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 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 7:50 pm

Jechbi wrote:Hmmm ... there seem to be some conflicting and potentially confusing messages being delivered in this thread.

On the one hand, we have clear statements that the precept involves abstention:

Ben wrote:Dan it wasn't just avoiding intoxication. It was abstaining.


Ben wrote: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


But then on the other hand, someone asks how the precept applies if the tasting of certain alcoholic beverages is approached as an exercise in mindfulness, and in that case we get this:
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.


So in some cases, according to this view, the precept applies as moderation, not abstention.

Those two views of the precept are incompatible.

I don't think Tiltbillings and Ben have different views, only different ways of expressing the same view. I'm sure both agree, as I do, that it's best to abstain from alcohol. Tiltbillings said what he did because it was helpful. Telling all people, "Alcohol is bad. Alcohol leads to rebirth in hell or mental disorder," etc., is not always helpful. I think that's the issue here: not so much what we believe, but what we ought to say in a discussion like this.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby catmoon » Sat Oct 31, 2009 8:16 pm

I actually drink far less than I once did. The reason? As already noted in this thread, nothing messes up meditation quite like alcohol. If I share a jug of beer with a friend over dinner, I can kiss any hope of jhana goodbye for at least two days.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Individual » Sat Oct 31, 2009 9:34 pm

catmoon wrote:I actually drink far less than I once did. The reason? As already noted in this thread, nothing messes up meditation quite like alcohol. If I share a jug of beer with a friend over dinner, I can kiss any hope of jhana goodbye for at least two days.

Going out to dinner with my mom tonight, I plan on having 2-3 pints of beer with my burger.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby notself » Sat Oct 31, 2009 10:56 pm

Individual wrote:
catmoon wrote:I actually drink far less than I once did. The reason? As already noted in this thread, nothing messes up meditation quite like alcohol. If I share a jug of beer with a friend over dinner, I can kiss any hope of jhana goodbye for at least two days.

Going out to dinner with my mom tonight, I plan on having 2-3 pints of beer with my burger.


I hope you won't be driving home. :toast:
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Jechbi » Sun Nov 01, 2009 3:50 am

Individual wrote:I don't think Tiltbillings and Ben have different views, only different ways of expressing the same view.

You might be right. Hard to tell from the words that actually were used. If there are differences, that's fine, then let's respectfully disagree. Either way.

Individual wrote:Telling all people, "Alcohol is bad. Alcohol leads to rebirth in hell or mental disorder," etc., is not always helpful. I think that's the issue here: not so much what we believe, but what we ought to say in a discussion like this.

I suppose we ought to say what the precept actually means, as nearly as we can ascertain. So I hope nobody uses hell threats (and I don't think anybody has, unless I missed them).
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Dan74 » Sun Nov 01, 2009 6:36 am

No hell, just lower rebirth (if you believe that literally).

Makes one wonder, you wouldn't drink the wine that was corked, but a lower rebirth is not as off-putting, it seems... Then again for us Mahayanists it's not a problem - they need Bodhisattvas in the lower realms even more!

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby BudSas » Sun Nov 01, 2009 7:40 am

Dan74 wrote:No hell, just lower rebirth (if you believe that literally).

Makes one wonder, you wouldn't drink the wine that was corked, but a lower rebirth is not as off-putting, it seems... Then again for us Mahayanists it's not a problem - they need Bodhisattvas in the lower realms even more!



Or back to human realm as Ji Gong (Daoji), the legendary drunken monk in Chinese folk stories?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ji_Gong

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Jechbi » Sun Nov 01, 2009 3:08 pm

Hi Dan,
Dan74 wrote:No hell, just lower rebirth (if you believe that literally).

Makes one wonder, you wouldn't drink the wine that was corked, but a lower rebirth is not as off-putting, it seems... Then again for us Mahayanists it's not a problem - they need Bodhisattvas in the lower realms even more!

_/|\_

I really don't know what you mean when you say, "you wouldn't drink the wine that was corked, but a lower rebirth is not as off-putting."

I've taken another look, and I suspect you and Individual are viewing this following quotation as a threat of lower rebirth:
Ven. Bodhi wrote: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 ...

What exactly is wrong with that statement? Actually it seems to support your view that moderation is okay, because if you just taste a small portion of wine or whiskey for the purpose of some kind of mindfulness exercise, then it's probably not going to be enough to make you tumble off the narrow ledge of a sharp precipice.

On the other hand, the Ven. Bodhi statement does ask the reasonable question: why take the risk? This is a perfect metaphor for the human condition, and it demonstrates that in actual reality, complete cessation of suffering is something that most of us just simply do not want at this stage. Because we're confused about what it actually means. So we'd rather just keep on enjoying the pleasures of life, because how can these harmless little indulgences possibly get in the way of the path?

