A Buddhist Approach to Subduing & Overcoming Addictions *
- Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa!
Please feel free to distribute this message among your friends, colleagues and relatives. Next Wednesday the 5th of August 2009 is the full moon uposatha (Nikini poya) day. Consider taking eight precepts or ten precepts and undertaking a meditation retreat either at home or at another location on or close to the date. May all beings be happy and well! If you found this Dhamma message useful please consider making an online donation to:
Sakyamuni Sambuddha Vihara here http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=doncal
Jhana Grove Meditation Retreat Centre headed by Ajahn Brahm here http://www.jhanagrove.org.au/donations.html
International Centre for Inner Peace and Happiness here http://peacehappiness.org/?page_id=106 (scroll down)
Saturday, 1 August, 8:00 PM : Vassana Dhamma Desana is by Ven. Ambewela Pasanna Manasa who arrived in Australia this week. This will be held after the regular Buddha Puja at 7:00pm. All are welcome. Berwick (Melway's : 130 J2). Please call the temple on 03 9702 6275 or call/SMS Saman on 0419 878 273 for more information.
Sunday, 2 August, 6:00 PM : Buddhism Beginners' Class in English from 6PM - 7PM suitable for youths, beginners in Buddhism and others. The session will include guided meditation and the theory of Buddhism in English. All are welcome. At Sakyamuni Sambuddha Vihara, 125 Homestead Road, Berwick (Melway's : 130 J2). Please call the 03 9702 6275 or call/SMS 0432 717 289 to confirm your attendance.Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma-Sambuddhassa!A BUDDHIST APPROACH TO SUBDUING & OVERCOMING ADDICTIONS 1
samsara). Fortunately unlike most other beings in samsara human beings have the capacity to train, develop and strengthen their minds to a level where craving can no longer grip and control them, preventing them from acting out in a variety of unskilful ways.
Most unskilful behaviour of beings can be attributed to the three root causes of greed (lobha), anger (dosa) and deluded/confused thinking (moha).2 Of these three roots lobha plays a significant part in lay people’s lives. The Lord Buddha did not lay down a code of discipline as strict as that of monks/nuns (bhikkhus/bhikkhunis) for lay people and did not disallow the enjoyment of sense-pleasures3 for them. However on many occasions he pointed out the dangers of sensual pleasures. The Lord Buddha expected the laity to reduce their attachment to sense-pleasures and to develop the higher Path for greater peace and happiness.
The danger of indulging in sensual pleasures3 is the development of strong attachment to the the strong pleasant feelings (or the ‘high’) arising from them. This strong attachment to the strong pleasant feelings arising from sense pleasures is what is usually characterised as an addiction. Another characteristic of addictions is that they usually lead to some kind of harm and/or loss mentally, emotionally, physically, financially and/or socially.4 So it is imperative to control, curb and put an end to addictions that cause one and/or others harm.
Human beings have many addictions in relation to the sense-sphere.3 People get addicted to drugs,5 alcohol,5 smoking,5 gambling,5 thinking,5 partying,6 going out,6 computer games,6 food,6 drink,6 work,6 buying material possessions (e.g. clothes, shoes, cars, etc.)6 and even to friends.7 What is common to all these addictions is the excessive attachment that is developed to the pleasant feelings arising from that object or activity of addiction, usually leading to some kind of harm to oneself and/or others. The Lord Buddha advised in the Dhammapada to remove one’s impurities in small degrees, a little amount at a time, much like a skilled silversmith removes the impurities from silver a degree at a time.8 In the same way addictions can be brought under control and eventually given up in small degrees over time.
Someone who is trying to reduce their addiction to excessive eating for example would firstly reduce their food intake or the number of times that they eat food in the day slowly over time. If they get strong desires/urges to eat in excess they should first try to subdue this at the mental level through wise reflection (yoniso manasikara) and other such thought control techniques. If this does not work they could go to the point of food distribution (e.g. kitchen, restaurant, etc.) without entering it contemplate the disadvantages9 of eating excessively, realise that this is not as important as what they initially thought it was and then safely return to their room or home. Alternatively they could eat a small amount or use a healthy and non-harmful substitute like a drink or soup to curb the strong desire. They could reflect on the drawbacks of excessive eating and think how it would affect their health, appearance and make the body uncomfortable afterwards.
