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 Prasadachitta » Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:50 pm

Individual wrote: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?


Hi Individual.

I dont think wishing a substance abuser wellness necessitates anguish when it does not come to be.

If you feel like tears that's OK too.

Substance abuse has been destructive in my family so I am familiar with it. I think there is a middle way between not caring about what you cant control and letting that caring tear you apart.

Metta

Gabe
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
User avatar
Prasadachitta
 
Posts: 974
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 6:52 am
Location: San Francisco (The Mission) Ca USA

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Dan74 » Thu Oct 14, 2010 10:39 pm

I also agree (with yuttadhammo). There is definitely a lot to be said for concentrating on sila and being very disciplined, even pedantic in maintaining it. But in the end sila is too important to be left to rules. It has to come from a deep exploration, from insight, I think.

In other words, I take a long hard look at my day, at my habits and discern which are wholesome, ie conducive to practice and to welfare of myself and others and which are not, and decide which is more important to me - these habits or practice and the welfare of myself and others. In any given case, there is a myriad of patterns that are dysfunctional, destructive and unwholesome. We can and do lop off these diseased branches one by one but unless a deeper insight into the root problem is attained, they will grow back in some form or another. Still this exploration and the development of sila weakens the root and makes it easier to cut it when we are ready.

In the end, we have to do the work, don't we? And this work is not about "following the herd", "following the rules" - the rules are training guidelines, not commandments. They invite us to explore our world, our minds and to purify ourselves. This exploration goes way beyond the precepts.

The reason I keep posting in these threads is not because I am attached to drinking (I couldn't care less about it) but because a literalistic legalistic approach to sila can only take us so far. A more organic insightful approach is needed IMO. That's all.
_/|\_
User avatar
Dan74
 
Posts: 2626
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Laurens » Thu Oct 14, 2010 10:53 pm

It's not really a question of 'can', of course you can, you are physically able to consume alcohol and get as drunk as you like off it.

Should you drink alcohol? A lot of people would say 'no' - I think this would be the majority position, it's one of the Buddhist precepts not to drink alcohol, it has a detrimental effect upon mindfulness etc. However, I really think it's down to you. Trail and error is what made me give up drinking. I noticed how hard it was to meditate the day after and so on. Eventually I realised why drinking is not encouraged.

If you feel like alcohol is a particular attachment, then simply forcing yourself not to drink may not be effective. You might have periods of not drinking, but you might often relapse if you do things that way. The best thing to do is to give it up when you see clearly that it is not needed, and that it does not benefit meditation. That isn't something another person can give you, it's something you have to realise yourself.

So drink if you wish, if you are practising mindfulness enough you will notice how it effects you, and one day you will (probably) no longer feel the need to drink anything.

Just my view.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

Carl Sagan
User avatar
Laurens
 
Posts: 388
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2009 5:56 pm
Location: Norfolk, England

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Phra Chuntawongso » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:13 pm

It is interesting to note that the precepts are guidelines and not thou shalt nots,but this raises a couple of questions.
1-If they are only guidelines and we don't have to follow them if we don't feel like it,why take them?This must render them rights and rituals.
2-If you see a monk walking out of the shop with a bottle of beer in his hands,would you say,well its only a guideline or would you say look at that monk he's not supposed to be drinking,its in the precepts?
With metta
And crawling on the planets face,some insects called the human race.
Lost in time
Lost in space
And meaning
User avatar
Phra Chuntawongso
 
Posts: 274
Joined: Sun May 02, 2010 11:05 am
Location: Wat SriBoenRuang,Fang,Chiang Mai

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Dan74 » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:25 pm

Nanadhaja wrote:It is interesting to note that the precepts are guidelines and not thou shalt nots,but this raises a couple of questions.
1-If they are only guidelines and we don't have to follow them if we don't feel like it,why take them?This must render them rights and rituals.
2-If you see a monk walking out of the shop with a bottle of beer in his hands,would you say,well its only a guideline or would you say look at that monk he's not supposed to be drinking,its in the precepts?
With metta


Bhante,

I would reiterate that precepts are the beginning, not the end. It is not a matter of "not following them if we don't feel like it" but embracing them in the spirit as well as the letter.

As for a monk walking out of a shop with a beer, he may well be taking it to someone else who really enjoys a beer after a day at work, or maybe it's for himself but I wouldn't jump to condemn him - he may be an admirable monk in many ways that matter more than an occasional beer. In any case I guess my energy is better spend at cleaning my own doorstep that poking fingers at others.

All that said, I have great respect for those who strive to earnestly follow the precepts in whatever form or capacity. What I don't really appreciate is the judgmental attitude to the people whose approach may differ.
Last edited by Dan74 on Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
_/|\_
User avatar
Dan74
 
Posts: 2626
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:31 pm

yuttadhammo wrote: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?


Bhante,

The same could be said for watching a sports match, playing a video game, going to the movies, having an orgasm, or listening to music. All of these activities/experiences can interrupt mindfulness, and none of them are especially conducive to the abandonment of craving.

