What if you see bogus monastics on the streets of Singapore asking for money – pretending they need funds for food, building projects and such? If there is only one single thing you should do, it is to call the cops at 999, to request the police to come in plain clothes. Why? Well, I called the cops to arrest two bogus ‘monks’ standing outside Waterloo Street’s Guanyintang temple with begging bowls. But they had informers, who alerted them of the approach of obviously uniformed cops – some 100 metres away. (It was comical to see them pull up their robes and flee though.) It’s easy – just describe the location to the cops. You don’t have to stay around or watch what happens if you don’t have time. There’s no need to make any statement too.
Please note though, that in countries such as Japan, it is a custom for monastics to stand stationary, to do chanting for blessing the public, and to receive money in their bowls. But such is not the case in countries like Singapore and Malaysia at all. In the past, the bogus monks in Singapore were stationary, which made them easier to apprehend. Nowadays, mobile ‘nuns’ are more popularly used instead – which makes immediate reports to the cops even more crucial. The general direction the bogus monastics are walking to should be informed too. If one wishes to track them, one must be very careful. Tracking bogus monastics might be dangerous, though there is no recorded case of intimidation yet.
Protect the integrity of real monastics by exposing the fake. Previously, a syndicate of 30 fake monks were caught. Some were foreigners forced to be fake monks as their passports were withheld by syndicate leaders, when they were promised work earlier. Free these conned ‘workers’ by handing them over to the law! Mere scaring them away does not do much if they simply go elsewhere. Having ever scared three away, not once did I detect any remorse while they fled. The syndicates might force them to continue their ‘jobs’ despite their fear. Scaring them away might only urge them to increase their vigilance, making them harder to track. They might be abused when they turn in empty bowls too? Arresting them in any case is for their own good – especially if they are perfectly willing ongoing partners in crime.
With some ‘experience’ from spy games, I am likely to secretly call the cops when I next spot bogus monastics, before shadowing them as far as I can, telling the cops to call me for their latest location. But that’s just the adventurous me – not recommended for all. If there are more friends, there might be safety in numbers, but shadowing might be more conspicuous! But it is good to play safe! Maybe there’s a ‘simpler’ solution – organise big and burly Buddhists in pairs to ‘patrol’ the usual haunts of fake monastics – to detain them on the spot once they appear – till cops come! They can then be interrogated to uncover and bust their HQ. Anyone wants to be fearless Dharma Protectors? Do help to spread the message on how to spot and report bogus monastics too!
Real (Food-collecting) Monastics / Bogus (Money-collecting) Ones
1. Stand outside food centres / Walk from table to table
2. Wait for food donor to approach / Approach patrons and reject unpacked food
3. Alms bowl covered till food comes / Bowl always open for money
4. Do not carry pendants or strings for ’sale’ / Exchange them for money
5. Nuns wear no make-up or ornaments / Some don them
6. Collect food between dawn and noon / Collect money at any hour
7. Approach households for food / Approach for money
8. Fearless when police mentioned / Fearful when so
Operation Bogus Bust (Part 2): The Follow-up