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 mettafuture » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:44 pm

Sanghamitta wrote: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.

But how can one who chooses to undertake the 5th precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs still drink? That doesn't make any sense to me. It would be like saying "I will not buy anymore meat products", and then you go out and order a steak. Aren't you just lying to yourself?
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Ytrog » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:52 pm

Might I also raise the issue that if you're not used to drinking alcohol even one glass has severe consequences for your mindfulness.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Oct 14, 2010 5:35 pm

mettafuture wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote: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 mindfulness 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.

But how can one who chooses to undertake the 5th precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs still drink? That doesn't make any sense to me. It would be like saying "I will not buy anymore meat products", and then you go out and order a steak. Aren't you just lying to yourself?

What we undertake to do is to refrain from that which causes heedlessness and intoxication. For many people a glass of wine or beer does not cause intoxication or heedlessness. Furthermore it is not a commandment. It is literally translated, that we undertake " a rule of training." And no I am not " lying to myself". I haven't mentioned my own intake or lack of at all. But I know experienced and dedicated Buddhists who drink the occasional glass of wine or beer .People who have practised dhamma foe many years.

The reference to undertaking not to eat meat and then buying a steak is a non sequitur. We dont undertake not to eat meat.
Last edited by Sanghamitta on Thu Oct 14, 2010 5:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Oct 14, 2010 5:40 pm

Ytrog wrote:Might I also raise the issue that if you're not used to drinking alcohol even one glass has severe consequences for your mindfulness.


That could be true for some. No one is suggesting that drinking should be compulsary.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Individual » Thu Oct 14, 2010 6:05 pm

mettafuture wrote:I've never had a drink, and likely never will.

I was just curious.

:toast: <-- root beer

It is an intoxicant. It makes people say hateful things, and become depressed, anxious, and violent, and you can die from its over-use.

In moderation, alcohol has skillful uses: It has mixed health effects, such that moderation in some cases may or may not have a net health benefit, and it may act as an "ice-breaker" for social events. However, on the second point, alcohol only acts as an ice-breaker because it temporarily hides a person's lack of self-confidence. Being truly at peace with oneself, though, is a permanent ice-breaker for any human interaction you might possibly have.

At the same time, it is unskillful to negatively judge other people (even other Buddhists) who drink alcohol, because just like you, they are trying to follow the path in the way that they see things. If you can't actually demonstrate to others why they should abstain from alcohol, it is wrong to throw dogmatic rules in their face which you can't even explain.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Shonin » Thu Oct 14, 2010 6:08 pm

In the Zen lineage in which I took precepts, this precept is viewed somewhat flexibly.

Of course heavy and/or very regular drinking (especially both) may create problems for one's practice, occasional/light drinking does not in my experience. In fact it can help relaxation. Also, there is a puritanical element that arises in Buddhism at times and I wonder whether being intoxicated by one's own purity and virtue is a bigger problem than an occasional drink.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Oct 14, 2010 6:15 pm

In real life its fairly flexible in the Theravada too Shonin. I know lots of Theravadin lay people and complete teetotallers are in the minority. Even if their total intake for the year is a glass of champers at a wedding. Even the very keen types who wear all white when going to the Wat ( the very epitome of lay dhammic keenness ) have been known to have a glass of Beaujolais without rushing to the temple and rioting.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Shonin » Thu Oct 14, 2010 6:53 pm

The Zen centre I stayed at in France had a bar... with a dance-floor. A good way to loosen up after a week of meditation, silence and dharma talks. :)
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:02 pm

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

Postby bodom » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:05 pm

Shonin wrote:The Zen centre I stayed at in France had a bar...


That is sad.

You need to make an effort to renounce. You must contemplate until you see the harmful effects which come from such behaviour. See the harm in drinking and going out on the town. Reflect and see the harm inherent in all the different kinds of unskilful behaviour which you indulge in, until it becomes fully apparent. This would provide the impetus for you to take a step back and change your ways. Then you would find some real peace. To experience peace of mind you have to clearly see the disadvantages and danger in such forms of behaviour. This is practising in the correct way. If you do a silent retreat for seven days, where you don't have to speak to or get involved with anybody, and then go chatting, gossiping and overindulging for another seven months, how will you gain any real or lasting benefit from those seven days - Ajahn Chah
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 Individual » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:12 pm

bodom wrote:
Shonin wrote:The Zen centre I stayed at in France had a bar...


That is sad.

You need to make an effort to renounce. You must contemplate until you see the harmful effects which come from such behaviour. See the harm in drinking and going out on the town. Reflect and see the harm inherent in all the different kinds of unskilful behaviour which you indulge in, until it becomes fully apparent. This would provide the impetus for you to take a step back and change your ways. Then you would find some real peace. To experience peace of mind you have to clearly see the disadvantages and danger in such forms of behaviour. This is practising in the correct way. If you do a silent retreat for seven days, where you don't have to speak to or get involved with anybody, and then go chatting, gossiping and overindulging for another seven months, how will you gain any real or lasting benefit from those seven days - Ajahn Chah

How's that relevant?

