Like fireflies to a fire,
like grievers to a pyre,
we flocked to the monks
as they sat into the middle of the night,
telling stories and lessons about Buddha.
The whole neighborhood is here is seems
Grandmothers sitting in total focus as they absorb
each and every word.
While the grandchildren run about with the orange fanta and cookies
they got from the snack stand in their hands.
This nighttime tradition goes back for hundreds of years.
When your religion is written in pali –
an ancient language of days gone by,
oral tradition becomes an integral part to your faith.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been sitting here,
plastered to the main pillar that holds up the temple’s roof,
palms pressed and staring at the monks sitting on their
intricately sculpted wooden chairs.
Today’s story and the stories of nights gone by
have woven themselves together to become
decrees for compassion
and submission always.
The monks are our translators of the sacred text.
Our view of our religion lies completely in the palms of their hands.
Sitting here, I can’t help but think about how much control
we are giving away due to this total dependency.
How can I trust the words I’m hearing?
Because on the news they are always talking about
temple corruptions and crimes.
Just last week, they caught a monk raping a 14 years old girl.
Things like this happen over and over again,
And yet people turn a blind eye to it.
And so here we are, sitting here, listening to interpretive words.
Not knowing truth from untruth,
or whether or not the truth or untruth spoken
comes from a just or corrupted being.
Don’t question our religion.
Questioning things will lead to chaos and disruption.
So for the sake of peace, we buried and suppressed,
became blind to things right in front of our faces.
We Cambodians shall go down in history as one of the only people
to commit a genocide on our own people.
Skin color, religious differences, cultural differences
None of that mattered.
We took the blades and bullets to one of our own.
One of the same face.
Perhaps we all took the blade to our own faces.
We haven’t truly seen in so long,
got rid of our true judgment so long ago,
how are we to know that
we’re killing ourselves and each other?
For a people so determined on maintaining stability and peace,
violence seems almost second nature to us.
Perhaps if we aren’t so quick to resign to
trying to preserve this negative peace,
and ask questions
and finally see
and not just listen and simply obey
and know right from wrong
and use our own eyes
and see that what may seem right may not always be right
then perhaps we would actually gain true peace.