About the fifth Śīla

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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pink_trike
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by pink_trike » Thu Oct 29, 2009 11:59 pm

Never touch it. In most premodern cultures it was a medicine only.
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Mind is Empty
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by Individual » Fri Oct 30, 2009 1:55 am

pink_trike wrote:Never touch it. In most premodern cultures it was a medicine only.
Most, is that true? It might be true, but many of the great and not-so-great civilizations used it socially: the Egyptians, the Jews, the Greeks & Romans, the Indians, and of course, it was widely used in medieval Europe.

Beer is credited as being one of the pillars upon which civilization itself was developed, because it was a convenient method of storing and preserving grain, hence it's been called "liquid bread" by historians. In medieval Europe, people drank beer more often than they drank water, because their water supplies were often contaminated while they didn't get sick from drinking beer, since the alcohol kills bacteria.

See the episode on "Beer" on Modern Marvels, on the History Channel.
The best things in life aren't things.

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Dan74
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by Dan74 » Fri Oct 30, 2009 2:06 am

Hi Ben,

I don't want to hijack the thread (any more) with our debate, so just very briefly:
Where we seem to diverge is that you do not believe that drinking alcohol creates negative kamma and continues to feed and support deep-rooted kilesas. Alayakilesas.
Yes, as a universal rule, I disagree. I am curious what justification you have for making this statement.
There is also no denying that different cultures handle it very differently. For example in Italy, where a glass of wine is almost obligatory at lunch, there is far less alcoholism than in most other European countries and positive side effects like lower cholesterol, etc, while in Northern Europe and Russia, the story is sadly very different.
With respect, its not relevant here. This is really a discussion on the fifth precept.
No so, Ben, you brought a whole bundle of social ills associated with alcohol as an argument in support of your view. I responded that it is not necessarily alcohol per se, that is responsible, since in other cultures, the effects are nowhere near as dramatic. And besides there are many responsible people having a glass of wine with their meal that suffer (or inflict) no obvious damage at all.
Drinking, like every other activity, is vastly imbued with the social attitudes, context, beliefs and personal attributes of course.
It appears that you are saying that various social attitudes, contexts, beliefs and personal attributes trump sila. And I reject this categorically.
Can we use the above as argument for lying? stealing? committing various sexual misconducts? killing? We are talking about sila, sila which is the bedrock for the path, the foundation for liberation.
What I meant was that "social attitudes, contexts, beliefs and personal attributes" colour the effects of alcohol on the individual an society. If you come with implicit assumption as to these, drinking any amount of alcohol is just bad, a little bit of bad or a whole lot of bad. But if having a drink is seen as a part of sharing a joyful occasion, in a society where moderation is taken for granted, then your examples are simply irrelevant.

On the subject of sila, I see sila as doing no harm to oneself and others (and if fact extending kindness, patience and compassion whenever possible) and I see a glass of wine as not necessarily a problem in that regard.

If you have different definitions or descriptions of sila from the suttas, I'd certainly be very interested in hearing them.

Thank you for engaging in this discussion. I see that you have very strong view on the subject and I respect that, but perhaps you can see that yours is not the only valid angle on the subject.

_/|\_

PS I am not a health professional, BTW, I am a mathematician. Our drug of choice is coffee. :coffee:
Ben wrote:
Dan74 wrote:I think you are preaching to the converted here, Ben.
With respect, I don't think I am Dan.
There is no denying that alcohol is a factor is a vast number of tragedies.
This we agree on. Where we seem to diverge is that you do not believe that drinking alcohol creates negative kamma and continues to feed and support deep-rooted kilesas. Alayakilesas.
There is also no denying that different cultures handle it very differently. For example in Italy, where a glass of wine is almost obligatory at lunch, there is far less alcoholism than in most other European countries and positive side effects like lower cholesterol, etc, while in Northern Europe and Russia, the story is sadly very different.
With respect, its not relevant here. This is really a discussion on the fifth precept.
Your last paragraph is also unlikely to convince most of my colleagues who enjoy a quite glass of wine with their Saturday tea and don't kill people on the road or beat their wives afterwards. And quite rightly too.
I am not here to convince your colleagues, though I am surprised that some members of the health profession who deal with the effects of substance abuse continue to indulge in alcohol consumption.
Drinking, like every other activity, is vastly imbued with the social attitudes, context, beliefs and personal attributes of course.
It appears that you are saying that various social attitudes, contexts, beliefs and personal attributes trump sila. And I reject this categorically.
Can we use the above as argument for lying? stealing? committing various sexual misconducts? killing? We are talking about sila, sila which is the bedrock for the path, the foundation for liberation.
Have a look here, for example:

