The Thai monks' livestream contains Buddhist and jokes, but not all are laughing
Two Buddhist monks in Thailand have emerged as social media stars with Facebook livestreams that combine traditional teachings with non-traditional jokes and giggles. BANGKOK, Oct 13, Two monastics have also become social networking stars due to the introduction of nontraditional humor and laughter. Einige of the country's religious conservatives, however, aren't so amused.
Phra Maha Paiwan Warawanno, 30, and Phre Maha Sompong Talaputto, 42, have captured the imagination of a generation who find the formal temple decorum and Sanskrit chanting of traditional Buddhism outdated and inaccessible. Phrase Maha Intiao, based in Manila, has mastered the art of youth slang.
Paiwan sat beside Phra Maha Sompong in a small study in Wat Soi Thong temple in Bangkok on october 24th, while wearing revealing robes.
In the livestream that followed, the two men discussed a range of topics, combining Buddhist teachings, known as Dhamma, with modern life advice and humour.
Paiwan told Reuters that "I want Dhamma and the young generation to coexist" What will be the future's place of religion if we don't reach out to the young?"
Paiwan and Sompong's weekly livestreams attract hundreds of thousands of viewers within minutes, reaching a peak of two million.
Paiwan, whose Facebook follower count has risen by more than 800 percent to 2.5 million in just over a month, said he wanted to keep Buddhism relevant to Thai society in the wake of temple scandals over murder, drugs, sexuality, and money laundering.
The lively sessions also provided much-needed relief for many Thais who were kept in their homes during night-time curfews to combat the country's COVID-19 outbreak.
"We have bad days and we are stressed with work, with money, family, the epidemic, and everything that's happening with the lockdown," said Onravee Tangmeesang, 32, who watches every Friday night session from her bed.
"Those giggles can really brighten up my day," he said.
Buddhist conservatives, who are determined to uphold the religion's practices and formalities, have not treated the weekly livestreams as well.
The two monks were last month summoned to a parliamentary committee on religion to explain their online activities, while senior government figures have warned them to tone down the jokes and "inappropriate behavior."
"Monks' behaviour must be respected in the public eye. Srisuwan Janya, the president of the Association for the Protection of Constitution, stated, "It doesn't have to change with the time to appease young people."
"That will lead to the decline of Buddhism, which has existed for nearly 2,600 years without having to change before."
When asked to address the summons, Paiwan responded with a typical levity: "Laughing has become dreaded in the United States!"
SHAKING IT UP NOW!
Buddhism is one of the three traditional pillars of Thai society, along with the nation and monarchy, but its role in society has largely been reduced to one-off events such funerals, religious festivals, and royal events.
For many, the monks' willingness to break traditional barriers to reach out to them and speak their language makes them worthy of reverence.
The livestreams allow the pair to interact directly with their audience, reading comments and asking questions, a tactic that breaks the long-standing Buddhist tradition of one-way preaching.
In a recent livestream, the pair explored the idea of "merits" and whether or not they could be shared.
Paiwan stated, "Lord Buddha said that merits are like candles." "You may light other candles without dimming the flame of the first."
Sompong, who has 1.4 million followers on Facebook, said, "Just be careful not to burn your friends."
Both men burst into giggles.
Pongsak Sangla, 36, said the pair allowed people to return to Buddhism in their busy modern lives without consuming rituals.
Sangla said, "Times have changed." "Realness is what people want," says David O'Connell, "as a result of his work."