Welcome from Vince Cullen

Welcome to the Fifth Precept Sangha

“Every noble work is bound to encounter problems and obstacles. It is important to check your goal and motivation thoroughly. One should be very truthful, honest and reasonable. One’s action should be good for others, and for oneself as well.” – HH the Dalai Lama

I am not a great scholar or a great meditator but for a number of years now, I have been considering the idea of a ‘meditation for recovery and abstinence’ group.  The arrival of the Buddhist Recovery Network in 2009 acted as a welcome catalyst and provided some much-needed guidelines to finally get this aspiration off the ground.

My own meditation practice, albeit at times haphazard, supports my continued abstinence in recovery. I wanted to establish a ‘Sajja’ or ‘Fifth Precept’ group in West Berkshire, ideally in Newbury or in Reading.

Sajja (or Sacca in Pali) is ‘truth’. Sajja, as practised by the Thamkrabok Monastery in Thailand, is a promise made before a senior monk never to consume, promote or handle drugs and/or alcohol ever again.  Sajja is also a commitment to a new life embracing truth and honesty.

The Fifth Precept is an endeavour to refrain from intoxicants in all of the Buddhist traditions. It is usually presented something along the lines of: “I undertake to refrain from intoxicating liquors and drugs that lead to carelessness”.

From an addicts point of view, there is a subtle but significant difference between an endeavour of abstinence and a total commitment to abstinence, so the aim of this group is to promote and support a combination of Sajja and the Fifth Precept; that is to say – a wholehearted commitment to total abstinence; a wholehearted commitment to a new way of being.

From the point of view of ‘Buddhist’ orientated recovery, the Fifth Precept and Sajja cannot be undertaken in isolation of the other Precepts.

  • to abstain from taking life.
  • to abstain from taking what is not given.
  • to abstain from sexual misconduct.
  • to abstain from false speech.
  • to abstain from intoxicants causing heedlessness.

Some two-thousand six-hundred years ago the Buddha presented to the world the Five Precepts as the original Harm Reduction Program, addict or not. Together, the Five Precepts and Sajja can be the foundation for anyone’s path of recovery.

As all things are temporary, transient and impermanent, I’m sure that the function, form and membership of the group will evolve over time, once we experience what works and what doesn’t.  In the meantime, it is important to note that:-

You do not have to be a Buddhist to take refuge in the Fifth Precept.
You do not have to be a Buddhist to practice meditation.

There is now scientific, as well as anecdotal, evidence of the benefits of meditation for recovery.  But knowing this is not enough… it is the time spent on the cushion that counts.

From Hungry Ghost to Being Human  (PDF file)

This short booklet is a work-in-progress and is intended primarily as a hand-out at Hungry Ghost Retreats, and secondly as a handbook for the
Fifth Precept Sangha.

I’m trying to keep the booklet to 44-pages in length as I have to consider the conciseness and relevance of the content, as well as the cost of printing!

“There is life after alcohol, drugs and compulsion… a very good life.”

Fifth Precept Sangha - Buddhist practices for recovery from addictions and compulsions
Vince Cullen