How come many Buddhist monks do what Lord Buddha renounced?
One possible answer to that question is that the founder of Buddhism had been “there” before his enlightenment, enjoying wealth, power, status, and all kinds of other worldly pleasures including sex. The others start from the ground up. Talk about a reversal of fortunes.
This can explain why while he sought to detach himself from the temptations, they become more and more attached to what they did not have before. He preached simplicity and humility; they would seek air-conditioned living quarters and chauffeured limousines if they are senior enough. He taught that nothing was permanent; they would cling to positions like they were their ultimate goal. He warned that love, greed, anger, and indulgence were the main causes of suffering; they would cry or protest if they, or someone they love, do not get promoted.
He called for modesty; one of the most popular “Buddhist” sects in Thailand has been promoting the idea that the bigger the donation, the higher the heaven the donors will end up. He abandoned wealth and an empire, that sect uses money and the sizes of land, following and buildings to measure “success”. He advocated honesty; many play politics after leaving the monkhood.
Religious controversies have revolved around things Lord Buddha attempted to cut his ties to. Granted, some of those things are more humanly avoidable than the others. For example, love, in the general definition of the word, is difficult to do away with. The point, though, is that, if ones are not ready to try, one should not have been ordained to begin with. If “Yantra” still wanted sex, he should have remained an ordinary man, for instance.
Which is why seeing Buddhist monks getting emotional about the people they “love”, or respect, not getting a status that basically means nothing in the absolute concept of Buddhism is weird, to say the least.
“Human rights” are to blame, too. The rules or principles have to be differently applied when Buddhist monks are concerned. They are undergoing some tests, like students who have to face exams to measure their readiness for certain doctrines. In fact, supporting monks using normal human rights standards is encouraging them to exploit loopholes and taking them further away from what should have been their goal.
Thailand’s Buddhism has come a long way, backward mostly. There are amulets that can supposedly protect wearers from bullets and are insanely priced. There are countless sex scandals. A good number of people have been told by famous “monks” that heaven is like a condominium and that they have to out-donate others to reserve their places in the highest suites after they die. “Monks” drink the night away. “Monks” give lotto predictions. “Monks” perform blessings for brand-new Mercedes or sports cars.
Is it a human right to wear amulets, or sell them at obscene prices? Yes. Is it a human right to donate as much as you want or have your car blessed? Yes. Is it a human right to cry over a promotion? Yes. Are those violating Buddhist principles? Absolutely.
Buddhism seeks to teach people that they own nothing, not even their own bodies. So, why go to great lengths trying to have an amulet that can protect something you don’t even own from bullets, accidents or diseases? Why do you need to sprinkle holy water on “your” car? Lotto serves our human greed and lust (and to be fair, it gives hopes, and human beings need hopes), yet monks have no business getting involved. Thai Buddhism does not require superhero monks who predict winning lottery numbers or make political comments, because those activities would support egotism or vanity, the religion’s most dangerous enemy.
Many people outside the religion have mocked Buddhism. “The whole idea is being just enough dead in order to live well,” according to one of the insults. Yet that can be expected, and Lord Buddha wouldn’t mind it. A far bigger taunt, as we all have seen and are witnessing, is from those on the inside.
By Tulsathit Taptim