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Date: 1/13/99

Publication: The Nation

Section: Headlines

Intelligence chiefs face wat queries

THE country's top intelligence and security officials have been summoned by the House religious committee to give information regarding the controversial Dhammakaya Temple on Wednesday, informed sources in the panel said.

Among those invited are the heads of Special Branch Police, the National Security Council and the National Intelligence Agency. Others include Deputy Education Minister Arkom Engchuan and the Pathum Thani police chief.

A source in the committee said special branch police were expected to provide information concerning abbot Dhammachayo's alleged attempt several years ago to seek a higher ecclesiastic rank and his reaction when he was rejected. The source claimed the information could be another bombshell.

The monk suffered new setbacks on Tuesday when academics from the Religious Department concluded that the temple's teachings had deviated from those of Lord Buddha on four key issues.

The first issue concerns the meaning of nirvana, which the temple says is something that ''exists''. According to followers and detractors, the temple teaches that anyone who has accumulated enough merit cab meet Lord Buddha in heaven.

''In fact, nirvana is the state of nothingness, a complete detachment from 'self','' a department source said.

The second issue concerns the concept of merit or goodness. The academics noted that the temple had taught religion by claiming miracles and encouraging the public to donate as much as they can.

The third contradiction is the temple's claims that its amulets could be magical for those who have them. The fourth question concerns Buddha statues created by the temple out of ''images'' seen by senior Dhammakaya monks during meditation.

The academics' conclusion will be submitted to Phra Phrommolee, the head of Region 1 monks, who will lead the investigation.

The Education Ministry has also frowned upon the temple for its possession of land. Several plots officially belong to Dhammachayo but the temple has insisted that they were donated to him.

Ministry sources said owning too much property violates Buddhist precepts which revolve around modesty and detachment from worldly possessions.

Wednesday's enquiry session of the House committee will see a rare gathering of top security and intelligence officials. Committee sources said the panel was taking the controversy more seriously than the Yantra scandal which rocked the country's Buddhist community a few years ago.

''The Yantra case was about a monk and a couple of women. The Dhammakaya issue concerns a highly-revered temple accused of serious violations of Buddhist principles,'' a panel source said.

Phra Adisak Wiriyasokko, a former Dhammakaya disciple who has been banished as a detractor, said on Tuesday he was ready to testify and support the Special Branch Police information on Dhammachayo's attempts to seek a promotion several years back.

Adisak claimed he had witnessed the abbot's angry reaction on knowing that he was not given the rank he wanted.

BY PRAPASRI OSATHANOND AND PONGSAK BAI-NGERN

The Nation

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