08/06/2015, 00.00
CHINA
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Shaolin temple abbot accused of illegitimate children, embezzlement and little religion

A former monk posted accusations against Shi Yongxin, describing his as a sellout who is throwing away the religious and cultural heritage entrusted upon him. Known for his lavish lifestyle and nicknamed the “CEO monk,” Shi apparently turned one of China’s most respected monasteries into a cash cow. Netizens want the authorities to conduct serious investigations into the allegations.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – China’s controversial Buddhist monk, who earned himself the nickname of “CEO monk” after being accused of running the Shaolin Temple like a business, has been accused by a former monk of fathering illegitimate children, stealing monastery funds for his lover, acting with little religious disposition and showing no spirituality.

The monastery has denied all the allegations and has reported Shi Zhengyi (meaning, "interpreting justice" in Chinese) to the police for "fabricated and malicious insults and libel,” according to a statement on its website. However, many want the authorities to investigate the affair.

Shi Zhengyi posted allegations online saying that Shi was an “embezzler and womaniser” with illegitimate children, that he had been kicked out of the monastery in the late 1980s following accusations of theft made by his own master.

State Administration for Religious Affairs officials are investigating the claims by a former monk. The state-backed Buddhist Association of China, where Abbot Shi also serves as vice chair, has expressed concern about the allegations, saying they have “affected the image and reputation of Chinese Buddhism”.

Shi Yongxin has been accused of turning the 1,500-year-old Shaolin Temple into a commercial enterprise, with an international martial arts training institute renting the temple out for Kung Fu performances, film productions, reality TV shows and beauty contests.

This month he was again at the centre of fresh controversy over the temple’s plans to build a 5-star hotel, with a 27-hole golf course in Australia.

Many believe Shi is behind the transformation of the monastery into an amusement park.

Shi is no stranger to controversy. In the past, he accepted money to bless some businessmen and a luxury SUV from the local government for his contribution to tourism in 2006.

The story that he happily accepted a robe with silk and gold thread worth US$ 23,000 became front-page news. Eventually, because of the fuss raised by the affair, he returned the gift.

“The taller the tree, the more likely it is to catch the wind,” said a Buddhist monk who asked to remain anonymous. “And financial issues in temples and monasteries isn’t a problem that’s confined to the Shaolin Temple. Actually it’s a very common problem [in China].”

Monasteries and temples, he went on to say, are already subject to tight religious controls, which work against them if they try to be too “pure.”

It doesn’t matter whether the allegations against him are true or false; Shi Yongxin should resign,” wrote a social media user.

Another netizen wrote, “The Shaolin Temple is supposed to be a religious retreat for Buddhist teaching, for cultivating Chinese culture and purifying the spirit, and now it has turned into a corporation and a cash cow operating for a few vested interests.”

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