Buddhist Opiate Recovery

From How Can I Help? by Ram Dass & Paul Gorman

Ram Dass speaking.....

    ..."I visited the wife of the former American ambassador in Thailand, and she told me about a monk who had built a monastery in which heroin and opium addicts were cured in ten days...for fifteen dollars.  These kinds of statistics are unheard of in the West.  Possibly this was one of those monks with the meditation powers.  I prevailed on her to take me to meet him.

    The monk had previously been a Thai narcotics officer.  He had an aunt who I was told was a Buddhist saint, whatever that means.  One day she appealed to him to help people instead of hurting them.  So he left government service and became a monk.  The Buddhist monks in Thailand are part of the Theravadin tradition which requires very severe renunciation in order to purify your mind so that you can do deep meditation.  There are some two hundred and eighteen prohibitions, all of which he adopted.  He even added ten more on his own, such as never riding in automobiles.  This meant that when he had business in Bangkok. about a hundred and fifty miles away, he would just pick up his walking stick and start walking.

    This rigorous training prepared him to do very intensive meditation practice which allowed him to tune to the deeper and more powerful parts of his mind.  When his aunt felt he was ready, she instructed him in the preparation of an herbal diuretic which she instructed him to give to the addicts, and he started his monastery.

    When I met him, my most immediate reaction was that I was shaking hands with an oak tree.  His presence was immensely powerful and solid. He had us shown through the monastery where some three hundred addicts were undergoing treatment.  The first-day arrivals all looked like strung-out junkies.  They were in one room. Then, further on, by the time they had been there for four days you could really see a change. And by eight days they seemed cheerful, were bumming cigarettes from me, and did not particularly seem like addicts at all.  And then after ten days they were gone.  An their statistics showed seventy percent remained free of addiction afterwards. Amazing.

    When I interviewed the monk, I asked him, how he does it?  He said, it was simple.  He tells the addicts that they can only come for ten days and they may never come again, and that the cure will work.  I asked him if a lot of religious indoctrination was included in the ten-day program and he said no, these people aren't suitable for that.

    I had heard that many drug experts, media people, and even some congressmen had come from the West, but that none of them could figure out why what he did worked.  The herbal brew clearly wasn't the whole ballgame.  As I hung out with him longer I began to realize that his mind was so centered and one-pointed that his being was stronger than their addiction.  Somehow he conveyed to those addicts a sense of their non-addiction that was stronger than their addiction.  And I saw that his commitment was so total, that he wasn't just someone using a skill.  He had died into his work.  He was the cure.

    Most of us are not really ready to become renunciates in order to develop the concentration and quality of awareness necessary to help others at such an extraordinary level.  But if we are prepared to investigate our minds even a little bit, we start a process that can improve our effectiveness in life, and therefore in helping as well.  If we are willing to examine the agitation of our own minds and look just beyond it, we quite readily find entry into rooms that hold surprising possibilities.  A greater inner calm, sharper concentration, deeper intuitive understanding, and an enhanced ability to hear one another's heart.  Such an inquiry turns out to be critical in the work of helping others."