วัดพระธรรมกาย

( Wat Phra Dhammakaya )

Wat Phra Dhammakaya (Thai: วัดพระธรรมกาย, RTGS: Wat Phra Thammakai, pronounced [wát pʰráʔ tʰām.mā.kāːj]) is a Buddhist temple (wat) in Khlong Luang district, in the Pathum Thani province north of Bangkok, Thailand. It was founded in 1970 by the maechi (nun) Chandra Khonnokyoong and Luang Por Dhammajayo. It is the best-known and the fastest growing temple of the Dhammakaya tradition. This tradition, teaching Dhammakaya meditation (Vijja Dhammakaya), was started by the meditation master Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro in the early-20th century. Wat Phra Dhammakaya is one of the temples that emerged from this tradition and is part of the Mahā Nikāya fraternity. The temple is legally represented by the Dhammakaya Foundation. It ai...Read more

Wat Phra Dhammakaya (Thai: วัดพระธรรมกาย, RTGS: Wat Phra Thammakai, pronounced [wát pʰráʔ tʰām.mā.kāːj]) is a Buddhist temple (wat) in Khlong Luang district, in the Pathum Thani province north of Bangkok, Thailand. It was founded in 1970 by the maechi (nun) Chandra Khonnokyoong and Luang Por Dhammajayo. It is the best-known and the fastest growing temple of the Dhammakaya tradition. This tradition, teaching Dhammakaya meditation (Vijja Dhammakaya), was started by the meditation master Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro in the early-20th century. Wat Phra Dhammakaya is one of the temples that emerged from this tradition and is part of the Mahā Nikāya fraternity. The temple is legally represented by the Dhammakaya Foundation. It aims to adapt traditional Buddhist values in modern society, doing so through modern technology and marketing methods. The temple has faced controversy and a government crackdown. Wat Phra Dhammakaya plays a leading role in Thai Buddhism, with theologian Edward Irons describing it as "the face of modern Thai Buddhism".

Initially, the temple was founded as a meditation center, after Maechi Chandra and the just ordained monk Luang Por Dhammajayo could no longer accommodate the rising number of participants in activities at Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen. The center became an official temple in 1977. The temple grew exponentially during the 1980s, when the temple's programs became widely known among the urban middle class. Wat Phra Dhammakaya expanded its area and the building of a huge stupa (pagoda) was started. During the period of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the temple was subject to widespread criticism for its fundraising methods and teachings. Luang Por Dhammajayo had several charges laid against him and was removed from his office as abbot. In 2006, the charges were withdrawn and he was restored as abbot. The temple grew further and became known for its many projects in education, promotion of ethics, and scholarship. The temple also became accepted as part of the mainstream Thai Saṅgha (monastic community).

During the rule of Thailand's 2014 military junta, the abbot and the temple were put under scrutiny again and Luang Por Dhammajayo was accused of receiving stolen money from a supporter and money-laundering in a case generally seen as a politically motivated conflict between the Dhammayuttika Nikāya and Mahā Nikāya as well as between the Red Shirt movement and the Thai junta. The temple has been referred to as the only influential organization in Thailand not to be subdued by the military junta, a rare sight for a ruling junta that shut down most opposition after taking power. The judicial processes against the abbot and the temple since the 1990s have led to much debate regarding the procedures and role of the state towards religion, a debate that has intensified during the 2017 lockdown of the temple by the junta. As of 2017, the whereabouts of Luang Por Dhammajayo was still unknown, and in 2018, Phrakhru Sangharak Rangsarit was designated as the official abbot.

Wat Phra Dhammakaya emphasizes a culture of making merit through doing good deeds and meditation, as well as an ethical outlook on life. The temple promotes a community of kalyāṇamittas ('good friends') to achieve its vision. In its beginnings, the temple emphasized mostly the teaching of meditation, then later emphasized fundraising more. Finally, the temple broadened its activities to include more engagement in society. The temple uses a satellite television station and a distance-learning university. In its large temple complex, the temple houses several monuments and memorials, and in its construction designs traditional Buddhist concepts are given modern forms. The temple aims to become a global spiritual center to help cultivate its slogan "World Peace through Inner Peace". As of 2017, the number of followers was estimated at three million people worldwide.