http://www.peele.net/lib/sociocul.html
Thank you for the link.
I am not trying to excuse or rationalise drinking. In fact for anyone with some experience with meditation it is usually obvious that even a small drink seriously impairs the ability to function, let alone function mindfully.
Absolutely, but not only when we are in meditation.
What I am questioning is your categorical approach that does not gel with the Dhamma as I understand it, your quotes notwithstanding.
This is where we disagree.
I think the key are the words "carelessness" and "heedlessness" in your citations. Avoiding these mental states and what leads to them is the intention of the precept as I see it. And of course the kamma that often follows.
If you are right, then the wording of the sila would be different. More like 'Don't become heedless and careless from taking intoxicants', instead, we see the word abstain
As for your comment about abhorent actions being excused as "skillful means" I think that was uncalled for.
I am merely calling it as I see it. I think it would be a grave matter of concern if a teacher is not upholding basic sila.
For starters, skillful means are already present in Theravada as obviously different teachings are more suitable for different personalities and abilities (Sangiti Sutta). So inherently there are levels to practice and to explanation.
And I will call it as I see it if its a theravada teacher or mahayana teacher. Don't conflate this as sectarian!
In Dharma, as I learned it, ethics is the foundation (Six Paramitas). The intent of the Fifth Precept, as I see it, is primarily to avoid unwholesome mental states that tend to lead to compromising the ethics.
Then how does one avoid unwholesome mental states when one indulges in an intoxicant? You have already conceded that even small amounts are deliterious.
Also, my friend is not an alcoholic. He is a moderate drinker. He is addicted to smoking and this is something that he may one day want to explore in our garage chats. I don't know. But hope so.
My apologies. But from your description of the ritual of sharing a keg - it seemed like an addiction issue.

_/|\_
PS Since you quote the Uposatha Sutta, may I ask if you eat after midday, listen to music or lie on high beds? Would you advocate these as strongly? Otherwise why quote selectively?
Dan, the five precepts are within the eight uposotha precepts. That is why I quoted the uposotha sutta. Its not a matter of selective quoting. And yes, I do uphold the eight precepts when on retreat. The precepts are there for your benefit.

Dan, if you have seen what I have seen - I am sure that like me, you wouldn't touch alcohol again. Life is very short and fickle Dan. At any moment we can be swepped away. I have decided what I want to devote my life to. And that is my family and the Dhamma. Nowhere have I seen in the Tipitaka anywhere where the Buddha says that the fifth precept can be dispensed with - or any of the sila for that matter.
kind regards

Ben
Last edited by Dan74 on Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
_/|\_

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by Individual » Fri Oct 30, 2009 2:22 am

Even assuming you're right, Dan (and I believe you are) if stating that "total abstinence from alcohol" is one's interpretation of the 5th precept prevents even one person from an alcohol-related tragedy, that benefit seems to outweigh the possibility of offending someone who likes to enjoy the occasional glass of wine, after they are told what they do is bad kamma.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by Dan74 » Fri Oct 30, 2009 2:28 am

You don't need to side with anybody, Individual. As I said in my first post, I believe the Precept is both practical and wise. I can happily live without alcohol and would shed no tears if there was no alcohol (and drugs) left anywhere on the planet (except for medicinal uses) - the benefits would outweigh the inconvenience caused to happy social drinkers.

What I took issue with is Ben's seemingly militant approach -"if you have any alcohol at all, you are in breach of Sila" and by implication not a committed Buddhist. Blanket approaches like these tend to backfire, I find.

