Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Buddha -- news

One must be fair and one should admit that even Buddhism has its problems.
We western Buddhist often like to think of ourselves and Buddhism as so superior and aloof. I am feeling playful tonight so I thought I would post some news items from Buddhist countries.

– Buddhist Monks Held Over Tax Scam (AAP/ReligionNewsBlog; July 5, 2007)

Four South Korean Buddhist monks have been arrested for their part in an income tax scam involving the sale of fake donation receipts, a report said. The temple chiefs in the southwestern city of Gwangju were detained on Monday, the JoongAng Daily said.The scheme aimed to help 2,570 workers evade a total of $2.1 billion won ($2.28 million) in tax in 2005-2006, the paper said. Donations to charities, schools and religious organizations are tax-deductible up to a certain amount. Some monks even distributed pamphlets advertising the fake donation service, prosecutors were quoted as saying. “These temples were businesses selling fake receipts rather than religious organizations,” said prosecutor Jo Myeong-Sun. The finance ministry said it plans to crack down on the racket, including tougher punishment for offenders.

—– Experts Claim Buddha Tooth Relic In Singapore Temple Actually Came From An Animal (The Nation/The Buddhist Channel; July 15, 2007)

SINGAPORE: Dental experts have raised doubts over the authenticity of a purported Buddha’s tooth in a Singapore temple, claiming it could not have come from any human being, The Sunday Times reported.
More than 60,000 donors poured 45 million Singapore dollars (29 million US dollars) and 27 kilograms of gold into the four-storey building where the tooth, said to be one of Buddha’s molars, is kept in a 3.6-metre-high stupa made of gold. “There is absolutely no possibility that it is a human tooth,” Dr Pamela Craig, a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne’s school of dental science, was quoted as saying.
After examining photographs, Craig said it probably came from a cow or water buffalo.Human teeth should be rounded with a short crown and a comparatively longer root, but the picture clearly shows a long crown and a shorter root, she noted.“Looking at a photo is clear enough, because it’s so obvious that it’s not a human tooth,” she said. “It’s like comparing a pear and an apple.”Four other dentists, including two forensic dental experts, said the tooth could not have come from a human. “This is an animal cheek tooth – that is, a molar at the back of the mouth,” Professor David Whittaker at Cardiff University in Britain told the newspaper. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Singapore’s Chinatown said that the tooth was discovered by a monk in 1980 in Myanmar (Burma). He gave it to Venerable Shi Fazhao, the temple’s abbot, in 2002.
The public is allowed to see the tooth twice a year, on Buddha’s birthday and the first day of the Chinese New Year.“To me, it has always been real, and I have never questioned its authenticity,” Venerable Shi Fazhao told the newspaper. As for the assessments of the dental experts, he said: “I don’t care what they say. If you believe it’s real, then it’s real.” The temple dismissed the suggestion of conducting DNA tests on its relic. “It is unlikely that any Buddhist temple or its devotees will agree to subject any sacred Buddha tooth or relic to such a test,” the temple said in a statement.

—– Taiwanese Monk Jailed For Sexually Abusing Pupils (AFP/The Buddhist Channel; July 28, 2007)

TAIPEI, Taiwan: A monk has been jailed for eleven-and-a-half years for sexually abusing eight boys, a court official said yesterday, bringing an end to the long-running scandal. Shih Chih-hao, who ran a Buddhist academy in Taipei County, was found guilty of molesting and sexually assaulting the boys, all under 14 years old, said Wen Yao-yuan, spokesman for the Taiwan High Court.  The scandal erupted in 2000 when police began investigating allegations by some 25 pupils at the academy — a shelter for abused, runaway and impoverished boys — that they were sexually abused by Shih.  The boys reportedly said they were molested by Shih during meditation sessions or forced to have sex with him while they were taking baths.  In 2002 the Taipei District Court sentenced Shih to 12 years in jail. He appealed the ruling to the High Court, which upheld the previous verdict in 2004.  Shih, who claimed innocence, later appealed to the Supreme Court which ordered a new trial. The High Court on Thursday handed down a guilty verdict, but reduced the prison term to 11 years and six months plus mandatory therapy.  The 43-year-old monk first caught public attention when he took his pupils to a graveyard and told them to sit on tombs and meditate to overcome their fear of death.  The Buddhist academy, which had sheltered some 30 boys since its opening in 1999, was shut down after the scandal came to light.

