Special report on engaged Buddhism: Venerable Pomnyun Sunim inaugurates a women's dormitory at a Buddhist university in Cambodia

- through Henry Oudin

Published on

Images courtesy of Jungto Society

Venerable Korean Dharma Master and socially engaged Buddhist activist Venerable Pomnyun Sunim (법륜스님) inaugurated a newly constructed women's dormitory at Preah Sihaknouk Raja Buddhist University, Battambang Branch (SBUBB), in the north on July 4 -western Cambodia.

Buddhist humanitarian organization JTS Korea, founded by Venerable Pomnyun Sunim, supported the construction of this dormitory by providing technical advice and construction expertise, as well as funding of US$150. The result of this focused application of compassion and commitment to the empowerment of women from disadvantaged communities is the much-awaited and much-needed accommodation for female students attending SBUBB from rural areas.

Buddhism is the official religion of Cambodia. According to 2019 data, 97,1% of the country's 17 million people practice Theravada Buddhism. Figures from the Ministry of Worship and Religious Affairs indicate that there are 59 Buddhist monks and 516 monasteries in Cambodia.

The inauguration ceremony of the new four-story building was attended by SBUBB Chancellor and project initiator, Buddhist monk and socially engaged scholar, Venerable Dr. Vy Sovechea, who was accompanied by a group of students from the SBUBB, as well as representatives of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB). Also present were the Catholic Bishop of Battambang, the Vice Governor of Battambang as well as several government officials and members of the monastic sangha, alongside volunteer members of JTS Korea and the Jungto Society, the international Buddhist community founded by the Venerable Pomnyun Sunim.

Venerable Pomnyun Sunim founded the humanitarian organization Join Together Society (JTS) as an expression of the compassion of engaged Buddhism, and based on the principle that helping others is the best way to enrich one's own life. Charged with bringing hope, empowerment and self-reliance to disadvantaged communities in developing countries, JTS is run and operated by unpaid volunteers, who ensure that all donations benefit marginalized communities. JTS carries out relief work in countries affected by humanitarian disasters and has engaged in humanitarian projects in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The humanitarian organization has also been granted special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Addressing the dignitaries gathered for this auspicious occasion, Venerable Dr. Vy Sovechea shared some powerful words on the theme of service, hope and gratitude:

Today is a very, very special day in the life of Preah Sihaknouk Raja Buddhist University, Battambang Branch (SBUBB).

It is a day of dedication and commitment. It is a day of hope and joy. It is a day of thanksgiving and gratitude. It's a day that shows that people can change, even if it's slowly, step by step, for the good of us all.

We are here to inaugurate the opening of a dormitory which will provide accommodation and dining, a space for friendship and camaraderie for 64 members of our school community.

Ten years ago, only a quarter of SBUBB students were women. In 2019, this figure would reach 42%. Today, 71% of SBUBB students are women. The vast majority of them come from the countryside.

The reasons for the demographic evolution of an institution, initially created in Phnom Penh in 1954, mainly for the education and training of Buddhist clergy, are multiple.

Today, we celebrate this change by promoting higher education for the young women among us.

Gender discrimination, prejudice, and unequal opportunities for women date back to the time of the Buddha (and even before). We are still experiencing this collective karma, this “sad tradition” in our lifetime.

The continued development and progress of SBUBB, to date, could not have occurred without the wisdom, compassion and generosity of many people, near and far.

We are both humbled and humbled to have one of the major donors among us today. Most Worshipful Master Pomnyun Sunim is the founder of the Jungto Society and the president of the Join Together Society (JTS) of Korea. Our friendship goes back many years.

The support of Most Venerable Sunim extends well beyond the financial resources that JTS has very kindly and generously made available to us, allowing us to complete the construction of this dormitory much earlier than initially planned.

Venerable Sunim's life is that of a man who lived in the footsteps of the Buddha. His life is a practice through service. His wisdom is preached to liberate the human spirit. His life's pilgrimage is traveled with a light, simple and humble step. He is a light that guides us on what it means to be a true human being. We all bow to the Buddha within him with grateful hearts.

I would now like to say a word to my dear young sisters present here, who will find a home in this home today and in the years to come.

I too come from a rural family. I was born into war, grew up in poverty, and became a monk because Buddhism offered me a path out of my suffering and taught me how to live my life.

It was an educational opportunity that was not available to my three blood sisters at the time.