Early history (1963–1996)  Luang Pu Sodh usually explained the process of attainment in the Dhammakaya meditation method in terms of inner bodies (Pali: kaya), existing within every human being.[1][page needed]

After the meditation teacher Luang Pu Sodh died in 1959, the maechi (nun) Chandra Koonnokyoong transmitted the Dhammakaya tradition to a new generation at Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen.[2] Chaiyabun Sutthiphon, a university student at Kasetsart University, started visiting her at Wat Paknam in 1963.[3][4] As the community grew, Chaiyabun was ordained as a monk in 1969 and received the name Phra Dhammajayo.[2][4] Eventually Wat Paknam was unable to accommodate all of the students interested in learning meditation.[5]

Thus, on 20 February 1970, Maechi Chandra, Phra Dhammajayo, and his former senior student Phadet Pongsawat moved to the 196-rai (313,600 m2 or 77.5-acre) plot of land to found a new meditation center.[6] Although initially they intended to buy a plot of land, the landowner gave a plot four times the requested size to practice generosity on the occasion of her birthday.[6] Phra Dhammajayo later became abbot of the temple and was called Luang Por Dhammajayo from then on, and Pongsawat was ordained with the name Luang Por Dattajīvo and became deputy abbot.[7] In 1972, the center started a program called Dhammadayada ('heirs of the Dhamma'), a meditation training program focused on university students.[8] Due to the temple's early activities having a large number of students joining and students in the 1970s tending to be leftist, for a brief period Wat Phra Dhammakaya was accused of supporting the Communist insurgency in Thailand.[9][10][11]

Although originally intended as a satellite meditation center of Wat Paknam, the center eventually became an official temple in 1977.[12][13] The temple was originally called "Wat Voranee Dhammakayaram", but was renamed "Wat Phra Dhammakaya" in 1982.[14][15][13] Wat Phra Dhammakaya gained great popularity during the 1980s (during the Asian economic boom).[16][17][18] The temple emphasized values of prosperity, modernity and personal development, which made it attractive for the middle class,[19] especially during times of quick cultural and social changes.[13][20] During this period the temple became more involved in social activities, such as promoting blood donations, and began organized Buddhist training programs for both the private and public sector.[21] By the mid-1980s, the temple was attracting up to fifty thousand people on major ceremonies.[22]

Wat Phra Dhammakaya started expanding the temple grounds significantly starting in 1984.(see § The World Dhammakaya Center, below) In the 1980s and 1990s the temple became known for promoting Buddhist education and scholarship[23][24] and also began building up relationships with Buddhist organizations outside of Thailand, with Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Fo Guang Shan in Taiwan declaring each other sister temples in 1994.[25][26] In 1992, the temple started to found its first branch centers, in the United States, Japan and Taiwan.[27][28]

First clash with government (1997–2000)

In the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis the temple came under heavy criticism following the miracle controversy, when the temple claimed that a miracle was witnessed at their meditation event where the sun disappeared and a golden statue or a crystal appeared in the sky. It also reported miraculous occurrences in the lives of its supporters.[29] Wat Phra Dhammakaya was also seen to have right-wing sympathies for its links to some government and military officials.[10] The main criticism was that the temple was using fundraising methods that did not fit in with Buddhism and the temple had become too capitalistic. Although many of these methods and teachings were not unique to Wat Phra Dhammakaya, the criticism came at a moment when the temple had become very noticeable due to its size, its high-profile supporters, and due to the project of building the Dhammakaya Cetiya at the time, which required a lot of funds.[30][31] All of this occurred against the backdrop of the financial crisis Thailand was facing at the time.[32][31][33]

