Why is the Chief monk of Malaysia and Singapore not in his robes?

by Siriminda, Kuala Lumpur, The Buddhist Channel, Jan 19, 2011

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- First of all, I would like to offer my congratulations to the Nayaka Maha Thera  (Chief Sangha Nayaka ) of Malaysia and Singapore Ven. K. Sri Dhammaratana for being conferred the Datukship (the equivalent of a British Knighthood), which for non-Malaysians knowledge is a federal title that has been conferred since 1965 (see here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malay_styles_and_titles). Hence from now on (officially at least), he is Ven. Datuk K. Sri Dhammaratana.

<< Ven Dhammaratana, the Chief Sangha Nayaka of Malaysia and Singapore seen receiving his Datuk title from the Malaysian King wearing a full lay suit instead of the monk's robe. Photo courtesy of China Press (Nov 24, 2010)

At the same time I am disturbed and horrified to know that the venerable donned a complete lay suit to in the investiture ceremony. This picture taken from a Chinese daily says it all.

As far as I know, there have been many priests and holy people who have been granted federal titles from the Malaysian Royalty and there were seen to receive their titles in their holy apparel.

I am just a lay person and as such I have very little knowledge of the monk’s vinaya. Nevertheless, I wish to know that by not wearing his robes, did he break any of the monk’s rules of conduct?

I was also informed that even if there was minor breach of the rules, there need to be some sort of confession between the venerable and his brother monks. How is this being handled?

We are not talking about just any monk here. Ven Datuk Dhammaratana is the head of the Sinhalese Sangha for both Malaysia and Singapore. He is also a very senior monk who has been in the robes for 45 years.

With this picture so widely distributed and talked about on the internet (including social media), I am sure that I am not the only one who is confused.

And since the venerable will place the honorific “Datuk” title in his name card, will he also put the photo of him receiving the award from the Malaysian King in his office or anywhere inside the compound of the temple where he currently resides?

I certainly feel that it is due time that the temple and the association which handle its administration come out with some statement to explain the situation to the public.

Any delay for doing so will only drive speculative discussions among members of the public which I can see will lead to even more confusion.

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