The very same approach can be applied to other addictions too. The general guidelines are i. reducing the activity of addiction slowly over time; ii. attempting to subdue strong mental urges for the addiction through wise reflection (yoniso manasikara) and other such thought control techniques; iii. if the mind is overcome, visiting the physical site of the activity of addiction (e.g. the pub/bar for alcohol or the casino for gambling) without entering it, realising that it is not as important as one initially thought it was (anticipation versus the reality) and returning safely; iv. using a safer substitute to control the addiction (e.g. playing party poker with friends rather than gambling with real money) and v. reflecting on the drawbacks of the addiction (i.e. how it can hurt oneself and others and destroy lives). This could done each time the mind becomes overcome with craving and desire for the object of addiction. When these addiction are denied over time the mind will gain the confidence and strength10 to fully overcome them. This will also to a great extent purify the mind of strong cravings and desires until one achieves a higher fruit (e.g. stream-entry – sotappatti) along the Path.
After one gains the strength to overcome addictions (strong craving/desire for the feelings of the addiction) at a gross physical level, it would be easier to overcome them at a much more subtle level within the thoughts and the mind. The Lord Buddha has outlined many techniques, contemplations, reflections and meditations to purify the mind of craving, desire and lust.11 It is up to the individual to investigate these various techniques and apply them effectively under the guidance of a skilled teacher in order to control and eventually fully subdue strong passions that give arise to seemingly unbreakable addictions.
May you gain full control over your negative addictions and fully subduing them enter the stream (sotappatti) in this very life!
When the mind is overcome,
and hankering after addictions,
reflect wisely (yoniso manasikara),
remember the dangers inherent in
engaging in them,
and the advantages of avoiding them.
Give yourself a safe substitute,
something that will placate the
so that no harm comes,
to others or yourself.
Failing all this,
go to the place of the addiction,
be it the pub/bar for alcohol,
the casino for gambling,
the restaurant for food addiction,
but stay safely outside without going in.
Then reflect and understand,
that it isn't as important as initially thought,
and return safely home.
Train yourself gradually thus,
at a gross physical level,
also training the subtle mind,
where these addictions take root in
when pleasant feelings for sensual pleasures arise.
In time mastering the control of addictions,
both at the gross physical level,
and at the subtle mental level,
you'll be well on your way,
to higher spiritual fruits (e.g. stream-entry – sotappatti).
TWO STEPS FORWARD
its just one step backwards,
its not the end of the world.
When you take one step back,
take two steps forward –
and everything will be alright.
LEARN TO BEAR
Is the hunger unbearable?
Are your legs aching from sitting?
Is it too cold,
or too hot?
Learn to bear pain.
 For example the hunger due to fasting from higher precepts such
as the eight or ten precepts.
 Practice this without going to extremes and causing oneself
1. The latest version of this article can be found in HTML format here http://tinyurl.com/mglvj8 or here http://dhammagroup.co.cc/dg/pubs/addict and in PDF format here http://tinyurl.com/mbaylk or here http://dhammagroup.co.cc/dg/pubs/addict.pdf
2. Greed (lobha) including qualities such as desire, craving, jealousy, lust, passion, longing, affection, wanting, pining, hankering, wishing, etc.; ii. anger (dosa) including qualities such as aversion, irritation, ill-will, bitterness, resentment, jealousy, etc. iii. and delusion (moha) including qualities such as confusion, stupidity, foolishness, mental blindness, ignorance, etc. All mental defilements ultimately arise from ignorance (avijja). See here http://tinyurl.com/ljdjxd or here http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn45/sn45.001.than.html
3. Sensual/sense pleasures are the enjoyment derived from pleasing the six senses of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. Refer to Sensual Pleasure & Pain.
