The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

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

The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby lyndon taylor » Fri Aug 02, 2013 8:59 am

Often, Very little is said of the importance of Sobriety, not getting intoxicated, or not using intoxicants, like drugs and alcohol. This is one of the most basic of the Buddha's teachings probably much more important than the teaching of no self, because with out being completely sober its much harder to advance on the Path towards enlightenment.

Buddhism is a moral religion, that believes in rules of conduct, it does have a concept of good and bad, though it is not taught as sin vs. virtue, but rather taught as good or positive karma vs. bad or negative karma. The Buddha obviously believed that intoxicants led to bad karma, otherwise He wouldn't have made the 5th precept no intoxicants, along with the other 4 precepts, no killing, no stealing, no lieing, and no adultery. These are among the basics of devout Buddhist living, if we can't get the basics down, it may be deluded to think we are ever going to progress to the end of the Path, enlightenment and the state of Nirvana.

Breaking the precepts leads to suffering, either suffering for us or suffering for others, not to mention suffering for both ourselves and others.

If we drive a car we all accept, I hope, that no amount of intoxicants is going to make us drive better, and even the smallest amount of intoxicants can make us drive worse, and potentially effect the lives of ourselves and others on the road.

Why should we think of the Buddhist Path any differently, Sobriety gives us the greatest ability to learn, understand and practice the teachings, being high or buzzed never makes it easier to understand things, but rather gives us false awakenings which we think are real, but 9 times out of 10 are delusion.

I hope we can All suport the importance of Sobriety, and set a good example for our new Buddhists, things like no self, stream entry, enlightenment and nirvana, are just not as understandable or attainable as long as we're still using intoxicants,IMHO
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby lyndon taylor » Fri Aug 02, 2013 9:06 am

I wasn't trying to imply that observing all the lay precepts is mandatory for all Buddhists, people were presumably coming to the Buddha and asking, "what should I do to be a good Buddhist"? Among many other teachings for everybody, the Buddha presented the IDEAL of keeping the precepts, If you really want to advance along the Path, if you really want to be a devout or serious Buddhist, then some of the IDEALS that the Buddha RECOMMENDED were to not kill, not steal, not lie, be faithful to any partner, and not to use intoxicants.

Now if you want to be a monk, or a lay teacher of Buddhism, even on the internet, this ideal becomes almost a law, at least in many traditions. I don't want to learn about Buddhism from some one who isn't trying their honest best to keep all precepts, lay precepts if they're a lay person, and monk precepts if they're ordained. Call me conservative, But I'm a former drug addict and drinker, and I never functioned at my full level intoxicated, someone that tells you they can function better high is probably deluded, as I used to think I functioned as well or better when I was high.

Buddhism is not a religion like Catholicism that "allows" its clergy and devoted members to drink not only during the week but a little bit every Sunday, even children. Buddhism on the whole is an anti drugs and alcohol religion, more silmilar in this respect to Seventh Day Adventist or Mormon among Christian religions. But it is not quite as strict in that it doesn't say its members Have to follow the precepts to practice, but as I said it is highly recommended by most Buddhist sects.

As Buddhists we have to make our own decisions what teachings of the Buddha we follow, and which if any we don't. The buddhist Police are not going to come to your door and confiscate your stash, but to think you know better than the Buddha that some drugs and/or alcohol are good for you personally, may well be just another one of those illusions or delusions The Buddha preached about giving up.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby lyndon taylor » Sat Aug 03, 2013 8:13 am

I am rather dismayed that my honest attempt to open a dialogue on Sobriety In Buddhism, has been met with no responses and not many views, does this mean that our readers do not consider this an important topic?? On the other forum I am a member on, I posted the same material, and the discussion, from both sides, has gone on for 4 pages already.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby Ben » Sat Aug 03, 2013 8:36 am

My apologies Lyndon.
I attempted to write a response earlier but it didn't get through.
My initial response was that I completely agree with you with respect to the maintenance of the fifth precept (and sila) as being foundational for progress on the path.
If you, or anyone else, is interested, you are welcome to join the "Five Precept Observance Club" group on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/fiveprecepts/
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby lyndon taylor » Sat Aug 03, 2013 8:53 am

