The 5th precept in deep detail.

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Pumo
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The 5th precept in deep detail.

Postby Pumo » Wed Mar 16, 2016 4:01 am

So I would like to know more (and specifically) about what can be considered as an Intoxicant, according to the precept.
I know that alcohol and recreational drugs have a very clear position regarding the precept (at least that's how I perceive it) but what about the next ones?

Coffee & Tea
:
Both has Caffeine, and it is an intoxicant that affects the status of mind (i.e. it can cause anxiety, increased libido, etc)

Chocolate:

It has Theobromine. However, it doesn't causes the negavite effects of Caffeine, just makes you happier.

Sugar Excess:
Can cause hyper-activity, and moments later some laziness.

Prescription Psychiatric Drugs (Antidepressants, Antipsychothics, Anxyolitics, Sedatives, etc):

Although needed for psycho/psychiatric conditions, they can alter consciousness & perception (most of the time for the better, but still...) and can also cause laziness.
I'm very interested on this one, as I'm diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder and I'm taking Clomipramine (A Tryciclic Antidepressant) and Clonazepam (A Benzodiazepine) on a daily basis (although I'm about to drop the Clonazepam, according to my recent prescription).

'Light' Alcoholic Beverages:
As I said eariler, I know that alcohol is the main intoxicant adressed on the precept.
But what about Beer or Wine, that are more or less low on alcohol content (unlike liquors and spirits), and when taken in moderation and with food?
It's against the precept when you take a small cup of wine while eating some cheesse and bread, or when you take half of a cup of beer with some pizza? :toast:
I ask this as that's a gastronomical custom I have from time to time, specially on family reunions.
Note however, that I've never, ever got drunk in my life, as I take too low dosages of alcohol due to my gastritis and my manners.
(Anyway, as for now, I can't take alcohol at all, due to my medication :tongue: ).
'may all beings be happy at heart.' - Karaniya Metta Sutta :buddha1:

dagon
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Re: The 5th precept in deep detail.

Postby dagon » Wed Mar 16, 2016 5:02 am

Alcohol is Alcohol

Prescription medication that is properly prescribed where the person has applied the 4 precept in reporting symptoms is medication. If you are concerned then you can discuses alternative treatments of adjunct therapies which in some case may allow the dose to be reduced by the doctor.

metta

Pinetree
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Re: The 5th precept in deep detail.

Postby Pinetree » Wed Mar 16, 2016 6:41 am

There is a comprehensive discussion about coffee (and some of it applies to sugar and chocolate).

viewtopic.php?f=42&t=25175

About prescription medication, the discussion is more complicated.

I also suffer from anxiety and went to a psychiatrist who at the end of the consultation asked me if I would like to have a prescription for anxiolitic medication. And my answer was: "Not really", and that was it. And I think this raises an important point - often, the doctor ultimately prescribes a medication because the patient asks him to. By the way, this apparently is largely influenced by culture - in certain countries, more than in others, there is the expectation / assumption that if you walk into a doctors office, you should exit with a prescription in your hands.

Some teachers, especially in Asia advise against using these drugs, but I don't know if it's on grounds of the 5th precept (or even refuse to teach meditation courses to students who would take psychiatric drugs during the course). I heard from a teacher saying that there may be a problem with the reason/desire/motivation for taking these drugs, related to the unwillingness to learn to live with the discomfort caused by the respective psychiatric condition.

And I think this is an important point: what is the reason behind taking certain medication ? Why do I think I need to take the medication ? Why does the doctor think that I need to take the medication ?

Personally, I believe that in cases / situations / contexts where the psychiatric condition does not pose risk to the life and health of oneself and others, exploring how the life is while not taking medication is a valid option. At least for sometimes or for a certain period of time.

But I don't think psychiatric drugs violate the 5th precept, unless they are used beyond prescribed amounts, in dosages that would actually cause intoxication/heedlessness.

