Why the "Appeal Against the Appeal"?

by Jianxie, Singapore, The Buddhist Channel, Dec 5, 2009

In reply to the letter ‘Buddhism not damaged by wayward monastics, but lay support for their misdeeds’ (http://buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=22,8741,0,0,1,0), the letter ‘An Appeal to Drop the Appeal’ (http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=22,8733,0,0,1,0) was written, as stated, to publicly appeal for the ‘monk’ in question to drop his unrepentant appeal against his jail term due to his spelled out misdeeds being so many. It was not to ‘encourage more hatred and anger’. It was sent to him twice too, to which there is no response to date.

On the need for timely funerals, both Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhists believe that one’s consciousness can take rebirth upon death, ranging from immediately upon passing, up to 49 days. This is why, as mentioned, this period is important ‘for guiding the consciousness to a good rebirth’. This is the rationale for Buddhist funerals, during which the deceased is urged to, via various Dharma practices, take a fortunate rebirth.

Yes, even great evil-doers, who are not yet reborn, who repent sincerely in time and practise accordingly can have fortunate rebirths – in Sukhavati Pure Land, with the assistance of the great compassion and bountiful merits of Amitabha Buddha. This too is a central belief in Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. (For more information on this, please study the Infinite Life Sutra.)

On whether one incident of a wayward monk can ‘cause too much horrendous damage to Buddhism’, perhaps we should look at the charity he used to run, which is now seriously short of funds due to lack of public trust after his abuse of its funds. This also affected public trust of other charities in general. This is ‘too much horrendous damage’ in general. There is then, naturally and surely, damage done to the image of Buddhism in general too. We need to remember that, he was the country’s most famous monk – recognised even by the non-Buddhist man on the street.

It is unfair to put the entire blame on the wayward ways of monastics being the result of laity donating expensive items to them or urging them to hold positions of power – because monastics are supposed to guard themselves against going wayward by the precepts they have vowed to live by. Monastics can either reject excesses or convert them to funds for supporting charities. When monastics choose to hold on to excesses out of their own free will, it is clearly their own fault of greed at play. However, it is true too, that laity should take this as a reminder, to be mindful to avoid possibly feeding such greed.

In reply to the letter ‘One monk’s misdeeds will not damage Buddhism’ (http://buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=22,8751,0,0,1,0) on the subject of forgiveness and compassion, we need to note that it is difficult for the public to forgive one who had clearly done much wrong, that affected many negatively, when one is still unrepentant. That said, compassionate Buddhists are surely able to forgive him despite his folly of not readily seeking forgiveness in an open and timely manner. In fact, they might even be worried about the gravity of his negative karma.

It is not true that the letter ‘An Appeal to Drop the Appeal’ was written due to ‘feeling of shame as a Buddhist to be associated’ to the ‘monk’ in question as the writer does not know him personally. It was instead written due to the need for this ‘monk’ to feel moral shame adequately (which is a virtue in Buddhism), so as to drop his appeal and accept his sentence graciously. If anyone feels that his jail term is not fair, they can appeal against it to the authorities too.

It is precisely due to much faith in the value of the Dharma; not lack of it, that the ‘Appeal to Drop the Appeal’ was written, so as to urge the ‘monk’ to not further tarnish the image of the Sangha (which stands for the Dharma in dedicated practice) by being probably the first monk in the modern history of the country to be jailed. Once again, the appeal is for him to disrobe and receive his jail sentence graciously, and to consider taking up the robes again only thereafter. This is the appropriate way to express sincere repentance. The appeal to drop his appeal was thus made for the well-being of everyone affected by his misdeeds, including himself.