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Polemic monk claims he’s being forced out

The Bangkok Post, Thailand
Aug. 20, 2003
Ploenpote Atthakor • Wednesday August 20, 2003

Electricity, water cut off for weeks

An outspoken monk who depicted the Lord Buddha as a human being in his controversial research papers says he is under mounting pressure from the Sangha Council to leave the monkhood.

Phra Mano Metta Nandho said water and electricity had been cut off from his residence at Wat Nak Prok for weeks. He believed it was part of an attempt to force him out. Earlier he was kicked out of Wat Raja Oros.

“The Sangha Council has ordered all abbots not to accept me,” he said.

The Administrative Court has refused to be drawn into the dispute, saying it was an internal affair for the monkhood to settle. “There is no tranparency. The Sangha elders never ask, nor allow me to defend myself,” the monk said.

His works discussed the possible cause of death of the Lord Buddha and questioned Phra Maha Kasapa, the founder of orthodox Theravada Buddhism, on the issue of gender discrimination.

His commentaries have triggered anger among many monks and lay Buddhists.

The monk said he was driven by his belief in freedom of expression when researching and writing his papers, which had won critical acclaim from liberal scholars.

Some had said, however, that his language was too aggressive, leading to misunderstanding among followers of Buddhism.

“But society can’t make progress without freedom of expression, especially when studying,” the monk said.

Prominent Buddhist scholars, meanwhile, urged the Sangha Council to set up a working group to study Phra Mano Metta Nandho’s work more carefully, point out mistakes if there were any and clarify the issue in public.

Tavivat Puntarigvivat, of Mahidol University’s humanities department, praised the monk for his critical approach, which he said was a fundamental requirement for researchers.

“This is a clash between conservative and liberal ideas,” said Mr Tavivat. The monk has challenged the old power structure, which was now fighting back.

Somrudee Witawate, of Chulalongkorn University’s philosophy department, called for fellow academics to speak out on the issues raised by the monk. “Academics should read the works in question more widely, and see if the monk’s hypotheses are plausible,” he said. “They should voice their opinions out loud.”

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