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EDITORIAL: The mess some monks create

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EDITORIAL

The mess some monks create

By The Nation

 

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FILE photo

 

Anyone in robes found behaving immorally should not be allowed to remain in robes

 

More and more senior monks have been implicated in a large-scale embezzlement scandal involving temples around the country. They include three members of the Sangha Supreme Council, the ruling body of Thai Buddhism, who are also in charge of some of the temples linked to the scandal.

 

The National Office of Buddhism (NOB) started its investigation into this corruption scandal almost two years ago. Many of the agency’s officials are accused of working with senior monks in charge of at least 45 temples in Bangkok and other provinces allegedly embezzling more than Bt270 million from state funds. 

 

However, the agency’s progress in the case seems to have been difficult. After its director-general, Pongporn Parmsneh, pursued legal proceedings against five senior monks over alleged embezzlement of state funds, groups of Buddhists demanded his dismissal and called for legal action against him.

 

The NOB chief so far has the backing of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and PM’s Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvar-dhana, who is in charge of the agency. We hope Pongporn’s bosses will not yield to the pressure to unseat him, as they did last year following a similar campaign by monks. Fortunately, Pongporn was re-appointed to head the NOB a few weeks after he was transferred elsewhere.

 

Priests making personal gain dishonestly is a sin in every religion. But this was exactly what many senior monks did, skimming millions of baht from state funds allocated for temple development and the education of novices, according to investigators. It seems that, for many monks, the longer they remain in monastic life and the more senior they are, the more corrupt they become. They might steer their followers away from greed and dishonesty, but it seems they do not practise what they preach.

 

Monks who lack the conscience to control their behaviour do not deserve to remain in robes. They no longer have the merit or values to preach about ethical and moral principles. 

 

A major problem for the Thai monastic world is that the power is centralised among small groups of senior monks. Abbots have the power to single-handedly control their temples and the Sangha Supreme Council has total control over the entire monastic hierarchy throughout the country. There are no problems when good monks are in control. But scandals often emerge when temples are in the hands of abbots of dubious morality. 

 

These monks need to be “weeded out” from Thai Buddhism as a necessary reform measure. The question is why people calling themselves Buddhists come out against the very people who are trying to get rid of the weeds.  

 

Priests with corrupt morals are a threat not only to their temples and followers but also the Thai Buddhist community as a whole.

 

They bring a negative image to Buddhist monks and disillusion many worshippers. To really protect the religion, we need to prevent greedy and selfish priests from making personal gain from taxpayers’ money. We cannot defend individuals who are accused of committing wrongdoing.

 

Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/opinion/30343995

 
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-- © Copyright The Nation 2018-04-26

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1 hour ago, webfact said:

A major problem for the Thai monastic world is that the power is centralised among small groups of senior monks. Abbots have the power to single-handedly control their temples and the Sangha Supreme Council has total control over the entire monastic hierarchy throughout the country. There are no problems when good monks are in control. But scandals often emerge when temples are in the hands of abbots of dubious morality. 

The paragraph above outlines one major problem, but it doesn't mention another, equally serious one. As the monks don't seem to be able to govern and/or reform themselves properly, who can? The coup government? A government that comes to power through the use of a coup, tramples all over human rights, limits speech and rules by fiat and without transparency cannot be trusted to reform the clergy; they do not have the moral standing.

 

I see the main problem here as being Thai culture (not a criticism, but a statement of fact); the cultural element of always accepting what your 'superiors' are doing means that no one can question. And if no one can question, abuse of one form or another is inevitable ("Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely", most famously.).

 

The solution to this problem is relatively straightforward, but... (see para above). As there are serious allegations regarding financial management, it behooves the clergy to make its financial statements public, very public. It also behooves the clergy to pro-actively demonstrate that they are practicing sound financial management. Finally, it behooves the general Buddhist population, ie. most Thais, to not merely accept that monks are honest and straightforward, but to actively ensure that they are.

 

Anyone think that will happen?

 

Until monks practice the humility they preach, there will be more scandals.

 

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1 hour ago, webfact said:

After its director-general, Pongporn Parmsneh, pursued legal proceedings against five senior monks over alleged embezzlement of state funds, groups of Buddhists demanded his dismissal and called for legal action against him.

what legal action on what legitimate grounds ? thai buddhism, a sanctuary above secular law, which monks feels they are not bound by; open-arms invitation to crime and corruption

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29 minutes ago, Samui Bodoh said:

The paragraph above outlines one major problem, but it doesn't mention another, equally serious one. As the monks don't seem to be able to govern and/or reform themselves properly, who can? The coup government? A government that comes to power through the use of a coup, tramples all over human rights, limits speech and rules by fiat and without transparency cannot be trusted to reform the clergy; they do not have the moral standing.

 

I see the main problem here as being Thai culture (not a criticism, but a statement of fact); the cultural element of always accepting what your 'superiors' are doing means that no one can question. And if no one can question, abuse of one form or another is inevitable ("Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely", most famously.).

 

The solution to this problem is relatively straightforward, but... (see para above). As there are serious allegations regarding financial management, it behooves the clergy to make its financial statements public, very public. It also behooves the clergy to pro-actively demonstrate that they are practicing sound financial management. Finally, it behooves the general Buddhist population, ie. most Thais, to not merely accept that monks are honest and straightforward, but to actively ensure that they are.

 

Anyone think that will happen?

