Did you hear about the six Buddhist monks?

Not six, not Korean, but Buddhist monks – and we all need them

Not six, not Korean, but Buddhist monks – and we all need them

I was surprised to read today of the six Korean Buddhist monks who were secretly filmed gambling, drinking and smoking. Not that they did it, but that it made the news at all. Its not the first time that monks have deviated from their straight and narrow path of self-denial; and it can’t be the first time that a few of them have done it together.

What seems to be different in this case is that they were filmed, the videotape was shared, and its always disturbing to learn of high-minded people who drift from their path. And with a 20% Buddhist population in Korea it was deemed alarming enough to set the faithful talking.

I don’t know what the culture is like in Korea – although I know someone I can ask – but if its anything like Thailand, then Buddhist monks are highly respected. They are treated with great respect, given food, and even free transport. At times, just the sight of saffron is enough to have people bowing in reverence.

It takes a great effort for a man or a woman to dedicate themselves to a certain level of spiritual commitment. They need, and deserve, the support of the public in order to safely reach the heights they set themselves. In turn, the public need monks and nuns because they remind the rest of us of the other side of life; that someone, somewhere is experiencing a param dristva – a higher taste – and that therefore, by their very life witness, there is a higher plane of experience.

But if those monks and nuns fail in their vows – more than once or twice – they need a period of rigorous introspection, some time with a more experienced practitioner who can again inspire them to re-dedication, and a change in their circle of friends so they can pass beyond the temptation through which they succumbed the last time.

They need our support, we need their existence, and this symbiotic relationship is healthy for the planet. Undoubtedly difficult at times, but essential in the greater scheme of things.