I am not a great scholar or a great meditator but for a number of years now, I have been considering the idea of a ‘meditation for recovery and abstinence’ group. The arrival of the Buddhist Recovery Network in 2009 acted as a welcome catalyst and provided some much needed guidelines to finally get this aspiration off the ground.
My own meditation practice, albeit at times haphazard, supports my continued abstinence in recovery. I wanted to establish a ‘Sajja’ or ‘Fifth Precept’ group in West Berkshire, ideally in Newbury or in Reading.
- Sajja(or Sacca in Pali) is ‘truth’. Sajja as practiced by the Thamkrabok Monastery in Thailand is a promise made before a senior monk never to consume, promote or handle drugs and/or alcohol ever again. Sajja is also a commitment to a new life embracing truth and honesty.
- The Fifth Precept is an endeavour to refrain from intoxicants in all of the Buddhist traditions. It is usually presented something along the lines of: “I undertake to refrain from intoxicating liquors and drugs that lead to carelessness”.
From an addicts point of view, there is a subtle but significant difference between an endeavour to abstinence and a total commitment to abstinence, so the aim of this group is to promote and support a combination of Sajja and the Fifth Precept; that is to say - a wholehearted commitment to total abstinence; a wholehearted commitment to a new way of being.
From the point of view of ‘Buddhist’ orientated recovery, the Fifth Precept and Sajja cannot be undertaken in isolation of the other Precepts.
Some two-thousand five-hundred years ago the Buddha presented to the world the Five Precepts as the original Harm Reduction Program, addict or not. Together, the Five Precepts and Sajja can be the foundation for anyone’s path of recovery.
As all things are temporary, transient and impermanent, I’m sure that the function, form and membership of the group will evolve over time, once we experience what works and what doesn’t. In the meantime it is important to note that:-
- You do not have to be a Buddhist to take refuge in the Fifth Precept.
- You do not have to be a Buddhist to practice meditation.
There is now scientific, as well as anecdotal, evidence of the benefits of meditation for recovery. But knowing this is not enough... it is the time spent on the cushion that counts.
There is life without alcohol and other drugs; and it is a good life.