Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby Stephen K » Tue Mar 15, 2011 7:39 pm

If you are thirsty but there's nothing in the fridge except beer, and tap water is undrinkable, would alcohol be allowed in that case?
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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Mar 15, 2011 7:43 pm

The 5 precepts for lay people are suggestions for people who want to be liberated from suffering, the 5 precepts are not sins that are disallowed and punished.

The "suggestions" in the precepts is to avoid intoxicants, I don't believe specifically alcohol, as an aide in avoiding being part of events that will lead to unskillful states of mind.

Apply your own thinking, watch out for rationalizations
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby Fede » Tue Mar 15, 2011 7:50 pm

Yes, but remember, alcohol ultimately dehydrates you.

Did you known both Muslims and Jews are permitted to eat pork?
if the circumstances dictate that they are in need of sustenance, and there is no other means of feeding themselves, then without other options, eating pork is acceptable.

Same here.
but as Jhana points out, alcohol is not specifically forbidden.

Do what is wise for you in that moment, and be mindful in other cases.
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Mar 15, 2011 7:52 pm

Jhana4 wrote:The 5 precepts for lay people are suggestions for people who want to be liberated from suffering, the 5 precepts are not sins that are disallowed and punished.

The "suggestions" in the precepts is to avoid intoxicants, I don't believe specifically alcohol, as an aide in avoiding being part of events that will lead to unskillful states of mind.

Apply your own thinking, watch out for rationalizations

:goodpost:

That cuts though the idea I see in some interminable threads that the precepts are some sort of legal system that should be prodded and poked by clever lawyers...

:anjali:
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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Mar 15, 2011 8:11 pm

I have to ask, "Why would a Buddhist have beer in the fridge at all?" At least, there should be some ice in the fridge, shouldn't there? You could chip that off, and then boil and filter it.
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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby Stephen K » Tue Mar 15, 2011 8:15 pm

Thank you all, and thank you Bhante. :namaste:

But when a Buddhist lives with non-Buddhists, it is possible to have beer in the fridge.
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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Mar 15, 2011 9:07 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:I have to ask, "Why would a Buddhist have beer in the fridge at all?"


That sounds like a great lead in to a good joke, now we just have to come up with the punch line.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Mar 15, 2011 9:14 pm

mikenz66 wrote:That cuts though the idea I see in some interminable threads that the precepts are some sort of legal system that should be prodded and poked by clever lawyers...


I've noticed that too, both in myself and others. I think that way of thinking is the result of growing up in a culture dominated by an Abrahamic religion ( Christianity, Islam and Judiasm ). When people live under the threat of punishment from an authority figure they only learn to respect the letter of the "law", not the spirit and reason behind it.

The 5 precepts are not laws. The 5 precepts are tips for your own benefit.

It is like going to a nutritionist to learn how to slim down. You aren't doing anything morally wrong by having a slice of cake. Nobody is going to punish you. You are just wasting the money you spent for the advice and thwarting your own desires in reaching your goals.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby Nibbida » Tue Mar 15, 2011 11:43 pm

This seems like an unlikely scenario, but even if it were so, the alcoholic beverage could be heated up. Alcohol has a lower boiling point than water so it will evaporate quicker leaving water behind.
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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 16, 2011 12:24 am

Greetings,

The precept as worded, relates to the intoxicants that lead to mindlessness?

Does the one beer in the fridge lead to mindlessness? That will be for the individual to decide.

Some might say that opens up a "slippery slope", and I would agree that no alcohol is better than a little alcohol, vis-a-vis mindfulness, but to what extent does one beer lead to mindlessness?

Fede wrote:Yes, but remember, alcohol ultimately dehydrates you.

Two men in the desert... one living off beer, one living off nothing. Who dies from dehydration quicker?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby Ben » Wed Mar 16, 2011 1:30 am

Stefan wrote:If you are thirsty but there's nothing in the fridge except beer, and tap water is undrinkable, would alcohol be allowed in that case?

Boil your tap water and have a nice cup of tea.
In the situation you describe above, I would rather go thirsty than drink the beer. No one dies from being a little-bit thirsty. For many people in the west, they conflate 'thirst' and 'hunger' with craving for sensual pleasure of drinking and eating.
If the water was truly undrinkable and boiling it would not make it drinkable, then I would go out and buy some bottled water.
Developing perfect sila is critically important, Stefan, if you want to make any progress on the path.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby chownah » Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:53 am

Jhana4 wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:I have to ask, "Why would a Buddhist have beer in the fridge at all?"