What I do see in this thread is the repeated message that this precept is a personal choice, not something imposed upon us by anyone else. I also see the repeated message that we are not expected to be perfect, and that if we break the precept, it does not make us lousy Buddhists or lousy people.

I'd like to reiterate a post I made earlier:
Jechbi wrote:... I feel it's unrealistic to expect that any "Buddhist" will be perfect in sila or in keeping the precepts prior to attainment to the fruit of stream entry. I also feel it's counterproductive to beat oneself up (or to beat anyone up) over the failure to keep the precepts perfectly. So sure, if we drink in our moment of weakness, if we tell a lie because we erroneously feel it's justified, etc., that doesn't make us a "lousy" anything. It just means that now, in this moment, kamma is flavoured with the habit patterns we've built up. We all have our work cut out for us.

The precept does not mean moderation. It means abstention. And it's a particularly sharp reminder to all of us (myself included) that there are areas of Dhamma practice and areas of Sila where we still need to work. What's wrong with that idea? Why do we think we have to be perfect?

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Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby enkidu » Sun Nov 01, 2009 3:13 pm

After one has taken vows, there is no question as to whether they should be kept purely.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Vardali » Sun Nov 01, 2009 4:07 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:if it was about moderation not abstinence then we should be cool about killing in mderation, rape in moderation etc, ....

First of all, my understanding of the precept is also that it is aiming "to abstain", not sugar-coated "moderate use".

I am just wondering if those that take a very strict view on this particular precept are also as strict on the first precept (for example with regard to insects etc. or the imo closely related support of killing animals for food). This also is a fine line where many opt for a shase of grey rather and come up with similar avenues for rationalization.

I find alcohol non-conductive to meditation, which is my main issue with it (other than the call for abstention from the precept ;) ).
But I don't fully abstain myself, just most of the time. And at the end of the day, everyone has to realize the path for him-/herself, either way ...
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Jechbi » Sun Nov 01, 2009 4:29 pm

Vardali wrote:I am just wondering if those that take a very strict view on this particular precept are also as strict on the first precept (for example with regard to insects etc. or the imo closely related support of killing animals for food).

I'll chime in: Precepts are precepts, and if I kill a living being, including an insect or arachnid, I regard it as having broken a precept. Others can view it as they please, I suppose.

There are times when I kill creepy-crawly things, like black-widow spiders, or like mosquitos that can carry West Nile virus. Repellant is fine, capture-and-release is fine, but with kids in the house it's safer and easier to eradicate potentially deadly threats. That doesn't make it right. When I kill a black-widow spider, I regard it as breaking sila. This is samsara. We live in a world of dukkha.

With alcohol, the choice to abstain is easier. But that doesn't mean I personally always make the right choice ...

The point is, let's recognize this dukkha for what it is, not try to gloss over it and rationalize it away. Anyone who thinks they keep perfect sila, fine. As Upaka told the newly enlightened Buddha, may it be so, friend.

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Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Dan74 » Sun Nov 01, 2009 11:18 pm

Jechbi wrote:Hi Dan,
Dan74 wrote:No hell, just lower rebirth (if you believe that literally).

Makes one wonder, you wouldn't drink the wine that was corked, but a lower rebirth is not as off-putting, it seems... Then again for us Mahayanists it's not a problem - they need Bodhisattvas in the lower realms even more!

_/|\_

I really don't know what you mean when you say, "you wouldn't drink the wine that was corked, but a lower rebirth is not as off-putting."


It was this one, courtesy Chris:

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


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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby pink_trike » Mon Nov 02, 2009 12:58 am

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

I've seen countless drinkers who stumbled into hell, became a common animal, got caught in hungry shades, and experienced mental de-arrangement - resulting in delusion and pain and impaired ability to be awake/awaken. Most of us have...why mess with it?

Its worth mentioning (speaking from outside the tradition of Theravada) that some of those who have wandered deep into these realms in current life emerged from them with an equally deep understanding of how intoxication can delude and interfere with being awake/awakening and have used this understanding to excel on the path. They've turn sh*t into gold. I'm not advocating intoxication, but having worked in substance abuse recovery I don't find an admonishment to refrain from drinking that includes threats of going to a literal hell realm, literally becoming an animal or a hungry ghost, or literally being born a deranged human being to be a very skillful way to deal with intoxication, especially if someone is struggling with substance addiction and might think "what's the use? I'm already condemned to hell" Imo there are more sophisticated and effective ways to deal with intoxication.

I also seriously doubt that the "Buddha" who gave us the 4NT is the same "Buddha" that 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." But that would be a discussion for the Lounge.
Last edited by pink_trike on Mon Nov 02, 2009 2:16 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby BudSas » Mon Nov 02, 2009 1:44 am

Chris wrote: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.


Thanks. Again, I remember vaguely that in some suttas, the Buddha mentioned only the first four precepts. Does anyone know?

