Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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yuttadhammo
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by yuttadhammo » Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:12 am

More Pali, just in case :)
majjanti tadubhayameva madaniyaṭṭhena majjaṃ, yaṃ vā panaññampi kiñci atthi madaniyaṃ, yena pītena matto hoti pamatto, idaṃ vuccati majjaṃ.
The meaning of "majja" is: the very pair of those (surā and meraya) are "majja" in the sense of being intoxicants, or whatever other substance there is that is an intoxicant, by the drinking of which one is intoxicated and heedless, this is called "majja".
pamādaṭṭhānanti yāya cetanāya taṃ pivati ajjhoharati, sā cetanā madappamādahetuto pamādaṭṭhānanti vuccati, yato ajjhoharaṇādhippāyena kāyadvārappavattā surāmerayamajjānaṃ ajjhoharaṇacetanā "surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhāna"nti veditabbā.
The meaning of "pamādaṭṭhāna" is: by whatever intention one drinks them, swallows them, that intention is called "pamādaṭṭhāna" through being a cause for intoxication and heedlessness. From the passing through the bodily orifice due to the purposeful swallowing, the intention in swallowing surā and meraya should be understood as "surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhāna".

-- KN KhP 2. sikkhāpadavaṇṇanā purimapañcasikkhāpadavaṇṇanā
Hope I got the translation right.

In light of this, I think it would be also wrong to advise any medicine causing intoxication be taken by those keeping this precept. The allowance for monks specifically states, as quoted twice now, that alcohol-based medicine is for use only as long as "na vaṇṇo na gandho na raso paññāyati" - the colour, smell and taste are not evident (Mahāvagga VI.14.1), meaning that at the time of taking there is no alcohol left (it having evapourated). What's funny is that, according to Thanissaro, "from this point, the Vinaya-mukha argues that morphine and other narcotics used as pain killers are allowable as well."

I don't have the Vinaya mukha (a Thai summary of and commentary on the Vinaya) handy, but it hardly seems to follow; the reason for the Buddha disallowing colour, smell and taste of alcohol is obviously not because of the colour, smell and taste themselves, but because of his immediately preceding injunction: "na, bhikkhave, atipakkhittamajjaṃ telaṃ pātabbaṃ." Which means, "oil with excess majja mixed in is not to be ingested." Here the medicine is the oil, not the majja - the latter being simply a necessary ingredient in the cooking (pāka) process that evapourates by the end, so the only way this could suggest allowing morphine is in regards to a case where morphine was a necessary part of the mixing process of a different nonintoxicating medicine, through which process the morphine was rendered impotent.

On a path where death is to be faced with courage, where is the room for painkillers to dull sickness, let alone a glass of sherry to dull anxiety?

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by Sanghamitta » Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:46 am

And there's the rub Bhante.....you are assuming that you know why another person who you do not know would have a glass of sherry..as an anxiolytic. The reality for people of a certain age who have had a glass of sherry on occasion over a long period is that is that the amount of alcohol would have a negligible effect on their metabolism which has long ago adapted to that intake.
I dont drink coffee, on the rare occasions when I do I experience an elevated pulse rate. Someone who drinks coffee on a regular basis, even if they stop for periods , for example when on retreat, are likely to experience no discernable physiological response at all.
Please lets not assume a knowledge of psychopharmacology that we may not have in order to make a point.
Young people in social situations and perhaps some older people may well use alcohol as a disinhibitor. That however does not cover all the uses of alcohol in differing subjects in a variety of contexts.

It still comes down in my view to the same principle, lets worry about what we do. Not about what she/he does.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by mettafuture » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:27 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:It still comes down in my view to the same principle, lets worry about what we do. Not about what she/he does.
This thread isn't about getting in people's personal business. It's about whether or not the 5th precept, when undertaken, leaves room for moderate drinking. In conclusion, it doesn't.

If one chooses to undertake the 5th precept, and yet continues to go out on Friday nights for alcohol, they're basically saying "I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness. Now let's go out and have a beer!"

Everyone here is free to do whatever want. It's not any of my business, or the business of anyone else. But if you want to be honest with yourself, you shouldn't undertake the 5th precept until you're at least willing to give up drinking for the sake of drinking. There are still a lot of other excellent teachings to practice contemplate. The Buddha did teach a gradual training after all. Not everything has to be tackled at once.

