Step Eight and Nine: The Buddhist Perspective
Editor's Note: You can find the first 7 posts in this series at Michele's blog page.
Step 8 - Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
Step 9 - Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
I am combining these steps as they are directly related. These steps make us accountable for the negative Karma we have accumulated up to this point. When we harm another person in anyway we accumulate negative Karma. The best way to purify this Karma is to go to the person and make amends to them. It is clear that to make amends to a person who would by harmed by the amends only generates more negative Karma so it is to be avoided. An example of this would be to go to a person and make amends for having an affair with their spouse, when the person is unaware of the affair.
In Buddhism the Five Precepts give guidelines as to what would be the infractions that would eventually cause the need for amends. These precepts act as a guide for ethical conduct and are excellent guidelines for the person who is attempting to maintain sobriety. They are:
1) To undertake the training to avoid taking the life of beings. This precept applies to all living beings not just humans. All beings have a right to their lives and that right should be respected.
2) To undertake the training to avoid taking things not given. This precept goes further than mere stealing. One should avoid taking anything unless one can be sure that is intended that it is for you.
3) To undertake the training to avoid sensual misconduct. This precept is often mistranslated or misinterpreted as relating only to sexual misconduct but it covers any overindulgence in any sensual pleasure such as gluttony as well as misconduct of a sexual nature.
4) To undertake the training to refrain from false speech. As well as avoiding lying and deceiving, this precept covers slander as well as speech which is not beneficial to the welfare of others.
5) To undertake the training to abstain from substances which cause intoxication and heedlessness.This precept is in a special category as it does not infer any intrinsic evil in, say, alcohol itself but indulgence in such a substance could be the cause of breaking the other four precepts.
At the beginning of sobriety it is important to contemplate the precepts and do our best to follow them. When we fail, which is inevitable since we are human, an amends is in order. It is also important to make amends to ourselves when we participate in harm to self. Humans when left to their OWN devises, make decisions harmful to self. Self compassion is necessary to lead and ethical and sober life.
Once we have completed this step we can use the Five Precepts as a guide to living a sane and happy life. Following these precepts often eliminates the cause of relapse as well. When followed we can sleep each night knowing that we have no amends to make. This also allows us to become useful to our fellows.
Until then...Be well.