Reasons to go to Wat Thamkrabok

The detox programme that is offered freely by the Wat Thamkrabok Temple is truly exceptional for those addicts and alcoholics who are ready and willing to change.

Only you know if you really want to stop using drugs. You should stop taking drugs for no other reason than you want to stop taking drugs.

But there is more to recovery than simple detoxification.

At Wat Thamkrabok, everyone who completes at least 8-days treatment in the Hey should be virtually drug-free and may be considered physically detoxed. (Those addicts on methadone or buprenorphine / subutex / suboxone etc. are likely to suffer longer than those coming off heroin. There is therefore a very good argument to be made for prescribing heroin rather than methadone for a period prior to detox.)

But the physical detox, as hard as it is, is only a small part of any long-lasting successful recovery. In the West, most treatment interventions seem to be expected to fail… “it is OK to relapse”… “it’s part of the process”… (it is also said that it keeps rehabs profitable but that’s another argument).

At Thamkrabok you get only one chance.

In 1975 the Abbot of Thamkrabok was presented with the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service. The citation reads:

“Addicts volunteering for treatment at the monastery, which now has some 100 monks in residence, take Sajja, a sacred vow, never to touch drugs again and commit themselves to a new life.”

Note the words “commit themselves to a new life” – this is critical. The citation goes on to say:

“The treatment that Phra CHAMROON and his aunt devised for drug addicts is divided into two complementary components: spiritual and physical. The spiritual side involves taking Sajja never to touch narcotics again. Sajja is a Pali word found in Buddhist texts which has the broad meaning of embracing truth, loyalty, purity and honesty. All agree that Sajja is the most effective part of the treatment but the most difficult: the patient has to keep it for the rest of his life. The physical element is the painful part of the treatment. It basically involves quitting the drug habit “cold-turkey,” i.e. stopping drugs abruptly with no substitute offered to aid in the withdrawal.”

So Thamkrabok Sajja is not simply a vow to stop taking intoxicating substances; it is much more than this. It is a commitment to starting a new life, embracing truth, loyalty, purity and honesty. Effectively, I believe that addicts must change their view of the world, and their view of themselves in that world.

The Thamkrabok Sangha (monks, nuns and lay-people) are of course Buddhists; and as such they are familiar with the Five Buddhist Precepts – these are in fact some of the vows taken as part of the monk’s ordination service. However, uniquely at Thamkrabok, they use the practice of Sajja as the primary focus of day-to-day morality and spiritual development. When ex-addicts leave Thamkrabok and return home, Sajja should be enough to keep them clean, and this would appear to be true for many addicts.

Unfortunately, there are some addicts who stop taking drugs only to then find that they are morally lacking, or morally bankrupt, as it were. These addicts have spent too many years lying, cheating, stealing, abusing and even prostituting themselves; so when they get clean they simply do not know how to behave properly. In the West, they might benefit from joining a 12-Step programme similar to those offered by the AA or NA organisations.

These are the twelve steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous programme:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

It can’t be denied that the AA and NA 12-Step programmes do work for a lot of people – many hundreds of thousands – all over the world. The 12-Step process challenges behaviour, attitudes and thinking; these steps introduce morality and spirituality into the recovering addicts lives. However, these 12-Step programmes don’t always work for everyone.

I have sometimes observed ex-addicts, some of whom have completed treatment at Thamkrabok; and noted that although they may have stopped taking their drug of choice they still think, act and talk like drug addicts; they have very little spirituality and often no morals.

On the other hand, those ex-addicts who find a sense of self-responsibility, a natural morality and some sense of spirituality seem much better placed to enjoy a successful long-lasting recovery.

This is where we believe that the Five Buddhist Precepts can help to promote morality and self-responsibility in the lives of ex-Thamkrabok addicts.

The “Five Precepts” (commitments or endeavours) that all Buddhists, addicts or otherwise, try to live by are:

  • To undertake the training rule to refrain from taking, or harming life (including our own).
  • To undertake the training rule to refrain from stealing (taking that which is not given).
  • To undertake the training rule to refrain from sexual misconduct.
  • To undertake the training rule to refrain from telling lies (being mindful in our speech).
  • To undertake the training rule to refrain from intoxicating liquors & drugs that lead to carelessness.

There is no doubt that a belief and commitment to Sajja is imperative for a successful detox at Thamkrabok, so we would not dream to promote the Precepts (or 12-Steps) over Sajja.

For most addicts, the power of Sajja is very strong; but when you put Sajja together with a moral code, as in the Five Precepts, a pathway to recovery and happiness is made much more accessible; recovery is much more likely.

It should be stressed here that my personal view and approach is not a case of “Sajja verses the Precepts” – like a competition. I believe that Sajja and the Precepts complement each other such that together they can bring about a long-lasting successful recovery.

So, are you willing to embrace Sajja?

Are you willing to look at your life, and make the changes that you know intuitively are necessary?

Are you ready for Wat Thamkrabok?

Only you can answer these questions… no one can do it for you.

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Related Page:  Reasons NOT to go to Wat Thamkrabok

Related Page:  Detoxification at Wat Thamkrabok

Related Page:  General Information about Wat Thamkrabok

Related Page:  The Way of the Vow: Sajja

>>>  Alternative view of  Sajja : Truth of Addiction & Commitment to Recovery

Related Page:  Directions to Wat Thamkrabok

Related Page:  Suggested Packing List for Wat Thamkrabok

Related Page:  Thamkrabok in Videos

Related Page:  After Detox – New Life Foundation

Related Page:  Wat Thamkrabok Tudong

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The official Monastery website is at:  Wat-Thamkrabok.org

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Clean Body With Herbs… Clean Mind With Sajja