Prompted by the criticism and public outcry, in January 1999 the Saṅgha Supreme Council started an investigation into the temple, led by Luang Por Ñāṇavaro [th], Chief of the Greater Bangkok Region.[34][note 1] One of the accusations Luang Por Ñāṇavaro investigated was that Luang Por Dhammajayo had moved land donated to the temple to his own name.[36][37] The temple denied this, stating that it was the donors' intention to give the land to the abbot, and not the temple, and that this was common and legal in Thailand.[38][39][40] Eventually the Saṅgha Council declared that Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Luang Por Dhammajayo had not committed any serious offenses against monastic discipline (Vinaya) that were cause for defrocking (removal from monkhood) but instead practical directives were given for the temple to improve itself.[41] Despite this, the Religious Affairs Department [th], the secular part of the government in charge, charged Luang Por Dhammajayo with alleged embezzlement and removed him from his post as abbot.[42]

Luang Por Dhammajayo was summoned by prosecutors to acknowledge the charges but the temple asked for a guarantee that the abbot would not be imprisoned and consequently defrocked.[43][note 2] No such guarantee was given, an arrest warrant followed, and a standoff began between police and the temple's practitioners. After two days, Luang Por Dhammajayo agreed to let the police take him when the requested guarantee was given.[45][46][47] The abbot was interrogated but not defrocked, and was released.[48][49] Luang Por Dhammajayo later fell ill and was hospitalized with throat and lung infections.[50][51] The Ministry of Education also accused Luang Por Dhammajayo of having stated that the Tipiṭaka (Buddhist scriptures) was incomplete. Although there was no law in Thailand against this, he was eventually charged with this as well.[52][53][43] During this period, many news reporters used pejorative language in describing the Saṅgha Council, the Supreme Patriarch, or Wat Phra Dhammakaya.[54] This period of intense media attention had effects on the temple's fundraising, but the temple continued to organize projects, ceremonies and other events.[55][56] The trials proceeded slowly, as the hearings were postponed because of evidence that was not ready, and because of the abbot's illness.[57][58]

In 2000, Maechi Chandra Konnokyoong died.[59]

Nationwide engagement (2001–2013)  Ordination ceremony for new monks at Wat Phra Dhammakaya

In the 2000s, the Thai media gradually lost interest in the temple's controversies from the Asian financial crisis.[60] During this period, the temple began to focus more on promoting an ethical lifestyle, using the five and eight precepts as a foundation.[61][62] The campaign had a national impact when the temple started organizing protests against the company Thai Beverage's public listing in the Stock Exchange of Thailand.[63][64] The company, a producer of alcoholic beverages, finally had to capitulate and decided to list in Singapore instead.[65]

The temple broadened its activities to a more national scope. The temple started its own satellite channel called Dhammakaya Media Channel (DMC), to broadcast live events to branch centers.[66][67] and a university that supports distance learning.[68] The temple started to use this satellite channel to broadcast live events to branch centers, such as guided meditations.[69] Wat Phra Dhammakaya started to develop a more international approach to its teachings, teaching meditation in non-Buddhist countries as a religiously neutral technique suitable for those of all faiths, or none.[70][71] An international Dhammadayada training program was also started, held in Chinese and English, and the temple started to organize retreats in English language in Thailand and abroad. Later on, guided meditations were also held online, in different languages.[72][73][74] According to anthropologist Jim Taylor, Wat Phra Dhammakaya was the first new religious organization in Thailand to effectively use Internet technology in disseminating its teachings.[75]

In 2006 the Attorney-General withdrew the charges against Luang Por Dhammajayo, stating that there was insufficient reason to pursue the case any further. He stated that Luang Por Dhammajayo had moved all the land to the name of the temple and that he had corrected his teachings as directed. Luang Por Dhammajayo's position as an abbot was subsequently restored.[76][77]

