in the city where i live (Toronto, although this is an issue in many cities around the world), there are people dressed as monks soliciting others on the street for donations. In return, various good luck charms are offered.

The fake monks speak little English, and will try to justify their begging with the claim that donations are for building a temple back home.

Is there anything I can or should do about this?

Are these fake monks giving Buddhism a bad name, or at least obscuring Buddhism's true message?

Are the fake monks doing an ironic good by giving people the chance to practice generosity?

  • It might possibly be a story that would interest the Toronto Sun. For example, they chose to publish an expose of 'the shaky lady' beggar about 10 years ago, and that Globe and Mail blog (from 2005) alleges they have (or had) a "ceaseless quest for 'bogus beggars'".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 18:16
  • Possibly. Although, news outlets have picked up this story before; it doesn't make the front page.
    – Anthony
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 18:20
  • 1
    What can be done about real monks? Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 20:56
  • Maybe help them become true monks?
    – Dan
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 20:40
  • 1
    This situation is getting some media exposure in New York myfoxny.com/story/29345917/panhandlers-posing-as-monks and ijreview.com/2015/06/… (same video being shared on each story).
    – Robin111
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 14:04

5 Answers 5


I have some suggestions.

Guard yourself against any possibility of Wrong Speech by not saying anything about these persons, their motives, or actions that you don't personally know to be true; even if it seems extremely likely that they are being deceptive. If you want to warn family & friends, stick only with what you know to be true such as "In the tradition I study, monastic rules don't allow monks to ask for money or sell good luck charms."

Guard yourself against the arising or continuing of any negative states by not identifying with this issue. This is not personal. Cities have always been magnets for people inclined to do "creative fund raising". ;-) City dwellers are pretty savvy about this type of thing and it's unlikely the media will downplay it indefinitely. It's too quirky of a story for them to ignore forever.

Guard yourself against the attachment of "me and my" Buddhism getting a bad name. Truly awful things have happened in the contexts of other religions; bloody wars, sexual exploitation, financial scandal.

The teachings of the Buddha shine on. A little thing like this can't tarnish it. :)

  • 1
    Interesting. It's not quirky here though, it's near Chinatown and much weirder things are common. Plus, these "monks" make a lot of money through their "strategy".
    – Anthony
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 20:44
  • 2
    Understood. But if it happens around the world, as you mentioned, it will become known over time; like all other "strategies". :)
    – Robin111
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 20:46
  • This is the best answer I’ve seen in this site so far. Awesome!
    – superiggy
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 16:57

The idea of Karma, in both Buddhism and Hinduism, means anything we do, in the name of "justice", etc., will be nothing compared to what that person will experience due to those actions (assuming that person never purifies/confesses/etc.) "Compassion" is always the best thing to do. Indeed, feel sorry for that "evil" person as the karma will be "reaped" in the future. (Indeed, I would argue, and have, that "Justice" probably brings just quite similar bad karma (and bad results) as the actual selfish acts. Motivation/Intention would be, I think, the key.)


Judging others can never help. If somebody's fake then it's his/her loss. The word 'monk' or 'bikkhu/bikkhuni' contains a set of rules, obedience and sometime with automatically added vows of poverty and chastity in association with religions. All the rules that any monk adapt are for himself only. Suppose i am a monk. I know that i am committed to some routine (as per the buddhism), say. And beyond all of this i am having some hindrences and worldly level curiousity (stress). so i am doing it wrong (on me, for me, by myself). You came across to me and told me that where i am wrong (in a very appreciable manner) and then just you left. Now i see two ways. 1. Follow your words and your right intention. 2. Follow my own understanding behind the meeting, with you. Choice will always be mine. Maximum you could do, you did (the flow of right intention). This is all what can be done about fake monks like me. There's nothing like one should follow buddha or teach others to follow buddhism. Let us see the sight turning into insight.


If those monks are ‘not really funding for building a temple’, and ‘they don’t know anything about Buddhism’, and ‘it’s clearly apparent that they are fake monks’, then yes, their behavior is not good for Buddhism.”

even if monks raise funds for a good purpose, it can be done proper manner. not like common street beggar's way.


It's maybe good to distinguish between a "monk not sticking with his rules" or a "monk - 'living by theft'" and a recluse/brahman of other traditions.

If serious to understand more, feel free to read extended answer and to ask: [Q&A] What can (should) be done about fake monks?

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains by means of trade and exchange.]

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