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Date: 11/29/98

Publication: The Nation

Section: Headlines

Temple attacked forputting merit on sale

BUDDHIST preacher Phra Payom Kalayano, Buddhist scholar Sathianpong Wannapruek and social critic Sulak Siwalak agree that the Dhammakaya school of Buddhism is unorthodox.

The Dhammakaya temple's cleric and lay officials were not immediately available for comment.

Phra Payom of Nonthaburi's Suan Kaew temple said at a Buddhist gathering at Chiang Mai's Sri Soda temple that Dharmakaya temple led its followers to believe that it was imperative for Buddhists to donate the amount specified by the temple so they could fulfil all of their wishes.

This tenet was flawed, Payom argued. Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sanan Kachornprasart completed his tour of alms-giving at a total of 10 temples nationwide, and he still faced a scandal in which his aide and driver was allegedly involved in bribe taking from unsuspecting bureaucrats.

Payom alleged that the temple exacted such high donations from its followers it caused domestic disputes, and cited the case of a woman who donated money that had been budgeted for her child's tuition and temple fees.

He said the temple's call for contributions came at an unsuitable time, when the national economy is struggling.

Sathianpong agrees. He attacked the temple's teachings as an anathema to mainstream Buddhism, in that it asserted that the Buddha's teachings were lost five centuries after his passing away while Luang Phor Sod, the self-proclaimed new prophet, on whose dogma the temple bases its preaching, claimed he had rediscovered the Buddha's teachings.

He said he believed the temple's teachings were dangerous and an ugly direct sale, that plays on human greed in order to contribute to the false belief that merit can be bought.

Sathianpong said Buddhist followers were pestered into contributing greater sums and were left with the feeling of being insecure if they refused.

Sulak agrees. He claimed the temple teaches its followers greed, wrath and delusion, an extreme far cry from Buddhist principles.

The temple, he alleged, had prepared and groomed, in a subtle way, its followers to be capitalistic, consumerist and materialist.

Sulak said the Sangha Supreme Council, the Buddhist governing body, would do Buddhism a service to have the temple's assets audited.

Sulak, commenting on the temple's monastic life, said: ''Holy monks now have everything in common with the laity, except that the former have vows of celibacy and no meals after lunch.''

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