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This discussion provides important background for understanding the changes and transformations that occurred in Khmer religious interpretations over the course of the next few decades.
The contrast between Buddhist manuscript writings of the late nineteenth century and the new print works produced by modernists in the second and third decades of the twentieth century help us see shifts in Buddhist values about how to live as a moral person and how to give order and meaning to human experience.
The cosmos, with its multiple worlds, moved through cycles of decline and regeneration that mirrored the contiguous decline and regeneration of adherence to the Dhamma among sentient beings.
After Ang Duong was placed on the Khmer throne by the Siamese in , he convened a gathering of Khmer religious and literary scholars in an effort to reconstitute the defending the jeweled throne : 21 Khmer literary heritage.
Because of their inability to control their cravings and desires, human beings are forced to organize their societies under a king, the best of whom are known as cakkavattin, kings who promulgate and uphold the Buddhist teachings.
Implicit in this vision is the notion that the righteousness of kings determines the prosperity of their subjects as well as the abundance of agricultural production and the regular, harmonious functioning of the seasons and other natural phenomena.
These ten actions are theft, murder, lying, malicious speech, improper sexual behavior, harsh speech, frivolous speech, jealousy, malice, and wrong view.
The world in which these beings develop has Mount Meru standing at its center, surrounded by a ring of mountains and four continents inhabited by different classes of humans, of which human beings inhabit the Jambu continent.
The larger universe containing this realm is divided into three morally hierarchical worlds containing thirty-one realms of varying levels of experience, perception, 22 : chapter 1 and formlessness.
The lowest realms are the experiential ones, in which beings are reborn into hells, the human and animal world, or the heavens, experiencing the combinations of pain, sorrow, and happiness that are their karmic due.
At higher levels, more spiritually advanced beings, those with material remains and those without, advance toward the cessation of the cycle of birth and rebirth.
The conditions, events, and places of past worlds are reduplicated, as different bodhisattas are born, perfect themselves, become enlightened, and preach the Dhamma, which other beings embrace.
Even this brief description makes clear the extent to which the corporeality of the world, its inhabitants, and its temporal cycles are tied to the moral behavior of human beings.
The reemergence of the bo tree at the beginning of the new kappa anticipates the perfection of one or more new buddhas.
The movement of time is also inscribed in moral terms, with cycles of kappa that correspond to the establishment and loss of dhammic ideas and values.
This literature is concerned not so much with depicting the three tiers and thirty-one realms of the morally structured universe but rather with the ways in which the history of the cosmos is joined to the history of human moral progress.
The cosmos serves as the setting or background for chronicling the moral development of various righteous and malevolent characters.
Many popular stories from the period were concerned with the theme of individual development as characters progressed toward greater moral perfection.
Waxing impatient with what he perceived as the redundancy of this theme in literature of the period, Joseph Guesdon, a French missionary who collected and studied Khmer literature in the late nineteenth century,21 remarked, Authors represent only characters in which the Bodhisattva or future Buddha is the hero.
Moreover, the Bodhisattva and likewise the members of his entourage are always the same, whether in past or future existences.
Not only are the characters the same, but the corpus of the works must be invariable. It is always a Bodhisattva who is reborn, suffers, and who triumphs over all with miraculous aid.
It relates the story of two youths one of whom is a prince and bodhisatta who are banished to the forest and later, after numerous travails, become the kings of two different kingdoms.
The people inhabiting Udarakaro have vividly beautiful faces with four equal sides,28 and they live a thousand years. They are [all] happy, lacking the troubles associated with farming; they know nothing of business or trade [but] only of gathering together for enjoyment and pleasure.
Yet in these worlds of greater perfection and purity, the absence of suffering is tied to a lack of corresponding moral development.
The other continents provide a Buddhist vision of felicity, as Steven Collins has termed it, but only through birth as humans do beings have the opportunity to become enlightened and escape the whole cycle of rebirth altogether.
This text makes the karmic determination of human identity particularly clear. Besides being read or chanted by monks, its contents were depicted on one of the gallery panels in the royal palace in Phnom Penh as well as in numerous temple murals.
After Indra returns to heaven, the other gods long to meet this virtuous king. It resounds with celestial music for dancing, with drums and tambourines, accompanied by such exquisite singing that to hear it transports one to glad-heartedness.
Heavenly Driver, such delight I am experiencing! Concentrated in moral behavior, these were individuals who directed their comportment toward generosity and almsgiving, and as a result, they now dwell so happily in this palace.
The depictions of moral development that appear in these texts are indicative of the period. The results of good and bad actions might sometimes be opaque in ordinary life, but in these texts they ripen into rewards that are as conspicuously desirable as vivid, glittering mansions.
In the case of the cremation of the queen mother in , for instance, the funeral pyre was made to represent Mount Meru, and ritual ceremonies enacting the rotation of the sun and moon were performed as part of the transfer of merit to the deceased queen.
