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Opportunity Costs for Monks in India

Cambodian monks studying in India say they have opportunities for quality education, but they struggle with high costs.

India has well-regarded education systems, recognized by the international community, which leads many Cambodian monks to study there.

Their studies in India are usually funded by donors or the family. Most Cambodian monks live at a Khmer monastery, in the capital, Delhi. Some of them live in rented quarters in housing nearby.

Monk Ngem Kimteng rents the second floor of a house in Old Delhi. The house is 12 meters wide.

“I came to India six years ago, to study a doctorate of Buddhism,” he said in a recent interview there. “My subject is not difficult, but what is a problem for me is the budget for studying and the house fee.”

Ngem Kimteng, who is 62, pays 5,000 rupees, or more than $100, for rent each month, and $1,200 for school. Altogether, he spends about $1,500 per month, he said.

“The budget for me is very difficult, but I always receive [money] from my family and donors and from the Khmer people who visit India,” he said.

Another monk, Ven Chandary, 29, a classmate of Ngem Kimteng, said he too was facing a budget problem, “because I don’t have someone to help me.”

“I spend the funds for myself, for study, and sometimes my family helps with the budget for me to study,” he said.

“Anyway, I am committed to finish my studies, even if I lack the budget,” he said. “When I arrived in New Delhi the first time, it was very difficult for me to go anywhere, especially from my place to the university. But now it’s easy for me, because I’ve lived her for five years. Every day I walk from my place to school. Sometimes I’m on foot, sometimes on a bus.”

He appealed for donors and the Cambodian government to help Cambodian monks study in India.

A third monk, Ngim Sao Samkan, 29, who studies social studies at a Hindu university 1,000 kilometers from New Delhi, said saves money by staying home or in class.

“I don’t rent a house, because I live in the Khmer pagoda,” he said. “I spend for school $500 per month and for meals $100. Now I don’t have enough money to study in India.”