The story of Bhikkhu Sok
Many year ago, there was a great famine in Kampuchea. A Phnong man called Chow Phnong Kruu came down from his mountain village to the town Senmonorom to try to find food for his family. When he returned home some time later, the sperstitious villagers were afraid of him because he had dared to leave their secluded village and live boldly among the lowland strangers.
During the next few weeks, Chow Phnong Fruu began to show his family some of the new things that he had learned about cooking and preserving food. These new ways greatly disturbed the simple-living Phnongs. They began to whisper to each other that Chow was practicing evil magic.
Then one day, a neighbor's samll child became ill and died. The villagers blamed Chow Phnong Kruu's magic for the child's death and demanded that the chief of the Phnongs punish him. Now, the chief of the Phnongs had forbidden his people to practice blach magic. He was furious when he heard that Chow had disobeyed his orders. So the Phnong chief immediatley sent for a group of hunters from the village and ordered them to kill Chow Phnong Kruu and all of his family with seven sharp razors.
The hunter did their job well. Within a few hours, Chow Phnong Kruu and all of his family were dead. All, that is, except for one small boy named chow Sok. That morning, Chow Sok had been sent to the rice field at the edge of the forest to wait for the rice buds to ripen for harvesting. Late that afternoon, while he was camped there, he heard an angry group of hunters pass through behind the trees. He listened in horror as they spoke about the killing of his mother, his father, his grandarents, his sister and brother, his aunts and uncles - his entire family. He trembled with terror when the hunters grumbled impatiently that one small boy was still alive and no one could find him.
When the hunters had passed, Chow Sok quickly climed to the top of a tall tree and hid himself in a thick tangle of liana vines. From the treetop, he watched as the hunters stomped through the rice field, searching along every crevice of the valley and in every pile of brushwood for the missing boy. When the sun set, the discouraged hunters turned back and headed for their village in the upper hills.
Sick with grief and fear, chow Sok sat in the safe tangle of liana vines until the middle of the night. Then he slowly crept down from the free and carefully made his way across the rice field, into the forest, and down to amother Phnong village nestled in the lower hills.
At the edge of the village was a small hut with fruit in thickly woven baskets leaning against the doorway. Chow Sok was cold and tired and hungry. He ate some fruit and then, curling up between the baskets, fell asleep.
In the morning, the old man who lived alone in the hut saw the sleeping boy. He knew immediatly that this must be the child that the hunters from the upper village had been looking for. The old man pitied the child. Waking the boy and warning him to be very quiet, the old man took him into the hut and hid him under some old straw mats.
Later that morning the hunters went down to the lower Phnong village to search again for the boy. When they saw the old man sitting in the doorway of his small hut, of fruit, and Chow Sok quickly ran down the road to find the merchant from Kratieh.
Soon he saw the merchant with his oxcart piled high with brushwood and dried fish. Feeling too shy to speak to the merchant who came from a strange land, Chow Sok walked far behind the cart for a long time. Then, feeling very tired, he edged closer and jumped up to lie down on the praek of the cart. The oxcart swayed, and the merchant turned quickly to see the small Phnong boy hanging on behind the wheel.
"Hey there! Who are you, boy? Where are your parents? Why are you hanging on behind my oxcart?" he called out the boy in the Phnong language.
The embarrassed child quickly scrambled down from the wooden preak. He timidly told the merchant the sad story about his family, the chief's hunters, and the kindly old man.
The merchant understood everything and pitied the frightened boy. "Ah, my poor child," he said. "You must come with me away from the Phnong villages. You may live with me in Kratieh. I have always wanted a son. Come, come now. Jump up here with me on this wood pile and let us leave this place quickly."
They journeyed together safely and reached Kratieh in good time.
The merchant grew to love Chow Sok as dearly as if he were really his own son. He taught Chow Sok the Khmer language and the customs of the country. In turn, Chow Sok was completely devoted to his new-found father. He studied with great care and eagerly helped the merchant with all of his work.
After a few years, the merchant sent Chow Sok to study at the monastery school of Kratieh. The monks were impressed with the boy's keen mind and good character. When Chow Sok was fifteen years old, he was ordained as a novice. When he was twenty-one, the monks fully ordained him as a monk - a bhikkhu. He was now called Bhikkhu Sok.
Bhikkhu Sok became a noble and honored monk. His wisdom and justice were respected throughout the land.
(note: Phnong are indigenous people in the north of Cambodia - Mondolkir, Rattanakiri, Kruu comes from guru and is the usual title for a teacher, doctor or a shaman, Sok is the khmer-pali pronunciation of pali word "sokha" which means "agreeable, pleasant, blest")
retyped from: Cambodian Folk Stories from the Gatiloke