While New York’s finest have enough dignity to turn down Chen Guangbiao’s cash, it looks like Times Square’s newest swindlers do not.
Robed, self-proclaimed Buddhist monks have joined the eccentric ranks of Times Square, where they solicit donations from New Yorkers in exchange for blessings and amulets, The New York Times reports. The monks have been said to display trademark Buddhist virtues such as greed (when they deem donations too small), and aggression, which prompted the greater part of nine arrests of fake monks this year.
When questioned by actual Buddhists, pedestrians or reporters about what they are doing, they become silent and subsequently walk away or whip out a pixilated picture of a generic temple.
To celebrate the addition to Times Square, Facebookers have created a Fake Monks in New York City group as well as “extended Fake Monk Awareness Month”.
In China, fake monks are hardly a novelty and arrests are not unheard of. One notable example involved the closing of several temples last year on Mount Wutai, one of China’s four sacred mountains, after fake monks were used to swindle tourists. Hong Kong has also recently seen a rise in fake monks, spurring the creation of their respective Fake Monks in Hong Kong Facebook group. Australians were similarly warned about a country-wide fake Buddhist monk scam about six months ago.
Who these people are and what they actually do seems to remain a mystery due to their conspicuously reticent persona when faced with any question, but one thing is for sure: real Buddhists disapprove. Watch a pedestrian describe her experience in Times Square and one monk awkwardly scurry off when questioned by a reporter.
By Giulia Sciota