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All About Buddhism: When good men go bad

Twenty-five centuries ago a man was out on a walk. In fact, he had been out on a rather long walk. It was 322 kilometres long, to be specific. The man’s name may be familiar to you. They called him Buddha.

Jason Jellison

Sunday 7 May 2017, 09:00AM

He had just crossed the Ganges River and came across a group of five men that he had once known.These men remembered Buddha well.

He had left their company to go off on his own and they vowed never to speak to him again. However, they relented and allowed Buddha to speak.

Buddha gave them a life-changing sermon and they now knew he had found enlightenment. These five men became the first five disciples of Buddha and all of them would eventually find enlightenment as well.

They went out and spread the news to others who became monks. Buddhism had been born.

These men lived a simple life. Carrying nothing more than a bowl for offerings, they wore coloured robes, walked barefoot through the countryside and relied on charity for lunch.

They only could accept lunch for that day and they only could eat until noon. After lunch, they would give a lecture on the teachings of Buddha and the word spread throughout the land. Buddhism flourished in Asia for 25 centuries.

One day, 25 centuries later, a middle-aged rabbi walked into a suburban house in Fairfax, Virginia. His name was David Kaye and he was a prominent member of Jewish high society.

He was not only a rabbi but also was well-known as a board member of the Institute for Jewish Leaders and Values. In fact, he was Vice President and might have gone all the way to the top.

Mr Kaye was in a great mood and was all smiles as he let himself into his friend’s house. He smiled as his friend called out to him and asked if he would still be up for the evening.

“We’ll see, ha, ha,” he jovially chuckled. What happened next, however, knocked the smile right off of his face.

A middle aged man in a black suit stepped into the kitchen, interrupting the conversation. Mr Kaye jumped back in fear. This man was not supposed to be here. “I suggest you sit down,” the man sternly said.

Mr Kaye did not know who this man was but he looked like an FBI agent. He wasn’t certain what was going on but he knew that he was in trouble.

The man asked Mr Kaye what he was doing there, to which he replied “Not something good.”

In fact, the agent knew full well why Mr Kaye was there. Now enraged, he screamed, “What are you doing, as a man of god, as a Rabbi, in this house, trying to meet a 13-year-old boy!” Kaye knew the jig was up.

He had been caught trying to pick-up a 13-year-old boy named Conrad for sex on his lunch hour. In fact, he had even sent the boy pornography through the mail. He had no idea that the whole thing was actually an undercover sting operation.

Then, in a split second, the true moment of horror. The man told Mr Kaye why he was there. “I’m Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC and we’re doing a story on computer predators.” Suddenly, cameras and lights burst into the room. “Oh no!” Humiliated on national TV, he made a hasty exit.

Mr Kaye would soon be sentenced to 78 months in jail. We’ve seen a lot of scandals these days with various monks and people have understandably been asking me for the moral of it all.

I can’t tell you all of the morals because, after all, I’m not Buddha. However, Buddha warned his monks many times about the dangers that could ensnare them once they entered the monkhood.

Once, he gave a speech to hundreds of monks in the Amalaki Forest. In a place called Catuma, he warned them that the desire to get angry and the greed for food would not just go away because they had become monks.

Buddha frequently warned his monks about losing their way. He reminded them that a monk who seeks vain glory is like a fish caught on a hook or a turtle speared by a harpoon.

He was warning his monks that heaven and hell are attitudes of the mind and you can experience them here on earth.

I would say that Rabbi Kaye learned that lesson the hard way. He undoubtedly discovered that hell really can be a place on earth as he saw his evil deed broadcast from coast-to-coast.

He had begged the show not to air the video and even offered to give them an exclusive interview, if they would not air the footage of his humiliation.

They declined and the last thing Mr Kaye saw before jail was his father, elderly and in a wheelchair, looking on helplessly as his son was sentenced to 78 months in prison.

So, where does this all go, you might ask? Well, it seems to me the moral means something very different to two very different groups of people.

For the monks, Buddha warned them that if they corrupted his teachings they would stop serving the community. If that happened, the community would have no need for them and there would be no food in their alms bowl.

Monks need to remember that Buddhism teaches there is, at all times, a capacity for great awakening and a mutual capacity for great damage. The moment we think that we are past that, we will fall away and do incredible damage.

However, for the community, that is to say for us, it is important to remember that the scandals we have seen, while spectacular, only involve a minute percentage of our faithful monks.

Exciting television may be made of the likes Rabbi Kaye but his actions were the actions of an individual, not an entire religion.

Yet, Mr Kaye did far more than humiliate himself on national television. He also hurt a teacher who believed in him, all of his followers, and his faith.

Although a small number of bad monks hurt their faith, it is important that we too remember that there for the Grace of God so go we. My teacher once said that our mistakes are like eyelashes.

We always see those of others but never our own. The fact is that we are all full of desires, good as well as bad. There is not a person reading this article that does not have at least a few secrets that they keep from the world.

The moral of the story is that we are on fire with desire; all of us. If we are not wise, it will get the best of us and then good men really do go bad.

If you happen to be one of those men who is abusing his position then I suggest you stop and change because someone taught you better. Someone once believed in you.

Remember, out of all of the sorry sights of the world, there is no sight worse than that of a teacher’s tears.


All About Buddhism is a monthly column in The Phuket News where I take readers on my exotic journey into Thai Buddhism and debunk a number of myths about Buddhism. If you have any questions please let us know. Email:



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