is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Monkey Mind
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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by Monkey Mind » Mon Aug 13, 2012 11:22 pm

I renewed my precepts back in March, and this time with a sincere intention to keep the 5th precept. Before this, I would accept the 5th on Uposatha days, and days before and after a retreat, but otherwise I was very dedicated to drinking in moderation. I was influenced by a belief that many or most Buddhists still drink alcohol. I thought quitting alcohol would be hard, it really wasn't.

Most obvious improvements: better moods, more energy, more enthusiasm for meditation, and when meditating a sharper "clarity".
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by Hickersonia » Mon Aug 13, 2012 11:30 pm

Monkey Mind wrote:I thought quitting alcohol would be hard, it really wasn't.
While I know many people will say things to the contrary, I found that my quitting was also not particularly hard...

The conditions were just right I guess for it.
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pilgrim
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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by pilgrim » Tue Aug 14, 2012 5:27 am

I don't see the 5th precept as optional but at the same time, I don't see the occasional beer or glass of wine as a serious breach. Everything we do in Buddhism has a purpose. The first 4 precepts are clear enough as a breach is damaging. The purpose of the 5th is to prevent one from losing mindfulness which leads to breaking the first four.

One uses intoxicants to get intoxicated. Intoxicants are not evil per se. I think the practice of not allowing a single drop to pass one's lips is a dogmatic attachment to the letter rather than the wisdom behind it. It reminds me of the practice of vegetarianism by some Mahayana Buddhists who would not eat a meal which was cooked in a pot that once was used to cook meat for fear of a few molecules left behind.

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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by manas » Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:25 am

Gosh I must be lucky. My body can't physically tolerate alcohol, even in moderation. Every time I used to 'have a few', there would usually be some kind of illness or physical dis-ease one or two days later. In the end, I thought, "a few hours of pleasant feeling is not worth a day or two of sickness and/or pain", and I've never gone back to the stuff. So, my sympathies to those who can tolerate it. Must make it harder to give up. But for me, it was dead easy.

with metta.

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pilgrim
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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by pilgrim » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:34 am

manas wrote:Gosh I must be lucky. My body can't physically tolerate alcohol, even in moderation. Every time I used to 'have a few', there would usually be some kind of illness or physical dis-ease one or two days later. In the end, I thought, "a few hours of pleasant feeling is not worth a day or two of sickness and/or pain", and I've never gone back to the stuff. So, my sympathies to those who can tolerate it. Must make it harder to give up. But for me, it was dead easy.

with metta.
You and I may share a genetic predisposition to Alcohol Intolerance.
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alcoho ... ce/ds01172" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
It is for this reason too, that I abstain.

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Doshin
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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by Doshin » Tue Aug 14, 2012 12:41 pm

My first thought, when reading this thread. Are the posters as absolute/definitive, about the first precept (not to kill) ? Candlelights kills moth/mosquito/flees, you know...

Looking inwards, my next thought is that my view on precepts, is that I think of them as training steps. Things I have decided to be better at, or as a pointer in a direction I want to go; not how fast or how, just be better over time.

My next thought is, I have seen many versions of the precepts; to name one example, I've seen the first precept as "I take the precept not to kill", and "I take the precept to refrain from harming living beings". In the same way, you can find several versions on the 5'th precept, but commonly they all point roughly in the same direction. I think the important thing here is to look in the direction they point, and then relate to that, rather then splitting hair on the words.

I end up with thinking, that (at my place on my path), the right thing is to follow the middle way. To exemplify, with a fictive example around the OP's question.

Say a person is used to have 3-4 drinks each Friday and on social events. At first, the mere reflection on this, is actually a step on the training path, as now one would reflect on it in between, the middle way between not caring about it and don't drink at all. Next one might say "I can get by with 1-2 drinks", again middle way between do-nothing and don't drink. Remember, if you follow the middle way for some time, it becomes the one extreme.

To try to summarize.. I see the precepts as subjects, that you make a *personal* decisions to train, to keep getting *better* at. How one should train is a individual choice, and can not be generalized. I.e. there is only one that can answer your question, and I don't think it gets easy'er for you to find your answer, by seeking others answers on the subject. You might end up with a "democratic" reasoned opinion, "posters mainly says, and that makes sense" (would that be your answer ?).

I hope my view has no influence on your view ;)

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Ben
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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by Ben » Tue Aug 14, 2012 12:55 pm

I agree with Bhikkhu Pesala.
The fifth precept isn't optional.
kind regards,

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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by Mawkish1983 » Tue Aug 14, 2012 1:42 pm

I take the fifth precept very seriously, perhaps moreso than the others. On the last occasion that I did drink alcohol, a year ago during a very rough time indeed, bad things happened. Before that I hadn't drank alcohol for years and I haven't drank it since.

