SRISAKET: Monks may not often lose their tempers but two did go head-to-head in a heated dispute recently over who got to sit closer to the temple abbot during a merit-making ceremony.
The unfortunate incident occurred at Wat Jiang Isrimongkolworaraam in Srisaket province, where devotees had gathered for lunch and a merit-making ritual, to be performed by chief provincial monk Phra Rachawannawethi.
The event was intended to mark Asalha Bucha Day, which is dedicated to the memory of Buddha’s first public speech. The holy day turned out to be more like Boxing Day than anything an enlightened one could possibly approve.
It all started when 23-year-old monk Phra Saksri Narintho was asked by his mentor Phra Rachawannawethi to go to the monks’ quarters to fetch some palm fronds to be used as part of the merit-making session that was in progress.
This he did, but when he returned, he found that 40-year fellow monk Phra Samarn Phuriwthutho had moved into his position near the abbott, Srisaket’s top monk.
Words were exchanged and tempers began to rise. Phra Samarn accused Phra Saksri (whose name means “pride”) of taking advantage of his close ties with the esteemed abbot and of being too fussy. As the confrontation escalated, the enraged pair eventually walked outside the temple grounds to settle their differences.
Though one would expect 23-year-old Phra Saksri to have a natural advantage over the older Phra Samarn, this did not stop him from picking up a length of metal to use in the imminent battle.
Undeterred, Phra Samarn charged in and grappled with his foe, delivering some good punches and kicks. But eventually, Phra Saksri saw an opening and clobbered Phra Samarn over the head, knocking him to the ground in a heap, blood gushing from his shaved head.
Perhaps sensing that their plan to pick up some holy day merit was going seriously awry, the crowd of at least 100 pleaded with them to stop. But Phra Saman, now completely covered in blood, resumed his attack, again charging in like a raging bull.
The fighting continued until chief provincial monk Phra Rachawannawethi, looking more a referee in an Ultimate Fighting Challenge octagon, somehow managed to get between the brawlers and break up the fight, after which he called the police.
The police arrived and took the disgraced clerics down to the station, where they reportedly agreed to cease hostilities. After that, the police returned them to the temple and turned them over to Phra Rachawannawethi for religious discipline, in this case banishment from the temple though not defrocking.
Perhaps realizing that his life of free meals and accommodation was over, Phra Samarn walked around head-down and seething with rage as he collected his belongings in preparation to leave the temple. But as he did so, he came across a length of wood with a nail conveniently sticking out from one end.
Thus armed, he walked directly into Phra Saksri’s quarters and slammed him across the head, driving the nail in near his rival’s left ear and causing him to collapse to the ground.
Phra Samarn tried to make a getaway but novices who witnessed the attack gang-wrestled him to the ground and kept him in custody. It was not reported if Phra Saksri survived the hole in his head or what subsequently happened to Phra Samarn.