Panhandlers asking for donations are found all throughout Montreal's metro network, with musicians, homeless, and even organizations soliciting donations in nearly every station. It's simply a reality of the city. One particular "beggar" (for lack of a better term) has created some controversy, however, because they're pretending to be a monk.
You may have entered McGill metro station and found an Asian man garbed in Buddhist monk robes asking all passersby for donations, but according to more than a few Montrealers, the "monk" is anything but. Instagrammer David Wong pointed out this allegedly dishonest panhandler to us, and the amount of people who wholeheartedly agreed the Buddhist monk is a fraud makes us believe the same.
Unlike other solicitors of donations, this "monk" (allegedly there is more than one) will approach individuals and directly ask for money. No almsbowl is seen as one would expect from a Buddhist monk, just unabashed asking for cash. Check out a video example from McGill metro here.
Fake Buddhist monks are actually a worldwide phenomenon, with cities around the globe reporting the same problem. Official complaints against fake Buddhist monks were made in Toronto, New York, Honk Kong, Sydney, and many more, with the public reacting in much the same way, so super pissed off.
In quite a clever method, these faux-monks are reported to immediately put a bracelet on a person or give them a golden Buddha, then essentially guilt the person into giving them a donation. Not wanting to disrespect a religious representative, many give in and hand over cash without question. When monks don't get a donation in return, they are not above threatening to curse a person, as reported in some cases.
Worse is the fact that in Buddhism, directly asking for a donation is unheard of. Yes, the practice of receiving alms is a part of the Buddhist religion, but it is done in a passive manner. According to Robert Buswell, director of the Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Buddhist monks aren't even supposed to acknowledge a received donation, as quoted by the NYT.
Playing into people's ignorance is not okay, especially when discrediting, and abusing, an entire religion. We can't officially say these monks at McGill metro are absolute phonies, though here's a simple test many have used on fake monks elsewhere: ask them where their temple is located, or to name on of the 5 Buddhist precepts. If they scurry away in a hurry (as has happened already) then you got a scammer on your hands.