According the rules of conduct (Vinaya) monks cannot even touch money. At Buddhadasa Bhikkhu's Suan Mokh forest monastery finances handled transparently by a foundation.
The model for managing temple finances created by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (พุทธทาสภิกขุ) is being considered as a way to overcome temple corruption. (Photo source: Wikipedia)
Money, monks just don't mix
Three months after the Nen Kham scandal erupted, the former jet-setting monk from Si Sa Ket is still a free man. Now defrocked and living life on the run, the fugitive Wirapol Sukphol, formerly Luang Pu Nen Kham of Wat Pah Khantidham is accused of fraud and abuse of temple donations that could amount to billions of baht. The Nen Kham temple corruption, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. A study by the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida) revealed Thailand's 37,075 temples receive about 100-120 billion baht in donations every year. The abbots have sole legal power to use the temple money as they see fit. Most temples do not have proper accounting systems. Nor are they subjected to outside monitoring and auditing.
This is a recipe for disaster.
There have been many policy recommendations to fix this messy system. The Nida study, for example, proposes accountancy training for monks and outside auditing from professionals. Temple committee members should also include outsiders to ensure checks and balances instead of being appointed by the abbots as things stand now.
These proposals, however, still put money matters in monks' hands which is against the Vinaya or monastic codes of conduct.
According the Vinaya, monks cannot even touch money. Allowing monks to handle money matters exposes them to great temptation leading to abuse and corruption. There is one temple in Thailand, however, which has escaped this financial and temptation trap since it was founded 81 years ago - the Suan Mokh forest monastery in Surat Thani.
Founded by the late reformist monk Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, the temple's financial management has been run by a foundation called Dhammadana and its committee. This arrangement, he said, would enable monks to concentrate on spiritual practice and dhamma teaching. And to be true to the Vinaya.
In the past month, Suan Mokh has been in the news because the new abbot wants to take control of temple donations and return Suan Mokh, now an independent temple, under the feudal and autocratic control of the ecclesiastic council.
This move has triggered a public outcry because it goes against the reformist spirit of Suan Mokh and violates both monastic disciplines and the late Buddhadasa Bhikkhu's written instruction to keep monks from money matters and let an independent foundation do the work instead.
While the problems at Suan Mokh are yet to be resolved, the forest monastery offers an alternative model of temple money management for the rest of the country. It is a model that tells monks that temples are not their personal fiefdoms but belong to the people - the community.
Following the public outcry, the abbot has also agreed to stop temple development plans which will affect the natural surroundings of the forest monastery. This is a message to temples elsewhere that they cannot follow their whims without listening to the people.
The late Buddhadasa Bhikkhu and monks under his school of thought have won nationwide respect because they are committed to spiritual practice and free themselves from money traps.
If the clergy wants to turn the tide against declining trust and faith, follow the Suan Mokh model. Concentrate on spiritual practice. Let independent and transparent foundations run temple finances. If not, temple corruption will never end.
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abbot: the head monk at a temple - เจ้าอาวาส
abuse: the use of something in a bad, dishonest, or harmful way - การใช้ในทางที่ผิด
accountancy: the work or profession of an accountant, the process or work of keeping financial accounts - การบัญชี
accounting: the preparation of financial records for a company, organisation or person - การบัญชี
accused: to be said to have done something wrong or committed a crime - ถูกกล่าวหา
appointed: officially chosen for a job - ถูกแต่งตั้ง
arrangement: a plan or preparation that you make so that something can happen - การจัดการ
as they see fit: do what they think is best, do what they want to do -
audit: to officially examine the financial records of a company, organisation, or person to see that they are accurate - สอบบัญชี
checks and balances: a system that limits power within a political system, group, or organization in which no single part of it can become too powerful, because it needs the agreement of the other parts for its actions to be legal -
clergy: the priests or ministers of a religion - คณะสงฆ์, คณะพระคริสต์
code: rules of proper behaviour for a particular job, organisation, etc. - มาตรการ, กฎเกณฑ์, ระเบียบ
committed: to have promised that you will definitely do something, keep to an agreement or arrangement, etc - ให้คำมั่น
committee: a group of people who are chosen, usually by a larger group, to make decisions or to deal with a particular subject - คณะกรรมการ
concentrate: to give most of your attention to one aim or activity - เพ่งความสนใจไปยัง มุ่งไปที่
conduct: the way someone behaves, especially in relation to particular rules or accepted ways of behaving - ความประพฤติ
consider: to give careful thought to something before making a decision - พิจารณา
council: a group of people chosen to give advice, make rules, do research, provide money - สภา, คณะกรรมการ
defrock: to officially remove a monk priest from his job, because he has done something wrong - ทำให้สึกจากการเป็นพระ
disaster: something very bad that happens and causes a lot of damage - ความหายนะ
