Monks shopping in US criticised
The National Office of Buddhism has strongly criticised a group of monks who were photographed while apparently "out shopping" in the United States.
Nopparat Benjawatananun, director-general of the National Office of Buddhism, rebuked such conduct after several photographs circulated through the internet on Tuesday, showing six Thai monks checking out brand-name products and smartphones, queuing to buy coffee, and dining at a steakhouse in the US.
"These activities should not be carried out by monks because they are indecent and not composed," Mr Nopparat said.
He said the activities were not serious offences. The country's administration of Buddhism will determine actions to be taken against the monks in the photos. Members of the National Office of Buddhism and the Sangha Supreme Council will meet on Friday to discuss the matter.
"If a monk repeatedly misbehaves and it has become a habit, the National Office of Buddhism may consider imposing a severe penalty on him, which means forcing him to leave monkhood," Mr Nopparat said.
Meanwhile, two senior monks are set to go head-to-head in a debate on the conduct of Buddhist monks.
Luang Pu Isara from Or Noi temple in Nakhon Pathom province said on Wednesday that he wanted to challenge Luang Por Kasem Arjinnasilo, abbot of Samyaek temple in Phetchabun province, to a debate. Luang Por Kasem previously appeared on television, putting his foot on a table holding alms donations.
"I don't call Luang Por Kasem's behaviour a monk's behaviour," Luang Pu Isara said. "I want to challenge him on the knowledge of Buddhism."
Luang Por Kasem said he accepted the challenge.
"I can argue with Luang Pu Isara on any stage, anytime, but not in a temple," he said.
Amnart Buasiri, deputy director-general of the National Office of Buddhism, said such debate on Buddhism is considered a good thing, but the monks need to be well-behaved and act and speak in a respectful manner during such a confrontation.
A survey on "monks and materialism" by Nida Poll showed that most people believe it is inappropriate for monks to have a materialistic lifestyle.
The survey was conducted on Monday and Tuesday, and questioned 1,249 Buddhist respondents nationwide.
Of those responding, 90.39% said it is inappropriate for Buddhist monks to use brand-name items, travel via luxury vehicles and have personal belongings, as monks should leave the materialistic world behind and be an good example to Buddhist followers. A minority of 5.68% said it is appropriate, because monks have rights and have to adapt to the changing environment.
When asked why some monks appeared to be attached to consumerism, 37.79% said they believed that the monks might not be able to disconnect themselves from worldly possessions. Some 20% said the monks received materialistic things from their pupils without considering their appropriateness.
In all, 46.84% of those polled said they believed fewer people visited temples to make merit at this time because of news about monks taking drugs, drinking and having affairs with women. Another 30.5% said temples have become too commercialised.