Finally, to add further nuances, it's not only about the substance that is in a certain drug. Simply drinking slowly a glass of warm water will have a measurable degree of anxiolitic effect. Also, fruit contains about 1% alcohol (just the normal fruits we eat - probably some a little more, some less, don't know exactly). Also, I believe alcohol is allowed per the 5th precept, if it's part of a prescribed medicine, such as taking a herbal tincture.
Last edited by Pinetree on Wed Mar 16, 2016 8:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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samseva
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Re: The 5th precept in deep detail.

Postby samseva » Wed Mar 16, 2016 7:03 am

Pumo wrote:
Coffee & Tea
:
Both has Caffeine, and it is an intoxicant that affects the status of mind (i.e. it can cause anxiety, increased libido, etc)

Chocolate:

It has Theobromine. However, it doesn't causes the negavite effects of Caffeine, just makes you happier.

Read the thread Pinetree posted. It covers the topic through and through, I think.

Pumo wrote:Sugar Excess:
Can cause hyper-activity, and moments later some laziness.

Hyper-activity caused by sugar excess is not a drug (in the regular sense of the word) since it is only the body that has a sudden and sharp increase in energy due to a large amount of sugar consumed.

Pumo wrote:Prescription Psychiatric Drugs (Antidepressants, Antipsychothics, Anxyolitics, Sedatives, etc):
Although needed for psycho/psychiatric conditions, they can alter consciousness & perception (most of the time for the better, but still...) and can also cause laziness.
I'm very interested on this one, as I'm diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder and I'm taking Clomipramine (A Tryciclic Antidepressant) and Clonazepam (A Benzodiazepine) on a daily basis (although I'm about to drop the Clonazepam, according to my recent prescription).

Medication. Some opinions differ, although those are considered very strict (and nothing to worry about at all).

Pumo wrote:'Light' Alcoholic Beverages:
As I said eariler, I know that alcohol is the main intoxicant adressed on the precept.
But what about Beer or Wine, that are more or less low on alcohol content (unlike liquors and spirits), and when taken in moderation and with food?
It's against the precept when you take a small cup of wine while eating some cheesse and bread, or when you take half of a cup of beer with some pizza? :toast:
I ask this as that's a gastronomical custom I have from time to time, specially on family reunions.
Note however, that I've never, ever got drunk in my life, as I take too low dosages of alcohol due to my gastritis and my manners.
(Anyway, as for now, I can't take alcohol at all, due to my medication :tongue: ).

If you take any of the teachings (for monks and laymen) or the Vinaya rules regarding alcohol as an example, it is very clear that consuming any amount of alcohol is considered ingesting an intoxicant and a breach of the precept.

It is better that way, I think. There is a very clear-cut boundary of what is and is not acceptable, making the precept much more simple and easy to follow.

dagon
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Re: The 5th precept in deep detail.

Postby dagon » Wed Mar 16, 2016 7:34 am

Pine tree said

I also suffer from anxiety and went to a psychiatrist who at the end of the consultation asked me if I would like to have a prescription for anxiolitic medication. And my answer was: "Not really", and that was it. And I think this raises an important point - often, the doctor ultimately prescribes a medication because the patient asks him to. By the way, this apparently is largely influenced by culture - in certain countries, more than in others, there is the expectation / assumption that if you walk into a doctors office, you should exit with a prescription in your hands.


If a doctor gives you a prescription just because you asked (as opposed to being required) you have a bad doctor and would be advise to change doctors.
If a good doctor asked if you would like to have a prescription it is because the situation is borderline. However often in the case of psychiatric medication the risk of a patient starting medication and stopping it without supervision is higher than taking no medication. This risks have the potential of being life threatening.

Some teachers, especially in Asia advise against using these drugs, but I don't know if it's on grounds of the 5th precept (or even refuse to teach meditation courses to students who would take psychiatric drugs during the course). I heard from a teacher saying that there may be a problem with the reason/desire/motivation for taking these drugs, related to the unwillingness to learn to live with the discomfort caused by the respective psychiatric condition.

And I think this is an important point: what is the reason behind taking certain medication ? Why do I think I need to take the medication ? Why does the doctor think that I need to take the medication ?


