Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

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

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby bodom » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:03 am

More from the Buddha here:

"Furthermore, abandoning the use of intoxicants, the disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking intoxicants. In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression. This is the fifth gift, the fifth great gift — original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning — that is not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and is unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives & priests. And this is the eighth reward of merit, reward of skillfulness, nourishment of happiness, celestial, resulting in happiness, leading to heaven, leading to what is desirable, pleasurable, & appealing; to welfare & to happiness."


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby bodom » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:06 am

5. "Bhikkhus. Ariyan disciples in this Religion reflect thus:"'All arahants, for as long as life lasts, have given up the taking of liquors and intoxicants, of that which intoxicates, causing carelessness. They are far from intoxicants.'"All of you have given up the taking of liquors and intoxicants. You abstain from drink which causes carelessness. For all of this day and night, in this manner, you will be known as having followed the arahants, and the Uposatha will have been observed by you. This is the fifth factor of the Uposatha. - AN 8.41


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Dan74 » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:15 am

Good quotes, and yes "all arahats..."
_/|\_
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby bodom » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:22 am

Dan74 wrote:Good quotes, and yes "all arahats..."


Hi Dan

What do you mean by "all Arahants"? Do you mean to say that you believe the Buddha is saying it is ok for non ariya to take intoxicants?

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Dan74 » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:31 am

I meant your last quote, bodom.
Last edited by Dan74 on Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
_/|\_
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:41 am

In the light of the OP:

"Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?"

The particularly wording and phrasing of the question will once again prompt me to make a statement that I'm becoming more and more accustomed to each and early time I talk about Buddhist ethics.

Buddhist ethics are not a form of "legal" system, wherein some actions are sanctioned and others punished, a kind of "may" or "may not".
They are normative statements about skillful actions leading to the goal.

One "can" do whatever one likes, quite frankly. (But that's not really the question, or the point, is it?)
However, one who has wisdom will do their best to uphold those normative forms of behavior, because they see the results both ways.
Yet, if they are unable to, the only recourse is to the results of this karma, and not some legal system of what they "may" or "may not" do (with possible subsequent reward or punishment).
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:47 am

Well said, bhante.

:anjali:

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby bodom » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:48 am

Dan74 wrote:I means you last quote, bodom.


Yes. As non ariya lay disciples (speaking for myself) we should strive to emulate the virtues and qualities of the Arahants and this is purpose that the Buddha recommended the undertaking of the eight precepts on Uposatha days for the laity.

"'As long as they live, the arahants — abandoning fermented & distilled liquors that cause heedlessness — abstain from fermented & distilled liquors that cause heedlessness. Today I too, for this day & night — abandoning fermented & distilled liquors that cause heedlessness — abstain from fermented & distilled liquors that cause heedlessness. By means of this factor I emulate the arahants, and my Uposatha will be observed. - AN 3.70


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sylvester » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:54 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:Buddhist ethics are not a form of "legal" system, wherein some actions are sanctioned and others punished, a kind of "may" or "may not".
They are normative statements about skillful actions leading to the goal.



Dear Bhante

I agree with the 1st sentence.

But what did you have in mind by "normative"? Not a Kantian "categorical imperative", I trust, as it does seem to be mutually exclusive from the "hypothetical imperative" that are skillful actions.

I take it you are a "consequentialist" when it comes to Buddhist ethics?
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Dan74 » Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:05 am

bodom wrote:
Dan74 wrote:I means you last quote, bodom.


Yes. As non ariya lay disciples (speaking for myself) we should strive to emulate the virtues and qualities of the Arahants and this is purpose that the Buddha recommended the undertaking of the eight precepts on Uposatha days for the laity.


The Arahats are a source of inspiration to me, but I don't want to start walking and talking like my idea of an Arahat. More important I face where I am at this moment in time and deal with this guided by the Buddha's teaching.

Undertaking Uposatha can be useful, abstaining from alcohol 24/7 can be useful, lots of things can be useful.
_/|\_
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby bodom » Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:15 am

I face where I am at this moment in time...


And where else could we possibly be. :smile:

There is an AA slogan (ironically) that for me sums up my practice, and your previous post...

"We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection."


Everyday I try to let go of just a little more greed, hatred and delusion than I had the day before.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby ground » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:33 am

Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?


I can imaging that a Buddhist can refrain from starting to drink alcohol and then continue until being heavily drunk. But is that moderation? Where is the limit that may be referred to as "moderation"? And once this limit is defined what is the effect on thoughts, motivations, impulses, deeds? But if moderation is defined individually as the dose level where there is not yet an effect on thoughts, motivations, impulses, deeds does this not contradict what is known about alcohol and its effects depending on dose?

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Hanzze » Thu Oct 14, 2010 5:51 am

Once there lived in Benares a rich man by the name of Cullasetthi. He was widely known in Benares for his wisdom; he was also a renowned astrologer. One day, it happened that while he was passing along the highway, he came by chance to see a rat apparently dead, lying on the road. He began to muse on the object with interest that from the opportune time he reckoned, it would not be strange to predict the amassing of a great wealth only if the right and fortunate man were to take immediate possession of the dead rat, and dispose of it at the first opportunity.

