Statement of Dhammakaya Followers to Foreign Correspondents

*Updated June 25th, 2016

This is an unofficial response from the people behind Dhammakaya Uncovered to the recent panel on “Politics in Religion” hosted by the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand on June 22, 2016.

 

Greetings members of the foreign press,

 

Dhammakaya Uncovered would like to start off by making several points about the ongoing case against the Abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Phrathepyanmahamuni.

First off, it should be known that the case involves embezzled money of about 12 billion baht that was given to a variety of organizations, charities, and temples by the former chairman of Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative. Less than 10% of the illicit funds were given to Wat Phra Dhammakaya, in the form of donations. Despite this fact, the media and DSI have only been focusing on prosecuting Dhammakaya. Furthermore, there is no way the abbot could know about the tainted donations, as he received them in the open public in front of a crowd of donors. If DSI can charge the abbot for this, they can charge any non-profit for receiving stolen goods. It should also be known that after it was discovered that the donations made by the chairman were illegal — which didn’t occur until two years after the donation — Dhammakaya followers raised the equivalent of the illicit donations to return to the credit union as an emergency fund to prevent the bankruptcy of the union. Dhammakaya is the only recipient of the illicit cheques to have done so. The credit union then thanked the supporters and dropped the charges.

It should also be known that most of the members of the victim credit union do not support the case against Dhammakaya and most of the chief proponents of the case are not even affiliated with the victim credit union—they are simply opponents of Dhammakaya.

We would also like to clarify that the arrest warrant for Venerable Dhammajayo is grounded on the abbot not appearing for a summons to hear charges, however Dhammakaya sent representatives to request the hearing simply take place at the temple's medical ward due to the abbot’s doctor verified illnesses. The Thai Deputy Prosecutor even agrees there is no reason DSI cannot accommodate this reasonable request. It should also be known that past summonses issued by DSI were legally deferred.

There are those reporting that supporters protected the abbot because he is faking illness to avoid meeting with investigators - he is not. His condition was verified by a panel of doctors and a medical certificate. DSI launched an investigation into the medical certificate but the Medical Council of Thailand affirmed its validity. Again, Dhammakaya invited DSI to simply meet with the abbot at the temple and even to invite a neutral doctor to verify his condition, DSI refused. If our abbot is detained, article 29 of the Monastic Act requires monks be forced to disrobe, considered a death sentence for monks who have taken a vow of lifelong ordination.Our only request was for DSI to give our abbot his charges at the temple, this is not only legal, it is normal procedure for them to do so. But instead they insist on forcing the abbot to appear elsewhere as an excuse to get an arrest warrant. We implore other news outlets to raise these issues also.

As for the statements made about Dhammakaya on the Foreign Correspondents Club Panel, the people behind Dhammakaya Uncovered would like to make the following points, as the panel seems to have been set up largely just to attack Dhammakaya:

First off, it should be made known that two of the speakers, Dr. Mano Laohavanich and Mr. Sulak Sivaraksa, are vocal anti-Dhammakaya critics. Laohavanich has made numerous false and defamatory accusations against the temple without any proof or evidence, not just at the panel, but many times in the past. He has even made ridiculous claims about Dhammakaya that were proven false. We implore the foreign press to not take Dr. Mano’s remarks about Dhammakaya as credible.

 This is an actual slide from Dr. Mano Laohavanich's Anti-Dhammakaya presentation at the Foreign Correspondents Club Thailand Panel. 

This is an actual slide from Dr. Mano Laohavanich's Anti-Dhammakaya presentation at the Foreign Correspondents Club Thailand Panel. 

In the panel, Dr. Mano makes numerous claims against Dhammakaya, many of them outright crazy, and none of them backed by any evidence. He claims our abbot looks young due to cosmetic surgery - this is false. Our abbot does look young for his age but this is a benefit from meditation. It should be known that monks in general look younger than their age and there is scientific support meditation helps slow aging on the body. A good example of another famous monk who looks young is Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. He is almost 90 years old and looks reasonably young for his age. Our temple’s founder, Master Nun Chand Khonnokyoong, who passed away in the year 2000 at the age of 91, also looked quite young for her age. You are free to look into scientific studies of meditation or to meditate extensively yourself to confirm this effect meditation has on the body.

Dr. Mano also claims that the abbot lives a lavish lifestyle - this is a lie. The abbot’s living quarters is 100% in accordance with the Buddha’s guidelines, additional medical facilities he has are for his doctor-verified illnesses. We are willing to send photos if you actually believe Dr. Mano for some reason.

