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4. Courage

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Principle: Courage

Definition: Courage is the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. Moral courage is the ability to act with integrity in the face of shame, scandal, or discouragement.


The Precepts, the Hindrances and the Eightfold Path are all available for taking inventory. Classic Buddhist inventory uses the training precepts. These are the fundamental moral principles the Buddha taught to avoid creating negative karma. This step requires making a decision to follow the Buddhist path of liberation by taking refuge in the practice of wakefulness, truth and fellowship.
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It takes courage to look at the truth about ourselves - our character defects and our strengths. The process of sanctification (being healed or becoming holy) requires a willingness to know the truth about ourselves. It requires a fearless and thorough self-examination. We need to face the hard questions: where do we fall short, what is it we are to become, how must we change? What are the attitudes and behaviors which need to be changed? Our ability to rationalize our behavior creates a veil of self-deception. This step pierces this veil which is often painful but necessary. This step is the fulfillment of the adage, 'the truth will set you free.'
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This step asks us to examine our part in how we have harmed the Earth itself and the species with whom we share the planet. We must ask ourselves when we have demanded more satisfaction than was our fair and equitable share of the supply (food, water, sex, oil, energy, money etc.) Only when we take this step personally, can we identify our own addictive behaviors and their consequences
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Ayida which is spiritual ignorance of our true nature is the root cause of our suffering. When we are in bondage to ayida, we experience aversion (dvesha), attachment (raga), self-centeredness (asmita) and fear of death (abhinivesha) because we are clinging to life and mistakenly believe our physical bodies are our sole identities. Meditation practice allows our consciousness to expand until we move from the limitations of the self to a wider experience of reality.
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Righteousness, as taught in the Qur'an, is a commitment to acting in accordance with the will of Allah. Specifically, it means living one's life from a deep sense of justice, equality and fairness. It encompasses a generosity of spirit and deeds, reaching out to those in need, maintaining one's inner strength to stand firm against the powers of evil, and carefully fulfilling one's duty each day. It is obedience to the Law of Islam.
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Taking inventory or confession is called a cheshbon banefesh, which is literally an accounting of the soul. Self-examination is an important part of the Jewish tradition. In Avot de Rabbi Natan, it is written: “The eye is shown only what it is capable of seeing and the ear hears only what it is capable of listening to.”
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Native American Spirituality

Self-examination has always been part of Native culture because the cultural definition of success is centered on building character. Before we can build character, we must know our shortcomings, weaknesses and character defects. Self-examination takes a warrior's courage. To have courage means to have heart. This step is about finding your heart.
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This verse of the Tao is asking us to discover who we really are; and how we affect others. What is the quality of our relationships with family, friends, community and Earth? How are our actions impacting others? Are our actions congruent with our values and beliefs or are we acting out of alignment with our inner core belief system? Do we spend more time apprising others than we do evaluating and scrutinizing ourselves?
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