Buddhist monks behaving badly

Buddhist monks, especially those belonging to the Theravada/Hinayana branch, are supposed to live austere lives, detaching themselves from all worldly things, living celibate lives in monasteries and subsisting entirely on the charity of others. And the charitable donations they receive are not taxed.

Hence there was a scandal recently in South Korea when a secret camera recording emerged showing six leaders of the country’s largest Buddhist order playing high-stakes poker, smoking, and drinking in a luxury hotel.

This did not surprise me in the least, since I have written before that growing up in Sri Lanka that has a majority Buddhist population, I am well aware that the monks are as susceptible to the pleasures of life as anyone else. But in the west, Buddhism still carries with it a certain cachet in intellectual circles, that it is somehow a cut above other religions, so this may come as a surprise.

What did surprise me was that these monks were not caught cavorting sexually with women or other men. Perhaps this was because the camera was only recording for a limited time and poker and sex don’t mix.

In Sri Lanka, my school was located near two major Buddhist monasteries and there used to be whispered rumors of monks engaging in all kinds of activities, including pedophilia, though nothing was ever said publicly. I wonder if it is only a matter of time before the same kinds of scandals that have engulfed the Catholic church also explode on the Buddhist scene.