Thanissaro BhikkhuAddiction: the topic that won’t go away. We all do things that we don’t like. Then we do it again. And again. This behavior may vary in scope and degree, but we all share this characteristic: We want to stop doing it. The problem is, we’re not sure how.

Thai forest monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu—known as Ajaan Geoff to his students and Than Geoff to friends—spoke to us on the first day of August about Buddhist strategies for overcoming addiction. We can think of addiction as a very strong, persistent negative attachment. We may be aware that we are addicted to a harmful substance or activity and yet be unable to prevent ourselves from going back to it. Worse yet, we feel guilt and self-loathing at our perceived helplessness, which clears the way for addiction to steamroll our good intentions again and again. What to do? In this interview, Than Geoff presents several distinct strategies for us to employ whenever we feel the pull of addiction.

In one case, he asks us to think of the various factors of the mind as a committee sitting around a table. We can think of the addiction as a bully at this meeting, a loud voice that shouts the other committee members down, or when it needs to, employs trickery and deception to get its way. We need to strengthen and empower the other voices at the table so that we can see there are alternatives to letting the bully win and indulging in our addiction. The bully is cagey and skilled at debating, so we need to work very hard to be able to outwit him and defeat his arguments.

Listen to the interview below with Thanissaro Bhikkhu to learn several useful strategies for overcoming addictive impulses. You may be surprised at some of his suggestions. You can also read his latest article in Tricycle, “Lost in Quotation,” about what we miss when we don’t read the whole sutta here.

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