Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

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

Post by samseva » Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:07 pm

Most people drink coffee and half of the people who eat chocolate do so because they contain caffeine, which is in fact a drug. Compared to other drugs, such as alcohol, cannabis, opioids, psychedelics and so on, caffeine is a psychoactive drug that has a small to moderate stimulating effect, which has its benefits—mostly of counteracting sleepiness, as well as increasing alertness and cognitive performance.

With the fifth precept and the specific effect of the drug, it is somewhat ambiguous. The Pāḷi and the translation of the precept is:
Surāmeraya majja pamādaṭṭhānā sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi
I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from intoxicating drinks and drugs causing heedlessness.
Note that it is mentioned "causing heedlessness". Caffeine, especially at certain occasions, does quite the opposite.

- Would it therefore be fine, since it doesn't cause heedlessness (rhetorical question)?
- If someone were to agree, why couldn't chewing on coca leaves (used for making cocaine, but contains little of the active drug) be fine? What about smart drugs/nootropics?
- And even if it does not cause heedlessness, does it go against the general spirit of the precept?

Another thing I understand about caffeine is that if someone consumes it every day, he feels energetic and normal, but in reality, if he were to not drink his daily coffee, he would be mentally sluggish and "in the negative", so to speak. To feel normal, as if he were healthy and not consuming caffeine, he needs his daily dose of the drug. Is he dependent on caffeine to feel normal, therefore addicted, in a way?

How do you see caffeine? How is it seen in the monastic community?

NOTE: I know that coffee and chocolate don't break the fifth precept. Since with caffeinated products, it is a peculiar situation, it simply could be an interesting topic of discussion.
Last edited by samseva on Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.

SarathW
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by SarathW » Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:15 pm

It is the gradual training.
Lay people are taking the 5th precept only to refrain from taking alcohol. (or any substitutes)
When the person progress he may even refrain taking tea, coffee and chocolate.
Monks are required to observe refrain even when they take medicine.
Don't be too hard or too soft on the precepts.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Ben
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Ben » Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:39 pm

Sam,
drinking tea and coffee doesn't break the fifth precept because they are not intoxicating. However, if one is extremely sensitive to it then best not to take it.
Before I go on retreat I will wean myself from caffeinated drinks as I find my samadhi is better without it.
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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:59 pm

Ben wrote:drinking tea and coffee doesn't break the fifth precept because they are not intoxicating.
SarathW wrote:Don't be too hard or too soft on the precepts.
I know it isn't breaking the precept. It's just that it is a peculiar situation that would be an interesting topic of discussion. In hindsight, it wasn't so clear, though.
Last edited by samseva on Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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seeker242
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by seeker242 » Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:03 pm

Some monks drink coffee. I don't think coffee or chocolate are related to the precepts. But, if you drink a whole pot of coffee every day, that can't exactly be called good!

:meditate:

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

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:06 pm

In the Thai Forest Tradition, coffee and chocolate are used extensively to coerce monks and others into doing hard physical labour that they might otherwise try to avoid.

I use tea and coffee regularly to stimulate mental activity. It's not helpful for meditation practice, except in small doses — say two or three cups per day. I normally drink five or six cups of tea or coffee. I find it helpful for any kind of writing or discussion.

Coffee seems to have a quicker effect, while the effect from tea is longer lasting.
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by DNS » Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:47 pm

Coffee has about 150 mg per cup
Tea has about 50 mg per cup
Green / jasmine has about 30 mg per cup
Chocolate has about 25 mg per quarter cup

Tea and chocolate not so bad, not as much as coffee and caffeinated soft drinks.

Mayo Clinic caffeine amounts

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Wed Nov 25, 2015 12:41 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Chocolate has about 25 mg per quarter cup
I was mostly talking about dark chocolate.

75% dark chocolate has 149mg/100g. That's 14.9mg per piece.
David N. Snyder wrote:Coffee has about 150 mg per cup
If you do the average from the Mayo Clinic website (which is not that reliable in the first place, just as a heads up) you get that amount, but that is too high.

