Thailand’s National Office of Buddhism has promised to look into a controversial incident in which several monks were seen prostrating in front of a well known former monk, Phra Yantra, who recently returned to Thailand after 20 years inself-imposed exile in the United States following his disrobement. The incident took place at Luangpho Yok Khao Temple, a monastery in the eastern province of Sa Kaeo.
The office’s spokesman, Sittha Moonhong, said that he willconsult senior monks over how to proceed, because the monks who are seen prostrating before the person now known as Vinai La-ongsuwan, mostly came from a monastery in Kanchanaburi province and are thus beyond the jurisdiction of senior monks in Sa Kaeo province.
He noted that it is highly inappropriate for monks to prostrate before or pay respects to a lay person.
Meanwhile, Phra Payome Kalayano, the abbot of Suan KaeoTemple, said that there is no mention of monks paying respects to lay people in Dharma regulations but, traditionally, it is inappropriate for monks to do so, even though lay people may be their teachers or benefactors.
Born in Pak Phanang district of the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, Vinai La-ongsuwan returned to Thailand, after the statute of limitations in his case expired on September 28th, to celebrate his 70th birthday, with about 50 former followers and disciples, on October 14th at Luangpho Yok Khao Temple.
Responding to the criticism, while speaking at the temple on Thursday, Vinai said that he is not worried about the criticism because he is often misunderstood.
He plans to return to the US next Wednesday.
The former Phra Yantra was disrobed by order of the Sangha Council after he was found to have broken the celibacy code, but he refused to accept the order and still considers himself a monk, though he wears a green instead of a saffron robe.
He has been granted refugee status in the United States.