Dhammakaya is only a symptom

Dhammakaya is only a symptom

"Its promise of heaven in return for donations is rooted in traditional belief. Its rise to prominence stems from the clergy's failure to speak to the middle class and respond to their needs. Meanwhile, its successful infiltration of the council derives from the elders' and the system's own weaknesses."aya is only a symptom

A tsunami of public anger has arisen over the controversial Dhammakaya abbot and his empire and its grand-scale commercialisation of Buddhism. The abbot's close ties with the Shinawatras is also no secret.


Dhammakaya is only a symptom

Sanitsuda Ekachai

The Supreme Sangha Council has paid a high price for protecting the controversial Dhammakaya abbot and his empire. Now the tsunami of public anger is on the archaic body with roaring calls from all around for Sangha reform. It is about time.

Controversies are not new to the council elders, but they managed to protect its status quo every time in the past. The public may be incensed by widespread temple corruption and monks' abuse of privileges, but they largely refrained from attacking the clergy's top ruling body out of traditional respect. That time is over.

The public have long tolerated monks' misconduct at all levels of cleric hierarchy. But the council's ruling on Friday to back Phra Dhammachayo amid his latest financial scandal is the last straw to them.

For all temple abuses to cash in on Buddhism pale in comparison with the grand-scale commercialisation of Buddhism at Dhammakaya. There, each act of merit (merit-making) is quantified in material terms. The amount of merit gained and the levels of heaven you will go to depends on the amount of money you donate to the temple.

The Buddha's teachings on non-self are also ditched. Nirvana becomes a kind of heaven, not the state where all defilements disappear. Humility is out. Making money is good. And heaven can be bought through donations, with Dhammakaya only.

Stories abound about Dhammakaya followers going bankrupt and families being broken by their donation fervour. Like in any closed system, the temple is constantly dogged by rumours of luxurious lifestyles, fishy business, sexual scandals, and shady political connections.

The stories that come out of insiders and defectors are even weirder and reminiscent of millennial cults. They tell of the Dhammakaya cosmology where black and white powers fight to rule the world before Doomsday with the abbot being the followers' ultimate saviour.

In 1999, the late Supreme Patriarch ruled that Phra Dhammachayo's teachings were out of line with Buddhism and had caused a religious schism.

According to the monastic code of conduct, it is a grave mistake that warrants defrockment. So was his refusal to return the money which he kept in his name to the temple. This is tantamount to theft.

The late patriarch needed to issue two more documents before the council reluctantly issued a statement that it would follow the patriarch's instruction. But it never did.

Instead, the council sent out a team to Dhammakaya and returned with the conclusion that there was nothing wrong with its teachings. And since Phra Dhammachayo later returned the donations to his temple, he was longer guilty of theft, said the elders.

When the criminal case against him neared a close in 2006, the attorneys took a U-turn by withdrawing the lawsuit, saying that the abbot had already returned the money. The abbot's close ties with the Shinawatras is no secret. It's why the aversion to Dhammakaya is particularly intense among the anti-Thaksin camp.

The Sangha reform movement is pushing for three goals. First, to clean up temple corruption by making temple finances transparent and accountable. Second, to make the Sangha Council free of Dhammakaya influence. The acting supreme patriarch and most council elders are viewed as ardent Dhammakaya supporters. Hence, the belief that Dhammakaya must be stopped before it takes over all temples in the country. Which leads to its last goal — to get rid of Dhammakaya.

I do, however, have to disagree with persecution of the Dhammakaya.

We may disagree with its teachings and aggressive donation-drawing methods, but we do not have the right to suppress people's freedom of beliefs.

Like other new religious groups elsewhere, Dhammakaya has combined local religious beliefs with its own creations to draw supporters.

Its promise of heaven in return for donations is rooted in traditional belief. Its rise to prominence stems from the clergy's failure to speak to the middle class and respond to their needs. Meanwhile, its successful infiltration of the council derives from the elders' and the system's own weaknesses.

Dhammakaya is only a symptom of a seriously ill system. The crux of the problem is the closed and centralised feudal system that gives total power to a handful of elders. As long as this illness is not cured, new symptoms will break out — Dhammakaya or not — to weaken the system until it crumbles and there is no public faith left.

Sanitsuda Ekachai is editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.


