HAI DUONG – A Vietnamese Buddhist monk will highly likely be punished by his Sangha after a video capturing him un-boxing an iPhone 6 and photos displaying his extravagant lifestyle surfaced online last week.
Venerable Sir Thich Thanh Cuong, the abbot of the Cuong Xa Buddhist pagoda in the northern province of Hai Duong, has repeatedly ignored summoning by the province’s Buddhist Sangha to attend a hearing to give an explanation on the controversial unboxing and photos, Bhante Thich Quang Tung, head of the provincial Buddhist Sangha, said on Tuesday.
Unboxing is a term to refer to the unpacking of a new product, especially a high-tech device. The product’s owner usually captures the process on video and later uploads it to the Internet.
Bhante Tung added that all of the members of the assembly “disapprove of Cuong’s behaviors,” after they convened to discuss his case yesterday.
However, as Venerable Sir Cuong has yet to show up, the Hai Duong Buddhist Sangha “cannot decide how to handle the case,” Bhante Tung said.
“Venerable Sir Thich Thanh Cuong has flouted the Buddhist ethics and spoiled the reputation of the Hai Duong Buddhist Sangha, so he must be strictly penalized,” Bhante Tung said.
If the monk still refuses to come forward, the Buddhist Sangha will remove him from his post as head of the Buddhist Sangha in the province’s Tu Ky District, Bhante Tung added.
In a video clip that has gone viral on social networks and in Vietnamese media since last week, Venerable Sir Cuong, in his Buddhist monk costume, was filmed eagerly unpacking the box of a 64GB iPhone 6 at a mobile phone store in the northern province.
The monk said clearly in the video it was September 24 and he was the first customer to buy the iPhone 6 at the mobile phone shop at 5 Hoang Van Thu Street.
Venerable Sir Cuong appeared too excited to unbox the device and the shop attendants, whose voice were clearly heard in the footage, had to tell him to “take your time, master. Or you’ll break the screen.”
He also had difficulty turning the device on at first, but with help from the shop attendants, the monk could finally make it.
“The power button of the iPhone 6 is on the side of the device, not on the top as the iPhone 3 and 4,” the monk remarked after the Apple logo appeared on the handset screen
The video clip was reportedly posted by Venerable Sir Cuong on his own Facebook page on the day he was filmed, before it spread at lightning speed.
At that time, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus that were brought to Vietnam by traders who had bought them from Singapore or Hong Kong cost from US$1,550 to $3,300 each, depending on colors and storage capacity.
Apple’s latest handsets are expected to be officially distributed in Vietnam in late October.
The monk-unboxing-the-iPhone-6 video immediately caused a stir on the Internet and has generated many negative responses.
Most of the comments criticized the monk for his lavish lifestyle, something that is not expected to be seen from a Buddhist practitioner.
Others mocked his dharma name and turned it into a new one that means “monk who loves the iPhone” in Vietnamese.
Even worse, Venerable Sir Cuong showed off on his Facebook many photos in which he is seen posing with a VND600 million ($28,241) Vertu mobile phone, or next to a dining table full of food, following the surfacing of the controversial footage.
In other photos, Venerable Sir Cuong even shed his monk costume to sport a military uniform and posed next to a jeep SUV.
‘Monks are not banned from using smartphones’
On September 27, Venerable Sir Cuong said in a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper telephone interview that people have misunderstood the purpose of the iPhone 6 unboxing video.
The monk explained that since the mobile phone store owner frequently pays homage at his pagoda, Venerable Sir Cuong visited the shop and “touched the iPhone 6 only to bring luck to them.”
“The shop attendants filmed me unpacking the device as a promo video for the store. I didn’t buy the iPhone 6 actually.”
Venerable Sir Cuong also said no one prohibits monks from using smartphones.
“Monks also need to utilize hi-tech to communicate and teach Buddhism online,” he asserted.