About the fifth Śīla

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

Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Individual » Fri Oct 30, 2009 2:45 am

Hmm. Maybe.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:58 am

Individual wrote:And there is a danger in that. The suttas definitely regard all sensual pleasures as dangerous.


True. But of course most of us still have attachments to them, to varying degrees. Otherwise we would be anagami.

As a wise person once said:

Buddhists aren't paragons of virtue. We just aspire to be.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby cooran » Fri Oct 30, 2009 5:26 am

Hello all,

The Fifth Precept isn't optional for Buddhists - if one considers oneself a Buddhist ... it is part of the Training - and being part of the Training doesn't mean it is "Optional".

The Buddha said:
"The drinking of fermented & distilled liquors — when indulged in, developed, & pursued — is something that leads to hell, leads to rebirth as a common animal, leads to the realm of the hungry shades. The slightest of all the results coming from drinking fermented & distilled liquors is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to mental derangement." AN 8.40 Vipaka Sutta: Results

A Discipline of Sobriety by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Several months ago I went for a two-week retreat to a hermitage in the low country highly respected for the austere, meditative life of its monks. Each day a different group of dayakas (donors) comes to the monastery bringing almsfood, often from remote towns and villages. They arrive the previous evening, prepare an early breakfast which is sent up to the refectory, and then, in the forenoon, offer alms directly to the monks when they come down on alms round. After the other monks have collected their food and gone back up, one elder stays behind to give the Refuges and Precepts, preach a short sermon, and conduct the dedication of merit.
One day during my retreat I noticed some of the male dayakas behaving rather oddly near the abbot's quarters. I asked my friend, a German monk, about their strange behavior, and the explanation he gave me jolted my mind. "They were drunk," he told me. But that wasn't all. He continued: "The only thing unusual about yesterday's incident was that the men had gotten drunk early in the day. Usually they put on their best behavior until the formalities are done, then they break out the bottles."
This stark revelation aroused in me both indignation and sorrow. Indignation, at the idea that people who consider themselves Buddhists should flaunt the most basic precepts even in the sacred precincts of a monastery — indeed one of the few in Sri Lanka where the flame of arduous striving still burns. Sorrow, because this was only the latest evidence I had seen of how deeply the disease of alcoholism has eaten into the entrails of this nation, whose Buddhist heritage goes back over two thousand years. But Sri Lanka is far from being the only Buddhist country to be engulfed by the spreading wave of alcohol consumption. The wave has already swept over far too much of the shrinking Buddhist world, with Thailand and Japan ranking especially high on the fatality list.
The reasons for this ominous trend vary widely. One is rising affluence, which for the rich makes of liquor (hi-grade imported) a visible symbol of newly acquired wealth and power. Another is a burgeoning middle class, which blindly imitates the social conventions of the West. Still another is poverty, which turns the bottle into an easy escape route from the grim face of everyday reality. But whatever the reason, it is more than our woes and worries that alcohol is dissolving. It is gnawing away at the delicate fabric of Buddhist values on every level — personal, family, and social.
For his lay followers the Buddha has prescribed five precepts as the minimal moral observance: abstinence from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and the use of intoxicants. He did not lay down these precepts arbitrarily or out of compliance with ancient customs, but because he understood, with his omniscient knowledge, which lines of conduct lead to our welfare and happiness and which lead to harm and suffering. The fifth precept, it should be stressed, is not a pledge merely to abstain from intoxication or from excessive consumption of liquor. It calls for nothing short of total abstinence. By this rule the Buddha shows that he has understood well the subtle, pernicious nature of addiction. Alcoholism rarely claims its victims in a sudden swoop. Usually it sets in gradually, beginning perhaps with the social icebreaker, the drink among friends, or the cocktail after a hard day's work. But it does not stop there: slowly it sinks its talons into its victims' hearts until they are reduced to its helpless prey.
To dispel any doubt about his reasons for prescribing this precept, the Buddha has written the explanation into the rule itself: one is to refrain from the use of intoxicating drinks and drugs because they are the cause of heedlessness (pamada). Heedlessness means moral recklessness, disregard for the bounds between right and wrong. It is the loss of heedfulness (appamada), moral scrupulousness based on a keen perception of the dangers in unwholesome states. Heedfulness is the keynote of the Buddhist path, "the way to the Deathless," running through all three stages of the path: morality, concentration, and wisdom. To indulge in intoxicating drinks is to risk falling away from each stage. The use of alcohol blunts the sense of shame and moral dread and thus leads almost inevitably to a breach of the other precepts. One addicted to liquor will have little hesitation to lie or steal, will lose all sense of sexual decency, and may easily be provoked even to murder. Hard statistics clearly confirm the close connection between the use of alcohol and violent crime, not to speak of traffic accidents, occupational hazards, and disharmony within the home. Alcoholism is indeed a most costly burden on the whole society.
When the use of intoxicants eats away at even the most basic moral scruples, little need be said about its corrosive influence on the two higher stages of the path. A mind besotted by drink will lack the alertness required for meditative training and certainly won't be able to make the fine distinctions between good and bad mental qualities needed to develop wisdom. The Buddhist path in its entirety is a discipline of sobriety, a discipline which demands the courage and honesty to take a long, hard, utterly sober look at the sobering truths about existence. Such courage and honesty will hardly be possible for one who must escape from truth into the glittering but fragile fantasyland opened up by drink and drugs.
It may well be that a mature, reasonably well-adjusted person can enjoy a few drinks with friends without turning into a drunkard or a murderous fiend. But there is another factor to consider: namely, that this life is not the only life we lead. Our stream of consciousness does not terminate with death but continues on in other forms, and the form it takes is determined by our habits, propensities, and actions in this present life. The possibilities of rebirth are boundless, yet the road to the lower realms is wide and smooth, the road upward steep and narrow. If we were ordered to walk along a narrow ledge overlooking a sharp precipice, we certainly would not want to put ourselves at risk by first enjoying a few drinks. We would be too keenly aware that nothing less than our life is at stake. If we only had eyes to see, we would realize that this is a perfect metaphor for the human condition, as the Buddha himself, the One with Vision, confirms (see SN 56:42). As human beings we walk along a narrow ledge, and if our moral sense is dulled we can easily topple over the edge, down to the plane of misery, from which it is extremely difficult to re-emerge.
But it is not for our own sakes alone, nor even for the wider benefit of our family and friends, that we should heed the Buddha's injunction to abstain from intoxicants. To do so is also part of our personal responsibility for preserving the Buddha's Sasana. The Teaching can survive only as long as its followers uphold it, and in the present day one of the most insidious corruptions eating away at the entrails of Buddhism is the extensive spread of the drinking habit among those same followers. If we truly want the Dhamma to endure long, to keep the path to deliverance open for all the world, then we must remain heedful. If the current trend continues and more and more Buddhists succumb to the lure of intoxicating drinks, we can be sure that the Teaching will perish in all but name. At this very moment of history when its message has become most urgent, the sacred Dhamma of the Buddha will be irreparably lost, drowned out by the clinking of glasses and our rounds of merry toasts.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_36.html