Thank you very much, Ben, I'm glad my attempts weren't being viewed as controversial or out of line. Thanks for the link.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby Digity » Mon Aug 19, 2013 2:24 am

Giving up alcohol has been a wonderful experience for me. At first it was somewhat dreadful, because of the reaction I got from others. They saw me as odd for not wanting to drink, etc. However, what I've come to realize is that if you stick to your guns about not drinking and don't act all self-righteous about it people will come to respect your decision...at least those who are your real friends. Those who don't accept you for not drinking are not real friends and you're better off without them. So far, no one has rejected me for not drinking...they'll find it weird when they first meet me, but eventually they just come to realize it's not my thing and that's the end of it.
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby equilibrium » Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:35 am

lyndon taylor wrote:.....

The N8P are in three parts, also termed as the threefold training.
It is based on "moral" training (sila) which leads to "concentration" (samadhi) which leads to "wisdom" (panna).
One cannot jump to concentration without moral training nor one can have wisdom without concentration.

Like everything else.....only with the "right" conditions, the "effects" will follow.

After all, it is the "mind" that needs to be freed!
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby mirco » Mon Aug 19, 2013 2:27 pm

Dhamma Greetings Lyndon,

thanks for bringing up this topic. I think, it is not that popular because either people got an issue with it and are not able to let go of the occasional drinking/drugging or no one responds because it's totally normal not to do drugs/alcohol.

So, here are my two cents.
lyndon taylor wrote:Often, Very little is said of the importance of Sobriety, not getting intoxicated, or not using intoxicants, like drugs and alcohol. This is one of the most basic of the Buddha's teachings probably much more important than the teaching of no self, because with out being completely sober its much harder to advance on the Path towards enlightenment.

Buddhism is a moral religion, that believes in rules of conduct, it does have a concept of good and bad,
[...]
Buddhism is not a religion like Catholicism that "allows" its clergy and devoted members to drink not only during the week but a little bit every Sunday, even children. Buddhism on the whole is an anti drugs and alcohol religion,
[...]

If one looks at Buddhism from the viewpoint of religion, one might come to the conclusion, Buddhism is about concepts of good and bad and about concepts of anti and pro something.

But when you look at Buddhism in terms of it being a method, it becomes quite obvious, that taking intoxicants makes no sense if you want to be successful in that method.

In the very first place, the Buddha has been a teacher of meditation that leads to Nibbana. What it's in the way are the mental hindrances.

He wanted to make things easier regarding meditation. So, everything regarding conduct that can be classified as moral are nothing but stepping stones since every action has its outcome.

Breaking the precepts leads to suffering,

That's the point. Drinking very much brings forward the arising of doubts on Buddha Dhamma (contrary to faith) + it opens the door for breaking all other precepts which leads to the other mental hindrances. Not enough we have to deal with craving and habitual tendencies, with all these mental hindrances there isn't even a chance to have a look at what is going in the mind.

Only one thing I don't agree with. I think, Dana comes first. Ok, it goes hand in hand. But with an closed heart, no progress in meditation will happen, although it can look like that.
Not without reason we have the sequence Dana Sila Bhavana.


Much Metta,
Mirco
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Tue Aug 20, 2013 12:05 am

Intoxicants lower your (or at least my) ability to be mindful of the present moment. I believe Mindfulness IS the practice, and therefore intoxicants are detrimental to the practice. That being said, I still use drugs. But if it wasn't a common problem among practitioners it wouldn't be a precept.



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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby dagon » Tue Aug 20, 2013 2:50 am

Hi All

I have always disliked the words “to give up something’ it suggests that you lose something. If you lose something the tendency is to go back and to re-finding it either by physical discovery or reliving the experience.
What we are talking about is gaining something that is both real and long term; anything that stands in the way of this is rubbish - I dump rubbish. Getting rid of rubbish is not an austerity; it is benefiting oneself (and normally everyone around you).

Speaking for myself (which in reality is all most of us can do) I don’t think that intoxicants aid my practice, if fact I don’t think that I would have even found the path if I had continued to use intoxicants. I did not dump intoxicants because I wanted to follow the path that the Buddha has shown us – I dumped it because I could see that even in the most mundane aspects of life intoxicants were a barrier to achievement.

