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The 12 steps of Co-Dependents Anonymous

A recovery medallion.
(Photo by John

A person in Ireland who is a member of Co-Dependents Anonymous wrote to Venerable Thubten Chodron with questions regarding the well-known 12-step program. The following are the 12 steps as they would be practiced from a Buddhist perspective.

  1. We admit we are powerless over others and that our lives have become unmanageable.
  2. We believe that refuge in the Three Jewels will restore us to a balanced, beneficial, and sane approach to life.
  3. We make the decision to rely on wisdom and compassion to make choices in our lives.
  4. We make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. We admit to ourselves, to the Three Jewels, to our spiritual mentors, and to others we trust the exact nature of our destructive actions.
  6. We are ready to request the Three Jewels and our spiritual mentors to teach us the methods and to guide us in Dharma practice so that we can do the practice that will counteract our afflictions and negativities.
  7. Humbly we request inspiration from the Three Jewels for our minds to become receptive to their enlightening activities. We humbly make ourselves receptive to the advice of our spiritual mentors.
  8. We make a list of all sentient beings we have harmed and are willing to make amends to them all. We practice purification by means of the four opponent powers to cleanse our minds and hearts from the seeds of destructive karma.
  9. We make direct amends to these living beings whenever it is possible and appropriate, except when doing so will injure them or others.
  10. We continue to take a personal inventory, and when we err or hold wrong views, we will promptly admit it. (Each evening we review the day, rejoicing at our virtuous actions and purifying our nonvirtuous ones.)
  11. We seek through inner contemplation and meditation to improve our conscious awareness of Buddha nature, and our values, principles, and virtuous aspirations as embodied by the Three Jewels. We request the Three Jewels for inspiration so that we are able to activate our inner determination to live according to these values, principles, and virtuous aspirations in all aspects of our lives.
  12. Having clearly seen our own good qualities and positive potential, we seek to share these with other living beings according to their dispositions and receptivity and to practice these in all aspects of our lives.

View a series of teachings on this topic.

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.