That sounds like a great lead in to a good joke, now we just have to come up with the punch line.

Because it's too warm if they keep it in the oven!!!!!
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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Mar 16, 2011 6:15 am

retrofuturist wrote:The precept as worded, relates to the intoxicants that lead to mindlessness?

Does the one beer in the fridge lead to mindlessness? That will be for the individual to decide.
The precept as worded is an undertaking to abstain from intoxicants that lead to heedlessness, not an undertaking to abstain from becoming intoxicated.
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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 16, 2011 7:51 am

Greetings bhante,
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The precept as worded is an undertaking to abstain from intoxicants that lead to heedlessness, not an undertaking to abstain from becoming intoxicated.

I agree, but they only lead to intoxication in certain volumes... hence presumably why medicinal uses of alcohol in accordance with the Vinaya are permissible for bhikkhus. From that I think it's clear it's not a case of absolutes.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby Fede » Wed Mar 16, 2011 8:07 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Fede wrote:Yes, but remember, alcohol ultimately dehydrates you.

Two men in the desert... one living off beer, one living off nothing. Who dies from dehydration quicker?

Metta,
Retro. :)


Picky picky....
What man in the desert is dragging a fridge around with him? :tongue: :jumping:
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Mar 16, 2011 11:35 am

Fede wrote:Picky picky....
What man in the desert is dragging a fridge around with him? :tongue: :jumping:

It's not a fridge, it's an Esky.*
And the man, of course, is an Aussie.
:juggling:
Kim


* Esky:
polaroid-esky.png
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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby meindzai » Wed Mar 16, 2011 12:24 pm

Jhana4 wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:I have to ask, "Why would a Buddhist have beer in the fridge at all?"


That sounds like a great lead in to a good joke, now we just have to come up with the punch line.


Because his water filter has no attachments?

eh.

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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby meindzai » Wed Mar 16, 2011 12:34 pm

Curious, does anybody here drink non-alcoholic beer? I stopped drinking at 22, some time before becoming a Buddhist. A few years afterwards after an 18 mile training run, I picked up a pizza for myself and thought how much a beer would go great with it (carbs I guess), so I got some O'douls. Having not had real beer for so long I couldn't tell the difference, other than the not-being-intoxicated part. It has some super-low alcohol content (.4%)

I get it every once and awhile with a meal, if it's available. I also get some strange looks. Sometimes the bottle is dusty and unrefrigerated. But it just goes good with certain meals.

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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby Ben » Wed Mar 16, 2011 1:00 pm

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a colleague's birthday party. I caught up with the husband of my wife's best friend and riding partner, and he offered me a 'no-alcohol' beer. It was nice, and the first time I had tasted a beer in many years. First thing I noticed was how heavy it was (boutique brewed in the bottle type). After the first couple of sips, I realized I didn't miss it. And then while I was drinking it I read the label and noticed that it did contain alcohol (0.5 percent). I was pretty disappointed with my friend who knew I didn't drink any alcohol, at all and who, I thought wasn't so thoughtless. I was more disappointed with myself for not checking the label first.
I prefer a coke zero over a beer, even a 'no-alcohol' beer, any day.
-B
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Re: Is alcohol allowable in certain cases?

Postby phil » Wed Mar 16, 2011 1:19 pm

Stefan wrote:If you are thirsty but there's nothing in the fridge except beer, and tap water is undrinkable, would alcohol be allowed in that case?


Stefan, that seems like a bit of a silly question. The Buddha didn't teach the precepts to drive you to suicide by following them. The better question is "it is allowable to drink alchol in certain occasions, carefully, just a little, with mindfulness?" and the answer yes, it's allowable, if you consider allowable to be what what harmful behaviour you will allow greed, ignorance, laziness and other mental factors to drive you to do.

If people don't care enough about Dhamma to be able to cut alcohol out of their lives without looking back, it suggest there isn't much true commitment. Sorry if that sounds "puritanical." And not saying that to you, Stefan, but to all the precept fudgers out there, they are a multitude.
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