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Zen and Recovery

Zen Buddhism is not primarily a therapy , but it does have therapeutic aspects, to overcome addiction you have to undergo personal change, which is what Zen is about. 


To do that you have to engage in the doubt you have about how you’re living, engage in personal faith that you can go forward no matter what and then take the leap, the death of clinging to your addictive actions and thoughts. This is Zen.


You might use a substance, a molecule, but it’s the same as an idea, in fact the physical addiction begins with an idea and when you can let go of that idea you have let go of your addiction as well. Basically everyone who practices Zen has to do the this, it’s the same for everyone. 


Here’s a story from Zen Buddhism that might help you;


Finding a Diamond on a Muddy Road


Gudo was the emperor’s teacher of his time. Nevertheless, he used to travel alone as a wandering mendicant. Once when he was on his was to Edo, the cultural and political center of the shogunate, he approached a little village named Takenaka. It was evening and a heavy rain was falling. Gudo was thoroughly wet. His straw sandals were in pieces. At a farmhouse near the village he noticed four or five pairs of sandals in the window and decided to buy some dry ones.

The woman who offered him the sandals, seeing how wet he was, invited him in to remain for the night at her home. Gudo accepted, thanking her. He entered and recited a sutra before the family shrine, the custom for a visiting priest. He then was introduced to the woman’s mother, and to her children. Observing that the entire family was depressed, Gudo asked what was wrong?

“My husband is a gambler and a drunkard,” the housewife told him. “When he happens to win he drinks and becomes abusive. When he loses he borrows money from others. Sometimes when he becomes thoroughly drunk he does not come home at all. What can I do?”

I will help him,” said Gudo. “Here is some money. Get me a gallon of fine wine and something good to eat. Then you may retire. I will meditate before the shrine.”

When the man of the house returned about midnight, quite drunk, he bellowed: “Hey, wife, I am home. Have you something for me to eat?”

“I have something for you,” said Gudo. “I happened to get caught in the rain and your wife kindly asked me to remain here for the night. In return I have bought some wine and fish, so you might as well have them.”

The man was delighted. He drank the wine at once and laid himself down on the floor. Gudo sat in meditation beside him.

In the morning when the husband awoke he had forgotten about the previous night. “Who are you? Where do you come from?” he asked Gudo, who still was meditating.

“I am Gudo of Kyoto and I am going on to Edo,” replied the Zen master.

The man was utterly ashamed. He apologized profusely to the teacher of his emperor.

Gudo smiled. “Everything in this life is impermanent,” he explained. “Life is very brief. If you keep on gambling and drinking, you will have no time left to accomplish anything else, and you will cause your family to suffer too.”

The perception of the husband awoke as if from a dream. “You are right,” he declared. “How can I ever repay you for this wonderful teaching! Let me see you off and carry your things a little way.”

“If you wish,” assented Gudo.

The two started out. After they had gone three miles Gudo told him to return. “Just another five miles,” he begged Gudo. They continued on.

“You may return now,” suggested Gudo.

“After another ten miles,” the man replied.

“Return now,” said Gudo, when the ten miles had been passed.

“I am going to follow you all the rest of my life,” declared the man.

Modern Zen teachers in Japan spring from the lineage of a famous master who was the successor of Gudo. His name was Mu-nan, the man who never turned back.




In the end you have to see yourself and to be desperate enough to sit, fear, shame, desperation in this case can be your friend, in propelling change. And then you have to real with yourself enough to keep on going, because it is a life long project no matter who you are, and how good you feel today or tomorrow.


If you come along you'll sit with people who like you are trying to overcome their addictions too, it might not take the same form, but the origin is the same and the cure is the same. 




The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths

1 Ordinary life is inadequate, incomplete and unsatisfactory, with physical and mental anguish the common lot of every being; 2 such I’ll is caused by craving - craving not only for food, sex, wealth and domination, but also for ideas, set theories, and hard and fast beliefs; 3 craving can eliminated by casting off attachments, casting off limited thoughts and opinions, and casting off all notions of self; 4 the best way to eradicate suffering and craving is the Eightfold Path: proper understanding, proper thought, proper speech, proper action, proper livelihood, proper effort, proper mindfulness, and proper meditation.

All conditioned things share Three Marks: Impermanence, imperfection, and non-substantiality. Everything flowing an endless stream. Everywhere there is pain, turmoil, confusion, and unrest. No place is there an enduring self. If all decays, then why chase after material things? If life is suffering, then why not seek true bliss? If there is no abiding self, then why cling to ego?

The Wheel of life describes the ceaseless whirl of existence: ignorance of facts leads to willful acts; willful acts leads to conscious discrimination; conscious discrimination leads to name and form; name and form lead to sense perception; sense perception leads to contact; contact leads to desire; desire leads to clinging; clinging leads to becoming ; becoming leads to birth; birth leads to old age and death. As long as there is ignorance the cycle of birth and death revolves. Root out ignorance through practice, and the Wheel of life will cease to spin.


Whenever you join others in training, you become a member of a sangha, the community of Buddhist practitioners. Conversion to religion or even acceptance of Buddhist tenets is not a prerequisite, nor are you under any threat of eternal damnation if you leave. The community of practitioners is never a community of saints; in a spiritual sense everyone there is ‘ill’, afflicted with one spiritual malady or another. People are taking the cure of concentrated introspection in a well ordered enviroment.

Everyone processes the seed of Awakening, but it will not bear any fruit unless it is cultivated. Any act or deed or exercise that enables one to uncover their innate nature is a ‘Gyo’, a spiritual practice. It is the forging of the mind and body, wearing away the rough edges. ‘Shugyo’, extended periods of training is necessary to bring the inner realities into focus. The purpose of Shugyo is to foster mindfulness, the attention to the materiel at hand.

Is it not true that the roughest stone, rubbed continually against equally rough stones, gradually becomes smooth?

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