Goodbye Monk Gordon – You Will be Missed at Thamkrabok

Phra Gordon Thamkrabok

I received some sad news that Phra Gordon from Thamkrabok died in hospital last week. This was one of the monks who helped me escape addiction, and he was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. He devoted three decades of his life to helping addicts and it is hard to imagine Thamkrabok without him.

Phra Gordon Was Not a Typical Monk

When I first met Phra Gordon I didn’t know what to make of him. He was in charge of the sauna area at Thamkrabok. All of us addicts would be shepherded there each day to boil; even though the outside heat was already enough to fry eggs with. He spoke to everyone as if he had known them all their lives. His American accent was a bit out of place in the middle of rural Thailand – especially as he could be so loud. It was impossible to ignore his humour though, and his jokes took our minds away from addiction withdrawal symptoms. Just seeing his frame in the distance was enough to bring a smile to my face.

The story of how Phra Gordon ended up as a monk at the temple is remarkable. He was once a soldier for hire who would fight for any army that would pay him enough. He admitted that he killed many men during his career. He was on his way to join another army when he found himself at Thamkrabok temple. This was not a planned visit, but the bus he was travelling on experienced 4 flat tyres right outside the temple. While he was waiting for the wheels to be fixed he went for a walk and met the head monk. To his amazement this stranger in Buddhist robes informed Gordon that he was expected and that he would now be joining the temple. For some reason Gordon accepted the revelation and ordained. He had no intention of staying there so long but the time never felt right to leave – he would often say this.

My Visits to Thamkrabok

After curing my alcohol addiction at Thamkrabok I continued to visit from time to time. This was easy for me because I lived in a nearby city. I would have visited more often, but I always felt a bit out of place. If it wasn’t for Phra Gordon I probably would have stopped visiting altogether. He was always there to welcome me and on a lot of occasions he would be the only person I’d speak to. He would tell me all the gossip at the temple. There was something a bit therapeutic about being around him, and I always felt better about life walking away from our conversations.

It is hard to imagine Phra Gordon dead as he was so full of life before. His size made him appear a bit indestructible and his positive nature felt like an unbreakable force. He helped a lot of people. I like to sometimes think that we reap the rewards of our good deeds even after we die. If this is true then Gordon has a lot to look forward to.

Here is a video of Phra Gordon where he talks about his life. It also features Gary; an ex-patient who died last year. Thanks to Phra Eric for posting this on YouTube.

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49 thoughts on “Goodbye Monk Gordon – You Will be Missed at Thamkrabok

  1. It is very sad that such a good man has to go so early!!
    I still believe he is watching us from above!
    Gorden let you soul rest in peace, we will miss you!
    Forever in my heart and mind!

    1. Hi Gene, I’m not sure about that. There are plenty of meditation temples, but I would imagine that anyone who has suffered that type of abuse would require counselling as well.

  2. Thanks for your account, I had also written a tribute on another personal friend Prah Greg http://vanishingflynn.blogspot.com/2011/04/rehab-in-paradise.html And I have had many personal dealings with Prah Gordon, who put up with my antics, miss them both dearly, and sorry I couldn’t visit Gordon in Saraburri, I was just in Thailand recently. But i didn’t know he was sick. Will follow and read you, keep up the mission. One step at a time. Regards The One Who is Still Learning
    The One Who is Still Learning recently posted..The Festival of Ogoh Ogoh &amp Nyepi -Bali New Year

    1. That is a nice article about Phra Greg. I remember him well from my stay at the temple. A lot of the temple heroes have died within the last couple of years. Good choice for a name by the way – I’m always learning too.

  3. Thanks Paul, I wasn’t really that close to Gordon, but I spent alot of time with Greg, who in my opinion was one of the loveliest souls i have ever met. I’m not saying that Gordon wasn’t generous with his time, but I was coming in from the other side, as a reporter, and that generated lots of suspicion. I was able to see the real Greg, and for that I’m grateful! Regards, You know Who!
    The One Who is Still Learning recently posted..The Festival of Ogoh Ogoh &amp Nyepi -Bali New Year

    1. There was a lot of suspicion surrounding reporters a few years back. Apparently some were sneaking into the temple as patients and writing expose type stories afterwards. I suppose the monks were warned to be careful about what they said.

  4. Gordon was a teacher at BKK A.U.A. between 1974- ? He was one of a core of teachers who love Thailand. We live here and love the country. His passing saddens me because it reminds me of the fact that this core of teachers is getting smaller with each passing.

