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Date: 12/27/98

Publication: The Nation

Section: Headlines

Judge temple on the facts, says scholar

SOCIETY should not rush to the conclusion that the controversial Dhammakaya Buddhist temple has committed serious wrongdoing without first acquiring sufficient evidence to back up their suspicions, a senior Buddhist scholar said.

Dr Phra Suthee Vorayana, vice-rector of Maha Chulalongkorn Rajavitthayalai, said that to judge whether the Dhammakaya temple has done any wrong requires proof that the much-criticised soliciting of money from its followers was initiated by the monastic leaders of the sect.

''If the Dhammakaya temple's fund-raising and investment were the work of its lay followers, then there should be nothing wrong because many well-meaning people and devotees would naturally want to build up the organisation that they belong to,'' Phra Suthee said.

But if such activities were initiated and encouraged by its monastic leaders, then their actions could be judged inappropriate.

Suthee said the Sangha Supreme Council, the governing body of Buddhist monks, has recently issued a circular to abbots of all Buddhist temples throughout the country to refrain from high-cost projects that would require soliciting of donations from members of the public in light of the economic crisis.

The monastic scholar was speaking at a seminar on Dhammakaya and the need to reform the Buddhist monastic institution at Pridi Banomyong Institute yesterday. The seminar was attended by about 100 people, but none of the Dhammakaya leaders or followers invited showed up.

Another scholar, Dr Phra Mahachanya, of Wat Umong from Chiang Mai, said he believes Dhammakaya temple's use of marketing techniques to attract people and then solicit large donations from them is inappropriate because it goes against the Buddha's teachings, which discourage the amassing of material wealth.

''Some of the publications and leaflets issued by the Dhammakaya temple make a direct link between belief in the sect's version of Buddhism to gaining fortunes and personal wealth. This is obviously improper,'' he said.

Thaweewat Puntarikwiwat, lecturer from Mahidol University, said Buddha's teachings have been distorted by the Dhammakaya sect and its followers have been subjected to active solicitation of money which was used to make the temple grand.

The Nation

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