Today, this opportunity is offered to you. Grab it! Seize the moment! Accept the challenge! Work hard! Take responsibility! Your family, our country and our world so need women of knowledge, women of wisdom, women who put their knowledge at the service of others. So, we too, like the good people of JTS, can be useful in the service of others, at home and abroad, in the days to come.

As President of Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University, Battambang Branch (SBUBB), I proclaim this July 4, 2024, “A Day of Hope” and a life of gratitude for those who made that hope possible.

Thank you very much.

The sincere words of Venerable Dr. Vy Sovechea were warmly received by all participants, who responded with enthusiastic applause. It was then the turn of Venerable Pomnyun Sunim to share his thoughts and ideas on this special occasion:

The chancellor of the Battambang section, the venerable Dr. Vy Sovechea, has just given a very moving speech. It was so moving that I have nothing to add!

May hope like today also arise in your lives!

I visited this place last spring. Over the years, many monks from Southeast Asia have visited Korea as part of the INEB study tour and come to the Jungto Society. I thought I should go see for myself what they were doing where they live, so I visited various places in Southeast Asia last year. I visited the Royal University of Buddhism in Battambang because the rector and other monks here had visited the Jungto Society in Korea. While talking with the rector, I heard that the number of female students enrolled was increasing and most of them came from rural areas and lived alone, but the cost of living was high, so a dormitory was urgently needed.

JTS is not an organization that supports higher education, but rather primary education. The founding philosophy of JTS is that all children in this world should learn at the right time. Thirty years ago, I created JTS and I am active until now with the idea that if there is a place where children cannot receive education, regardless of their race, religion, their ethnicity or country, I should consider it my business and provide educational opportunities.

But the chancellor said they had purchased the land and now hoped to build a dormitory. I asked if the fundraising for the construction was finished. The chancellor said they only bought the land. He added that people donate to build temples, but they don't donate much to build dormitories. I understood immediately, because it's the same thing in Korea. And the chancellor said that even if people wanted to donate, they were reluctant to do so because they weren't sure the building would be finished. So I said, "JTS will build the first floor first, and when people see the building being built, won't they donate?" »

Furthermore, it is still difficult for women in Southeast Asia to benefit from higher education. This is also in the interest of Southeast Asian women, so I agreed without hesitation. This is how construction began. The JTS provided limited support, but the Chancellor built a very good building.

Above all, I thank all those who participated in this work through more or less significant donations. This building was not built with the support of one person, but through the combined efforts of many people.

I think the best way for you students to reciprocate all these people is to study diligently while living here. I hope that this will become an opportunity for hope, like today, to also appear in your lives. Once again, I thank the Chancellor and everyone who has accomplished such a great thing with the small donation from JTS!

After another round of enthusiastic applause, the SBUBB students expressed their gratitude for the new avenue of education that had been opened to them. This was followed by congratulatory speeches from the Deputy Governor of Battambang and the Rector of the Royal University of Buddhism, who presented a plaque of appreciation to Venerable Pomnyun Sunim before the official inauguration ceremony of the dormitory.

In a commemorative book to mark the occasion, Venerable Pomnyun Sunim left this memorable inscription: "I hope that this women's dormitory will contribute greatly to improving the rights of women, and I hope that all will take refuge in the Dharma and will achieve enlightenment. »

Venerable Pomnyun Sunim is a well-respected Korean dharma teacher, author, and social activist. He has founded numerous organizations, initiatives and projects around the world, including: JTS Korea, an international humanitarian aid organization working to eradicate poverty and hunger; Jungto Society, a community of volunteers founded on the teachings of the Buddha and dedicated to solving modern social problems that lead to suffering; Ecobuddha, an organization focused on environmental ethics and sustainable living based on the teachings of the Buddha; and Good Friends, which promotes reconciliation and cooperation between North and South Korea, and provides humanitarian aid to North Koreans. Venerable Pomnyun Sunim also works closely with the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB).

In October 2020, the Niwano Peace Foundation in Japan awarded the 37th Niwano Peace Prize to Venerable Pomnyun Sunim in recognition of his international humanitarian work, intensive environmental and social activism, and tireless efforts to build trust and goodwill between communities of different faiths and cultures, with the aim of world peace.*

* Buddhist monk Ven. Pomnyun Sunim receives the 37th Niwano Peace Prize (BDG)

See more

Jungto Company
JTS Korea
JTS America
Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University
By Sovechea (Facebook)
International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)

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The article Special Report on Engaged Buddhism: Venerable Pomnyun Sunim inaugurates women's dormitory for Buddhist University in Cambodia appeared first on Buddhist News Global.

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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