Don't follow blindly
published : 22 May 2023 at 04:30
newspaper section: Life
'Never be a blind follower of people in life. Whatever people demonstrate on the outside, in reality, they may be the opposite inside."
I came across this quote on the internet and think it's a good reminder for everyone, especially those who feel disappointed with two figures who made headlines in the media recently.
The first one is Thitinart Na Pattalung, or Khru Aoy, a famous dhamma writer-turned-life coach who was accused by actress Puttachat Pongsuchat, or Tui Tui, of ruining her life by imposing a "cult" on her.
The actress revealed in a TV show a few weeks ago that she lost her savings of 100 million baht and was 50 million baht in debt because of her blind faith in a cult seven years ago.
She said that she mistook dhamma teachings and became brainwashed to turn her back on a career in showbiz to pursue an exalted life. She also became hostile against everyone who warned her of the cult, putting herself in an unhealthy relationship with her friends and family.
Even though she didn't elaborate on how she lost the money nor mention the name of the cult, everyone knew she was talking about the now-defunct Compass course by Khru Aoy. Both of them used to be very close to each other back then.
Her story was later echoed by former actor Atom Samphanthaphap who told the media that he, too, once paid a six-figure sum of money for the same course despite protests from many of his friends.
However, he decided to leave after he felt something strange. He said that Khru Aoy often told students she was a humble woman while, in fact, he only saw the opposite. She often showed off her expensive belongings, engaged in a lavish lifestyle and sometimes acted as if she was a noble master. He was also unimpressed with the way she spoke ill of many stars and celebrities who studied with her but refused to come back.
Even though Khru Aoy came out to defend herself and threatened to sue the actress, I don't think it will help her reputation which has been eroded since she launched the controversial course, leading to a series of dramas with her own students and, finally, becoming the centre of criticism.
We can't deny that Khru Aoy is one of the most famous figures in our Buddhist circle whose conduct often causes uproar and, in many cases, clearly contradicts her image as a Buddhist devotee who preaches dhamma. Today, she often posts pictures of her merit-making activities on social media. Still, many couldn't help but feel suspicious.
Now, I'm wondering when we will have the chance to listen to stories shared by some of the followers of former Phra Ajarn Khom Abhivaro, who became the talk of the town after he was disrobed for committing two grave offences in the monastic code early this month.
He was first arrested for stealing 180 million baht in donations from Wat Pah Dhammakhiri in Nakhon Ratchasima. Further investigations found more money and gold buried behind his temple. The latest report shows that he managed to embezzle at least 300 million baht in total and with the help of eight people -- his own sister, the temple's abbot, five other monks from the same temple, and an outsider. Police believe that he started stealing three years ago.
The former monk, who is only 39 years old but has among his devotees many Thai elites and a troupe of stars, celebrities and millionaires, also confessed that he had sexual relations with other monks in the temple.
Even though we're familiar with stories of corrupt monks in our Buddhist community, his story was quite a shock for many who questioned how it could happen as he was a meditation monk who vowed to follow the path of the late revered Luang Ta Bua.
According to his impressive background, he was interested in dhamma from a young age. He entered monkhood after graduation and earned his name as a founder of Wat Pah Dhammakhiri. He was also given the royally-bestowed name of Phra Vajirayankosol two years ago.
He drew a lot of followers as a meditation expert whose profound teachings about the path to the purification of the mind were widely circulated on social media. This is probably why many believed that he must have been an Ariya, or a noble one who has achieved spiritual attainment.
It doesn't matter whether he used to be a good monk, the severe misconduct that he committed has a lot to say about his true nature. For me, he's only a conman who knew how to impress people and discreetly borrowed the good words of other revered monks to attract their faith and money.
This case might be a sad story for his followers but it can be a good lesson for them, as well.
It's not easy to tell if someone is genuinely good from the inside as this takes more than the words from their mouth. Of course, we should be thankful for the good teachings they deliver. But, just keep in mind that whether they practise what they preach is another story.
Patcharawalai Sanyanusin is a writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.
Patcharawalai Sanyanusin is a writer for Life section of the Bangkok Post.