Santi Asok

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Radical sectarian movement in Thailand founded by Phra Bodhirak, a former television entertainer who was ordained into the Thammayut order in 1970 after a sudden conversion experience. He attracted a following in Bangkok which became known as the ‘Asoka group’, and established a centre called ‘Asoka's Land’ (Dan Asok) some 30 miles from Bangkok. Because of his increasingly unorthodox activities he was forced to leave the Thammayut order and join the Mahānikai sect in 1973. In due course he fell out with this group too, and he and his followers eventually severed all ties with the national Thai Saṃgha. Santi Asok monks live in communities in simple thatched huts and follow a moderately ascetic regime in the Theravāda forest-dwelling tradition. The movement is critical of what it sees as the laxity of the Thai Saṃgha, the immorality in Thai society, and corruption in the government. Phra Bodhirak's outspoken manner and his strident critique of the establishment and disregard for ecclesiastical law led to the Supreme Saṃgha Council taking punitive measures against the movement in 1989. Bodhirak and 79 of his followers were arrested but no charges were brought.

Subjects: Buddhism.

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