New abbot anointed in special ceremony

The local Cambodian Buddhist community celebrated the investiture of a new abbot at Wat Khemarangsaram in Bonnyrigg this month.

Venerable Venglim Mel took up the position after the previous abbot, Venerable Long Sakhone, passed away late last year.

The selection of Venerable Mel to fill the position of abbot was a popular one. He came to Australia eight years ago at the invitation of the Cambodian Buddhist Society of NSW. He has 20 years' experience as a monk and a deep knowledge of Buddhist scriptures, Pali and Sanskrit from studies at Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University in Phnom Penh.

Ravy Heng, a committee member of the Cambodian Buddhist Society of NSW, said Venerable Mel was widely respected in the community for his compassion and pastoral care for the sick and elderly. As acting abbot, he steered the temple through the difficult time of lockdowns.

The ceremony on January 8 involved four Cambodian temples in Sydney.

Monks from Rossmore, Canley Vale and Cabramatta temples came to Bonnyrigg the day before to plan the ceremony. The area in front of the temple was decorated in Buddhist colours and a stage was constructed for the ceremony. A large decorative banner was designed by the abbot of Wat Rattanaram and set up behind the stage. Members of the temple community joined in the working bee.

Sambath Hing, regular volunteer at the temple, set up the sound system for the ceremony.

The religious ceremony began with Venerable Mel leading a procession to the temple, shaded by a golden parasol. Once he was seated, the other monks took it in turns to anoint him with water from silver bowls, symbolising purity. Community elders then came forward to splash water and scatter petals over him, as a blessing. Traditional music was played during the ceremony.

As part of the proceedings, the congregation confirmed their support for Venerable Mel as abbot.

Sabouphary Tuy, Vice President of the Cambodian Buddhist Society of NSW, led the pledge.

He also thanked the abbots and monks from the other temples for their support.

Cambodian community organisations were represented on the day. Srey Kang, president of the Khmer Community of NSW, Lam Son, from the Kampuchea Krom Cultural Centre and Lychantha Sok, from the Salvation and Cambodian Culture Association of NSW, spoke on behalf of their organisations in support of the appointment of Venerable Mel as abbot.

After the ceremony, the newly invested abbot thanked the monks and the community for placing their trust in him. He acknowledged the families who help with everyday tasks around the temple, especially praising the cooks who come to the temple every day to prepared food. He gave out certificates of appreciation to some of the families to thank them for their contribution.

Usually, a ceremony as significant as this would attract a large crowd. This time attendance was restricted because of Covid and masks were worn, but the ceremony was livestreamed through CBS TV on Facebook so the whole community could be involved.

Venerable Mel, who also has a Bachelor of Computer Science, uses Facebook to broadcast religious services and ceremonies. It has been an important link at times when the community was isolated because of COVID.