_/|\_
_/|\_

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by Individual » Fri Oct 30, 2009 2:45 am

Hmm. Maybe.
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by Lazy_eye » Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:58 am

Individual wrote: And there is a danger in that. The suttas definitely regard all sensual pleasures as dangerous.
True. But of course most of us still have attachments to them, to varying degrees. Otherwise we would be anagami.

As a wise person once said:
Buddhists aren't paragons of virtue. We just aspire to be.

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by cooran » Fri Oct 30, 2009 5:26 am

Hello all,

The Fifth Precept isn't optional for Buddhists - if one considers oneself a Buddhist ... it is part of the Training - and being part of the Training doesn't mean it is "Optional".

The Buddha said:
"The drinking of fermented & distilled liquors — when indulged in, developed, & pursued — is something that leads to hell, leads to rebirth as a common animal, leads to the realm of the hungry shades. The slightest of all the results coming from drinking fermented & distilled liquors is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to mental derangement." AN 8.40 Vipaka Sutta: Results

A Discipline of Sobriety by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Several months ago I went for a two-week retreat to a hermitage in the low country highly respected for the austere, meditative life of its monks. Each day a different group of dayakas (donors) comes to the monastery bringing almsfood, often from remote towns and villages. They arrive the previous evening, prepare an early breakfast which is sent up to the refectory, and then, in the forenoon, offer alms directly to the monks when they come down on alms round. After the other monks have collected their food and gone back up, one elder stays behind to give the Refuges and Precepts, preach a short sermon, and conduct the dedication of merit.
One day during my retreat I noticed some of the male dayakas behaving rather oddly near the abbot's quarters. I asked my friend, a German monk, about their strange behavior, and the explanation he gave me jolted my mind. "They were drunk," he told me. But that wasn't all. He continued: "The only thing unusual about yesterday's incident was that the men had gotten drunk early in the day. Usually they put on their best behavior until the formalities are done, then they break out the bottles."
This stark revelation aroused in me both indignation and sorrow. Indignation, at the idea that people who consider themselves Buddhists should flaunt the most basic precepts even in the sacred precincts of a monastery — indeed one of the few in Sri Lanka where the flame of arduous striving still burns. Sorrow, because this was only the latest evidence I had seen of how deeply the disease of alcoholism has eaten into the entrails of this nation, whose Buddhist heritage goes back over two thousand years. But Sri Lanka is far from being the only Buddhist country to be engulfed by the spreading wave of alcohol consumption. The wave has already swept over far too much of the shrinking Buddhist world, with Thailand and Japan ranking especially high on the fatality list.
The reasons for this ominous trend vary widely. One is rising affluence, which for the rich makes of liquor (hi-grade imported) a visible symbol of newly acquired wealth and power. Another is a burgeoning middle class, which blindly imitates the social conventions of the West. Still another is poverty, which turns the bottle into an easy escape route from the grim face of everyday reality. But whatever the reason, it is more than our woes and worries that alcohol is dissolving. It is gnawing away at the delicate fabric of Buddhist values on every level — personal, family, and social.
For his lay followers the Buddha has prescribed five precepts as the minimal moral observance: abstinence from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and the use of intoxicants. He did not lay down these precepts arbitrarily or out of compliance with ancient customs, but because he understood, with his omniscient knowledge, which lines of conduct lead to our welfare and happiness and which lead to harm and suffering. The fifth precept, it should be stressed, is not a pledge merely to abstain from intoxication or from excessive consumption of liquor. It calls for nothing short of total abstinence. By this rule the Buddha shows that he has understood well the subtle, pernicious nature of addiction. Alcoholism rarely claims its victims in a sudden swoop. Usually it sets in gradually, beginning perhaps with the social icebreaker, the drink among friends, or the cocktail after a hard day's work. But it does not stop there: slowly it sinks its talons into its victims' hearts until they are reduced to its helpless prey.
