Checkbook Buddhism offers Thais a stairway to heaven but brings corruption to temples

Posted: April 6, 2015 at 12:51 am

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BANGKOK In deeply religious Thailand, monks have long been revered. But badly behaved clergy, corruption scandals, and the vast wealth amassed by some temples has many asking if something is rotten at the heart of Thai Buddhism.

From selfies on private jets to multimillion-dollar donations from allegedly crooked businessmen, Thailands monks are coming under increasing fire for their embrace of commercialism so much so that even the military junta is threatening to intervene.

In Wat Hua Lumphong, a temple in downtown Bangkok, garlands of bank notes flutter in the breeze as trader Sakorn Suker slips a 20 baht note ($1) into an urn.

It makes me feel good, boosts my health and makes me do better business, Suker said.

His donation entitles him to take a lucky floating candle in the shape of a flower.

Nearby, coin-operated machines similar to jukeboxes, but with a Buddha statue on top churn out lucky numbers for the faithful as kneeling devotees hand over envelopes stuffed with cash. Many pick up a tax-reduction certificate on their way out.

In one corner of the temple complex sits a monk in an air-conditioned box.

Donation means sacrifice. You sacrifice your things, sacrifice your time, sacrifice your money, sacrifice your heart, explained the monk, Pra Maha Noppadom.

In contrast to the increasingly empty pews and coffers of many European churches, temples remain a boom business in Thailand.

The overwhelmingly Buddhist nation is one of the most generous countries in the world, according to the 2014 World Giving Index.

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Checkbook Buddhism offers Thais a stairway to heaven but brings corruption to temples

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Written by simmons |

April 6th, 2015 at 12:51 am

Posted in Buddhism