Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
Pinetree
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Pinetree » Fri Nov 27, 2015 7:52 pm

What's up with the hostility?
I'll try to explain, if you need more details, feel free to ask :)

First, I apologize for phrasing it too harshly, and I have to admit I do have dislike towards this approach: how much drug is a bad thing ? Reminds me of questions like: how many molecules of water do you need to obtain wetness. The difficulty to draw a line signals a danger.

But yes, I do sometimes lose my patience when I feel that I cannot make myself understood, despite putting a lot of effort into wording my ideas.

Also, my style is often quite direct. I didn't think that to be a problem ...
Caffeine and amphetamine in larger quantities both cause heedlessness.
For coffee, I don't believe this to be the case.
If you replace "tomateos" and "tomato enema" with "a cup of coffee" and "multiple cups of coffee" (which caffeine is a psychoactive drug and causes psychoactive effects), reread it, you repeat my point.
It's not only about the quantity of active substance, it's that it doesn't seem to me that people are using coffee in amounts that would cause heedlessness. And there are practical reasons for that.

That being said, I don't know if a high enough dose of caffeine would cause heedlessness, but to my knowledge, the number of cups people drink doesn't (not even at the upper limit).

Let's take the example of cigarettes, just to explain a point on dosage. The quantity of nicotine that is self-administred in cigarettes is limited by the fact that the nicotine is packaged in a cigarette form: part of the nicotine gets burnt, another part goes in the air, and there is usually a limit of 1 cigarette that can be smoked at a time, and there is tolerance built towards nicotine. Using this example, a cigarette cannot be compared to a nicotine injection.

And yes, it seems some people have managed to smoke 110 of cigarettes at once, but do we want to go there ?

So I would replace tomatoes with coffee but, but not tomato enema with multiple cups of coffee. Instead, I might be convinced to replace tomato enema with pure caffeine or 110 cigarettes.

Or let's take another example. Selling poison is considered wrong. But you can find many documented cases of water poisoning (with pure and clean water). Does that mean that bottled water can be viewed as poison ?

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Fri Nov 27, 2015 10:10 pm

Pinetree wrote:[…]
Fair enough, but I still think consuming caffeinated products with the intention of getting the psychoactive effect as, at the least, going against the general idea of the fifth precept. If it doesn't or if it does break the fifth precept is debatable.

tedthera
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by tedthera » Fri Nov 27, 2015 10:25 pm

I take 500 mg of caffeine a day for inflammation with other things. I get caffeine from the pharmacist because coffee and tea upset my stomach now. I used to use aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs, but they caused ulcers.

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Ben
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Ben » Fri Nov 27, 2015 10:29 pm

samseva wrote:
Pinetree wrote:[…]
Fair enough, but I still think consuming caffeinated products with the intention of getting the psychoactive effect as, at the least, going against the general idea of the fifth precept. If it doesn't or if it does break the fifth precept is debatable.
With respect, if we use the same logic we can determine that drinking water or the use of nutmeg is a breach of the fifth precept because excessive water consumption and nutmeg can induce intoxication. While we should always be mindful to keep the precepts we should also be mindful not to to fall into hyper-vigilance which has the potential to distort our perceptions and increase the suffering of ourselves and others.
Kind regards,
Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Fri Nov 27, 2015 10:39 pm

Ben wrote:With respect, if we use the same logic we can determine that drinking water or the use of nutmeg is a breach of the fifth precept because excessive water consumption and nutmeg can induce intoxication. While we should always be mindful to keep the precepts we should also be mindful not to to fall into hyper-vigilance which has the potential to distort our perceptions and increase the suffering of ourselves and others.
Kind regards,
Ben
For nutmeg I agree, which in moderate to large doses can cause intense psychosis and delirium—no joke. For water, a physically unhealthy excess of anything is not the same as a psychoactive substance, such as caffeine found in coffee (or myristicin in nutmeg). I also didn't directly state that consuming caffeine is breaking the fifth precept, but that consuming it for the sake of the effects of the drug is against the general idea of it.

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Fri Nov 27, 2015 10:46 pm

tedthera wrote:I take 500 mg of caffeine a day for inflammation with other things. I get caffeine from the pharmacist because coffee and tea upset my stomach now. I used to use aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs, but they caused ulcers.
That is medicine; no problem at all.