Its prominence in Cambodia at the end of the nineteenth century was noted by French ethnographers, whose comments on its usages also give us some sense of how it was performed and received by Khmer audiences of the period.
When the prince gives away his magical rainmaking elephant to the neighboring kingdom of Kalinga, whose inhabitants are experiencing a drought, his angry subjects banish him to the forest.
After giving the gift, Vessantar must struggle to transform his pain over the suffering of his children into equanimity.
In the sad passages, the voice of the monk alters, and one can hear sighs all around him. Then, there are tears in every eye, and one hears the sobs; the monk halts to catch his breath, the women dab their eyes with the edges of their scarves, silently, and the men pass the back of their hands across their cheeks.
If he gives you as alms to the brahmin, it is for nothing less than the aspiration one day to be the Lord Buddha himself.
Oh my children, if your father can become a buddha, he will deliver the condemned who are in the hells and he will give them the means of taking birth in the heavens.
Then he picks up a container of water and sprinkles some of it on the earth. At this moment, the earth quakes, trees tremble; the waters of the oceans churn, form into whirlpools, and rise up in the air; and Mount Sumeru bows down, touching its summit to the peak of nearby Mount Vongkot.
Now that I have given my children as alms, I can not take them back. I cannot. The suffering in my heart is immense. I cannot aspire to become Lord Buddha now, because my suffering is too great.
I will shoot an arrow at this brahmin, I will kill him, and I will retrieve my children and bring them back here. Those who have a father but are separated from him are like those without a father.
This kind of elaboration is thus suggestive of the Khmer religious imagination of the period, both through emphasis on points of great interest to Khmer audiences and through the translation of imagery to the vernacular.
When we step outside the Buddhist logic of the progress of moral perfection, it appears that not even a virtuous father who loves his children can protect them from cruelty.
Yet when Vessantar sprinkles water on the ground within the story to signify the merit he has earned by giving the gift of the children, this mirrors the ritual sprinkling of water by monks in Khmer rites of preaching the story to signify that merit has been made by those who have listened to the recitation.
This is merit that they can transfer to help deceased loved ones who are alone and unprotected in the fruition of their karma.
In these later texts, the interconnections between the actions of different individuals for shaping collective experience are represented in terms of intertwining causal acts and results in the everyday world.
When Vessantar gives away his children, all beings in the three realms and even the physical landscape of the earth itself are shown to be joined together.
Because of this, you should feel awestruck; your skin should be crawling and your hair standing on end because of that moment in which the prince gave his two children as a gift and the earth trembled and shook.
Its assertion of the moral construction of world and person at the end of the century coincides with the decline of the political structures in society that reduplicated similar hierarchical notions of power, merit, and social organization.
By considering the defending the jeweled throne : 33 issue of power, I begin reading the texts as sources for Cambodian political history, a reading that also allows their ethical themes to be interpreted in a more nuanced manner.
When Vessantar is reunited with his parents and children, accompanied by the roar of the earth and a rain shower from the devas, his subjects become aware of his virtue and implore him to come back and take his rightful place as their king: When the royal family was reunited, a loud thundering sound arose, all the mountains made a noise, the entire earth trembled.
At that time, the very moment when Prince Vessantar was reunited with his family, rain was compelled to fall in a shower.
The reunion of the grandchildren, daughter-in-law, the prince, and the king and queen at that point in time would make your skin crawl and your hair stand up.
Please, both of you, rule over our kingdom. The recognizable superiority of his power is clearly linked to his asceticism, purity, generosity, and merit.
If Vessantar can give away both his rain-making elephant and his precious children, and live serenely in the forest, he is obviously impervious to the means through which power can corrupt.
His indifference, his merit, and his recognition of the higher truth of Dhamma make him an ideal ruler.
Aspects of this same logic about merit, power, and kingship pervade many other texts of the period. After many travails in which he is always victorious because of his merit and virtue, he is returned to his kingdom to take his place as 34 : chapter 1 ruler.
When his life is threatened, he always survives; he always wins the beautiful, virtuous princess; he is always dutiful, respectful, and wise, and furthers the cause of justice.
Even the name Siddhattha was determined by moral actions performed in a former birth, in a former kappa. The text offers a distinctive Khmer verse elaboration of scenes from the life of the Buddha.
Working from a manuscript version of the poem stored in the monastery library, the young men would copy a portion of the poem on a wooden slate made from painted kapok wood,80 writing with a form of locally produced chalk.
Once they had memorized that portion of the poem, they would repaint the slate and copy out a new section to learn. In addition to the sacrality connected with writing itself, the poem concerned the life of the Buddha, and it was known to be translated from the Pali biography by a well-known Pali scholar and religious thinker.
Thus, although the text circulated somewhat differently and might be heard in informal settings outside the monastery, its religious authority nonetheless functioned similarly to that of other texts I have discussed in this chapter.
