Vietnamese abbot silenced for controversial sermons

By Viet An, Dang Khoa   June 19, 2024 | 03:41 pm PT
Vietnamese abbot silenced for controversial sermons
Abbot Thich Chan Quang makes a speech at the Thien Ton Phat Quang Pagoda in Ba Ria-Vung Tau during Vesak Day 2024. Photo courtesy of the Thien Ton Phat Quang Pagoda
A Buddhist abbot in southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province has been hit with a two-year preaching ban by Vietnamese authorities, following speeches deemed culturally contentious.

Thich Chan Quang, head monk of the Thien Ton Phat Quang pagoda in Phu My Town, was banned from preaching "under all methods" for two years per a decision announced by the central office of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha on Wednesday.

Besides the preaching ban, Quang will also not be allowed to hold events or large gatherings for the two-year period.

The Standing Committee of the Executive Council of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha said certain speeches by Quang on the subject of karma have "caused social distress, eroded trust in Buddhism and affected the Sangha’s reputation."

During Quang’s time for two-year "repentance," the Phat Quang pagoda, his former home, will be prohibited from posting anything he says or writes online – on social media platforms or otherwise

Thich Chan Quang, whose birth name is Vuong Tan Viet, 65, used to be deputy head of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha's economic and financial department.

Quang’s ban comes from wholly "spiritual" comments, albeit ones that took cultural perceptions of karmic punishment a bit far, according to reports so far.

Recently, Quang delivered speeches on karma in front of thousands of people that included statements authorities considered controversial, including: "Those who sing karaoke too much may become a mute ghost when they die."

He also said: "people polluting the air would lie in one place when they get old, meaning they’ll either have strokes or become paralyzed."

In the Vietnamese – and other culture’s – Buddhist vegetarian or vegan (which in Buddhism is more akin to kosher or halal, a set of spiritual rules and principles laid out in scripture and often followed wholly dogmatically) cultural tradition of blaming butchers and fish mongers for the slaughter of animals, rather than those who eat meat, Quang went on to say that: "fishermen are scammers."

These speeches were uploaded on the pagoda’s website, but the site can no longer be accessed.

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