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Jechbi » Mon Nov 02, 2009 3:51 pm

Hi Dan,
Dan74 wrote:It was this one, courtesy Chris:

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


_/|\_

Thanks for directing my attention to that one. Frankly, I think that passage is best quoted in its full context, found here.
"Monks, the taking of life — 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 the taking of life is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to a short life span.

"Stealing — 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 stealing is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to the loss of one's wealth.

"Illicit sexual behavior — 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 illicit sexual behavior is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to rivalry & revenge.

"Telling falsehoods — 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 telling falsehoods is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to being falsely accused.

"Divisive tale-bearing — 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 divisive tale-bearing is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to the breaking of one's friendships.

"Harsh speech — 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 harsh speech is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to unappealing sounds.

"Frivolous chattering — 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 frivolous chattering is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to words that aren't worth taking to heart.

"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."

I think one has to bear in mind that this passage is presented in the context of helping the listener to understand the dangers to oneself of indulging in, developing and pursuing any of these activities. Since all of us have engaged in some of this at some time, and since very few of us (if any) have arrived at a place where we will never again engage in any of these activities, the reality is that we're still bound to samsara. That's how I read it, any way.
____________________
Hi Pink,
pink_trike wrote:... having worked in substance abuse recovery I don't find an admonishment to refrain from drinking that includes threats of going to a literal hell realm, literally becoming an animal or a hungry ghost, or literally being born a deranged human being to be a very skillful way to deal with intoxication, especially if someone is struggling with substance addiction and might think "what's the use? I'm already condemned to hell" Imo there are more sophisticated and effective ways to deal with intoxication.
You're probably right. Would it generally be helpful to gently point out to such a person how their behavior is hurting themselves and others, and how they might cause their own physical death if they don't stop drinking? That type of guidance would not necessarily be a "threat," just a statement of reality. In the same way, all this talk about rebirth in hell etc. is not a threat.
_____________________

Looks like most folks already have bailed out of this discussion, so maybe the point has been adequately made and I'm just beating a dead horse. This is an issue that each one of us has to decide on our own. Best wishes!

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But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Dan74 » Mon Nov 02, 2009 11:29 pm

This is an issue that each one of us has to decide on our own.


Well this is the bone of contention, isn't it? Some say you can't decide this on your own - you either follow the precept as best as you can or you are not a Buddhist. And sure enough this is not a bad policy. We need a strong resolve to master sila and prevarication and drawn out debates ain't gonna cut it.

Some say watch your mind rather than the rules. When the mind is stirred and is about to become heedless and careless, then take care. Here you need strong resolve too - an ongoing attention to what is going on. As the mind moves in an unskillful direction, remind yourself of the kamma, of the many consequences of wrong thought and turn away.

Perhaps the first approach usually comes before the second, I am not sure. I guess each has its place. But whatever zest and determination one has mustered, best not to waste it on judgment and condemnation, but turn it inward, into deep solid practice, I feel.

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Nov 02, 2009 11:32 pm

Dan74 wrote:
Some say watch your mind rather than the rules. When the mind is stirred and is about to become heedless and careless, then take care. Here you need strong resolve too - an ongoing attention to what is going on. As the mind moves in an unskillful direction, remind yourself of the kamma, of the many consequences of wrong thought and turn away.

It could be reasonably argued that the rules of training, the precepts, are tools for watching the mind.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby Dan74 » Tue Nov 03, 2009 12:42 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Dan74 wrote:
Some say watch your mind rather than the rules. When the mind is stirred and is about to become heedless and careless, then take care. Here you need strong resolve too - an ongoing attention to what is going on. As the mind moves in an unskillful direction, remind yourself of the kamma, of the many consequences of wrong thought and turn away.

It could be reasonably argued that the rules of training, the precepts, are tools for watching the mind.


Yes, that's what I meant when I said (above) "Perhaps the first approach usually comes before the second."

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby BudSas » Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:28 am

BudSas wrote:
I remember vaguely that in some suttas, the Buddha mentioned only the first four precepts. Does anyone know?
BDS


I have had a quick search on the Suttas I knew. It seems I was confused between the five precepts and the 10 rightest conducts (such as in MN 41).

- There are 3 kinds of bodily rightest conducts: not to kill, not to steal, not to commit in sexual misconduct.
- There are 4 kind of verbal righest conducts: avoiding false speech, avoiding malicious speech, avoiding harsh speech, avoiding gossiping speech.
- There are 3 kind of mental rightest conducts: not having covetous thought, not having ill-will, not having distorted view.

Alcohol consumption is not mentioned in this set of 10.

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Nov 03, 2009 8:30 am

Hi BudSas
"There are these five gifts, five great gifts — original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning — that are not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and are unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives & priests. Which five?
... abstains from taking life ...
... abstains from taking what is not given ...
... abstains from illicit sex ...
... abstains from lying ...
... abstains from taking intoxicants ...
AN 8.39 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... .html#gift
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