You have to hand it to these so called holy men don’t you. I have always had a problem with men of the cloth, when it comes to practising what they preach. It is after all, difficult to identify with churches, full of valuable iconography, who preach charity, but never when it starts at home. I used to look at the Buddhist monks in and around Bangkok and think, well at least they appear, on the face of it, to be living a simple life. They seemingly, didn’t own material things and generally looking after poor folk. This image has taken a bit of a knock in recent weeks.
Luang Pu Nenkham Chattigo is the head of Wat Pa Khanti Dhamma, in the Northeastern Sisaket Province. He recently attracted criticism for taking a trip to France, on a teaching mission. Well that’s what monks do isn’t? Nothing wrong with that. The private jet that he hired to take him there, was what really got people’s robes in a twist in Thailand. The 34 year old monk, did little to quash the cries of capitalism, when he was then photographed texting on his brand new iPhone and checking out his iPad, whilst sipping coffee in Starbucks, before finally placing it back in his Louis Vuitton bag.
You couldn’t make this stuff up. The National Office of Buddhism in Thailand, which is mandated with maintaining and promoting Buddhist affairs, has been inundated with complaints. In response to this they have criticised the worldly indulgences of the monks, there were three of them, but have not gone as far as following it up with action. Their behaviour, the office said, did not constitute serious offences.
Thailand has a population of 66 million and 95% are Buddhists. Now Luang Pu Nenkham Chattigo may think he has a captive audience but it’s worth pointing out that half of the people questioned in a survey by the National Institute of Development Administration, believe that less people are going to temples, because of the perceived lavish indulgences.
It is incongruous to say the last when you look at the monks facebook page, (he just had to didn’t he). You will see him seated at a table, looking cool in his Raybans, hand clamped on his iPhone. There is a touch of Gucci about his robes as well. These are not the cheap orange cloth variety worn by lesser monks in Bangkok.
If criticism gets too much for the monk, he appears to have a side line, lined up. He has appeared in a promotional video for an air purifier. “This is the brand I use in my dwelling and I wake up every morning fresh and cheerful”, he claims in the ad. No doubt his ex wife does as well in the THB 2 million house, it is claimed that he built for her.
Now I wonder what, if anything, Buddha had to say about camels and the eye of a needle.