Struggling with addiction


A Buddhist perspective on my personal addictions

I don’t honestly know if the Buddha ever taught about addictions directly, but he certainly did teach about defilements and attachments. The Pali word kilesa means mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions. Kilesa includes states of mind such as anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy, desire, depression, etc. Contemporary translators use a variety of English words to translate the term kilesa, such as: afflictions, defilements, destructive emotions, disturbing emotions, negative emotions, mind poisons, etc.

For me personally, I could easily say that my one addiction that I have is cigarette smoking. But this would be highly delusional and dishonest. Upon examination, I can easily see more subtle addictions. Some of which are seen rather easily, and some take a deeper awareness and understanding. Coffee for example is another addiction that I have, which could be easily overlooked by simply telling myself that I just enjoy my coffee. But then I can move on to the more subtle and seemingly mundane addictions like the bed that I sleep in, or the comfy robe that I wear in the morning. There is a powerful expectation and clinging that is happening with little awareness of the accompanying poison. You see addictions can come in so many forms, so many of which are subtle yet still harmful.

Being fully aware that we are only human and not perfect beings, all of us can easily dismiss much of this with little concern. But I’m not so sure that this is beneficial to ourselves or the ones we love. The meaning of kamma is action, and everything that we say, do or think is kamma. Light, dark or neutral, we are constantly generating kamma. And kamma causes a reaction both for ourselves individually and also for all those around us. With this in mind, perhaps we must first be able to honestly see the cause and effect of our actions. Then we can focus our attention on the goodwill and compassion we are able to offer ourselves by eliminating one of our addictions. Starting with the most powerful and harmful addictions, one by one we can patiently and mindfully eliminate these poisons and offer ourselves a healthier and happier life. The benefits are far greater than most of us probably realize or care to understand.

Today I work on my own addictions and facing the reality, fears and attachments. What are your addictions, and how will you view them? Whether you are you addicted to soda, shopping, the internet, Facebook, Twitter, gambling, religion, attention, sex, drugs or rock n’ roll. Right View is the place to begin. And while Right View is the first teaching of the path, remember that the Eightfold Path is not about steps. It is more like the intertwined strands of a rope that offer maximum strength when used collectively. This is where I know that I must return for my own personal foundation and determination. That of course, along with daily meditation, observation, understanding and compassion.

May you be well, happy and peaceful.