Those questions should be asked about any prescription. Then I would advise that you ask the dispensing pharmacist to check the medication for conflicts with any other medication you maybe taking.

Personally, I believe that in cases / situations / contexts where the psychiatric condition does not pose risk to the life and health of oneself and others, exploring how the life is while not taking medication is a valid option. At least for sometimes or for a certain period of time.


That issue should be discussed with your doctor before you try and experiment.

metta
dagon

Pinetree
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Re: The 5th precept in deep detail.

Postby Pinetree » Wed Mar 16, 2016 8:35 am

If a doctor gives you a prescription just because you asked (as opposed to being required) you have a bad doctor and would be advise to change doctors.


Depending on what that means, I agree and disagree.

1. If a doctor is prescribing me whatever I ask him to, I agree.

2. If you imply that a certain medical condition or state of health requires or compels for a certain prescription to be followed, I disagree.

Ideally, I would like for my doctor to be a health adviser, as in they should help me make informed decisions about my health.

Or more specifically, to inform me what are the benefits/advantages/gains and side effects/disadvantages/risks of taking a certain medication or another medication or no medication at all.

Or as you very well pointed out, the implications of starting and stopping a certain medication.

So a doctor should never give me a prescription just because I suffer from a certain condition. Or my health state is this or that.

Of course, this ideal situation is difficult to be found, especially for public healthcare, so what I'm saying here may just be a theoretical point of reference.

And I think this is an important point: what is the reason behind taking certain medication ? Why do I think I need to take the medication ? Why does the doctor think that I need to take the medication ?


Those questions should be asked about any prescription. Then I would advise that you ask the dispensing pharmacist to check the medication for conflicts with any other medication you maybe taking.



Yes, certainly, but my point is that we should allow for other factors to weigh in, besides strictly the medical and health reasons. Such as lifestyle choices, cultural and religious beliefs, etc. And also medical and health considerations under a wider and more comprehensive approach.

To take just a single example, there is a weight loss thread where we are discussing that certain patients who correctly follow a prescribed weight loss diet, may in fact indirectly sabotage their health and ability to lose weight, because of consequences of mental stress caused by the "treatment".

Because, ultimately, there can be many reasons, not all health related for any decision, including that to take or not to take a certain medication.

And this is a reality that for all involved parties is useful to accept, instead of assuming that a close to 100% compliance to treatment is to be expected or desired.

dagon
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Re: The 5th precept in deep detail.

Postby dagon » Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:09 am

I my view the 5 Precept is possible the most important precept for most Buddhist because breaches of the precept are so often the precursor to breaches of the other precepts.Equally I believe that medical allowances are equally important.

To illustrate the point (and wisdom of the dhamma) back in 1988 when I was working for corrective services 85% of the inmates were imprisoned for drug and drug related offences. At the same time about 10% were there as a result of behaviour who's real cause was psychiatric disorders (it has increased from 5% following the partial implementation of the Richmond Report) most of this group was not on prescribed medication or had not been diagnosed prior to the "offences".

Encouraging people to accept the gift of the precepts is one of the most compassionate thing we can do for anyone.

However when someone presents with a psychiatric disorder we should follow the advice to consider our words before , during and after delivery. We need to realise that we do not know their circumstances or how they might interpret what we say. The danger is often that we project our personal or professional experiences on to the situation of other people. This is almost the same as saying that all people presenting in a particular situation have the same karma.

Buddhist ethics have been summarised by some as "do not harm to others", "do no harm to yourself". If we give uninformed advice that causes harm to others then we may well have breached both of these basic principles.

The realities of mental health care is that it is chronically under funded and resources. Reaching out to these people with kindness and compassion is something that can help both parties. The basic policy of DW as I understand it that we encourage people to remain in contact and/or seek what ever supports them have in their communities.

