Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

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

Post by Sanghamitta » Fri Oct 15, 2010 11:19 am

Neither I guess would the majority think " I am going to drink to the point of heedlessness " which is what the spirit of the 5th alludes to.
To interpret the 5th precept as a binding vow to teetotalism is a perfectly reasonable response.
However in my view seeing it as a guideline, a rule of training to use all we encounter with mindfulness is another reasonable response and one that is more in accord with experience of many who live in ordinary society.
Why is the current generation of Buddhists so keen to draw lines of minimum belief and behaviour for other Buddhists instead of talking responsibility for themselves ?
I wonder whether it reflects a need for certainty in an increasing volatile world.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by Shonin » Fri Oct 15, 2010 1:09 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Why is the current generation of Buddhists so keen to draw lines of minimum belief and behaviour for other Buddhists instead of talking responsibility for themselves ?
I wonder whether it reflects a need for certainty in an increasing volatile world.
Converts are often more strict than the natives.

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Phra Chuntawongso
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by Phra Chuntawongso » Fri Oct 15, 2010 2:18 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Neither I guess would the majority think " I am going to drink to the point of heedlessness " which is what the spirit of the 5th alludes to.
To interpret the 5th precept as a binding vow to teetotalism is a perfectly reasonable response.
However in my view seeing it as a guideline, a rule of training to use all we encounter with mindfulness is another reasonable response and one that is more in accord with experience of many who live in ordinary society.
Why is the current generation of Buddhists so keen to draw lines of minimum belief and behaviour for other Buddhists instead of talking responsibility for themselves ?
I wonder whether it reflects a need for certainty in an increasing volatile world.
I guess upon some reflection I would have to say that it is up to each individual as to how they interptret the precepts.
The other thing I must be mindful of is the fact that I am now a monastic.
As a lay person,when I took the precepts I would try my best(not always successfully)to keep my vows.WhenI was working I took all 5, mon-thurs and on sundays.On fridays and saturdays I left out the 5th precept.Not because I was going to drink,but because there was a good chance that I might and I did not want to break my vows if I could help it.
My wanting to keep them as best as I could probably stemmed from the fact that I had spent my teen years,fighting,stealing,lying etc and I was truly trying to be a better person and so for me they(precepts) became something to stick to.
As a monk the precepts are rules and there are varying consequences for breaking them.
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adosa
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by adosa » Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:05 pm

mettafuture wrote: But why do they like it? I'm not asking you specifically. I'm asking everyone. As a person who has never had a drink, I just don't get it.
Why? Because of prior contact leading to current craving. And anatta. Ultimately ignorance. But I'm still seeing quite a bit of judgement mind in your posts. Have you mastered contact/craving/suffering on all aspects?

kind regards,

adosa
"To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas" - Dhammapada 183

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by paultraf » Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:45 pm

Hello,

I hope it's okay for a newbie to wade into this discussion...

I studied the Fifth Precept for a Master's dissertation entitled, 'Avoiding pamāda: An analysis of the Fifth Precept as Social Protection in Contemporary Contexts with reference to the early Buddhist teachings.'
http://www.chezpaul.org.uk/buddhism/MSt ... tation.htm

From looking at the early texts, my impression is that the original guidance generally comes from the Vinaya from which cascade teachings for lay people. (It was the first time I had really explored the Vinaya – I found the stories that led to the rules very interesting! For translations I relied on Horner.) To make the work more practical, I carried out an online survey (on e-Sangha discussions, now offline) to see how people understood the precept and how they'd practise it in various social contexts. I was particularly interested to see if there were significant variations between different traditions.

Regarding the intended meaning, I focused on the notion of pamāda as it appears key; for the translation of this Pali term I've settled on heedlessness. On that basis, I think a cup of [black] tea is fine :smile: However, it indicates the very broad scope of intoxication (as described in suttas mentioned in this thread); in particular, some popular recreational activities, especially gambling, are not okay.

Regarding the notion of 'moderation', should the interpretation be: not to take alcohol or drugs 'to the point of intoxication'? In my readings, the texts of the Pali canon have generally settled on the rule that states not a drop. The only exception for this is for medicinal purposes. This comes from the account where alcohol was used in medicinal treatment for a bhikkhu named Pilindavaccha. Initially, on the advice of a physician, the Buddha allowed Venerable Pilindavaccha to take medicine that included strong drink mixed with oil, but the sick monk became intoxicated. So subsequently the rule for such medicines became stricter:
if neither the colour nor the smell nor the taste of strong drink appears in any decoction of oil, to drink oil mixed with strong drink if it is like this. [Mahavagga VI 13.1-13.2].
The Buddha also made a distinction between external application and internal consumption.