What's so special about the occasional glass of wine or beer?
User avatar
Lazy_eye
 
Posts: 808
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Laurel, MD

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:41 pm

Nanadhaja wrote:It is interesting to note that the precepts are guidelines and not thou shalt nots,but this raises a couple of questions.
1-If they are only guidelines and we don't have to follow them if we don't feel like it,why take them? This must render them rights and rituals.

Taking the precepts makes it clear to us and those around us that we know what the guidelines are, we respect them and we will try to follow them. That makes three good reasons to take them even if they are not, ultimately, absolute rules.
Treating them as absolute rules is, IMO, a good idea for people whose understanding of their usefulness is poorly developed, e.g. young people, beginners on the path. Some relaxation is reasonable (again, IMO) for those established in good habits of sila.
Basically, I agree with Dan74 a few posts back: the ultimate aim is to develop, through full understanding, the kinds of mindfulness and good habits that lead us to avoid unskillful actions without needing a set of rules.

Nanadhaja wrote:2-If you see a monk walking out of the shop with a bottle of beer in his hands,would you say,well its only a guideline or would you say look at that monk he's not supposed to be drinking,its in the precepts?
With metta

Maybe both - but also that monks are expected to be role models and that they should always act to maintain the dignity and respect of the sangha, so what he is doing is wrong for several reasons.

:namaste:
Kim
User avatar
Kim OHara
 
Posts: 3045
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Phra Chuntawongso » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:53 pm

I agree that a monk should be a role model.My point is however,for the people who say it is ok to drink in moderation,and I am not going to preach at anyone who does so,then why would a monks having a quiet beer on a hot day seem wrong.
Would he not be a role model,having one beer and not getting smashed?
By the way I am not trying to get anyones permission for a drink :jumping:
For me the precept is to be kept.
It is up to the person to decide in the end.I found when I was drinking that mindfulness went out the window real fast.
When I stopped drinking I noticed a big change in my personal practice.
With metta
And crawling on the planets face,some insects called the human race.
Lost in time
Lost in space
And meaning
User avatar
Phra Chuntawongso
 
Posts: 274
Joined: Sun May 02, 2010 11:05 am
Location: Wat SriBoenRuang,Fang,Chiang Mai

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby yuttadhammo » Fri Oct 15, 2010 12:57 am

Lazy_eye wrote:
yuttadhammo wrote: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?


Bhante,

The same could be said for watching a sports match, playing a video game, going to the movies, having an orgasm, or listening to music. All of these activities/experiences can interrupt mindfulness, and none of them are especially conducive to the abandonment of craving.

What's so special about the occasional glass of wine or beer?

You'd really have to ask the Buddha, though it seems pretty clear to me... In fact, I think you are missing the point of what I said, which is that you can't argue on the basis of "occasional" or "moderate" since that is not how precepts work. Moderation renders the precept not a precept; one could equally ask, "what's so special about killing or stealing once in a while?" In all truth, probably not that much, but this doesn't take away from the fact that it's pretty darn good, both for your own mental development and for the benefit of other beings, to vow never to kill or steal.

Anyway, those activities you mention are included in the eight precepts, so while there obviously is some sort of distinction between them and alcoholic intoxicants according to the Buddha, bringing them up does nothing to further an argument in favour of moderation in regards to the fifth precept, unless you can show that the third and seventh of the eight precepts are also meant to be taken as guidelines for moderation, which I doubt is possible.

The Buddha's teaching is a specific path meant to lead one to a specific goal, and so there are specific rules to be followed for those following the path. I don't see what the problem is with suggesting that these rules be kept absolutely to the best of one's ability, both as a support for one's own practice, and as an example and support for the mutual observance by others in the community.

Anecdotally, when I first started keeping the five precepts almost eleven years ago, I cried happy tears when I took them, knowing that I was freeing both myself and other beings from suffering by keeping them. I haven't broken them since, to the best of my knowledge and understanding, and I don't think I've suffered any loss as a result (except for my old drinking buddies, I suppose :P).
User avatar
yuttadhammo
 
Posts: 143
Joined: Fri Mar 19, 2010 5:03 pm
Location: Sri Lanka

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Individual » Fri Oct 15, 2010 1:24 am

gabrielbranbury wrote:
Individual wrote: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?


Hi Individual.

I dont think wishing a substance abuser wellness necessitates anguish when it does not come to be.

If you feel like tears that's OK too.

Substance abuse has been destructive in my family so I am familiar with it. I think there is a middle way between not caring about what you cant control and letting that caring tear you apart.

Metta

Gabe

There is a difference between well-wishing and well-wanting

Well-wishing doesn't feel sad.

yuttadhammo wrote:You'd really have to ask the Buddha

Does he have Facebook?
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
Individual
 
Posts: 1970
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:19 am

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Prasadachitta » Fri Oct 15, 2010 2:24 am

Individual wrote:There is a difference between well-wishing and well-wanting

Well-wishing doesn't feel sad.

yuttadhammo wrote:You'd really have to ask the Buddha

Does he have Facebook?


