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The Last Three Steps of AA: The Buddhist Perspective

Michele Happe, MA, LADC Updated: Jul 14th 2011

Editor's Note: You can find Michele's discussion of the previous 9 steps on her blog archive page.

They are:

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
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.
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.

two glasses of alcoholThese steps are meant to make our program current and ongoing. Step 10 is like an ongoing fourth step, which implies that we as humans will continue to offend and that our imperfections are part of being in the human realm. This step also enhances our concept of humility on a daily basis. It keeps us honest and true. In Buddhist terms it is a purification step which enables us to burn off the negative karma that we accumulate.

Step 11 is the practice step. It urges us to do our spiritual practice on a daily basis. If we thirst for anything it is to become enlightened. This can only be achieved through dedication to practice. Meditation is the most profound way to know ourselves. It is only in the quiet that we can have a deep personal relationship with ourselves. Once we have this relationship we have an inkling of our Buddha Nature. In meditation we face our own inner demons and learn to accept without grasping or aversion, our human condition. It is here in meditation that we become aware of our wrongs so we can work our tenth step. The more regular and committed we our to meditation, the more profound our realization of the true nature of our own mind.

Step 12 is the Bodhicitta step. In step 12 we dedicate all the merit we have accumulated to the service to other alcoholics and more broadly to all humans and sentient beings. Bodhicitta is defined as: the wish to attain complete enlightenment (that is, Buddhahood) in order to be of benefit to all sentient beings trapped in cyclic existence (samsara) who have not yet reached Buddha-hood. This step is a source of true happiness and humility. It gives rise to compassion which is the essence along with wisdom, of the Buddha Nature. It is through compassion that we are able to practice the Ten Virtues which enable us to behave in such a way that we have fewer amends to make. If we are in compassion we will have no desire to drink and will be free of resentment.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics anonymous are full of wisdom and provide each alcoholic with a recipe for living a spiritual and meaningful life. The Buddhist path is dedicated to the same thing…living a spiritual and meaningful life. For those who have difficulty with the God concept, the Buddhist interpretation can build and effective bridge of understanding which can enable the atheist to practice the steps with ease and gratitude. It is my hope that these series of articles will contribute to the integrative nature of the 12 steps for all people of all faiths and for those with no faith at all. This is a beautiful way of life full of generosity and love.

Be well...


Michele Happe, MA, LADCI am a licensed addictions therapist that specializes in addiction and codependency. I use Buddhist principles to aid in recovery and to help promote happiness. I also write and teach about these issues. I have a private practice in Minden, NV and Reno, NV and work nationally on the phone(775)230-1507 and through skype (mhappenow). My webpage is Join me on Facebook for lots of mini teachings.

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