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Buddhism And Addiction Essay

2285 words - 10 pages

Following Siddhartha Gautama’s attainment of enlightenment, his influence spread across the Indian subcontinent, and eventually, across oceans. Today, Buddhism can be found in nearly every country. Figures regarding the number of Buddhists vary, but most estimate that there are approximately 450 million Buddhists in the world. Even traditionally Christian westerners have begun to live by the teachings of the Buddha. Of course, just as they do with everything else, Americans have adapted Buddhism to fit modern society. The already-laid-back religion has been diluted to the point where key teachings have been called into question. American Buddhists struggle to find the balance between ...view middle of the document...

The first notion with which addicts fail to comply is that of the Four Noble Truths. These Truths are an extremely basic component of Buddhism, as they form the foundation of the entire religion. Essentially, the Four Noble Truths state that desire is the root of all suffering, and that, to eradicate suffering, one must first eradicate desire. To do this, one follows the Eightfold Path, a guided plan designed to purify one’s mind and body. Though many Buddhists struggle to model their lives after the Eightfold Path, addicts have an especially difficult time, as desire is an inherent element of addiction. In order to eliminate desire, a person must overcome any addictive behaviors. Addicts repeatedly commit the ultimate “sin” of Buddhism; they cling to material objects – whether food, alcohol, or drugs – that inhibit them from following Buddha’s teachings.
Another vitally important element of Buddhism is that of impermanence. This is considered to be one of the core teachings of the religion, as it is the foundation on which everything else is based. Buddha taught of the importance of the realization that all things in life are conditional and temporary, and insisted that a person could not reach enlightenment without truly living according to this idea. Buddha emphasized how constantly reminiscing on the past and looking forward to the future were harmful; instead, he taught that experiencing the present reality was the way to achieve nirvana. Addicts cling to their pasts before they were plagued with such a condition, and mourn the opportunities they forfeited in pursuit of their highs. The very nature of addiction leaves sufferers desperately chasing after their next fix, or, on their weaker days, contemplating their bleak future. Addicts fail to live by this teaching, as they are always wrapped up in the future or past. The present moment is too painful to experience, so they seek distraction in pondering what could or used to be. Until a majorly traumatic or life-changing event occurs, we ignore the transient nature of all things in our lives. Even then, “we grieve, but we continue to deny that life is all about tiny, big, and humongous changes” (Lucas 9). Oftentimes, the thought that our conditions are temporary can be a depressing fact, but Buddhists teach that impermanence is what allows us to experience incredible changes. Though transience may lead to changes that we dislike, the world as we know it would not exist without the quality. Were change not possible, “the Big Bang would have never happened, hydrogen atoms would have never been created, the galaxies would never have constellated their trillions of stars and started their lazy rotations…and we wouldn’t be around to think such weird thoughts” (Lucas 12). Rather than contemplating whether or not impermanence is harmful, we should instead accept that it is true regardless of our opinions. Addicts can healthily use this idea to deter themselves from returning to addictive...

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