Ajahn Chah says "you"

not "they"
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby bodom » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:34 pm

How's that relevant?

It says "you"not "they"


It is relevant due to the fact that I have seen the dangers associated with alcohol myself and do no not want to see others go through the same consequences. Why not help others see the danger in alcohol consumption? That is the point of your signature.."Admirable friendship.." is it not? Too many alcoholics started out as moderate drinkers. Besides the Buddha spoke of keeping the precepts pure and encouraging others to undertake and keep them as well.

"Jivaka, when a lay follower himself is consummate in conviction and encourages others in the consummation of conviction; when he himself is consummate in virtue and encourages others in the consummation of virtue...practices the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma and encourages others to practice the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma: then to that extent he is a lay follower who practices both for his own benefit and for the benefit of others."


: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 Individual » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:56 pm

bodom wrote:
How's that relevant?

It says "you"not "they"


It is relevant due to the fact that I have seen the dangers associated with alcohol myself and do no not want to see others go through the same consequences. Why not help others see the danger in alcohol consumption? Too many alcoholics started out as moderate drinkers. Besides the Buddha spoke of keeping the precepts pure and encouraging others to undertake and keep them as well.

"Jivaka, when a lay follower himself is consummate in conviction and encourages others in the consummation of conviction; when he himself is consummate in virtue and encourages others in the consummation of virtue...practices the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma and encourages others to practice the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma: then to that extent he is a lay follower who practices both for his own benefit and for the benefit of others."


:anjali:

You do not want others to go through the same consequences -- OK.

But they will.

So, why want something you can't control?

My father is an alcoholic. Should I break down into tears every time he drinks?
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby bodom » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:58 pm

You do not want others to go through the same consequences -- OK. But they will.


Not necessarily. There might be some with 'little dust in their eyes'. :smile:

: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 Individual » Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:16 pm

bodom wrote:
You do not want others to go through the same consequences -- OK. But they will.


Not necessarily. There might be some with 'little dust in their eyes'. :smile:

:anjali:

Good luck, young Bodhisattva
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby bodom » Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:33 pm

young Bodhisattva


Not in the least. Just "Admirable friendship.."

: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 Individual » Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:36 pm

bodom wrote:
young Bodhisattva


Not in the least. Just "Admirable friendship.."

:anjali:

You are friends with Zen students in France?
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby yuttadhammo » Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:37 pm

Something that I don't think has been discussed here (maybe elsewhere...) is the importance of moral precepts as lines in the sand. If there is no line drawn, how can you rely on the individual hazy definition of "moderation"? I suppose a better argument could be had for marijuana, given the arguably medicinal value of smoking it (though I've heard ingestion is a healthier and more physical-oriented method anyway), but can you really argue for a flexible guideline for the use of poison?

It seems no one has argued the benefit of absolute morality in terms of its effect on society's understanding of the subject matter at hand; since alcohol can easily, and often does, lead to intoxication, and no obvious benefit comes from its use even in moderation (even relaxation is surely no different from pamāda), surely the best approach is complete abstinence, both for one's own safety, and for upholding the principle of one's opposition to intoxication.

Simply put, how can one claim to be striving for sobriety (i.e. enlightenment) when one condones the use of intoxicants, claiming a state of non-harmful, moderate intoxication? Why have precepts in the first place if only to try to find ways to bend them?

Sorry, I didn't read the other threads, just trolling along :)
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby bodom » Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:40 pm

Simply put, how can one claim to be striving for sobriety (i.e. enlightenment) when one condones the use of intoxicants, claiming a state of non-harmful, moderate intoxication? Why have precepts in the first place if only to try to find ways to bend them?


:thumbsup:

Thank you Bhante.

: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 Individual » Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:42 pm

yuttadhammo wrote:Something that I don't think has been discussed here (maybe elsewhere...) is the importance of moral precepts as lines in the sand. If there is no line drawn, how can you rely on the individual hazy definition of "moderation"? I suppose a better argument could be had for marijuana, given the arguably medicinal value of smoking it (though I've heard ingestion is a healthier and more physical-oriented method anyway), but can you really argue for a flexible guideline for the use of poison?

It seems no one has argued the benefit of absolute morality in terms of its effect on society's understanding of the subject matter at hand; since alcohol can easily, and often does, lead to intoxication, and no obvious benefit comes from its use even in moderation (even relaxation is surely no different from pamāda), surely the best approach is complete abstinence, both for one's own safety, and for upholding the principle of one's opposition to intoxication.

Simply put, how can one claim to be striving for sobriety (i.e. enlightenment) when one condones the use of intoxicants, claiming a state of non-harmful, moderate intoxication? Why have precepts in the first place if only to try to find ways to bend them?

Very true
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