    It is said that live bad, die bad, live good , die good. Gordon has passed through the bad part of his life and entered the good part of his life, it outweighs the bad I am sure. At last he has lived good, and has died good.

    The remaing core of teachers salute you and miss you. Dave Russel, Jim Powell, Anita Knobthai, Ralph Janus, Norton, and myself Tom Schubert

    1. Thanks Tom, it is nice to hear about another aspect of his life. He did a lot to make up for any wrongdoing he did in his life. He always seemed at peace with himself and that is what made it easy for addicts to trust him.

  5. Paul a great tribute to an amazing man who helped a lot of people get their lives back on track. The head monk was right about him expecting Phra Gordon to arrive and ordain at Thamkrabok, it’s just a pity he had to leave like he did. I’m sure Gordon is going to make a lot more people happy wherever he is now. What an amazing life he lived.
    Martyn recently posted..Udon Thani’s Best Bars – Fuzzy Ken’s

  6. MEDIA DIDNT MENTION GORD WAS A SHEPARD TO THE 15000 HMONG AT WAT THAM KRABOC FOR 20 YEARS AND ALSO HELP BRING THEM TO AMERICA-I MADE MEDICINE DROPS TO GORD FOR HMONG THERE-GREAT HUMANITARIAN COMPASSIONATE SOLDIER TEACHER AND MONK.
    I PUT HIM ON LVA HALL OF FAME WITH AMERICAS BEST SOLDIERS
    http://laoveterans.8k.com/photo.html

    IF YOU HAVE ANYMORE VIDEOS AND PHOTOS PLEASE POST AND SHARE THEM WITH THE WORLD AS HIS LEGACY FOR OTHERS TO LEARN AND BE INSPIRED BY HIS GREATNESS.GORD WAS A REAL MAN TELLING IT LIKE IT IS.

    HI MUST BE KEPT ALIVE AT WAT THAM KRABOC FOR FUTURE DRUG ADDICTS TO GET STRENGTH FROM TO KICK THEIR BAD HABITS-MEDIA OF HIM SHOULD BE A MUST FOR ALL WHO ENTER THE WATS GATES.THE HMONG ARE NOW GONE BUT THEIR WILL ALWAYS BE DRUNKS AND DRUG ADDICTS COMING THROUGH THE WATS GATES LOOKING FOR HELP.THE LUCKY ONES GOT TO MEET GORD.WE REALLY MISS HIM ALOT-HES THE BEST….BOOKS AND MOVIES SHOULD BE MADE ABOUT HIM-WHAT HISTORY.

    WALT
    FSOC

  7. ANYMORE VIDEOS OF GORD?
    CANT DOWNLOAD FROM YOUTUBE IN CURRENT FORMAT-CAN YOU FIX IT SO WE CAN DOWNLOAD IT FOR MEMORY OF GORD AND INSPIRATION.

    I THINK GORD CHOSE YOU TO TELL HIS LIFES STORY.I HAD SIMILAR CONVERSATIONS AT WAT TK WITH HIM BUT WAS FOCUSED ON MEDICAL AID MISSION TO HMONG AT THE TIME.WISH I HAD FILMED HIM NOW.

    WALT
    FSOC

    1. I was a friend of Gordon’s since 1986 or 1987. Steve a former monk at Tum Grabo introduced at Gordon’s sauna back when Luang Por Jumroon used Gordon’s sauna every evening. He really got it hot for Luang Por. Gordon would light up the Wat when he smiled and his laugh was infectious. We would bring him pizza, KFC with coleslaw,meats and cheeses from Foodland. Things like mustard, canned beans, macaroni would make many days treat days. Videos, books and medicine along with the odd 1,000 Baht helped him while he helped others. On visits during the Hmong days we donated many sacks of rice so Gordon could feed the students.
      I hope his family was informed.
      I great guy and one of the only Western monk to visit and stay at the Palace. Gordon said the food was great.

      1. I must add it was fantastic to see the giant Pra Gordon with the tiny Hmong kids. he sure got some looks!

        1. I am here in Bangkok for another month. I am sure our paths crossed at the temple. I am the tall Canadian guy with red hair. I am so happy to find your page or site on Pra Gordon.
          All the best, Dang

  8. To All, Monk Gord as all like to call him was my long lost Uncle whom my family and I believed to be MIA in the Vietnam war. He had 12 brothers and sisters and numerious nieces and newphews. We have been trying to find him for years. It is sad to hear of his passing but it is a joy to finally see him after 40 years. I am not shocked that he helped so many, gave his life to help others, was loud and gave up everything to do Gods will. God bless all of you who have such find thoughts and words for my Uncle Gordon. May God keep you and have his hand of protection around you. Thank you all for showing so much love to him, James Grayson, Atlanta, GA; U.S.A.

