By: Marilyn L. Davis
The Purpose of Words
I was updating my Glossary of Recovery Terms earlier today for a presentation next week. As sometimes happens, I was distracted and started thinking about the purpose of writing the Glossary, all those unfamiliar words we need to learn in our recovery. It was to teach each participant about character defects and positive aspects, codependency traits, and spiritual concepts. It is part of my recovery curriculum that I wrote, starting in 1990, and I used several old-fashioned dictionaries when I wrote it.
Therefore, a good beginning for finding character defects and negative aspects at that time was the Seven Deadly Sins. From a musty tome in the Brenau University Library, I discovered that it was Pope Gregory, who revised this list in 590 AD to form the more common Seven Deadly Sins:
• Wrath: Anger, Rage, Fury
• Greed: Hunger, Self-indulgence, Covetousness
• Sloth: Laziness, Indolence, Apathy
• Pride: Smugness, Self-importance, Self-Gratification
• Lust: Yearning, Thirst, Desire
• Envy: Jealousy, Begrudging
• Gluttony: Excess
Words Have Multiple Meanings
All of those represented sins, and in my world, they are also relapse warning signs. Since there’s only one letter different in sins and signs, I wondered about sins.
The word sin derives from Old English synn (noun), syngian (verb); probably related to Latin sons, sont- ‘guilty’. The Biblical terms, translated from the Greek and Hebrew literally refer to missing a target or an error.
The word sin seems fraught with visions of hell-fire and brimstone and I do not hear it used much in recovery rooms, but I do know about character defects, negative aspects, and self-defeating behaviors. All those categories highlight how we act from self-centered and self-gratifying motives.
Important Resources from Religion for Recovery
The Internet is an extraordinary wealth of wisdom for all of us. We can Google and Bing daily to find inspiration, advice, counsel, information or definitions. Today I also read an article about Hinduism that gave me pause. It has been many years since I studied religions and yet, I knew that there were often more similarities between them than the behaviors of warring religions would have us believe.
What I also wondered was if there was good application for recovery in some. Unfortunately, I could not pronounce all the interesting, comparable, and equal words I found today; nonetheless, each reinforced for me that recovery from within is the correct way.
In Hindu theology, arishadvarga — the six passions of mind are:
• Kama (Lust)
• Krodha (Anger)
• Lobha (Greed)
• Moha (Delusion)
• Mada (Pride)
• Matsarya (Jealousy)
Prophecy, News Flash, or Recovery Story?
According to Hindu beliefs, we are living in the age or epoch of Kali Yuga or a time of impurities and vices. Many Hindus believe that human civilizations deteriorate spiritually during the Kali Yuga.
Our primary focus is on physical pleasures and the pursuit of material possessions. This does not just happen in a period of Kali Yuga, but in our active addiction as well. We lose touch with our best qualities and inner positive traits.
Regarding human relationships: During a Kali Yuga, Markandeya’s discourse says:
- Avarice and wrath will be common.
- Humans will openly display animosity towards each other.
- Ignorance of Dharma will occur.
- People will have thoughts of murder with no justification and will see nothing wrong with that.
- Lust will be viewed as socially acceptable and sexual intercourse will be seen as the central requirement of life.
- Sin will increase exponentially, whilst virtue will fade and cease to flourish.
- People will take vows and break them soon after.
- People will become addicted to intoxicating drinks and drugs.
- Gurus will no longer be respected and their students will attempt to injure them.
- Their teachings will be insulted, and followers of Kama will wrest control of the mind from all human beings.
- Brahmans will not be learned or honored, Kshatriyas will not be brave, Vaishyas will not be just in their dealings.
Any of those self-defeating behaviors were certainly present in my addition? Were they in yours?
Buddhism And Defects of Character
Contemporary translators use a variety of English words to translate the term kleshas, such as: afflictions, defilements, destructive emotions, disturbing emotions, negative emotions, mind poisons, etc.
Abhidhamma: Ten defilements and unwholesome roots:
• Greed: (Lobha)
• Hate: (Dosa)
• Delusion: (Moha)
• Conceit: (Māna)
• Wrong Views: (Micchādiṭṭhi)
• Doubt: (Vicikicchā)
• Torpor: (Thīnaṃ)
• Restlessness: (Uddhaccaṃ)
• Shamelessness: (Ahirikaṃ)
• Recklessness: (Anottappaṃ)
“And religion–whether you believe in God or Yahweh or Allah or something else, odds are that at heart you want the same things. For whatever reason, we like to focus on the 2 percent, that’s different, and most of the conflict in the world comes from that.” — David Levithan (Every Day (Every Day, #1
Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Recovery: Finding the Similarities or the 98%
These reinforce the essential responsibility to change what is wrong within us and to stop those thoughts, actions and behaviors that are harmful to us and to others.
“Shutting out all external objects, fixing the vision between the eyebrows, making even the inward and outward breaths, the sage who has controlled the senses, mind and understanding, who is intent upon liberation, who has cast away desire, fear and anger, he is ever freed.” ― The Bhagavad Gita
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that there are three reasons for believing that the destructive emotions can be eliminated from our minds:
1. All the destructive emotions and mental states are essentially distorted, whereas the antidotes, such as love, compassion and insight, are undistorted and based on how things really are.
2. The antidotes have the quality of being strengthened through training and practice.
3. The essential nature of the mind is pure and undefiled by the destructive emotions.
“I was powerless over my childhood, but the coping strategies that I developed, to survive, all of which were creative and brilliant and got me through, as an adult those became my defects of character. Those became my shortcomings, control and all that kind of stuff… and that’s my responsibility. I was a blameless child in what happened in the home; I take responsibility for my behaviors as an adult.” ― Ashley Judd
Enriching My Day
In summarizing the information from various sites, religions, and beliefs, I sincerely hope that I have stayed true to the intent of the message, text or philosophy; that was my intent.
In no way do I consider myself anything other than a novice learner about Hinduism or Buddhism. In addition, on any given day, if I am operating from character defects, I am a novice in recovery as well.
“By practicing the virtues we cultivate the soil from which healthy emotions sprout; by letting go of our character defects we drain the swamp in which diseased emotions breed. ― Ray A
It is my hope that the message of this entire article is that each teaching has value and worth. Dismissing information due to pronunciation difficulties is foolish and short-sighted. After all, it is not 1990, I can use online sources to learn both old and new terms and concepts to gain understanding, awareness, and improve my recovery. And we should never forget, “A chrysanthemum by any other name would be a lot easier to spell.” ― Robert C. Savage
Writing, and recovery heals the heart
When you’re ready to share your experiences in addiction and recovery, I hope you’ll consider submitting a guest post. The more tones, styles, and voices that write about recovery, the more people struggling with their addictions can get help.
For various perspectives on recovery and religion, here are three books that might help you find your answers.