Further, the text depicts idealized notions of power at a time when the real power of Khmer elites in Cambodia and Siamese-controlled Khmer regions was being constrained by the introduction of administrative reforms aimed at centralizing power and effecting other profound changes in social and political organization.
In this historical context, the poem can be read as a vernacular response to these sociopolitical pressures.
Noble merit, glorious merit without end, splendid beyond compare in all respects; defending the jeweled throne : 37 one hundred and one in his entourage offering tributes to the precious prince.
In ten directions there was awe of his great power, there were none whose power could rival his; the prince who ruled from the palace, little more than twenty-nine years old.
In seven more days, a gem-wheel85 will appear signifying that a wheel-turning monarch86 will arise.
I have no desire to become a big wheel as [impure] as saliva and urine. Preferring the latter destiny, Sudhodan had, as the well-known story recounts, sequestered him away behind palace walls and surrounded him with the lavish beauty and comfort that his son now sought to renounce.
Let no wrongdoing take place in your territory; if there are poor people in your territory, give them money.
You should take up what is good and do that. That is the noble turning of a Wheel-turning king. Righteous kings, in this idealized conception, always defer to buddhas.
The full contrast between these two forms of power is strikingly rendered in the dramatic last stanzas of the poem, which evoke the inexorable connections among human action, merit, and the landscape of the world itself.
When the earth shakes and quakes, the mountains roar, the earth wrings out ritual water from her hair, or the unseen heavens, hells, or other continents are on view, the text is working to reveal the underlying nature of the world: it is morally constructed, shaped by human moral action; its cosmic temporality is connected with the gradual cultivation of perfection by buddhas; individuals are reborn in it according to their accumulation of merit.
Seeing an enemy with merit is very strange indeed; that being the case, the only course for me is to distort the truth, to accuse him of seizing my throne.
I have only to call forth a witness. Worldly power was supposed to be exercised, albeit reluctantly, by a virtuous prince who ruled according to Dhammic principles.
Dhammic power, greater than any form of worldly power, was the ultimate authority, giving order and meaning to existence.
The harmony and prosperity of individuals in the world thus depended on the Dhammic linking of merit and power to create justice.
But the image in the poem of the ephemeral jeweled throne produced by merit and under siege by strange and violent forces may, like the larger preoccupation with order, merit, and power as literary themes in this period, in fact represent its fragility in the face of tumultuous change rather than its solid mooring as a model of and for social reality.
Khmer Buddhist nineteenth-century literary discourse represented individuals, the physical world, and time itself as interconnected, morally charged, and created by moral action.
The texts that I have examined in this chapter were those that appear to have been among the most widely known texts in late-nineteenthcentury Cambodia.
Until the latter part of the nineteenth century, they also functioned as valid mental conceptions of the arrangement of space and power in Khmer society.
But these conceptions of the arrangement and identity of social communities and individual selves were moored in a political world in upheaval, in which the moral and hierarchical arrangements of space and power described in the texts were coming unhinged.
The literary representations of intersecting notions of power, merit, and moral purity contrast with their historical political context, to which we now 44 : chapter 1 turn, in which French-initiated administrative reforms were severely curtailing the real power of Khmer elites.
This contrast suggests a conceptual disjuncture between religious imagining at the end of the nineteenth century and real experiences and perceptions of power and uncertainty.
This sense of disjuncture may have opened up a space for the development of modernist thought in the early twentieth century.
Entire villages were devastated, abandoned, deathly quiet. It was sorrowful and heart wrenching beyond description seeing the misery of widows with tiny children, their heads resting in their laps, whom they were powerless to feed.
The previous chapter considered Buddhist representations of human moral development within the spatial and temporal framework of a morally ordered, coherent cosmos.
But this was not the world in which Khmer Buddhists found themselves living. This chapter tries to chart a path through the nineteenth- and early-twentiethcentury Khmer sociopolitical experience of warfare, slavery, colonial occupation, and political, religious, and social reform.
As a widespread unifying feature of Buddhist modern experience throughout Southeast Asia, the extent to which millenarianism of this period can be seen as traditional is debatable.
Along with the expansion of global markets linked to colonialism, forms of bureaucratic reorganization in respect to religious and governmental institutions as well as efforts to centralize political administration were introduced at different points in the nineteenth century by the various Siamese, Vietnamese, Khmer, and French powers controlling Cambodia.
These reforms challenged the underlying conceptions of the nature of reality, temporality, moral development, and power considered in chapter 1.
To situate the Cambodian experience in relation to other studies of modernity, then, it is necessary to look not only for the presence of the kinds of conditions, values, and aesthetics widely ascribed to modernity, but also to the particularity of the Khmer context: how Khmer modernity was shaped by the distinctive sociopolitics of the Khmer situation and how it drew on Buddhist ideas as a medium for fashioning new social values.
The century opened with violence and warfare precipitated by Siamese and Vietnamese efforts to keep Cambodia as a vassal state, in the traditional mode of political patronage.
