By Kalinga Seneviratne
On a Saturday morning a pair drives into the Santi Asoke neighborhood within the north-eastern outskirts of Bangkok, and walks into a big warehouse stacked with garments, sneakers, books, electrical items, cellphones, washing machines, furnishings and different home items. The couple inspects a stack of garments scattered on a mat, picks some up and places it in a basket. It’s then taken to a volunteer cashier, who weighs it and quotes a value.
It is a kind of a ‘Buddhist’ grocery store the place nearly all items on the market are second hand, donated by the devotees and offered right here to boost cash for Santi Asoke TV station. They make about Bhat 800,000 to 600,000 (USD 19,000-26,000) a month.
“Folks donate no matter they don’t want. We’ve got no set value. They are going to come and accumulate the items they need to purchase, like in wholesale, and we quote a value,” defined neighborhood chief Samdin Lersbusway, whereas taking Lotus Information on a tour of the neighborhood.
“The store sells all the pieces from garments to air conditioners. Issues that can’t be offered straight, we restore and promote. We additionally recycle paper, plastics and promote to recyclers,” he added. “Anybody can donate stuff to us. Typically we get new items from the wealthy.”
Taking a raise to the third storey of a multistorey block we go to the modest services of Santi Asoke TV station the place solely their Liaison Officer Thongkaeo and her cameraman – a pupil – was current. They don’t have a station supervisor or a program supervisor, however they broadcast 24-hours a day on satellite tv for pc and when the necessity arises reside on Fb and LINE. Its operations are coordinated by the Liaison Officer.
A recorded function was being broadcast after I visited them.
“We’ve got run the TV station for 10 years. We work as a household,” says Thongkaeo, including, “I plan schedules, do interviews, prepare guests to be interviewed, and through college time period college students assist us.” She invitations me to participate in a dialogue together with her about Lotus Communication Community with the assistance of an English interpreter. However, earlier than we begin the interview she factors out, “we will be the solely TV station on the earth the place no workers is paid. All workers must be multitalented”.
Samdin provides additional that they work on the premise everybody-works-for free and the cash they earn from their labour goes to a central fund which is managed by the Santi Asoke neighborhood. They’ve seven communities throughout Thailand, with the most important one – and their headquarters – in Ubon Ratchathani in north-east of Thailand close to the Laos border.
Santi Asoke was based by Bodhiraksa, a well-known tv entertainer within the 1970s, who turned a monk within the early 1980s. He was not pleased with the habits of many monks who had been non-vegetarian and concerned with black magic rituals. Thus, he left the temple with a gaggle of followers and arrange a 3rd sect of monks outdoors the management of the State. They turned an outlawed sect within the tightly managed Thai clergy.
However, when Santi Asoke member Main-Normal Chamlong Srimuang was elected because the Governor of Bangkok in 1985 and later confirmed curiosity in becoming a member of nationwide politics there was a scientific marketing campaign to demonise the group. “Chamlong was extraordinarily fashionable as a Governor, thought to be a ‘Mr Clear’, who lived modestly in keeping with the Asoke teachings, ate one vegetarian meal a day, rejected tobacco and alcohol, and didn’t gamble or go to night-clubs,” famous Mahidool College Professor Marja-Leena Heikkila-Horn in a research on Santi Asoke.
Chamlong had a possible to scrub up the corrupt political institution of the dominion with a Buddhist ethical motion that would attraction to the inhabitants, the place 95 % declare to be Buddhist.
“With a view to stop Chamlong from taking to the nationwide stage in politics, his Buddhist affiliations wanted to be declared unlawful,” explains Prof Heikkila-Horn. “Bodhiraksa was detained in June 1989 and all of the Asoke monks and nuns had been detained for one night time in August 1989. A court docket case was filed in opposition to them that yr; it lasted till 1996.”
The financial disaster of 1997, the place extreme greed and borrowing was recognized as the foundation reason behind the issue, shares of Santi Asoke started to rise, as a result of they’ve at all times been essential of grasping capitalism and promoted the idea of Buddhist economics often called bunniyom (meritism).
“The aim of getting a enterprise right here is to not make cash. We make contacts in doing enterprise to observe the dhamma (virtues),” says Samdin. “Enterprise right here is viable as a result of individuals need meals. Take little revenue in order that they’ll proceed to take just a little wage.”
He was explaining this precept to Lotus Information whereas strolling by means of their weekend market the place the farmers (who don’t use chemical inputs of their farms) promote their greens and fruits at a modest revenue. There have been additionally plenty of vegetarian eating places that had been ‘promoting’ meals just about free of charge.
An Indian vegetarian restaurant run by a Thai chef was giving meals freed from cost to monks, nuns and residents of the lay neighborhood right here who’ve to return earlier than 10.30 am to eat. “Different individuals pay. They could additionally go away a donation to provide one a free meal,” chef Glang Din defined, pointing to keys on a noticeboard he mentioned, “secret is on a board to indicate what number of free meals can be found. If you wish to get one, take a key and provides it to me for a free meal. Anybody can do it”. He added that when you donate Four,000 Bhat (USD 130) “I’ll give free meals for the day to everybody who needs a meal right here”.
On the top of the financial disaster in 1998, the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej famously suggested Thais to observe a ‘sufficiency economics’ mannequin of contented financial self-reliance. This was what Santi Asoke has been training since its inception.
When enterprise tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra got here to energy in 2001, Santi Asoke acquired the chance to evangelise their financial supreme to the agricultural lots. He delegated to Santi Asoke the government-financed coaching of tens of 1000’s of indebted farmers in Asoke centres. Farmers got here in teams of about 100 and stayed for 5 days. They learnt about natural farming, recycling and reusing, and had been obliged to take heed to sermons on the virtues of vegetarianism and bunniyom.
Every Santi Asoke neighborhood, just like the centre right here, whose leafy 7 acre property is surrounded by creeping excessive rise buildings of builders, has along with the warehouse, the market house and eating places, two multistorey condo buildings housing lay followers, kutis (cottages) for monks and nuns, a college constructing, a well being centre, departmental retailer promoting primarily natural and natural merchandise, and a Four-storey unfinished temple in concrete with a synthetic water fall behind a Buddha statue. They’ve been setting up the constructing in phases for 30 years, “when we’ve cash to do it” says Samdin.
Curiously, they don’t have the big Buddha statues and lavish shrine rooms Thai temples usually have. “Our neighborhood has three sections – temple, college and neighborhood. All three are built-in,” says Prouputt Kaodura, English interpreter for the neighborhood.
Thus, the rooms and flooring that encompass the Buddha statue are areas for retreats, courses, convention rooms, assembly rooms and a library. “It’s a place for individuals to work, a really sensible path,” says Prouputt.
“The Santi Ashoke communities are self-sustained Buddhist communities. Monks and other people reside in keeping with the teachings of Buddha they usually have developed a system of sustainable dwelling,” says Thai tv producer Pipope Panitchpakdi who has reported on the neighborhood many instances.
“It’s one thing good for right now’s world dealing with local weather change and political divisions, and so forth,” he says, declaring that as a result of Santi Asoke believes that capitalism is in opposition to humanity, the commercialized mainstream media shuns them.
* A video documentary on the Santi Asoke neighborhood might be considered on Lotus Comm Web https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooQHk16Owlc
This text is the 37th in a collection of joint productions of Lotus Information Options and IDN-InDepthNews, flagship of the Worldwide Press Syndicate. Click here for earlier articles.
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