    1. How fantastic to read your comment and know more about Gordon’s family.
      I would like to share some of my memories and photos of Gordon. It will take me some time to find the photos as they are on two continents.
      I was a friend and am proud to have know him and been able to help him while he was a monk.
      Best regards to you and Gordon’s extended family.
      Alex

  9. First time I meet monk Gordon he looked around and shouted”OK who’s fucked up?” I didn’t dare to say anything and he looked direct at me and said “Well, brave heart, this is the last stop. Everything in the past is gone. You either live or you die, brother”. Gordon was surely one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. He leaded me on the right track. I’m clean for 13 years and now run a rehab centre in Denmark. I will never forget this great man. Thanks – rest in peace.

  10. I knew a Gordon Baltimore that went to Saint Paul’s College in
    Lawrenceville, Virginia. He also was in the service. Could he be the same person? If so, he was a wonderful person. The picture looks like him.

    1. This is amazing. After almost 30 years of friendship I am learning about his family and life.
      Thanks so much for writing

    2. Hello Alice,

      My name is James Grayson and I an Gordon Baltimore’s nephew. I know it has been sometime since you posted this message on this site but I would love to talk to you if possible. I can be reached at 404-246-3783. I look forward to one day speaking with you.

    3. My heart is touched reading the wonderful comments about my cousin Monk Gordon. (His father and my grandfather were brothers) We grew up together and I last saw him in my home in 1963 in Washington,DC. I am in occasional contact with his younger sister Phyllis.

      With regard to Alice Souter Gordon was indeed the same person who went to Saint Paul University.

      Thank all of you for the fine thoughts and words.

      1. Carrol I will be visiting Wat Tum Gra Bok soon. There is now a statue in his monk’s robes in the area where the rehab patients take their vows to quit.
        I have some great photos of Gordon at my home in Canada. Please contact me at dang4d@hotmail.com and I will mail or email some to you.
        I will be visiting Washington DC and Baltimore next year.
        I would like to learn more about Gordon and his pre Army days. I have always wanted to meet his parents and give them some photos.
        We used to call him Baltimore Gordon. Did you know he walked to Bangkok with the abbot of the temple to meet the King of Thailand. He stayed at the palace for three nights.
        I miss Gordon. He looked forward to my visits, but I suspected he was really excited about the western food I took him.
        My daughter loved to visit Uncle Gordon.
        Best regards, Alex Souter (Red/Dang)

  11. I dont know Gordan but I am cousin with his daughter Feelee, she talked about him to me when we was small and she was always happy when she talked to him, Its sad to know she is sad that he not here with her when she needs him. I know he will look over her and protect her

    1. Thank you for writing. My best regards to you and Feelee.It would be wonderful to see some photos of Gordon’s family.

  12. I’m a monk as well. I now 18 years as monkhood I very appreciate about this monk he is good monk. Hope he can meet buddhism again. Buddha bless your spirit. Merit to you what I have done.

  13. Today, the 14 October 2015 I have experienced in Germany, that my greatest and best friend in Thailand, Phra Gordon died in Wat Thamkrabok Thailand.
    I am at the time of his death not to have been present inconsolable.
    We have often met and had many discussions. In 2007, I was even a whole six weeks in the facility, was entitled to enjoy the hospitality of his friend Phra Ongart in his house. Here, I make myself a cure that of the poisons that administered my German doctors cleaned me
    With his talks and good advice he has changed with my life. The consequences thereof do me well today.
    These are two pieces of advice to me:
    1. You are your own doctor and
    2. You can not let you make use of stones for slaves. (They were concerned with the already adopted home and the resulting dispute with the family) I gave the house free of charge back and was from there again a free man!
    His motto: Upright walking and sitting upright – even unto death.
    Phra Gordon plays a very important role in my life.
    I will honor his memory of him.

  14. Hello Paul thank you for recognizing the works of a true life giver. I am very inspired by this story of Monk Gordon. especially the outpouring of testimony from former patients. I hope some talented independent filmmaker is also inspired by this story and is moved to produce a film or documentary of this giant’s life. the world needs to hear about the work of a true savior. The people of Thailand needs to learn about this great man. I hope to visit Thailand one day to pay witness to the country that Monk Gordon so loved.

    Mr. Fitz

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