Sunday, February 19, 2012

Monk seeks nirvana on [drugs and] rooftop; Wisdom Quarterly

SURIN, Thailand - A Buddhist monk, thought to have developed a drug habit as a layman working as a crew member on a fishing boat, sought an unorthodox path to nirvana:

Scaling a building at his temple and spending the night on its roof, he refused attempts to bring him down.

Ven. Kittikhun Thongnam, 34, climbed up to the roof of the monks' living quarters at Wat Prathum Thong in Tambon Tha Tum, Tha Tum district, on Thursday evening. He spent the night on the roof, about 90 feet (30 m) from the ground, and said he wanted to attain nirvana.

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The monk appeared exhausted as the night wore on, but he refused to be rescued as emergency workers laid out air mattresses and brought in a ladder-equipped rescue vehicle.

Monks at the temple said they noticed the Phra Bhikkhu ["venerable monk"] was missing from the paddy rice blessing ceremony.

They heard tiles falling from the roof of the living quarters nearby and found him sitting on top of the building. He was finally brought down yesterday afternoon.

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The monk's father, Yong Thongnam, said his son was ordained almost a year ago. Before entering the monkhood, he worked on a trawler based in [Southern Thailand's] Samut Sakhon province. But the boat owner terminated his contract after three years when Kittikhun appeared to have developed a mental illness [or a drug abuse problem].

Mr. Yong said his son sometimes lost control of himself and exhibited violent behavior. The son told him that his crew leader gave him "energy booster" pills -- a reference to drugs -- so he could work longer hours. On a busy day, he would work for up for 22 hours.

[Methamphetamine is a terrible problem in Thailand. Abuse often leads men onto roofs, as reported in Thailand's local media (very cheap true crime magazines full of gory pictures), threatening child hostages with knives, usually their own children. This common figure in the news is used to justify draconian police crackdowns such as life sentences for foreign tourists accused of selling drugs and use of the military to quell civilian strife between the Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts. Police corruption ensures drug sales continue.]

Mr. Yong said he thought his son was mentally ill. He gave him traditional [herbal] medicines and took him to hospital for allopathic treatment. After that, his condition improved slightly.

Monk on a hot tiled roof suffering the consequences of earlier drug addiction as a layperson. In Thailand almost all young Buddhist men temporarily ordain as novices.

Ven. Kittikhun later asked his father to be ordained as a monk in the hope the temple could help cure him. Mr. Yong his son had [developed] a split personality. He would either be withdrawn or work non-stop.

Dr. Yutthana Wanpoklang, director of Tha Tum Hospital, said the monk would be given psychological treatment. [The moral to the story is: Drugs will never lead to nirvana.]

Drugged Out [in Thailand]
Andrew Marshall (TIME Magazine)
It is easy to miss the spirit gate that guards the entrance to Phiyer... The villagers believe the gate wards off disease and evil spirits. A modern epidemic now threatens Phiyer and no amount of ancient voodoo will protect it. The village lies in the mountainous Sing district, which shares its northern border -- and the mighty Mekong River -- with Burma. There, in semiautonomous fiefdoms ruled by heavily armed militias, secret factories spew out hundreds of millions of tablets of methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug better known there by its Thai name yaba (crazy medicine). More

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