donation: money or goods that you give to an organisation, especially one that helps people - เงินหรือสิ่งของบริจาค
enable: to make someone able to do something, or to make something possible - ทำให้เป็นไปได้
ensure: to make certain that something happens or is done - ให้การยืนยัน, รับรอง, ให้ความมั่นใจ
erupt: to start suddenly - ปะทุขึ้น
escape: to get away from a place where you are in danger - หนี
exposed: not protected and in direct contact with something harmful - ได้รับสารผิด
faith: strong religious belief - ศรัทธาในศาสนา
feudalistic: of a society where powerful people owned the land and ordinary people worked for them and had few rights - ระบบศักดินา
finances: money used to run a business, an activity or a project - แหล่งเงินทุน, แหล่งรายได้
financial: involving money - เกี่ยวกับเงิน, ทางการเงิน
former: of or in an earlier time; before the present time or in the past - อดีต, แต่ก่อน
formerly: in earlier times - ก่อนหน้านี้
found: to start an organization, company, political party etc - สร้าง, ก่อตั้ง, สถาปนา
foundation : an organisation that provides money for something - มูลนิธิ
fraud: the crime of intentionally deceiving someone or cheating in order to gain an advantage or benefit - การฉ้อโกง การหลอกลวง เล่ห์เพทุบาย
free: to release; to allow someone to go free - ปล่อยตัว
fugitive: someone who has been accused of doing something illegal and is trying to avoid being caught by the police - ผู้หลบหนี
handle: to be able deal with a situation - ควบคุมได้, จัดการได้
independent: not connected with or influenced by something; not connected with each other - ซึ่งเป็นอิสระ, ไม่ขึ้นกับใคร
just the tip of the iceberg: meaning: you can only see a small part of what is happening, much more is hidden under the water (as most of the iceberg is hidden) -
legal: allowed by the law - ถูกต้องตามกฎหมาย
manage: to succeed in doing something - สำเร็จ,จัดการได้สำเร็จ, ทำได้สำเร็จ
management: the act or skill of dealing with people or situations in a successful way - การจัดการ
matter: a situation or subject which is being dealt with or considered - เรื่อง, ภารกิจ, งาน
member: a person, a country or an organization that has joined a particular group, club or team - สมาชิก
messy: complicated, difficult, and unpleasant to deal with - ซึ่งไม่เป็นระเบียบ, ซึ่งยุ่งเหยิง
model: a person or thing that is considered an excellent example of something - แบบอย่าง, บุคคลตัวอย่าง
monastic: having to do with monks - เกี่ยวกับพระหรือที่อยู่ของพระ
monitoring: regularly checking something - การจับตาดู, การตรวจตรา, การเฝ้าระมัดระวัง
monkhood: the fact of being a monk - ความเป็นพระ
nationwide: throughout a whole country - ทั่วทั้งประเทศ
on the run: running away from something , such as the police -
outcry: a strong expression of anger and disapproval about something, made by a group of people or by the public - การคัดค้านอย่างรุนแรง
overcome: to succeed in controlling or dealing with something - ต่อสู้อุปสรรคจนสำเร็จสำมารถดำเนินการต่อไปได้
policy: a set of plans or action agreed on by a government, political party, business, or other group - นโยบาย
powerful: being able to control and influence people and events - ที่มีอิทธิพล
practice: a way of doing something - การปฏิบัติ
practice: doing some activity to improve at it and become more skillful - ฝึกซ้อม, ซ้อม, ฝึกฝน
professional: done by a person who does a job that needs special training and a high level of education - ที่มีความเชี่ยวชาญ
proper: actual or real - จริง (พระราชพิธีพระราชทานเพลิงพระศพจริง)
proper: in a way that is correct and/or appropriate - อย่างเหมาะสม, อย่างถูกต้อง
proposal: a plan or suggestion for a group to consider - ข้อเสนอ
propose: to suggest an idea for a group to consider - เสนอ
recipe: a set of instructions for cooking or preparing a particular food - วิธีปรุง, ตำรากับข้าว
recommendation: a suggestion for how to solve a problem, deal with a situation - ข้อเสนอแนะ
reform: a change that is intended to correct a situation that is wrong or unfair - การแก้ไข การปฏิรูป
respect: a feeling of admiration that you have for someone/something because of their personal qualities, their achievements, or their status, and that you show by treating them in a polite and kind way - ความเคารพ, ความนับถือ
reveal: to show or let something become known - เปิดเผย
scandal: a situation in which people behave in a dishonest or immoral way that shocks people - เรื่องอื้อฉาว
sole: only - เดี่ยวๆ
sole authority: the only one with the power to do something - มีอำนาจเด็ดขาด
spiritual: religious, or related to religious issues - เกี่ยวกับศาสนา
study: A setting of the mind or thoughts upon a subject; hence, application of mind to books, arts, or science, or to any subject, for the purpose of acquiring knowledge. - งานวิจัย
subject to: to require something to be done; to make somebody/something experience, suffer or be affected by something, usually something unpleasant - ต้องมีการ..., ทำให้ได้รับ
temptation: the desire to do or have something that you know is bad or wrong - สิ่งล่อใจ, ,การล่อ
touch: the sense that enables you to be aware of things and what they are like when you put your hands and fingers on them - การสัมผัส
training: teaching people how to do a certain job or activity - การฝึกอบรม, การฝึก, การอบรม
transparently: openly; having nothing hidden or secret - อย่างโปร่งใส
trap: a dangerous or unpleasant situation from which it is difficult or impossible to escape - ถูกกับดัก
trigger: something that is the cause of a particular reaction or development, especially a bad one - ตัวนำ, การชักนำ
trust: a feeling of confidence in someone that shows you believe they are honest, fair, and reliable - ความเชื่อใจ, ความไว้วางใจ
turn the tide: to change a situation, especially so you begin to win instead of losing - เปลี่ยนทิศทาง
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