Thai monk protest leader: “It’s better to care for people on the street”

buddha issaraLast Friday, the monk who has taken a leadership role in anti-government protests in Thailand, Buddha Issara, sat down for a short interview with the Wall Street Journal. When questioned as to whether monks should involve themselves in worldly affairs, he insisted that not only is it necessary when those in power are behaving in ways that harm the population, it is “nothing new” in the history of Thai monasticism; only in recent history have they been sidelined as political advisors. He also urged a shift toward street-level activism for the monks:

“I think most people who visit temples or monasteries are good anyway. It’s better to care for the people on the street. Even those who come to the temple, you have to wait for them to arrive before you can teach them. There is also an emphasis on being neutral. Monks these days can’t clearly say what is wrong and what is right. The country has to reform its religions as well as its politics, and we have to change the way that Thai monks think, how to apply the principles of the Lord Buddha’s teachings to the everyday life.”

Read the full interview here.