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Ben
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Ben » Fri Nov 27, 2015 10:50 pm

samseva wrote:
Ben wrote:With respect, if we use the same logic we can determine that drinking water or the use of nutmeg is a breach of the fifth precept because excessive water consumption and nutmeg can induce intoxication. While we should always be mindful to keep the precepts we should also be mindful not to to fall into hyper-vigilance which has the potential to distort our perceptions and increase the suffering of ourselves and others.
Kind regards,
Ben
For nutmeg I agree, which in moderate to large doses can cause intense psychosis and delirium—no joke. For water, a physically unhealthy excess of anything is not the same as a psychoactive substance, such as caffeine found in coffee (or myristicin in nutmeg). I also didn't directly state that consuming caffeine is breaking the fifth precept, but that consuming it for the sake of the effects of the drug is against the general idea of it.
Well, yes, intention is key.
If one takes anything for the sake of enjoying the intoxicating effect It is a breach of the precept. If however, one is using the same substance to treat a medical condition or some other reason, then no. Hence, the consumption of alcohol is permitted if it is medicinal or as a flavouring in food but not permitted if the consumption is to enjoy it's intoxicating effect.
With regards to caffeinated drinks and confections, it is true that many people consume it to get the 'pick me up' effect of greater alertness and energy. However, does this level of consumption lead to heedlessness? While there may be some people who may abuse caffeine, I think for the vast majority their intention is not one of desiring intoxication.
Kind regards,
Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Fri Nov 27, 2015 11:30 pm

Ben wrote:Well, yes, intention is key.
If one takes anything for the sake of enjoying the intoxicating effect It is a breach of the precept. If however, one is using the same substance to treat a medical condition or some other reason, then no. Hence, the consumption of alcohol is permitted if it is medicinal or as a flavouring in food but not permitted if the consumption is to enjoy it's intoxicating effect.
With regards to caffeinated drinks and confections, it is true that many people consume it to get the 'pick me up' effect of greater alertness and energy. However, does this level of consumption lead to heedlessness? While there may be some people who may abuse caffeine, I think for the vast majority their intention is not one of desiring intoxication.
Kind regards,
Ben
Agreed.

Now onto my pro-caffeine argument, which counterbalances all of this (and might be a relief to some coffee enthusiasts). :smile:

One of the most sought out effects of caffeine is its ability to counter sleepiness. This is due to the fact that caffeine in the brain acts as an antagonist (blocks certain receptors) of a substance called adenosine, which is a purine nucleoside that is released in the body throughout the waking hours. It is what accumulates in the body to then induce sleep. Since caffeine molecules resemble molecules of adenosine, they can attach to adenosine receptors and therefore act as a competitive inhibitor, resulting in temporary suppression of the desire and need for sleep.

This would mean that not only is it not a drug (as a way to speak, since it is still a drug), in the sense that it artificially increases a substance in the body or brain, but that it simply blocks certain molecules that are responsible for inducing sleep.

However, (before anyway heads off to the coffee machine to start another brew) coffee and other similar products contain other psychoactive compounds that are in fact stimulants. Those are what causes the coffee high after a number of cups of coffee or half a bar or so of dark chocolate. They are β-carboline and harmane in coffee, as well as theobromine and phenethylamine in chocolate. So caffeinated products aren't simply adenosine inhibitors, but do contain stimulant compounds.

I think coffee and other caffeine containing products have their occasional use. Especially when you unwantingly need to be productive with very few hours of sleep. It beats having to fight a quasi-zombie state. For daily consumption, in moderate to high amounts (or even the morning coffee to kickstart the day), I think it is somewhat of a crutch, as your body adapts to getting it and expects it. If you were to not drink coffee for a day, you would discover that that is your baseline energy level. Rather than using caffeine as an occasional and useful push, it becomes your new baseline.

Anyway, to each their own. :toast: (caramel coffee lattes)

Pinetree
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Pinetree » Sat Nov 28, 2015 7:43 am

I take 500 mg of caffeine a day for inflammation with other things.
Do you have more information on this topic ? I did a quick search and it some studies show that coffee / caffeine increases inflammation, even thought 1 study seemed to point in the opposite direction.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Nov 29, 2015 7:19 am

If this discussion was posted in the Wellness, Diet & Fitness forum I don't think you would meet with much hostility, but trying to maintain that consuming caffeine is unethical is hard to justify. The way that most coffee and tea drinkers use it doesn't come close to a violation of the precepts. The way that Thai lorry drivers use copious amounts of Red Bull to drive far beyond a safe limit is a different discussion.

