12 Fold Recovery Path~ Sarpashana

The addiction recovery group (12-fold path) meets weekly on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Meditation is at 6:30, discussion follows at 7 pm. We use 12-step literature along with corresponding Buddhist writing as the basis for discussion. Anyone working on their recovery from any addiction is welcome. For the Monday meetings, please contact Dave Garton at 303-918-8841 for more information. For the Wednesday meetings, feel free to call Martha Hildreth at 303-671-0611.


Sarpashana was known as the Buddhist Alcohol Study Group when it began in the mid-
1980s in Boulder for members dealing with alcoholism or alcohol-related problems. This is a study group for sangha members and all those interested in relating their path of meditation and dharma studies to their alcohol or other addictions and recovery. We explore the challenges, as well as the opportunities, that our addictions and attachments provide us in this context. The meetings combine meditation, study and discussion.

We begin at 6:30 pm with 30 minutes of meditation followed by a meeting lasting
approximately one hour. (Meditation instruction is offered.) This statement is read at the beginning of the meeting. This group is not intended to replace a 12-step program and attendees are urged to fully work the 12 step program that addresses their addiction.

We take turns leading the discussion, but the general guideline is a reading from 12 step literature combined with a Buddhist reading from Buddhist writings or teachings. We request that the 12 step tradition of no advice giving be followed, and that everyone be asked to share their experience, strength and hope.

The following definition is adapted from the Sarpashana Sourcebook: Sarpashana is a Sanskrit term meaning “poison eater.” The symbol for the group is the peacock because of an ancient Hindu story that the peacock derives its brilliant plumage from its consumption of poison. Its ability to transform poison into nourishment gives it both beauty and a proper kind of pride.

Applied to a Buddhist-oriented education, counseling, and support network, sarpashana may be understood to mean that the poison is the disease of alcoholism (or any other addictive tendency) which produced a kind of false pride and we are consumed with ego-arrogance. By consuming our disease, in other words, by recognizing it for what it is, accepting the karma of it, and responding by first, educating ourselves; second, taking it personally; and third, acting on what we know to be true, we transform ourselves and discover our true nature–symbolized by the magnificent tail of the peacock.

Then, with genuine pride in being fearlessly human, at home in the world, we can proclaim the dharma of what we have learned and the dharma of what we experienced to other sentient beings who suffer in this dark age.