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Western-educated monks inject new blood into Thai Buddhism

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Chiang Mai, Thailand – Sorayut Chayapanyo, the 32-year-old abbot of the Doi Pha Som forest temple, has found little use for his Stanford University economics degree in the hills of Chiang Mai.

‘I studied pure, hard-core, theoretical economics and now I can say it’s all BS,’ Sorayut said, sitting in his spartan hut on top of Pha Som hill.

‘Western economics are leading us to a dead end. It was a mistake from the first equation they used – the optimization equation,’ he said. ‘Western economics is all about people being driven by greed.’

Sorayut was ordained as a monk eight years ago in New York, after graduating from Stanford University and working in the United States for two years, including a stint at the World Bank.

Six years ago he moved to Samueang, a rustic district about 80 kilometres south-west of Chiang Mai, where he found his mission – the restoration of a centuries-old pagoda of the top of Pha Som hill.

Monsters and Critics

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