EXCERPT FROM Radical Therapy - Buddhist Precepts in the Modern World by Lily de Silva
The precept against intoxicants
Brewing liquor is one of the most profitable industries in the world today and the market is replete with various brands of alcohol. In Sri Lanka the state coffers are handsomely augmented by the revenue earned from the sale of liquor, and the consumption of expensive foreign alcohol is regarded as a luxury of high society. Values have become so perverted that it is the teetotaller who gets cornered in society today. Only a man with high moral scruples and a strong character can decline the offer of a drink at a party despite the embarrassment of being regarded as a wet blanket or one under petticoat government. It also remains a fact that many who end up as alcoholics were first introduced to drinking for social acceptance.
Alcoholism and drug abuse are burning social problems of modern society. They ruin the physical and mental health of the addicts. One does not have to be a habitual drunkard to fall prey to disease. According to a British medical journal, daily beer drinkers are twelve times more at risk of developing cancer of the colon than non-drinkers. It is also reported that even relatively modest social drinking by pregnant women can harm the fetus. The babies are abnormally small, or have small heads or jittery eyes. These are effects associated with what is called the fetal-alcoholism syndrome, which in its extreme form produces very distorted features and a retarded brain. Alcohol also causes irreparable damage to brain cells in adults even when taken in small quantities, while larger quantities can damage vital organs of the body. Drug abuse is even more injurious.
Fully realizing the harmful effects of intoxicants, Buddhism has included abstention from them among the basic moral precepts. The dangers of intoxicants are enumerated in a number of the Buddha's discourses, the most famous of which is the Sigalovada Sutta (D.iii,182). Indulgence in intoxicants causes economic downfall. The episode of Mahadhanasetthi (DhA.iii,129), who squandered a vast fortune by drinking with evil friends and was reduced to beggary in his old age, is a classic example related in the Pali texts of a wealthy man ruined by alcohol.
Intoxicants can cause disputes, quarrels and family violence. Disruption of family life is often caused by addiction to liquor and drugs, and this brings about a whole chain of other related social problems. The Suttas report that ill health and a bad reputation are also caused by the habit of taking intoxicants, which also destroys inhibitions and weakens wisdom. The situation is aptly summarized by a modern writer who said that man's conscience is soluble in alcohol.
Most of the crimes in modern society, as well as serious traffic accidents, have liquor and drugs as the root cause. In spite of the devastating social effects of alcohol that are so evident today, attractive advertisements clutter the mass media depicting liquor as integral to the lifestyle of the affluent, to emulate which is the dream of the common man. People have to be educated and convinced not only of the ill effects of intoxicants but also of the value of will power and strength of character to resist the temptations that society throws in their way. It is only one who is weak in character who will get trapped in these snares.
The individual should also be taught to cultivate a sympathetic attitude toward his own body and mind. They are his instruments of action and it is his own responsibility, and in his own interest, to keep them healthy and efficient. In the meditation on loving-kindness in Buddhism the individual is first taught how to develop a benevolent attitude toward himself. "May I be well and happy" is quietly and mindfully repeated several times each day at the beginning of the meditation to impress upon the mind a compassionate attitude toward himself. When the benevolent attitude becomes deeply ingrained in the mind, the meditator will gradually refrain from habits which are injurious to his own body and mind. It is the paramount duty of all concerned people who realize that society today is in a precarious state, to muster all resources at their command to bring about a change in man's attitude to rescue him from the perils of his own making.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... bl123.html