For most people following the N8FP can reduce the suffering in this life as well as what ever may come afterwards. Telling someone (or having them interpret or word that way) that they should abandon exist supports and rely on the dhamma at this point in time is questionable. It is like telling a man dying of thirst that there is a beautiful fresh water spring 10 miles away when the is a tap of town water just off to one side.

Medication of any sort should be given at the lowest effective dose for the minimum amount of time necessary. Where ever possible it should be given along with what ever adjunct therapies are available. The gift of the dhamma through mediation, mindfulness in daily life and ultimately the understand provided by the Four Noble Truths is immeasurable. However some people need medication to assist them, which maybe short term or ongoing. Attempts to dogmatically assert the 5 Precept outside of the content of the whole teaching is not what I understand the Buddha taught.

metta
dagon

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Re: The 5th precept in deep detail.

Postby seeker242 » Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:55 am

Pumo wrote:Prescription Psychiatric Drugs (Antidepressants, Antipsychothics, Anxyolitics, Sedatives, etc):[/b]
Although needed for psycho/psychiatric conditions, they can alter consciousness & perception (most of the time for the better, but still...) and can also cause laziness.
I'm very interested on this one, as I'm diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder and I'm taking Clomipramine (A Tryciclic Antidepressant) and Clonazepam (A Benzodiazepine) on a daily basis (although I'm about to drop the Clonazepam, according to my recent prescription).



Which would be more disturbing to one's mind? Taking medication that one needs and a Doctor has prescribed? Or not taking medication that one needs? The latter would be more disturbing! To allow one's mind to be more disturbed, in order to keep the precept...well, that doesn't make any sense!

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Pumo
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Re: The 5th precept in deep detail.

Postby Pumo » Wed Mar 16, 2016 7:37 pm

seeker242 wrote:Which would be more disturbing to one's mind? Taking medication that one needs and a Doctor has prescribed? Or not taking medication that one needs? The latter would be more disturbing! To allow one's mind to be more disturbed, in order to keep the precept...well, that doesn't make any sense!


I agree with that, specially cases like mine, as I will expose now.

As some pointed out, I can also agree that a physician that gives medication just because you ask for it, has not enough medical ethics.
In my case, I didn't really asked for it, as it was more or less an emergency situation:

I got on a period of hyper-anxiety with obsessive thoughts and events that were diminishing the clearness of my mind and thus my overall conscience.
I was not eating nor sleeping due the intense fear-driven thoughts, and I was getting severe panic attacks almost daily.

So at the hospital where I get treatment for many of my problems, they sent me urgently to a psychiatrist.
The psychiatrist told me that I needed a long treatment that includes both medication and psychological advice, as I'm a sufferer of anxiety disorders since my childhood, and never ever got a treatment for it.

The psychiatrist asked me was if I was OK with taking the treatment and follow it with discipline.
I was feeling so ill, so I totally accepted it, and I must say, since I'm taking the treatment I'm feeling much, much better.
My life returned more or less to its normal pace (except for the added laziness, specially due to the Clonazepam), and it's helping me to focus on my social relations, my job and my Buddhist practice. I can even meditate better.

Today I'm finally droping the Clonazepam, but the Clomipramine is a must for some time, according to my prescription, and can't be dropped as it can have some very bad withdrawal symptoms. In fact, to bring more chemical balance to my brain, I might get a slightly higher dose of it on the next month, according to my psychiatrist.

IMHO, in a case like this, the prescription drugs can actually help to really focus more on the precepts, as the consciousness is clear. :meditate:

dagon wrote:
Some teachers, especially in Asia advise against using these drugs, but I don't know if it's on grounds of the 5th precept (or even refuse to teach meditation courses to students who would take psychiatric drugs during the course). I heard from a teacher saying that there may be a problem with the reason/desire/motivation for taking these drugs, related to the unwillingness to learn to live with the discomfort caused by the respective psychiatric condition.

And I think this is an important point: what is the reason behind taking certain medication ? Why do I think I need to take the medication ? Why does the doctor think that I need to take the medication ?


Those questions should be asked about any prescription. Then I would advise that you ask the dispensing pharmacist to check the medication for conflicts with any other medication you maybe taking.

