Some articles belong in the opinion section for a good reason, and the article by Tulsathit Taptim titled “Any Dhammajayo defense must be religious, not political” certainly fits the category.
The author, Mr Taptim, has written many articles on different topics from politics to religion, and many contain useful information. However, this article is not one of them.
It is the duty of media outlets to maintain its integrity by selecting only good articles to make it to publication - this is referred to as responsible journalism. Some recommended criteria should be checked facts, credible sources, and good writing.
The purpose of this article is to point out the mistakes made in this opinion “news” article, so that Tulsathit Taptim may provide corrections to his article, or The Nation can elevate their standards for publishing.
Phra Dhammajayo’s current case is not just a religious one
The first and most obvious mistake is right in the headline. Phra Dhammajayo’s current case is not just a religious one. The Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative allegations against the abbot violates even simple common sense.
With over 12 billion baht involved in the case, DSI deliberately chose Phra Dhammajayo, who accepted merely 5% of the said amount, as the first, and only target to launch the criminal lawsuit at. However, that is not the biggest hole in this issue.
There is already an open case under investigation for the 12 billion baht that has been suspected as embezzled by Mr Supachai. The case is still with the prosecutor and Mr Supachai has not yet been deemed guilty for embezzlement of the full amount.
In simple terms, DSI filed a criminal lawsuit against Phra Dhammajayo, accusing him of laundering money that has not yet been decided if it is illegal or not. The case has been built on minimal evidence and minimal agreement from the prosecutor’s sector.
What DSI is doing to inflate the case is just like making a jenga tower tall; more wobbly as it grows.
More details on the case have been explained in Patrick Chan’s article “A Perspective on the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative Case”. At the very least, Mr Tulsathit Taptim and The Nation should hear facts from all sides, not just what the mainstream media publishes.
The Buddha instructed his disciples to teach and share their knowledge of his Dharma
The second mistake is the journalist’s failure to offer any support or references to his assumptions on Buddhism. Remember, assuming makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’ Let’s correct these false assumptions.
The statements, “[The Buddha was] concern[ed] monks' teaching could unintentionally harm laymen's livelihoods,” and “ His disciples were told to refrain from teaching if it might cause problems,” are quite inaccurate.
The journalist’s attempt to try and make connections between the Buddha’s establishment of the Lent season to a monk’s teaching as harming the livelihoods of laymen is quite illogical. The statements about harming crops may be true, but the assumption that the Lent season was meant to tell monks to refrain from teachings is not.
No known Buddhist scripture offers any support for that assumption. A journalist should check his perceived knowledge with the scriptures first.
The Buddha actually suggested that it is his disciples’ duty to teach as much as possible. His directions for the first 60 enlightened monks included:
“You will travel for the benefit of the people…
...You will offer teachings that begin beautifully, continue beautifully, and end beautifully…
...There are beings with little dust in their eyes.
Their lives will be wasted if they do not listen to the teachings.
There are ones who are capable of understanding Dharma.”
Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya 4.39.32
The Buddha taught his disciples to practice generosity to eliminate greed
In the Buddha’s era, a number of individuals took this teaching of practicing generosity to heart.
For instance, as described in the Jataka, in his final life before becoming the Buddha he was born as Vessantara, the one who practiced supreme generosity. He gave away so many things that he was banished from his kingdom, but the one thing that he never gave up on was generosity-- an important trait of a Bodhisattva.
The story of Anathapindika, one of the Buddha’s biggest supporters is another example. At one point in his life, he almost became broke, so an angel that was living in his house advised him to stop donating any more of his fortunes. Naturally, his reply to the angel was something along the lines of, “No. It’s none of your business what I do with my own money. Leave my house.” In the end he never became broke because of his merit earned through generosity, and he continued to give his fortunes to support Buddhism and the less fortunate.
The Dhammakaya temple never taught anyone to donate everything they’ve got
The journalist claims, “The Lord Buddha himself would have asked the Dhammakaya monks, "Are you sure you didn't damage their crops?"” He tries to accuse the temple of milking people to bankruptcy.
However, the article provided no evidence of the Dhammakaya temple ever teaching this. On the contrary, Phra Dhammajayo has said the following:
“Don’t take out loans to make donations because it will put you into a troubled financial situation. Donate your own money, only what you are capable of, and if you want to contribute more than that, just invite others to donate with you instead,” 4th January, 1998.
The Dhammakaya temple has 96 centers in Thailand, and 93 internationally, spread across 35 different countries. On 22nd of April, Phra. Dhammajayo was recognized with 97 awards from 40 countries for his tireless efforts in teaching and spreading the Dharma of the Buddha.
If the Lord Buddha was living today, he would have approved of how far the teachings of the temple have travelled “for the benefit of the people” and for Buddhism. It is understandable that the temple receives large amounts of donations, since the expense of running the temple and a vast number of its programs have been free of charge to the public.
No known organization audits every single donor
Laws do not require non-profit organizations to audit its donors. There is no known organization that audits every single one if its donors, because no organization would want to violate a person's privacy and look into their personal finances. If this statement is false, feel free to provide proof of an organization who audits every one of its donors.
For these reasons, the temple does not and will not audit or question any of its donors. Therefore, there was no way they could have known the source of the donation.
The defence against injustice for Phra Dhammajayo is not only a religious one, but also a political one.
There is no need to try and brand the case as a “conspiracy” case, because opinions do not matter, only FACTS do.
The case is being carried out in an unprofessional and propagandic manner. DSI has shown several signs of bigotry and discrimination against Phra Dhammajayo throughout this case. In once instance, DSI used a video from an event on 22nd of April to mislead the public into thinking that the abbot was healthy on the 25th of April.
This video was used as “legal” evidence of Phra Dhammajayo’s health status instead of assigning a licensed physician to properly diagnose him. DSI tried to use the video to override the medical certificate submitted to DSI on the 25th of April. With this “evidence,” DSI sought to override the medical certificate’s validity and filed a request for an arrest warrant, which was rejected by the court.
Press releases and media coverage with defamatory statements have been published since DSI’s stunt. Regardless of the truth, the media and the public opinion have already been swayed. It is so political it belongs in Netflix’s “House of Cards” drama series.
However, it definitely is not a conspiracy because if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it must certainly be a swan.