The Fifth Precept in Theravada Buddhism
Bikkhu Bodhi explains in "Going for Refuge" that the Fifth Precept can be translated from the Pali to prohibit "fermented and distilled liquors which are intoxicants" or "fermented and distilled liquors and other intoxicants." Either way, clearly the guiding purpose of the precept is "to prevent heedlessness caused by the taking of intoxicating substances."
According to Bikkhu Bodhi, violating the precept requires an intoxicant, an intention to take an intoxicant, the activity of ingesting the intoxicant, and the actual ingestion of the intoxicant. Taking medication containing alcohol, opiates or other intoxicants for genuine medical reasons does not count, nor does eating food flavored with a small amount of liquor. Otherwise, Theravada Buddhism considers the Fifth Precept to be a clear prohibition of drinking.
Although Theravada monks generally don't march around calling for prohibition, laypeople are discouraged from drinking. In southeast Asia, where Theravada Buddhism dominates, the monastic sangha often calls for bars and liquor stores to be closed on major uposatha days.
http://buddhism.about.com/od/theprecept ... recept.htm

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Dan74 » Fri Oct 30, 2009 9:37 am

I guess this is one place where there is clear divergence of approaches among the schools. In Mahayana, what certainly exists is a clear prohibition against selling alcohol (Brahma Net sutra). In some places people take precepts but the emphasis is usually on avoiding "heedlessness" and "carelessness" rather than the "black letter of the law": ie alcohol is a NO-NO, but other diversions and habits that lead to these states slip through the precept "loophole" and are OK.

I rather think that great teachers like Sasaki Roshi knows what he is doing when he drinks and is less heedless and careless at the worst of times (and at 102) than most of us here, at our best. I am especially skeptical of those who rush to condemn and "excommunicate". These is indeed a careless and heedless attitude.

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Individual » Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:45 am

Wouldn't avoiding heedlnessness imply avoiding alcohol?

You might say, "No, because Sasaki Roshi can drink alcohol mindfully."

