about the 5th precept

Exploring modern Theravāda interpretations of the Buddha's teaching.
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Sovatthika
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about the 5th precept

Post by Sovatthika » Sun Jul 16, 2017 7:25 am

it seems many jump on the line, interpreting the 5th precept to be more than just alcohol (fermented drinks), but to me there is a clear translation; there were drugs in the buddha's time, so i believe he would have stated clearly 'no drink and/or drugs'. and dont get me wrong, mind-altering drugs and drugs taken out of compulsion (i dont know if we should find disagreeable medicinal marijuana in all cases) are bad; i know all too well. just saying i think there is a reason he said alcohol and not alcohol/drugs....
if this has been covered delete the topic no worries or if i posted in wrong section let me know thx

EDIT: some great dialectics occurred and at this time now i believe all psychoactive drugs to violate the 5th precept, at least if taken for recreation (a layperson's 'enlightenment' quest is probably fake) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychoactive_drug
Last edited by Sovatthika on Wed Jul 19, 2017 6:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
"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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Sam Vara
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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by Sam Vara » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:54 am

Dhammomhi wrote: just saying i think there is a reason he said alcohol and not alcohol/drugs....
Would you like to suggest that reason?

In addition, regarding your point that there were mind-altering recreational drugs (as opposed to medicines) in the Buddha's time. Is there canonical evidence for this? Did the Buddha talk about them in contexts other than proscribing them?

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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by seeker242 » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:20 pm

there were drugs in the buddha's time, so i believe he would have stated clearly 'no drink and/or drugs'.
There were "drugs" in the Buddhas time. However, they were often taken in the form of a "drink".

The cannabis drink Bhang for example. I find it unlikely that Bhang was intended to be excluded from intoxicating drink. According to who does "majja" unequivocally and exclusively refer to alcoholic drink and not other intoxicating drinks?

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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by justindesilva » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:11 pm

[quote="Dhammomhi"]it seems many jump on the line, interpreting the 5th precept to be more than just alcohol (fermented drinks), but to me there is a clear translation; there were drugs in the buddha's time, so i believe he would have stated clearly 'no drink and/or drugs'. and dont get me wrong, mind-altering drugs and drugs taken out of compulsion (i dont know if we should find disagreeable medicinal marijuana in all cases) are bad; i know all too well. just saying i think there is a reason he said alcohol and not alcohol/drugs....
if this has been covered delete the topic no worries or if i posted in wrong section let me know

When Lord Buddha preached the damma , he advised layman as well as sangha to follow the noble eight fold path or arya ashtangika margaya, to be in with the damma. In the eightfold path two aspects that involve damma are samma ditthi, samma sati and samma Samadhi. In all these Lord budda made the mind to be the most important phenomenon.
We today are aware that liquor, marijuana and various other drugs act as depressants. Depressants with its weakening aspect of neuro transmission of sensary nerves weaken the preached aspect of sati , Samadhi that does not allow the practise of the 1st four precepts.
It is then reasonable to think that surameraya in the fifth precept means any liquor or drug which acts as a depressant.

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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by ieee23 » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:39 pm

Dhammomhi wrote:if this has been covered delete the topic no worries
Every single Buddhist forum I have ever been on going back to email lists and Usenet in the 90s has brought up the 5th precept almost all of the time.
Whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. - MN 19

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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by jrl » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:55 pm

I believe the language includes intoxicants that causes heedlessness. On another note, if the Buddha did not include the 5th precept it would essentially ok to spend your life in drunken or drugged stupor. As most who practice know, intoxicants and mindfulness do not complement each other. It is better to not partake, and this comes from someone who does drink some wine.

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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by Maitri » Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:21 pm

ieee23 wrote:
Dhammomhi wrote:if this has been covered delete the topic no worries
Every single Buddhist forum I have ever been on going back to email lists and Usenet in the 90s has brought up the 5th precept almost all of the time.
Yes, I believe even r/Buddhism has limited discussion on this topic as the crowd of, "Hey man, I had a psychedelic experience on shrooms at Bonnaroo and it brought me close to Nirvana, so drug use is really mindfulness" has brought this up countless times.

I think the 5th precept is very clear- do not take items which lead to intoxication. However, people don't like this precept and instead of simple saying, "I want a glass of wine and I know that it's not approved in the precepts, but I'm going to have one with dinner anyway." becomes, "well the precepts don't say you can't have one glass if you don't get drunk and I'm technically really mindful when I eat so it's fine." Just admit that you want to smoke weed or drink wine and be done with it. There are no Buddhist vice police which will come for you in the night if you drink.

If someone wants to have a beer, have a beer. But don't twist the precepts around to approve of, and excuse, the behavior. It's a precept like the others- if you want to lie, don't pretend the precepts excuses the behavior through some creative sophistry. Just own up that it's your actions and leave the precepts alone.
"Upon a heap of rubbish in the road-side ditch blooms a lotus, fragrant and pleasing.
Even so, on the rubbish heap of blinded mortals the disciple of the Supremely Enlightened One shines resplendent in wisdom." Dhammapada: Pupphavagga

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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by santa100 » Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:25 pm

Dhammomhi wrote:if this has been covered delete the topic no worries or if i posted in wrong section let me know thx
Apparently it's been discussed on many other forums. The irony is that folks in violent professions would have no problem observing thoroughly the 5th precept without question, unlike their pacifist counterpart, the armchair Buddhists!