My own view of the precepts as a lay person are as rules of training, which are sincerely undertaken and renewed on a daily basis. The intention is to keep them fully and retain mindfulness of this commitment, but they're not commandments.

I'd be happy to try and answer questions about the research - methodology and findings. I'm sure a lot more could be done.

- Paul

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mettafuture
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by mettafuture » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:27 pm

I think I've read almost every reply in this thread, and I have yet to see a clear answer on why alcohol is required at all. From what I hear, there are a lot of non-alcoholic drinks that taste as good, if not better, than their liquored-up counterparts. Why not drink those? My guess is that a lot of people have a minor dependency on alcohol. They rely on it to relax them, and to make them fit in and feel more comfortable in social environments.

But wouldn't it be better to find a natural way to calm and relax the mind that didn't rely on external drinks?

:meditate:
adosa wrote:
mettafuture wrote: But why do they like it? I'm not asking you specifically. I'm asking everyone. As a person who has never had a drink, I just don't get it.
Why? Because of prior contact leading to current craving. And anatta. Ultimately ignorance. But I'm still seeing quite a bit of judgement mind in your posts. Have you mastered contact/craving/suffering on all aspects?

kind regards,

adosa
Of course not. But I don't try to justify or find excuses for them either.
Paññāsikhara wrote:
mettafuture wrote: I really didn't mean for it to be that complicated.

If I had more room in the subject line, I would have put "Can a person who calls themselves a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?" If one chooses to undertake the 5 precepts, can they still drink alcohol in moderation? That's all I was wondering.
Okay, so somebody on one had chooses to makes the statement "I undertake the training to refrain from alcohol and intoxicating substances leading to negligence", but "can they drink alcohol in moderation"?

The precept is not "I undertake the training to refrain from becoming intoxicated", but "... to refrain from intoxicating substances".
And that's precisely my point.

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:42 pm

Sanghamitta wrote: We are not all fortunate enough or perhaps meritorious enough Pannisikhara to live in the rarefied atmosphere of a monastery or under the Vinaya . Many of us have to rub along in the unrarified world of things as we find them....
Since, in my opinion, the fifth precept is actually rather easy to observe, I don't see the relevance of this statement. I haven't taken a drink for almost three years, but I've probably killed (insects), and certainly taken what was not given in various minor ways, and undoubtedly used false or harsh speech.

I haven't taken a drink because after my first retreat I didn't want to mess up the clarity of mind that I had at that point. I've occasionally noticed that accidental imbibing, such as alcohol from desserts, or second-hand smoke of dodgy origin, has a rather noticeable and unpleasant effect on my mind.

In the end it's a choice. These are simply recommended training rules that provide a starting point for the development of sila...

Mike

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by Individual » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:12 pm

mettafuture wrote:I think I've read almost every reply in this thread, and I have yet to see a clear answer on why alcohol is required at all. From what I hear, there are a lot of non-alcoholic drinks that taste as good, if not better, than their liquored-up counterparts. Why not drink those? My guess is that a lot of people have a minor dependency on alcohol. They rely on it to relax them, and to make them fit in and feel more comfortable in social environments.

But wouldn't it be better to find a natural way to calm and relax the mind that didn't rely on external drinks?
Sensual pleasure is never "required". It's just something laypeople do.
The best things in life aren't things.

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adosa
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by adosa » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:21 pm

mettafuture wrote:I think I've read almost every reply in this thread, and I have yet to see a clear answer on why alcohol is required at all. From what I hear, there are a lot of non-alcoholic drinks that taste as good, if not better, than their liquored-up counterparts. Why not drink those? My guess is that a lot of people have a minor dependency on alcohol. They rely on it to relax them, and to make them fit in and feel more comfortable in social environments.

But wouldn't it be better to find a natural way to calm and relax the mind that didn't rely on external drinks? :meditate:


It's not required, it's craved......like any other attachment. So it's best to have compassion for those that are still attached instead of judgement.
adosa wrote:
mettafuture wrote: But why do they like it? I'm not asking you specifically. I'm asking everyone. As a person who has never had a drink, I just don't get it.
Why? Because of prior contact leading to current craving. And anatta. Ultimately ignorance. But I'm still seeing quite a bit of judgement mind in your posts. Have you mastered contact/craving/suffering on all aspects?

kind regards,

adosa
mettafuture wrote: :group: Of course not. But I don't try to justify or find excuses for them either.
Who is justifying or finding excuses? So why haven't you stopped craving for (and acting on) those things in your life that cause you suffering?
Paññāsikhara wrote:
mettafuture wrote: I really didn't mean for it to be that complicated.

