The Casual Drink Or About That One Precept...

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

Re: The Casual Drink Or About That One Precept...

Postby Aloka » Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:53 am

Hi Ven Dhammanando,

Regarding the precepts in Tibetan Buddhism, when I took them myself many years ago, I was told quite clearly by a Tibetan Buddhist teacher that 'intoxicants' meant all alcohol consumption, cannabis, recreational drugs, and tobacco smoking.

Kind regards,

Aloka :anjali:
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Re: The Casual Drink Or About That One Precept...

Postby Ben » Sun Nov 08, 2009 10:39 am

tiltbillings wrote:I want to thank both Ven Dhammanando and Kåre for their excellent discussion of this issue.


Absolutely seconded!
Thank you Ajahn, thank you Ven. Huifeng, thank you Kare!
metta

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- Heraclitus


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Re: The Casual Drink Or About That One Precept...

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Nov 08, 2009 10:41 am

Ben wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:I want to thank both Ven Dhammanando and Kåre for their excellent discussion of this issue.


Absolutely seconded!
Thank you Ajahn, thank you Ven. Huifeng, thank you Kare!
metta

Ben

And Ven Huifeng, indeed.
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Casual Drink Or About That One Precept...

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sun Nov 08, 2009 1:51 pm

I've been reading and following this thread carefully. With the utmost respect to Kare I have to say I personally prefer Dhammanando's interpretation. I know virtually no Pali at all, but Dhammanando's description seems to resonate more with me.

Just my thoughts :) I'm glad things like this can be examined and explored in such detail here for all to see without us having to pay to attend a Pali language conference!
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Re: The Casual Drink Or About That One Precept...

Postby Jechbi » Sun Nov 08, 2009 7:32 pm

One other thought. Adding highlights:
Dhammanando wrote:A. “I undertake the rule of training [that is] abstinence from the basis of negligence, [consisting in] intoxicating liquors and intoxicating wines.”
B. “I undertake the rule of training [that is] abstinence from the basis of negligence, [consisting in] liquors that are intoxicants and wines that are intoxicants.”
C. “I undertake the rule of training [that is] abstinence from the basis of negligence, [consisting in] liquors, wines and intoxicants.”

...

Translated in this way, clearly the precept is to be interpreted as involving abstinence from alcohol itself, and not the state of intoxication and negligence to which alcohol leads.

This appears to hinge on a very different focus for the word "thaanaa" than had been offered until now. Kare's translation is tied to an understanding of "thaanaa" as a condition or a state of the individual. Ven. Dhammanando's translation is tied to an understanding of "thaanaa" not as a condition or state of the individual, but rather as the underlying attribute of intoxicants, namely, that by their very nature intoxicants are a basis for heedlessness (or however one wishes to translate pamaada).

This strikes me as significant because it makes the precept applicable to a type of conduct that a disciple can engage in. If one views the precept as a training rule to avoid "intoxication," then the rule is vague and difficult to know how to follow, because only by the result of an action can one tell whether one has kept the precept. In other words, under this understanding, it very well may be impossible to know beforehand whether one is breaking the precept as one sips a drink. Only later when one realizes, "I'm drunk," can one know that the precept has been broken.

If, on the other hand, one views the precept as a training rule to abstain from "intoxicants," it's much easier to know how to follow, because all one need do is not take the intoxicants. (The only issue then is to define what substances constitute intoxicants.)

The understanding derived from Ven. Dhammanando's translation seems to me to be much more in accord with the implicit intent of the precepts as training rules, and also with other teachings in the suttas and throughout the tradition. In the context of all of these, if there is a disagreement over what constitutes "normal" Pali usage, an understanding of the subject of the texts would seem to tip the balance in favor of Ven. Dhammanando's translation.

Just my 2 cents. With gratitude to everyone who has participated here.

Metta
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: The Casual Drink Or About That One Precept...

Postby poto » Sun Nov 08, 2009 7:46 pm

Aloka wrote:Hi Ven Dhammanando,

Regarding the precepts in Tibetan Buddhism, when I took them myself many years ago, I was told quite clearly by a Tibetan Buddhist teacher that 'intoxicants' meant all alcohol consumption, cannabis, recreational drugs, and tobacco smoking.

