Priests, Imams, Monks and even the holiest of mere mortals, are susceptible to temptations. To the cravings of man, the carnal needs of the body and the pursuit of material belongings. It doesn’t matter how “enlightened” we are, we are still only human and it is in human nature to be imperfect. That’s just the way life is. I’m not saying that there are no good men in the world, I’m just saying that just because you choose to be a man of the cloth, it doesn’t make you holier than thou.
Scandals regarding religious groups and charities are not something new in Singapore. We’ve seen religious leaders get sent to jail for the misuse of money and to be honest, it’s not something that will never happen in the future again. In recent news, a Buddhist monk has been sued by a devotee for the misuse of funds. The monk has taken a donation of A$240,000 and used it for personal gain instead of using it for its original purpose.
Mr Lee, the devotee, made the donation to Ven Guojun with the notion that the monk was using the money to complete his studies. Instead, Ven Guojun used the money to buy a property in Sydney which he then later sold for a huge profit. Mr Lee is suing the monk for the original amount as it was never used to pay for the school fees but instead used for personal gain.
From the resulting investigation and bank statements provided, it appears that the monk, Ven Guojun, had amassed a fortune of around A$3 million by 2009. A$3 million, let that sink in for a minute. Even a middle-level professionals don’t have A$3 million in their bank account, how does a monk do it. Yes, I cannot assume that everything is illegal until proven otherwise because monks can be recipients of large donations from wealthy devotees. The question then is about integrity.
I would assume that even though large donations are commonplace, the money cannot all go into the private bank accounts of an individual monk. The money is meant to be given to the temple to help with charity works. The money is meant to be used to help the less fortunate, not for real estate opportunities. Mr Lee has called Ven Guojun’s integrity into question as this not the first time the monk has been on the receiving end of a defamation suit.
I’m no saint and I definitely do not profess to be holier than thou but I like to think of myself as a man of integrity. Like the case of the City Harvest Church leaders, I cannot bring myself to cheat people over money. Your congregation, who out of their hard earned money, donate a part of it in the hope that they can do some good for the less fortunate, but you betray this by taking the money and using it for your own benefit. How do you sleep at night?
This is not the first case, nor will it ever be the last case. The temptations of the flesh can sometimes be overwhelming and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you claim to believe in. Humans will be humans and we always fall short in the pursuit of sainthood.