True enough but I think its a good practice to transform the well wanting into well wishing rather than talking ourselves out of the wanting.

However each situation will call for its own measures.


May you be well.

Gabe
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
User avatar
Prasadachitta
 
Posts: 974
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 6:52 am
Location: San Francisco (The Mission) Ca USA

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sobeh » Fri Oct 15, 2010 2:28 am

Individual wrote:Does he have Facebook?


Actually he does, but when I tried to visit the page I was told that Buddha only shares certain information with everyone until I add him as a friend - I guess the Tantras have it right!
User avatar
Sobeh
 
Posts: 329
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 3:35 am
Location: Salt Lake City, UT, US

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Ben » Fri Oct 15, 2010 2:46 am

Sobeh wrote:I guess the Tantras have it right!

Yes, but about what??
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16051
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sobeh » Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:17 am

A joke on the idea of a special dispensation (Tantra) validated through the stock phrase Facebook uses on profiles to which ones own is still a stranger, to wit: "Buddha does not share information with everyone..."

:juggling:

lol?
User avatar
Sobeh
 
Posts: 329
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 3:35 am
Location: Salt Lake City, UT, US

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Ben » Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:12 am

Sobeh wrote:A joke on the idea of a special dispensation (Tantra) validated through the stock phrase Facebook uses on profiles to which ones own is still a stranger, to wit: "Buddha does not share information with everyone..."

:juggling:

lol?


Yes, I was just extending the joke and being painful in typically ben-like fashion!
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16051
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Hanzze » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:22 am

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Sun Oct 31, 2010 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 _()_
User avatar
Hanzze
 
Posts: 1906
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:47 pm
Location: Cambodia

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:32 am

yuttadhammo wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:
yuttadhammo wrote: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?


Bhante,

The same could be said for watching a sports match, playing a video game, going to the movies, having an orgasm, or listening to music. All of these activities/experiences can interrupt mindfulness, and none of them are especially conducive to the abandonment of craving.

What's so special about the occasional glass of wine or beer?

You'd really have to ask the Buddha, though it seems pretty clear to me... In fact, I think you are missing the point of what I said, which is that you can't argue on the basis of "occasional" or "moderate" since that is not how precepts work. Moderation renders the precept not a precept; one could equally ask, "what's so special about killing or stealing once in a while?" In all truth, probably not that much, but this doesn't take away from the fact that it's pretty darn good, both for your own mental development and for the benefit of other beings, to vow never to kill or steal.

Anyway, those activities you mention are included in the eight precepts, so while there obviously is some sort of distinction between them and alcoholic intoxicants according to the Buddha, bringing them up does nothing to further an argument in favour of moderation in regards to the fifth precept, unless you can show that the third and seventh of the eight precepts are also meant to be taken as guidelines for moderation, which I doubt is possible.

The Buddha's teaching is a specific path meant to lead one to a specific goal, and so there are specific rules to be followed for those following the path. I don't see what the problem is with suggesting that these rules be kept absolutely to the best of one's ability, both as a support for one's own practice, and as an example and support for the mutual observance by others in the community.

Anecdotally, when I first started keeping the five precepts almost eleven years ago, I cried happy tears when I took them, knowing that I was freeing both myself and other beings from suffering by keeping them. I haven't broken them since, to the best of my knowledge and understanding, and I don't think I've suffered any loss as a result (except for my old drinking buddies, I suppose :P).


Hold on yo your hat Bhante , because thats EXACTLY how the 5th precept works for many devout practising lay people who dont exactly go to the local temple and announce the fact. Its what makes the 5th different to the other precepts. One cant steal in moderation. One cant kill or lie in moderation. One can drink a glass of wine without being unmindful and many lay people do. Both in the west and in the east.
A member of my household has written before about one of the most impressive lay people we know. He spends a good deal of the year on Vipassana retreats/ He is one of the most calm and compassionate and wise people I know. When he is not on retreat he has a glass of sherry every evening.
His is not advocating that, or promoting that. The fact remains that his mindfulness and dedication to all aspects of Dhamma remain exemplary.
Life ain't always black and white.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
Sanghamitta
 
Posts: 1614
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:21 am
Location: By the River Thames near London.

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Hanzze » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:41 am

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Sun Oct 31, 2010 7:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 _()_
User avatar
Hanzze
 
Posts: 1906
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:47 pm
Location: Cambodia

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:44 am

I live in hope Hanzze that one day you might post something that makes any sense to me. :?
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
Sanghamitta
 
Posts: 1614
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:21 am
Location: By the River Thames near London.

Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Shonin » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:51 am

In my experience, the intoxicating effect of Buddhist forums (addictive fascination with intellectual debates, and especially with on's own opinion) is a far more significant obstacle to practice than an occasional tipple. What I mean is that I have actually missed meditation time because of it as well as finding myself mentally distracted by on-going debates. Whereas I have not missed meditation time due to alcohol.
Shonin
 
Posts: 583
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:11 am

PreviousNext

Return to Ethical Conduct

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Majestic-12 [Bot] and 2 guests