In Khlong Luang District, 16 kilometers north of Bangkok International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, a humongous Buddhist temple Wat Phra Dhammakaya is located. This religious monument looks more like a spaceship, or a sports stadium or even a UFO rather than resembling a traditional Thai temple. It is more than eight times bigger than Vatican City and almost twice the size of Cambodia’s ancient Angkor Wat, which makes it quite possibly the world’s biggest religious complex.
Magnificent Architecture Of Wat Phra Dhammakaya
At the center of the structure is a huge dome, the Dhammakaya Cetiya, which is covered with 300,000 gold-coated bronze statues of Buddha.
There are also another 700000 more nestled inside the temple.
The golden dome is the Memorial Hall of Phramonkolthepmuni, the sect’s founder. It is surrounded by a massive circular concrete platform that functions as the Meditation Amphitheatre.
Unbelievably, the entire complex is spread out on a thousand-acres piece of land.
Here, mass rituals are held everyday, where devotees hail from more than 30 countries. It witnesses more than 100000 worshippers during Sundays or religious festivals. It has a 15 storey office called the U.N of Buddhism.
For nearly a month, the temple was under siege by more than 3,000 troops and police officers, on money-laundering charges and politics.
What Makes Dhammakaya Different
It broadcasted its own 24-hour TV channel, until authorities shut it down in December and runs meditation centers from Belgium to Bahrain, Singapore to the Solomon Islands. People claimed that this religious temple teaches talks of a cosmic battle between light and dark, urging supporters to bring others into the fold to bring about world peace, which is a wrong interpretation of Buddhism.
Dhammakaya sees worldly activity as crucial for its divine mission and for this temple, donations equal merit for example the donation boxes have signs reading ‘Entrance to Heaven’. The critics allege that the temple scams ordinary people to build plush pads for corrupt monks, as during a raid, pictures of exercise and massage rooms, golf carts and minimalist glass and steel condos were splashed across Thai media. A figure that Dhammakaya disputes, apparently costs 350 billion bhat.
Why Dhammakaya is involved in a political struggle?
Apparently Thailand’s ruling military is targeting the temple for fraud. One of Dhammajayo’s followers was sentenced to 16 years in prison for embezzling money that was donated by people. The sect claimed that he was not aware the money was tainted.
Though the temple says it’s politically neutral, some believe it is supportive of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Buddhism being one of the key pillars of Thai society, monks are granted many concessions, including not paying taxes and being exempt from arrest until they are defrocked.
Dhammakaya is run by board of about 20 senior monks appointed by Dhammajayo. It is suspected that it’s plotting to upend Thailand’s political order. One critic even compares the temple’s globalist ambitions to Nazi dreams of world conquest. Apparently Police sent thousands of officers to the temple during a raid, and about 10,000 temple supporters lived in tents to deter officers.
Dhammajayo’s whereabouts are unknown and he is stripped of his titles. The senior monks are also slammed with criminal charges. The government wants Dhammajayo defrocked, but only the Sangha Council can do that.