Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Etiquette Guide" for Effeminate Monks

It is customary for Thai men to [temporarily] enter the monkhood for training at least once.

(BBC [and WQ]) -- A Buddhist preacher [revered monk of long standing in the Sangha] in Thailand has announced plans for new guidelines aimed at curbing the flamboyant behavior of gay and transgender monks.

The "good manners" curriculum -- the country's first -- is being introduced in the northern province of Chiang Rai.

The senior monk told the BBC he was particularly concerned by effeminate activities among novices [who are not monks and are therefore only bound to ten rather than the 227 rules monks follow] such as the wearing of make-up and tight robes.

More than 90% of the Thai population are followers of [Theravada] Buddhism.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says tales of monks [who are actually only temporarily-ordained novices, samaneras, not "monks"] behaving badly are nothing new in Thailand.

In recent years, they have been accused of abuses of their exalted position in society that range from amassing dozens of luxury cars, to running fake amulet scams, to violating their vows of celibacy, our correspondent says.

Senior monk Phra ["Venerable"] Maha Wudhijaya Vajiramedhi told the BBC he would address issues like smoking, drinking alcohol, walking, and going to the toilet properly, which are all detailed in the traditional 75 Dharma principles of Buddhism, and the 227 precepts for [fully-ordained] monks.

He was especially concerned, he said, by the flamboyant behavior of gay and transgender [novices, who are technically pandakas and therefore ineligible to become "monks"], who can often be seen wearing revealingly tight robes, carrying pink purses, and having effeminately-shaped eyebrows. [Thailand accepts a third gender known as kathoey, "transsexuals," who also existed in ancient India and in the Buddha's time were referred to as pandakas, and even in indigenous American tribes, such as the Chumash].

Thailand has a very large and visible population of transgender men [pandakas]. And Phra Vajiramedhi acknowledged that it was difficult to exclude them from the monkhood [as celibate novices]. But he hoped his course could at least persuade them to curb their more extrovert habits.

If successful, the "good manners" course, at the Novice Demonstration School, would be replicated at other Buddhist monasteries and seminaries, he said. Source

  • Book: Sexuality and the World's Religions (Machacek & Wilcox)
  • Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender (Edited by Jose Ignacio Cabezon, SUNY)
  • "Pandakas" are discussed in Chapter 9 (pp. 203-214) "Homosexuality as Seen in Indian Buddhist Texts" by Leonard Zwilling


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