So why do/did we take intoxicants, what was the motivation, what was the perceived gain these are questions that we should ask ourselves. Buddhism is gaining knowledge, truth and through this process escaping from the cycle of birth, sickness, old age and death. So these questions are a legitimate area of contemplation within the dhamma.

What intoxicants do is to affect our brain chemistry to take it out of balance, we take intoxicants so that we can perceive phoneme differently. We think that we can alter our reality, which is the same as deluding ourselves by believing that our situation has changed – but we have created our situation through khama and all that take intoxicants does is to tie us into more (and normally) negative kharma). . Even on the most mundane level intoxicants will leads us to complications in our lives; fights, wrong relationships, saying the wrong things, sickness and financial difficulties are just some of them.

http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/your-health/alc ... -australia

The precepts are not a goal in themselves – they are training rules to help us develop more ethical and moral lives and purify the mind. Any level of intoxication makes it more likely that we will break the fist 4 precepts so it makes sense not to engage with intoxicants.

If we are to develop insight then we need to clear the mind and find the truth within – intoxicants are to cloud the mind and hid the truth from our selves. What is the point of meditation if we take intoxicants?

metta
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby cooran » Tue Aug 20, 2013 3:26 am

Hello all,

Up until the beginning of this year,I would still occasionally have a nice glass of wine at parties, dinners or celebrations - and believed that as long as I didn't exceed the legal amount of alcohol allowed before driving a car, then all was well.

but ... Leading up to New Years Eve, Bhante Dhammasiha (the Abbot at Dhammagiri Hermitage near Brisbane) suggested to the Lay community that we consider taking the Five Precepts on New Years Eve for the whole year. There was a bit of concern among those used to drinking alcohol, even if only occasionally. But we thought about it, and a number of us decided to do it.

So we took the Precepts. For me, all went well for a few months until my daughters' wedding. It was a few hours south of Brisbane, and I was staying with non- Buddhist Aussie friends, who are fairly heavy drinkers.

I ended up having a few glasses of wine, and of ale, as well as toasts at the wedding reception.

On return to Brisbane, I felt impelled to tell Bhante. He was kind, and said that as I had confessed and henceforward intended to keep the Precepts from that day forward (having learned a little about the strength of craving) I could take the Precepts again - which I did. And there has been no problem since then.

Other friends who were daily drinkers, and who took the Precepts have been surprised at how easy it has been.

I think it relates to the deep consideration given before taking the Precepts for the year.

With metta,
Chris
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby pilgrim » Tue Aug 20, 2013 4:22 am

I was raised pretty free of alcohol. My parents and now myself do not have alcohol in the house. I have never had any alcohol problems and had been high on alcohol only once in my entire life, like 30 years ago, when I was a student.

So it has never been an issue of something I have to give up. But occasionally when out with friends or at dinners, parties, weddings, etc, I do take a beer or a glass of wine. I would only refrain from doing so if I planned on going on a retreat within the week or so. Otherwise I feel abstention is an end in itself and an attachment to doing something which Buddhists must do as a rule. I don't crave alcohol but enjoy a beer or wine the same way I enjoy coffee or ice cream. So I don't quite see the purpose of forced abstention.
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby cooran » Tue Aug 20, 2013 5:22 am

Nothing forced, pilgrim.... totally voluntary. But taking the Precepts is like a promise - either you keep it or you don't.
I don't think you can consider any Precept and only break it a little bit. A little bit of killing, a little bit of lying etc. etc.

with metta
Chris
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby mirco » Tue Aug 20, 2013 5:51 am

cooran wrote:But we thought about it, and a number of us decided to do it.

Congrats! I think, you've done great. And if broken, forgive yourself and start again from that very moment.
I know how difficult it is to keep precepts.

