Over the past week, netizens have posted a series of images and videos on the popular Taiwanese Facebook group Baoliao Commune and the bulletin board website PTT showing Buddhist nuns and monks seemingly breaking every vow in the book, including driving an ostentatious sports car, wearing designer jewelry, drinking beer, eating meat, shoplifting and perusing porn.
A nun, who netizens have nicknamed "Chanel Bhikkhuni," was spotted speeding away in a Toyota 86 sports car that even had an aftermarket spoiler added on the back. Spoilers are usually added to improve the aerodynamics and maintain stability of a car at high velocities, so this nun has got a need for speed.
A bhikkhuni is a fully ordained female monastic in the Buddhist religion. In Taiwan, Buddhist nuns are usually subject to Vinaya or a set of 348 rules, which normally include bans on eating meat, drinking alcohol, sensual misconduct, and generally prescribe an ascetic lifestyle with material possessions kept to a bare minimum.
In response to the images of the nun hopping into the souped-up sports car, one netizen exclaimed "It's Master Takumi!" Takumi Fujiwara is the protagonist in the Japanese manga series Initial D, who is known for his racing prowess.
Other colorful comments from netizens included "the nun said: if I can see your taillights, you win," "wow, it's even got a spoiler, that's insane," and on a spiritual level "when a person is in a car, they are in Buddha's heart. There is a saying: where there is a fast car, Lord Buddha's heart lies."
Another video was posted on Baoliao Commune of a different nun in a restaurant being confronted for apparently drinking beer and eating meat:
The man holding the smartphone asks her where she is from and she replies that she was from the south. He then asks her out of curiosity why she can eat meat and drink beer as a Buddhist Nun, as such actions are banned in Buddhism. She replies "it'a none of your business,”and then promptly hides the beer under the table.
According to a report by Apple Daily News, she is a 51 year old woman from Pintung who was recently caught on CCTV in a convenience store trying to steal a bottle of red wine worth NT$469 (US$15). She was also found to be wearing a designer watch and ring.
Meanwhile, images of a monk poring over adult video DVDs at a popular porn shop in Guanghua Mall were posted on the Taiwanese online forum PTT. Though Buddhist monks (bhikkhus) in Taiwan have 98 fewer rules to adhere to than their female counterparts, viewing porn would at the very least be frowned upon as an activity that would hinder enlightenment.
In 2006, there were more than 8 million adherents to the Buddhist faith in Taiwan, according to Ministry of the Interior officials. Owning a Buddhist temple can be a lucrative business with NT$13 billion (USD400 million) worth of Joss paper (ghost money) burned in 2014. In the first eight days of the Chinese New Year in 2014, Taiwan's top 10 temples collected a total of NT$500 million in donations.
There is also the problem of con men posing as fake monks preying off the goodwill of unsuspecting pedestrians in tourist areas and busy intersections. On the positive side, there are six well-established socially engaged Buddhist charities in Taiwan that put their Dharma teachings into practice by providing assistance to many in need both in Taiwan and around the world.