Birth and Death of Monks

sean fargo meditating
Summer, 2008:

One month ago, I joined thirty Buddhist brothers from seventeen countries to participate in a one month Buddhist monk ordination program at the Dhammakaya Temple in Thailand. It’s been a wild ride – one that I wouldn’t trade for unlimited bowls of fruit. Eight monks remain. Seven plan to disrobe after 3 more months of intensive meditation. I still plan to stay.

The first two weeks of the training program were essentially boot camp. All day everyday we cleaned toilets with our hands, manually cleaned each other’s laundry, mopped floors, studied Buddhist teachings, sat on hard floors (we never sat in chairs), meditated, chanted, wore skirts (without underwear), ate everything with a fork and spoon (no fingers or knives), slept five hours per night, sat down to pee, and tried not to talk about anything that was not virtuous in nature.

Many people wanted to quit after the first week. Our motto is “Stopping the mind is the key to success”. This does not mean that wisdom cannot guide you. It just means to rid yourself of illusion, fear, greed, doubt and ego.

Days before the ordination, my head, armpits and eyebrows were shaven. I am now supposed to shave all of these areas at least every 15 days.

The actual ordination day was one of the best days of my life. My family came to witness the ceremony, as did two friends from Beijing, a friend from Canada and several friends from Chiang Mai. One of the two spiritual advisors to the King ordained me as an official monk, a great honor indeed.

My official Buddhist monk name is Venerable Sean Dhammiko. Dhammiko means “The One Whose Faith Lies Solely in Dhamma”. Dhamma means the truth or the teachings of the Buddha.

After the ordination ceremony, we took a bus to the mountains of Northern Thailand to meditate for two weeks. We lived relatively lavishly, as we were provided with our own rooms, mattresses, western food and followed a less strict daily regimen. Our meditation experiences began to see great progress, so most everyone was happy, generous and peaceful at heart.

My meditative abilities have progressed nicely. The great Abbot of the Dhammakaya Temple spoke about my meditation experience on television which was broadcast around the word in at least three languages. It was a great honor to be a part of his mission for world peace through inner peace.

On the last day of the one month program, we boarded another double-decker touring bus to return to Bangkok. Our driver was in a hurry, so he sped through the windy mountain turns dangerously, narrowly escaping cliffs that dropped hundreds of meters down into a river. But the last turn proved too twisty for our driver, so our bus fell off of the road and began to roll down the mountain. I thought we were done for. We all did. Fortunately, a big tree at the edge of the final precipice stopped our momentum. If the tree wasn’t there, I would not be alive right now.

Once the bus stopped rolling, I found myself lying on the ceiling of the bus wedged against a side window. Panic ensued. People tried to break the glass windows or find open doors. Diesel fumes started to fill the air inside the bus. In time, most of us found escape routes, climbed out of the bus and then proceeded to rescue others still trapped inside. To make a long story short, one person died, one is still in ICU, and many have broken ribs, shoulders, arms, legs, etc.

I have been to 3 hospitals and 1 medical center, but I am ok. X-rays and CAT scans have all confirmed this. Nonetheless, I had glass in my feet for 3 days, contusions on two points of my head, a bruised back, cuts on my right arm and two sore hips. I experience vertigo every once in a while, but it’s nothing that dramamine and an IV can’t handle.

I am writing this from a hospital right now. The nurses want me to get some more sleep, so I need to sign off. Photos will be on their way in the coming days.

May you find eternal happiness and peace inside,

Venerable Sean Dhammiko



Author: Sean Fargo
About Sean Fargo At the peak of his career as Director of Asian Operations for AsiaEXP, Sean Fargo traded in his worldly aspirations to explore the inner life by ordaining as a Buddhist monk for two years in the Thai Theravada tradition. Since disrobing in 2010, he has supported thousands of meditation practitioners at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, facilitated mindfulness classes in San Quentin and Solano State Prisons, and has lead several workshops at Inward Bound Mindfulness Education teen retreats. A dedicated student of spirituality and mindfulness, he has studied with Jack Kornfield, Analayo Bhikkhu, Phillip Moffitt, and many other teachers in the US and Asia. His teaching path is guided by Guy Armstrong, Senior Teachers Council member for both Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Insight Meditation Society. Founder of MindfulnessExercises.com, he offers secular mindfulness e-courses with certifications available for personal and professional skill sets. Enrolled in New Ventures West's Coaching Certification Program, Sean expects to certify as an Integral Life Coach in November 2014. He graduated with honors from University of California at Santa Barbara’s Global Studies Department in 2000. Sean offers private instruction to adults, teens, companies, and organizations. Contact Sean Fargo for more info.

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