—– Factional Feud Deepens In Buddhist Groups (Kim Tae-jong/The Korea Times/The Buddhist Channel; Sept 3, 2007)

SEOUL, South Korea: The diploma forgery scandal of a university professor has initiated a factional feud between Buddhist groups.  The strife came as some Buddhist groups argued over the controversial appointment of Shin Jeong-ah as a professor at Dongguk University, and has revealed deep-rooted areas of conflict that exist between the nation’s Buddhist sects. Eight Buddhist groups Monday urged Buddhist leaders to take action to deal with the scandalous issue.  “We are in a total crisis,” a representative from the groups said Monday during a news conference at the Jogye Temple in Jongno, downtown Seoul. “We now urge Buddhist leaders to take responsibility for the scandal and clarify all the allegations.” The move came after a series of scandals in Buddhist circles such as the appointment of Shin, dispute over the appointment of the head monk at Jeju Gwaneum Temple and embezzlement by the head monk of Baekdam Temple.
The eight Buddhist groups include Buddhist Solidarity for Reform, Korea Youth Buddhist Association and Buddhist Environmental Solidarity.  But the appointment has spawned speculation that high-profile Buddhist leaders were involved in the scandal as Shin was hired at the university, which has a Buddhist foundation. The matter is developing into factional feud between mainstream and non-mainstream Buddhist groups.
On Aug. 31, Muryanghoe, a monk’s group which belongs to the nation’s biggest Buddhist sect, the Jogye Order, called for the dismissal of all the board directors of Dongguk University Foundation for their responsibility over Shin’s scandal. But the action is allegedly part of the Jogye Order’s attack on Borimhoe and Geumganghoe, two mainstream groups in the university’s foundation.  The allegation is raised that the Jogye Order had Ven. Jang Yoon serve as a board director of the university’s foundation to have an influence on the university; but when the attempt to exercise influence failed, he disclosed the scandal over Shin’s appointment.  Ven. Jang Yoon, who first raised the suspicion about Shin’s educational background, belongs to the group and also serves as a board director of the university’s foundation….
The involvement of Buddhist sects in the bogus diploma scandal will be clarified after the interrogation of Hong Ki-sam, the former president of the university.  The prosecution will summon him for interrogation over questions about how Shin was appointed despite opposition based on the authenticity of her diplomas….

—– Buddhist Priest Stole $1.5 Million (Japan Times; Nov 30, 2007)

KYOTO: Police arrested an unfrocked Buddhist priest Thursday on suspicion of embezzling about 150 million yen [about $1.5 million US] from the Kyoto headquarters of the Jodo Shu sect.
Yoshifumi Kuwao, 52, is suspected of withdrawing the money from the Buddhist faction’s bank account on about 30 occasions from January 2003 to September 2004 and pocketing it while he was in charge of treasury affairs at the headquarters, police said.  Kuwao has owned up to the allegations, they said.
Police sources said Kuwao is believed to have used most of the funds to invest in futures trading.

—– Scandal Gnaws At Buddha’s Holy Tree In India (Reuters/ReligiousNewsBlog; Feb 3, 2008)

