Addict Who Chose Zen Over Drug Treatment Leaves Monastery
Dec. 10, 1991
HARDENBERGH, N.Y. (AP) _ A heroin addict who chose to spend two years of probation at a Buddhist retreat rather than undergo drug treatment completed his term Tuesday and left the monastery - drug-free, his mentors said.
Keith Scofield said his Buddhist beliefs and the rigid monastery routine, including hard work and meditation, allowed him to overcome addiction where a half dozen traditional drug treatment programs failed.
''Conventional drug treatment and jail left me bitter,'' Scofield said in a telephone interview as he prepared to leave Dai Bosatsu Zendo, a monastery atop a mountain in the Catskills about 80 miles northwest of New York City.
''There was a feeling that I hadn't really accomplished anything myself,'' said Scofield, 33, who had used drugs since he was 13. ''I feel I have here. Here you're encouraged to find your own way to live, naturally.''
In December 1989, Scofield had been in Loudoun County Jail in Virginia for six months, awaiting sentencing on a probation violation stemming from a 1988 drug conviction.
Judge James Chamblin planned to send Scofield to a rigid, two-year drug treatment program in Colorado. But Scofield, who began studying Buddhism while in jail, persuaded Chamblin to let him spend the two years at the monastery instead.
Scofield ''was not a problem probationer,'' said Kenneth Fogarty, probation director for Sullivan County, where the monastery is located.
''He has done everything he has been required to do,'' Fogarty said. ''He has cooperated and met all the conditions of the court. ... He was kept under the watchful eye of people who are bent on making something out of him.''
At the monastery, Scofield put in 16-hour days filled with hard labor, chanting, yoga and vegetarian meals. A carpenter, Scofield used his skills to do masonry work and repairs to the monastery, which typically houses about 20 monks and students.
''The program has been enormously pleasing and successful,'' said Junpo Dennis Kelly, the monastery's vice abbot. ''Keith has a whole new understanding, and a new direction and focus in his life. ... He's quite a fine human being.''
The monks are trying to bring a parolee from an Oklahoma prison to the monastery to undergo a similar rehabilitation program, Kelly said. That inmate, who has been studying Buddhism in prison, has a history of violent crime, Kelly said.
Scofield said he is moving to Las Vegas, where he plans to do carpentry work and help a run a Buddhist meditation center.
He plans to return to the monastery periodically, a move that should help keep him off drugs, Kelly said.
''As long as he keeps his foot in the door here, as long as he comes back here maybe once a year, I would say he will never have another problem (with drugs),'' Kelly said. ''The only problem he might face is if he stops meditating and gets back to the same old patterns. Then the same frustrations are going to come up again for him.''
Scofield said that through studying Buddhism, he has found the strength to remain off drugs.
''Was it worthwhile? Buddhism has been worthwhile for 2,500 years,'' Scofield said. ''And it still works.''