The Hard Way? Ayup!
(originally written 01/25/10)
Reading the chapter "The Hard Way" in "A Modern Buddhist Bible" was entertaining and enlightening for me. Much of the chapter, indeed, almost every word, reads like an Alcoholics Anonymous Step Meeting! In fact, the description of the 'hard way' path to enlightenment is exactly what old-timers tell newcomers in A.A. meetings about getting off the "pink cloud" and getting on with the rest of life. I am fond of remarking that the life of a drunk is the hard way to enlightenment, but you get there just the same. Just substitute a couple stock A.A. phases for Buddhist terminology. Perhaps if people realized this, then they would look at enlightenment the same way a person in A.A. views recovery: as the final desperate attempt to 'get right' with the world, to find peace and an end of suffering; to find love and serenity; to find the meaning of life. The key words there are "final desperate attempt."
Nobody stays sober without a lot of extremely simple yet extraordinarily difficult work on themselves, exactly as Trungpa warns: "It takes tremendous effort to work one's way through the difficulties of the path and actually get into the situations of life thoroughly and properly."
Look at this quote from an Alcoholics Anonymous Daily Reflections blog: "When my own house is in order, I find the different parts of my life are more manageable. Stripped from the guilt and remorse that clocked my drinking years, I am free to assume my proper role in the universe, but this condition requires maintenance."
And this A.A. slogan: "It's easy to talk the talk, but you have to walk the walk."
And for the rest of Trungpa's chapter I can only post one more thing: an edited version A.A.'s 12 Steps. Tell me if this is not completely compatible with what Trungpa says:
1. We admitted we were powerless.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the pursuit of the Tao as we understood it.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted within the Tao, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to remove all these defects of character under the guidance of the Tao.
7. Humbly sought through the Tao to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through meditation to improve our conscious contact with the Tao as we understood it, praying only for knowledge of the next step 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 others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
In my own foray into the universe of A.A. I found myself attracted to Buddhism in my early recovery. I also found out that such a thing was not uncommon in A.A., simply because of the vast similarities. Also not uncommon, that after a while the alcoholic in recovery leaves Buddhism behind for the same reason Trungpa explains about the teachings of Christ: it "is an imaginary situation."
And just so there's no questions on the spirit of the 12 Steps being violated, here are the official 12 Steps of A.A.. If anyone would like to explore the connections between A.A., the 12 Steps and this chapter, a good place to start is the A.A. Grapevine and 12 Step.org.