Dan74 wrote:I think you are preaching to the converted here, Ben.
With respect, I don't think I am Dan.
There is no denying that alcohol is a factor is a vast number of tragedies.
This we agree on. Where we seem to diverge is that you do not believe that drinking alcohol creates negative kamma and continues to feed and support deep-rooted kilesas. Alayakilesas.
There is also no denying that different cultures handle it very differently. For example in Italy, where a glass of wine is almost obligatory at lunch, there is far less alcoholism than in most other European countries and positive side effects like lower cholesterol, etc, while in Northern Europe and Russia, the story is sadly very different.
With respect, its not relevant here. This is really a discussion on the fifth precept.
Your last paragraph is also unlikely to convince most of my colleagues who enjoy a quite glass of wine with their Saturday tea and don't kill people on the road or beat their wives afterwards. And quite rightly too.
I am not here to convince your colleagues, though I am surprised that some members of the health profession who deal with the effects of substance abuse continue to indulge in alcohol consumption.
Drinking, like every other activity, is vastly imbued with the social attitudes, context, beliefs and personal attributes of course.
It appears that you are saying that various social attitudes, contexts, beliefs and personal attributes trump sila. And I reject this categorically.
Can we use the above as argument for lying? stealing? committing various sexual misconducts? killing? We are talking about sila, sila which is the bedrock for the path, the foundation for liberation.
Thank you for the link.
I am not trying to excuse or rationalise drinking. In fact for anyone with some experience with meditation it is usually obvious that even a small drink seriously impairs the ability to function, let alone function mindfully.
Absolutely, but not only when we are in meditation.
What I am questioning is your categorical approach that does not gel with the Dhamma as I understand it, your quotes notwithstanding.
This is where we disagree.
I think the key are the words "carelessness" and "heedlessness" in your citations. Avoiding these mental states and what leads to them is the intention of the precept as I see it. And of course the kamma that often follows.
If you are right, then the wording of the sila would be different. More like 'Don't become heedless and careless from taking intoxicants', instead, we see the word abstain
As for your comment about abhorent actions being excused as "skillful means" I think that was uncalled for.
I am merely calling it as I see it. I think it would be a grave matter of concern if a teacher is not upholding basic sila.
For starters, skillful means are already present in Theravada as obviously different teachings are more suitable for different personalities and abilities (Sangiti Sutta). So inherently there are levels to practice and to explanation.
And I will call it as I see it if its a theravada teacher or mahayana teacher. Don't conflate this as sectarian!
In Dharma, as I learned it, ethics is the foundation (Six Paramitas). The intent of the Fifth Precept, as I see it, is primarily to avoid unwholesome mental states that tend to lead to compromising the ethics.
Then how does one avoid unwholesome mental states when one indulges in an intoxicant? You have already conceded that even small amounts are deliterious.
Also, my friend is not an alcoholic. He is a moderate drinker. He is addicted to smoking and this is something that he may one day want to explore in our garage chats. I don't know. But hope so.
My apologies. But from your description of the ritual of sharing a keg - it seemed like an addiction issue.
PS Since you quote the Uposatha Sutta, may I ask if you eat after midday, listen to music or lie on high beds? Would you advocate these as strongly? Otherwise why quote selectively?
Dan, the five precepts are within the eight uposotha precepts. That is why I quoted the uposotha sutta. Its not a matter of selective quoting. And yes, I do uphold the eight precepts when on retreat. The precepts are there for your benefit.
Dan, if you have seen what I have seen - I am sure that like me, you wouldn't touch alcohol again. Life is very short and fickle Dan. At any moment we can be swepped away. I have decided what I want to devote my life to. And that is my family and the Dhamma. Nowhere have I seen in the Tipitaka anywhere where the Buddha says that the fifth precept can be dispensed with - or any of the sila for that matter.