From 2008 onward, the temple extended its youth activities to include a training course in Buddhist practice known as V-star, and a yearly national day of Buddhist activities.[78] One year later, Wat Phra Dhammakaya expanded its temporary ordination program by making it nationwide. In this program, the participants were trained in thousands of temples spread over Thailand, but ordained simultaneously at Wat Phra Dhammakaya.[79] As part of the ordination programs, the temple started to organize pilgrimages passing important places in the life of Luang Pu Sodh.[80] The pilgrimages stirred up resentment however, because it was very noticeable, allegedly caused traffic jams, and a debate started as to whether it was going against tradition.[81] Eventually, the temple stopped the pilgrimages.[82] Also during this period, Wat Phra Dhammakaya started to invest more resources in its own education and scholarship, continuously ranking as one of the five highest in the country in Pāli studies.[83][84] Despite differing opinions about the work of the temple, as of 2010[update], Wat Phra Dhammakaya was the fastest growing temple in Thailand and major ceremonies were reaching attendance of 300,000 people.[26][26][85]

Standoff with junta (2014–present)  The Klongchan controversy led to a 23-day lockdown of the temple in 2017 by the junta using Article 44 of the interim constitution.[86]

The temple came under heavy scrutiny again after the 2014 coup d'état. Following the coup, the new military junta set up a National Reform Council, with a religious committee seeking to make several changes in the Thai Saṅgha. These changes were led by former senator Paiboon Nititawan [th], monk and former infantryman Phra Suwit Dhiradhammo [th] (known under his activist name Phra Buddha Issara), and former Wat Phra Dhammakaya monk Mano Laohavanich.[87][88][89] Senator Paiboon led a failed attempt to reopen the 1999 case of Luang Por Dhammajayo's alleged land embezzlement.[90][91] Phra Suwit objected to the nomination of Somdet Chuang Varapuñño, the monk who ordained Luang Por Dhammajayo, as the next Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, and successfully held a petition to stop it.[87][92] Meanwhile, Mano Laohavanich began appearing extensively in Thai media criticizing Wat Phra Dhammakaya, former Thai Rak Thai party members, and various groups the junta was generally seen as opposed to.[93][94]

In 2015 the temple was implicated in the Klongchan Credit Union controversy when 11.37 billion baht was taken out by an employee of the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC) via unauthorized checks, of which a portion totaling more than a billion baht was found to have been given to Wat Phra Dhammakaya via donations. Spokespeople of Wat Phra Dhammakaya said that Luang Por Dhammajayo was not aware that the donations were illegally obtained.[95][96][97] Despite an agreement between the temple and the credit union about giving back money, which had settled the situation, Luang Por Dhammajayo was summoned to acknowledge the charges of ill-gotten gains and conspiring to money-laundering at the offices of the DSI.[96][98] The temple requested the DSI to let him acknowledge his charges at the temple due to his deep vein thrombosis, a request the DSI refused.[99][100] When Luang Por Dhammajayo did not appear at the DSI office to acknowledge his charges, authorities launched several failed raids of the temple to search for the honorary abbot and laid hundreds of additional charges on the temple.[101][102][103] The standoff has been described as the only major demonstration against the junta since the coup,[104] a rare sight for a ruling junta that has silenced most opposition since seizing power.[105]

The Klongchan controversy led to a 23-day lockdown of the temple in 2017 by the junta using Article 44 of the interim constitution. A debate about the role of the state toward religion intensified during this time, as well as criticism of the junta's handling of the case.[106][107] Despite the lockdown, authorities came out empty-handed. As of 20 December 2017,[update] Thai authorities had still not found Luang Por Dhammajayo.[108] Regardless, in the aftermath of the lockdown the junta's lawsuits against the temple continued.[109][110][111]

In December 2017, the temple assigned Phrakhru Sangharak Rangsarit as the temple's new abbot and began announcing the organization of new events. News outlet Kom Chad Luek described this as a "revival" of the temple, but news outlet Thai PBS stated that the temple had not been affected much by the disappearance of the former abbot.[112][113][114] As of 2017, the number of followers was estimated at 3 million people.[104]

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