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  • abbot (noun): the head monk at a temple - เจ้าอาวาส
  • abound: to be present in large numbers or amounts - มีมากมาย
  • abuse: the use of something in a bad, dishonest, or harmful way - การใช้ในทางที่ผิด
  • abuse: to use or treat someone or something wrongly or badly, especially in a way that is to your own advantage - ใช้ในทางที่ผิด
  • accountable: responsible for something that has happened - ซึ่งรับผิดชอบ, สามารถอธิบายได้
  • act: an action - การกระทำ
  • acting: doing the work of the usual person in a particular job while they are not there, or until a new person starts - ที่รักษาการแทน
  • aggressive: determined to win or succeed and using forceful action to achieve victory or success - เริ่มต่อสู้ ซึ่งมีความมั่นใจสูง
  • amid: during the time when something else is happening - ท่ามกลาง
  • anti (adjective): against - ตรงกันข้าม, ต้าน
  • ardent (adj): very enthusiastic and showing strong feelings about something/somebody - กระตือรือร้น
  • attorney: a lawyer - ทนาย
  • bankrupt: without enough money to pay what you owe - ล้มละลาย
  • belief (noun): something that you think is true - ความเชื่อ
  • body: a group of people who work or act together, often for an official purpose, or who are connected in some other way - กลุ่มคน, นิติบุคคล
  • break out: (of something bad) to start - เริ่มต้นทันที
  • broken: become apart - แตกหัก
  • call (noun): a request, an order or a demand for somebody to do something or to go somewhere - ข้อเรียกร้อง
  • camp: a group of people who have the same ideas about something and oppose people with other ideas -
  • case: a matter that is being officially investigated, especially by the police - คดี
  • cash in: to gain an advantage for yourself from a situation, often in a way that other people think is wrong or immoral - ได้เปรียบ, ได้ประโยชน์จาก, ได้กำไรจาก
  • centralised (adj.): controlled from the center - ไตยรวมศูนย์
  • clergy: the priests or ministers of a religion - คณะสงฆ์, คณะพระคริสต์
  • cleric (noun): a religious leader in any religion - ผู้สอนศาสนา
  • code of conduct: rules of proper behaviour for a particular job, organisation, etc. -
  • commercialisation: developing something so that it can be sold at a profit - ทำเพื่อการค้ากำไร
  • conclusion: a final decision - การสรุป การตกลงขั้นสุดท้าย
  • connection: a relationship between people or groups - ความสัมพันธ์
  • constantly: continuously; all the time - อย่างต่อเนื่อง
  • controversial: causing disagreement or disapproval - ความไม่ลงรอยกัน
  • controversy: a disagreement that a lot of people have strong feelings about - ความขัดแย้ง
  • cosmology (noun): the study of the nature and origin of the universe - ผลงานยอดเยี่ยม
  • council: a group of people chosen to give advice, make rules, do research, provide money - สภา, คณะกรรมการ
  • creation: a thing that somebody has made, especially something that shows ability or imagination - ผลงานประดิษฐ์
  • criminal: illegal; against the law - ผิดกฎหมาย, นอกกฎหมาย
  • crumble: to break, or cause something to break, into small pieces - แตกละเอียด
  • cure: to make someone with an illness healthy again - รักษา, รักษาให้หาย
  • defector: a person who leaves a country, political party or organisation for another one - ผู้ละทิ้ง
  • defrockment: officially removing a monk from the monkhood - ทำให้สึกจากการเป็นพระ
  • depend on: to rely on - พึ่งพา  
  • derive: to come or develop from something - กลายมาจาก (ทางภาษาศาสตร์), ได้มาจาก, กำเนิดจาก
  • disagree (verb): to not agree about something; to differ - ไม่เข้ากัน, ไม่สอดคล้องกัน ไม่เห็นด้วย, ขัดแย้ง
  • disappear: to no longer exist; to no longer be in use - หายไป, สาบสูญ, สูญหาย
  • ditch: to stop a plan, project, proposal, etc. - ละทิ้ง
  • dogged: troubled - ถูกรบกวน
  • donate: to give something such as money or goods to an organisation, especially to a temple, charity, school, political party, etc. - บริจาค
  • donation: money or goods that you give to an organisation, especially one that helps people - เงินหรือสิ่งของบริจาค
  • doomsday: the last day of the world - วันโลกาวินาศ, วาระสุดท้าย
  • draw: to attract or interest somebody - ดึงดูดความสนใจ
  • elder: an old person - ผู้สูงวัย, ผู้อาวุโส, ผู้อายุมาก
  • elders: people who are older - คนที่อายุมากกว่า, คนที่เป็นผู้ใหญ่กว่า
  • elsewhere: another place or other places - ที่อื่น
  • empire: a group of commercial organizations controlled by one person or company - เครือบริษัทที่ยิ่งใหญ่