If I had more room in the subject line, I would have put "Can a person who calls themselves a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?" If one chooses to undertake the 5 precepts, can they still drink alcohol in moderation? That's all I was wondering.
Okay, so somebody on one had chooses to makes the statement "I undertake the training to refrain from alcohol and intoxicating substances leading to negligence", but "can they drink alcohol in moderation"?

The precept is not "I undertake the training to refrain from becoming intoxicated", but "... to refrain from intoxicating substances".
mettafuture wrote:And that's precisely my point.

Is it?


http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=2667

adosa
Last edited by adosa on Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by Shonin » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:01 pm

adosa wrote: So it's best to have compassion for those that are still attached instead of judgement.
Are you implying that you have no attachments?

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by adosa » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:03 pm

Shonin wrote:
adosa wrote: So it's best to have compassion for those that are still attached instead of judgement.
Are you implying that you have no attachments?

Absolutely not!! I'm not sure how you read that. The subject is alcohol. "Still attached" to alcohol. Pardon me.

adosa
"To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas" - Dhammapada 183

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by Shonin » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:07 pm

Well then, let us all have compassion for each other's attachments and our own.

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by adosa » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:23 pm

Shonin wrote:Well then, let us all have compassion for each other's attachments and our own.

And I think that's been my point in this thread all along. We all have attachments and because someone doesn't have an attachment to alcohol doesn't make them more " Buddhist" then someone who does.

I prefer to have compassion for the person, not the attachment. For the struggle with attachment, not the object of the attachment.

adosa
"To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas" - Dhammapada 183

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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by Jason » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:30 pm

mettafuture wrote:I think I've read almost every reply in this thread, and I have yet to see a clear answer on why alcohol is required at all. From what I hear, there are a lot of non-alcoholic drinks that taste as good, if not better, than their liquored-up counterparts. Why not drink those? My guess is that a lot of people have a minor dependency on alcohol. They rely on it to relax them, and to make them fit in and feel more comfortable in social environments.
I don't think anybody is saying that drinking alcohol is a requirement, only that sometimes people may have a pint or two with their mates because they want to and don't see it as that much of a danger to their practice. It's not much different from indulging in any other sense-pleasure (like drinking tea or coffee) except that excessive indulgence can lead to excessive carelessness. Would it probably be better if they didn't drink? Certainly. But is it on the same level as, say, killing, stealing, lying or committing sexual misconduct? I don't think so; unless, of course, one drinks and then breaks the other precepts due to their carelessness.

As I said before, one drink doesn't make me careless, and I don't beat myself up if I decide to have a pint with my mates or my girlfriend. I just note that I gave into this particular sense-pleasure and carry on with my practice. No excuses (I fully realize I broke the fifth precept), but no guilt, either.
Last edited by Jason on Sat Oct 16, 2010 2:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Jason
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Re: Can a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?

Post by Jason » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:45 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:
mettafuture wrote: I really didn't mean for it to be that complicated.

If I had more room in the subject line, I would have put "Can a person who calls themselves a Buddhist drink alcohol in moderation?" If one chooses to undertake the 5 precepts, can they still drink alcohol in moderation? That's all I was wondering.
Okay, so somebody on one had chooses to makes the statement "I undertake the training to refrain from alcohol and intoxicating substances leading to negligence", but "can they drink alcohol in moderation"?

The precept is not "I undertake the training to refrain from becoming intoxicated", but "... to refrain from intoxicating substances".

They "can" do whatever they like, and "call" themselves whatever they like, but personally I would say that they are saying one thing, and doing something else, thus being either very deluded, a hypocrit or a liar.

If they didn't take that precept, I'd still personally say that they are a little foolish, but at least they wouldn't be saying one thing and doing another. I really have a strong dislike for hypocrisy.
Personally, I don't think that slipping up and indulging in a pint with your mates or girlfriend every once in a while necessarily makes you a hypocrite as much as, well, human. But if I'm wrong about that, then I'm just as much of a hypocrite as Sanghamitta. I occasionally go out and have a pint or two with my mates, even the 'Buddhist' ones. I even killed some ants that invaded my house and were laying siege to my refrigerator after I was unable to get rid of them within the confines of the first precept. I certainly felt terrible about it, but sometimes we're forced to make difficult decisions like that, and I made an 'unenlightened' decision to keep my food safe and my home ant-free.
Last edited by Jason on Sat Oct 16, 2010 1:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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