Wat Phra Dhammakaya
Wat Phra Dhammakaya (Thai: วัดพระธรรมกาย) is a Buddhist temple (wat) in Khlong Luang District, Pathum Thani Province north of Bangkok, Thailand. It is the centre of the Dhammakaya Movement, a Buddhist sect founded in the 1970s and led by Phra Dhammachayo (Phrathepyanmahamuni). The design has been likened to a sports stadium or even a UFO, rather than resembling a traditional Thai temple (wat).
It was established on Magha Puja Day, 20 February 1970, on an eighty-acre (320,000 m²) plot of land donated by Lady Prayat Phaetayapongsa-visudhathibodi by a group led by the monk Phrathepyanmahamuni and his teacher Chandra Khonnokyoong. The site, sixteen kilometres north of Don Mueang International Airport, was originally called 'Soon Buddacakk-patipatthamm' (Thai: ศูนย์พุทธจักรปฏิบัติธรรม). From acidic paddy fields, a woodland was created: a parkland for meditators. The foundation stone for the main chapel laid by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on behalf of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in December 1977 becoming officially recognized as a temple by the Thai government in 1978 originally under the name 'Wat Voranee Dhammakayaram'. The Main Chapel was completed in 1982 and the ceremony for the allocation of the chapel boundary (sima) was held three years later. While the temple was under construction, the Dhammadayada ordination scheme gave training to hundreds of university students, a steadily increasing number of whom swelled the number of residents in the temple community.
Public accusations of 1999–2002
In 1999 and again in 2002 the temple's abbot, was accused of charges ranging from fraud and embezzlement to corruption. Social critic Sulak Sivaraksa criticized the temple's abbot for promoting greed by emphasizing donations to the temple as a way to make merit. Julian Gearing of Asiaweek commented that widespread negative media coverage at this time was symptomatic of Wat Phra Dhammakaya being made a scapegoat for commercial malpractice in the Thai Buddhist temple community in the wake of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. Apologies to Wat Phra Dhammakaya were published in full after the Thai newspapers and TV channels concerned were successfully sued for slander in the period 2001-3. In 2006 The Thai National Office for Buddhism cleared Wat Phra Dhammakaya's abbot of all accusations when he agreed to donated all funds to the name of the temple. He was subsequently restored to the position of abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya.
Still in the 2010s the temple is seen as "supported by powerful politicians and billionaires. Yet the money mainly goes to feed the temple's grandeur and influence over the clergy, not to social services to help humanity."
Activities to present
The community living at Wat Phra Dhammakaya now numbers 3,000 monks, novices, laymen and laywomen - making it the largest temple in Thailand in terms of inhabitants. Congregations on Sundays and major religious festivals reach 100,000, which since 1985 exceeded temple capacity and influenced the temple's decision to expand the site to one thousand acres (4 km²) with the building of the World Dhammakaya Centre project. The temple has also organized a World Peace Ethics Contest in which people from all over the world compete in their knowledge of Buddhist ethics. Part of the World Dhammakaya Centre project is to construct a cloister intended to accommodate Buddhist monks from all over the world. Aside from religious activity, the temple has granted financial aid and supply to the numerous schools and temples in Southern Thailand, which presently is in the midst of violent conflict.
- Tiwary, Shiv Shanker (2009), Encyclopaedia Of Southeast Asia And Its Tribes 1, Anmol Publications, p. 66
- Swearer, D. K. (1991) Fundamentalistic Movements in Theravada Buddhism, in: M. E. Marty & R. S. Appleby (Eds) Fundamentalisms Observed (Chicago & London, University of Chicago Press), p.656.
- Asiaweek 17 September 1999
- David Liebhold (1999) Trouble in Nirvana: Facing charges over his controversial methods, a Thai abbot sparks debate over Buddhism's future Time Asia 28 July 1999 
- Yasmin Lee Arpon (2002) Scandals Threaten Thai Monks' Future SEAPA 11 July 2002 
- Controversial monk faces fresh charges The Nation 26 April 2002
- Julian Gearing (1999) Buddhist Scapegoat?: One Thai abbot is taken to task, but the whole system is to blame Asiaweek 30 December 1999 
- Siamrat 3 October 2001
- Siamrat 22 October 2001 p.13
- Bangkokbiznews 24 June 2001 p.11
- Matichon 19 July 2003
- Bangkok Post 23 August 2006
- Yuwa Song News Today 23 August 2006
- Ekachai, Sanitsuda (21 June 2012). "Islamic scholar gave Buddhist point to ponder". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
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