Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
From the Sutra: The Five Remembrances:
My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground upon which I stand.
My actions – I can’t shake them, hide them, bury them, give them away, pawn them off, or bequeath them. There are past actions I’d just as soon forget, but I can’t. They are mine to keep, my only true belongings.
We recite The Five Remembrances every Monday evening, and every day on retreats. This particular Remembrance jumped off the page for me since it strikes and the core of what we are doing when we take the 12 Steps. It puts my actions into ultimate focus, perspective and importance. Everything I have done and everything that was done to me is what I carry into the future. Only I can take responsibility for my actions today AND the Steps, especially Steps 4,5,6,7,8,9, and 10, help me deal with my past actions.
Roger talked about Steps 8 and 9 as repairing steps –they are about repairing connections we have with others. “My connection with other people is a sacred thing,” he said, “as it repairs my wholeness.” Repairing are my actions, something I can stand on.
Susan talked about consequences, to her, are negative connotations; and the ground upon which we stand a positive connotation, coming from skillful means and unselfish actions. It’s our missteps that make the ground firmer through right action.
In the brilliance of the 12 Steps we have found a way to identify our negative actions and use our past experiences to help others. They make it so I can live with my past. “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it” (BB Page 83). The writers of the Big Book knew the importance of taking ownership for our actions (true belongings).
Chris gave the Monday evening talk at CityZen a few weeks ago. He’s also the minister of the local Unitarian Universalist church and is familiar with the 12 Steps. He knows about my blog but is not a regular follower. My jaw dropped when he announced the koan for the evening saying, “This evening I offer you something to sit with from our Sutras -- My actions are my only true belongings.”
I was chortling to myself while we meditated and also realizing the wonder of it all; that he and I, independently, would come up with the same koan for Step 9. I think it was the koan choosing us.
During his talk, he brought up our PURIFICATION Sutra, which is about atonement and he referenced it to what we do in 12 Step programs. Later I kidded him by suggesting that he had implanted bots into my computer to “swipe” the koan that came to me for Steps 8 and 9.
All the ancient twisted karma
From beginningless greed, hatred and ignorance
Born of my body, mouth and thought
I now confess openly and fully.
And let’s not forget our positive actions, our sober actions, our helpful and caring actions, our humble actions – these, too, are actions upon which we stand. “Showing others who suffer how we were given help is the very thing which makes life seem so worth while to us now…the dark past is the greatest possession you have – the key to life and happiness for others (BB Page 124),” for sure, the actions of a bodhisattva.
One definition of purifying is “to free from guilt.” Step 9 is a purifying Step.
THE FIVE REMEMBRANCES (The five facts that Shakyamuni Buddha advised we should reflect on often):
Shakyamuni Buddha advised: These are the five facts that one should reflect on often.
Ino: I am of the nature to grow old.
All: There is no way to escape growing old.
Ino: I am of the nature to have ill health.
All: There is no way to escape ill health.
Ino: I am of the nature to die.
All: There is no way to escape this.
Ino: All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change.
All: There is no way to escape being separated from them.
Ino: My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
All: My actions are the ground upon which I stand.
Amazing, the more I practice the 12 Steps and Zen Buddhism, the more I realize their overlapping qualities.