“It’s Better to Care for People on the Street,” Says Thailand’s Buddha Issara

Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly Online reports on a short Wall Street Journal interview with Buddha Issara, “the monk who has taken a leadership role in anti-government protests in Thailand.” (For more on the demonstrations in the Southeast Asian nation, I recommend Dr. Dion Peoples’ recent op-ed for my Patheos colleague and friend Justin Whitaker’s essential blog American Buddhist Perspective.) Though a number of things are discussed, Buddhadharma points out that one interesting aspect of the dialogue is that the venerable “urged a shift toward street-level activism for the monks.” In the piece, he says:

I think most people who visit temples or monasteries are good anyway. It’s better to care for the people on the street. Even those who come to the temple, you have to wait for them to arrive before you can teach them. There is also an emphasis on being neutral. Monks these days can’t clearly say what is wrong and what is right. The country has to reform its religions as well as its politics, and we have to change the way that Thai monks think, how to apply the principles of the Lord Buddha’s teachings to the everyday life.

You can read the whole interview here, and Buddhadharma‘s post here.

  • http://drwillajahn.blogspot.com Will Yaryan

    Before you praise Buddha Issara as the new face of engaged Buddhism in Thailand, you should look a little deeper into his actions recently. This is a monk who’s called democracy “poison” and who is leading a protest to block a major street in Bangkok preventing government workers from going to their offices. His “security guards” have beaten up people and shot at pro-government supporters trying to obtain ballots for an election. He also extorted money from a hotel linked to the Prime Minister’s family. Arrest warrants have been issued and Sangha authorities are investigating his actions to overthrow the elected government. If you think he’s a good role model for helping people, you’re sadly mistaken.