support for the celebration.
On that note, many teens and young adults of Cambodia today are observed to lose interest in religious traditions and beliefs. They are less likely to attend religious ceremonies and practices or visit pagodas. But, does this mean they are wrong or that they do not respect their ancestors? As Cambodia is developing into a more modern world, should Buddhism still be part of the national identity?
Since the answer to these questions is controversial, it is up to readers to form personal opinions and decide on the fate of Buddhism in Cambodia.
By Sythong Run