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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by ieee23 » Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:09 pm

I'm not in favor of calling people "armchair Buddhists". I'm not in robes, living off of alms, and meditating 10 hours a day in a cave, so I too, am an armchair Buddhist.

As with everything else, you get out what you put in. If people don't put in enough they will learn their lesson and learn in their own time.
Whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. - MN 19

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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by Sovatthika » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:22 am

well im glad my post caused a stir that means there is genuine contemplation of the dhamma even tho their r misconceptions and mischaracterizations i believe occurring.
i'm working off not enough sleep and some caffeine and a little nicotine

sam vara:
>'just saying i think there is a reason...'
>'would u like to suggest that reason'
i think because in other passages i've read the buddha uses technical language not prone to ambiguity; perceiving ambiguity means there is a translation error or lack of understanding

here is the translation im working from: " Surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
surā=liquor
meraya=spirits
majja=intoxicants/intoxicating drinks
pamāda=heedlessness
-ṭṭhāna=basis

veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi=I undertake the training rule
to abstain from" i put in quotes becuz im getting info from friend i consulted b4 responding. "what you are abstaining from is surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā
which is a compound plural noun
combining 3 words referring to alcohol & intoxicants
& a word meaning basis of heedlessness" as far as what drugs there were at the time, i am prepared to walk back that claim (neither affirming nor denying) at least for now

justindesilva: what about stimulants tho. it seems like ur extending this precept to include a lot of things; the downfall from stimulants if not heedlessness is definitely undesirable. i feel like tho that weed has more (and some proven) capacity as medicine rather than recreation -- yes, i know a lot of ppl just use it and justify being 'heedless' by saying its medicine, but i also think given that mj is illegal in so many places that there are some who use it medicinally even without a prescription and its rly just up to their intention (to alter their mind with drugs vs trying to be healthy and happy).

jrl: i guess what it has come down to with me is a lack of understanding the term 'intoxicant'. and i'm autistic, so yes maybe a bit more technical; where someone claims common sense, i scratch my head.

maitri: this is definitely a mischaracterization. im not trying to use alcohol because like i was saying to jrl, at least 'NO ALCOHOL' is clear from all interpretations/translations. and sure i posted about acid the other day but i never was trying to say it offered enlightenment*
let me be clearer for you: reducing rules to exceptions and technicalities is wrong, and i am not trying to do that, so if the rule is clear to you i implore you aid my understanding and not misconstrue
also if i may u are promoting actual violation of precept 5 when u say 'if someone wants to have a beer, have a beer'. alcohol is roundly to be condemned
'There are no Buddhist vice police which will come for you in the night if you drink.' no but kamma is way worse so

which then brings me to that for someone like me it feels important to have clear, concise discreet goals that i can either fill or work to fill before holding up other goals such as total celibacy, extended isolation, abandoning currency, etc.
but it does seem clear to me at this time that the precept refers to mind-altering drugs, and i have a good idea what those are, so inadvertently i can become a better person. fulfilling the 5 laymen's precepts is rly, rly important and THEN, only when i establish a solid foundation, will i move on to greater goals.

*directly. altho the stress from the experience did inspire a drastic change/improvement on behavior
"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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Sovatthika
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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by Sovatthika » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:25 am

if we could talk a little more about what heedlessness is with references to suttas thank you
i am trying to connect my independently-formed, secular idea of 'mind altering drug' to the description of what to avoid in the precepts. if heedlessness were sluggishness, i dont know that something like mdma would be a violation but the comedown would be, so if yall could talk about that i would appreciate
"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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Sovatthika
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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by Sovatthika » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:27 am

unfortunately, i cant edit my last two comments yet but i also wanted to ask the typical questions about coffee, tea, cigarettes, ect
"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: about the 5th precept

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:57 am

Greetings,
Dhammomhi wrote:unfortunately, i cant edit my last two comments yet but i also wanted to ask the typical questions about coffee, tea, cigarettes, ect
I've moved this topic out of the Discovering Theravada forum, because that's a very specific forum, with a specific purpose and unique posting criteria.

None of your subsequent posts in this topic will need approval...

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by chownah » Mon Jul 17, 2017 4:15 am

Maitri wrote:
ieee23 wrote:
Dhammomhi wrote:if this has been covered delete the topic no worries
Every single Buddhist forum I have ever been on going back to email lists and Usenet in the 90s has brought up the 5th precept almost all of the time.
Yes, I believe even r/Buddhism has limited discussion on this topic as the crowd of, "Hey man, I had a psychedelic experience on shrooms at Bonnaroo and it brought me close to Nirvana, so drug use is really mindfulness" has brought this up countless times.

