There was an intriguing article in the Straits Times last Friday on foreign Buddhist monks in Singapore. Apparently, these foreign monks were willing to charge less to perform funeral chants at wakes. The competition was so stiff that a local Singaporean monk had turned to his MP (Member of Parliament) for help (you can’t fault him for trying).
According to the article, the monk saw his income dropped by as much as 70% in the last 2 years because of foreign competition.
Informed Buddhists would find the claims by the monk bemusing because we know that monks and nuns are not supposed to charge for any of their services (funeral chants or otherwise). He would certainly be shocked to learn that genuine monks and nuns in Singapore can easily give these foreign monks a run for their money because they charging nothing for their services! 
But I like to highlight another more serious issue in this post. While accurate information on Buddhism are readily available on the Internet, many Singaporeans still associate the religion with geomancy, amulets, fortune telling and… monks charging for chanting at funerals, none of which has anything to do with Buddhism!
It is important that we uphold the image of Buddhism. Imagine for a moment that Apple were to allow other companies to use their brand. We will soon see iShaver, iWashing Machine, iBlender, iSofa appearing in the market, all carrying Apple’s logo! People will be totally confused as to which are real Apple products. Many of these non-Apple products will surely be of poor quality and design, further damaging Apple’s brand.
Yet this is what we are seeing in Buddhism in Singapore. For a very long time, we have allowed people wearing monks’ robe to read fortunes, perform geomancy readings and to sell amulets. We, the real practitioners of the Buddha’s teachings have lost control of the Buddhist “brand” to these pseudo-Buddhists beliefs. And many of them are giving Buddhism a bad name. 
What can we, as informed Buddhists, do about it? I suggest 3 solutions:
Firstly, we need to speak up. The Internet and social media has greatly empowered the ordinary folks. We can inform others on social media and online forums, where discussion has cropped up, as to what is and isn’t Buddhism.
Secondly, Buddhist leaders should speak up against practices that go against Buddhist principles. While ordinary Buddhists can inform at the grassroots level, only the leaders can present an official stand on these issues. Sadly I’ve not seen any official statement coming out that makes a stand on this issue.
Lastly, we need to reach out to these people who are giving Buddhism a bad name. Some are just opportunists, in for a quick buck. Others have genuine bread and butter concerns which we as Buddhists should help to address.
Incidents like these can be great opportunities for Buddhism to grow if we address them appropriately. Lets hope we get it right sooner than later.
 We need to understand the “Business model” of deaths. Loved ones of the departed usually contact the funeral parlor to help arrange the funeral. These funeral parlor are run by businessmen who make a living from these services they provide. Usually it is these funeral parlor who contact “money charging monks” to chant at funerals.
 I recall about 2 years ago, the Straits Times ran a half page article on “Thai Buddhism” and amulet business in Singapore. Again, while amulets are very popular among Thai Buddhists, they have nothing to do with Buddhism. In the thousands of suttas recorded in the Buddhist cannon, the making and use of amulets was never recorded.
 A friend once told me of her angry encounter with one of these “monks”. At the funeral of her relative, the “monk” told her that if she wants him to chant more “powerful” sutras, she would have to pay more and hinted that she should not mind paying more (a more “powerful chant could cost a thousand dollars more) if she loved her relative. This “monk” is clearly a businessman in a monk’s robe.