Meh. People shouldn't be disparaging of others in a way that is not helpful, but Sasaki Roshi should set a good example for others, not a bad one, if alcohol is truly a "no-no".
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Fri Oct 30, 2009 11:48 am

I mean this with all due respect but, as Buddhists, shouldn't we take the Buddha as our exemplar when it comes to right conduct? The roshi of whom you speak may be a great guy with great attainments and a heart over-flowing with compassion but he's certainly not a samma-sambuddha. Who do you think knows better? Anyway, I apologize for any offense I may cause but, having myself been down that road to the point of almost losing my life, I just couldn't resist. Metta.

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Oct 30, 2009 11:55 am

Khalil Bodhi wrote:I mean this with all due respect but, as Buddhists, shouldn't we take the Buddha as our exemplar when it comes to right conduct? The roshi of whom you speak may be a great guy with great attainments and a heart over-flowing with compassion but he's certainly not a samma-sambuddha. Who do you think knows better? Anyway, I apologize for any offense I may cause but, having myself been down that road to the point of almost losing my life, I just couldn't resist. Metta.

Mike :anjali:



Does Zen recognise the concept of a Samma-Sambuddha ? Does it not instead talk about all beings having " Buddha Nature" equally ?
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Fri Oct 30, 2009 11:58 am

Hmmm...good question. I guess that's the point where you're really talking about comparing apples and oranges.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby BlackBird » Sat Oct 31, 2009 12:05 am

Having spent most weekends of my teenage years drinking 'till I was sick, I've seen a lot of the nasty results alcohol causes. Fundamental ignorance has to be at play for people to consider these sort of things in any way enjoyable.

Drink a little alcohol, and you're reinforcing your craving for things to be different, drink a lot and things become exponentially worse.

If long term happiness were in the compass direction of North, then having a drink is like turning around and taking 5 steps South. If happiness is your goal then by drinking even a glass, you're just creating more work for yourself.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Dan74 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 12:21 am

There is also a sutta involving an actor where the Buddha tells him that what he does will lead to a rebirth in the lower realms (from memory).

Now is all entertainment and music inherently harmful?

It seems that in Anglo-Saxon cultures drinking is similarly linked to harm, but it does not have to be as I tried to show above.

Khalil :hello: , I am not here to defend Sasaki Roshi's drinking, nor do I assume that he is a completely enlightened being, a Buddha. Most likely he isn't. So no offense at all.

What I am questioning is a blanket condemnation of any alcohol consumption as un-Buddhist and people involved as not being Buddhist. I would say the same about vegetarianism, even though there is a much clearer connection to Sila there, in my view.

If I have an issue with drinking, then of course it is best to stop altogether. And even if I don't have a issue, it is good to stop - for reasons discussed above. What I don't see as useful is a militant attitude like the one found in many vegetarians. A categorical judgmental attitude is far more detrimental to practice than an occasional drink with one's meal, in my opinion.

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Sanghamitta wrote:Does Zen recognise the concept of a Samma-Sambuddha ? Does it not instead talk about all beings having " Buddha Nature" equally ?


This is really a question for Pannasikhara, but from what I know, I would say that there is definitely a concept of a fully liberated one, an arahat which is the same (though a Buddha is understood a little bit differently than in Theravada). Zen is part of Mahayana, and Mahayana sutras describe liberation in some detail. Zen masters too spoke about it in some detail but the amount of attention given to it varies between sects (the various Chan sects, Soto/Rinzai and Son). As for all beings having the Buddha Nature, this is said in some sects but the meaning is that this Buddha Nature still needs to be uncovered or realized. Otherwise why practice? The point is that it is nowhere else, nor comes from elsewhere as I understand it.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby pink_trike » Sat Oct 31, 2009 1:44 am

Dan74 wrote:
What I took issue with is Ben's seemingly militant approach -"if you have any alcohol at all, you are in breach of Sila" and by implication not a committed Buddhist. Blanket approaches like these tend to backfire, I find.

_/|\_

Hi Dan,

Since this is a Theravada board, I think it's understandable that some Theravada practitioners may want to pointedly clarify the teachings as they are strictly upheld within the tradition by most committed practitioners, especially for those viewers who may be new to the Theravada path...in order to minimize the potential for confusion. Other traditions may be less rigorous or strict but this is a fundamental aspect of Theravada - and viewed from within the traditon it is a reasonable standard to protect.