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by yuttadhammo » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:46 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:And there's the rub Bhante.....you are assuming that you know why another person who you do not know would have a glass of sherry..as an anxiolytic.
That wasn't at all the point of my post, but since it does seems to rub you the wrong way, you're right, I don't know why anyone who calls themselves a devout Theravada Buddhist would have a glass of sherry at all. My (ancillary) point there was that taking sherry to calm the nerves has no place in Buddhist practice. If there is any other reason to drink sherry, I can't imagine it would fare any better.
It still comes down in my view to the same principle, lets worry about what we do. Not about what she/he does.
I don't think anyone here is worrying about what others do... We are having a rational discussion about certain behaviors and the consequences thereof. Some of us are, I think, concerned that people will misunderstand the Buddha's teaching and therefore spread what is not dhamma as being dhamma, or what is not vinaya as being vinya, and that is why I spent the time translating the Pali passage, which I hope you read and understood.

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by Sanghamitta » Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:18 pm

Ah yes life's wee mysteries and why people do what they do. And they do dont they ? They really do.
Here we are with everything all worked out and given to them on a plate with proper Pali translations and no ambiguiity, and I'm blowed if folk dont go and act in totally illogical ways. its a puzzle. Perhaps they are lazy. Perhaps they imbued with original sin... Its a darned cheek...And a slippery slope. One glass of sherry and next thing they are all running out of the Wat a rapin' and a murderin'...its just plain wrong...and if they are in Thailand or Burma no doubt shouldering aside the throng of Bhikkhus who have slipped out for a smoke. But that's ok because the Buddha didn't know about tobacco so they are free to puff themselves mindfully into an early grave with a clear conscience.

Personally I am going to take responsibility for myself and encourage others to do the same....
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by yuttadhammo » Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:54 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Personally I am going to take responsibility for myself and encourage others to do the same....
Me too :)

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Sun Aug 06, 2017 9:49 am

NO.
"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by Sroberto » Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:14 pm


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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by pilgrim » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:42 pm

Unlike other religions like Islam for example, where alcohol is considered something evil where even its sight is repulsive, everything we do in the Dhamma has a reason for it. The 5 precepts are formulated in such a way that the transgression of the first 4 is immediately harmful to others and as a consequence, to oneself also. The 5th precept is included as a preventive measure. The imbibing of alcohol is not harmful in itself. The danger is that it may lead to breaking the other precepts when one loses heedfulness

This is clear in a number of suttas. for eg, the Kalama sutta says "And this greedy person, overcome by greed, his mind possessed by greed, kills living beings, takes what is not given, goes after another person's wife, tells lies, and induces others to do likewise, all of which is for long-term harm & suffering."

In the Mahanama sutta, the Buddha again says that the reason why one abstains from alcohol is not that it is evil in itself but because it leads to heedfulness. "Mahanama, inasmuch as a lay follower abstains from destroying living beings; abstains from taking what is not given; abstains from sexual misconduct; abstains from lying; and abstains from wine, liquor and intoxicants that are causes for heedlessness; in that way, Mahanama, a lay follower is virtuous."

In many societies, and I suspect in ancient India, people do not consume alcohol in moderation or for enjoying its taste or for medicine. They use alcohol for the sole purpose of getting drunk. It is in this context that the 5th precept is worded. So one who drinks alcohol in moderation without losing mindfulness technically breaks the precept but I don't see it as a big deal in such cases. In any case, alcohol is not only found in drinks but in many modern processed foods such as sauces and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kim-chi, etc.

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by pilgrim » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:55 pm

Unlike other religions like Islam for example, where alcohol is considered something evil where even its sight is repulsive, everything we do in the Dhamma has a reason for it. The 5 precepts are formulated in such a way that the transgression of the first 4 is immediately harmful to others and as a consequence, to oneself also. The 5th precept is included as a preventive measure. The imbibing of alcohol is not harmful in itself. The danger is that it may lead to breaking the other precepts when one loses heedfulness

This is clear in a number of suttas. for eg, the Kalama sutta says "And this greedy person, overcome by greed, his mind possessed by greed, kills living beings, takes what is not given, goes after another person's wife, tells lies, and induces others to do likewise, all of which is for long-term harm & suffering."