 

Until monks practice the humility they preach, there will be more scandals.

 

Agreed, groups here generally form into mafia arrangements because of the unquestioning obedience to leadership despite the obvious breakdown of ethics. This comes from the acceptance of higher level people being above the law. Without rule of law for everyone, you will always have corruption. Kids in school are indoctrinated into robotic acceptance  of class and power and the learning is enforced throughout their lives through various  ways including scouts and hazings. By the time they get to a position of power, its payback time.

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Sad thing is nearly all the men who now become monks only do it to make money.

The people running temples are screwing every bit of money out of the scams they are running as they can.

Slowly very slowly the gullible folk are waking up to what is going on.

5 years ago my wife would be up early preparing/ cooking food for the monks, slowly she stopped doing it, because of the scams at our local temple, now she does not do it, she stopped about a year ago.

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The hierarchy of Buddhism.  Isn't this in itself against the principles of Buddhism. Seems to me like they have gone the way of Christian churches and into ownership, rents and profits.

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not to mention an endless supply of eight year old boys dressed up as girls. 

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2 hours ago, Samui Bodoh said:

The paragraph above outlines one major problem, but it doesn't mention another, equally serious one. As the monks don't seem to be able to govern and/or reform themselves properly, who can? The coup government? A government that comes to power through the use of a coup, tramples all over human rights, limits speech and rules by fiat and without transparency cannot be trusted to reform the clergy; they do not have the moral standing.

 

I see the main problem here as being Thai culture (not a criticism, but a statement of fact); the cultural element of always accepting what your 'superiors' are doing means that no one can question. And if no one can question, abuse of one form or another is inevitable ("Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely", most famously.).

 

The solution to this problem is relatively straightforward, but... (see para above). As there are serious allegations regarding financial management, it behooves the clergy to make its financial statements public, very public. It also behooves the clergy to pro-actively demonstrate that they are practicing sound financial management. Finally, it behooves the general Buddhist population, ie. most Thais, to not merely accept that monks are honest and straightforward, but to actively ensure that they are.

 

Anyone think that will happen?

 

Until monks practice the humility they preach, there will be more scandals.

 

You could equally apply all of the above to the Catholic church.

100 years at least of child abuse, financial scandal, tacit support to hitler, ...

Various national and privincial govts have turned a blind eye to their gross excesses time and time again.

Dont think any expat on here has a clue about thai monks or their hierarchy to be honesty.

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God is existing as He is. He is good. Religions were created by people and the priests, monks, whoever they are are humans. Humans with good and bad intention. Every religion has problems, not only the Catholic church, because the  "leaders" are not faultless.

I was about to convert to Buddhism, but knowing more about monks and the followers I refused lately.

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33 minutes ago, ostyan said:

I was about to convert to Buddhism, but knowing more about monks and the followers I refused lately.

In Sawang-dan-din a few years ago they were sending up rockets from temple grounds; I watched with interest. A smartly dressed Thai man approached me, offering me audience with the chief monk, who would then bless me, and give me everlasting luck. This blessing and luck would then be fired into the sky. Cost 10,000 Baht!

 

There were plenty of Thai parting with their dosh going by the number of rockets being launched.

 

Monks are simply men dressed up. They suffer from the same problems that many Thais suffer from; constipation, sickness, sex-hangups, greed etc.

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It's not just buddhism and christian religions suffer this disease of greed and inmorality which seems to be getting worse but look at how individuals have abused the muslims code of ethics, to the point where hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered in the name of the holy Koran. These sick misled group of muslims have brought their entire faith of islam into disrepute throughout the world.

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Man needs religion, religion knows that and so milks man for everything they have . Same for any faith. Here the problem is that Man has placed religion above Man, legally and literally. That is the problem , how to fix stupid when stupid rules religion . In this context stupid means , corruption, illegality, greed, physical gratification . 

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Actually, it has more to do with the role of money and wealth and money's impact on the fabric of the community of monks.  Wealth?  Yeah, unfortunately.

The Sangha, and by extension the Dhamma, is starting to unravel.  The days of forest monks and meditation masters barely subsisting on the handouts of rural farmers whose destinies and fortunes were tied to the eccentricity of weather and crops has been replaced by a debt-fueled society that is flush with cash, consumer toys, and bling.  And unfortunately, that pseudo-wealth is impacting not only the laity, but also the life's of the average monks.  How often do you see monks at malls and department stores?  How many monks do not have smart phones, computers, and personal electronics?  Most city and village monks that I know have personal electronics and spend a lot of time using them.  The average monk nowadays is more absorbed by the electronic minutiae of applications running on iOS or Android then by sila, samadhi, and panna; more absorbed by Angry Birds and Line Chat then by morality, meditation, and wisdom!
And how many Buddhist temples in Thailand are now charging money in order to visit the temples, or to stay at the temples, or to ordain at the temples as opposed to accepting the freely given contributions of the laity?  Many!  The Sangha has moved from living off of the generosity of the laity by accepting freely given contributions (dana), to that of a business model where actually charging for services is becoming the norm. 
This is completely counter to the tenets of Buddhism.  It's a corruption.  The corruption of money has moved from subtle to simply in-your-face in the decade plus that I've lived within the country.

The Sangha, and by extension the Dharma, are in peril. 

 

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Money trees made of 20 THB bills - Chiang Mai province, Thailand

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