Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wat Tham Krabok

"When I find a coin on the ground, I do not think I am lucky; instead I am sad for the person who lost it." -Buddhist monk at Wat Tham Krabok



Imagine: 15 people lined up, all dressed in red uniforms, kneeling over a gutter, buckets of water on their left side and an empty bowl in their hands. One by one, a monk hands them each a "shot glass" sized cup of a brown liquid. They drink it and immediately dunk their bowls into the water bucket and quickly drink as many as 3 or 4 bowls of water before they begin to vomit into the gutter. They continue to drink the water and vomit. In the background, a man is pounding drums while the rest of the addicts, awaiting their turns, begin to chant loudly. The drinking and vomiting continues until all of the brown liquid has been expelled from their systems.

My experience at Wat Tham Krabok, a temple where drug addicts seek treatment, had the biggest impact on me so far. Wat Tham Krabok is almost fully funded by donations, mostly from recovered addicts who want to let others have the same experience. The recovering addicts only had to pay for their food.

For the first 5 days of treatment, the addicts must do the vomiting ceremony daily. It looked painful, but it is a way of purifying the body. According to the monks, the routine at Wat Tham Krabok involves them waking up at around 4AM and cleaning, followed by exercises, chanting, and purifying. They drank a secret herbal tea to cope with the withdrawal symptoms (which I tried...it was very strong). Nobody is allowed to know what goes into this tea. Another way the addicts are purified is through a steam bath filled with lemongrass. (I wish we could've spent longer in there; it felt amazing).

The Monks:
-Ate only one meal per day at 7AM
-Very humorous (*see list of quotes*) --As Angus put it, they did not leave their personalities at home when they became monks
-Care deeply about the recovering addicts: "I think of them as my own children."

The Recovering Addicts:
The remarkable thing about the recovering addicts was that they all WANTED to be there. They had the motivation to change themselves, and some of them traveled from far away to come to Thailand for the help these monks offered. The recovering addicts all supported each other which helped with their recovery.

The History:
Supposedly, the history of Wat Tham Krabok began in the 1950s when the Kingdom of Thailand cracked down hard on the use of opium. An addict went to the Wat and asked the monk for help. The monk responded that he would help. The monks had no idea how to use treatment, but that night one of the monks had a dream with the secret to the herbal drink that they still use today.
...or at least that's the history as I understood it!

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