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Buying Your Way into Heaven: Hope you have your receipt

It’s nothing new or even unique for people to give a little piece of what they earn to anything associated with the man upstairs.  The act of “tithing” is mentioned in both the Old and New Testament; and many people give their church or synagogue 10% of their income.   Thailand and different Buddhist temples have their own version of this and you’ll find that many Thai’s do give something.    The first year or two that I lived in Thailand, I thought this was a wonderful example of why the average Thai was more philanthropic than the average American.  But I’m changing my mind about that slowly but surely, and now I actually think there are a decent amount of people here who are literally just trying to buy their way into Heaven, bliss, or a better next life.  And every few months I get an email from a foreign man who is steaming after his wife gave a temple of wad of his money!

buy your way to heaven

I don’t know a lot about Buddhism and I won’t pretend to.  What I do know is that there is a temple in Thailand that has promoted the “Dhammakaya Movement”  for more than 40 years.  This temple has a reputation for recruiting middle class Thai’s and convincing them that their worth is defined by how much they give.  There was a huge scandal about the temple earlier this century, but because the temple is backed by people of major wealth and influence, in the end they got a free pass.  Meanwhile, very little of the money they collect goes to social services.   That’s not to say that this temple is representative of all Temples in Thailand, obviously it’s not.  And a lot of this isn’t about the temples, but about the people who actually think they’re investing in some sort of better wellness (for themselves), by consistently giving money to whatever temple they happen to be near.  It would just be a lot better if that money was actually going to the right place, but in a lot of cases it’s not.  It’s worth noting that there was a scandal earlier this year where a couple of Thai Monks were spotted sporting Louis Vuitton luggage on a private jet.  Again, that’s not representative of all Monks, many of them are totally selfless.  But it’s not a stretch to say that more money collected by the Temples should go to social services.

One thing I don’t understand is why so many prostitutes give money to the temples.   And I’m not talking about 20 baht, I’m talking about a few thousand baht per month.   Maybe someone can explain this to me?   I mean, wouldn’t Buddha rather the girls “S” or “F” a couple less “C’s” per month and not make any donations?   How is that contribution not tainted?  Wouldn’t it be better off going directly to a social service organization?

And it’s certainly not uncommon for a Thai wife to take some of her foreign husband’s money to give to her Temple.  I’m all for freedom of religion; and I actually think Buddhism is a great practice.  I let my girlfriend do her thing with it all the way, until it involves my money.  That’s where I draw the line!  She once tried to convince me that I would be lucky if I gave money to a Temple we visited.  Since when is Buddhism about luck?  When I want to give money, I give it directly to charities that have a good reputation for providing for people in need.  I’m not going to say I do it often, I don’t.  But in the rare occasions when I am feeling charitable, it’s nice to know that my money is actually helping someone and not getting embezzled or spent on a Monk’s Iphone.

Some monks and temples are outstanding, some not so much.  Some people give for the right reasons and others do it to feel better about themselves.  As I mentioned before, this goes on all over the world in one form or another.  I guess the thing to take away from this, is that Thailand is certainly not “advanced” when it comes to charity and philanthropy, even if it seems so on the surface.

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About StayingInThailand

Mike is the head writer at StayingInThailand.com and has also written more than twenty pieces for LivingThai.org Perhaps best known for writing the cult classic, “How To Get The Most Bang For Your Buck in Thailand,” Mike’s ideas and style fit in with LivingThai.org exceptionally well. He’s originally from the U.S., but vows never to live there again. He currently makes a living as a web designer and as a content creator.

8 Responses to Buying Your Way into Heaven: Hope you have your receipt

  1. Milbrath November 13, 2013 at 1:00 am #

    Many temples are “handled” in Thailand just like everything else is here. Hang around one, a larger one, and you’ll see them come to collect, usually in big 4 door black or white pick-up trucks. Organized religion is a scam in every country in the world, Thailand is no different. When monks have iPhones, own a helicopter, and flies in a private jet, you know something is wrong.

    I think it’s fair to say most Thais are trying to buy their way into heaven, or at least paying money so good fortune can come their way. Very few give just to give, most want something in return. Ever see a gogo girl go a quick wai and prayer before she goes on stage? She is praying for good luck and money. The total opposite of the teachings of Buddha.

    That said, Thais obsession with possessions is also the opposite of the teachings of Buddha. But if you ask 100 Thais on the street if they can tell you something like the Four Nobel Truths, 99% of them won’t have a clue.

    But at the end of the day, I don’t care. Do whatever makes you happy. Thais have a twisted version of Buddhism, many farang have a twisted version of Christianity. It all falls back to organized religion, which should be banned globally.

    • Paradise City Mike November 13, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

      thanks for the reply. I agree with your points on how the Thai’s and many other people twist teachings and religions to fit what they want. Buddhism is one thing, what most Thai’s practice is quite another. It’s a shame that so many have turned the core aspects of Buddhism into some superstitious game of luck and no consequences. And like you said, if anyone takes 10 minutes of time to do research on Buddhism, chances are they’ll know more about it than most of the girls they spend time with who claim to be devout Buddhists.

    • Alex Rodney October 3, 2021 at 12:11 am #

      Tell the girls to invest the money in index funds, and take out the money when they have a *REAL* good reason to use it. However, I maybe the idea that prostitution is in itself bad might not make sense, it just comes from Christianity.

  2. Mark S November 13, 2013 at 5:44 am #

    Nice post Mike.

    Most Thai’s I know rarely if ever go to the temple, they don’t follow any of the fundamentals of Buddhism, they do many things Buddhists are not supposed to do.

    They just do the token prayer whenever they pass a temple / shrine and give something to a monk if asked.

    Up to them of course but I just find it amusing that they put on this facade when it’s obvious most of the time they don’t care much about it.

    • Paradise City Mike November 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

      Thanks for reading. And yes, the way they treat it is mostly harmless and it’s no different than the way people abuse and twist faiths from all over the world. If only they’d just be charitable, like for real!

  3. Chris November 13, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    Except for the oldies only Thai’s I know actually give alms is when they want something to happen in their life,

    • Paradise City Mike November 13, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

      Aside from actual Monks, the most devout Buddhists I met in Thailand were all white foreigners.

  4. Mark S November 14, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    I’ve asked a few Thai’s I know recently some questions about Buddhism I wanted to know the answers to or even just to tell me a little about it and none could.

    Most of it was really simple stuff some which I knew the answers to already and I just wanted to see if THEY knew…but no they didn’t.

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