AA as "stealth Buddhism" - article from AAAgnostica
Thought this was an interesting article posted today on Buddhism as a practice rather than a belief system in AA - AA as "stealth Buddhism" | AA Agnostica
...particularly, the last three points noted near the bottom of the article:
"Quit taking it personally. Or as Bill Wilson’s physician Dr. William Silkworth said, “There is a tendency to label everything that an alcoholic may do as ‘alcoholic behavior.’ The truth is, it is simply human nature… Emotional and mental quirks are classified as symptoms of alcoholism merely because alcoholics have them, yet those same quirks can be found among non-alcoholics, too. Actually they are symptoms of mankind.” Dharma practice is a method of exploring human nature and seeing clearly how it plays out in our personal sitcoms. Steps Four, Six and Seven, Ten and Eleven provide this opportunity.
Don’t get hung up with concepts and ideology. The Buddha cautioned his early followers, “Don’t believe anything anyone says, even if I say it, unless it makes sense to you”. For example, I remain thoroughly skeptical about the notion of reincarnation.
Direct experience trumps theory every time. Don’t be a Buddhist, be a Buddha!"
Yep. I have "eyes glazed over" down to a science most of the time. Life is just full of people who have my answers for me - I don't even have to ask.
As Sheryl Crowe crooned: "Every man is his own prophet, every prophet just a man."
I do see a lot of Buddhism in the steps. However, I see even more Taoism in the steps.
Thanks for this, Jennie. An enjoyable read while taking a break from packing for an upcoming move.
I have a friend who says the Big Book is stealth Buddhism wrapped in early 20th Century American Christian language. Maybe he's on to something :) I too see a lot of Buddhism in what we do.
when I first started out I spent time looking for alternatives. Found secular AA stuff and discovered Buddhism. One thing I noticed and I think I shared here somewhere are the similarities between AA and Buddhist principals. For me, quitting drinking was the first step. Adopting a new way to live and view life was (is) the next step. The tenets of each are the same, the approach to seeking/achieving them are not in my opinion.
I always said that living as the steps of aa suggests is a good way to live. Same for Buddhism. But I choose to be a Buddha, not a Buddhist.
Thanks for posting the link to that article Jen - yeah, I read it too. I tend to visit Agnostica at least once a week - and the comments below each article (for those who haven't discovered the site) are as erudite and well-considered as so many here on SR.
Even before I read that article recently, I'd twigged that the Steps in particular are just a mish-mash / re-hash of behavioural / spiritual wisdom gleaned from numerous wisdom traditions including Buddhism.
And just speaking personally - and some on Agnostica, including some who are 20 or 30 years plus sober AA members say the same: a lot of it (the trad literature of the BB / Steps etc) are in places very badly written. That's just me, though, picky over discourse and writing with my Arts background :-)
The 12-steps are tools and how one makes use of them often varies.
Some AA members take Bill Wilson's exclamations quite literally, and do themselves a dis-favour by doing so.
In particular the 'disease model' makes for a separate group of 'ill people' as opposed to the so called 'normal' disease free, whose drinking can be quite liberal, so long as they don't succumb to 'the disease'. A somewhat strange, if not dangerous dichotomy.
Fortunately AA seems to avoid dogma of a too extreme nature. On the last page of the Big Book it is made clear that the writings should not be seen as rock solid or perfect, which is just as well.
IMO the root cause of the ISM component on alcohol-ISM is Delusional Thinking (aka self-deception). Everyone suffers from it to some degree. Alcoholics just can't afford to hold on to as much of it as normies. A certain amount of house-cleaning is vital for us to get and stay sober (4th and 10th steps).
I have spent decades studying Eastern religion and found it a little too lightweight when it comes to doing self-appraisals. Buddhism, along with other Eastern philosophies, is better geared towards dealing with self-deception (aka the illusion of Maya).
STUDENT: "What part of mans thinking is delusional?"
SRI NISARGADATTA MAHARAJ: "That's an easy question to answer... All of it!"
Fascinating point boleo, I've been toying with some thoughts along those lines for a little while. I'm in the Mahayana/Japanese contingent, have been for 28 years but somehow the 12-step work seems to be more specific & (to me) productive. The Buddhist material tends to be abstract or metaphorical sometimes to such an extent that its unclear what the point is. I'm inclined to think some of that is due to issues around translation but there seems to be a fetish over doctrinal differences with other sects- all the "One True Way" business that so many religions of different stripes fall into. To my mind its the usual religious focus on teaching doctrine to which I've generally been resistant. I see the Christian doctrine here and the Buddhist there, they contradict and both insist they are true, leaving me thinking "wtf".
So I've found the 12-step work brings a great deal of the Buddhist doctrine into more direct action. My higher power is still Myoho but I conceive a much more nuanced view of it. I think that counts as starting to transform my concept of a higher power like so many others do. At the moment I don't spend effort now in pursuing understanding more Buddhist doctrine, but instead focus on interpreting the fundamental principles that are taught to a newcomer wherever and however I can in the context of daily life.
So I wonder why the Buddhist doctrine and practice was not reaching me well because I'f found the basic principles to be in good accord. The 12-step introspective work has been tremendously more productive than the Buddhist study meetings I've attended. I see the value of the service work in both areas, at the moment I'm chairing my alanon home group and have done other service work on the Buddhist side- no problem with the doctrine there.
My friends on the Buddhist side seem to have a lot of respect for the 12-step transformation concepts.. theres a local leader who's been "in program" for narcotics & food addictions. I would not be surprised if my difficulties with the practice could be cleanly explained by more Buddhist doctrine but the more I'm working the 12 steps the less I care on that front.
Schnappi9, interesting story. As you have realised, your 28 years in Buddhist 'doctrinal' stuff has become just that: too much abstract DOCTRINE. Sort of burdensome. Us recovering alcoholics do not need any more burdens!
Myself, I've found very helpful the writers and teachers (f2f groups and sessions with I can't attend because we have no such in my part of Australia) who explicitly blend Buddhist practice with practical recovery, 12 step or not.
I'm thinking here of, e.g. Josh Korda, Noah Levine (Dharma Punx), and Kevin Griffin. His books are extraordinarily resonant for me:
'One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps' and the latest, 'A Burning Desire: Dharma God and the Path of Recovery'.
Maybe check 'em out?
Not sure I want to judge doctrine or its excess in general. I was thinking this morning that religions have to attract all kinds if they're to grow. If thats true there are certainly those who delight in complex doctrine and its nuances, and there is probably some value in a thoroughly worked philosophy derived from founding principles. Could be the doctrine is the vehicle but the point of it all is the journey and when we spend too much time working with the doctrine we confuse it for the goal.
But if "take what you like leave the rest" is OK for a 12-step program I don't see why it wouldn't apply to a religion, in which case "working what works" on the religious side seems perfectly reasonable to me.
But you used the word burden which is interesting. This body of doctrine which I've generally been unattracted to hasn't been a burden in the sense of too much or too complicated, more its too obscure (for me) & intepretation often seems strained. I have always found the essential practice (meditation, mantras, the basic readings) helpful. The 12-step work has made the Buddhist principles a lot more widely relevant to me, now they are the tools for one hand and the alanon material the tools for the other, if you will.
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