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Date: 12/23/98

Publication: The Nation

Section: Headlines

Goldsmith attacks wat over 'crazy' donations

EVEN the goldsmith who made the controversial gold statue at Dhammakaya Temple disagrees with its campaign for Buddhists to make donations to the idol and the controversial ''Great Dhammakaya'' pagoda.

Fine Arts Department chief moulding artist Boonsong Nutnomboon told The Nation that while he was working for the temple, he witnessed people ''going crazy'' in making donations.

Boonsong insisted the temple did not use 1,000 kilogrammes of gold to mold the statue of the late Luang Phor Sod, whose popular meditation technique drew followers to Dhammakaya Temple for decades.

Boonsong said the monks gave him 600 kgs of gold. He heated it in 10 melting pots, each containing 60 kgs of gold. Only seven pots were used to make the statue and the temple kept the remainder.

''I asked the temple why it had to make such a huge gold statue. The temple replied that it wanted to show to lay followers that it used donations to make the golden statue and not for other purposes,'' Boonsong said.

''The temple also said it wants to use the golden statue to attract more people to come to make merit at the temple. I think this is not right because it drives people crazy in making donations, instead of making merit in proportion to their financial status.''

Boonsong worked for over a month at the temple. He said while he was working, one man told him that he had sold his land for Bt1 million to donate to the golden statue. He saw some people driving ''ragged cars'' and then donating two or three kgs of gold.

''The temple should not have lied to the lay followers and should not have used its campaign to drive people crazy in making merit,'' Boonsong said.

Boonsong said he noticed something wrong when the temple did not officially ask the Fine Arts Department for help, but asked him to work part time after office hours. He was paid Bt50,000 for the job.

''I have come out to expose this, not because I received too little money, but because too often I saw the temple driving people mad to make donations.''

Boonsong said he disagrees with the temple's campaign to raise tens of thousands of baht to build the great pagoda.

''The temple should not do it in this difficult time. I don't understand why it has to be that big.''


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