Bogus monks are rightly scorned and loathed by the Hong Kong community

by Raymond Lam, Buddhistdoor International, Feb 25, 2013

Hong Kong, China -- It is a familiar story to any resident in Hong Kong – the peculiar sight of a monk wandering around begging for alms, regardless of the time of day.

<< Bogus monks at Lam Kwai Fong

The only problem is that these monks probably changed into their so-called robes a few hours before the arrived in the city; they are mainland beggars and charlatans crossing the border to cheat potential donors of their money. They infest the high streets and harbors of Hong Kong, from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui. Their eyes fake friendliness, but cannot pretend to be filled with love and knowledge of the Dharma.
The cruel irony in the transaction between a victim and a bogus monk is that every rule of Buddhist dana (generosity) is turned on its head: the donor receives no karmic merit because the donor is not actually giving money to an ordained monastic. The entire traditional impetus for generosity is therefore nullified and violated.

Likewise, because the beggar does not belong to a real sangha, was not ordained by any qualified master, and indeed has lied about his loyalty to this 2550 year-old vocation, he will not only squander his donor's cash for non-Buddhist reasons, but suffer post-mortem retribution for such lies. Such natural law, declared the Buddha himself, is the price for deceiving not only laypeople, but the true Buddhist sangha.

Until that day of remorselessly inevitable karmic justice, the Hong Kong community's revulsion and disgust at these men is perfectly understandable. This scorn is shared by almost every sector of society regardless of religious affiliation. To be clear, they deserve to be looked upon with suspicion because they bring disrepute to the name of Chinese Buddhism, not because they are beggars. Indeed, it is a sorry situation that these professional beggars see no way to survive except through deceiving people. For their sake as well as the reputation of Chinese Buddhism, it is important that the local authorities and, ultimately, the Chinese Government, adopt policies that give these men economic opportunity and the chance to be genuinely productive, dignified members of society.

It is another tragic irony that in ancient Buddhism, monks were forbidden by the Buddha to work, in order to force them to interact with secular society by begging for alms and teaching the Dharma in return. The Blessed One thought that this was a fool-proof way to ensure a harmonious, give-and-take relationship within the Fourfold Community of monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen. What a travesty that these beggars should take up Buddhist robes but not Buddhist principles and - just like the early sangha of the Buddha's days - end up begging.