Updated: Mar 2, 2020
“We took A.A.’s Twelve Steps to the largest Buddhist monastery in this province, and the head priest said, “Why, these Steps are fine! For us as Buddhists, it might be slightly more acceptable if you had inserted the word ‘good’ in your Steps instead of ‘God.’ Nevertheless, you say that it is God as you understand Him, and that must certainly include the good. Yes, A.A.’s Twelve Steps will surely be accepted by the Buddhists around here.
AA is not a religious program, though it does require that one develops and maintains a connection to power greater than oneself. I did not struggle with this idea of a higher power when i came to aa. I had been raised Catholic, and even though I was no longer practicing my Catholic faith, I always maintained a sense of the divine in my life (even as a drunk) :)
In my twenties I began to explore Buddhist teachings and practice and was able to weave the two traditions together to create a spiritual life that worked and continues to work for me today. However for many entering 12 step programs the God concept is a tough pill to swallow, and it has driven many a good and often desperate person out of the rooms of aa. This is really a shame, as aa in its essence, is one of the most progressive and eclectic communities you could think of! Its main text reads "we are all inclusive never exclusive to those who earnestly seek"
Below are two resources for those looking to recover from addiction who may be coming from a Buddhist or non christian backround I found
One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps
“Both Buddhism and the Twelve Steps present our spiritual journey as a process, a movement from pain and confusion to happiness and wisdom. The process they describe is not, I think, unique to either of them, but reflects each tradition's attempt to solve the human riddle of suffering. As such, I think that they each tap into something deeper than the forms, language, cultural trappings, and historical context from which they spring. I believe that they each express something archetypal, a path deeply embedded in human consciousness that has been explored by seekers since humans awakened to their own mortality.”
A Dharma Talk by the wonderful Chris Hoff
Chris Hoff PhD, LMFT, is based in Orange County, CA and currently serves as Director of the California Family Institute. He is also a longtime zen practitioner and speaks here about his understanding of sobriety and buddhist practice. Enjoy.