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Date: 12/1/98

Publication: The Nation

Section: Politics

Sangha orders investigation of wat

IN a move to quell criticism of a controversial drive to solicit religious donations, the Supreme Sangha Council on Monday instructed a chief monk to review the activities of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, aiming for closer supervision.

Deputy Education Minister Arkom Engchuan voiced concern that the temple relies on tales of religious miracles and other questionable activities to attract contributions.

Arkom, who supervises religious affairs, revealed that the Religious Affairs Department plans to inform the Supreme Sangha Council next Tuesday regarding the improper methods used by the temple to solicit donations.

He pointed out the citing of religious miracles, although the temple denied propagating the tales which were spread by worshippers, to win donations was against Buddhist teachings.

He further stated that the donation drive, based on a pyramid scheme relying on the exponential growth of followers' base and encouraged by a spirit of ''competitiveness'' aimed at achieving more contributions, might violate the middle-path doctrine.

The deputy education minister said these sensitive issues should be discussed and reviewed by the highest governing body of Buddhist monks instead of delegating the responsibility to administrative monks with lesser authority.

In view of growing criticism of its donation drive, the temple on Monday opted for a lower profile by removing billboards calling for religious contributions.

Yuthachai Utama, deputy director general of the Religious Affairs Department, said the chief monk of region 1, also abbot of Wat Yannawa, was in charge of supervising and resolving problems relating to the solicitation drive launched by Wat Dhammakaya.

The Supreme Sangha Council has authorised the chief monk to conduct a fact-finding probe on the temple and report back via Somdej Phra Maha Theerajarn of Wat Chana Songkhram, he said.

BY ANAN PAENGNOY

The Nation

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