Tiramisu and precept breaking

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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samseva
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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by samseva » Mon Jun 06, 2016 5:40 pm

Mr Man wrote:I see the five precepts as the basic moral guidelines for a lay persons (a standard of behaviour) where as the monastic rule is something rather different. I'm not sure if the concept of "transgression" or "being broken" even applies (that is not to say that they should not be upheld though).
There is such a thing as the breaking or transgression of a precept, layperson or monastic.

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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by samseva » Mon Jun 06, 2016 5:46 pm

Mr Man wrote:There is no need for the "Great Standards", which again is something directed to the monastic community, just common sense.
The whole of the Vinaya, most of the Sutta Piṭaka (and basically the Abhidhamma) are directed at monastics. Simply because those teachings were directed at bhikkhus doesn't equal that they are not applicable to laypeople.

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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Jun 06, 2016 7:35 pm

Mr Man wrote: Is there anything in the sutta to suggest that the lay precepts should be paralleled to the monastic rule and maintained in the same way (Tatiyampi)?
I think Ven Dhammanando's post answers that:
Dhammanando wrote: Intention is what makes an action a skilful or an unskilful kamma. But moral restraint in the Vinaya has a much broader scope than just avoiding unskilful kammas. It’s concerned also with the maintenance of communal harmony within the sangha and harmonious relations between sangha and laity.

Certain kinds of action are objectively disruptive of this; that is, the disruption produced is quite independent of the bhikkhu’s intention for doing those actions. The Vinaya rules that prohibit such actions are therefore more likely to be ranked as acittaka than sacittaka (i.e. they’ll be rules where the bhikkhu’s state of mind and motivation is treated as irrelevant).
This suggests that one should not necessarily try to carry over rules intended for monastic communal harmony as guidance for lay people.

Monastics have agreed to live by that particular code, and not following it is a breach of that agreement. This is not the case for lay people, who have not taken up the monastic rules.

:anjali:
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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by Mr Man » Mon Jun 06, 2016 7:58 pm

mikenz66 wrote: I think Ven Dhammanando's post answers that:
Dhammanando wrote: Intention is what makes an action a skilful or an unskilful kamma. But moral restraint in the Vinaya has a much broader scope than just avoiding unskilful kammas. It’s concerned also with the maintenance of communal harmony within the sangha and harmonious relations between sangha and laity.

Certain kinds of action are objectively disruptive of this; that is, the disruption produced is quite independent of the bhikkhu’s intention for doing those actions. The Vinaya rules that prohibit such actions are therefore more likely to be ranked as acittaka than sacittaka (i.e. they’ll be rules where the bhikkhu’s state of mind and motivation is treated as irrelevant).
Yes. I agree.

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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by Dhamma_Basti » Mon Jun 06, 2016 9:01 pm

Mr Man wrote:
samseva wrote:
Mr Man wrote:Is there anything in the sutta to suggest that the lay precepts should be paralleled to the monastic rule and maintained in the same way (Tatiyampi)?
Well, for a monastic, the precepts are of parallel importance. However, having a passage that the lay precepts should be maintained in the same way as the monastic rules would not make much sense at all.

Similarly, the precepts are the most basic moral rules about restricting certain external actions; they can't be completely different or that different simply because they are followed by laypeople (the five lay precepts are the same as half of the monastic precepts as well). So although your question could be of interest, the fact that there would be no such passage wouldn't be revealing of much—i.e., the absence of something isn't necessarily a valid argument that something is false or true.

I see the five precepts as the basic moral guidelines for a lay persons (a standard of behaviour) where as the monastic rule is something rather different. I'm not sure if the concept of "transgression" or "being broken" even applies (that is not to say that they should not be upheld though).

