Bangkok – Anyone visiting Bangkok these days will see the Knowing Buddha Organization (KBO) signs at the airport on arrival, starting at immigration desk, on billboards driving into the city, on displays and exhibitions at Buddhist temples throughout Thailand.
All this is designed to raise awareness about the misuse of Buddha’s image as decoration instead of worship, as Buddha’s image is supposed to be treated. “Respect is Common Sense” echo the signs.
The KBO organization spends millions per year, raising social awareness about the morality in various areas of Thai society and most recently on the issue of climate change resulting from the World’s over use of cloud servers, to store all those selfies we take endlessly and upload.
One would assume that the Government or the Department of Cultural and Religious Affairs, would be behind the funding of these high profile and costly campaigns to stop the disrespectful exports and use the image of Buddha as decoration.
To most people’s surprise, it is not the Government or the Department Cultural and Religious Affairs, that is doing all of this, but the Knowing Buddha Organization’s (KBO) founder Master Acharavadee Wongsakon, A Vipassana Meditation Master, who is leading the charge. “Using the image of the father of Buddhism is unacceptable, disrespectful and bad manners,” says Acharavadee. “People should give respect to the symbol of Buddha, the same way they should give respect to the father of other religion.”
Archarvadee Wongsakon also as known as “Tan Ajan”, speaks out loudly against not just the misuse of Buddha’s image for decoration, but also the decline of morality in society , extolling the virtues such simple ideas as a countries citizens, dutifully paying their fair share of income taxes, to give back to the country that support their lives. As well as drawing attention to a decline in morality amongst and throughout all society. KBO campaigns aim to awaken morality of people in the world not just in Thailand. According to Master Acharavadee, “trouble and misfortune occur in the world, due to the deteriorating morality of the people. If we can mend our morality, then step by step, those troubles could also be resolved.”
To confront these highly charged issues is a tall order for any one person to take on, let alone a lay woman in a male dominated society, culture such as Thailand.
Master Acharvadee Wongsakon is no ordinary woman. Starting her career in 2005 she founded of a ultra-successful Jewelry Design business, St Tropez. Wongsakon an attractive young woman, quickly made it to the top of Thai society and Thailand business A-list. However, not long after Acharavadee’s meteoric rise to success, she took up Vipassana Meditation practice to help her cope with the stresses of big business and celebrity. It was her Meditation practice that eventually led Ms. Acharavadee to decide she no longer wished to spend her life in the spotlight, going to social functions, product launches and doing media interviews.
Achacharavadee, decided to leave the limelight, in 2010 she sold her business and with the money, she bought a property in the center of Bangkok, where she opened The School of Life, a school for young children to learn Buddhist Dhamma.
Eventually in 2011 Ms. Wongsakon, sold the rest of her worldly possessions including designer clothes and jewelry and opened a Meditation retreat in the scenic countryside of Saraburi, Thailand. Simultaneously, also forming in 2012 the Knowing Buddha Foundation (KBO).
Master Acharavadee Wongsakon and the Knowing Buddha Foundation (KBO) have been endorsed by the Thailand’s National Board of Buddhism. Master Acharavadee herself teaches the Techo Vipassana Meditation technique to help thousands of laypersons to purify their minds, based on the Four Foundation of Mindfulness (Mahasatipattana Sutta) at various Techo centres around Thailand.
Wongsakon has published numerous books, the most recent include “Top Ideas in Buddhism” and Thailand’s bestselling book “Awaken from the Madness, a message from the Buddha”. Since 2014 Master Acharavadee also publishes the 5000s Magazine promoting a layperson’s approach to the modern Buddhist lifestyle. These publications provide information on morality in Buddhism, how Mediation can lead to a purified Mind and show that the world, how it can change through collective morality and ethics.
According to Acharvadee’s book “Awaken from the Madness” she credits the Venerable Phra Somdeh Toh, who taught Master Acharavedee the art of Techo Vipassana Meditation. The Venerable Phra Somdeh Toh’s technique of meditation is said to be a short cut to Mind purification and spiritual awakening. According to Master Acharavadee, this practice does not require the practitioner to give up their layperson life, or be ordained as a Monk.
As the Knowing Buddha Organization message is spreading campaigns worldwide, places like the Island of Bali are taking notice. Bali is the leading exporter of Buddha images in the world, exporting thousands of tons of stone, wood carvings, paintings and clothing bearing the image of Buddha.
It was in Bali, that decorations for the Buddha Bars were produced. Master Acharavadee as a young business woman travelled to Paris, where she visited the Buddha Bar and saw first hand how the image of Buddha was being used by the Buddha Bars, to promote the disco club life and the sale of alcohol, which goes against the very foundation of Buddhist beliefs. A despondent Acharavadee was heartbroken by this and vowed to do something to raise awareness. This lead to the formation of the Knowing Buddha Foundation, which a decade later, has worked with companies from Zara Home to Louis Vuitton and Disney to stop the misuse the image of Buddha as decoration.
Master Acharavadee’s latest campaign focuses on climate change resulting from cloud storage of data. It is not easy to tell people around the world, that they must start deleting all those selfies and countless photos from their cloud accounts, because it is accelerating climate change. This campaign will not make Master Acharvadee or her Knowing Buddha Organization popular amongst the billions of Instagram or Facebook users, addicted to uploading pictures daily.
But Acharavadee’s resolve is not shaken. According to insiders at the United Nations Climate Control Centre, Acharavadee is spot on, “this is a issue on our radar”.
Electrical consumption resulting for cloud storage will make up 20% of the world electricity consumption by the year 2025. This is a subject that is starting to get the UN’s attention.