I'm wondering whether one would have much success quitting addictive behaviours BEFORE having a meditative practice. Is this just wasteful/pointless? Would meditation allow a much easier relinquishing of bad habits?

In sum, should meditation come first?

Thank you.

5 Answers 5


Bad physical habits are stopped by adhi-sīla, physical observe.

Then, bad mental habits are stopped by adhi-samādhi, concentration-meditation.

Then, whole, future, bad habit's root-causes, avijjā-root & taṇhā-root & dosa-root, are vanished by adhi-paññā, insight-meditation.

  • 1
    Does sila work without some degree of concentration-meditation?
    – user7302
    Oct 29, 2017 at 1:20
  • 1
    Yes, before-step can do without after-step. Sīla can arise without adhi-samādhi, but adhi-samādhi cannot arise without adhi-sīla.
    – Bonn
    Oct 29, 2017 at 1:27

The Buddha did not generally teach meditation to lay people but the Buddha did extensively teach about the danger, harm & destructiveness of addiction to lay people. Therefore, it appears meditation is not a method in Buddhism for overcoming addiction. Instead, discerning with wisdom the harm, danger & destructiveness of addiction is probably sufficient. This said, meditation would probably help discern the harm of addiction because craving symptoms of addiction would arise more prominently in meditation.

  • 3
    I would think some addictive tendencies' destructiveness can only be established with definiteness (for more subtle addictions) with meditation or wisdom?
    – user7302
    Oct 29, 2017 at 3:23
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    Sure. On a more subtle level of habit, I would agree with your comment. Oct 29, 2017 at 3:25

I'm wondering whether one would have much success quitting addictive behaviours BEFORE having a meditative practice. Is this just wasteful/pointless? Would meditation allow a much easier relinquishing of bad habits?

You could try out all 3 options and see what works best for you, i.e.:

  1. Quitting addictive behaviours before meditation practice
  2. Undertaking meditation practice before quitting addictive behaviors
  3. Attending a retreat where both external reality is limited (rules and regulations for the retreat, such as Noble Silence, Eating 1 time a day etc.) and meditation is practiced in tandem.


We are all addicts.
What difference does it make if you need power, fame or money to get high or you need drugs?
Yes, drugs destroy your body but desire, greed destroys your soul.
Meditation is a wonderful practice. It benefits all no matter of your status, age, health or religion (beliefs)
I do it every night before going to sleep.
Would you go to bed without brushing your teeth? What about your mind?
Unfortunately a lot of people go to bed without cleaning the mental pollution of the day and meditation is just a good mental hygiene practice.
Of course when you get into Buddhism meditation becomes more than that but for now don't worry about that, just start doing it

  • I mostly agree with your first statement, but I think it is important not to be dogmatic about it. Former wife used to get on my case about me drinking coffee (note the past tense). She said it made me 'dependent' on an external thing. I said I would for sure give it up if I didn't also need to eat, which I had no desire to do and found it annoying. So, if I was not already 'addicted' to sleep, food, water, air sunshine, and so on, then I would just do my nearly obsessive meditation practice instead. She had no reply to that. Middle Way.
    – user2341
    Nov 1, 2017 at 12:20

The practice of traditional Theravadin mindfulness meditation is designed to help you unlearn “bad habits” and acquire insights into the causes of “addictive behaviours.” The traditional answer to your question is to do both. Please allow me to explain why this is the case. The reality is that “addictive behaviours” have deep karmic roots. I suggest you find a very kind and very OLD meditation teacher who has had a lot of life experience. If you have a strong background in modern psychology, then you might consider reading my book on how mindfulness meditation works. The key to understanding Buddhadharma is to know that understanding causality (through insight acquired in meditation), as revealed in the concept of sankhara (schemata), is “the only way” to the cessation of suffering and to Enlightenment. For example, addictive behaviour is probably caused by how you adapted to threatening situations in early childhood. By recalling the actual decisions (karma, mental action) you had to make at that time, you get to see one of the causes of your addition and you get a chance to revise or correct that cause, thereby removing the unconscious cause of a specific emotional compulsion or emotional need. Hence, from the point of view of Theravadin Buddhism, the only way to really deal with your addictive behaviours is to acquire through mindfulness meditation the insight needed to understand and undo the sankhara that cause those behaviours. In other words, you need to do both so that meditation helps you quit your addictive behaviours.

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