The Sangha Supreme Council (SSC) has no power to disrobe controversial former abbot Phra Dhammachayo as that authority belongs to his direct monastic supervisors, it was concluded at the council’s meeting on Friday.
That was in response to a complaint filed by the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) against the monk, who is now honorary abbot of the Dhammakaya Temple in Pathum Thani and wanted by authorities for money laundering and accepting stolen assets.
NOB then requested the SSC to deal with Dhammachayo through its Rule No 21 that empowers monastic supervisors to defrock any monk who regularly violates the Vinaya (monastic rules) or does not reside in a temple, the office’s newly appointed director Pongpon Pramsaneh told a press conference after the meeting.
Pongpon, who is the SSC secretary-general ex-officio, said his agency has requested in writing the monastic chief of the central region, which has jurisdiction over Wat Dhammakaya, to investigate the complaint against Dhammachayo.
“The disrobing process is not easy. The Sangha Supreme Council has no power to do so,” he told the media briefing the Buddha Monthon Religious Complex in Nakhon Pathom.
Pongpon said that by filing a complaint with the monastic body, his agency just started the monastic action against Dhammachayo.
He said the process calls for the monastic chief of the central region to refer Dhammachayo’s case to the abbot of his temple through the line of command. The abbot needs to consider the complaint against Dhammachayo and allow him to explain himself.
According to SSC Rule No 21, Dhammachayo will be deemed to waive his right if he fails to explain himself against the complaint. Then, disciplinary action can be taken against him for his defrocking, the official said.
However, he declined to speculate as to when the monastic disciplinary process against Dhammachayo would be completed. He said it was the power of the monks involved as to when to make their decision regarding this case.
“This is the same way that you cannot ask a judge when he or she will make the verdict,” he told the press conference.