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 » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:52 am

Sanghamitta wrote:
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.

But that's not all what the precept says though.

For many people a glass of wine or beer does not cause intoxication or heedlessness.

But why do you need to drink at all? What's wrong with sticking with non-alcoholic drinks that don't give you a buzz, or "help take the edge off"? Why can't natural methods that don't depend on external intoxicants be used if a person needs help getting comfortable?

Furthermore it is not a commandment.

Everyone already knows that. I forgot that I have to be extra careful with my wording around here. I didn't mean for my use of the word "can" to be so blown out of proportion.

The reference to undertaking not to eat meat and then buying a steak is a non sequitur. We dont undertake not to eat meat.

But what you're undertaking isn't one of the Buddha's precept. It's your own version of a precept.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:04 am

You are once more assuming that I drink. I have not spoken at all about my own habits.
I do know lots of lay Buddhists who do more for the Dhamma than many of us, who have a glass or two. I suppose you could say that constitutes their version of THAT precept. And as they are consenting adults that is fine with me. Why do they do it ? I assume its because they like it.
Cue the " slippery slope " fallacy......... :popcorn:
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:07 am

Shonin wrote: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.


A very very good point. And one that comes uncomfortably close to the bone in my case. In fact I am off to adress that.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby mettafuture » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:10 am

Sanghamitta wrote:You are once more assuming that I drink.

I meant "your" in a general sense.

I assume its because they like it.

But why do they like it? I'm not asking you specifically. I'm asking everyone. As a person who has never had a drink, I just don't get it.

Individual wrote: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

Vitamins and natural herbs can also help you, and they can do so without giving you buzz, or poking holes in your liver.

and it may act as an "ice-breaker" for social events.

Why can't people be social while drinking water?
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:11 am

Sanghamitta wrote:
Shonin wrote: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.


A very very good point. And one that comes uncomfortably close to the bone in my case. In fact I am off to adress that.

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:20 am

mettafuture wrote: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.


Okay, so somebody on one had chooses to makes the statement "I undertake the training to refrain from alcohol and intoxicating substances leading to negligence", but "can they drink alcohol in moderation"?

The precept is not "I undertake the training to refrain from becoming intoxicated", but "... to refrain from intoxicating substances".

They "can" do whatever they like, and "call" themselves whatever they like, but personally I would say that they are saying one thing, and doing something else, thus being either very deluded, a hypocrit or a liar.

If they didn't take that precept, I'd still personally say that they are a little foolish, but at least they wouldn't be saying one thing and doing another. I really have a strong dislike for hypocrisy.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Hanzze » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:35 am

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Sun Oct 31, 2010 7:35 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 _()_
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:49 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
mettafuture wrote: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.


Okay, so somebody on one had chooses to makes the statement "I undertake the training to refrain from alcohol and intoxicating substances leading to negligence", but "can they drink alcohol in moderation"?

The precept is not "I undertake the training to refrain from becoming intoxicated", but "... to refrain from intoxicating substances".

They "can" do whatever they like, and "call" themselves whatever they like, but personally I would say that they are saying one thing, and doing something else, thus being either very deluded, a hypocrit or a liar.

If they didn't take that precept, I'd still personally say that they are a little foolish, but at least they wouldn't be saying one thing and doing another. I really have a strong dislike for hypocrisy.


Then you would dislike me I guess Pannasikhara. I am frequently deluded, a hypocrite and a liar. I frequently project and judge others. I frequently withhold the full truth out of a desire to appear better than i am. I frequently say one thing and do something else. I constantly fall short of my own aspirations.
Probably it would be better fro you to "invisible" me rather than dwell in aversion. As for me I would sooner spend time with a compassionate drinker than with a puritan who judges others.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:54 am

Greetings,

I think that regardless of how we approach the matter, I think we would all agree that the cultivation of Right Intention (samma sankappa) is an important aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path.

Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote:The Buddha explains right intention as threefold: the intention of renunciation, the intention of good will, and the intention of harmlessness. The three are opposed to three parallel kinds of wrong intention: intention governed by desire, intention governed by ill will, and intention governed by harmfulness. Each kind of right intention counters the corresponding kind of wrong intention. The intention of renunciation counters the intention of desire, the intention of good will counters the intention of ill will, and the intention of harmlessness counters the intention of harmfulness.

In my opinion, it is as apt for volition regarding drinking as it is about volition regarding anything.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:08 am

Sanghamitta wrote:
Then you would dislike me I guess Pannasikhara. I am frequently deluded, a hypocrite and a liar. I frequently project and judge others. I frequently withhold the full truth out of a desire to appear better than i am. I frequently say one thing and do something else. I constantly fall short of my own aspirations.
Probably it would be better fro you to "invisible" me rather than dwell in aversion. As for me I would sooner spend time with a compassionate drinker than with a puritan who judges others.


I said I dislike hypocrisy, not that I dislike hypocrites (if there is such a thing).
For hypocrites, compassion is the best approach.
There is no judging of anyone in this case.

Best to just not take that precept, I figure.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:12 am

Greetings bhante,

Paññāsikhara wrote:Best to just not take that precept, I figure.

Possibly.

