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Buddhist Organization: High Line 'Monks' Are Not Real And Are Scammers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A major local Buddhist organization said Friday that the purported monks pressuring for donations on the High Line are not real – and their actions are anything but holy.

They are easy to spot as you walk along the High Line -- men dressed in robes like traditional Buddhist monks.

But as CBS2's Tracee Carrasco reported, the Buddhist Council of New York is warning that the men are really just scammers just looking to make money.

"The regular practice is never done like that," T.K. Nakagaki of the Buddhist Council of New York

The reputedly bogus Buddhists even approached CBS2. Cellphone video shows their modus operandi is first to give out a shiny gold card to get people's attention.

Then, speaking very little, they try to give passersby a beaded bracelet for a suggested donation. They say the money is to build a temple.

One of the purported monks said the temple is planned for Taiwan. The purported monk then asks for a donation of $20, $10 or $5.

Many say their approach is aggressive – quite the opposite of real Buddhist monks.

"I just saw him keep trying to, like, give out cards," said Neeka Nazhand of San Francisco. "Like, we would kind of walk away to show that we weren't interested, and he just kept trying to force them on us."

"I think it's pretty offensive when you have people dressing up pretending they're something they're not," said Paolo Lorenzi of Gramercy Park.

Vendors at the High Line said the monks are there every day, and seem to be multiplying.

"It was before only one guy, and then it's like became maybe like 10 of them," said vendor Elvira Kamalova. She said the purported monks bother people.

And the Buddhist Council said not only are the men a nuisance, but they're giving their religion a bad rap.

"For me, it brings disrespect to Buddhism and the image of Buddhism," Nakagaki said.

The rules listed outside the park say "no solicitation." CBS2 reached out to the organization that operates the High Line for the city, but did not hear back.

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