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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Aug 14, 2012 3:31 pm

I think I need to clarify. It is expected that a devout Buddhist will undertake the five precepts, and if one undertakes the five precepts, then the fifth precept is not optional. There is no formula for undertaking the four precepts.

If someone has faith in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and takes the three refuges, its not obligatory to also undertake to observe the five precepts. Certainly it is recommended, and expected, but we should not say that it is obligatory to undertake and observe the five precepts.

Also, they are training rules. It is expected that ordinary Buddhists will break the precepts sometimes. In that case, one has broken the precepts as undertaken, and should renew that undertaking. Traditional Buddhists take the three refuges and five precepts at every opportunity. How well they respect and observe that undertaking will vary from one individual to the next.
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equilibrium
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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by equilibrium » Tue Aug 14, 2012 3:53 pm

"Optional" is just a word, a barrier, a filter or a plateau created by the mind.....is it an excuse in the making? or has someone reached a limitation where one cannot reach beyond?

The task in hand maybe an easy task for some but it can be an extremely difficult one for others to achieve....."optional" is there for those who cannot break through it and it maybe a temporary stage for some but a permanent one for others..............in the end, the challenge is the self!.....there are obstacles in the way......obstructions.

"Optional" doesn't really exist at all.....

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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by Silas » Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:55 pm

(hi, i'm very new here so i hope it's alright for me to poke in here -- i'm young, and under-educated i suppose, so i don't always do or consider what would be wisest to do.)

i don't drink alcohol because the effects aren't all that pleasurable to me. i have in the past but never got past general tipsyness. i do smoke marijuana on occasion, whether it's a small amount to calm my anxiety or enough to actually get very high and laugh with others. it's probably something i'm going to need to cut back on, but i don't feel i am attached to it. i can meditate and receive calming effects. i just enjoy marijuana as well. for a very strict adherent i'd suggest not smoking or drinking, but i'm not the best for advice.

caffeine is a drug, though there are probably many buddhists who enjoy soda and coffee.

we kill plants for consumption (and they are said to possibly feel pain if i remember right), and animals when necessary (though i would describe myself as flexitarian -- i've been weaning myself off meat, though it was never a large part of my diet).

no, by no means is it optional, and everyone can follow it however is best for their practice as long as they think it through and can understand it. if your reasoning behind not drinking is "because the fifth precept says not to" rather than "it conflicts with mindfulness" or some other such line, then i don't feel you really understand it -- it's good that you don't have alcoholism or some addiction! but it's best to really understand. if you don't strictly abide by the fifth precept "because you don't want to" or "because it's optional" or "because it doesn't matter" then i don't think that is good either.

UNDERSTAND your decisions and reasoning.

(i hope that wasn't stupid)

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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by RMSmith » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:21 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote: Human beings are already intoxicated without taking one drop of alcohol. They are intoxicated and heedless, thinking when they are young that they will not get old, when they are healthy that they will not get sick, and when alive that they will definitely die and can do so at any moment.
Sadhu.

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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by Cittasanto » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:49 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:I think I need to clarify. It is expected that a devout Buddhist will undertake the five precepts, and if one undertakes the five precepts, then the fifth precept is not optional. There is no formula for undertaking the four precepts.

If someone has faith in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and takes the three refuges, its not obligatory to also undertake to observe the five precepts. Certainly it is recommended, and expected, but we should not say that it is obligatory to undertake and observe the five precepts.

Also, they are training rules. It is expected that ordinary Buddhists will break the precepts sometimes. In that case, one has broken the precepts as undertaken, and should renew that undertaking. Traditional Buddhists take the three refuges and five precepts at every opportunity. How well they respect and observe that undertaking will vary from one individual to the next.
:anjali:
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But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by Annapurna » Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:21 pm

Buckwheat wrote:
I don't always follow the 5th precept (I call them four precept days) largely due to social pressure.

Dear, I can't think of any social pressure that would make me drink or do something else against my principles.

People do accept it after a first surprise and some questions.

Sometimes that's all they need to follow a better example!

Set the trend. Don't follow a trend. :twothumbsup:

You can!

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Re: is the 5th precept seen as "optional" by some?

Post by Cittasanto » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:26 pm

Annapurna wrote: Set the trend. Don't follow a trend. :twothumbsup:

You can!
:anjali:
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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