It's good to see that Buddhist monks are getting into the scandal business. For too long they've pretty much gotten a pass on the can you believe they did this?! front. Way behind Catholic priests, for sure.
But thanks to someone who emailed me a link to this story, I'm now aware of a Thailand monk who breaks the traditional Buddhist mold.
He's known as Thailand's jet-setting fugitive monk, and his story has riveted the country with daily headlines of lavish excess, promiscuity and alleged crimes ranging from statutory rape to manslaughter.
Until a month ago, 33-year old Wirapol Sukphol was relatively unknown in Thailand. Now he is at the center of the biggest religious scandal the predominantly Buddhist country has seen in years.
Despite the vows he took to lead a life of celibacy and simplicity, Wirapol had a taste for luxury, police say. His excesses first came to light in June with a YouTube video that went viral. It showed the orange-robed monk in aviator sunglasses taking a private jet ride with a Louis Vuitton carry-on.
...Police have yet to determine how many people he swindled, but the trail of disappointed followers is long.
One of them is a Bangkok housecleaner originally from Ubon Ratchathani who remembers first hearing him preach a year ago.
"His voice was beautiful, it was mesmerizing. He captivated all of us with his words," recalled Onsa Yubram, 42. When he ended his sermon and held out his saffron bag, hundreds of people rushed forward with donations. "His bag was so full of cash, they had to transfer the money into a big fertilizer sack. He told us, 'Don't worry, no need to rush. I'll stay here until the last of you gets to donate.'"
Onsa now feels betrayed but says her belief in Buddhism is too strong to let this scandal shatter her faith.
"As a Buddhist I can understand why this happened. Monks, in a way, are ordinary men who have greed and desire," she said. "Some are bad apples, but that doesn't mean every monk is bad."