French protectorate rule commenced in , and for the rest of the century, imperial efforts to rule via reformed central administrative authority met with continuous unrest in Cambodia.
The extent to which these changes were perceived as modern problems by the wider populace is debatable, but they seem to have contributed to an ethos of political and intellectual disquiet.
They hunted saom roots in the depths of the forest, and other roots as well to make into a kind of soup.
They ate like this until their hunger went away, but it was hard to swallow the food; they sat silently beside the road, intensely poor, and miserable.
Prisoners of rank are decapitated, and those of the lower orders condemned to perpetual slavery, and labour in chains. If during the journey, they cannot march further, they strike them, they maltreat them, they kill them, insensitive to their weeping and moaning, without pity they massacre the little children in sight of their mothers.
Carried away here, marching for long weeks, all day, all night, receiving blows, without rice, we have left the majority of our elders, and likewise our children, dying or dead on the forest paths, without power to ease their dying misery, or to honor their remains.
At the same time, the Thai military presence in the northwest was increasing. Throughout the s, warfare continued between Siamese and Vietnamese forces, with neither army able to take decisive control of the Khmer capital in Phnom Penh.
In many places, the remaining vatt lacked roofs. Their roofs were sunken down and broken apart, allowing rain to come in on the monks. I myself was very poor, without any family.
I knew only suffering and misery. I wanted to ordain in the discipleship of the Lord Buddha in a vatt in the town of Udong in order to have magga-phala [fruit from attainments on the Path] for my next life and to avoid having akusala [demerit] in this life, and to learn the purity of the Pali scriptures22 and also to rid myself of akusala.
But in Vatt Sotakorok there were no scriptures left. Fire and theft had destroyed some. The Siamese took some and the Vietnamese took some, and in the vatt where I was ordained as a bhikkhu, there remained only ignorant and backward monks.
His grandmother was abducted as a prisoner of war by the Siamese. Once peace was achieved in , his response to the violence of his early life was to ordain as a bhikkhu and study scripture in an effort to purify himself.
But as he describes it, his effort to turn to the Triple Gem of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha for solace was complicated by the destruction of Buddhist material culture during the decades of warfare that preceded the reign of Ang Duong.
Khmer historical sources suggest that Ang Duong regarded the renovation of Cambodian Buddhism as one of the most important dimensions of revitalizing and pacifying his kingdom.
After more than a century of turbulence, the resumption of religious practices signaled a return to the rhythms of normal daily life.
On a larger cultural scale, the revitalization of religious life was in part a political process, explicitly enacted to legitimize a new reign and confer charisma on its ruler.
But it had a more practical and spiritual dimension as well. Activities such as the rebuilding of temples, the reestablishment of temple schools, the recollection and recopying of texts lost or destroyed during war, and, presumably, merit making for family members whose deaths could not be commemorated during wartime because of a lack of monks, ritual materials, and safe circumstances under which to perform religious ceremonies were part of the reconstitution of social order and meaning after the turmoil of warfare.
In spite of this arrangement, as far as the majority of Khmer were concerned, French interference in their daily lives was minimal since for the most part, the Khmer monarchy maintained its administration of the kingdom through the s.
This perception began to crumble in the mids with the introduction of French-initiated governmental reforms that sought to diminish the power of Khmer elites to administer and raise revenue from villages under their jurisdiction in the countryside.
The most powerful kingdoms in terms of military, economic, agricultural, and cultural dominance served as the centers. But the Buddhist ideal of the cakkavattin necessitated that the king act as the moral fulcrum of the kingdom as well as its political center.
They were expected to behave as moral exemplars, upholders of the Dhamma and Sangha as well as the king. The politico-moral dimensions of taking the oath, and its reverberations at all levels of society, are evident in the oath itself: If enemies make attempts against the kingdom, and if I do not rush to its defense; if, in the same case, I hide myself, and if by my example, I give birth to sentiments of fear, of terror among the people, I will no longer be worthy of being your servant.
If I break my oath, may I be reborn in a miserable condition and may I, in this world, be struck with lightning from the sky, bitten by caimans and other voracious animals.
If you have a high position, possessing wealth and slaves,42 keep your thoughts aimed at what is upright and in futures lives, you will obtain them again.
This situation caused tension in the relations between elites and peasants, evidenced in the mood of spiritual and material dissatisfaction that led to several tax revolts and millenarian movements in the second half of the century.
The strain that these forms of turbulence placed on society added to the weakening of a hierarchically ordered social structure that was undergoing challenges from the reform-minded administrations coming to power in both Siam and French-controlled Cambodia.
The conception of a morally charged, hierarchical arrangement of space and time had given shape to notions of identity and power, in both idealized and real contexts, that were harmonious and made sense.
The strains on this vision of reality widened the sense of disjuncture between the ways in which meaning and order were represented in the Buddhist literature discussed previously and the sociopolitical turbulence of everyday life.
