Date
19 August 2017
An MTR attendant is shown taking notes from a man claiming to be a monk. He reportedly lit a cigarette in an area inside Prince Edward station where smoking is prohibited. Photo: Facebook
An MTR attendant is shown taking notes from a man claiming to be a monk. He reportedly lit a cigarette in an area inside Prince Edward station where smoking is prohibited. Photo: Facebook

What to do about fake monks? Don’t give them money

Expect no lai see, not even a small token, if you’re not a real Buddhist monk.

The problem for Kagyu Monlam Office, a Tibetan Buddhist group which is proposing the freeze-out, is that in their finest Buddhist garment, monks are indistinguishable from one another.

Nevertheless, a spokeswoman for the group, surnamed Choi, is adamant about the crackdown in order to discourage fake monks from deceiving the public.   

“Usually, we give HK$100 lai see to monks that we invite but only HK$10 to those we think are not real monks,” Choi told EJ Insight by phone.

The occasion was the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong Kagyu Monlam which was celebrated from Sept. 6 to Sept. 9. 

Some members had previously suggested not to give any money to the pseudo-monks but others were not sure about that — they couldn’t tell which ones at a glance, even though the invited guests (the real monks) were wearing wristbands of authenticity.

“Last year, a dozen fake monks came to our ceremony. Our master gave a red packet with one dollar to each of them and one of them threw it on the table,” Choi said. 

Kagyu Monlam Office reported the copycats to the police, who took them away because they could not show any Hong Kong identity cards.

“They came back again this year… to avoid disturbance to our ceremony, we decided to give them HK$10 notes,” she said.

Choi said Kagyu and other Buddhist groups in Hong Kong have discussed the growing menace of fake monks who hustle the public for money, giving legitimate Buddhist organizations a black eye.

On Sept. 8, a Mandarin-speaking man dressed as a monk lit a cigarette on the MTR platform, where smoking is prohibited, in Prince Edward station, according to a widely circulated Facebook post.

When called out by passengers, he shouted back and invoked Buddhist practice when confronted by MTR staff, saying “monks have their own rules”.

Earlier, he was seen eyeing up a woman.

Some netizens later posted photos of the group on Facebook showing they had been to the Kagyu Monlam event two days earlier.

“These people are obviously fake monks,” Choi said, adding real monks have a certain poise and demeanor.

“We did not invite them,” she said. 

“Most fake monks come from the mainland but some live in Hong Kong,” she said.

We have a headache dealing with this sort of people but we can’t stop them from coming to our activity or from asking people for money.”

The solution is for all Buddhist groups to put their heads together, she said.

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This Facebook post purports to show the fake monk (with beard) receiving lai see packets at the Kagyu Monlam anniversary event earlier this month. Photo: Facebook


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