Little was it known to the astrologer that his fortuitous remark on the tale of the dead rat would have caught the ears of a poor man, Cullantevasika. Pondering that he would have nothing to lose in the bargain, he quietly picked up the dead rat and went on his way.

Not long later, Cullantevasika saw a man looking for some food to feed his hungry cat. It came in handy to be rid of his priceless possession for a few paltry coppers, which would give the poor Cullantevasika the confidence to eke out his miserable existence. He thought it over in his mind the idea to make his little means earn what it possibly could. He spent ail that he had on a few pieces of candy and from the fresh water he could obtain, he offered it for sale as plain sweetened drinks to the florists. For his trouble, he was given a few handfuls of flowers which he sold in the market place and with the proceeds, he bought more candy to turn into a bigger supply of drinks for his customers, the florists. This time they offered him the rest of the unplucked flowers. It enriched him by a few extra coppers, which gave him the security to stand on his own feet and to make him work harder for his living.

One day a heavy storm came and in its fury, trees were uprooted and branches blown all over the park. But, to Cullantevasika, it meant for him a day in the park to clear and tidy up the place clean off the litter of broken branches, dead trunks and fallen leaves. They were given to him as payment for his labour and he sold them as firewood. Again, he went back to his business of candy drinks, which he made a quick sale to the weary travellers outside the city gates. A band of five hundred grass cutters were making their way to the city and at the gate they rested themselves and Cullantevasika was able to supply them with his candy water to quench their thirst. In this way, he managed to have the friendship of the grass-cutters who responded to his cheerful disposition and the friendly manner he conducted his small and humble trade.

Nevertheless, Cullantevasika was on the move for any likely chance to change over to a new trade when it came to him one day that he received news of some merchants sending five hundred horses to the city for sale. He at once thought of his friends the grass-cutters and proceeded immediately on his plan that they all supply him one thousand bundles of grass to be twice their usual bulk on each bundle. On the following day, the merchants and that five hundred horses arrived in the city and they went about in search of fodder for their horses, but none could be found except in the store kept by Cullantevasika. They bought all the stock from him for one thousand coins.

Again, the water labourers brought him the news that a big merchant boat was due to arrive in the port. He bought the best cart in the city and dressed himself up as a rich merchant. Upon the boat’s arrival, he approached the owner of the vessel and offered him an expensive ring in order to solicit his help to use his influence to induce all the merchants to deal with him. As a result all the other merchants who came later failed to secure any business. He acted in the capacity as their agent and the profits he earned rose steadily to the sum of two hundred thousand coins.

Cullantevasika became a rich man and his thought went back to the incident on the highway when he realised the truth of Cullasetthi’s prediction. He paid a courteous visit to Cullasetthi and offered him a gift of one hundred thousand coins with an explanation that he wished to repay him (Cullasetthi) as an appreciation for his good fortune, following the advice on the prediction about the dead rat. And here again, his good fortune served him sell; Cullasetthi seeing his unselfish nature offered him the hand of his (Cullasetthi’s) daughter. They lived happily and on the death of Cullasetthi he inherited all his wealth as well as the high office of treasurer to the king.

So we turn our thoughts, on the conclusion of this story, that work should be performed in a manner clean and free from any intention to jeopardise the living of others, and without inciting a loss or harm. This undertaking alone is noble and unselfish.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Thu Oct 14, 2010 6:33 am

Sylvester wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:Buddhist ethics are not a form of "legal" system, wherein some actions are sanctioned and others punished, a kind of "may" or "may not".
They are normative statements about skillful actions leading to the goal.



Dear Bhante

I agree with the 1st sentence.

But what did you have in mind by "normative"? Not a Kantian "categorical imperative", I trust, as it does seem to be mutually exclusive from the "hypothetical imperative" that are skillful actions.

I take it you are a "consequentialist" when it comes to Buddhist ethics?


Thanks for this question, which makes me stop and think a little.

Recently I've been teaching a series of classes on Buddhist Ethics which is part of a Uni Diploma course in Buddhism. It's in Chinese, and so I've been talking about 規範行為, with English "normative..." in the back of my mind.

There are a number of aspects: One is the kind of actions that would fit most closely with those considered to be ideal for following the path; Another has a social element, where that is in a Buddhist social context. There could be more, too.

And reflections about Schopen's comments on the Vinaya texts, often taken by previous scholars to be "descriptive" of the behavior of the Sangha, as opposed to perhaps "ideals" (for want of a better word at present). Something prevents me from using "proscribed" (or "prescribed" for the opposite cases), because that seems to be moving into the legalist sense I'm trying to avoid.

As for consequentialist: Well, recent lecture series by Prof Keown which included asking whether or not Buddhism is virtue ethics, deontological, or consequentialist, had me thinking for a bit. He did make a point that Buddhism has elements of all of them, but mainly virtue and consequentialist (if I recall correctly). He seemed to think that this was maybe a bit contradictory, as though it should be either / or. Perhaps in some systems this would be the case, as there could be examples that clash with both. But, for me, believing in the law of karma which says that a wholesome (= virtuous) act can only have pleasant consequences, and unvirtuous actions unpleasant consequences, I don't see such a great disparity or distance between the two. By my understanding of the Buddhist law of karma, it's almost as though the virtue and consequentialist gap seems to close.

