... For Rojanaphruk, and a growing number of Thais like him, Buddhism in Thailand is failing, unable to cope with a society increasingly under the spell of consumerism and secular ideals. Nenkham is unique in that he got caught.
“But there are likely dozens more monks, senior monks like him, who have the same portfolio,” Rojanaphruk says. “Thai Buddhism has lost touch with reality. The rigours and demands of the system, especially on monks, are out of synch with the realities of life. Times are changing.”
Certainly the days of forest monasteries and secluded monks devoted to a spiritual life at the expense of physical desire are quickly becoming a thing of an idyllic past. Rapid urbanization is changing the face of societies in southeast Asia, and along with it, how people engage with faith.
Rojanaphruk says he remembers the days when his grandmother would wake up before sunrise every morning to prepare food for the alms bowls of monks. “This was the way it was done for thousands of years,” he says. “But who has time for that these days? It’s easier just to give money.”
The result, he adds, is a commodiﬁcation of Buddhism, particularly in Thailand. Monasteries find themselves competing heavily for the wallets of devotees. According to Rojanaphruk, there are now more than 40,000 temples in Thailand, each looking for a competitive edge over its rivals.
“Merit-making has become big business in Thailand,” Rojanaphruk says. “People offer goods and money to monks as a way to gain favour in the next life. I don’t doubt their faith–they believe in what they are doing. So they build lavish temples and statues, not only in the hopes of having their sins forgiven, but also to gain prestige in society. This is contradictory to Buddhist teaching.”
At the heart of it all, according to Rajanaphruk, is the monetization of faith. “If people stopped looking for easy ways to buy merit,” he says, “like becoming a monk temporarily–a feature of Thai Buddhism–monkhood would not suffer the way it has. Buddhism is a way of life. You can’t simply purchase your way to nirvana.”http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/07/31/when-monks-go-bad/