  • faith: trust in somebody's ability or knowledge; trust that somebody/something will do what has been promised - ศรัทธา
  • fervour (noun): very strong feelings about something - ความรู้สึกท่วมท้น, ความรักท่วมท้น, ความศรัทธาแรงกล้า
  • feudal system: the social system that existed in Europe and other countries in the Middle Ages in which the land belonged to powerful lords who allowed people to live and work on them in return for their support - ระบบศักดินา
  • finance: to provide money for something - จัดหาเงินทุนให้
  • financial: involving money - เกี่ยวกับเงิน, ทางการเงิน
  • fishy: suspicious; something seems not right, meaning perhaps someone is lieing or cheating -
  • follower: a person who believes in and practices a religion -
  • freedom: being free to do what you want and go where you want - อิสรภาพ, เสรีภาพ
  • goal: aim; purpose - เป้าหมาย จุดมุ่งหมาย
  • grand: very big - ใหญ่โต
  • grave: very serious; very dangerous - วิกฤติ, ร้ายแรง
  • guilty: having been decided by a court of law that you committed the crime your were accused of - มีความผิด
  • handful: a small number or amount - จำนวนน้อย
  • heaven: the place believed to be the home of God where good people go when they die - สวรรค์
  • hierarchy: a system, especially in a society or an organization, in which people are organized into different levels of importance from highest to lowest - การจัดระบบตามลำดับขั้น
  • humility: a way of behaving that shows that you do not think that you are better or more important than other people - ความนอบน้อม อ่อนน้อมถ่อมตน
  • ills: problems or difficulties - ปัญหา
  • incensed: very angry - ซึ่งโกรธจัด, แค้นใจ
  • influence: the power to have an effect on people or things - อิทธิพล
  • insider: a person with special information because they work in an organization or company or know people -
  • instructions: something that somebody tells you to do - คำสั่ง
  • intense: very strong - แรง, เข้มข้น
  • issue: to give or provide something official - แจกจ่าย
  • It's about time.: It is good that this happened, but it took a long time for it to happen. -
  • late: dead - ที่ล่วงลับไปแล้ว
  • lawsuit: a case that a court is asked to decide involving a disagreement between two people or groups - คดีที่ยื่นฟ้องต่อศาล
  • level: a position or rank in a scale of size or importance - ระดับ
  • lifestyle: the type of life that you have, for example the type of job or house you have or the type of activity you like doing - วิถีทางการดำเนินชีวิต, ลีลาชีวิต, รูปแบบการดำเนินชีวิต
  • local: in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about - ท้องถิ่น
  • luxurious: very comfortable and expensive; of the best and most expensive - ฟุ่มเฟือย, โอ่อ่า
  • manage (verb): to succeed in doing something; to deal with something - สำเร็จ,จัดการได้สำเร็จ, ทำได้สำเร็จ
  • material: relating to physical objects or money - ที่เกี่ยวข้องกับวัตถุ
  • meanwhile: at the same time - ในเวลาเดียวกัน
  • merit: the quality of being good and of deserving praise, reward or admiration - บุญ, คุณความดี, คุณค่า
  • merit-making: doing good things according to religious beliefs - การทำบุญ
  • method: a particular way of doing something - วิธีการ,วิธีดำเนินการ
  • middle class (noun): people who earn enough money to pay their family's expenses and save some too; people who are not rich and not poor but in the middle, in between; bourgeoisie, white-collar class - ชนชั้นกลาง
  • misconduct: unacceptable or bad behaviour by someone in a position of authority or responsibility - การประพฤติผิด
  • mistake (noun): something that you do that is not correct, an error - ความผิดพลาด, ข้อผิดพลาด,ความเข้าใจผิด
  • monastic (adjective): having to do with monks - เกี่ยวกับพระหรือที่อยู่ของพระ
  • movement (noun): a group of people who share the same aim and work together to achieve it - การเคลื่อนไหวเพื่อวัตถุประสงค์ทางการเมือง
  • Nirvana: the state of peace and happiness that a person achieves after giving up all personal desires - สวรรค์, สถานที่สงบสุข
  • pale in comparison: is/are nothing when compared to ..... -
  • particularly: especially, or more than usual - โดยเฉพาะ
  • patriarch (noun): the male head of a family or community - หัวหน้าครอบครัว
  • persecution: unfair or cruel treatment over a long period of time because of race, religion, or political beliefs - การกลั่นแกล้ง, การข่มเหง, การข่มเหงรังแก
  • power (noun): political control of a country or an area; having a lot of influence and authority to control people and situations - อำนาจ