This disjuncture opened up the possibility for alternative Buddhist visions of order and disorder to be asserted. Although social reconstruction was begun under Ang Duong and continued into the reign of Norodom r.
This dissatisfaction was in turn exacerbated by the transformations in the social arrangement of power in the kingdom brought about by French political control.
As a tributary king, Ang Duong had nonetheless managed to imbue the monarchy with some real power. Norodom, politically weak even before he aligned himself with the French in , was forced to rely on the French military to protect his interests against civil unrest because the power attached to his monarchy was largely symbolic.
The French presence brought a greater degree of peace to the countryside in the regions the French controlled, but besides the piracy and banditry that was a constant problem at the time, revolts and rebellions continued to erupt in both Thai- and French-controlled Khmer areas.
Nineteenth-century millenarian discourses differed from these more mainstream expressions of Buddhism to a certain extent in that they focused on dissatisfaction in the present rather than moral development in a cosmic time frame.
But even as a form of social criticism and a medium for expressing the experience of social change and disquiet, millenarianism was a way of making sense of these experiences from a solidly Buddhist perspective.
Nor was it particularly radical; at the same time that millenarianism critiqued the moral conduct of particular kings as corrupt and ineffective at creating prosperity and well-being for the realm, its ideological map of power and social organization retained the monarch as the moral center of the cosmos.
Following the decline, in which only a few people remain, the Dhamma is renewed and gradually regenerates. The Vatt Prek Kuy chronicular account of the event, translated by Chandler, tells of the eventual defeat of the rebels after Kai broke the Buddhist precept against killing in a clash with Vietnamese troops.
In , a widespread guerilla-style rebellion erupted, led by Siamese-supported Khmer nobility against the Vietnamese emperor.
Lam Sam, who was attributed with special powers of invulnerability, attracted a formidable seven to eight thousand followers. The prominence of millenarian ideas in this period suggests further the perception of disjuncture between the expectations and experience of social order considered earlier, of disorder and disharmony.
Tai details the manner in which millenarianism became further entrenched in the Vietnamese-Khmer border region following the cholera epidemic in 58 : chapter 2 southern Vietnam.
During the cholera epidemic, a millenarian healer called the Buddha Master of Western Peace began to attract adherents, who followed him to the mountainous region of Chaudoc to establish new communities.
Basing his teachings on sixteenthcentury Vietnamese predictive texts, the Buddha Master preached the imminent arrival of the next buddha, Maitreya Metteya.
There he formed Dao Lanh, a resistance movement based on Buu Son Ky Huong ideologies, practiced healing, and distributed protective amulets to his followers.
Nam Thiep, the reincarnation claimant, became associated with the movement by the mids. Both Buu Son Ky Huong and Khmer millenarianism drew heavily on Buddhist cosmological ideas concerning the decline and regeneration of the Dhamma in conjunction with kappas of decline and prosperity.
Both predicted the arrival of Metteya after a period of catastrophic social turbulence in which a few people would be saved because of their good actions, but many more would be lost because of their immorality.
While one chronicle source indicates that Pou Kombo was perhaps of highland ethnic minority origins,75 Pou Kombo himself appears to have either claimed or implied that he was a Khmer prince who had spent several decades in Laos.
French sources indicate the wide circulation of these texts in Cambodia throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century, and Keyes has documented the circulation of four similar texts at least by the late nineteenth century in northeastern Siam.
Because the people of the earthly realm were inclined away from the Dhamma,84 the deity of the wind85 did not permit the fruits of food to ripen.
Not only does the king disregard the rules of kingship, but family relationships disintegrate to the point that children no longer show respect for their parents, wives lose respect for their husbands, and the people lose all recognition of appropriate social ties and bonds.
He incited the population to rebel against authorities in Kompong Svay, an area that had long been at odds with the throne.
In , they attacked and ransacked provincial posts of the Siamese government. Sit in meditation and our side will shoot but a single shot.
This discussion provides evidence of the extent to which millenarian discourse was a part of the religio-political imagination of the period.
But even this limited historical survey has made evident that millenarianism was not a uniform Khmer response to social change. While millenarian ideas surfaced in different regions of Cambodia and on the Siamese borders during the nineteenth century, the rebellions themselves remained localized; they never attracted enough adherents to ignite the entire population.
Along with the immediate political concerns that gave rise to millenarianism, it seems likely that it expressed a moral crisis, a way of responding to social unrest that conveyed a longing for the restoration of idealized conceptions of meaning and order.
These idealized conceptions asserted a normative Buddhist understanding of the kammic ordering of existence, identity, and power.
Millenarianism afforded a way of interpreting factors such as drought or oppression caused by overtaxation in terms of the degeneration of the Dhamma, which in turn could be linked to past or present moral causes, such as the unrighteous behavior of a king or the wielding of power by illegitimate or morally suspect individuals.
But the utopian nature of the vision seems to have worked in an even more nuanced way. This important current of millenarian thought was later rearticulated in the ethical writings of Buddhist modernists.
