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Date: 1/19/99

Publication: The Nation

Section: Headlines

Detractor's testimony slams Dhammakaya

TO its mass of followers, Dhammakaya is the most peaceful place on Earth, a great school to learn the good side of human nature, where everybody loves each other. Two leading detractors, however, have very different stories to tell.

In their testimony to the ongoing inquiry by the House Committee on Religion, Art and Culture, Phra Metta Mano and Phra Adisak Wirayasokko portrayed Dhammakaya as a place where Buddhist belief had been distorted and the faith of devotees abused and where most senior monks played dirty politics to gain power.

Phra Metta said Abbot Dhammachayo had proclaimed himself the ''head of the Buddha'', with power to destroy the spirit and soul of anyone who displeased him.

This is among the most serious charges against Dhammachayo, who has not responded to any of the attacks, although the temple has issued statements denying specific allegations.

Phra Metta said Dhammachayo had often claimed to have supernatural power and used that claim to intimidate those surrounding him, including close disciples.

Dhammachayo has a split personality, claimed Phra Metta. The abbot is calm and affable in public and even appears humble under attack, but in his small inner circle he is vengeful and has limitless ego and ambition, Phra Metta testified.

''When someone displeased him, he would throw things at that person,'' said Phra Metta. The detractor recalled an occasion when Chan, the temple's most senior and highly respected nun, had warned Dhammachayo against chatting too long with a female follower, and Dhammachayo had lifted up a food tray and dropped it to vent his frustration.

Testimony shows that Phra Metta himself was deeply involved in high-level politics at Dhammakaya, specifically between Dhammachayo and deputy abbot Tattachivo.

Once in earlier days, when the opinions of villagers and followers were crucial in the election of an abbot, Tattachivo mobilised villagers and was poised to assume control of the temple. Phra Metta said he had come to Dhammachayo's rescue by asking followers who visited the temple one weekend to give their names and addresses for ''future contact''. The list of followers was presented to the tambon ecclesiastic chief to show ''support'' for Dhammachayo, which in effect derailed Tattachivo's manoeuvre.

Phra Metta claimed that the second time he came to Dhammachayo's aid had been when Dhammachayo was being scrutinised for problems with a certain female follower.

''He was on the receiving end, and was very upset. He vowed to resign as abbot, but when Tattachivo agreed to take over, Dhammachayo came crying to me. I didn't like Tattachivo much, so I stopped Dhammachayo submitting his resignation. I tore up the letter,'' Phra Metta said.

Phra Metta said he, Dhammachayo and Tattachivo had originally been the three people with authority to sign the temple's business documents and Dhammachayo had assumed sole authority in late 1980s.

In his testimony, Phra Adisak supported Phra Metta's claims that Dhammachayo had threatened to use supernatural power against his enemies.

''He claimed that he could send angels down to Hell and take those in Hell to Heaven,'' said Phra Adisak, another former assistant of the abbot.

The accusers face scrutiny themselves for several incidents many years ago, some more than a decade.

A group of villagers filed complaints with police on Monday, accusing Dhammachayo, Tattachivo and Pong Leng-ey, a former Forestry Department director-general, of conspiring to cheat them out of their land.

The 20 plaintiffs were headed by Luang Phor Banyen, who led villagers in a raid on the temple in 1992. The infamous clash between villagers and Dhammakaya followers led to his arrest and three-year imprisonment.

The Religious Department will on Friday submit the latest information about Dhammakaya to Abbot Phra Phrommoli of the Yannawa Temple, who chairs the ecclesiastic investigation of Dhammakaya.

Information includes temple activities and real-estate ownership.

The Nation

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