  • privilege: a special benefit that is available only to a particular person or group - เอกสิทธิ์
  • prominence: very well known and important - ที่โดดเด่น ที่สำคัญ
  • promise (verb): to say that you will do something for sure; to commit that you'll do something for certain - สัญญา
  • protect: to make sure that somebody/something is not harmed, injured, damaged, etc - ป้องกัน,อารักขา,คุ้มกัน
  • public: the public; all people; the people in general - มหาชน, ประชาชน
  • public: open to people in general - สาธารณะ
  • reform: a change that is intended to correct a situation that is wrong or unfair - การแก้ไข การปฏิรูป
  • refrain: to stop yourself from doing something - ระงับ เลิก
  • refusal: an act of saying or showing that you will not do, give or accept something - คำปฏิเสธ, การปฏิเสธ
  • religious (adj.): relating to religion, or to the beliefs and practices of a particular religion - เกี่ยวกับศาสนา
  • reminiscent: similar to something else, reminding you of people or experiences in your past - ซึ่งเตือนให้นึกถึง; เตือนความทรงจำ,ระลึกถึง
  • 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
  • respond: to say or do something as a reaction to something that has been said or done - ตอบสนอง, ตอบรับ
  • right: a moral or legal claim to have or get something or to behave in a particular way - สิทธิ
  • roar: to make a continuous, very loud noise   - เสียงเพลิงไหม้ที่โหมกระหน่ำ
  • rule (verb): to make a decision - ชี้ขาด
  • rule: to have control over a particular group, country, etc - มีอำนาจ, ปกครอง
  • ruling  (noun): a judgement; a decision by a court of law - คำตัดสิน คำชี้ขาด
  • rumour: unofficial information that may or may not be true - ข่าวลือ
  • Sangha: ordained Buddhist monks or nuns - สงฆ์
  • saviour: a person who saves someone or something from trouble or danger - ผู้ช่วยให้รอด, ผู้ช่วยเหลือ, ผู้ช่วยชีวิต
  • scale: the size or extent of something, especially when compared with something else - ขนาด, ระดับ
  • scandal (noun): a situation in which people behave in a dishonest or immoral way that shocks people - เรื่องอื้อฉาว
  • secret: things that you do not tell other people - ความลับ
  • sexual: connected with a person's sexual desires - เรื่องทางเพศ, ลักษณะทางเพศ
  • shady: seeming to be dishonest or illegal - น่าสงสัย, ไม่น่าเชื่อ, เคลือบแคลง
  • state: condition - สภาพ
  • stem from: to be caused by - เกิดจาก
  • successful (adjective): achieved the goals you wanted to achieve or made a lot of money - มีผลสำเร็จ, ประสบผลสำเร็จ, ประสบชัยชนะ
  • supporter (noun): a person who helps and supports a person, organization or idea - ผู้สนับสนุน
  • suppress: to prevent something from growing, developing or continuing - อดกลั้น, ยับยั้ง, ระงับ
  • Supreme Patriarch: the head of the Buddhist monks in Thailand - พระสังฆราช
  • symptom: a sign of a problem -
  • symptom: a sign that someone has an illness - อาการ
  • tantamount to: tantamount to being almost the same or having the same effect as, usually something bad - เท่ากัน
  • the last straw: the last bad thing that happens before some reaction happens (like putting the last straw on a pile of straws, that then tumbles to the ground losing the game) -
  • theft (noun): (the act of) dishonestly taking something which belongs to someone else and keeping it - การลักขโมย
  • tolerate: accept behavior and beliefs which are different from your own, although you might not agree with or approve of them - อดทนต่อความยากลำบาก
  • total: complete - เต็มที่
  • traditional (adj): of a custom, a way of life or a way of doing things that has not changed for a long time - เป็นประเพณี, ตามธรรมเนียม, ตามที่ปฏิบัติกันมา
  • transparently: openly; having nothing hidden or secret - อย่างโปร่งใส
  • U-turn (noun): a complete change in policy or behaviour, usually one that is embarrassing; a turn of 180° that a vehicle makes so that it can move forwards in the opposite direction - การเปลี่ยนโดยสิ้นเชิง, การเลี้ยวหรือทางเลี้ยวเป็นรูปตัว "U"
  • ultimate: most extreme; best, worst, greatest, most important, etc - ที่สุด
  • view: a personal opinion, belief, or attitude about a particular situation or subject - ความคิดเห็น
  • warrant: to be/make necessary or appropriate in a particular situation - มีเหตุผลอันสมควร
  • weird: very strange - แปลกประหลาด
  • widespread: happening or existing in many places, or affecting many people - อย่างแพร่หลาย
  • withdraw: to take away - ถอน
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