For one weekend each year in April, people gather at Columbus Buddhist Community Inc. just south of Grove City to celebrate the Khmer New Year.

For one weekend each year in April, people gather at Columbus Buddhist Community Inc. just south of Grove City to celebrate the Khmer New Year.

This year's celebration, April 11-13, rang in the year of the rat, quite an auspicious occasion.

"The person who was born in this year is a lucky person," said Cambodian Buddhist Monk Soeung Eap (pronounced "sung" "e-yap").

Those born 12 years ago, or any multiplier of 12 years ago, are called "samuratisak," and this is their year for health and fortune, the monk said.

Celebrating the Khmer New Year is not necessarily a Buddhist holiday, said a man sitting with the monk named Thonlon.

"It's more a social event," he added.

The Khmer New Year has connections with an ancient religion in Southeast Asia called Brahmanism, which is also connected to Khmer Buddhism, Eap said.

During the celebration, visitors would pray, meditate and listen to teachings of Theravada Buddhism.

There are, basically, two types of Buddhism: Theravada and Mahayana.

Theravada is the "original," Eap said. It's "conservative Buddhism," he added.

Mahayana has the tendency to "change part of the time," according to the monk.

Nonetheless, the teachings are the same, he indicated.

The 44-year-old Eap came from Cambodia to Grove City in November 2003 to start the temple at 4730 Harrisburg Pike, he said.

As the community's only monk, Eap serves as a spiritual advisor for Buddhists in the area, student Jim Martin said.

Cambodians and other Buddhists from around central Ohio go to the temple to seek the monk's advice. They might also invite him to their home to perform ceremonies, Eap said.

Eap usually wakes up around 5:30 a.m. and worships at the temple. He lives at the temple and only eats two meals a day. Dinner usually consists of some milk or water, Thonlon said.

Other than being a spiritual adviser, Eap said he also takes English courses at the Hilltop Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

Being a monk, Eap only wears the saffron and ochre robes for which Buddhist monks are famous. Going out in public, especially to places like Wal-Mart and Walgreens, can be a bit "interesting," Eap admitted.

During a recent interview Eap remained still. His gaze, as was the case with every other motion of his body, was deliberate.

Yet after he was asked what kind of reactions he gets while at Wal-Mart, his eyes lit up with a detectable amount of emotion.

"Surprised," he said.

Perhaps it only took one word, for that was all he said, adding a smile.

When asked about the similarities and differences between Cambodia versus Grove City:

"The best one," he said with a pause. "Grove City."

Sure, the weather in Cambodia is nicer year-round, yet Eap said that he has been so pleased by Grove City he wrote a poem in Khmer titled "Beautiful Grove City."

The poem was later published in a Cambodian newspaper, Eap said.

It seems, however, even spiritual advisers come across questions in life.

The monk said that he is concerned with accommodations at the temple. Because of the amount of interested people who go to the temple, Eap said he doesn't have enough bathrooms for them.

"How to solve the problem?" he asked.

He said he invites answers from all, for he sees much potential in the temple.

"This temple will develop more and more," Eap said.

ebrooks@thisweeknews.com