SIMILARITIES BETWEEN CAMBODIAN PCHUM BEN AND MALAYA PAKSHA (Post No.5483)

RESEARCH ARTICLE WRITTEN by London Swaminathan
swami_48@yahoo.com
Date: 28 September 2018

 

Time uploaded in London – 7-46 AM (British Summer Time)

 

Post No. 5483

 

Pictures shown here are taken from Deccan Chronicle.

 

MALAYA PAKSHA IN CAMBODIA

My research shows that the Cambodian Ancestor Festival Pchum Ben is nothing but the Hindu ancestor ritual Malaya Paksha. The following points will prove my point.

 

What is Pchum Ben?

It is a period to pay food offerings to the dead ancestors. It is the period to remember and venerate them. It is a public holiday in Cambodia.

 

What is Malaya Paksha?

It is a period to remeber and pay oblations to ancestor sand get their blessings. Hindus do it in the month of Bhadrapatha (Purattasi in Tamil)

Now let us look at the similarities:

 

1.A fortnight period is common among Hindus and Cambodian Buddhists. Malaya Paksha means Malaya fortnight. It starts on a full moon day and finishes on a new moon day. That new moon is called Mahalaya Amavasya. A very important day for orthodox Hindus.

2.It is celebrated in the month of Bhadrapatha and the Cambodians call it Potrbotr (bhadrapatha). Potrbotr is the corrupted form of the Sanskrit month.

 

3.Hindus offer rice balls (Pindam) to the dead. Cambodians also offer rice balls. Pindam is even used in 2000 year old Tamil Sangam literature

4.Hindus always mention seven generations of ancestors. Cambodians also say they offer food for seven generations during this period. Te word seven generation is found in the Vedic literature and Tamil Veda Tirukkural.

 

5.Cambodians believe that the Gates of Hell are opened and then the Ghosts come to earth, particularly to their relatives. But Hindus never use ghosts for the dead. They elevate them to divine status and call them Pitrus. But the similarity is their visit to earth during this period. It is always easy to see a Prime Minister or President when he visits our town and present a memo. In the same way Hindus and Buddhists believe the dead ancestors visit earth during this fortnight. So it is easy to get their blessings.

 

6.Hindu priests recite mantras in Sanskrit during the ceremony. Buddhist priests recite Pali Suttas (Suktas). Pali is nothing but colloquial Sanskrit. Buddha used this spoken form to attract laymen.Dharma is changed to dhamma, sukta to sutta in Pali.

 

7.Cambodian Buddists also believe in Hindu Yama, god of death, and talk about Yama loka during this festival

 

8.Cambodians never miss a visit to pagoda during this period to offer food to Bikshus or someone there. Orthodox Hindus never miss the ceremony during this Paksha

 

The similarities between the Hindus and Buddhists of Cambodia is confirmed by another factor. Cambodians celebrate two festivals without a miss. Both are holidays. The other one is April 14 which is a New Year Day for the whole of South East Asia and India. From Kathmand to Kandy, several communities in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate this day.

 

All these point out to the Hindu influence in S E Asia and they are Buddhacised in course of time.

 

Other Buddhist countries like Sri Lanka also offer rice balls (Pindam)to ancestors during such festivals but at different period in a year.

Hindus consider two New Moon days ( Ashada and Pausa) important to ancestor

worship in addition to this Mahalaya New Moon Day in Bhadrapada which corresponds to September/October every year.

