Ukraine’s Buddhist school tackles drug addiction, October 5, 2010

Kiev, Ukraine -- Nature and cold water - this is pretty much all the students of the Dragon-Tiger School in Ukraine’s Crimea need to fight drug addiction. And the results are impressive.

Aleksey enjoys his new life. And gathering honey is one of his favorite hobbies. This man now finds it hard to believe that less than a year ago he was barely alive. Aleksey was a drug addict, until friends told him of a special school tucked away deep in the Crimean mountains.

“At first I feared for my health if I stopped taking drugs. People at this school told me they’d give me some pills,” Aleksey shared his experience. “I came here and I saw these ‘pills’ – sauna, cold spring water and a natural environment. We bathe in cold water every day and this is better than any medication. We enjoy this life with nature around us without drugs.”

Opened in the mid-1990s, the Dragon-Tiger School became the first of its kind in Ukraine. Over the past decade, it has helped several hundred young people to escape from drug addiction. Its director Valery Marzhin says they use only natural methods to bring youth back to a normal life.

“The main mission of this school is to bring man back to nature,” he explained. “Humanity departed from nature and started stagnating. We integrate youths with basic elements like earth, wind, water and fire. We want them to live just like our ancestors lived – respecting the goods of nature and completely self-sufficient.”

At first glance, the school looks like a Buddhist monastery. Watching the physical exercises which students do, they look more like martial arts. And one corner of the school’s grounds leaves almost no doubt about its essence. The spiritual heart of the school is a piece of meteorite sitting on a Buddhist pedestal. This is where students recharge their energy, as well as mark the birth of each day with the ring of a bell.

But Marzhin says that his school has no religious element whatsoever. He says in a fight against inner chaos, all faiths can offer good solutions. The school provides diverse means of self-reconstruction, regardless of a person’s religious conviction.

“We’ve got both physical practice and spiritual exercises,” he said. “We develop both body and soul. We want our students to understand that their fate is in their own hands, so we also educate them. We have an extensive library and we do translations of historic books.”

From just several followers in the mid-1990s, the Dragon-Tiger School now has more than 200 permanent students. It is not financed by the state, but its director says there are enough benefactors to aid their cause – which he describes as a natural, non-violent healing of society.

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