While millenarianism during this period was prominent as a Khmer discourse for making sense of the world and the experiences of war and violence, oppression, poverty, and other aspects of sociopolitical change, it could not halt the transformations taking place in French Indochina and Siam.
It may also be that as the violence and unrest of the nineteenth century subsided, the perception of social turmoil that had fueled the apocalyptic visions of the millenarian prophecies receded.
Reformism itself was part of a larger intellectual and political impulse in Southeast Asia during this period that had both indigenous and foreign sources.
In Cambodia, where French control accelerated throughout the s and s, sociopolitical reform was imposed by French colonial rule, which gained momentum as a result of the civil unrest and institutional fragility in the Khmer government after Norodom took the throne.
In Siam, King Chulalongkorn Rama V achieved the political authority necessary for accelerating his governmental modernization efforts during this period.
While in a regional sense Khmer kingship had been weakened throughout the buddhist responses to social change : 65 nineteenth century by the helplessness of its monarchs in the face of the Thai, the Vietnamese, and the French, the prestige of the kingship as a political and moral force remained intact much longer.
Convinced that Cambodia was a potentially rich region that could be made to pay for the costs of maintaining the protectorate as well as generate revenue for France, French administrators began in the mids to turn their attention to understanding and reforming the Khmer political administration.
In reality, the reforms introduced at this point by the colonial administration were largely ignored and had little of their intended effect on Khmer life at this time.
Khmer courts and judges, for instance, were placed under the direct supervision of French judicial administrators; responsibility for most court cases was taken out of the hands of the Khmer.
All of these types of lifelong slaves were considered hereditary slaves in the sense that their descendants were also slaves.
In the case of criminal or political prisoners sentenced to slavery, their entire extended family shared the sentence, along with all of their descendants.
Following the convention of , taxation became an issue of mounting political tension. Thus, the enfeeblement of the monarch and Khmer elites through new taxation policies helped fuel a perception of moral degeneration and added to the mood of social unease that lingered as a result of the turmoil of the nineteenth century.
One important dimension of tax restructuring was the opium policy introduced as part of the convention of Designed to give the French more control over Khmer elites, it became a major aspect of the colonial strategy for increasing tax revenue in Cambodia.
The convention removed control of the liquor and opium monopoly from the king and gave it to the French.
As a result, opium dens became targets of particular destruction during the rebellion led by Prince Sivotha following the convention.
Norodom and his successor Sisowath r. Among other initiatives, new, lower grades of less expensive opium were introduced so that workers could afford the drug; these policies increased opium consumption 50 percent between and , and it continued to grow for the next several decades.
Although different in tone and intent, both critiques are illustrative for understanding the highly religious and moral terms in which social criticism was refracted in this early prenationalist and precommunist period.
As in millenarian discourse, problems such as corruption, oppressive government control, and overtaxation were represented as moral issues; opium addiction was emblematic of the degeneration of moral values in colonial society.
In regard to slavery, efforts by French colonials and modern-minded Siamese reformists to abolish slavery challenged implicit Buddhistic assumptions on which buddhist responses to social change : 69 society rested, including the idea that social life was structured by a kammic ordering of people based on their moral histories in the cosmos.
The French policies promoting opium use were similarly complex in both political and social terms.
On the one hand, in seizing the opium franchise, the administration deprived Khmer elites of a lucrative source of income.
The rhetoric of social order and disorder employed by Prince Yukanthor reveals the Buddhistic premises of his analysis; he argued that the proper hierarchical arrangement of society was morally sanctioned through the law of karma and harmonious.
In an article for Le Figaro, he responded to the French abolition of slavery by arguing for its greater humanity in the Cambodian context than the options of starvation and poverty provided by French policies: We have slaves.
I have them. But I have never understood the horror that you place on this word, before having come to see the reality it designates.
Among the liberties in which you take glory, it seems to me that many among you still have the one of starving to death.
This is one that we are displeased you have given to our people. For this is the only one that you have been able to give.
He harshly criticized the French government for undermining Buddhist law, a law based on justice and love, which was the basis of a harmonious social order in traditional society: The King is the absolute master, it is true.
He must for there to be order. In the celestial system, the movements of the heavenly bodies are regulated, and that gives harmony.
It is the same in our traditional society that you seek to destroy. Order gives happiness to all. Disorder cannot but give misfortune to all.
And [in disorder] the Buddhist law does not exist. Buddhist society was just not because of abstract principles of liberty but because the individuals who governed it behaved in accordance with Dhammic values such as loving-kindness and compassion.
Yukanthor employed a more modern mode of response. He produced a written memorandum that fully captured the ironies of colonial conceptions of liberty, rights, and justice to criticize colonial policies, and circulated it in print form in the metropole.
Certainly, some elites, such as those Yukanthor criticized in his memorandum as French collaborators, must not have shared all of his views of the deleterious effects of French policies.