In the Mahanama sutta, the Buddha again says that the reason why one abstains from alcohol is not that it is evil in itself but because it leads to heedfulness. "Mahanama, inasmuch as a lay follower abstains from destroying living beings; abstains from taking what is not given; abstains from sexual misconduct; abstains from lying; and abstains from wine, liquor and intoxicants that are causes for heedlessness; in that way, Mahanama, a lay follower is virtuous."

In many societies, and I suspect in ancient India, people do not consume alcohol in moderation or for enjoying its taste or for medicine. They use alcohol for the sole purpose of getting drunk. It is in this context that the 5th precept is worded. So one who drinks alcohol in moderation without losing mindfulness technically breaks the precept but I don't see it as a big deal in such cases.

In any case, trace amounts of alcohol is not only found in drinks but in many modern processed foods such as sauces and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kim-chi, kombucha, etc.

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Wed Apr 25, 2018 4:18 am

salt is salty, alcohol intoxicates. what other purpose is there to drink it? you could say the same of the other precepts, killing in moderation for example, absurd

How can somone practice both for themselves and others?…He does not drink alcohol and encourages other people not to drink alcohol.
-AN 4.99


Anyone who kills, steals, has affairs, drinks alcohol destroys his own roots in this life. Know this: these things are harmful and wrong. Don’t let greed and ill will prolong your suffering.

-Dhammapada vs. 246-8

https://simplesuttas.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/alcohol/

losing mindfulness is not harmless, i reject the notion that the precept is only a preventative measure. killing leads to lower realms but here and now it generates an evil mind. intentional imbibing prolongs craving and indulgence in stressful sense pleasures. venerable yuttadhammo is correct, it will make you stupid. the goal of buddhist practice is wisdom. appamāda is the exact opposite of what should be gotten, indulgence in alcohol is indulgence in appamāda
sarakāni only entered the stream by completing the training, utterly renouncing alcohol upon his death
"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by pilgrim » Wed Apr 25, 2018 5:03 am

deleted- double post
Last edited by pilgrim on Wed Apr 25, 2018 5:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by pilgrim » Wed Apr 25, 2018 5:09 am

Dhammarakkhito wrote:
Wed Apr 25, 2018 4:18 am
salt is salty, alcohol intoxicates. what other purpose is there to drink it? you could say the same of the other precepts, killing in moderation for example, absurd
I think cultural context is important. In many western capitals I've visited, when I venture out in the evenings there are drunks falling down everywhere. That is less common in Chinese cultures where intoxication is normally not a state which drinkers aspire too. Chinese women will often take a little alcohol in which ginger or herbs have been steeped in, in the month after delivering babies, for health reasons. Red wine is increasingly popular because of the resveratrol content. I also know some who drink Kombucha for stomach and gut problems. Some people just enjoy a beer with friends after work. I think it is naive to think that everyone who drinks alcohol will be intoxicated. I think that if one takes a survey on any one night in a capital city, less than 5% of people who consume alcohol that evening will be intoxicated.

Of course, one can drink juice or coffee. But it is a fallacy to say that everyone who drinks alcohol will be intoxicated.

You can't kill in moderation for death is a positive or negative state. However, there is a grade of alcohol consumption before one gets intoxicated. For eg, there is a little alcohol in sauerkraut, soy sauce, home made yoghurt, kim-chi, etc. I've never heard of anyone who gets intoxicated when consuming normal amounts of these foods

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Wed Apr 25, 2018 6:27 am

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supp ... fter-all#1

alcohol in food or medicine is a diversion in my opinion
you dont have to be falling down drunk to feel the effects
so what if its a social convention it's unwholesome
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"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5

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http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://sites.google.com/site/santipada ... allytaught

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by rightviewftw » Wed Apr 25, 2018 4:28 pm

Imo the question should be asked thus;

can a human drink alcohol in moderation and be a Buddhist?
and the answer is
yes, it can happen, it is not impossible.

saying that a buddhist can not drink is just sadfunny to me

The logic of "A devout Buddhist can never break the 5th precept" is some weird Arahantification of a "Buddhist". Some sort of precept fetish as a form of mindless adherence to mere rules and self-identity derived from that adherence.

Can a Devout Buddhist break any of the five precepts?

If the answer is no then surely we are talking about an Arahant or something like that. I can see no other way of answering than yes it can happen that someone who has undertaken the training rules might break them on account of lack of development.
Last edited by rightviewftw on Wed Apr 25, 2018 5:10 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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