December 29, 2012

0439 CAMBODIA - A Buddhist monk with its traditional kasava

Buddhism is one of the oldest religion still practiced, so the Buddhist Monasticism is also one of the earliest surviving forms of organized monasticism, the order of Buddhist monks and nuns being founded by Gautama Buddha himself, over 2500 years ago. The Buddhist monastic order is theoretically divided into two assemblies, the male Bhikkhu, and the female Bhikkhuni. Monks and nuns are expected to fulfill a variety of roles in the community, to preserve the doctrine and discipline, to provide a living example for the laity, to live an austere life focused on the study of Buddhist doctrine, the practice of meditation, and the observance of good moral character. Unlike Christian monastics, the Buddhist ones aren't required to be obedient to a superior, but it's expected that they will offer respect to senior members of the Sangha (community). In generally, the groups of monastics make decisions collectively, and individual relationships of teacher/student, senior/junior, and preceptor/trainee are no formal positions.

In Cambodia (as also in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar, where is dominant the Theravada school, the oldest surviving Buddhist branch), there is a long tradition of temporary ordination. During a school break, many young men usually ordain for a week or two to earn merit for loved ones and to gain knowledge of Buddhist teachings. Theravada monks are also most likely to engage in traditional practices of collecting alms (Bhikkhu means literally "one who lives by alms"), although the urbanization of parts of Southeast Asian has presented a challenge to this practice.

Is said that the historical Buddha wore a humble monk's robe, made of patched pieces of donated cloth throughout his life, in this way being also depicted in paintings and sculptures. Similarly, the monks of the Theravada tradition wear plain saffron or ochre robes. This reddish-yellow color is called kasaya or kasava in Pali sources and kashaya in Sanskrit sources, and also the robes of this color are called so. If there is no reference to the color, the robe is called civara. Wearing civara is the first of a monk's four traditional requirements (nisraya). Monks are instructed never to enter in a village without wearing all three parts of their robe: an inner robe, or waistcloth, from the waist to the knee (antaravasaka); an upper robe, around the torso and shoulders (uttarsanga); and an outer robe, used as an overgarment (sanghati).

Easy to clean and repair, civara is so versatile, that can be used also as a blanket, a seat-spread, a groundsheet, a head-cover, a windbreaker, etc. The material for it is traditionally donated by laypersons in the kathina ceremony, which occurs after the rainy season. There are a number of ways the monks wear their robes, depending on their sect and country. The most universal one is that which is worn for the alms-round, when the robe is covering both the shoulders. Sometimes is adopted a simpler style, as a gesture of respect and to facilitate work, the right side of the robe being pushed under the armpit and over the robe on the left leaving the right shoulder bare.

This picture is taken in the morning, when the monks are returning after theirs daily food quest. They live only from what they get from the laity, who prepare some foods and rice special for them.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of one of the only two series issued in Cambodia in 2009. About the other, entitled The 30th Anniversary of Great Victory Day, I wrote here. This one, issued on 7 July, with the occasion of 1st Anniversary of the Inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List (UNESCO), comprises 5 stamps, and was printed in 100,000 copies. As can be seen on the postmark, the poscard was send on 12.12.2012 (Many, many thanks, Zarah).

Buddhist monasticism - Wikipedia
Kasaya (clothing) - Wikipedia
The Monastic Robes - Buddhist Studies
Buddhist Monks' Robes - Religion Facts
Cambodian Stamps issued in 2009 - Stamps issued, or used, by Cambodia

sender: Zarah - Postcards crossing (direct swap)
sent from Phnom Penh (Cambodia), on 12.12.2012
photo: Vathana

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