Is Buddhism OK in A.A.?

by Kathleen C.

There are a lot of Buddhists in San Francisco and Marin A.A. A lot. Many of my favorite people. Old-timers, paragons of service, pillars of the A.A. community. Yet it gives me a twinge when I hear someone in a meeting quote their favorite Buddhist teacher or promote principles or tenets of Buddhism as part of their recovery. At a meeting recently a newcomer talked about a retreat he had just attended at a local meditation center and a lecture on Dharma and Recovery. There are books about Buddhism and the Twelve Steps.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this. A.A. members’ religions have been part of A.A.’s history. Bill W. and Dr. Bob were staunch Protestants. The Oxford Group, the ancestor of AA, was founded by High Church Anglicans. Sister Ignatia and any number of Catholic priests were some of A.A.’s earliest and most faithful supporters.

It still gives me a twinge when somebody in an A.A. meeting talks about their Buddhist practice. I find myself thinking how is this different from somebody in an A.A. meeting sharing how they were born again and got sober or how they accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior and got sober?

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I myself am not without fault here. In A.A. meetings I have quoted a couple of Catholic priests who are on the speaker circuit and who have insights I find to be useful. And hilarious. 

I can hear some of my dear Buddhist friends speaking up that Buddhism isn’t really a religion – Good point. I know quite a few Buddhists who are atheists. But is Buddhism an outside issue in an A.A. meeting? Is it a distraction? Or is it a useful set of spiritual principles that can help an alcoholic stay sober? I don’t know the answer. All I know is that when I hear somebody in an A.A. meeting talking about Buddhism it gives me a twinge.

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