Fifth Precept / Caffeine

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

Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby Hickersonia » Sat Jan 28, 2012 2:20 pm

My reading suggests to me coffee, or more particularly, the caffeine associated with it, would be considered an intoxicant. While I have had a great measure of success mastering alcohol addition, I have come to regard the caffeine as another area in need of a potential cleansing in my life.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the matter? Is decaffeinated coffee OK? Do you drink coffee on a regular basis, and if so, how do you feel about it?

Any thought shared is welcomed as I continue to dig into this subject more fully. Thanks you all. :)

I know there is another thread on the 5th Precept (probably many more if I go digging), but I figured the aim of my subject is different so it seemed appropriate to start a new thread...
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Sat Jan 28, 2012 2:32 pm

Hi Hickersonia,

I personally drink a lot of coffee and although I may want to curb that for any number of reasons I do not believe it contravenes the 5th precept. I would be interested to hear more about you arrived at such a view. Mettaya!

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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby beeblebrox » Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:27 pm

Stimulants cause heedlessness for me (seriously). That's why I dislike coffee, and try to be careful about not eating too much chocolate (those with high cacao percentage). I only drink a cup of tea per day, at most. :anjali:
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:39 pm

Drinking coffee is not breaking the fifth precept. Four or five mugs of tea or coffee a day is good for health — I guess if you drink a lot of coffee with a high caffeine content, then you have a problem that might lead to health issues, but its still not breaking the fifth precept.

Sugar, chocolate, fast food, cakes, or whatever — it could all be used for sensual over-indulgence. Don't get too stressed about it — just meditate more to reduce cravings of all kinds, and all that critical self-judgement will gradually get resolved.
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby beeblebrox » Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:48 pm

Hi Bhante, the problem is in my case too much caffeine does cause heedlessness... I remember one day when I had ice cream that was very dark in chocolate, I ended up almost walking over an old lady when I tried to catch a subway train. I regretted this.
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby Hickersonia » Sat Jan 28, 2012 4:09 pm

Some interesting thoughts here already. :)

I think the main point of consideration for me right now isn't that I feel particularly heedless when consuming coffee, because I don't [more on this below]. The way caffeine works in the brain (my limited understanding of it) puts the substance into a similar category as other non-permitted stimulants. First, it stops one chemical (a Google search tells me this one is called adenosine) from binding to receptors in the brain, helping to prevent natural drowsiness, then it aids in the increase of another, dopamine, (this is the "feel good" chemical in the brain).

The fact that it works this way just gets me wondering about it, so I figured it was worth discussing as I enjoyed my morning coffee. Hope that sorta makes sense...

As for heedlessness on caffeine, I have consumed so much of it, and with such regularity, that while I do not feel like I loose my heedfulness while it is present, I have to admit that I am unable to clearly recall a time when I was sufficiently caffeine-free as to have a truly objective point of view on the matter.
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby daverupa » Sat Jan 28, 2012 4:27 pm

beeblebrox wrote:Hi Bhante, the problem is in my case too much caffeine does cause heedlessness... I remember one day when I had ice cream that was very dark in chocolate, I ended up almost walking over an old lady when I tried to catch a subway train. I regretted this.


This sort of anecdote strikes me as one of the main reasons why the precepts need to be taken into ones world and held up against ones behavior, as opposed to applied from outside like strict, legalistic commandments. Having a list of precepts to follow is no excuse for being mindless about adhering to them.

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    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby Gena1480 » Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:33 pm

drinking coffee is not breaking fifth precepts
it is not the coffee it is the amount that can cause problem
people have different amount that they can drink and they argue what is the right dose
thus creating the heedlessness of ill will.
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby beeblebrox » Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:46 pm

Hi Gena, I'm not sure if you perceive that in my post... but I was only sharing my experience. For example, when I used to drink in college my friends would always comment how straight-laced I seemed... even when they found out I blacked out one time.
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby Hickersonia » Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:47 pm

Gena1480 wrote:drinking coffee is not breaking fifth precepts
it is not the coffee it is the amount that can cause problem
people have different amount that they can drink and they argue what is the right dose
thus creating the heedlessness of ill will.

While I might agree in principle, I am concerned about one thing. Three months ago, with one simple change to that text, you could have quoted me as saying the same thing -- changing the word "coffee" to "alcohol." It concerns me because I feel like I'm rationalizing something that might be, in truth, negative.

