Warm welcome to my practice log!
Let’s start where it began. This is me on Oct 26 2008 near Battambang, Cambodia. I had visited Buddhist temples before but this occasion turned out to be significant. A bit of history is not just in order when talking about Cambodia, but also relevant to my later efforts to seek out the wisdom buried in the ancient eastern traditions, as we shall see.
We were touring (the boy in the background was our then eight-year-old guide and translator) one of the Khmer Rouge’s gallows hills, this one called Killing Caves. During the civil war and subsequent genocide the revolutionaries would execute dissidents at the top of the hill and then throw the bodies into open shafts or caves. How many who lost their lives at this particular site is uncertain but a common figure is that the revolution claimed around three million civilian lives all over Cambodia, and Battambang is one of three major population areas in the country. There were some graphics available “for foreigners” to illustrate these crimes:
As I remember it the Khmer people we met were fiercely kind, wild, and funny. Today I could probably more easily recognize the power and steadfastness that comes from living through trauma than I could back then, but it had a very special survivor energy to it, which in a certain way instills hope and a deep sense of respect. About a third of the entire population were murdered and tortured in cold blood during that time, so the memory is still very much alive as such a bug chunk of a whole generation is missing.
Before all this the Khmer Empire existed from the beginning of the 9th century to its fall around 1430 CE. Most rulers of that time are recorded as brutal tyrants but in late 12th century a Mahayana Buddhist king was enthroned. He built temples and sizeable statues of Avalokiteshvara, related or not the Angkor Empire flourished under his rule, many monumental structures were erected and it was a time of relative peace.
It went on for a few generations until another hateful ruler came along mid 13th century C.E. and forcefully converted the kingdom to Hindu Shaivism, destroying much of the Buddhist imagery. Not much was successful in that time and the Empire saw its final demise as a next ruler installed Theravada Buddhism. While several crisis were stocking up that might have been the final blow to collapse the political system completely.
Today many structures still stand in the area that is modern day Cambodia, this one was taken near the same site as the previous photos:
There were other places and events in Cambodia that left a lasting impression on me but it’s basically taken me up until now to understand the breadth of the impact that being there had on me. When I met the gentleman in the first photo he was very happy, he said, because he knew that I had been a son of his in a previous life. Today I can see how important that was for me to hear at that particular time, how it set me on a course towards studying myself and the Dharma, and how it tied me to the Khmer, its people and its history. Since then I have always longed to go back, and now I know it’s because there is much more in this connection for me to explore.
Finally some photos taken on or near the historical capital of the Khmer Empire, city of Angkor:
Makes a statement as you approach.
Walls decorated with divinities, wish I knew more.
Nobody turns down a rainbow!
Wishing blessings to all. Have a wonderful time, and take care…