Tid Sompong couldn’t stand heat, and made wise choice
Religions adapt, as there were no social media or stock markets in the ancient days and the concepts of human rights and humility were different during the times of Jesus Christ, Muhammad, or the Crusade. But there must be things that were set in stone because otherwise they would not have been called religions in the first place.
This is why, as human beings enter 2022, thousands of years separating them and the ancestors who turned their systems of faith and worships into something much more profound, certain beliefs remain very resistant to change no matter how hard some people may try. Which is why polite people heaved a sigh of relief and less polite people said “Good riddance” when two controversial Buddhist monks decided to shed saffron robes to become ordinary men in Thailand.
How would Lord Buddha have reacted when one of his proclaimed disciples, after leaving the monkhood, go straight to a TV studio where he admitted he had incurred a massive debt, where he playfully showed off musical skills, and where he discussed playing politics and admitted he wanted to find a wife? Later, the ex-monk went on to challenge a critic to charity boxing.
The founder of Buddhism would not have sarcastically celebrated Tid Sompong’s “departure”, as that could have mocked his principles of detachment, compassion, forgiveness and belief that we don’t quite own anything so we are not supposed to control other people’s action. But it also has to be said that what Tid Sompong did while wearing the yellow saffron violated almost every key rule of monastic Buddhism.
Check out his interview on the first day as an ordinary man. He talked about online followers while in the monkhood as compared to those of another monk. That was vanity running amok with “detachment” going out the window. Admitting he had an obscene amount of debts ran against simplicity, modesty and middle path. He seemed to admit that there were people he didn’t like while in the monkhood, and that ruled out forgiveness and showcased a strong ego.
Make no mistake, any average Joe is entitled to doing all that. Yet Tid Sompong did all that while being a monk, during which he was supposed to live under a different set of rules and during which he was supposed to embrace selflessness and total compassion. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” he told a news talk show host. As an ordinary man, he probably did not do anything wrong. But as a monk, he did not do many things right either.
In other words, he was in a special kitchen where the heat is ultra-hot. Unable to stand the temperature, he has made a wise decision to get out of it.
Also, there are no such things as maverick or unorthodox monks, as Buddhism is about “simple simple”, not “bizarre simple.” Tid Sompong can have a great career in the entertainment business or politics, but he could not weird himself up in the ecclesiastical world. Talking about the possible venture in the “random box” business, which could pit him against Pimrypie, hours after leaving the monkhood, is way beyond pushing the limit and that made one wonder why he chose to be ordained in the beginning.
Tid Sompong’s defenders may say that as long as he can get religious messages across, it matters little how he does it. The problem has to do with what kind of message he was getting across when being a monk. It is the same with many other Buddhist monks or power-hungry or money-seeking cults camouflaging themselves with lesser Buddhist teachings.
Now that Tid Sompong and another controversial ex-monk are ordinary men, they are a lot “freer” and many “shortcomings” they used to associate themselves with while in the monkhood may actually give them money and fame. That’s the key point, though, because money, power, and fame have no business in serious Buddhism.
By Tulsathit Taptim