Metrosexual millionaire monk in S’pore sued over S$244,000 ‘study grant’
Claiming the money was a gift, he bought a one-bedroom apartment in Sydney.
A relatively low-profile court case involving a religious leader is ongoing in Singapore’s High Court.
The civil case does not lack colourful details.
About the case: A$240k “Study Grant” or Gift?
Lee Boon Teow, 65, a trustee and former Vice-President of the management committee of Mahabodhi Monastery in Bukit Timah, is suing its former abbot and current committee President Venerable Guojun for the return of a A$240,000 (S$244,375) “study grant”.
Lee claimed that the money given to Guojun in 2010 was meant to fund his doctoral studies.
But he found out in June 2015 that part of it was instead used by the prominent monk to buy property in Australia.
Guojun had bought a A$545,000 one-bedroom apartment in Sydney in June 2010. The property was sold in June this year for A$810,000 (S$828,000).
Guojun acknowledged that he had received the money from Lee, but denied agreeing to use the money solely for his studies.
He maintained that it had been a gift for his own use, and also as a form of gratitude for blessing Lee’s construction business and for marriage counselling.
Colourful details revealed
The case was reported both in the English and Chinese media.
But it seemed to receive greater coverage in the Chinese evening dailies as it was splashed across the front page for two consecutive days on Nov. 28 and 29, with detailed reports in the inside pages.
Some of the colourful details from the case:
“A millionaire monk”
Lee described Guojun as a “millionaire” monk.
He knew Guojun has at least A$3 million in investments and after taking into account the proceeds from the sale of his Australian property, he estimated Guojun’s total assets to be near S$5 million.
He said he has a “different interpretation” of Buddhist precepts, and believes he is entitled to have financial assets and manage his own personal expenditure, hence he did not disclose his financial status to the monastery or its management committee.
“This has nothing to do with wealth, but how you use it and your mentality towards money. You are only the guardian of money.”
“A monk in the day and a metrosexual at night”
Lee also said he was unhappy with the monk for his “integrity issues” and “questionable conduct”, claiming that Guojun treated the monastery as a “magic money tree” (摇钱树).
He was quoted in media reports saying in Mandarin: “You can’t be a monk in the day and a metrosexual at night”（早上做和尚，晚上做潮男）.
It was a reference to photographs taken last year by private investigators showing Guojun wearing a baseball cap. He had changed out of his robes into singlet and shorts, and stayed overnight at the Marina Bay Sands hotel with two male friends.
Who is Ven Guojun?
43-year-old Guojun is a prominent figure in the local Buddhist community.
Born in Singapore, he has a diploma in biotechnology from Ngee Ann Polytechnic and also a degree in Buddhist philosophy from Fu Yan Buddhist Institute, Taiwan, and in psychology and sociology from Monash University, Australia.
He was ordained as monk under Ven. Song Nian of Mahabodhi Monastery and was named Dharma heir by Ven. Sheng-yen in September 2005.
Mahabodhi Monastery was first established in 1969. About 5,000 devotees worship there.
This is not the first time Guojun, who is also an Australian permanent resident, has been embroiled in controversy.
This is the second of three legal disputes brought by Lee against Guojun. A defamation suit arising from a Buddhist sculpture was settled last month.
Another defamation suit is pending.
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