I have a disclaimer in my signature as a warning that anything I say may not be consistent with the Theravada perspective because my perspective is informed by other Dharma traditions. I do this in order to avoid generating confusion among Theravada practitioners and newbies to Theravada who may not be fully aware of the importance of this rigorousness that is central to Theravada - it lets them know that my view may or may not be orthodox Theravada..."read at your own risk". Maybe this would be useful for you here also... :anjali:
Last edited by pink_trike on Sat Oct 31, 2009 2:14 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Ben » Sat Oct 31, 2009 1:58 am

Thanks Mr Pink
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Dan74 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 2:27 am

Hi Jeff,

Sure it is a Theravada board (and I am happy that it is), but I though this thread was in Dhammic free-for-all for a reason. In my first post I quoted examples of teachers of other Buddhist schools (which I thought this is an appropriate forum to do so) and was basically told that they are in breach of Sila (Ben) and not Buddhist (Chris).

I am OK with people voicing their views and I don't take offense but I do hope I was not out of line questioning both the appropriateness of such interpretation and the way it was expressed.

Dan

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 31, 2009 2:43 am

Dan74 wrote:Hi Jeff,

Sure it is a Theravada board (and I am happy that it is), but I though this thread was in Dhammic free-for-all for a reason. In my first post I quoted examples of teachers of other Buddhist schools (which I thought this is an appropriate forum to do so) and was basically told that they are in breach of Sila (Ben) and not Buddhist (Chris).

And I sure you can point to teachers whose use of ETOH has been quite destructive.

I am OK with people voicing their views and I don't take offense but I do hope I was not out of line questioning both the appropriateness of such interpretation and the way it was expressed.
Maybe.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby BudSas » Sat Oct 31, 2009 4:47 am

If I remember correctly, the Samyutta Nikaya mentioned one exceptional case: Sarakani, the Sakyan, had been a heavy drinker for most of his life until the time of his death. And yet, after his death, the Buddha declared that Sarakani attained the state of Stream-Enterer. Any comment?

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby catmoon » Sat Oct 31, 2009 5:51 am

Hmm. I am something of a Scotch whisky nut. I have special glassware for nosing, and examining a new scotch brings every sense faculty I have to a humming vibrating peak of intensity. Since drinking scotch in this way is an extreme exercise in mindfulness, how does the precept apply?
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby cooran » Sat Oct 31, 2009 5:54 am

Hello Budsas,

Sarakāni
http://www.palikanon.com/english/pali_n ... rakani.htm

The Sakyans thought that if Sarakāni violated a Precept he would lack the fourth factor of stream-entry and thus could not be a stream-enterer.
At the time of his death he was a fulfiller of the three trainings (in virtue concentration, and wisdom). This implies that, while he might have indulged in strong drink earlier, before his death he undertook strict observance of the precepts and thereafter attained stream-entry.

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 31, 2009 6:07 am

catmoon wrote:Hmm. I am something of a Scotch whisky nut. I have special glassware for nosing, and examining a new scotch brings every sense faculty I have to a humming vibrating peak of intensity. Since drinking scotch in this way is an extreme exercise in mindfulness, how does the precept apply?

Just don't get intoxicated, inebriated, inebrious, drunk, tipsy, besotted, or crapulous.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby catmoon » Sat Oct 31, 2009 6:15 am

tiltbillings wrote:
catmoon wrote:Hmm. I am something of a Scotch whisky nut. I have special glassware for nosing, and examining a new scotch brings every sense faculty I have to a humming vibrating peak of intensity. Since drinking scotch in this way is an extreme exercise in mindfulness, how does the precept apply?

Just don't get intoxicated, inebriated, inebrious, drunk, tipsy, besotted, or crapulous.



Gee I never tried crapulous before. Do enlighten me!
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Individual » Sat Oct 31, 2009 6:21 am

Dan74 wrote:There is also a sutta involving an actor where the Buddha tells him that what he does will lead to a rebirth in the lower realms (from memory).

Now is all entertainment and music inherently harmful?

I don't remember the specific sutta, but in that case, the Buddha talks about entertainment which involves craving and promotes foolishness.
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