A row broke out at a Buddhist temple in Melbourne after its chief monk was suspended for allegedly breaking down with a woman who broke his vow of celibacy.
The striking details emerged from a legal battle over who should head the Khmer Buddhist Temple Association, which had ended up at the Victoria Supreme Court.
Court documents allege an investigation by the union committee found that Hout Chhet, the chief monk at Eysanmeanchey Temple in Thomastown, violated his Buddhist orders by:
Registration of a rival association called the Cambodian-Australian Buddhist Temple Association Inc in which he is the sole director of the Woman’s House;
The association’s vice-president, Visal Mom, issued an affidavit to the court telling the court that they suspended Venerable Chhet, who has been the monk’s resident since 2012, in December.
« As Cambodian Buddhists, we pay immense respect to our monks and grant them significant privileges because of the sacrifice they have made in order to forego worldly things, » said Mama.
« We expect immense spiritual strength and righteousness from them. Buddhist monks are celibate, have no property and survive on alms from the community. »
When the Venerable Chhet was informed of the internal investigation, Mr. Mom claims the abbot had the assistance of Committee President Sothy Samreth, who called for a spontaneous election to « kidnap » the government from the investigators.
Police were called to the meeting in front of the temple on November 22nd when a large crowd gathered despite COVID restrictions.
Mr. Mom said the temple parishioners packed and tore up the forms and papers that were being distributed and yelled at the new committee candidates that they were « impostors » and « impostors ».
Changes were then made to his credentials on the website of the Australian Commission on Charities and Nonprofits and the names of some officials were changed, he said.
The association immediately applied for – and received on Thursday – an injunction from the Supreme Court to prevent the new committee members from being taken on.
Judge Greg Garde said the meeting to elect a new committee was illegal and ordered the restoration of the previous committee.
« I will restore the previous committee to office … and prevent the defendants from acting on behalf of the (association) pending further orders. »
He called on the warring parties to avoid « the previous slogging match » and to undergo mediation.
At an earlier hearing, Attorney Andy Naidu, who represented the association, said an investigation into three committee members, except the president, was sparked after receiving reports. The Venerable Chhet had founded a rival Buddhist association and started stealing monks sponsored by the Khmer Buddhist Temple Association is said to be in Australia.
Mr. Naidu said the Venerable Chhet also bought property in his own name when he had no income as an abbot and « had sexual relations against his abortion ».
« When the investigation ring contracted, they decided to hold an election … to get this investigation closed, » Naidu said.
John Sutton, who represented the monk, Mr. Samreth, and the three newly elected committee members, suggested that the association had not followed any rules for a while.
« We’re dealing with a community group here where the first language for most of them is probably not English … where they’re probably not familiar with the processes, » he said.
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