…”I found that the ideas behind the steps have parallels in the Buddhist tradition, and that using the two together brought a deeper experience to my Buddhist tradition, and a more satisfying, integrated understanding to the steps”
-Kevin Griffin (One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps)
Buddhism and the Twelve Steps
Minnesota Model Principles and the 12 steps are heavily influenced by the Judeo-Christian worldview, but the wisdom of this path are not confined to one religious or philosophical system. The fact that there are so many similarities between Buddhism and the 12 steps can be viewed as evidence for the universality of this wisdom. There is no conflict or contradiction between Buddhism and the 12 steps. Instead, the systems complement each other.
The Twelve Steps, Religion and Minnesota Model Principles
The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous broke away from the Oxford Group (an evangelical Christian sect) because they realised that their programme did not require any specific religious beliefs. This approach to recovery can work for atheists, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. Although it is not a religious programme, it is open to people of all religions and non-religions.
Many people find that combining their 12-step work with their religious or philosophical beliefs strengthens their sobriety. This is a sensible approach. The 12 steps are an important piece in the jigsaw, but it might be a mistake to treat them as the only piece, Minnesota model principles are not limited.
Buddhism and God
Buddhism is sometimes referred to as an atheistic religion because followers are not required to believe in a supreme deity. The Buddha did actually talk about gods, but he did not promote the idea of a single creator God. The fact that God is mentioned so often in the Big Book might make it seem as if the 12 steps are incompatible with Buddhism, but this is not the case. The programme only asks that people believe in a God ‘as we understood him’ and Buddhists have no real problem with the idea of a higher power.
Buddhism and the Four Noble Truths
The Buddhist four noble truths would be the equivalent to the 12 steps and these are:
1. There is suffering
2. Suffering happens because of craving/desire
3. There is a way to stop being a slave to craving/desire
4. The way to stop being a slave to craving/desire is to follow the eightfold path (right understanding, right concentration, right mindfulness, right intention, right action, right livelihood, right view, and right speech)
Buddhist Twelve Steps & Minnesota Model Principles
1. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction and our lives had become unmanageable
Buddhism – we came to see how delusions of the mind and craving was the source of our suffering
2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
Buddhism – we came to see how much of our sense of self is a kind of delusion but that a power outside of this sense of self could end our suffering
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Buddhism – we took refuge in a power beyond the delusions of self
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Buddhism – we gained a better understanding of how we suffer due to delusions of the mind and karma
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
Buddhism – we practiced right speech and committed to a more honest way of living
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
Buddhism – we committed to a practice that would allow us to develop insights and mindfulness
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Buddhism – with the help of our teachers and peers, we began the work needed to end our suffering
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
Buddhism – we experienced insights into how our past actions caused suffering for other people
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
Buddhism – we developed compassion for the people we had hurt and we made amends for past misdeeds where appropriate
10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it
Buddhism – we continued to be mindful of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviour and made a commitment to more skilful action in the future
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out
Buddhism – continued our mindfulness practice to gain insights and escape suffering
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Buddhism and Minnesota Model Principles – we used the spiritual insights gained from mindfulness to benefit our own lives and the lives of other people