Thai security forces have raided the sprawling grounds of the country’s largest temple in search of an ageing but powerful Buddhist monk who is wanted on alleged embezzlement charges.
The police left empty handed after a daylong search on Thursday of the Dhammakaya temple on the outskirts of Bangkok, which is famous for its spaceship-like golden stupa as well as the controversy over its aggressive fundraising and unorthodox teaching.
The temple complex covers 1,000 acres of northern Bangkok—10 times the size of the Vatican City. As the sun set, the country’s Department of Special Investigation said its teams would return on Friday to resume the search for Phra Dhammajayo, 72, the charismatic co-founder and former abbot of the temple.
Of course raiding a monastery is a big deal in this culture, rather like storming a Basilica in Italy. The authorities it seems held off a long time, confronted by pro-temple mobs, but finally made their move. Why engender all those hard feelings, over one alleged religious crook? There’s intrigue here, behind the scenes, to be explored.
We didn’t jump on this when it surfaced some months ago, waiting to see what would happen. The last we heard, this monk has not been brought to justice, but more importantly, what’s up with this monastery? Large enough, they say, to hold a large cluster of American mega-churches, large enough to accommodate one million persons inside, if that can be believed.
Just what has this abbot embezzled? Assuming he’s guilty at all, we know one thing. It’s not small change.
Apparently, the Thai government, old Buddism, and new, wealthy Buddism are among the forces looking to find equilibrium in the new Thailand. But how much equilibrium can there be around mega-monasteries of gold?
The mystery here is deeply held inside of Buddism, and the meaning of being a monk. Why, especially in recent years, have traditional values, such as spiritual focus and not material excess, been eroded. What’s happened when wealthy monasteries are said to have bought Mercedes…by the dozens?
We hope to learn more from our readers, and explore these conundrums.