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Date: 1/12/99

Publication: The Nation

Section: Headlines

Abbot told todefend himself

IN a move to stem the Dhammakaya scandal, two Buddhist scholars yesterday called on Abbot Luang Phor Dhammachayo to defend himself publicly over alleged irregularities in propagation of the faith and the accumulation of wealth.

Meanwhile members of the House Committee on Religion, Art and Culture hinted of a disclosure to be made at a hearing scheduled for tomorrow about Dhammachayo's accumulation of land and his investments.

Phra Dhammakosajarn, a well-known preacher and abbot of Wat Cholaprathan, urged Dhammachayo to present his defence against the allegations against himself and Wat Phra Dhammakaya.

''If Dhammachayo does not dare speak up, people will believe the allegations,'' he said.

The popular preacher, also known as Luang Phor Panyanantha, said that should the Dhammakaya scandal linger on it would tarnish the image of Buddhism.

Phra Dhammapidok, an expert on the Buddha's teachings, pointed out that all controversies related to propagation of the faith and monastic discipline could be resolved by recourse to pitaka, the Buddhist canon.

Dhammapidok argued that Dhammachayo and his temple might use the scandal as an opportunity to influence the public by citing pitaka

to back up their controversial propagation methods.

In a key dispute, Dhammachayo claimed the existence of nirvana, allegedly a ploy to have followers strive for the ''bliss'' of meditation, although Theravada Buddhist scholars rebutted this idea, saying that nirvana was a non-existence state which could only be achieved, not experienced.

Dhammakaya's spokeswoman, Chuleeporn Chuanglangsri, said Dhammachayo had no plans to defend himself publicly, though he might submit a discourse on the Buddhist canon to the two scholars.

Suwat Ngerncham, chairman of the Education Ministry panel probing the scandal, said the evidence against Dhammachayo may be compiled by next week before a report was presented to the ministry and Phra Phrommolee, the chief monk of Region 1.

The Nation

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