BANGKOK — Two Buddhist monks in Thailand have grow to be social media stars with Facebook livestreams that mix conventional teachings with non-traditional jokes and giggles. Some of the nation’s non secular conservatives, nonetheless, are not so amused.
With a powerful fluency in youth slang, Phra Maha Paiwan Warawanno, 30, and Phra Maha Sompong Talaputto, 42, have captured the creativeness of a technology who discover the formal temple decorum and Sanskrit chanting of conventional Buddhism outdated and inaccessible.
On a current Friday night time, the bespectacled Paiwan set his cellphone up on a tripod and clipped a microphone onto his saffron gown, sitting alongside Phra Maha Sompong in a small examine in Wat Soi Thong temple in Bangkok.
In the livestream that adopted, the 2 males talked by a myriad of points, mixing Buddhist teachings, often called Dhamma, with trendy life recommendation and a healthy dose of humour.
“I want Dhamma and the young generation to coexist,” Paiwan instructed Reuters. “Without reaching out to the young, what will be the place of religion in the future?”
Paiwan and Sompong’s weekly livestreams appeal to lots of of 1000’s of viewers inside minutes, as soon as reaching a peak of two million.
Paiwan, whose Facebook follower rely skyrocketed by greater than 800% to 2.5 million in simply over a month, stated he wished to maintain Buddhism related to Thai society within the wake of scandals at temples over homicide, medicine, intercourse and cash laundering.
The upbeat periods additionally offered a lot wanted reduction for a lot of Thais confined to house throughout night-time curfews to stifle the nation’s COVID-19 outbreak.
“We have bad days and we are stressed with work, with money, with family, with the pandemic and everything that’s going on with the lockdown,” stated Onravee Tangmeesang, 32, who watches each Friday night time session from her mattress.
“Those giggles can really brighten up my day.”
But the weekly livestreams have not been greeted so favourably by Buddhist conservatives eager to uphold the faith’s conventions and formalities.
The two monks have been summoned final month to a parliamentary committee on faith to elucidate their on-line actions, whereas senior authorities figures have warned them to tone down the jokes and “inappropriate behavior.”
“Monks’ behaviour has to be respectable in the public eye. It doesn’t have to change with the time to appease young people,” stated Srisuwan Janya, head of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution.
“That will lead to the decline of Buddhism, which has already existed for nearly 2,600 years without needing to change before.”
Paiwan responded with typical levity when requested to touch upon the summons: “Laughing has become a national problem!”
SHAKING IT UP
Buddhism is likely one of the three conventional pillars of Thai society, alongside the nation and monarchy, but it has largely grow to be performative, its function in society largely diminished to one-off occasions equivalent to funerals, non secular festivals and royal occasions.
For many followers, the monks’ willingness to interrupt typical obstacles to succeed in out to them and communicate their language makes them worthy of reverence.
The livestreams enable the pair to interact straight with their viewers, studying feedback and answering questions, a tactic that breaks the long-standing Buddhist conference of one-way preaching.
In a current livestream the pair riffed on the idea of “merits” and whether or not they may very well be shared.
“Lord Buddha said merits are like candles,” stated Paiwan. “You can light other candles without dimming the flame of the first.”
Sompong, who has 1.4 million followers on Facebook, chimed in: “Just be careful not to burn your friends.”
Both males burst into giggles.
Pongsak Sangla, 36, stated the pair allowed individuals to seek out house for Buddhism once more, with out time-consuming rituals, of their busy trendy lives.
“Times have changed,” stated Sangla. “Realness is what people want.”