The Washington Post reports: Think Buddhist monk, and bodyguards and bomb threats probably don’t spring to mind. But that’s exactly what Phra Buddha Issara is dealing with as he mounts a campaign to overhaul Thailand’s religious institutions.
The activist monk has earned plenty of enemies since he launched a campaign to clean up Buddhism in Thailand, urging the country’s 300,000 monks to be more transparent in their financial dealings and the religion’s governing body, the Supreme Sangha Council, to crack down on wrongdoing.
Thai Buddhism, much like Thai democracy, is in a state of upheaval.
“There is more open crisis in the Sangha than has been seen in living memory,” said Michael Montesano, a Thailand expert at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. “This is a crisis in yet another Thai institution.”
Monks have long been revered here, in a country where 95 percent of the population is Buddhist. They have their own fast-track lane at the airport and designated priority seats on the metro.
But in recent months, there have been tales of monastic misbehavior that would seem to belong in the most gossipy tabloids.
There have been monks with girlfriends (and boyfriends), drunk monks crashing cars, monks pocketing wads of cash meant for funerals or playing the stock market. And that’s not even mentioning the monks-on-meth or the selfie-snapping, Louis Vuitton bag-wielding, private jet-taking monk scandals of 2013. [Continue reading…]