Personally, I believe that in cases / situations / contexts where the psychiatric condition does not pose risk to the life and health of oneself and others, exploring how the life is while not taking medication is a valid option. At least for sometimes or for a certain period of time.


That issue should be discussed with your doctor before you try and experiment.

metta
dagon


I got my time to think about my reasons to have a treatment and why the psychiatrist was suggesting me that specific treatment (specially as I made research about the drugs I'm taking).

And as Dagon said, that's something we should do everytime a physician is prescribing something to us. It's very important to think in the consecuences and the outcome (both positive an negative) a treatment can have over our health, and to really talk with our doctor about that.
And I can also say this with my long experience on treatments, as I even was a cancer patient that got Chemo and Radiotherapy some years ago.

samseva wrote:If you take any of the teachings (for monks and laymen) or the Vinaya rules regarding alcohol as an example, it is very clear that consuming any amount of alcohol is considered ingesting an intoxicant and a breach of the precept.

It is better that way, I think. There is a very clear-cut boundary of what is and is not acceptable, making the precept much more simple and easy to follow.


Indeed. The more I think about the ingest of alcohol and the harms it produces, the more I'm feeling it's better to not ingest any alcohol at all.
In my case, I think I can have more than a reason to drop alcohol:
My chronic gastritis, a period of high lipid concentrations on the liver I had, the interactions with my medication, the alteration it causes on the mind and the observation of the 5th Precept as part of my Buddhist practice.
'may all beings be happy at heart.' - Karaniya Metta Sutta :buddha1:

garygpelow
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Re: The 5th precept in deep detail.

Postby garygpelow » Mon Jan 02, 2017 11:12 pm

I am a paranoid schizophrenic, a very different situation than depression or anxiety, I am a Mahayana Buddhist, however being a Buddhist does not, can not, control violent, psychotic, delusional paranoia. Regardless of the fifth precept in Buddhism and how it is interpreted by any given Buddhist, we live in the twenty first century, to even suggest a severely mentally ill psychotic people :buddha1: to go off medication because of Buddhist philosophy is the height of irresponsibility and a recipe for unnecesary psychotic violence, To not use technology of medicine in psychiatry is like saying do not use any tools of modern times. Do you have a smart phone? Do you have a computer? Do you drive a car? Do you use text messaging? And yes psychiatric drugs do not CURE mental illness, but that is true of many physical problems and medicine as well.

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Re: The 5th precept in deep detail.

Postby JMGinPDX » Thu Jan 05, 2017 8:14 pm

With all due respect, this all seems like much ado about nothing.

The purpose of the Precepts as I understand them is to provide a basic moral and ethical base that prevents us from harming others or ourselves, which then gives us the mental and emotional relief fundamental to attain higher states of samadhi (e.g. if you're worrying about an illicit affair or feeling guilt for stealing from your company or your mind is clouded by substance abuse, you won't be able to get past the hindrances and and get into states of samatha and vipassana).

Since the 5th Precept is clearly designed to act as a support to the other four, I don't see why we need to focus on specific substances and fret over or debate the relative morality of each.

Is drinking coffee or tea a slippery slope to breaking a precept?
Eating chocolate?
Taking prescription drugs as prescribed by a medical expert?
Of course not. So debating the relative ethical use of each is rather silly, I think.

(Unless you're referring to "death by chocolate" and that's a whole other thing I suppose :jumping:)

Alcohol and drugs are clearly designed solely to put one in an altered mental state, where it is difficult if not impossible to have the necessary mindfulness to keep the precepts.
Prescription drugs that are being abused for the sake of achieving an altered mental state would qualify as well. And sometimes, in some areas, the lines between those two is blurred (i.e. medical vs. recreational marijuana use).

But the point remains that it's not the substance that's the problem, it's the motivation for using the substance and the damaging outcomes of the substance use that are the problem, and that are the point of the Precept.
Focusing only on the substance itself is a clear case of not seeing the forest for the trees, it seems.


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