BODH GAYA, India: Tales of corruption, looting and religious rivalry are swirling around the spot where Buddha is said to have gained enlightenment in eastern India some 2,500 years ago, sullying one of Buddhism’s holiest sites. Buddhist scriptures describe it as the “Navel of the Earth,” and 100,000 pilgrims and tourists visit every year, packing the town of Bodh Gaya in Bihar state and its Mahabodhi Temple.
An ancient pipal tree, Ficus religiosa or sacred fig, grows at the back of the temple, said to be a descendent of the one Buddha sat under for three days and nights in the sixth century BC, before finding the answers he sought under a full moon.  But with the tourists and pilgrims comes money, and with the money has come mounting charges of less than saintly behavior.  Priests and monks allege that thousands of dollars in temple donations have mysteriously vanished, that a thick branch of the ancient holy Bodhi tree was lopped off and sold in Thailand in 2006, and that ancient relics have disappeared.  Hindus also revere the site and it is a Hindu monk, Arup Brahmachari, who is leading a campaign to expose the wrongdoing. “I am not fighting as a Hindu, I am fighting because I love God,” he said. “Buddha was a son of God, and someone is misbehaving with his property.”  Many Hindus accept Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu. The temple land has been owned by a nearby Hindu monastery for centuries, and the temple is managed by a committee where Hindus retain a majority over Buddhists. But representatives of both religions stand accused.
Charges have been brought against the powerful former secretary of the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee, a Hindu, as well as the committee’s former public relations officer and the former Buddhist chief priest of the temple.  A police report obtained by Reuters accuses the three men of “nefarious activities” and asks for their private wealth to be investigated.  Witnesses questioned by police said the priest had ordered an employee to cut off “substantial parts” of the tree and take them to his home. The trio were also accused of selling off fallen leaves to pilgrims and pocketing the proceeds….
“They sent the branch to Thailand, and sold it for 6 crore (60 million) rupees ($1.5 million),” he [Brahmachari] said, adding he had been beaten up twice and had received several death threats since starting his campaign.  The government, he said, was simply not interested. “Nobody is listening. I am fed up of writing letters.” But he is not alone in his anger, joined by Buddhist priests running many of the other temples and monasteries which have sprung up in Bodh Gaya.  Although its accounts are audited, the priests complain the temple does nothing to support local schools and hospitals, despite having a substantial income.
“Money is coming in, but where the money is going nobody knows,” said Bhante Pragyadeep, treasurer of the Buddhist Monks Association of India.  District magistrate Jitendra Srivastava has been running the temple committee since the scandal surfaced and the last committee’s term expired. “All secretaries have been embroiled in controversy,” he said. “It is very unfortunate.”…

—– Monk Indicted For Document Forgery (Kim Tae-jong/The Korea Times/The Buddhist Channel; Feb 26, 2008)

SEOUL, South Korea: The prosecution Tuesday indicted without physical detention the head of a Buddhist sect for forging documents to get billions of won in government subsidies. Ven. Woonsan, head of the Taego Order of Korean Buddhism, received 6 billion won [about $4.5 million US] from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism as a subsidy for the construction of a new temple in 2005.  Prosecutors found he manipulated the sect’s bank balance to apply for the subsidy, a prosecutor said. According to the related law, the government can provide a religious leader with half of the construction costs a new building to be used for religious purposes as a subsidy.  One of the requirements for this, however, is that the religious group should be able to afford half of the construction cost with their own funds. Ven. Woonsan allegedly increased his balance to 60 billion by temporarily putting money from members of the sect into the account. He admitted putting money from sect members into the account to be eligible for the program and withdrawing it after receiving the subsidy. “It was just to meet our share in the construction cost,” an official from the sect said. “But it was just a temporary move and right after we received the subsidy, we managed to save the half of it by ourselves and put it into the account. There was no embezzlement or anything.” The Buddhist monk is also suspected of manipulating the construction budget. Prosecutors said that the total cost was estimated at around 10.2 billion won but the Buddhist sect claimed 12.3 billion won to get extra money. The official from the Buddhist sect denounced the suspicion, citing that the extra money was calculated for the construction of the interior of the new temple and other small projects.

—– Buddhist Sect, Woman Reach Settlement Over “Purification” Sex Assault By Priest (Mainichi Daily News/Religion News Blog; March 30, 2008)

CHIBA, Japan: A woman has received a 1 million yen [about $10,000 US] payout from a Buddhist priest who indecently assaulted her during what he called a “purification ritual” in a settlement mediated by the Chiba District Court. The 36-year-old woman received the cash payment from the 75-year-old former head priest of the Komeizan Saizenji Temple in Isumi, Chiba Prefecture. In return she dropped a lawsuit she had filed against the priest and the Tendai Buddhist sect to which he belongs.  “He has resigned as head priest and has repented, so we decided to come to a settlement,” the woman’s lawyer said. Tendai officials were unavailable to comment on the case. On four different occasions from December 2005 to May 2006, the old priest performed indecent acts on the woman, using the excuse of her needing to undergo purification to rid her body of eczema that was plaguing it and feeling her up. In May last year, the woman sued both the priest and the Tendai sect, seeking 7 million yen in compensation. The priest resigned on Jan. 31. The woman agreed to end her litigation against Tendai as part of the settlement.