Sugar or honey have similar effects to coffee, and these are specifically allowed by the Buddha as seven-day medicines for bhikkhus to use after midday when famished (allowable when sick, not when not sick. In this context, "sick" means unable to dwell without discomfort) The rule was initially made for bhikkhus who were suffering from jaundice and so vomited any food that they took. These medicines are also allowable on occasions of work, going on a journey, etc. Sugar may be taken at any time for any reason if dissolved in water.
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Anagarika
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Anagarika » Sun Nov 29, 2015 1:32 pm

Bhante's comment is excellent, and Ben's above is important, too. We're using the term "breach" here the way the word precept might be used as a "law."
I usually don't think of the precepts in terms of them being laws or regulations. From the Pali, the taking of the precepts is the undertaking of training rules. As Ben pointed out, intention is very important...one person's use of a drug might be very different from the intention of another's use of it ( ie to cause intoxication and the resultant heedlessness, the reason for the training rule in the first place). Rather than ruminating or worrying about whether we "breached a law," or, "sinned," we might consider whether our practice of the precepts ins consistent with the training of our minds, and the elimination of our unskillful behaviors. There may be occasions where we do not keep some of our precepts perfectly...that's OK, so long as we mindfully endeavor to do better, so as to keep our training focused on our development. Don't beat yourself up if you drink a strong cup of coffee in order to stay up late reading, or get a pleasant "buzz" from too much coffee and chocolate.... just measure what you do against how your training on the path is going.

To note, I take the precepts seriously. I feel they should be understood and taken seriously. Yet, the beauty of the Buddhist practice is that we are freed of concepts of sin, or guilt, or "I'm a f##k up, for drinking too much coffee." These precepts keep us on the path, and so long as we see them in this positive light, we needn't worry too much about whether two cups of coffee is the taking of an intoxicant, for example.

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Mon Nov 30, 2015 2:34 am

Like I have mentioned, I don't think consuming coffee violates the fifth precept. I did say however, that consuming caffeinated products with the intention of getting the psychoactive effects go against the general idea or spirit of the precept.

I also gave pro-caffeine arguments about how caffeine functions as an adenosine antagonist, so that this only prevents this substance from inducing sleep, which makes caffeine more as a molecule that blocks a bodily function, therefore not much of a drug. However, there are other molecules that are stimulants.

There are also different degrees of coffee drinkers, from the person who drinks coffee occasionally, people who drink a coffee in the morning, people who drink coffee throughout the day and heavy coffee drinkers.

When it comes to something like coffee and caffeine however, it's important to take into account that after a certain point, without exaggerating, you can become dependent on a substance to maintain a certain state of mind, and that without it your state of mind is very different. This doesn't break the precept, but it is not a pleasant situation to be it at all (also not in line with concepts such as clinging and maintaining non-artificially-induced wholesome states of mind).

I was away from home this weekend. I rarely sleep well in hotel beds and I had to get up early. Listening to a presentation for many hours in a row and without caffeine would have been very difficult. For that, I find that it is very useful and am happy that such a safe and simple substance to counter sleepiness exists. As your daily source of energy (where it basically just depletes your adrenal glands), it is unreliable and causes problems in the long run, as well as dependence.

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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Alexander____ » Mon Nov 30, 2015 7:20 am

samseva wrote: I also gave pro-caffeine arguments about how caffeine functions as an adenosine antagonist, so that this only prevents this substance from inducing sleep, which makes caffeine more as a molecule that blocks a bodily function, therefore not much of a drug. However, there are other molecules that are stimulants.
A drug is not just a molecule that acts as an agonist. For example beta blocker are antagonists. A drug is just a molecule that has a biological effect on the body.

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Tue Dec 01, 2015 4:02 am

Alexander____ wrote:A drug is not just a molecule that acts as an agonist. For example beta blocker are antagonists. A drug is just a molecule that has a biological effect on the body.
What I meant is that since caffeine simply blocks adenosine, the substance that accumulates throughout the day and which causes sleepiness, it isn't a drug in the usual sense of how it is thought of. Not as a chemical substance, but as the other definition; a narcotic. Caffeine simply blocks a compound in the body. It isn't similar to other narcotics where there is a foreign substance that increases a bodily function, such as LSD, cocaine and many other common drugs.

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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Alexander____ » Tue Dec 01, 2015 7:32 am

Ah ok I see where you're coming from. But even if we only look at recreational drugs there are some that block receptors such as ketamine which blocks the NMDA receptor.

