The other side of the storyThe marriage of Suttirat Muttamara & former monk phra Mitsuo Gavesako
Phra Mitsuo Gavesako, the abbot of a famous monastery in Kanchanaburi left the monkhood where he had served Buddhism for over 40 years and assumed his former identity as Mitsuo Shibahashi and then flew to his native Japan and married the 52-year-old businesswoman Suttirat Muttamara.
Suttirat was immediately bombarded with questions and accusations from not just the public but also many of the former monk's devoted followers.
Shibahashi has written two books [Kwam Nai Jai Ajarn Mitsuo (Message From The Heart Of Ajarn Mitsuo) and Bot Tes Wan Sud Thai Nai Phet Banpachit (The Last Sermon In The Saffron Robe)] to tell the truth behind his decision to leave the monkhood
"When the scandal broke, he [Shibahashi] said if we keep responding to criticism it would become a never-ending argument And it would appear like we made up excuses He said it is better to write a book because in a book you can explain things in detail. And I think now it is time to speak," said the 52-year-old businesswoman. Admittedly Suttirat is an attractive gentle-spoken woman and it is no wonder ... has a glowing complexion given that she owns a beauty business and has a master's degree in anti-ageing medicine.
But on the flip side it was perhaps this attractiveness that was regarded by many as the thing that enticed the former forest monk - who once announced he would never leave the monkhood nor get married for the rest of his life - to choose the worldly route he had never thought of taking before.
Apart from Shibahashi, no one will ever know if it might truly have been something more than just such physical beauty.
"She [Suttirat] is likely to have been my soulmate in past lives - my supportive partner " said Shibahashi in his first online videoclip filmed in Japan after his marriage
"Everyone might not understand why I decided to leave the monkhood So they had many questions in mind Some of my followers said that I was drugged and blackmailed and this has brought about a disgrace to Buddhism.
"Therefore, I have to explain the truth so that everyone understands and is not consumed by criticism from some certain groups of people who use the social network as a tool to destroy the faith people have towards myself," Shibahashi wrote in the foreword of Kwam Nai Jai Ajarn Mitsuo.
From Suttirat's side, her relationship with Shibahashi can be summed up as stemming from her managing his Budd-hist affairs during the two months she was appointed by the then Phra Mitsuo as his personal secretary, handling some of his work, transportation arrangements for his invitations managing his Facebook page and providing him with health treatments
And the then Phra Mitsuo's touching teachings were also where Suttirat sought emotional solace
''I always believe in his teachings,'' she said. ''Back then I was in misery because of my business difficulties. He taught me about the uncertainty of suffering and of happiness. His guidance was full of kindness and compassion With him, I learn dhamma everyday.''
And then came what can only be described as a life-changing moment
''One day he told me he would leave the monkhood '' Suttirat recalled ''I was shocked because this was not what I was expecting. But at the same time I was glad He told me he felt as if we had some sort of connection in our past lives ... and he said if he left the monkhood and we were meant to be each other's supportive partner we will still be able to contribute to Buddhism and spread dhamma.
''From Phra Mitsuo Gavesako to Ajarn Mitsuo Shibahashi, he will definitely keep on promoting Buddhism,'' she added.
But wasn't all this a wrong, if not sinful deed?
Suttirat asked her would-be husband this very important question and wondered if what they were about to pursue would block his road to enlightenment And for her, the answer was apparently a relief
''He said, 'You committed no sin You were not the cause My mind was the cause And you were just a factor' ,'' she said, adding Shibahashi always says he had never before thought of getting married nor having a family of his own. But she said now that they were happy about one another in many ways, they had some sort of vision as to how it would be if they were together like a family.
''So when the mind changes, he said he only wanted to secure the 'true monkhood' . If a monk has a feeling of love towards a woman and he still remains in the saffron robe that is simply inappropriate - a disgrace to Buddhism. If that person continues to live as a monk, he is not a true monk,'' Suttirat said.
So after the scandal broke, she was branded and accused of doing many bad, improper things to lure Mitsuo out of the monkhood
One rumour involved Suttirat arranging a private van for the former monk to travel from his temple in Kanchanaburi to Bangkok for diabetes treatment She was accused of staying with him alone during the ride in the passenger zone partitioned off from the front seats where his followers were all placed.
But then again the public response might be justified given Suttirat herself was also active in revealing her relationship as well as posting photos of herself taken with the former monk on her Facebook page, which caused a major stir especially among Buddhist followers countrywide
''After the scandal broke, I kept checking news from the internet every day until he [Shibahashi] told me to stop doing so because it only made me stressed out,'' she recalled
Now, as a husband, Mitsuo has responded to such accusations in his new book.
''I would like to reconfirm that I have been fully aware of the choice I made to leave the monkhood I made this decision myself without being drugged, blackmailed set up consumed by black magic or anything. I would also like to confirm that I had been a perfectly-behaved Buddhist monk until my last day in the orange robe And my departure from the monkhood is my willing and voluntary decision. The disrobing ceremony was carried out properly according to all Buddhist disciplines '' he writes.
The controversy apparently involved a lot of social networking being used as a weapon
In one of Shibahashi's new books, he also commented on an issue regarding the use of such weaponry.
''Digging out other people's private business and posting it on Facebook - some true, some not, some fabricated with an aim to break other people's families - are all detestable behaviours which lead to disagreement and the destruction of peace in the society rather than creating harmony,'' he wrote.
''This is the downside and danger of the social network that can distribute any information or accusing someone without any evidence
''A person's reputation can be severely attacked only by rumours from some certain groups of people. The mind is, by nature, subject to self-protection.
''We see other people's mistakes as huge as a mountain. But our own is as tiny as a needle' s eye. Other people's farts smell so foul but we do not mind the smell of our own.''
Four months into their controversial relationship everything is turning out to be just like Suttirat expected. Living with a man who spent almost 40 years in the monkhood is indeed fortunate she said. Shibahashi's health has also improved. The future is not ours to see but for now the couple plans to keep on promoting Buddhist education by holding dhamma classes both in Thailand and in Japan, where they have rented a house in Tokyo.
''We plan to stay both in Thailand and in Japan and will contribute to Buddhism through the approach he is good at, which is teaching,'' Suttirat said.
"What has happened increases the love and compassion I feel towards my wife," Shibahashi writes in his book, ''and we will hold our hands more tightly so that our minds will not be shaken by pressure from the outside." http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/3 ... -the-storyhttp://www.bangkokpost.com/learning/lea ... of-a-woman