—– Buddhist Monk “Confesses” To Rape Of British Tourist; Just The Latest Scandal In A Series (Thomas Bell/The Telegraph; Nov 19, 2008)

BATTAMBANG, Cambodia: According to police the 39-year-old victim was trembling with fear when she reached the police station to report the attack on Tuesday afternoon. The monk, 17-year-old Thorn Sophoan, was immediately arrested and defrocked. Police said that he has confessed to the crime.
“While the monk was guiding the British woman to see caves on the top of Phnom Sam Pov mountain, he raped her,” the local police chief Mey Chhengly said. The victim reportedly told the monk that she did not want a guide but he insisted on following her anyway. The attack took place in Battambang province in the north west of Cambodia.  The victim’s right leg was injured as she attempted to fight off her attacker, who also stole her money, camera and mobile telephone. Buddhist monks in Cambodia are frequently accused of sexual assaults. This week two other monks were arrested for allegedly raping two teenagers in a school classroom. In January a monk was arrested for allegedly molesting an 8-year-old French girl at the famous Angkor ruins and in August a monk was arrested and defrocked after being accused of the rape and murder of a 10-year-old child.  There is also a problem with fake monks, who police say deceive the public into giving alms or disguise themselves as holy men before committing crimes such as armed robbery.
“Buddhism educates monks to have physical, verbal and mental purity,” said Nun Nget, supreme patriarch of the Mohanikaya Buddhist sect in Cambodia. “(Such crimes) heavily affect our religion, which is why it is necessary to defrock bad monks.” Thorn Sophoan had been a monk for only a few days month before he was arrested. Many young Cambodians become monks for short periods of time without necessarily devoting their lives to the clergy. They could be briefly ordained to show gratitude to their parents, honour a dead relative, or study Buddhism.

—– Buddhist Clerics In Bangladesh Take Christians Captive (OneNewsNow; Dec 20, 2008)

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Buddhist clerics and local council officials are holding 13 newly converted Christians captive in a pagoda in a southeastern mountainous district of Bangladesh in an attempt to forcibly return them to Buddhism.  A spokesman for the Parbatta Adivasi (Hill Tract) Christian Church told Compass on condition of anonymity that “the plight of the Christians is horrifying.”  Local government council officials in Jorachuri sub-district in Rangamati district, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) southeast of Dhaka, are helping the Buddhist monks to hold the Christians against their will, he said.  “The 13 tribal Christians were taken forcefully to a pagoda on Dec. 10 to accept Buddhism against their will,” he said. “They will be kept in a pagoda for 10 days to perform the rituals to be Buddhists – their heads were shaved, and they were given yellow saffron robes to dress in.”   All the captive Christians are men between 28 and 52 years old, he said. They became Christians around four months ago at various times in the country, which has a Buddhist population of 0.7 percent. Muslims make up nearly 90 percent of the Bangladeshi population, with Hindus accounting for about 9 percent, according to government figures.   According to the source, two Buddhist clerics, Pronoyon Chakma and Jianoprio Vikku, and two local council members, Vira Chakma and Rubichandra Chakma, were behind the anti-Christian activities along with nine other Buddhist leaders.
“It’s the first time they have taken 13 Christians to the pagoda to make them Buddhist – this is how they plan to make Buddhists of all the converted Christians in that area,” he said. “The pagoda has little capacity to accommodate them; otherwise they would hold captive more than 13 people.”…
In another mountainous neighborhood in the Khaokhali area near Jorachuri, about 50 recently converted Christians have been cut off from all communications. They are barred from going to Rangamati town and are living in isolation.  “Those captors and other influential Buddhists leaders are threatening other converted Christians that they will face the same consequences as the 13 captives are facing,” the source said. “They are warning us, ‘All of you should be reconverted to Buddhism in the same way.’”…

—– Singapore Monk Shuns Middle Path For Fast Lane (Thaindian News/DPA; April 19, 2009)

Singapore’s top Buddhist monk has lived a lavish lifestyle with name branded goods and nine gold credit cards, according to a report in the Sunday Times. “We are living in a modern world,” the newspaper quoted monk Ming Yi as telling auditors and police during an investigation into a charity hospital that he had headed.
The report said Ming Yi was a high-end shopper who spent on brands like Louis Vuitton and Montblanc, and had given three supplementary credit cards to his friends including a monk based in Hong Kong.
“A lot of religious people, not only myself, are very different now,” he was reported as saying.
The 47-year old former chief executive officer of a charity-run hospital is under investigation for making an unauthorised loan of 50,000 Singapore dollars to a friend. The loan is also subject of a court case.
Ming Yi’s choice of hotels included five-star St Regis, The Regent, Four Seasons and Banyan Tree, the report said.  But he stressed to police that his profligate spending was legal, being paid for out of the red packets, or “hong bao”, a traditional Chinese way of giving gifts, he had received from devotees. “I always don’t look upon money as important,” Ming Yi said. “What I can, I spend and that’s it; what I don’t have, I don’t spend.”