I think the 5th precept is very clear- do not take items which lead to intoxication. However, people don't like this precept and instead of simple saying, "I want a glass of wine and I know that it's not approved in the precepts, but I'm going to have one with dinner anyway." becomes, "well the precepts don't say you can't have one glass if you don't get drunk and I'm technically really mindful when I eat so it's fine." Just admit that you want to smoke weed or drink wine and be done with it. There are no Buddhist vice police which will come for you in the night if you drink.

If someone wants to have a beer, have a beer. But don't twist the precepts around to approve of, and excuse, the behavior. It's a precept like the others- if you want to lie, don't pretend the precepts excuses the behavior through some creative sophistry. Just own up that it's your actions and leave the precepts alone.
:goodpost:
...and I'll add be mindful of that beverage or substance when you ingest it....and perhaps think about taking the buddha's advise from the dhatu-vibhanga sutta: "One should not be negligent of discernment, should guard the truth, be devoted to relinquishment, and train only for calm."
chownah

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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by WindDancer » Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:17 am

Based on my understanding, this issue can be seen more clearly by looking at it from different perspectives.

1. The 5th precept is asking us to not ingest something that intoxicates the mind, reducing our ability to be mindful, causing us to be at risk of being heedless, making us more likely to break the first four precepts and making it harder to have insight or wisdom.

2. The 8 Fold Path guides us to use right intention and right view. It is easy to see the truth by asking, "Does the substance that I am putting into my body impair my ability to engage in right view or right intention?"

3. Does the substance impact my ability to engage in right speech, right actions, right livelihood, right mindfulness and right concentration?

4. Would the substance that I am putting into my body be supported by the wise?

5. Does this act help me on the Path to freedom?

If we are able to be honest, we know deep down which habits of ours are supportive of this way of life and which ones are not.

I know it can be most difficult to give up a habit which we still enjoy....

Good luck to us all,

WindDancer
Live Gently....

chownah
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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by chownah » Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:40 am

Perhaps a secondary consideration is how our taking of a beverage or drug influences others to do the same....especially very young and impressionable people.
chownah

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Sovatthika
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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by Sovatthika » Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:33 pm

good points winddancer and chownah. i never thought of framing the narrative in such a way; i actually had to go out of my way to do some weed, and even tho i'd done plenty of it before this was possibly the worst high of all time. curiosity is one of my biggest downfalls, or idleness
"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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Maitri
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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by Maitri » Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:41 am

I think that too many in the West get wrapped up in fitting the rules to themselves in a legalism borrowed from Christianity. The majority of Buddhists in the West are lay people and don't have to live the strict moral life of monastics. The rules aren't for punishment like the Mosaic law, but to train ourselves to develop greater wisdom and compassion.

Yes, the precepts do not permit intoxicants and coming from the Buddha we can have total confidence that following this precept is the best way to live. However, we can also relax a bit about the 5th precept and see it as training tools which lead to deeper insight and confidence in the Dhamma. Of course, I'm not talking about becoming drunk, stoned, or smashed all the time, but enjoying a glass of wine or a beer with friends isn't going to ruin our practice.
"Upon a heap of rubbish in the road-side ditch blooms a lotus, fragrant and pleasing.
Even so, on the rubbish heap of blinded mortals the disciple of the Supremely Enlightened One shines resplendent in wisdom." Dhammapada: Pupphavagga

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/

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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by BasementBuddhist » Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:09 am

Maitri wrote:I think that too many in the West get wrapped up in fitting the rules to themselves in a legalism borrowed from Christianity. The majority of Buddhists in the West are lay people and don't have to live the strict moral life of monastics. The rules aren't for punishment like the Mosaic law, but to train ourselves to develop greater wisdom and compassion.

Yes, the precepts do not permit intoxicants and coming from the Buddha we can have total confidence that following this precept is the best way to live. However, we can also relax a bit about the 5th precept and see it as training tools which lead to deeper insight and confidence in the Dhamma. Of course, I'm not talking about becoming drunk, stoned, or smashed all the time, but enjoying a glass of wine or a beer with friends isn't going to ruin our practice.
:goodpost:

The Buddha taught his students to think. Not to blindly obey. There are no sins. Only action and intention that leads to progression on the Path, or that hinders it. If you wish to preform an action weigh the consequences and commit. You don't have to justify it. Things happen. Those things have consequences. The path is only "sacred" in so far as it eliminates dissatisfaction. No justification required.

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Sovatthika
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Re: about the 5th precept

Post by Sovatthika » Tue Jul 18, 2017 3:20 am

no i mean one can literally go to hell so its not worth sitting there and trying to decide what u can get away with or when. that kind of liberalism is toxic to the discourse
what basis do you have for saying enjoying alcohol (poison) 'occasionally' is not a hindrance? it's not even the drink itself as much as the mindset that allows such to happen. besides, anyone who enjoys a drink 'once in a while' without wanting it again and again -- or immediately realizing it is a toxic chemical -- is frankly lucky
"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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