Memories of a Special Buddhist Monk – Phra Hans

Phra Hans was a special person who had a huge impact on my life. He died just over a year ago. This Buddhist monk spent a good portion of his life helping addicts and other lost souls. Here is something that I wrote about him last year after just hearing about his death.

When the Student is Ready the Teacher Appears

Sometimes the world can seem like it is full of magic. At these times it is easy to marvel at the way my life seems almost blessed – how do the right people end up on my path when I most need them? A more spiritual person might view these helpers as guardian angels, but I’m far too cynical to believe in such things – angels indeed. I tend to just put it all down to a quirk of life – a law in the universe we don’t yet understand that somehow means when we are ready the teacher appears. It was due to this oddity in nature that I met Phra Hans.

I’d made a complete mess of my life. I’d hit my rock bottom 12 years previously, yet I’d managed to somehow keep digging. I had been battling with alcohol addiction for twenty years and was losing badly to it. My life had become unbearable and the part of my mind that had given up hope of recovery. I just wanted it all to end quickly, but I somehow also had the tinniest flicker of hope left inside. It was this hope that brought me to the gates of a temple in Thailand called Thamkrabok, and it was there that I met a Swiss monk called Hans.

Addiction is a Tool For People Who Have Lost Their Way in Life

My first day speaking to Phra Hans wasn’t under the best of circumstances. I was sitting in a hard plastic chair and my body was shaking because of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. I must have looked a right mess. I hadn’t consumed any alcohol that day – I had wanted to but my body just vomited everything straight back up. Despite not drinking I still stunk of booze, and I felt like a worthless piece of shit sitting there.

Phra Hans looked so healthy and serene that it briefly made me feel even more ashamed. But he didn’t show any signs of repulsion at my state. He just sat there and patiently listened to my story – I was used to addiction experts trying to give me an answer before even hearing my question.

After I finished speaking he was silent for a few seconds before sharing his thoughts with me. He explained how it was his view that addiction was a tool that many of us use to cope with life. The only problem is this tool eventually causes us more pain than any of the problems we were running away from in the first place. The substance abuse needs to be abandoned because it is now useless to us. There is good news though, if we stop our addiction we will once again find our path in life; this is a reward for beating addiction. It was losing this path in the first place that allowed us to fall into addiction.

That day in the office with Phra Hans I heard answers that had eluded me for decades. Although my withdrawals from addiction were making it difficult to concentrate, I could easily see that what he said was correct. Over the next couple of weeks at the temple my mind cleared and further chats with him cleared things up even more. What he said came from his heart, and I don’t think that I heard one platitude from his mouth. More than the talking though was his ability to silently listen and allow me to come up with my own answers.

Goodbye Phra Hans and Thanks

I would see Phra Hans occasionally after this; I would drop by the temple and have a quick chat with him. Every time I would be rushing and not taking the time to really talk. I returned to the Wat Thamkrabok last year with my family to celebrate three years sober. I missed Phra Hans that time altogether. I was told that he was sick, but my obsession with my busy life meant that I didn’t go to see him. Of course, I promised myself that next time I would spend a bit of time with him. I wasn’t to know that there wasn’t going to be a next time.

Phra Hans died a couple of days later. I felt sad, and it is tempting to try and turn him into a saint in my head, but I didn’t really know about him to justify this. All I know is that he had a bigger impact on my life than people who I’ve known for years. I do regret that other addicts are not going to benefit from his wisdom and caring heart. He struck me as such a humble man. I feel sure that whatever good karma he planted in this life will reward him.

Phra Hans made a real difference in the world. He was a friend to the addicted and hopeless and these are people who can really benefit from such wise friendship. His good actions are still rippling through the world. He may no longer exist but it will be a long time before his actions die.

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13 thoughts on “Memories of a Special Buddhist Monk – Phra Hans

  1. How wonderful, Paul.He was in your life at a perfect time, when you opened up to him and his loving words of wisdom. Death is never the end of a relationship.

  2. Phra Hans sounds a lovely man and one I would like to know (or similar). There are so few humble, wise people in the world. I guess because honest humble is a state not easily attained.

    1. I think you are right about these people being rare Catherine. I sometimes wonder if it is possible to develop these qualities or do you have to be born this way. I have met a few individuals who were just naturally good honest people – they tend to have a special look of compassion in their eyes which is hard to describe. I don’t think that it is something that people could fake. I guess though that even these more developed humans have their bad days too – or maybe that is just me trying to make myself feel better 🙂

  3. A lovely piece and it does also bring back fond memories of when i met the man, I should really do a retro piece on him, as all those wise words did come back flooding after reading your gentle and humble piece on him, or were u writing about yourself lol

    Regards, You know WHo!

  4. dear Paul

    i have only just learnt of the death of Phra Hans through this site. I was looking for a colour picture of him as i wanted to quote him in a talk. I wanted people who had never met him to know who had spoken such wise words. I met him 8 years ago and think of him often. I am very sad to hear this news, but also glad to have met him. Thank you for keeping us informed


  5. HI Paul, thanks for your article. I met Phra Hans,Mar 09, and spent time at Thamkrabok. like you our initial meeting was for his Guided meditation, and from tht day on, we had an extraordinary relationship. I was amazed at how selfless he was. Even though he was ill, he continued to guide us in meitation. I was priviliged to have daily talks with him, always asking if he was up to it. It saddened me to see his health decline rigght in front of my eyes over his last couple of months.Having returned to TBK, I spent time volenteering, working the gardens, kitchen and as Phra Hans reluvtantly took to his bed, I spent time with him, chatting and I brought my portable dvd player to his room and we would watch some of his fave films.As his health faded we would just sit together. I felt priviliged to spend that time together. On his last couple of days I sat with him in the hospital in Phraboutabat, it was some consolation that he was not alone during his last few hrs. I hadd just returned to my hotel, to eat, when the nurse from the hospital phoned me ,telling me I should return to the hospital.When I got there,20mins later Phra Hans had died. He had been in a lot of pain for a long time and even had a morphine drip,and although he seemed asleep, just before i let to eat that day, Phra Hans woke and looked at me. I am glad he saw that he was not alone. He helped me so much over the 4 months that I knew him, and even now at times, I feel him around me.What a precious soul he was, I feel so priviliged to have known him.Peace and Love

    1. Hi Kelly-Ann, it is so nice of you to share your memories of Phra Hans. I’m glad there was somebody who cared about him there at the end. I fully agree with you about him being a precious soul.

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