I'm not sure if there would have been a similar desert to Tiramisu in the Buddha's day but if a lay person wishes to eat Tiramisu so be it and if another decides to hold the precepts in such a way that they will not eat Tiramisu so be it. I personally wouldn't see eating Tiramisu as a breaking of the laypersons moral guidelines even if the same actions would be an offence for a bhikhu.
:) Fully agree.
Damien Keown has dealt with the question in detail, I can recommend to have a look at his 'Nature of Buddhist Ethics". Well I have to admit that I do not have time currently to work through his analysis of the vinaya in detail, yet some of his main points I remember are that vinaya rules are taken as a discipline themselves, so practicing mindfulness of this large and complicate set of rules is an exercise on it's own right and not just to be understood as a moral guideline. This aspect is however also not absent in the vinaya, and the rules are to be followed so that monks can set a good (ideally a perfect) example for the community. And of course what Dhammanando says regarding the harmony within the sanga I think fits also in this picture.
From that point of view there is plenty of reason to argue why a monk shouldn't eat tiramisu. Besides that it is flavoured with alcohol it also contains a lot of fat and sugar and the taste can induce a lot of craving. So I think that it is not suitable food to be served in a monastery.

Outside of a monastic context, however, intention becomes a much more deciding factor since we are confronted with situations which we cannot always control to the full extend, where we cannot always know clearly what we consume, what other people offer to us. So intention and mindfullness can be the only yardsticks to measure our moral integrity.
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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by samseva » Mon Jun 06, 2016 11:28 pm

But the 5th precept (as well as 3 of the 4 others) is the exact same thing for both laypeople and monastics.

And, the precept is still:
I undertake the precept to abstain from intoxicating drinks which lead to carelessness.
Surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
The precept isn't "to abstain from intoxicating drinks if or before the amount to be consumed will cause heedlessness". It is "to abstain from intoxicating drinks which lead to carelessness." Whether or not the amount might cause heedlessness is irrelevant; the precept is to abstain for intoxicating drinks ([which are the kind of drinks] which lead to carelessness).

Like Ven. Pesala has said:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The precept is actually: “I undertake the precept to abstain from intoxicants that cause heedlessness.” Whether one becomes intoxicated and heedless or not, the precept is still technically broken.
And Bhikkhu Bodhi:
The precept, it must be stressed, does not prohibit merely intoxication but the very use of intoxicating substances.
Also, if you look at the Chinese precepts, here are two important versions of it:
5. As all Buddhas refrained from alcohol until the end of their lives, so I too will refrain from alcohol until the end of my life.
如诸佛尽寿不饮酒我某甲亦尽寿不饮酒
如諸佛盡壽不飲酒我某甲亦盡壽不飲酒
Treatise on Taking Refuge and the Precepts (归戒要集/歸戒要集)
  • and
"Do not drink alcohol."
Master Yin-Shun (Buddhist monk and scholar)
While I understand the importance of intention, with all this, to still think that some alcohol is fine according to the precepts is simply denial.

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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by samseva » Mon Jun 06, 2016 11:36 pm

Also, if someone wants to eat tiramisu, fine; no problem at all. There isn't enough alcohol in it to cause heedlessness (there is not enough cooking to evaporate the alcohol, as indicated in the tests cited a few posts back) and there is no intention to be intoxicated. There isn't really any wrong done.

But if someone is going to eat tiramisu, he or she shouldn't distort the precept to fit his or her inclination for alcohol-containing desserts (or try to convince others), which is an entirely different thing.

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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by Dan74 » Mon Jun 06, 2016 11:56 pm

I don't know maybe I am not seeing this right, Folks, but I thought most of us here have far greater challenges when it comes to sila, than eating or not eating tiramisu.

I mean, 4 pages and counting. In the meantime, I struggle with things like greed, harsh and untruthful speech, taking what is not mine, being irresponsible, etc etc

Either you guys here are out of my league and I should just slink away quietly, or a lot of time gets wasted on minor things, while the glaring issues go unmentioned.
_/|\_

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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by samseva » Tue Jun 07, 2016 1:01 am

Dan74 wrote:I don't know maybe I am not seeing this right, Folks, but I thought most of us here have far greater challenges when it comes to sila, than eating or not eating tiramisu.

I mean, 4 pages and counting. In the meantime, I struggle with things like greed, harsh and untruthful speech, taking what is not mine, being irresponsible, etc etc

Either you guys here are out of my league and I should just slink away quietly, or a lot of time gets wasted on minor things, while the glaring issues go unmentioned.
I think the clarification of a precept is important.

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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by Dan74 » Tue Jun 07, 2016 1:24 am

samseva wrote:
Dan74 wrote:I don't know maybe I am not seeing this right, Folks, but I thought most of us here have far greater challenges when it comes to sila, than eating or not eating tiramisu.

