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.