Re-writing the 12 steps, 8-12
Re-writing the 12 steps, 8-12
Fifth in a series of talks suggesting how to modify the steps in a 12-step program to fit into a Buddhist framework.
- Re-writing steps of a 12-step program
- How confession and purification fit in
- Getting in touch with our own inner values, principles and virtuous aspirations
Buddhism and the 12 steps 05 (download)
We’re in the middle of going through the 12 steps. We stopped after step seven. So we’ll continue.
Make a list of all persons we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.
So this is clearly in line with Buddhism. And the thing of making amends, that would correspond—in Buddhist practice—with the opponent power of “restoring the relationship.”
In Buddhism we may not be able to contact the people, or they may not be ready to see us, or for one reason or another we may not be able to make amends directly to them, but the basic thing is, in our minds, to change our attitude. So whatever thought we had that prompted us to do something harmful, that they experienced the results of, to transform that in our own minds and have an attitude of kindness towards them. Specifically bodhicitta, if we can.
I had to kind of chuckle. “Make a list.” Buddhists love to make lists. “Two of this, five of this, thirty-seven of this, 108 of that.” Right up our line.
Make direct amends to such people—wherever possible—except when to do so would injure them or others.
Okay, so that’s what I was just saying. Also, sometimes people may have died. So we may not be able to contact them. In that situation I think it’s very helpful to write them a letter and have a little mental dialogue with them. Write a letter saying what’s in our heart and send that kind of thought to them. And then imagine them accepting it and responding in kind.
Because I think the important thing is that we really bring peace to a lot of the difficult relationships we’ve had in our lives. Whether other people have brought peace from their side, we can’t control. But we can do it from our side. And we can imagine that they’ve done it from their side. They may be dead. They may be locked in their own mental torment, or whatever. But we can imagine that we’re talking to the side of them that really has love and compassion and wisdom. And seeing them accept what we’re saying and making their amends as needed.
Then ten is: Continue to take personal inventory and, when we are wrong, promptly admit it.
“Well, I don’t want to admit it right away. I mean, then the other person will think I’m weak, and they’ll take advantage of me… And anyway, they owe me an apology first before I apologize to them. So, I’ll admit it to myself… but… mmm… I’ll wait a few months, or a few years, before saying anything to them…”
No. [Laughter] Okay?
So, this thing of “taking personal inventory,” that corresponds in Buddhism to each evening looking over the day and rejoicing—giving ourselves a pat on the back—for when we refrained from doing negative actions, or when we were successful in our positive actions. And when we weren’t successful, to really honestly own it, do purification right away with all four opponent powers, and then—as soon as we see the other person, or the very next day if we could contact them—to try and make amends. Because the longer we let disagreement sit in our mind and somebody else’s mind, the more solid it becomes.
Of course, sometimes you need to wait a few days until you calm down. Because something might have happened that really disturbs you. So in that case it certainly makes sense, yes, delay talking to them and apologizing and so on until we are able to make peace with the situation in our mind. But what I’m saying is not to let our pride get in the way of, “Well, I made a mistake but they made a bigger one. So they have to apologize first, and they have to do this or that.”
Okay. Then eleven is: Seek, through prayer and meditation, to improve our conscious contact with god as we understand god, praying only for knowledge of god’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
So here there are some differences with Buddhism. “Seeking through,” maybe instead of prayer I would say “inner contemplation and meditation to improve,” so far, okay, “our conscious contact with our own values and principals as embodied by the Three Jewels.” So not just to see the Three Jewels as something outside and we have to do things according to their way. But to get in touch with our own real values and principals, and our own aspirations… To get in touch with those things that are in our own heart and see that they’re inside of us. We’re not following them because the Three Jewels want us to, or somebody else is imposing them. But because we in ourselves value these things out of our own wisdom, out of our own clarity of mind. So to get in contact with those and then to see how the Three Jewels actually embody all of our virtuous values and principals and aspirations.
You getting what I’m saying?
So I would substitute that for “improving our conscious contact with God as we understand God.” But get in touch with what’s really important to us in our own heart, and then see that that’s embodied and reflected in the Three Jewels.
I would cross out, “Praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us.” And substitute, “Requesting the Three Jewels for inspiration,” and getting in touch with our own inner strength and determination to carry that out.
So, let’s see if we can do this whole thing together. “Seek through inner contemplation and meditation to improve our conscious awareness with our own values, principals, and virtuous aspirations as embodied by the Three Jewels. And request the Three Jewels for inspiration and get in touch with our own inner determination to live according to these values and principals and aspirations.”
How’s that? Okay?
And then twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps we try to carry this message to other codependents (or whatever group you’re in) and to practice these principals in all of our affairs.
So, yes. “Spiritual awakening…” I would say maybe, “Having increased awareness and balanced awareness?” I want the word balanced in there somewhere, okay?
[In response to audience] Yes, that’s it. “Having clearly seen my own good qualities and positive potential in a balanced way, then to share this with other living beings according to their disposition and receptivity. And to practice these in all aspects of our lives.”
So, we just rewrote the 12 steps in a Buddhist way.
So, I think that’s good for today. And then there’s just a little bit more that we’ll do one more time.
The 12 steps from a Buddhist perspective
- We admit we are powerless over others, that our lives have become unmanageable.
- I came to believe that refuge in the Three Jewels could restore me to sanity.
- We made a decision to turn our choices and our lives over to the care of wisdom and compassion as taught by the Buddha.
- Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- We admitted to the Three Jewels, to ourselves, and to another human being whom we trust the exact nature of our destructive actions.
- We are entirely ready to request the Three Jewels and our spiritual mentors to teach us the methods and to guide us in the practice so that we can remove our afflictions and negativities.
- Humbly to request the Three Jewels for their inspiration so that we can be receptive to their enlightening activities, and humbly make ourselves receptive to the instructions and advice of our spiritual mentors.
- Make a list of all persons we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.
- Make direct amends to such people—wherever possible—except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continue to take personal inventory and, when we are wrong, promptly admit it.
- Seek through inner contemplation and meditation to improve our conscious awareness with our own values, principals, and virtuous aspirations as embodied by the Three Jewels. And request the Three Jewels for inspiration and get in touch with our own inner determination to live according to these values and principals and aspirations.
- Having clearly seen my own good qualities and positive potential in a balanced way, then to share this with other living beings according to their disposition and receptivity. And to practice these in all aspects of our lives.
Venerable Thubten Chodron
Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.