1 cup (8 fl oz/236ml)
McDonald's, 67mg
USDA, 94.8mg
Dunkin' Donuts, 102mg
Tim Horton's, 112mg
Starbucks, 175mg

Average: 110mg

Black tea has between 30 and 80mg.
Green tea has between 35 and 60mg.
A Coke or Pepsi has about 24mg.

http://www.cspinet.org/new/cafchart.htm

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Anagarika
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Anagarika » Wed Nov 25, 2015 2:23 am

When I was a samanera in Thailand, instant coffee at night was the difference between being distracted by hunger (having eaten last at 11 am) and not being hungry at night during the chanting and, later, interesting discussions that took place among the folks at the wat before retiring to sleep.

Pinetree
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Pinetree » Wed Nov 25, 2015 5:46 am

If someone were to agree, why couldn't chewing on coca leaves (used for making cocaine, but contains little of the active drug) be fine? What about smart drugs/nootropics?
Do note that the quantity is not relevant. The precept is not abstaining form too much alcohol.

The precept is a line that should not be crossed.

Addiction isn't the point, because anything causes addiction. Samsara does.

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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Alexander____ » Wed Nov 25, 2015 7:10 am

Well there's no getting away from the fact that caffeine is a drug with mental and physical effects including tolerance and addiction. Different people are affected to different degrees. I once had a very learned doctor colleague tell me that caffeine has been shown to be one of the most addictive drugs.

However, drug seeking behaviour isn't too damaging to oneself or society around us given that caffeine is both legal and incredibly widely available. I think it's a fair comparison to make to refined sugar really which I'd probably classify as a drug too.

The mental affects are mainly what we're interested in here. Does it lead to headlessness? I find it does for me, I've been weaning myself off and see how my mind reacts when I am experiencing phsyical and mental withdrawal, I see the cravings, the irritability and the temporary satisfaction I get from yielding to them.

I'm down to two cups of tea a day now and will go cold turkey from January.

I know most people have no problem with caffeine and I expect sensitivity is an issue here. But as I started with, it is an addictive drug so see that as you will...

One angle that I have wondered for a while is what about drugs that supposedly do not lead to headlessness. There are many proponents of psychedelics who would argue this as it can lead to right view.

Pinetree
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Pinetree » Wed Nov 25, 2015 8:45 am

Does it lead to headlessness? I find it does for me, I've been weaning myself off and see how my mind reacts when I am experiencing phsyical and mental withdrawal, I see the cravings, the irritability and the temporary satisfaction I get from yielding to them.
That's how I feel when I'm hungry and in my understanding that's not heedlessness :P

That is impermanence, suffering and nonself. Just be mindful about those and you're close to enlightenment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0RU0zZqPtk" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I think it's a fair comparison to make to refined sugar really which I'd probably classify as a drug too.
Except that sugar is food. And the effect of sugar is similar to fruit juice.

Yes, the later has vitamins and minerals, but I mean in terms of addiction.

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:19 pm

Pinetree wrote:Do note that the quantity is not relevant. The precept is not abstaining form too much alcohol.

The precept is a line that should not be crossed.

Addiction isn't the point, because anything causes addiction. Samsara does.
I'm not completely following you here. So you are saying that quantity is irrelevant? That the precept is to abstain from too much alcohol, or any quantity of alcohol?

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:26 pm

Alexander____ wrote:I think it's a fair comparison to make to refined sugar really which I'd probably classify as a drug too.
Refined sugar is just pure glucose and fructose (what the body uses for energy), which has a short-lived energizing effect due to the increase of blood sugar.

Refined sugar is like jet fuel for the body.

Pinetree
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Pinetree » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:34 pm

I'm not completely following you here. So you are saying that quantity is irrelevant? That the precept is to abstain from too much alcohol, or any quantity of alcohol?
I mean even drinking a little alcohol is breaking the precept.

So even eating a little cocaine from leaves would be.

Irrelevant in this sense. Of course, the consequences for the body would differ.

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