Suggested Guidelines for Entering a Wat (Temple) and Interacting with Monks: Cambodia

Most Cambodians are Theravada Buddhists. In Cambodian society, Buddhist monks have a significant impact. Monks frequently act as teachers and counselors.

The Wat is where everyone congregates. Most Cambodian localities have a Wat.

The following are some dos and don’ts for contacting Monks or entering a Wat:

No matter one’s social position, including the king, shoes or sandals must be taken off before entering a Wat.

Visitors need to dress appropriately. Men should always wear shirts and pants; they should never wear shorts or an exposing shirt. Short skirts, skin dresses with low cuts or open backs, garishly colored clothing, and strong perfume should not be worn by women.

Visitors to the Wat sit with their legs bent and their feet tucked to the side. Then subsequently Som Pas and bow three times to the floor.

Monks must not be touched by women. The gift should be placed within the Monk’s reach rather than being handed directly to him if a lady wants to give something to him. Even the mother of a monk must abide by this rule.

Viewing the public, monks take a platform or elevated seat. Monks are permitted to sit on the floor or a mat, provided they place a cushion or folded blanket on top of it to represent a raised seat if there is no platform or elevated seat available.

When the monks are sitting, all visitors must sit with their feet tucked between their legs.

When speaking to seated monks, never stand up. It exhibits extreme disrespect.

Do not touch or step on a Buddha statue, whether it is well-maintained or in ruin. It is a sacred thing.

All of a Monk’s meals—breakfast and lunch—must be eaten before noon. Monks may drink water, milk, or tea in the evening. This limitation should be considered in any schedule or engagement.

It is forbidden to taste food meant for Monks before they eat it.

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