More than 300 children sat with their backs straight, their eyes closed and their legs crossed as they tried to master the ways of meditation during a class Monday in Kandal’s Kien Svay district.
Surrounded by paintings of Buddha from his childhood to his enlightenment, the children tried to imitate the five monks meditating in front of them who acted as models.
But it wasn’t easy for the youths to sit still for long in the one-day class.
After about 10 minutes, they began fidgeting despite warnings not to move.
Still, the monks at Prek Eng pagoda said the children will learn in time.
They brought the youths to the pagoda to expose them to Buddhist teachings so the children can choose good deeds over evil ones when faced with such decisions, monks said.
“If anyone commits evil, they receive evil,” monk Sangha Bodhi told the visiting children. “If anyone does something with merit, they receive merit.”
With elders lamenting that children these days aren’t respectful and polite, the monks said they want to teach children to remember and respect the teachings of Khmer culture and the ways of Buddha.
“Mindful education is like weeding out grass,” said Makh Kim, the head monk at Prek Eng pagoda. “If we don’t weed it out, the grass will grow more and more.”
The students were taught the five prohibitions of the Buddhist precepts: do not kill, do not steal, do not tell lies, do not drink alcohol and do not have sex before marriage.
Huon Kiri, 13, said he was happy to learn about meditation and listen to advice from the monks, but acknowledged that some of his peers did not feel the same way.
“Some of my classmates are very rude,” he said. “They never respect the teacher.”
The monks said the Buddhist teachings will not only help the children, but will also help the parents.
“Sometimes the kid could advise his father when he sees him drinking wine,” Makh Kim said. “The kid will say, ‘The monks advised me we could not drink wine.’ Then his father will be ashamed.”