4. There are worthwhile addictions that have no drawbacks and lead one to more and more happiness such as meditation. Many thanks for Ajahn Brahm for highlighting this. Refer to page 1, Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Meditator’s Handbook here http://tinyurl.com/ldky4q or here http://www.dhammagroup.co.cc/dg/ref/books/mbb1-5.pdf
5. These addictions can be highly destructive mentally, emotionally, physically, financially and/or socially.
6. These addictions can be moderately destructive mentally, emotionally, physically, financially and/or socially.
7. An addiction to friends/relatives is not skilful as it is based on excessive attachment. However association with good friends that encourage one to do good deeds and become better without leading one astray is essential for one’s happiness and safety. Also one should train oneself to associate with others without getting attached to them. If after seeking them out one cannot find good friends, who irrespective of their religious and ethnic backgrounds lead good and moral lives, one should lead a life of solitude.. Refer to Appendix A: A Selection of Verses from the Dhammapada below.
8. Refer to Appendix A: A Selection of Verses from the Dhammapada below.
9. The Lord Buddha outlined the effectiveness of wisely reflecting (yoniso manasikara) on the disadvantages of something in order to overcome it. One can also also wisely reflect on the advantages of not engaging in that negative activity to further purify the mind of strong craving.
10. Many thanks to Ven. Bodhicitta for pointing this out.
11. Refer to Related Discourses (suttas) and Other Resources below.
* See the previous instalment here http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhamma/message/1534
Appendix A: A Selection of Verses from the Dhammapada
Source: http://tinyurl.com/mcw9hp or http://what-buddha-said.net/Canon/Sutta/KN/Dhammapada.htm
If one can find a companion, upright, straight & firm,
then walk along with him in joy & awareness,
so overcoming all danger.
If one cannot find a clever companion, upright, straight & firm,
then walk alone like a king leaving the kingdom, like an Elephant
freely roam in all the forest.
Life in solitude is better than friendship with the fool.
Let the one live alone, acting only right, freed from greed,
like the Elephant freely roam in all the forest.
Pleasant are friends, when a need arises.
Pleasant is all fun, when shared with friends.
Pleasant is the stored merit of good at the moment of death.
Pleasant is it to leave behind all Suffering.
Pleasant is being a Father.
Pleasant is being a Mother.
Pleasant is being a Bhikkhu.
Pleasant is the state of the accomplished.
Pleasant is a prior righteous life, when old.
Pleasant is faith, when firmly established, unshakable by doubt.
Pleasant is the arising of Insight.
Pleasant is the avoidance of all Evil.
One by one, step by step, drop by drop, little by little
can one blow away the impurities of one’s mind even
& exactly as a smith blows away the impurities of silver.
Related Discourses (suttas) and Other Resources
1. Digha Nikaya 2 , PTS: M i 6 , Sabbasava Sutta: All the Fermentations see http://tinyurl.com/lzvhhd or http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.002.than.html
2. Samyutta Nikaya 9.11 , PTS: S i 203 , CDB i 301 , Ayoniso-manasikara Sutta: Inappropriate Attention see http://tinyurl.com/kl3yx8 or http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn09/sn09.011.than.html
3. Itivuttaka 16, PTS: Iti 1-19 , Vagga.sutta: Iti 1.1-27 , Itivuttaka: The Group of Ones see http://tinyurl.com/letg9s or http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/iti/iti.1.001-027.than.html#iti-016
4. The Removal of Distracting Thoughts, (Vitakka-Santhana Sutta) see http://tinyurl.com/lrg9by or http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/soma/wheel021.html
5. Recollections, ten (anussati), see http://tinyurl.com/natk7s or http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index-subject.html#recollections
6. The Ten Recollections , A Study GuideRecollections, ten (anussati), see http://tinyurl.com/mqebcx or http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/recollections.html
1. A Buddhist Approach to Mental Health - A Buddhist perspective and approach to mental health, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=mentalhealth
2. A Buddhist Approach to Problem Solving - A Buddhist approach to problem solving through the development of wisdom (panna), see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=probsolv
3. A Buddhist Approach to Revulsion - Asubha - A Buddhist approach to bodily revulsion (asubha), see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=revul
4. A Buddhist Approach to the Awareness of In-and-Out Breath Meditation - Anapanasati - A Buddhist approach to the awareness of breath meditation (anapanasati), see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=anapanasati