However, I'm no expert on modern philosophical takes on ethics, so I may just be making a great big blotch out of things!

Whatever the case, there is still a problem with either of these approaches when it comes to the fifth precept, because most Buddhist schools take the stance that drinking alcohol is not a nonvirtue itself, unlike the first four precepts which necessarily have at least some amount of unwholesome mental state behind them. In the northern traditions, this precept is called a "precept of avoidance" (something like that!), and the others "precepts by nature".

So this case is trickier than most. (The next tricky one is so-called "sexual-misconduct", but that is for quite different reasons, and disappears vis the celibacy version of "sexual conduct" in toto.)

:focus:
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sylvester » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:20 am

Thanks Bhante, for sharing your thoughts.

Of course, the suicides of Ven Channa and Ven Vakkali will pose a conundrum for a consolidated virtues+consequentialism model, if one is to assume that those kamma were not impelled by either patigha (as a mula kamma at the grosser level) or patighanusaya (at the subtler level).

Might this be grounds enough for particularism to creep in, just a wee a bit, into Buddhist ethics?

I think your example about the 5th Precept brings to the fore one of those contentions over how much "control" one must have over one's reactions or actions, before the ethical dimensions can come to play. The possibility of intention (sancetana) playing out unconsciously (eg Bhumija Sutta SN 12.25) and the 3 basic anusayas as inevitable (almost!) responses of putthujanas to all the "bodily" feelings seem to suggest that the traditional understanding of ethics and kamma cannot turn on "control" alone.

How do either virtues ethics or consequential ethics relate to this?

:anjali:
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Thu Oct 14, 2010 12:33 pm

Particularism is an easy escape route! :tongue:

But then the evil art of philology will demand an explanation, and heaven and hell shall be overturned in it's quest to find the answer to the question:
Is the Buddha messing us around, or has somebody been doing some hanky panky, cooking the books?
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Oct 14, 2010 12:54 pm

Sylvester wrote:Thanks Bhante, for sharing your thoughts.

Of course, the suicides of Ven Channa and Ven Vakkali will pose a conundrum for a consolidated virtues+consequentialism model, if one is to assume that those kamma were not impelled by either patigha (as a mula kamma at the grosser level) or patighanusaya (at the subtler level).

Might this be grounds enough for particularism to creep in, just a wee a bit, into Buddhist ethics?

I think your example about the 5th Precept brings to the fore one of those contentions over how much "control" one must have over one's reactions or actions, before the ethical dimensions can come to play. The possibility of intention (sancetana) playing out unconsciously (eg Bhumija Sutta SN 12.25) and the 3 basic anusayas as inevitable (almost!) responses of putthujanas to all the "bodily" feelings seem to suggest that the traditional understanding of ethics and kamma cannot turn on "control" alone.

How do either virtues ethics or consequential ethics relate to this?

:anjali:

I think its not :namaste: so much the POSSIBILITY of sancetana playing out unconsciously ( at least for the vast majority of dhamma students ) but of recognising the CERTAINTY of unconscious but operative volition and of an increased owning of same to bring it into consciousness.
I would further suggest that Sila is only partially congruent with Particularism, Utilitarianism or Deontologicalism...
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Ytrog » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:47 pm

If you wish to get better and the doctor prescribes medicines you wouldn't ask whether to taken them or not. Same with this: the precepts are (part of the) medicines against dhukka, so if you want to get rid of that disease (dhukka) you have to take your pills/keep the precepts. In the end it's your choice though.

I think the entirety of Buddhist ethics is essentially based on this principle.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby mettafuture » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:23 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:In the light of the OP:

"Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?"

The particularly wording and phrasing of the question will once again prompt me to make a statement that I'm becoming more and more accustomed to each and early time I talk about Buddhist ethics.

Buddhist ethics are not a form of "legal" system, wherein some actions are sanctioned and others punished, a kind of "may" or "may not".
They are normative statements about skillful actions leading to the goal.

One "can" do whatever one likes, quite frankly. (But that's not really the question, or the point, is it?)
However, one who has wisdom will do their best to uphold those normative forms of behavior, because they see the results both ways.
Yet, if they are unable to, the only recourse is to the results of this karma, and not some legal system of what they "may" or "may not" do (with possible subsequent reward or punishment).

I really didn't mean for it to be that complicated.

If I had more room in the subject line, I would have put "Can a person who calls themselves a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?" If one chooses to undertake the 5 precepts, can they still drink alcohol in moderation? That's all I was wondering.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:37 pm

If by moderation we mean the occasional glass of wine..or a beer on a hot day. I think so..yes. But not everyone agrees...
I think we have to decide for ourselves what enhances or threatens or is neutral in terms of our mindfulness. And that minfulness is the essence of the precept. Its not that certain things are taboo in general terms. Although for a given individual they might be. It is to some degree an individual issue.
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