Updated: September 10, 2021 05:48 AM GMT
Buddhist monks queue to receive a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Wat Si Sudaram Worawihan in Thai capital Bangkok on July 30. (Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP)
Two popular Buddhist monks in Thailand who have been criticized over their lighthearted podcasts to young Thais have agreed to tone down their behavior in accordance with monastic principles.
Phra Maha Sompong Talaputto and Phra Maha Praiwan Worawano, two young monks based in Bangkok, delivered a discussion livestreamed on Facebook last weekend during which they engaged in comical exchanges and joked about politics, among other subjects.
The monks occasionally chuckled and used slang expressions popular with teenagers during the podcast viewed by 200,000 mostly young Thais.
Their behavior has raised the ire of conservative Buddhist authorities and the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) has launched an investigation to see whether their conduct was unbecoming of Buddhist monks and might have violated rules of the Sangha, the community of Buddhist monks.
On Aug. 9, Phra Maha Sompong and Phra Maha Praiwan were called to testify before a committee on religion and culture in the House of Representatives to account for their behavior.
In their defense, the monks explained that their aim was to reach a young audience, which is why they raised issues that interest young people and spoke in a way their audience would find agreeable.
If you want to spread the words of Buddha to the younger generation, you need to speak their language and use their communication systems
According to the panel’s chairman, the monks answered the nature of all complains “in an amicable manner” and agreed to modulate the tone of their delivery.
“During the meeting, it was agreed that dhamma talk [involving religious issues] should make up 70 percent of the content and giggling only 30 percent,” the Bangkok Post reported.
“Phra Maha Sompong said he had negotiated with the panel so that the content and comical exchanges could remain at the same 50 percent at the beginning of the show, to draw an audience.”
Numerous young Thais, who find traditional Buddhist rotes uninteresting, have spoken out in defense of the monks in comments posted online.
“If you want to spread the words of Buddha to the younger generation, you need to speak their language and use their communication systems. These two monks have got it right and the NOB as usual is stuck in the 19th century where they are happiest,” one commenter noted.
Even some senior monks have said they have found nothing wrong with the way the young monks conducted themselves online, arguing that young Thai Buddhists respond much better to teaching that they find interesting and is delivered in a colloquial manner.
“They [young people] sometimes even ask the monks outright to keep it [preaching] concise,” said Phra Khru Samu Watchara, assistant abbot of Wat Rakhang Khositaram, a well-known monastery in Bangkok.