Buddhist Teachings as a Powerful Approach to Recovery

Can there be an effective Buddhist rehab program? That is the question we’ll be exploring in this article.

Buddhist Rehab and Beliefs


What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is a nontheistic belief system that is looked upon as more of a philosophy than a religion. Buddhist teachings allows people from all belief systems and religions to participate. Buddha believed that the feeling of being at odds with the universe was due to impermanence, non-self, and suffering. By bringing these teachings into the Buddhist rehab process, you may be able to achieve incredible results.

The Origins of Buddhism

Buddhism addresses the human mind. The founder of Buddhism is known as a person named Siddhartha Gautama who lived over 2,500 years ago. This person lived in a part of modern-day Northern India and Nepal.1

Gautama sought solutions to solve the issue of suffering, specifically regarding old age, sickness, and death. Through searching, Gautama found a solution to the problem of suffering, now known as nirvana. Gautama eventually became the Buddha which directly translates to “the one who is awake”. Everyone who followed the Buddha’s teachings became Buddhists. Because Gautama focused on ending suffering and sickness it is natural for people fighting addiction to explore Buddhist rehab.

Is Buddhism Helpful in Treating Addiction?

Buddhists believe that addiction is simply an extreme form of attachment. This means that when someone turns to drugs or alcohol, Buddhist teachings believe that the person is looking to ease their suffering. The result is that the situation becomes much worse because it increases the feeling of craving.

There is a huge overlap of Buddhist teachings and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is often used in treatment for addiction. Although you may not consider yourself a Buddhist, the teachings can be powerful in healing from addiction during Buddhist rehab.

What is Dharma?

In Buddhism, dharma essentially means “cosmic law and order”, and when applied to Buddhist teachings, it can be applied to mental constructs. Dharma is all about overcoming dissatisfaction or suffering, also known as dukkha. So, overcoming suffering is the focus of Buddhist rehab.2

The Four Noble Truths

  • First Noble Truth: There is Dukkah, meaning there is suffering in the world
  • Second Noble Truth: Suffering is caused by attachment and cravings. These cravings are to things that are impermanent. They do not exist in the way we think they do
  • Third Noble Truth: Methods to overcome attachment exist and are possible to achieve
  • Fourth Noble Truth: The path to overcoming cravings is made up of eight parts known as the Eightfold path

All Four Noble truths apply to Buddhist rehab and recovery, but the Second Noble Truth clearly explains addiction from the Buddhist perspective.3

How is Addiction Related to the Four Noble Truths?

The central teaching of Buddhism is regarding the four noble truths, and you could say that Buddhism is all about the overcoming of some form of addiction. The Four Noble Truths are presented as a diagnosis and suggested treatment plan for this type of suffering during Buddhist rehab.

How the Four Noble Truths are Used in Recovery?

  • The first Noble Truth can be used in recovery to help understand that addiction creates suffering
  • The second Noble Truth is used in recovery to understand that the cause of addiction is repetitive craving
  • The third Noble Truth can teach that recovery is possible
  • The fourth Noble Truth shows that the path to recovery is available

The Eightfold Path

The fourth of the Four Noble Truths is known as the Eightfold path. This path can be used as an addiction recovery program. Dissimilar to other forms of recovery, the Eightfold Path is not a linear process. These eight elements can feed into one another, and flow however they should naturally.4

Essentially, the Eightfold Path is a summary of the path of Buddhist teachings that lead to liberation from samsara, the painful cycle of rebirth. So, the Eightfold Path is a blueprint for the steps to take in Buddhist rehab. The eight aspects of the path reflect right views, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration.

It is also known as the path to Nirvana, which is a transcendent state. When reaching Nirvana you will find no suffering, desire, or sense of self. It is the final goal of Buddhist teachings.

How Each Path Helps Recovery?

  1. Right understanding: Learn about the nature of your addiction
  2. Right intention: Commit to sober living
  3. Right mindfulness: Learn to use mindfulness. This allows you to be less of a prisoner to your thoughts and emotions
  4. Right concentration: Practice mindfulness to improve your focus so you enjoy clearer thinking. This can include meditation
  5. Right effort: Make sobriety your number one priority in life
  6. Right view: Coupled with therapy and meditation, you can begin to let go of beliefs and opinions that have been holding you back in life
  7. Right livelihood: If you made your living due to dealing drugs, or another method of illegal activity, you must make changes to your career. This can be triggering and requires an entire life change commitment
  8. Right action: Commit to regularly doing the things you need to do to maintain strong sobriety

Buddhist Teachings and Preventing Relapse

After beating your addiction in Buddhist rehab, you can continue following Buddhist teachings to prevent relapse. When using Buddhist teachings in recovery, you must see things as they are. The idea of mindfulness is the act of letting go of thoughts that clutter the mind. All remaining thoughts are let go, and it is possible to overcome addiction.

Preventing relapse involves recognizing the suffering that you are experiencing because of addiction. The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism can be one of the best ways to avoid relapse. It can teach how to understand the problem, understand the cause, see a solution, and, finally, take steps to achieve a solution.

Buddhist teachings help those who end up in rehab to prevent relapse because it deals directly with cravings and how to let go.

Faith and Spirituality in Rehab

To practice the Buddha’s teachings in Buddhist rehab, you do not need to become a Buddhist or believe in the teachings. You can be any religion or be an atheist and still utilize Buddhist teachings in rehab. Although you do not necessarily need to achieve nirvana, utilizing the four noble truths, along with the eightfold path, have shown proven success in Drug rehabilitation.

The main purpose of using Buddha’s teachings in Buddhist rehab is to access the benefits of mindfulness. By understanding that substance use disorders are a form of suffering, and understanding that addiction is simply a repetitive craving, recovery is possible and you will achieve it.

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