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In studying various problems, one must think well.
Even adults with good behavior
Are still subjected to distraction;
A good man can become wicked;
A modest man can become grand.
Sometimes one might mistake a horse for a donkey,
Take a goose for a duck,
Think a winged bean for a liana,
Keep the lead and toss away the silver,
Mistake engraved copper for gold.
That is why it is worth thinking,
To reason, to smell the air
To identify the flavor, the fragrance
Good or bad,
Delectable and exciting.
King Sri Dharmaraja II of Cambodia (reign 1627-1631)
Sri Dharmaraja II was born in 1601 as Prince Ponhea To to King Jaya Jettha II and his third wife. The prince was privately educated at a very young age. Well versed in Sanskrit, Pali, and Khmer, Ponhea To enjoyed poetry and history. In 1620, he was elected crown prince and heir apparent and commanded his father’s military campaign to reclaim Khmer’s territory back from Siam (Thailand). He was quite successful, but to his father’s great disappointment, he could not take Ayudhya. At the same time, his father betrothed him to his step-sister, Bupphavati (the daughter of his step-mother from her previous marriage). In 1623, Ponhea To was ordained as a monk. He found he rather enjoyed his life as a monk, so much that he announced his decision to spend the rest of his life as such. He was still adamant about his decision even after his father passed away in 1625. The throne was then offered to his uncle Prince Uday (his father’s younger brother), but Uday declined the offer. Instead, Uday acted as his nephew’s regent, hoping Ponhea To would change his decision later. In 1627, Ponhea To finally disrobed and left the monkhood and assumed the throne as Sri Dharmaraja Suryavarman II. But a while back when he was still a monk, his uncle married Bupphavati, his former fiancée.
As king, Sri Dharmaraja disliked bureaucracy and administration work, and everything that had to do with ruling. So he left his uncle to carry out his duties at the palace. He then moved into residence in Koh Ghlok, a distance away from the capital Udong, where he occupied his time with writing poetry and history. Sometimes in early 1631, Uday, who never had good health to begin with, became quite ill. The king visited his uncle, and that was when he became acquainted with Bupphavati. I think y’all know where this is going. The king and Bupphavati had a torrid affair. As their affair went on, one day when Uday was visiting Angkor, Bupphavati took leave of her husband “for a few days,” when in fact she went to live with the king. Uday found out and sent a small troop of soldiers along with hired Portuguese mercenaries to pursue the two lovers. At his residence, the king was protected by an assistant and four bodyguards, so he never had a chance anyway. At the end of the pursuit, mercenaries and soldiers found the king sitting atop a palm tree, writing poetry. Sri Dharmaraja asked his pursuers to let him finish his writing before killing him, which they granted. The king’s final writing, aptly titled Works from the Top of the Palm Tree, included his letter to his uncle. The letter included a passage in which he expressed his hope to die with dignity, but because of his foolish actions, he is about to die in disgrace. The letter ended with his wish to be born as a decent human being in his next life. Bupphavati was condemned to death later.
Public opinion on that sordid affair was divided. Some sympathized with Bupphavati, a young woman married to an old and sickly man. Some blamed Uday for taking to wife a woman intended for his nephew. But most blamed Sri Dharmaraja, who as a king, should have had better virtue.
Considered to be one of the best poets in Khmer literature, Sri Dharmaraja is especially admired by literary critics, past and present, for his command of the meters and language. The king left many works, including poems written to Bupphavati. His most popular work, Chbab Rajaneti (Moral Code of Conduct: The King’s Neither This Nor That), is still being read today by young students.
Some more advice from Sri Dharmaraja II:
When you are full of anger, you lose wisdom.
Though you might listen to your elders’ counsel and guidance, still, do pull yourself up and stretch your thinking.
Don’t be afraid to provoke an argument.
When you practice oppression, you lose merits.
Do not plant rice where elephants often pass through.
Friendship is the best gift one can give.
Do not trust a speaker just because he speaks movingly.
The usefulness of a gift is dependent on the need of the recipient.
The home is full of happiness if the wife is endowed with virtues.
If you want a life of ease, work hard while young.
If you want something in the distance, you have to make the journey.
The kite flies thanks to the wind; an officer is admired because of the soldiers.
Being irascible and vicious, you destroy yourself.
Express understanding, practice forgiveness, cultivate goodness, will generate richness.
Do not let yourself become consumed with women.
The king obviously did not take his own advice when it comes to women. Sri Dharmaraja II was succeeded by his younger brother.Published in