Bodhiraksa, founder of the controversial Santi Asoke Buddhist sect, since disbanded, was born Mongkol Rakpong in 1934 in Thailand. His was a large and poor family, and like many poor Thai boys, Mongkol worked at odd jobs to help his family make ends meet. Again as is common in Thailand, when his mother died he became responsible for supporting and educating his 6 brothers and sisters. A bright boy, he entered an arts and crafts college. I don't know if he graduated.

As a young man he became a popular TV entertainer and song writer, changing his name to Rak Rakpong (rak means "love" in Thai). For a number of years he enjoyed great wealth and fame, and then became interested in animism, finding a 2nd career as a spirit medium and faith healer.

Finally in 1970, after turning to Buddhism - and shaving his head, becoming vegetarian, and walking barefoot - he resigned his job and became a monk, taking the name Bodhiraksa. (All men take a new name when they entered the monkhood.) Bodhiraksa was, however, dissatisfied with monastic strictures, twice changing disciplines, and finally striking out on his own, establishing his own group and practicing his own ordinations.

A charismatic, outspoken man, Bodhiraksa was eventually tried and convicted of "falsely wearing a monk's robes", which we can translate as annoying the Buddhist sangha. He now wears white robes instead of a monk's orange, and is no longer allowed to call his group "Buddhist".

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