Not really trying to argue a certainty on the matter either way -- just sharing a little of the thought process that I'm going through. I get a little concerned about anything I feel I have to rationalize to make it "good."
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:52 pm

Coffee isn't an intoxicant it's a stimulant so doesn't break the precept, though as has been pointed out if people find that it muddies the mind then best to avoid it. I think though is somebody was addicted to the degree they had to have 5 cups a day for example then that would be against the spirit of the precepts, but not the letter.
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby cooran » Sat Jan 28, 2012 7:01 pm

Hello Goof,

Having 5 cups a day isn't an addiction. It can simply be customary. For example, one cup at breakfast withthe family; one cup at morning tea with all the office staff; one cup at lunchtime with the office staff; one cup at afternoon tea time with the office staff; one cup with the evening meal.

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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Jan 28, 2012 7:10 pm

cooran wrote:Having 5 cups a day isn't an addiction. It can simply be customary. For example, one cup at breakfast withthe family; one cup at morning tea with all the office staff; one cup at lunchtime with the office staff; one cup at afternoon tea time with the office staff; one cup with the evening meal.


Find out what happens if you go for a day without any caffiene after having 5 per day for some time. Even with my rather restrained 1 cup per day the caffiene withdrawal is something I prefer to avoid, which is why I'm careful not to overdo it.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Jan 28, 2012 7:16 pm

Coffee isn't breaking the 5th precept as it doesn't, in my experience, cause heedlessness, and I am a big coffee drinker, I once had 50 espressos in one day and it didn't effect me.

but people do have different sensitivities, and I would imagine that those who do have an allergy of some sorts, I can not drink Coke myself, and when I drank Whiskey (not whisky) it blinded me (literally) for half hour, and Guinness made me vomit, yet other stout didn't?

some things would be a personal choice, such as the coffee, yet other things such as Alcohol are an ordinance due to the very nature of the substance.

and just to answer the last post from my experience, nothing, i have done weeks without a coffee and no side effects.
yet others do get headaches etc.
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby cooran » Sat Jan 28, 2012 7:31 pm

Hello Goof,

Nothing happens. I often miss complete days, or I have decaffeinated or herbal tea, or just drink water. When I have tea five times a day for days on end - there is no difference.

There are many drinks/foods which contain caffeine - would having these 'break' the fifth precept?

Caffeine in Food as well as drinks
http://www.energyfiend.com/caffeine-in-candy
http://www.cspinet.org/new/cafchart.htm

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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Jan 28, 2012 8:07 pm

cooran wrote:Nothing happens. I often miss complete days, or I have decaffeinated or herbal tea, or just drink water. When I have tea five times a day for days on end - there is no difference.


I guess if there isn't a noticeable difference whether you have caffeine or not then it isn't an addiction, it's just customary as you say, for me there is a feeling of jitteriness if I have too much caffeine and withdrawal when I stop so I'm careful to keep it in moderation.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jan 29, 2012 2:57 am

Greetings,

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Drinking coffee is not breaking the fifth precept. .... Don't get too stressed about it — just meditate more to reduce cravings of all kinds, and all that critical self-judgement will gradually get resolved.

:thumbsup:

(as I say, sitting here drinking tea instead of coffee for once... :twisted: )

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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby Ben » Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:02 am

I have to agree with Bhikkhu Pesala on the issue of coffee and tea.
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby JeffR » Sun Jan 29, 2012 5:43 pm

The way I interpret the precept is that it's about intoxicants and heedlessness. So for me, coffee no way breaks the precept. I don't know about others.

I quite coffee 7 years ago because I found I was addicted to it. If I went a day or two without coffee I suffered withdrawals. If I didn't get my morning joe I was typically grumpy and less attentive (heedless). So I quit. I've had a grand total of two cups of coffee since November, 2004. I quit because I don't like the craving and withdrawal effects of the addiction.
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Re: Fifth Precept / Caffeine

Postby beeblebrox » Sun Jan 29, 2012 7:08 pm

It seems like some people still don't quite get it... but that's fine. In my case, it's quite noticeable for me when my mind/body outraces my own mindfulness... but externally that won't be apparent to people. That's all it is... :anjali:
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