101 East – Thailand’s Tainted Robes
As scandals involving misbehaving monks rock the nation, 101 East examines if Thailand can save its moral soul.
Who are Monk?
A monk (/mʌŋk/, from Greek: μοναχός, monachos, “single, solitary” and Latin monachus) is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decided to dedicate his life to serving all other living beings, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live his life in prayer and contemplation. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.
In the Greek language the term can apply to women, but in modern English it is mainly in use for men. The word nun is typically used for female monastics.
Although the term monachos is of Christian origin, in the English language “monk” tends to be used loosely also for both male and female ascetics from other religious or philosophical backgrounds. However, being generic, it is not interchangeable with terms that denote particular kinds of monk, such as cenobite, hermit, anchorite, hesychast, or solitary.
Monk in Buddhism
In Theravada Buddhism, bhikkhu is the term for monk. Their disciplinary code is called the patimokkha, which is part of the larger Vinaya. They live lives of mendicancy, and go on a morning almsround (Pali: pindapata) every day. The local people give food for the monks to eat, though the monks are not permitted to positively ask for anything. The monks live in monasteries, and have an important function in traditional Asian society. Young boys can be ordained as samaneras. Both bhikkhus and samaneras eat only in the morning, and are not supposed to lead a luxurious life. Their rules forbid the use of money, although this rule is nowadays not kept by all monks. The monks are part of the Sangha, the third of the Triple Gem of Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha.
Who is Thailand’s jet-set monk, Luang Pu Nenkham ?
Luang Pu Nenkham is a controversial monk today. But years ago, thousands of people held complete faith in him very likely because of his well-crafted marketing.
It began many years ago when someone in his close circle reportedly noticed people wondering why he looked much older in a photo than his true age, then decided to spread a story that he was born to liberate Buddhists from the chain of suffering.
During his golden year, he even had a website dedicated solely to him.
The monk first caught attention of authorities in 2013 after footage emerged of him travelling aboard a private jet, carrying a Louis Vuitton bag and wearing brand-name sunglasses. But as allegations against him emerged, he fled to France and then the US.