I mean, 4 pages and counting. In the meantime, I struggle with things like greed, harsh and untruthful speech, taking what is not mine, being irresponsible, etc etc

Either you guys here are out of my league and I should just slink away quietly, or a lot of time gets wasted on minor things, while the glaring issues go unmentioned.
I think the clarification of a precept is important.
OK, so the lack of clarity on tiramisu is your biggest issue as far as sila is concerned? You are doing pretty well, mate!
_/|\_

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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by samseva » Tue Jun 07, 2016 3:39 am

Dan74 wrote:OK, so the lack of clarity on tiramisu is your biggest issue as far as sila is concerned? You are doing pretty well, mate!
No need to be condescending or twist words. The lack of clarity has to do with if a small quantity of alcohol is considered breaking the precept or not.

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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by Dan74 » Tue Jun 07, 2016 4:26 am

samseva wrote:
Dan74 wrote:OK, so the lack of clarity on tiramisu is your biggest issue as far as sila is concerned? You are doing pretty well, mate!
No need to be condescending or twist words. The lack of clarity has to do with if a small quantity of alcohol is considered breaking the precept or not.
Samseva, my intention was to do neither. I respect your respect for the Vinaya. At the same time is all too easy to go down the rabbit-hole of "is it?" "isn't it?" and lose sight of the big picture. If I understand correctly, Vinyana was established as a necessity of maintaining the Sangha in this saha world. Sila, on the other hand is necessary as support for practice as well as to do good and avoid harm. It is about intention and wisdom to discern what is wholesome and what isn't it. Not about rules and technicalities. And this section, after all, is about Sila, is it not? This is my only quibble.
_/|\_

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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Jun 07, 2016 4:50 am

To me, Ven Dhammanado's explanation about how certain things are violations of the vinaya, for community harmony reasons rather than just unskillfulness is an important thing to consider when trying to clarify lay precepts.

Though it seems clear that not knowing the alcohol content of a particular food is not an excuse for monastics, it's not clear why why one needs to be so concerned as a lay person. Presumably the monastic rule makes makes it easy to enforce and is helpful for running the community. However, a lay person isn't part of that community, so this community aspect doesn't really apply.

I wondered why there are other actions which are not offences if the monastic does not do it intentionally. The obvious one is killing. I presume that this be because the drinking offence is minor, requiring only confession, so not having the intention clause there is not an undue hardship, whereas killing a human is an expulsion offence, and it would be rather unreasonable to expel a monastic for an accidentally killing.

In considering these rules it is also worth bearing in mind that for a lay person there are no sanctions for breaking precepts. One doesn't get expelled from anything (at least not in an official way). The precepts are entirely self-regulated.

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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by Dhamma_Basti » Tue Jun 07, 2016 5:21 am

I was just surprised how many people here in the very beginning of the thread agreed to a legalist interpretation of the fifth precept without even discussing about intention as a deciding factor. In my eyes it is very difficult to blame the op from intentionally taking alcohol with the aim of getting intoxicated.
It is of course possible to blame him from not being very mindful, but since there was not intention for intoxication I do not see how the fifth precept is involved here.
I am by the way also not a supporter of the 'one beer in a while is OK as it won't make you heedless'-fraction that Jack Kornfield might be associated with (I am not 100% sure about his position though). I just think that his interpretation has a better base than the legalist one, as he focusses on intention and the mental states resulting from our actions.

By the way, I had the opportunity to discuss this with a chinese vinaya specialist yesterday, and she confirmed me that regarding china in the earlier days the five precepts where understood as based on intention, while this shifted over the time to a legalist interpretation. Today this is reflected by some of the well-known rules such as "don't eat garlic because one does not eat garlic" (this even became a lay precept and is not limited to the monastic setting). The reason why got lost here many times, at the same time chinese buddhism is also unique in that it introduced severe punishment for people breaking the precepts in a monastic setting. So there are for example monks who got expelled from the community after eating garlic.

