A Buddhist monk in Nantou County apologized for disregarding the Buddhist tradition of strict adherence to vegetarianism when he was reportedly caught shoplifting packets of beef jerky at a convenience store last week.
After his arrest on shoplifting charges, the 60-year-old reportedly said: “It was the covetous desire inside me, I am very sorry, I have let Lord Buddha down.”
“I don’t know why, but lately I had this craving for meat,” he reportedly said when questioned by police.
In Taiwanese Buddhism, monks and nuns must strictly avoid killing creatures and eating meat. They must also remain celibate and refrain from consuming alcohol or other intoxicants.
According to a police statement, the suspect had visited several monasteries around Taiwan, and in recent months, he took up residence at a Zen Buddhist temple in Nantou.
The police expressed surprise at discovering that the shoplifting suspect had been educated abroad, obtained a master’s degree at a US university and also holds the position of “master” in Buddhist temples.
In total, he is said to have shop-lifted spiced beef jerky three times from a convenience store near the temple.
The store alleged last month that the monk had taken beef jerky that sells at NT$60 a packet. The monk, wearing his cassock, reportedly returned a week later.
A store employee said that when they took the inventory that night, they found that spiced beef jerky packets were missing.
A scan of the in-store surveillance camera footage showed the monk took the beef jerky and ate it while seated inside the store, store representatives said.
Last week, the monk visited again and the store surveillance camera reportedly caught him pocketing the same brand of spiced beef jerky.
Before he walked out, the local police were called.
The monk at first denied having done anything wrong, saying: “I came to the store to buy things, why should I be searched?”
After the store produced the videotape evidence, police said the monk became “flustered” and tried to explain, saying: “I was careless and forgot to pay. I would like to make reparations and pay the store.”
The police said they arrested the monk on a charge of theft.
A spokesperson for the Religion Trade Union of Nantou County said the case should be a lesson for all monks, as the requirement of abstinence from eating meat had been violated and that stealing things is an indictable crime.
He said the first Buddhist precept is “no killing,” requiring monks and nuns to practice vegetarianism to reduce the suffering of living creatures.