In spite of its ultimate ineffectiveness, his memorandum helps to further demonstrate the ways in which Buddhist ideas could be harnessed to respond to social change, simultaneously advancing and critiquing modern values, and in this sense anticipating later modernist writing.
An advocate of the modern Buddhist interpretations that will be examined in subsequent chapters, Ind employed new rational textual and discursive methods and ideas while simultaneously pointing to an alarming departure in contemporary colonial society from the practice of authentic Buddhist values.
In Phnom Penh, his work brought him into daily contact with other literati, members of the royal court, the buddhist responses to social change : 71 Sangha, and French colonial administrators.
Added to this, a major disparity in income and taxation was becoming apparent. Ind uses images and stories involving taxation, corruption, and addiction to represent the degeneration of morality.
In other instances, opium and alcohol use, to which Ind makes repeated reference in the text, are used both literally and metaphorically to depict the character of modern society.
This drunkenness is lobho, which means longing to be associated with or wanting something, which is one kind of drunkenness. Doso means rage and anger, which is one kind of drunkenness.
Moho means ignorant confusion and not knowing right from wrong, which is one kind of drunkenness. If one is greedy, it will lead one to become even greedier; if one is angry or deluded or arrogant, it will lead one to even greater anger, delusion or arrogance.
It leads your heart and mind to wrongdoing, to grievous ignominy. In worldly terms, drinkers are rebuked and scorned. But when they meet with death, an [even worse] suffering awaits.
There, they experience the consequences [of their actions], their bodies scorched with hot irons, [even] their livers and spleens within their stomachs, in a state of agonizing pain.
In it, Ind, like Yukanthor, draws on French ideologies concerning liberty, but in combination with a more derogatory portrait of debt slavery: This story originates in a French volume.
There was a domestic dog who ran out to play in a forest, where he saw a wild forest dog with a thin body standing in one place.
They went to give each other a friendly reception according to their own language, and came to be friends. But friend, if you want to come live with my master in the countryside, and live with me there, my master is very kind.
What kind of things do you do? They use me to guard the house when they sleep, and whenever they go play in the forest we must go with them to help catch wild animals by tracking them.
Then we can eat delicious food and go to sleep. And that thing tied around your neck, what do you call it? Do you mean this thing they call a collar, friend?
I am a wild dog. I look for food happily, according to my own wishes, not to gain favor or to please or out of fear of someone.
I look for food according to my own wishes and strength. If I want to sleep, I sleep, and I come and go when and where I want.
But their food depends on them. They cannot eat whenever they are hungry. I think that that collar of yours is way too tight.
As for me, I want my neck to be free. I cannot provide comparison in all the detail that is possible, but the story parallels the condition of a person who has a master and a person who does not have a master, like the wild dog whose speech we have heard and the dog with the collar.
They are things that cause one to tremble with excitement, that make one intoxicated with glory. In an earlier piece by Ind, a poem composed after a trip to Angkor with members of the Khmer court and translated by Penny Edwards, Ind painfully observed Khmer coolies laboring to carry out the French vision of the renovation of Angkor: Sir Monsieur Commaille, from France, Takes cement and paints it on like paper as reinforcement.
Wherever moss grows thick enough to block your view Sir has it swept out clean. But both passages share a decisively negative imagery of servitude.
Still, his ironic use of a French fable lauding the value of liberty to critique the French restriction of Khmer liberty is carefully indirect, as is his telling of another French fable about tyranny.
The mice who plot endlessly to place a bell around the neck of their oppressor always fail to achieve their objective.
Throughout the second and into the third decade of the century, tensions concerning taxes mounted as the colonial administration cut roads through the jungles and undertook projects such as the construction of a resort complex on the Gulf of Siam.
In , a new tax on uncultivated land further increased the tax burden on farmers. Buddhist thought was an important site for responding to and representing these experiences.
The new social and intellectual milieu in which these critiques were formulated saw the rise of a self-consciously modernist Buddhist faction in the Khmer Sangha by This movement was in many respects an outgrowth of the wider social and political events described in this chapter, especially with respect to the social change and uneasiness that necessitated new visions of social order.
It also developed within the context of the continuing renovation of Cambodian Buddhism begun under Ang Duong, and the religious reforms that were being introduced in Siam during this same period.
It was shaped by the experiences of social and political change in the nineteenth century and by the traditions of Buddhist social criticism discussed in the previous chapter.
Huot Tath, one of the architects of modern Khmer Buddhism, suggested that the origins of the modern Dhamma movement could be traced to the power of understanding the Vinaya, the Buddhist texts outlining monastic codes of conduct.
This chapter examines the ways in which Buddhist reforms under way in both Cambodia and Siam during the nineteenth century contributed to the rise of the modern Dhamma movement.
As Khmer monks recounted in their later writings and oral recollections to students, these experiences led to illuminations that prompted them to challenge conventional Khmer Buddhist modes of translation and textual production.
