Thailand looks to arrest Buddhist monk for insurrection

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Following on from the story about Monks and Protest in Thailand, Luang Pu Buddha Issara is again in the news this time with authorities seeking to arrest him. Police have asked a criminal court to authorize the arrest of Luang Pu Buddha Issara. The story is reported by the Religion News Service and also states that The National Office of Buddhism maintains that by leading protests he has violated the Buddhist Monk Act.

Nopparat Benjawatananun, director general of the National Office of Buddhism stated that

‘It is clearly stated by law, that if any monk is charged for criminal offense, and if the court denies his bail, he must be defrocked at any time.’  .

It is argued that his actions, particularly in protesting to stop people from voting in the recent elections violates monastic discipline. Clearly the argument is that in leading a  violent uprising against the government goes against the Buddhist monastic code. In Buddhist terms he would be breaking the third pārājika offence of the pāṭimokkha. There are four offences for which a monk can be expelled from the monastic community and one assumes that is felt that Luang Pu Buddha Issara is breaking the third which states that a monk should not ‘intentionally killing a human being’;

3. ‘Should any bhikkhu (Buddhist monk) intentionally deprive a human being of life, or search for an assassin for him, or praise the advantages of death, or incite him to die (thus): “My good man, what use is this wretched, miserable life to you? Death would be better for you than life,” or with such an idea in mind, such a purpose in mind, should in various ways praise the advantages of death or incite him to die, he also is defeated and no longer in communion.’ 

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2 thoughts on “Thailand looks to arrest Buddhist monk for insurrection

  1. Hi Dr. Paul,

    In Samyutta Nikaya, I find an excellent story reference in regard to this controversial issue of whether Buddhist monks should take political action or side with any political group. The story is as follows:

    In Rajagaha, Ven. Ananda was wandering with a large group of Bikkhus and he came to meet with Ven. Kassapa who was dwelling there. By that time, thirty pupils of Ven. Ananda had returned to the lower life (To my understanding, they offended the Parajika Monastic Code and were no longer monks).

    The senior one, Ven. Kassapa, inspiring to shame upon the junior one, Ven. Ananda, asked his junior: “Ananda, why Buddha laid down the rule that Bikkhus should not take meals among families in groups of more than three” .

    Ven. Ananda, who seemed to be rather old at that time (meaning he had mastered most of Buddha’s direct teachings) replied : ” They are three reasons:(1) not to form evil wishes, (2) (sequentially) form a faction and create a schism in the Sangha, and (3) not to menace families”.

    Ven Kassapa said “you youngster, didn’t know your measure yet (though you learned from Buddha, you don’t know what to observe) “.

    Ven Anada was disappointed and snapped to his senior: “I have grey hair on my head, Sir. Why you called me (this hoary guy) ‘this youngster’ ? “.

    Ven Kassapa asserted: ” this youngster – wandered with such a large faction of Bikkhus”.

    We can put No.1 in this way. Almost all results of collective (totalitarian) political actions result in utter moral depravity as they define morality in terms of the collective (totalitarian) entity resulting in sheer undermining of the very basis of morality: “individual conscience”. We can’t accept “State morality”, “Military morality”, or “Special Interest Group morality” as The Sangha’s morality. Nor we can accept “Burmese morality” “Buddhism morality” or “Sarsana morality” (အမ်ိဳး ဘာသာ သာသနာ) as individual conscience (Loka Pala – not to inflict injustice upon others).

    Indeed, all collective actions are liable to the mentioned evil wishes: we can practically observe in these three Theravada countries (Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand) and in the past, Zen-corrupted Japan. “Institutionalized greed”, “institutionalized ill-will”, and “collective delusion” as Dr David Loy smartly innovated new terms in his brilliant Buddhist Social Theory. Actually, the root of all these bad mechanisms can be summed up in one single Buddha’s direct term “evil wishes”.

    No.2: from these evil wishes that are based on group morality, the group of corrupted monks form a special interest faction (But their claim is always totalitarian we should note) : like 969 and 969-transformed Sasana Pala in Burma or other political groups in Thailand, Sri Lanka or elsewhere. That is obviously schism because the group “marks” the Sangha’s responsibility (character) as being “centered” on gaining the authority in their particularly chosen and privileged group. Sarsana has only One Way that means individual conscience – the conscience to choose the right things (NOT group conscience, NOT “chosen” conscience, NOT “privileged” conscience) , Buddha is clear to us.

    No.3: of course, such political actions always menace the families. Doing political actions mean monks side with at least one particular political group. Most political institutions in those countries are formed by particular factions which use their incumbent political power to plunder the property of others. Benefiting the incumbent political group in power always means the plundered group (victim group) is menaced. Benefiting a non-incumbent political group also means the incumbent group in power is menaced. As a sincere Sangha, no monk shall side with any incumbent politician, opposition parties or even civilians. Any kind of collusion leads to meancing the potential victims or already suffering victims who are afraid of being robbed or even taking their lives (The 2nd and 3rd parajika offense).

  2. Thank you Nyo Tun. That was a very fascinating read. I totally agree that there are very real dilemmas for monastics holding political opinions. I do think that there are also arguments that can be made in favour of political action being taken by monastics but these are much more complicated that monastics not taking political action.

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