Kind regards,

Aloka :anjali:


I can confirm this, at least from the Tibetan Buddhists that I've talked to. I've long had an interest in Tibetan Buddhism and admired their teachings, but their stance on this was one of the things that pushed me away. As was pointed out to me, it's explicitly stated in the Termas and by various teachers that those things are indeed prohibited. I was given the impression that there wasn't any room for debate on the matter.

Personally, I think that others are entitled to their own interpretations. I think it's worth considering that there may not be a "one-interpretation-fits-all" approach for this. If a more strict interpretation benefits your practice, then by all means go with it. Others may benefit from a more pragmatic interpretation.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis
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Re: The Casual Drink Or About That One Precept...

Postby pink_trike » Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:03 pm

The entire world and everything that appears in it is potentially intoxicating to an untrained mind and should be regarded as if medicine...we benefit when we train ourselves to engage everything that appears before us carefully in restrained doses, mindful of their effects, and avoiding what is not needed for survival.

When the mind has been subdued, it is said in Tibetan Buddhism that like the peacock transforms poisonous plants into the beautiful display of its feathers - so too the highly trained mind naturally transforms poisonous intoxication into beneficial results. Liberation is the full understanding that the poisonous intoxication is the mind, not the appearances/substances themselves.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: The Casual Drink Or About That One Precept...

Postby BlackBird » Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:18 pm

poto wrote:Others may benefit from a more pragmatic interpretation.


There are some that get very pragmatic about this issue.

:rofl:
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: The Casual Drink Or About That One Precept...

Postby Ben » Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:21 pm

Thank you Mr Pink
Something you said reminded me of a number of the nine insight knowledges, part of which is ennumerated here by Sayagi U Ba Khin in his dhamma-talk:
The essentials of Buddhadhamma in meditative practice
There are ten levels of knowledge in Vipassana, namely:

(i) Sammasana: theoretical appreciation of Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta by close observation and analysis.
(ii) Udayabbaya: knowledge of the arising and dissolution of Rupa and Nama by direct observation.

(iii) Bhanga: knowledge of the rapidly changing nature of Rupa and Nama as a swift current or stream of energy; in particular, clear awareness of the phase of dissolution.

(iv) Bhaya: knowledge that this very existence is dreadful.

(v) Adinava: knowledge that this very existence is full of evils.

(vi) Nibbida: knowledge that this very existence is disgusting.

(vii) Muncitukamyata: knowledge of the urgent need and wish to escape from this very existence.

(viii) Patisankha: knowledge of the fact that time has come to work with full realization for salvation with anicca as the base.

(ix) Sankhara upekkha: knowledge that the stage is now set to get detached from all conditioned phenomena (sankhara) and to break away from egocentricity.

metta

Ben
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- Heraclitus


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Re: The Casual Drink Or About That One Precept...

Postby poto » Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:16 pm

BlackBird wrote:
poto wrote:Others may benefit from a more pragmatic interpretation.


There are some that get very pragmatic about this issue.

:rofl:


Well, I never encountered that particular linage. I was just commenting on my personal experiences.

Alcohol use is irrelevant to me personally, as I do not drink alcohol at all. My main concern was cannabis use. Even medical use seems to be looked down on. I was basically told that if I am using cannabis even for medical reasons that I should not meditate and that my practice will not bear fruit. I did not feel like that was conducive to my own spiritual progress, so I left. I still have deep respect for Tibetans and other Buddhists, even if I may disagree on certain issues. I do not wish to insult anyone's practice or linage, nor do I wish to disparage any teachers. I am just attempting to pursue the path that best suits me and my conditions.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis
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Re: The Casual Drink Or About That One Precept...

Postby BlackBird » Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:29 pm

Makes good sense Poto.
I'm concerned a little that you might be reading things into my post that I didn't intend. Or indeed perhaps I'm reading things into your post. Now that's a mind-boggler.

Meant no harm.

:anjali:
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: The Casual Drink Or About That One Precept...

Postby poto » Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:56 pm

BlackBird wrote:Makes good sense Poto.
I'm concerned a little that you might be reading things into my post that I didn't intend. Or indeed perhaps I'm reading things into your post. Now that's a mind-boggler.

Meant no harm.

:anjali:


It's all good. No problem ;)

I just was attempting to expand on and clarify my previous comment so that it wasn't taken to mean something that I did not intend. Particularly, I didn't want to offend any Tibetan Buddhists who might be reading this. I apologize if I caused any confusion.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis
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