Over 100,000 Buddhist monks and novices gather to receive alms at Wat Phra Dhammakaya temple in Pathum Thani, outside Bangkok, on April 22, 2016.
Over 100,000 Buddhist monks and novices gather to receive alms at Wat Phra Dhammakaya temple in Pathum Thani, outside Bangkok, on April 22, 2016.
Credit: Jorge Silva

PATHUM THANI, Thailand — Tens of thousands of Buddhist monks gathered on Friday at a Thai temple mired in controversy to join in a ceremony organizers called the world's largest offering of alms to renunciates.

The temple, 30 miles north of the capital, Bangkok, is run by the influential, if controversial, Dhammakaya sect, and has been dogged by allegations of corruption for years, but has always denied them.

Buddhist novices walk as they gather alms at Wat Phra Dhammakaya temple in what organizers said was a meeting of over 100,000 monks in Pathum Thani, outside Bangkok, on April 22, 2016.

Around 50,000 monks clad in orange robes chanted as devotees wearing white to symbolize the purity of the Buddha flocked to give alms at the Wat Phra Dhammakaya, famed for its enormous golden stupa that resembles an unidentified flying object.

"Giving alms to 100,000 monks is a once-in-a-lifetime event," said one devotee, Patsara Limkangwanmongkol, 47, adding that she had made similar offerings at the temple for a decade. "It is a must."

As many as 100,000 monks and novices took part in the event, organizers said in a statement, calling it the largest of its kind.

Religion in predominantly Buddhist Thailand is fast becoming a proxy war for the country's divisive, color-coded politics and the temple is one of several issues tearing at Thai Buddhism.

A Buddhist monk sleeps on a chair while monks and novices gather to receive alms at Wat Phra Dhammakaya temple, in what organizers said was a meeting of over 100,000 monks in Pathum Thani, outside Bangkok, on April 22, 2016.

Another issue is a battle for the post of supreme patriarch, Thai Buddhism's top post, which has divided the country between the leading candidate, who has ties to the Dhammakaya temple, and those who oppose him.

The monastery's abbot has been summoned on Monday by justice ministry officials dealing with cases that could affect national security to face charges of money-laundering and receiving illegal donations, among others.

The abbot, Phra Dhammachayo, has said he received charitable donations but did not know where they came from.

 

 

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