In brief, you may not be completely free from your addiction until -
- You see the truth of craving (or aversion) as the cause of addiction
- You are honest and truthful about your own addiction
- You resolve and commit to move away from your suffering
To paraphrase the Buddha’s teaching on the Four Ennobling Truths (ariya-sacca) -
- There is addiction
- There are causes of addiction
- The suffering of addiction can be ended
- There is a path leading to freedom from the suffering of addiction
From a Buddhist perspective everybody is susceptible to suffering in one way or another, to a greater or lesser degree. But as addicts our suffering is amplified by our exaggerated craving for pleasure or relief; and our aversion to the pain of withdrawal. It is this craving and aversion together with a deluded understanding of reality that leads directly to our personal unhappiness.
As the saying goes, pain is inevitable - suffering is optional.
Sajja*, the first and most important foundation of recovery, has three broadly distinct meanings:
[*pronounced sat-cha. English spelling ‘Sajja’ from the Thai, or ‘Sacca’ from the Pali, or ‘Satya’ from the Sanskrit]
Sajja as a statement of Truth
In this sense the word Sajja means the truth of the way things really are; including all earthly events such as birth, aging, illness, and death, which are unavoidable by all human beings. Also, Sajja is knowledge of the Truth; for example the Buddha taught the Four Ennobling Truths, the second of which can be understood by addicts as “the source of our suffering is our craving”.
If you look honestly at your own addiction you will see the pain and harm it causes yourself and those around you. To stop or reduce this pain and harm we might try to understand and heal the causes of our addiction.
Also, if we see clearly the truth of Karma, we see in essence that we are the inheritors of all our actions; good and bad, skillful and unskillful, wholesome and unwholesome. We don’t get away with anything.
Sajja as an Ethical practice
Sajja as a virtue (a quality of the body, speech, and mind) to be aspired to. The non-deception of self and others. In this sense Sajja means sincerity and honesty with no intention of concealment; a virtue to be cultivated.
The Buddha provided some simple but effective guidelines to move us away from suffering. These guidelines known as the Five Precepts (Sila) include commitments to honesty, truthfulness and sobriety.
These commitments to cultivate a safe, non-harming and fearless environment come internally from the individual - not from a commandment or rule 'outside'. The Five Precepts can be seen as the original 'Relapse Prevention Program' benefiting both the individual and the community.
Sajja as a Sacred Vow
This is the meaning of the term ‘Sajja’ that is most commonly associated with the Thamkrabok Monastery in Thailand; that is Sajja as a sacred promise or a vow. The Thamkrabok Sajja vow may be ‘sacred’ but maybe it is more logical than mystical. It is a promise to ourselves - with the Natural Elements as our witness - not to indulge in our addictive behaviours.
What does make the Sajja vow magical, in the sense of the sacred, is that it really does work if you keep it! And that is a blessing, or the natural result of a skilful choice and action, as best fits your personal belief system.
It must be said that the Sajja vow is not just a promise, it is a solid commitment to change. You do not have to travel halfway around the world to vomit in an open drain - going cold-turkey in a hot climate - to commit to Sajja and recovery. However, if you have got the time and the money then I can thoroughly recommend it as an unrepeatable experience!
Having seen the truth of our craving and the results of our behaviour, we vow to break those negative habits in skillful ways that move us away from the avoidable suffering of addiction.
Sajja in all it’s meanings, being the first foundation of recovery, is the starting point of healing but it can also be the end point of this approach. I know and have known many people who regarded the Sajja vow to stop using their drug of choice as their total recovery plan. While it is true that this approach has worked for some, it is also true that it has not worked or lasted for many. Some people relapse - some people die.
It is my experience that the more layers of practice that you include in your life, the more assured you can be of a relaxed, comfortable and happy recovery.
At this point it is important to emphasis again, that you do not have to be a Buddhist to practice Sajja, Sila or any of these meditation practices.
To further paraphrase the Buddha’s teaching on the Four Ennobling Truths -
- There is unhappiness
- There are conditions leading to unhappiness
- There is happiness
- There are conditions leading to happiness
Topics for contemplation & investigation : Truth (Sajja)
Webpage : A Sajja Vow
Webpage : One Day at A Time - Sajja Vow
Webpage : Sajja and Sila : Foundations of Recovery
Webpage : Notes on Sajja : As practiced at Thamkrabok Monastery
Audio Link : Truthfulness and Resolve a talk by Andrea Fella (53-minutes)