However, as you say the end point of many drugs leads to an increase in bodily function. The enzyme which caffeine blocks usually breaks down the chemical messenger adenosine. When that stops being broken down it leads to an increase of said messenger which causes all the effects we are familiar with around the body such as adrenaline increasing the heart rate. So stopping a decrease leads to an increase...

Anyway totally off topic but because of all the cultural attitudes to drugs I think it's good to get the facts straight when it comes down to the pharmacology and physiology!

Drugs to this. Drugs do that. I find that once I really get down to the meditation though these things tend to melt away.

With much metta

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Tue Dec 01, 2015 7:59 am

Alexander____ wrote:The enzyme which caffeine blocks usually breaks down the chemical messenger adenosine. When that stops being broken down it leads to an increase of said messenger which causes all the effects we are familiar with around the body such as adrenaline increasing the heart rate. So stopping a decrease leads to an increase...
Adenosine isn't an enzyme and caffeine doesn't break it down. What happens is that since caffeine resembles adenosine, it attaches to the receptors and therefore prevents adenosine from doing what it does, which is to induce sleepiness.

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subaru
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by subaru » Tue Dec 01, 2015 9:37 am

As far as I know there is no judge or jury to determine if I have broken a precept and punish me for my mistakes.

I do not take illicit drugs therefore I do not know what they will do to my mind... but my interpretation the 5th precept is; everybody's mind and body is different; ie even if I take Cocaine <or substitute with your drug of choice, coffee even> , (and assuming that the law of the land does not punish me hohoho) , I don't consider me breaking the precept if :
1) I have full control of my faculties
2) I do not harm others or myself
3) I am aware and remember what I do, think and say
4) I am able to establish Samadi or Sati or dispel papanca if and when I want to
5) basically function like a sane human being
6) and ofcoz my intention of taking it is not unwholesome


thats my opinion ofcoz, I am NOT advocating taking illicit drugs.. I am not drugged now, and am willing to admit that I am wrong if someone is kind and compassionate enough to show me the correct view, thank you in advanced.. and am fully aware that what I say here, will cause results that I have to reap in the future, no escape hohoho...

there..
:candle:

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Alex123
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Alex123 » Tue May 03, 2016 7:20 pm

Pinetree wrote: I haven't used amphetamine, don't know what effects it has.
Helps to study for the exams, gives desire to vacuum the house, and take out the garbage. Nothing to mention about positive effects with concentration for those suffering with ADHD.


I wonder why there is even a question about coffee? It doesn't do the same thing as alcohol or other serious mood altering drugs. Coffee helps with headache, reduces pain (a little bit), and can help concentration.

Isn't the spirit (as opposed to mere letter) of the 5th precept is to avoid taking those substances that can really mess one up and cause seriously bad negative actions (ex: cause violence or to break other precepts?).
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Tue May 03, 2016 10:01 pm

Alex123 wrote:I wonder why there is even a question about coffee? It doesn't do the same thing as alcohol or other serious mood altering drugs. Coffee helps with headache, reduces pain (a little bit), and can help concentration.

Isn't the spirit (as opposed to mere letter) of the 5th precept is to avoid taking those substances that can really mess one up and cause seriously bad negative actions (ex: cause violence or to break other precepts?).
Because caffeine is a stimulant. You could argue that it actually helps with concentration and so on, but in a way, you could say that large doses of caffeine would have very similar effects as low doses of methamphetamine, or other drugs in the same category. Do we choose to restrain from using the substance or do we regulate the amount that we ingest, in line with the intensity of the resulting effect? What about half a glass of beer? Or chewing on coca leaves—i.e., to get the effects from the small amount of cocaine they would contain?

Furthermore, it artificially or chemically induces a specific state of mind, which I know from experience that in higher amounts does lead to things like restlessness and makes the hindrances more liable to arise. These are all things the fifth precept is there for.

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Tue May 03, 2016 10:27 pm

On a different aspect regarding regular coffee drinkers, the chemically-created states of mind—increased concentration, alertness and so on—are dependent on ingesting the substance that creates these effects. What I often see with regular coffee drinkers is that their normal physical and mental state is maintained by a number of cups of coffee. Without these cups of coffee, they can be sluggish, irritated and so on. This means that their baseline is when they drink coffee, but their normal state, without caffeine, is in the negative. Therefore, to maintain a normal state of mind, by definition, people in this situation are dependent on caffeine, of which provides them with normal energy and focus.

Medium to heavy coffee drinkers won't like to hear this and it might hit a sensitive spot, but I think all this is quite true and factual.

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