The Strategist

Relying on Buddha

08/11/2015 - 14:36

In China, a scandal around Shaolin Temple abbot Shi Yongxin is gaining momentum. The monk turned the world famous Buddhist monastery into a prosperous enterprise, have already been the target of criticism because of the turbulent commercial activity. But now, it seems, things took a serious turn for Shi: an indirect confirmation of this was the fact that he has not led a delegation heading to Bangkok - presumably due to the fact that he is under unvestigation. If so, then Shi Yongxin risks being on a par with high-ranking officials, victims of Xi Jinping’s campaign against corruption and abuse.

Everything, that lately has been happening around Shi Yongxin, is very similar to a typical "fall from a horse." This expression is used in China, when talking about another clerk, deprived of his post and party membership card after being accused of bribery. Such overthrows are taking place in China almost every day o after Xi Jinping’s coming to power. The case of Shi has all the typical terms of such stories: a brilliant career, the illusion of permissiveness, commercial fraud, lack of modesty in everyday life, the joy of love on the side, the emergence of information about job and moral transgressions on the Internet, and finally - official announcement in the press about the dismissal due to "violations of Party discipline and the laws." Even the charge of having lovers unites the abbot of Shaolin with many "tigers and flies" - heroes of corruption scandals.

There is no official revelation yet, but judging by the fact that Shi Yongxin is not allowed to leave the country, clearly clouds are gathering over his head. However, according to another version, the authorities decided to deal with those people who "compromise" one of the oldest and certainly the most famous in the world Chinese monastery, a place of pilgrimage for foreign leaders and footages about kung fu. Most likely, the version that Shi Yongxin was interrogated in connection with the slander against him, was invented in the monastery: it is no coincidence that Shaolin, as any other large corporation, acquired a powerful PR service. It was its staff that had promulgated the first to respond to the social networks’ dirt on the abbot.

The charges are throwing deep shadow on Shi’s reputation, putting into question his right to act as a spiritual authority. In particular, it was reported that he has illegitimate children and paid for sex to several women, including a Buddhist nun. In addition, Shi Yongxin allegedly uses two identity cards in different names, which is a gross violation of the law.

Unpleasant signal for the abbot was the fact that the official media did not "put out" the subject. Compromising, first published on behalf of the "novice monastery," widely spread not only on the Internet but also in print media. A struggler against abuse, who identified himself as Shi Chzhen'i, presents itself as an insider who is well aware of all the shady dealings of the monastery. As noted in the original publication, Shi Yongxin "though is covered Buddhism, in fact, a womanizer and corrupt".

Most likely, "Shi Chzhen'i" - a pseudonym, as in Shaolin immediately declared that they have no such a monk. Nevertheless, the authorities have apprehended "criticism from below 'seriously. State Administration for Religious Affairs of China "paid serious attention" to the rumors and instructed its local office to conduct an investigation.

Xinhua News Agency suddenly (and maybe just not all of a sudden?) published two articles in a row on how Thailand monks, violated moral rules or conflict with the law, are treated strictly. Subject of one of the notes left no doubt that the message of Shaolin was addressed to "the Buddhist oligarch": "What happens if a Thai monk received a complaint."

In addition, the website of Xinhua has reprinted an article of metropolitan newspaper "Peiching chenbao" saying that investigation the activities of Shi Yongxin should already have been launched. According to the author, the authorities of the province, where the monastery is located, getting the budget part of the funds from Shaolin’s commercial activities, may be biased, so the investigation should be referred to a higher level. This is another wake-up call to Shi Yongxin, who, if you focus on the "roster", really is a figure of the national level: in 1998, he was elected a deputy of the National People's Congress. Shi also has a chair in the current Parliament.

This shows how deeply "CEO of Shaolin" is integrated  in the political system. He created rigidly centralized structure (which included touring team of monks, video company, travel agencies, a campaign on ticket sales and other commercial structures). "A state within a state." Somehow it reminded fiefdom of Bo Xilai - former party chief of Chongqing. Under the previous leadership of the country, Comrade Bo got away with all the art festivals like the revival of revolutionary songs and elements of the Maoist policy. The center did not respond to the signals that the fight against the mafia in Chongqing was, in fact, redistribution market in favor of businessmen close to Bo and his wife. Now, Bo Xilai, who was considered one of the most promising Chinese politics, got a life sentence.

Shi Yongxin has gotten in the limelight for many times. Back in the late 1980s, Shi started implementation of various commercial projects, including tours of monks outside of China. He actively attracted tourists and foreign pilgrims to the Monastery - ticket sales alone brought millions of dollars annually, to say nothing about the volume of donations. In 2006, the abbot was given a car worth more than one million yuan, which many in China considered contrary to the Buddhist doctrine of the nullity of all worldly things. In 2009, the press reported that Shi Yongxin ordered a robe embroidered with gold, which cost more than 20 thousand dollars. Also, the abbot has been criticized for the fact that the monastery decided to acquire a luxury toilet, the construction of which took about 400 thousand dollars. Scandal erupted in 2011, when one of the novices said that Abbot Shi has foreign accounts by three billion dollars and villas in the US and Germany.

It is difficult to say what is true and what is an exaggeration, but the fact, that Chi was able to squeeze money out of all what "Buddha sent", and enjoyed the patronage of officials for that, is obvious.

It is not clear whether Shi will succeed emerging unscathed, as it happened many times in the past. It is also worth paying attention that the current claims against "the general director of Shaolin" appeared on the background of the anti-corruption campaign and calls for officials to be honest and modest. If any of the nominated charges against Shi is confirmed, this could be an occasion for a more detailed investigation.

Shi Yongxin’s main mistake is that he missed the moment of the transformation of norms according to which China should have all the closed systems, - the army, the security services, the state corporation or a business empire based on the world-famous monastery. Xi Jinping so dramatically changed the rules of the game that many of the former masters of life’s protective mechanisms have failed, resulting in the series of trials on human beings, until recently regarded untouchable. Probably the same thing happened with the adventurous monk: he felt that the Buddha would help further, and always manage to agree with the state. Further developments will show whether " Shaolin Empire " will became  another territory that have lost the special status, allowing its inhabitants, capitalizing on its own significance and proximity to influential politicians, feel above the law. National property should behave with dignity - perhaps it is a lesson that the state is planning to teach Shi Yongxin. However, perhaps a strict warning alone would be enough.

source: lenta