 

–subham–

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1 Comment

  1. There has never been a sharp, unbridgeable division between Hinduism and so called Buddhism. In fact, Hinduism as practised today and Buddhism are deviant forms of Vedic dharma, based on Dharma, Satya, Rta. [ rtasya panthah] Various aspects of belief and practice come to the fore in different times, according to the time spirit. Their core can be traced back to the Veda and Upanishads, though their forms vary. Krishna shows in the Gita how the concept of Yajna can be interpreted in various ways, besides the dravya yajna, with which it is predominantly identified in the common mind. This is an expansion of the original concept, not a negation.
    In the same way, Buddha selected some features of the Vedic system for exclusive attention.I It can be shown that the basic concept of Nirvana and Karma are taken from the Gita. The word Nirvanam -Brahma Nirvanam occurs there in the Gita several times. Karma and its consequent rebirth also figure prominently in the Gita. Above all, Buddha’s idea of the world-samsara- as suffering= dukkha also occurs prominently in the Gita.
    -dukkhalayam asaaswatam
    -mrutyu samsara vartmani
    -mrutyu samsara sagarat
    – anityam asukham loke
    -janma mrutyu jara dukkham
    janma mrutyu jara vyadhi dukkha doshanu darshanam. etc.
    The Buddhist eightfold path can also be viewed as an amplification of Yama-Niyama ideas of our Yoga darshana.

    Thus Buddha’s basic concepts can be shown to be derivative of VEdic ideas. This kind of derivation is also a basic Indian feature. After all, the six systems of philosophy, the six systems of worship, the three prominent interpretations of Vedanta- dwaita, visishtadvaita, advaita- are all derived from the same set of basic concepts of the VEda, Upanishds. Thus what Buddha did is not any more revolutionary than what other Acharyas did in the course of centuries! Naturally, Buddha is reckoned as an Avatar ( though some modern Buddhists do not like this!)
    Where Buddha seemed to differ from the mainline Vedic tradition is
    – in his agnostic position, This itself is not so revolutionary as it can be shown to be the position in some Upanishads also. The ultimate Brahmic experience can be interpreted as being without any theological implications- a state of Nirvana!
    – in his trenchant focus on Karma as inexorable law, permitting no relief. The orthodox Hindu opinion is different. It concedes that this law is overwhelming, but ultimately, Karma is not God, but subject to the will of God! To say that Karma overrules even God is to say that God is not Omnipotent! How absurd!
    Because Buddha was agnostic, he could not openly resort to God’s grace! Dependence on God’s mercy is the strong point of the Bhakti schools of Vedanta. Unfortunately the Buddha missed this. But later Buddhists , especially of the Mahayana school, made Buddha himself the source of this grace, in the form of Bodhisatva ! This proves the basic Hindu belief that liberation is as much due to divine grace, as due to human effort.
    If we analyse matters in this manner, we realise how close Buddhism is to Vedic religion. the sharp differences between the two are more apparent than real, mainly due to the writings of Westerners. ( I don’t call them scholars). and their unthinking Indian followers.
    Sri Aurobindo pointed out in his writings on “The Foundations of Indian Culture” [ later publlshed as The Renaissance In India] how Buddha himself did not preach his creed as a new revolutionary doctrine, but as the old Aryan way, ( see page 208 of the latter publication, 1997)

    Buddhism did not flourish in India because it did not really offer anything new to a civilization which was already steeped in spirituality! And what fresh elements of emphasis it had was readily absorbed by the creative minds of the Hindus! Hinduism allowed for the differences in human tastes and temperaments and through the idea of adhikari bheda provided for every one. But the Buddha preached the same high principles to all and sundry. In course of time, the ideals themselves got degraded. And the exclusive emphasis on sanyasa-renunciation deprived society of the services of the better class of people. The excessive attention to certain exclusive , extreme positions thus undid Buddhism in India.
    In course of time, Buddhist thinkers did take up ideas from the living Hinduism and it is such elements we see in the practices of Thailand.
    Curiously, I found that in Japan, [1996] because of the high cost of living, many Japanese could not afford the cost of a traditional Japanese (Shinto) marriage ceremony. [ Most could not even afford to buy the pure silk dress (Wedding Kimono) that was mandated for the bride!] They preferred to have it performed in a Church, where everything could be hired, including the wedding gown, and the whole show contracted out! But when it came to death ceremonies, they invariably sought out a Buddhist monk, for they believed that only Buddhism took care of the dead, really! This too in a way reinforces the Hindu belief in the sanctity of the pitrus, and the blessings they offer for the lineage!

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