Friday, September 23, 2011

Squabbling Monks Shock Faithful

Buddhists living around Wat Bang Khun Thian Nok in Chom Thong district have reacted angrily to a row involving monks and their morning alms round.

A dispute has broken out between one monk who regularly followed a particular route to collect alms and two others who he alleged scared him off, reportedly because adherents offer money.

Residents of the area say the unseemly row was threatening to jeopardise the integrity of Buddhism.

The row came to light on Wednesday when Phra Jirawat Pasanno, 44, filed a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) against two other monks from the same temple.

Phra Jirawat accused Phra Auan, 70, and Phra Phit Papassaro, or Phra Jo, 26, of assaulting him and threatening him with a gun after an argument over their overlapping alms routes.

Phra Jirawat has now moved to another temple in Samut Sakhon province.

The two other monks yesterday denied the accusations and met with police to check their report into the incident.

No charges have yet been laid against the two as an investigation has to be carried out.

Suthep Thongsai, a 54-year-old motorcycle taxi driver, said the row was "unacceptable and improper".

"It hurts the feelings of Buddhists," Mr Suthep said.

A 67-year-old resident who asked not to be named said she heard about the quarrel from a television report.

"I don't think this should happen as people do not select monks to give alms to.

"I often give alms to monks regardless of where they come from," she said. "These monks are tarnishing the image of Buddhism."

She said it was possible the conflict erupted because many people make merit by giving money to monks.

"Every morning I see many people stopping their cars to give money to monks before going to work," she said.

A 51-year-old merchant who did not want to be named said Phra Jirawat had questioned why she gave so little money to the temple.

"I was unsure whether the monk was joking with me or not, but in my opinion I think it is inappropriate to say something like that," she said. As a result, she no longer made merit at the temple.

She said she was unaware of the overlapping morning alms routes at the temple.

Phra Jo told the Bangkok Post that there was no concession on morning alms routes as claimed by Phra Jirawat.

"The accusation made by Phra Jirawat is not true. No monks here have been beaten up and threatened with a gun," he said.

Phra Jirawat claimed he collected morning alms on the same route from Wajjana Road leading to Rama II Road and received 300-600 baht every day and up to 1,000 baht on Buddhist holy days. He said Phra Jo and Phra Auan collected morning alms on the same route, resulting in the argument.

Phra Jo said he usually collected alms at Chom Thong Soi 3/3 where his family house was located, and Phra Auan had not left the temple to collect alms for five years because of old age.

He said in fact Phra Jirawat was the only one from the temple to go a long distance to collect alms.

Many residents had lodged complaints with the abbot of Wat Bang Khun Thian Nok accusing Phra Jirawat of using the temple name to seek public donations.

The abbot had sent him a warning but nothing changed.

"Phra Jirawat normally goes out to collect alms earlier than other monks at the temple. He comes back with lot of alms in 4-5 sacks," he said.

Phra Jo said Phra Jirawat had once persuaded him to collect alms together with him.

He said as far as he knew Phra Jirawat earned up to 30,000 baht a month.

Phra Jo said he would talk to the media today about his decision whether to file a counter-charge against the complainant.