Would it be better for someone to take the precept, and avoid drinking on 9 out of 10 occasions (motivated by the precept they have taken), lapsing because on one occasion unwholesome states got the better of Right Intention.... or would it be better to not take the precept at all, and drink on every occasion?

Possibly it depends on whether one regards them as vows or training precepts?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Hanzze » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:14 am

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Sun Oct 31, 2010 7:35 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 _()_
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:18 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings bhante,

Paññāsikhara wrote:Best to just not take that precept, I figure.

Possibly.

Would it be better for someone to take the precept, and avoid drinking on 9 out of 10 occasions (motivated by the precept they have taken), lapsing because on one occasion unwholesome states got the better of Right Intention.... or would it be better to not take the precept at all, and drink on every occasion?

Possibly it depends on whether one regards them as vows or training precepts?

Metta,
Retro. :)

Precisely so.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Phra Chuntawongso » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:27 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings bhante,

Paññāsikhara wrote:Best to just not take that precept, I figure.

Possibly.

Would it be better for someone to take the precept, and avoid drinking on 9 out of 10 occasions (motivated by the precept they have taken), lapsing because on one occasion unwholesome states got the better of Right Intention.... or would it be better to not take the precept at all, and drink on every occasion?

Possibly it depends on whether one regards them as vows or training precepts?

Metta,
Retro. :)

Hi Retro.A person who takes the precept and who may occasionally slip up is understandable.We are all human after all.No need to beat yourself up over this.(not you personally)
I think the discussion was about taking the precept and drinking regardless(this is how I see it)
I posted earlier that if a person is aware that they may want to take a drink on any given day then perhaps the best thing to do would be to omit the precept that day,rather than break it.I have even heard of people who have taken back the vow because a situation has come up unexpectedly.I guess that works as well.
With metta
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Hanzze » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:34 am

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Sun Oct 31, 2010 7:35 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 _()_
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:35 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:
Then you would dislike me I guess Pannasikhara. I am frequently deluded, a hypocrite and a liar. I frequently project and judge others. I frequently withhold the full truth out of a desire to appear better than i am. I frequently say one thing and do something else. I constantly fall short of my own aspirations.
Probably it would be better fro you to "invisible" me rather than dwell in aversion. As for me I would sooner spend time with a compassionate drinker than with a puritan who judges others.


I said I dislike hypocrisy, not that I dislike hypocrites (if there is such a thing).
For hypocrites, compassion is the best approach.
There is no judging of anyone in this case.

Best to just not take that precept, I figure.

No one judging anyone...? Really ?
We are not all fortunate enough or perhaps meritorious enough Pannisikhara to live in the rarefied atmosphere of a monastery or under the Vinaya . Many of us have to rub along in the unrarified world of things as we find them.
Some of the most dedicated lay Buddhists I know have been known to have a pint of beer with their steak, and if that upsets your sensibilities then that is unfortunate.
The late Christmas Humphries did a lot for Buddhism in the UK. He was a seminal influence. He was a close friend of the Buddhist writer Wei Wu Wei who had a vineyard in the South of France and made his own wine. Every Christmas he would send Toby Humphries a crate of his wine for his birthday. Humphries would work his way through that over the coming months. A glass at a time.
Humphries was a pioneer in introducing the Pancasila at public Buddhist ceremonies in the UK.
Were they hypocrites ?
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Hanzze » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:40 am

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Sun Oct 31, 2010 7:36 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 _()_
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Dan74 » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:41 am

Nanadhaja wrote:I think the discussion was about taking the precept and drinking regardless(this is how I see it)
I posted earlier that if a person is aware that they may want to take a drink on any given day then perhaps the best thing to do would be to omit the precept that day,rather than break it.I have even heard of people who have taken back the vow because a situation has come up unexpectedly.I guess that works as well.
With metta


I took the discussion to be about being a Buddhist and drinking in moderation (from the title). This could (in part) explain the variation in approaches.

Shonin's example of the French Zen temple and the reactions to that and to notions like mindful drinking http://www.elephantjournal.com/2009/03/mindful-drinking-vajrayana-tradition-alcohol-and-buddhism/ was something that is closer to my heart than the pretty uncontroversial notion of personal respect for precepts.
_/|\_
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:42 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:Best to just not take that precept, I figure.


Venerable,

Is there the option of taking four precepts?

I have been wondering about this for awhile. Although I haven't taken the precepts formally, I endeavor to observe them -- still, I allow myself the rare glass of wine or beer on certain family and business occasions. So perhaps it would be better to wait until I can observe the fifth precept fully.

On the other hand, my general observance of the precept is probably more thorough than with several of the others. The difference is that with the others, I make unintended lapses whereas with the fifth I have made a decision not to refrain completely.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Postby Phra Chuntawongso » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:50 am

Hanzze wrote:Dear Ven. Nanadhaja,

such an advice could lead to excuse. "Today I don't take the precept of not harming, because...(hate)" Or do I understand it wrong.

Hanzze,people are taking the precept and then drinking,so not to take the precept in my view is probably better.I think most of the people on this forum are intelligent enough to work out for themselves what is and isn't ok.I would like to believe that for the most part the precepts,whether taken as a means of training or as a vow are fairly well adhered to,in the spirit of why they were given.Therefore I doubt that people would wake up in the morning and say"today I am going to kill some one" so I won't take the first precept.
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