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.