Thailand - Buddha is not smiling - 2010:

In Thailand until now, to criticize the Buddhist clergy was to reap bad karma. Few dared to do so until last year when the laughable sexual antics of Phra Yantra Amaro Bikku were exposed. Probably Thailand's best-known monk, Phra Yantra counted among his 150,000 devotees cabinet ministers, princesses and an MP who swore by the curative effects of drinking the monk's urine. But it emerged last year that when Phra Yantra was supposed to be meditating in the wilderness of New Zealand, he was sneaking off to the massage parlors of Auckland. The ladies there nicknamed him "Batman" since he refused to remove his monk's robes during sex. He also made one of his followers pregnant and made love to a nun on the icy deck of a ferry going to Finland.

After Phra Yantra was defrocked and disgraced last April by the country's religious leader, the Supreme Patriarch, it set off a chain reaction of scandals that tarnished Thai Buddhism's sanctity. A venerated abbot in a northern monastery was accused of raping six hill-tribe girls, aged between 12 and 16. Next came the grisly incident in which a monk was arrested for "barbecuing" a still-born baby to extract oil for love potions. Then, another monk was charged with raping a 14-year-old girl; during his first assault he recorded her cries and tried to use the tape to blackmail her into having sex with him again. Most recently, six monks were charged with murdering a fellow monk. Some Thais are repelled by the avidity with which the media has revealed the clergy's seamy side, while reformers claim that it is time to cleanse the monasteries.

Belatedly, the Thai Buddhist clergy is realising that monks can no longer stand aloof from samsara, the Buddhist term for worldly cravings. For centuries, the Buddhist laity in Thailand have pretended that monastic life was pure and simple, above reproach. But the proof otherwise cannot be ignored. Some monasteries have opened up drug detoxification centres. The Supreme Patriarch has also set up a new school at which senior abbots can be taught how to reform errant monks.

This has all come too late for the young Cheshire woman who went to Kanchanaburi's caves for a glimpse of Buddhism's gentle promise. When Miss Masheder did not return to Cheshire in time for Christmas, her parents, Stuart and Jackie, both 49, flew to Thailand to search for her. Desperate, they looked everywhere, stopping sun-bathers in the Thai beach resorts to show them a photograph of their missing daughter. Their last snapshot of her was taken a few days before she was murdered, while she was enjoying an elephant- trek in the jungles of Chiang Mai. The Masheders also placed photographs of Jo in the Thai newspapers, and the woman's friend - the English teacher she refers to in her diary - recognised it and called the police. They found her hired bicycle still parked at Yodchart's monastery. A search of the monastery's rooms and the temple grounds turned up her charred passport, diary and air ticket back home.

Cat Banned From Visiting Buddhist Bank Robber In Jail
(Allan Hall/The Telegraph; Nov 3)

       Peter Keonig, 46, is serving five-years for armed robberies in Werl, Germany. He went to court this week demanding the right for his cat Gisela to be allowed to visit him in jail “because she is my dead mum”. Buddhists believe that people come back as other animals after death. He said: “I know it is mummy. She looks after me just the way she did. I need to see her like other prisoners see their wives and children.”
          But the court turned him down. “While we respect the religious freedom of individuals, the accused has not been able to furnish proof that his deceased mother has been reborn in a cat. Therefore, the request for visiting rights for the feline is rejected.”  

The court did say he would be allowed to write to the cat.

So there you go -- we are more or less just like everyone else -- what a suprise.


  1. "...the accused has not been able to furnish proof that his deceased mother has been reborn in a cat. Therefore, the request for visiting rights for the feline is rejected.”

    The court did say he would be allowed to write to the cat."

    That last line gave me the best laugh I've had in days!

    Your blog post reminded me that it pays to remain humble. There's enough press out there about not so humble Buddhists that makes it look bad for any claims for the primacy of Buddhism.

    There's no indication whether that judge was Buddhist or not, but he was compassionte enough to allow letters - HAR!

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