Tantric buddhism on the other hand took a different route, where alcohol is used in rituals and meditation practice at higher stages in order to get rid of the Sthaviravāda-stiffness that is a potencial flaw when we stress the precepts too far and loose the meaning of their initial purpose. The reason why I say that 'a little bit of alcohol is ok since it is not the alcohol that is evil, but the mental state that it produces' is very much influenced by the tantric position, as they are trying to get rid of the madness of purity that was present in indian buddhism (but also in other ascetic movements) at that time. If we stretch things too far, there is a danger of loosing the point. I am, of course, aware that this point of view is not supported by the pāli commentary tradition, yet at the same time I never claimed that.
But of course, I won't expect anybody here to agree to my point of view as I am aware that it lies outside of the Theravāda mainstream.
Yet I think such a discussion can be very helpful to clearify the details of how the precepts work and how they relate to the vinaya and so far, I learned a lot here and I am very grateful to hear your positions and arguments. :)
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Re: Tiramisu and precept breaking

Post by Dhammanando » Tue Jun 07, 2016 6:40 am

mikenz66 wrote:I wondered why there are other actions which are not offences if the monastic does not do it intentionally. The obvious one is killing. I presume that this be because the drinking offence is minor, requiring only confession, so not having the intention clause there is not an undue hardship, whereas killing a human is an expulsion offence, and it would be rather unreasonable to expel a monastic for an accidentally killing.
Though the Buddha never gives any justification for making some rules acittaka and other sacittaka, one can discern a number of patterns:

1. If the prohibited action is one that will invariably be an unskilful kamma (i.e. it's an action that could only be performed with a defiled state of mind), then it will always be a sacittaka rule. E.g., the prohibitions against killing, stealing, false speech, divisive speech, etc.

2. If the prohibited action is one that is not necessarily an unskilful kamma but its performance is contrary to how householders think an ascetic should behave and will run the risk of provoking scandal, then in most cases it will be acittaka. E.g., talking alone with a woman, acting as a matchmaker to bring a couple together.

3. In some cases making a rule acittaka might be most plausibly explained with reference to the Sutta passage where the Buddha states that the purpose of the Vinaya is to serve as a foundation for the development the four satipaṭṭhānas. That is to say, if a bhikkhu knows that the action in question will be an offence whether he intended it or not, then he will be circumspect about coming anywhere close to doing it. E.g., the fact that the rules about eating food at the wrong time or taking alcohol are both acittaka compels a scrupulous bhikkhu to be mindful about what he puts into his mouth.

Ajahn Thanissaro remarks on the distinction:
Pv.VI.4, in reviewing the Vibhaṅga’s five factors for analyzing offenses, devises a number of categories for classifying offenses, the most important being the distinction between rules carrying a penalty only when broken intentionally through correct perception (sacittaka), and those carrying a penalty even when broken unintentionally or through misperception (acittaka).

Although it may seem harsh to impose penalties for unintentional actions, we must again reflect on the state of mind that leads to such actions. In some acts, of course, the intention makes all the difference between guilt and innocence. Taking an article with intent to return it, for example, is something else entirely from taking it with intent to steal. There are, however, other acts with damaging consequences that, when performed unintentionally, reveal carelessness and lack of circumspection in areas where a person may reasonably be held responsible. Many of the rules dealing with the proper care of Community property and one’s basic requisites fall in this category. Except for one very unlikely situation, though, none of the major rules carry a penalty if broken unintentionally, while the minor rules that do carry such penalties may be regarded as useful lessons in mindfulness.
(Monastic Code, vol.I, ch. 1)
The "very unlikely situation" he refers to concerns a breach of the fifth saṅghādisesa rule, a prohibition against acting as a matchmaker. Breaking a saṅghādisesa is the next worst thing after committing a defeating offence. Twelve of the thirteen saṅghādisesa rules are sacittaka, but matchmaking is acittaka and the rule prohibiting it can be accidentally broken even by an arahant. The "very unlikely situation" is one related in Buddhaghosa's Vinaya Commentary where an arahant bhikkhu hears that his parents have become estranged and makes efforts to reconcile them (this is something the Vinaya permits). But unbeknownst to the bhikkhu, his parents have in fact already divorced and so his efforts to get them back together technically amount to matchmaking. Since this rule is acittaka the bhikkhu's ignorance of his parents' true state doesn't excuse him and so he has to confess a saṅghādisesa and do a six-day penance for it.

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