Monks and Monkhood|What’s To Blame?

” If Buddhism becomes tainted, so too will the nation’s faith in itself. ”

Watching a gripping documentary on #AlJazeera about Buddhism in Thailand and how monks are losing credence due to a rise in criminal activities (and other “forbidden acts”) amongst them. By virtue of our innate need to draw comparisons and relate situations, this rings quite a bell with what Babas, Mullahs and Priests have been upto in our part of the world; acts of money laundering, sexual crimes, human trafficking and exploitation, to name a few. A marked difference, however, has been the unflinching support “monkhood” has received in Thailand even in the wake of these crimes, both from the Government as well in the public domain.

But, why ?

Violating any of the two hundred something rules in monk-hood is taken as a grievous offence and many are “de-monked” publicly for having dishonoured this ancient institution. But, this has not changed how people view monkhood. They unaffectedly respect it for what it stands for, maintaing that their faith is not sustained or diminished by what monks do, or any of the other followers of Buddhism.

This is what we need to learn from them. A lot of people, the young and the old, end up blaming religion for all the bad that’s happening in today’s world. I think we all do at some point. However, this isn’t how the Buddhists in Thailand see it. For them, it’s the monk who is at fault and what he did can never disgrace or tarnish monkhood in its entirety.

“No”, says an old monk about another who was found guilty of possessing illegal weaponry and ammunition, “He is not a real monk. For if he truly was one, he wouldn’t have committed the crime”. The circumstances in his life may have forced him to choose an ascetic path in life, but he may have never truly committed to it. He may have never known what it means. I think that is the correct way to look at these issues ; to not necessarily put the blame on faith, religion or the institution of something if an adherent commits a crime. We need to understand that it is the person who is to blame and just like the Buddhists in Thailand, we need to accept the sanctity of all faiths and the fallibility of their followers. “After all”, the old monk asserts with a sparkle in his eyes, “Monks are humans too”.

Aamir Ahmad Amin

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