Dr. Mano claims the abbot had invested in arms, is storing weapons and has numerous business enterprises overseas. We assure Dr. Mano made this up and challenge Dr. Mano to indicate which businesses we invested in exactly and implore the press to investigate. We have never invested in arms, businesses or anything. Our expenditures are very transparent, as investigated recently by the Anti-Money Laundering Office, and we invite the press to look for evidence of these absurd claims because we are confident none will be found. We have also already allowed the press to investigate these non-existent weapons stockpiles at the temple.

Dr. Mano makes numerous claims about Dhammakaya having bizarre and unBuddhist teachings. We affirm that while some of our customs are different from other Thai Buddhist temples, there is no difference in the teachings of Dhammakaya and the teachings of Buddhism. The bizarre claims Dr. Mano makes about Dhammakaya are the result of his unstable imagination and his extremely anti-Dhammakaya sentiment.

The followers of Dhammakaya would also like to raise this point about Dr. Mano. He states he is credible because he used to be a member of Dhammakaya. Although that is true, he should not be taken as a credible source. We would like to point out that if you look through various news outlets he has slandered Dhammakaya on, Dr. Mano consistently changes the story as to why he left Dhammakaya. We would also like to point out that we are a large organization and we have had many people come and many people go, but Dr. Mano is the ONLY former member of Dhammakaya making these insane accusations. In real exposés, such as those on the US-based Church of Scientology, there are multiple defectors and whistle blowers that are able to independently verify the same accusations.  If Dhammakaya is truly as crazy as Dr. Mano claims it is, there has to be other people who left and other people who can back his bizarre accusations up. We would like journalists to ask themselves and raise this point, “Why is it that Dr. Mano is the only person making these claims?”

To clarify, we are confident the majority of correspondents were sensible enough not to listen to Dr. Mano’s absurd accusations anyways. The claims are untrue and have no evidence and we would prefer not to have to respond to every baseless accusation Dr. Mano Laohavanich makes against us, but we responded to several anyways.

The other anti-Dhammakaya speaker at the one sided panel, Mr. Sulak Sivaraksa, claims that Dhammakaya promotes greed. We would like to say that Dhammakaya does not promote or advocate greed. We believe in eliminating greed from our minds through generosity. Our events frequently state, “May the merit that we collect, help us eliminate, the defilements (including greed), from our minds”.

Mr. Sulak Sivaraksa even goes as far as calling our abbot “evil”. We assure you, the abbot is not evil, and this claim shows much insight into Sulak’s character. Our abbot is an upstanding Buddhist monk who has earned numerous awards from several different organizations across many countries for his work in Buddhism, charity, and natural disaster relief. Sulak is a highly cynical social critic who has negative views of many institutions including Dhammakaya. Sulak was invited along with Dr. Mano to the one sided and mostly slanderous panel because these two are widely known for their extreme anti-Dhammakaya prejudices and should not be seen as reliable or objective when discussing Dhammakaya.

Dr. Mano again, as well as Mr. Sulak, claim that Dhammakaya is tied to former PM Thaksin and the Red Shirts. To be clear, we do not care about politics. It should also be known that Dhammakaya supporter Mr. Boonchai of DTAC was an opponent of Thaksin and an open Yellow Shirt. All are welcome at Dhammakaya regardless of political views.

We implore the members of the press to adhere to principles of ethical journalism in their reporting of this case. The key to reporting the most accurate story is getting both sides of the case in order to create a more comprehensive report. As devotees of Dhammakaya, we are outraged to have seen one sided opinion pieces against our temple come out after the panel. Some journalists have reported on both sides of the story however. Mr. Pravit Rojanaphruk’s article that came out after the conference includes information from the anti-Dhammakaya panel as well as information from a rebuttal the temple gave. The followers of Dhammakaya applaud Pravit for his journalistic integrity in reporting both sides of the story.

We make an appeal to journalists to bring up these points mentioned about the case and our responses to the statements made in the Foreign Correspondents Club Thailand panel in their reporting of Dhammakaya. We also invite all foreign correspondents to come to Dhammakaya to ask any questions they may have about the ongoing case or Dhammakaya in general. We have plenty of English speakers who are more than willing to answer any inquiries. If you are too busy to meet at Wat Phra Dhammakaya, we invite you to send an email to media@dhammakaya.net for an official temple response to any questions you may have or to info@dhammakayauncovered.com for any questions you may have for the followers of Dhammakaya behind Dhammakaya Uncovered. A quick 5 minute email may make a huge difference in the comprehension in your reporting.