Out of the Box Coaching and
Breakthroughs with the Enneagram, Mary R. Bast, Ph.D. 
Copyright 1999. All rights reserved. Revised: December 01, 2013  





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Finding Your Unique Satori 

The Enneagram offers powerful insight into our personality styles, but we sometimes forget its transformational potential. The journey along our spiritual path is enhanced when we recognize both the self-fulfilling and self-defeating aspects of the illusory masks we call "personality." However, we continue to remain unfulfilled to the degree that we abide by our nine conditional rules of habit:  "I must...

...correct what is wrong." 
...take care of others' needs."
...achieve and get results." 
...regret what is missing in my life."
...understand everything." 
...beware of potential problems/threats."   
...be positive, upbeat, look to the future."
...be in control."
...respond to others' ideas and expectations."

While each of these nine frames of reference shows up in a fixation motivated by a passion (a driving force), no one is completely separate from the other eight. Ones, for example, are fixated on perfectionism ("I must correct what is wrong") and their passion for anger. But who among us does not struggle with anger or have some perfectionistic behaviors? I believe we each can benefit from the lessons of all nine.

I am intrigued with the parallels between the Enneagram paths of transformation and the path of satori (liberation) in the Buddhist tradition. Both recommend

  • letting go of reliance on logic alone in the intuitive search for a new viewpoint,

  • realizing the world is not as we have known it to be, because our ordinary knowing has been conditioned by life circumstances,

  • releasing our habitual behaviors and beliefs and coming to know that everything in the world is relative, conditioned, and impermanent.

In the Buddhist tradition, practitioners are advised to work on the paramitas (perfections) which must be cultivated in pursuit of satori. Though not an expert on Buddhism, it appears to me that many of these qualities also fulfill the transformational Enneagram paths. All the paramitas are considered essential in our progress as human beings. Some bear an uncanny resemblance to virtues associated with particular Enneagram styles.

I've relied on John Snelling's translations in The Buddhist Handbook (with Pali equivalents from the Theravada school, pp. 68-69): dana (generosity), sila (morality), khanti (patience), viriya (energy), nekkhamma (renunciation), sacca (truthfulness), adhitthana (determination), metta (loving-kindness), upekkha (equanimity), and panna (wisdom).  

I'm not comparing the two systems to demonstrate sameness. I invoke the wisdom of Buddhism to bolster our ability to bring about transformation. For example, the key noble quality of adhitthana (determination or commitment to spiritual practice) seems basic to Enneagram transformation. Below are nine other parallels I've drawn: 

  • The One is impassioned by anger and fixated on perfectionism a path to satori is patience, the willingness to accept conditions that do not conform to one's ideal.  

  • Twos have the passion of pride and when fixated on entitlement their caring for others is conditional a path to satori is loving kindness, which is true compassion without expectation. 

  • The passion of Threes is vanity, their fixation is deception (the need to always see oneself and be see as successful) truthfulness, speaking from the essential self and not through personality needs, is a way to satori.

  • Fours live with the passion of envy and the fixation of dissatisfaction satori can be sought through equanimity; seeing all events as intrinsically neutral; it is desire that grades things as "good" or "bad." 

  • Fives have the passion of hoarding, with a fixation on detachment (they seek information but keep themselves from emotional connection) they can seek satori through generosity, giving freely of oneself so energy flows in the other direction.

  • For Sixes, fear is the passion (experienced as anxiety or hyper-vigilance), accusation the fixation satori becomes possible with morality; living with integrity, recognizing one's own contribution to situations instead of playing victim.

  • Sevens are driven by the passion of gluttony, with enthusiasm as a fixation (having fun and "the good life") a path to satori is the well-known one of renunciation, seeking moderation and letting go of materialism. 

  • The Eight fixation on power and control stems from the passion of excess wisdom is a way to satori; a shift to more altruistic and benign modes of operating, a focus on service to the world. 

  • Indolence is the Nine's passion; the fixation is self-forgetting (resulting from their other-directedness) energy is a way to satori for Nines; the willingness to stay focused on their own purpose, without distraction.