Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why become a Monk?

Prince Siddhattha said:

"Why do I, being subject to birth, decay, disease, death, sorrow and impurities, thus search after things of like nature. How, if I, who am subject to things of such nature, realize their disadvantages and seek after the unattained unsurpassed, perfect security which is Nibbana!"

"Cramped and confined is household life, a den of dust, but the life of the homeless one is as the open air of heaven! Hard is it for him who bides at home to live out as it should be lived the Holy Life in all its perfection, in all its purity."

Prince Siddhattha was a person with everything; wealth, power, women, palaces, chariots, armies, servants etc - the whole kingdom of Kapilavatthu belonged to him. Yet he saw the uncertainty of all material possessions and chose to gave up everything to pursue a holy life instead. What good does all those possessions do, since you cannot take any of it with you when you die? The Buddha had set the best example for his followers and future generations. By renouncing all that is dear to the world, he showed us that true happiness cannot be attained by gathering more and more; it can only be attained by giving up. The path of a Samana or Bhikkhu is one of simplicity, contemplation and contentment with the bare necessities in life. Even after his enlightenment, the Buddha still refused to "own" anything. Scores of wealthy and powerful donors presented large pieces of land for he and his disciples to reside in, but did the Buddha ever taken those properties to be his? Never, he merely used them as a tenant for as long as he saw fit, giving any form of ownership back to the donors themselves. When it was time to leave, the Buddha could leave without any trouble or attachment. In this we can see the Buddha's profound wisdom when conducting himself in the ways of the world. However, things appeared to have changed a lot today for some of his "followers".
Which bring us to a monk in the news recently - Ven Shi Miaoyi, abbot of Long Hua Chan Si temple. Ven Miaoyi is a "millionaire monk". The papers report that his assets include 35% shares in a coffee shop in Yangon Road worth 3.5 million, a condo and flat worth a million, a Mercedes Benz, past dealings with up to 10 businesses and shares in 4 companies under his secular name Chia Eng Soon. He also had annual income of up to $600,000 in 1999 and $660,000 in 2001. All these were revealed in court as he is one of the parties sued by Poh Lian Development for a failed venture. In his own words to the Judge's query, he said he was a "hardworking man". A hardworking businessman - excellent trait for a householder, but worthless for a monk. Besides shaving his head, sporting a fancy Buddhist name and working in a temple, there is nothing else to differentiate him from any other layman. He lives in a big house, drives a big car and makes loads of money from religious and secular businesses alike; does he even understand the meaning of "renunciation"? Does he still consider himself a disciple of the Buddha?
Another famous monk in the news last year was Ven Shi Mingyi, abbot of Fu Hai Chan Si monastery and CEO of Renci Hospital. Renci was probed by the authorities for financial irregularities, arising from the Ven Mingyi's misappropriating of hospital funds for his private business interests. Although he had not been charged yet, this case had inevitably weakened people's faith in charities even further after the NKF-Durai debacle. Why do people like Ven Miaoyi and Ven Mingyi bother becoming monks, but end up not doing things that monks are supposed to do? Why do they keep the false appearance of a Samana, when they are still householders at heart? Temples, properties, businesses, hospitals.. what are these things worth compared to the Dhamma? If they enjoy heaping dust upon themselves, wouldn't it be wiser for them to disrobe and return to the lay life? They obviously make much better laymen than monks. Indeed, they would be doing the Sangha a favour if they disrobed. Such irony..


hongkie123 said...

These monks has no understanding of what a monk needs. I am no monk but believe a monk needs shelter, food/sustenance, clothes and medicine. Also, monk who brings disrepute to the shanga should be told to repent or disrobe. It is very bad karma to bring disrepute to the sangha.

Wayne said...

I believe they do understand what a monk needs. It's just that they believe that a monk needs much much more than those 4 requisites. Perhaps for them it's 4 million?

Jia Hao said...

I personally do not believe that Venerable Mingyi will do such things. His actions already proven to us that every year when he does charity work he would do dangerous task, just to benefit the patients in the hospital he set up. I am certain the newspaper do not give true information all the time, and they might not have written some other informations.

Monks do not only need shelther, food, sustenance, clothes and medicine. As follower of buddhism, helping the society is one thing they can contribute and Venerable Mingyi is not putting money in his own pocket for all i know.