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Buddhist Recovery Network - Inaugural Conference
2009 Inaugural Conference
“Recovery from Addiction in a Buddhist Context”
The best place to start is at the beginning...
How the 12 Steps got to Santikaro
The full 2009 Inaugural Conference brochure is now available for download . You may also wish to read the various parts of the brochure on line below.
How the 12 Steps got to Santikaro
Santikaro’s insights into this field have tremendously impressed the Directors of the Network, and we have invited him to pen a few words of introduction to his Conference talks...
“My introduction to the 12 steps was a Fulbright scholar doing research in Thailand, who kept coming to retreats at Suan Mokkh and invited me for pizza lunches in Bangkok. As we became friends, this extremely open, unsubtle, and lovable alcoholic -many years sober- began telling me about the 12 steps and the place of AA in salvaging a life that had much confusion and suffering, and much love and promise. He also sought the support of Buddhism and meditation both for working the steps and for his environmental work, which first challenged me to think about Buddhism in terms of addiction and recovery. I’m saddened by his recent death and dedicate my talk to him.
Then there was the Irishman who kicked heroin by having us quarantine him in a small room within a largely empty dormitory after he realized that going through withdrawal wasn’t the best time to learn meditation on his first ten day retreat. The other inhabitant of the building was a monk who checked in on him hourly; others, such as myself, helped out in various ways. I’ve heard from him a few times in the subsequent two decades: he’s stayed clean, has done well, and still practices Buddhism.
On returning to the USA in 2000, my education with the 12 steps really began. I kept running into friends of Bill who also became my friends, especially three who are now close and, except for one major relapse, sober and clean. These three visited me often in the Thai temple where I lived in 2003 and visited often the preceding years. Trough regular conversations we discussed meditation in regard to step eleven and questions like “What is higher power in Buddhism?” and “How can the noble eightfold path relate to the 12 steps?”
Out of these conversations -which continued as I moved out of the temple, founded Liberation Park, and retired from the monkhood in 2004- came a series of meetings at which I shared Buddhist reflections on the 12 steps and heard learned commentary on the value and practicality of my offerings. The practical experience of people with a couple hundred years of sobriety corrected, refined, and deepened the educated, empathetic guesses of my talks. NA, OA, and Al-Anon also came into the mix, as well as folks without current 12 step programs. This has been one of my most inspiring experiences of “interfaith dialogue.”
The flow of causes and conditions are coming full circle as 12 steppers in Bangkok have also become friends. Because of the 12 step talks on our website -I’m amazed by the appreciative response; after all, I don’t know the 12 steps intimately like so many do- they contacted me and initiated informal conversations during my annual trip to Siam. Last year, they asked me to speak with recovery professionals and Thai alcoholics -some of them poor, upcountry, and just sober- to help sort through cultural and language barriers. That went so well that I’ll be doing more this November. The interest in a Buddhist friendly approach to the steps is strong. For me personally, this is a wonderful opportunity to repay a culture and society that has given me so much, including my primary education in Buddha-Dhamma. Now, one of the ways I’m allowed to repay some of my debt is in supporting 12 step and other recovery work there. This was completely unexpected. It’s gladdening, too, that something from the USA is doing good there.
One of the many things Buddhist practitioners -especially the upper-middle way types- can learn from 12 step programs involves the moral inventory. How many of us ever engage in a “searching and fearless” ethical self-inquiry? Isn’t it easy, sometimes, to mollify one’s conscience with notions of being a meditator? Doesn’t our educated ethical relativism let us of the hook far too easily about how we treat others? I’ve learned that the 12 steps can help us face the demons that still haunt us all and that we too often become. Buddhism remains my primary path but I understand it more richly with the help of my 12 step friends.”
Sunday 30 August 2009
Santikaro’s Abstract for his Keynote address “Addiction to Self”
Of all the things we use and abuse to numb, escape, and buffer our fears, hurts, shame, and other sufferings, self is the most basic and central. Born from ignorance and craving, producing identity and further becoming, clinging to me and mine holds the tangles of suffering together. This talk will reflect on how these core Buddhist teachings are relevant to understanding other modes of addiction and how teaching on letting go may help us understand the path of recovery. Ironically, the self we grasp at is conceptual and illusory. From this perspective, recovery, ultimately, is the same as liberation.