5. A Buddhist Approach to the Contemplation on Body Parts - Asubha - A Buddhist approach to bodily revulsion (asubha) through the detailed contemplation of the body parts, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=asubhaparts
6. A Buddhist Approach to the Meaning of Life - A Buddhist approach to the meaning of life, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=life
7. A Buddhist Approach to True Happiness through Renunciation - A Buddhist approach to true happiness through renunciation, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=renun
8. An Introduction to Buddhist Meditation - Basic instructions for doing the mediations of loving kindness (metta), awareness of breath (anapanasati) and foulness of the body (asubha), see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=intromed
9. Attachment - An analysis of how attachment leads to unsatisfactoriness, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=attachment
10. Buddhist Positive Thinking - Positive thinking from a Buddhist perspective, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=posthink
11. Consequences - About being responsible for our actions (kamma) and their consequences (vipaka), see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=conseq
12. Daily Dana - On giving and generosity, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=dailydana
13. Equanimity - Dealing with the eight characteristics of life, see http://www.vihara..org.au/go?to=equanimity
14. Fault Finding & Resentment - Dealing with fault finding and resentment, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=faultfind
15. Five Precepts - Developing virtue through the five precepts, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=pansil
16. Four Noble Truths - The essence of Buddhism, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=fourtruths
17. Mental Purity - Five ways prescribed by the Buddha for subduing mental defilements, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=vitakkasantana
18. Metta Meditation - Easy to follow instructions for doing the meditation on loving-kindness, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=mettamed
19. Noble Eightfold Path - The path for ending unsatisfactoriness, stress and suffering, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=noblepath
20. One Hour of Unsatisfactoriness - The unsatisfactoriness that can be felt within the space of an hour, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=onehour
21. Sensual Pleasure & Pain - An analysis of sensual pleasure and pain, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=plespain
Dhamma (Buddhist) Portal Websites
1. AccessToInsight.org see http://www.accesstoinsight.org
2. What-Buddha-Said.net see http://what-buddha-said.net
3. Metta.lk see http://www.metta.lk
4. What-Buddha-Taught.net see http://what-buddha-taught.net
5. Buddhanet.net see http://www.buddhanet.net
6. Vihara.org.au see http://www.vihara.org.au
7. DhammaGroup.tk see http://www.dhammagroup.tk
Dhamma (Buddhism) ArticlesA Buddhist Approach to Disenchantment - A Buddhist approach to becoming disenchanted with all that gives rise to stress, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=disench
A Buddhist Approach to Disillusionment - A Buddhist approach to seeing past the trickery and into reality, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=disill
A Buddhist Approach to Mental Health - A Buddhist perspective and approach to mental health, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=mentalhealth
A Buddhist Approach to Problem Solving - A Buddhist approach to problem solving through the development of wisdom (panna), see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=probsolv
A Buddhist Approach to Revulsion - Asubha - A Buddhist approach to bodily revulsion (asubha), see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=revul
A Buddhist Approach to the Awareness of In-and-Out Breath Meditation - Anapanasati - A Buddhist approach to the awareness of breath meditation (anapanasati), see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=anapanasati
A Buddhist Approach to the Contemplation on Body Parts - Asubha - A Buddhist approach to bodily revulsion (asubha) through the detailed contemplation of the body parts, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=asubhaparts
new!A Buddhist Approach to the Mastery over the Mind through Skilful Mental Attention - A Buddhist approach to the mastery over the mind through skilful mental attention, see http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=mentatt
pick!A Buddhist Approach to the Meaning of Life - A Buddhist approach to the meaning of life, see http://www.vihara.org..au/go?to=life
pick!A Buddhist Approach to True Happiness through Renunciation - A Buddhist approach to true happiness through renunciation, see