These developments culminated in the events of described by Huot Tath, in which new scrutiny of the Vinaya served as the catalyst for the promulgation of a reinterpretation of Buddhist values.
Texts placed in temple libraries and schools supported the education and moral purity of monks, but not all texts were intended to be read or studied.
Manuscripts in the royal collection were apparently maintained more for symbolic and ritual purposes than for scholarly use, although the sacred dimensions of these texts during the nineteenth century remain obscure, as French commentators on manuscript culture had limited access to or understanding of them.
He believes it likely that these terms referred to manuals for monks containing formulas and summaries extracted from the Pali, which were intended to be memorized by monks, not necessarily studied and understood.
Buddhist rules and prescriptions for living, such as the Vinaya precepts for 80 : chapter 3 monastic life, based on either canonical or perhaps even extracanonical sources, he suggests, were written as vernacular language texts.
After a stay of one year in Siam, he returned to Cambodia, bearing with him a number of manuscripts.
This practice shifted between and , when royal copies of texts were moved to a small building behind the throne room; though not as dramatically separated, the texts were still being housed in a distinct sacred space.
In contrast, the Khmer families, individuals, and monks who owned texts viewed them primarily as sacred objects to be used and maintained for ritual and religious purposes rather than for conveying or documenting historical and legal information.
Most important was that, in their minds, texts presented to temples were meant to generate merit; to remove texts donated for this purpose was unthinkable.
A prevailing view of texts was of physically potent objects that affected the spiritual well-being of the individuals who handled them; their exact contents were of lesser importance.
Texts were understood to be sacred in much the same way as relics, which embodied physical elements of the Buddha. Being in physical contact or proximity with texts, touching them, seeing them, or hearing them, connected one with the Buddha and his teachings devotionally.
Until the modern Dhamma movement emerged, little distinction was drawn between different types of texts, among nonscholarly monks and laypeople at least, nor was an effort made to attach greater authority to some types of texts than others.
The sacred physical and devotional aspects of textuality were in many respects diminished and altered with the transition to print culture that occurred during the s.
For some Khmer intellectuals, the exposure to new representations of the modern geographical and physical world current in Siam under Mongkut and Chulalongkorn, and the more cosmopolitan culture they encountered there, seems also to have fostered a heightened awareness of the distinctiveness of Khmer culture and identity.
Within Battambang, he traveled from Sangker to Mongkolburi and then Sisophon, walking from village to village and staying overnight in local monasteries.
In Sisophon he was invited to join the traveling party of a district chief headed for Bangkok. Bangkok consequently became an important center of monastic training for Khmer monks and novices during the nineteenth century.
When they returned to Cambodia, they took back not only the texts Khmer monasteries lacked, but also the reform ideas current in Bangkok.
He was ordained as a novice at the age of eleven, and by the time he ordained as a monk in , he had already won notice from Rama III for his brilliance.
The date of his return to Cambodia and founding of the Dhammayut sect in Cambodia has been attributed to the reigns of both Ang Duong and Norodom, either in or From the s onward, they were able to foster the renovation of Buddhism envisioned by Ang Duong and to introduce reforms in Pali studies and Sangha administration.
In addition, their own close ties to Bangkok perhaps contributed to its continuing attraction and prestige as a site for higher education.
Khmer monks educated in Bangkok carried back texts and curricular traditions from their own studies. After the s, when monastic curricular reforms were being introduced in Bangkok, Khmer Buddhist learning continued to follow the nineteenth-century curricula until the advent of Khmer modernist reforms in the s, discussed in chapter 4.
The method of teaching the words of the Buddha Buddhavacana in the Pali texts was to consider everything, in a precise and exhaustive manner.
But most [Khmer] teachers at that time were unable to provide their students with explanations that would allow them to gain clear or deep comprehension, or to illuminate all subjects.
This occurred because the 90 : chapter 3 monks who were his teachers supplied their students with thorough and detailed explanations.
A Khmer biography of Mongkut helps to demonstrate how Khmer monks experienced and represented their new illuminations about the Dhamma-vinay.
He had observed bhikkhus and novices in his monastery perform actions that were in many respects contrary to the Dhamma-vinay.
Still others came dancing in and shrieking out theatrical performance yiker lyrics. Some of them worked as goldsmiths, artists, or cement layers, accepting payment.
Mongkut feared not only that the behavior of individual monks violated Vinaya precepts but also that monastic ordination procedures themselves were illegitimate.
Along with his concern about ordination procedures, he had questioned the authenticity of the most basic daily monastic behaviors: the wearing of the robes and the carrying of the alms bowl, or bat.
Mon monks did not wear their robes in the same manner as Siamese and Khmer monks. Later, bhikkhus put the loofah-roll over the shoulder without pinching it, thus loosening and opening the loofah-roll to bring the right hand out as Mon bhikkhus do.
They also carried their alms bowls in their hands rather than suspended from a strap or bag slung around their shoulders.
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