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Confucius say, “Man who go through airport turnstile sideways going to Bangkok.”

APPROXIMATELY 95% OF THE SIXTY-FIVE MILLION CITIZENS of Thailand (capital, Bangkok) are Buddhists.

More than 350,000 monks and novices live in Thailand’s 35,000 temples—ten monks for every temple, on average. Tenets enjoindered on those devout monks include strict injunctions never to touch intoxicants or women.

Clearly, such restrictions would not constitute an easy or exciting life.

As if to break such monotony, then, we have the renunciant monk who proudly exhibited over sixty vintage cars—many of them Mercedes-Benzes. Some of those were donated, others were purchased with money from his temple treasury, with the claimed investment intention (though questionable business acumen) of opening a museum to benefit that church.

There was also the monk “caught on camera wearing a wig and enjoying a nightlife of loud karaoke singing, boozing and other taboo acts” (Ehrlich, 2000).

There was, further, the highly respected former Buddhist monk, accused of possible embezzlement of funds, who stepped down as spiritual adviser to the prime minister. That, after having also been accused of having sex with some of his female followers and living a lavish lifestyle. “His monastery came complete with the latest sound equipment, elaborate furnishings and luxury cars” (PlanetSave, 2001).

There was the deputy abbot who was recorded, in fine voice, engaging in phone sex with women (Thompson, 2000).

There were the monks accused of selling amphetamines and of hiring some of the country’s 700,000 prostitutes (Economist, 2000). “Two girls for every monk.”

There was the Chivas Regal-drinking, Mercedes-driving abbot who was disrobed for allegedly ... er, disrobing. With two women at the same time. Two nights in a row. While impersonating an army special forces colonel—a serious crime.

A subsequent search of the holy man’s private residence turned up pornographic materials, lingerie and condoms. As well it should, for a monk who was renowned among local law-enforcement officials for going out on the town nearly every night.

There was also, by abstinent contrast, the forty-year-old Buddhist monk who, as a protest against the sufferings of those in his country, planned to immolate himself on the steps of the Burmese embassy in Bangkok.

As he spoke, I discovered an astonishing thing: although he planned to take his life to protest the great injustices he had fought against for many years, this was not the real reason for his decision. The true reason was that he had fallen in love with this young girl. He had been in monk’s robes since age fourteen and for twenty-nine years he had given his life to the order. He had no other skills and couldn’t imagine himself married, with a family, yet he loved her. He did not know what to do, so burning himself for political reasons seemed the best way out (Kornfield, 1993).

There was—speaking of burning—the Thai monk who gruesomely roasted babies—already dead babies, thankfully—hoping to utilize the oil collected from them in magical ceremonies. That was done with the intention of creating a “babyish ghost,” to be employed in the black magic manipulation of others (Ehrlich, 2000).

There was, even more horribly, the monk accused of raping an eleven-year-old girl.

There was the Buddhist abbot arrested for the alleged murder of a woman whose remains were discovered floating in the septic tank at the house of a neighbor (Ehrlich, 2000).

There was, finally, the monk caught committing necrophilia in a coffin beneath his temple’s crematorium.

Thai surprise.

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