Tensions were high at a funeral in Surin province in northeast Thailand on Friday when a brawl broke out between two saffron-robed Buddhist monks, allegedly over a plastic chair.
Yesterday, the acting abbot of Wat Pho Sri Sawang Arom, Phra Toi Kan, told reporters what happened at the temple on Friday.
In Thailand, Buddhist funeral rites include a distinctive ritual called bangsookool (paṃsukūla in Pali) in which relatives present robes to Buddhist monks to generate merit on behalf of the deceased. New robes are placed on a coffin and received by monks who chant and pour water to symbolise the transfer of merit.
Shortly after the bangsookool ceremony on Friday, the peaceful funeral rites were disturbed by two hot-headed clergymen. Phra Toi Kan said…
“I was sitting in the front row. I don’t know the root cause of the problem seen in the pictures. Relatives had to step in and stop the chaos. After the incident, the monk who started the fight asked to leave the monkhood at a temple in the city.”
Phra Ongart said that his relatives invited him to perform a bangsookool ceremony at a funeral. Chairs were set out in two rows for the monks when they arrived, said Phra Ongart.
A monk instructed Phra Ongart to sit in a chair in the front row as the three seats in the back row were taken. Upon sitting down, an angry monk asked Phra Ongart, “How many years have you been ordained?” before physically attacking him in front of all the funeral guests. The monk grew violent when he didn’t get a front row seat.
Phra Ongart said he was no match for the other monk’s strength and ended up on the floor. He said he was repeatedly punched by the mad monk before funeral attendees put a stop to the fight.
The boiling Buddhist picked up a chair and tried to whack Phra Ongart with it but funeral attendees snatched the chair from him before he could do any more damage.
Physical violence is forbidden for Buddhist monks and the perpetrator has already been punished by exiting the monkhood and returning to society at the request of the abbot.
The saffron robes worn by a Buddhist monk symbolise detachment from worldly desires and dedication to the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha. Those who wear Buddhist robes are considered moral exemplars for lay Buddhists in Thai society to aspire to be like.
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