Much Metta,
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby pilgrim » Tue Aug 20, 2013 7:58 am

cooran wrote:Nothing forced, pilgrim.... totally voluntary. But taking the Precepts is like a promise - either you keep it or you don't.
I don't think you can consider any Precept and only break it a little bit. A little bit of killing, a little bit of lying etc. etc.

with metta
Chris

Buddhism is not like Islam where alcohol is seen as inherently evil and one should not even go anywhere near it. We take the 5th precept to abstain from using alcohol. I can only assume one uses alcohol for intoxication. So there is a purpose to the 5th precept. If it was merely not to consume alcohol, then it should logically extend to a number of household foods like vinegar, stews, fruit juices, etc which contain trace amts. Sugar alcohols are found in a whole range of processed foods such as sweets, chewing gum , artificial sweeteners, etc. Same goes for mouth wash, cooking sprays, etc. Isn't the point to avoid using alcohol so as not to intoxicate oneself?
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby Virgo » Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:56 am

Hi Lyndon,

I hope we can All suport the importance of Sobriety, and set a good example for our new Buddhists, things like no self, stream entry, enlightenment and nirvana, are just not as understandable or attainable as long as we're still using intoxicants,IMHO



I think you might have a wrong idea about what causes awakening. If we follow the precepts only with silabbattaparamasa then there is no wisdom at those moments, and they do not lead us closer to enlightenment, though we will not engage in unwholesome bodily deeds out of akusala - at least this protects us from akusala bodily action, even though it does not do anything to lead us out of samsara. If they are followed because of wisdom, however, they become causes for enlightenment.

Nevertheless, drinking can be harmful. It also causes mental dullness, which is not favorable for development. Like you said:

Why should we think of the Buddhist Path any differently, Sobriety gives us the greatest ability to learn, understand and practice the teachings, being high or buzzed never makes it easier to understand things, but rather gives us false awakenings which we think are real, but 9 times out of 10 are delusion.


I agree with what you wrote above. :twothumbsup:

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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby lyndon taylor » Tue Aug 20, 2013 9:35 am

You got me wrong, I did not say sobriety leads to awakening, You can be sober and not awakened quite easily, I said, according to the Buddha, Morality(precepts, etc) must come first before awakening, you can not have true awakening with out morality, sobriety etc.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby Virgo » Tue Aug 20, 2013 2:48 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:...you can not have true awakening with out morality, sobriety etc.

Hi Lyndon,

All kusala is good and can help on the path. All aksuala is bad, and hinders the path.

What I am talking about here is the motivation for avoiding such misdeeds, ie. if it is done with kusala citta, and one automatically refrains from wrong speech, or refrains from intoxicants, etc., then that is excellent.

However... if there is silabbattarapamasa and the deed is motivated by akusala citta such as dosa-mula-citta (because we fear not doing the "right thing", or fear not being "good Buddhist" boys and girls, or even fear a bad rebirth because of the deed, instead of, with detached wisdom, simply knowing that the deed is not worth it and is not part of the path because it is motivated by akusala-cittas itself), which not only arises with dosa (dislike), but also with moha (ignorance), ahirika (shamelessness), anottappa (recklessness) and uddhacca (restlessness), every single time, then that is not part of the path... it is simply reinforcing akusala tendencies, in effect, creating samsara, building a new hut, etc.

This is a subtle distinction, understanding of which is imperative on the path, as silabbattarapamasa is one of the fetters that binds us to samsara, and without understanding of which, there will be no gradual lessening of our defilements.

All the best,

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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby corrine » Tue Aug 20, 2013 3:00 pm

I think that it is not so much a matter of abstaining from alcohol and other intoxicants as it is embracing sobriety and all the positive that comes with sobriety.

corrine :namaste:
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Re: The importance of Sobriety for advancing on the Path.

Postby Virgo » Wed Aug 21, 2013 8:13 am

Virgo wrote:
However... if there is silabbattaparamasa...


Just to add to this post, it is interesting because we want to be sober, but why? Because we know that if we are not, it may inhibit the arising of sati. The irony is, if we are unaware that there is silabbataparamasa, and we do an action because of unwholesome citta, then at that very moment, there is no sati of what is arising NOW.

Just to make sure people do not take this the wrong way-- these posts are in no way advocating drinking, drugs, or any other type of intoxication at all in any way shape or form, they are simply bringing to light that being aware of our motivations and knowing what is arising NOW (at any time) when we make decisions (even decisions to refrain from bad actions) is just as important as the actions themselves.

All the best,

Kevin
Last edited by Virgo on Wed Aug 21, 2013 8:38 am, edited 2 times in total.
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