To dispel any doubt about his reasons for prescribing this precept, the Buddha has written the explanation into the rule itself: one is to refrain from the use of intoxicating drinks and drugs because they are the cause of heedlessness (pamada). Heedlessness means moral recklessness, disregard for the bounds between right and wrong. It is the loss of heedfulness (appamada), moral scrupulousness based on a keen perception of the dangers in unwholesome states. Heedfulness is the keynote of the Buddhist path, "the way to the Deathless," running through all three stages of the path: morality, concentration, and wisdom. To indulge in intoxicating drinks is to risk falling away from each stage. The use of alcohol blunts the sense of shame and moral dread and thus leads almost inevitably to a breach of the other precepts. One addicted to liquor will have little hesitation to lie or steal, will lose all sense of sexual decency, and may easily be provoked even to murder. Hard statistics clearly confirm the close connection between the use of alcohol and violent crime, not to speak of traffic accidents, occupational hazards, and disharmony within the home. Alcoholism is indeed a most costly burden on the whole society.
When the use of intoxicants eats away at even the most basic moral scruples, little need be said about its corrosive influence on the two higher stages of the path. A mind besotted by drink will lack the alertness required for meditative training and certainly won't be able to make the fine distinctions between good and bad mental qualities needed to develop wisdom. The Buddhist path in its entirety is a discipline of sobriety, a discipline which demands the courage and honesty to take a long, hard, utterly sober look at the sobering truths about existence. Such courage and honesty will hardly be possible for one who must escape from truth into the glittering but fragile fantasyland opened up by drink and drugs.
It may well be that a mature, reasonably well-adjusted person can enjoy a few drinks with friends without turning into a drunkard or a murderous fiend. But there is another factor to consider: namely, that this life is not the only life we lead. Our stream of consciousness does not terminate with death but continues on in other forms, and the form it takes is determined by our habits, propensities, and actions in this present life. The possibilities of rebirth are boundless, yet the road to the lower realms is wide and smooth, the road upward steep and narrow. If we were ordered to walk along a narrow ledge overlooking a sharp precipice, we certainly would not want to put ourselves at risk by first enjoying a few drinks. We would be too keenly aware that nothing less than our life is at stake. If we only had eyes to see, we would realize that this is a perfect metaphor for the human condition, as the Buddha himself, the One with Vision, confirms (see SN 56:42). As human beings we walk along a narrow ledge, and if our moral sense is dulled we can easily topple over the edge, down to the plane of misery, from which it is extremely difficult to re-emerge.
But it is not for our own sakes alone, nor even for the wider benefit of our family and friends, that we should heed the Buddha's injunction to abstain from intoxicants. To do so is also part of our personal responsibility for preserving the Buddha's Sasana. The Teaching can survive only as long as its followers uphold it, and in the present day one of the most insidious corruptions eating away at the entrails of Buddhism is the extensive spread of the drinking habit among those same followers. If we truly want the Dhamma to endure long, to keep the path to deliverance open for all the world, then we must remain heedful. If the current trend continues and more and more Buddhists succumb to the lure of intoxicating drinks, we can be sure that the Teaching will perish in all but name. At this very moment of history when its message has become most urgent, the sacred Dhamma of the Buddha will be irreparably lost, drowned out by the clinking of glasses and our rounds of merry toasts.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_36.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

EXCERPT FROM Radical Therapy - Buddhist Precepts in the Modern World by Lily de Silva
The precept against intoxicants
Brewing liquor is one of the most profitable industries in the world today and the market is replete with various brands of alcohol. In Sri Lanka the state coffers are handsomely augmented by the revenue earned from the sale of liquor, and the consumption of expensive foreign alcohol is regarded as a luxury of high society. Values have become so perverted that it is the teetotaller who gets cornered in society today. Only a man with high moral scruples and a strong character can decline the offer of a drink at a party despite the embarrassment of being regarded as a wet blanket or one under petticoat government. It also remains a fact that many who end up as alcoholics were first introduced to drinking for social acceptance.
Alcoholism and drug abuse are burning social problems of modern society. They ruin the physical and mental health of the addicts. One does not have to be a habitual drunkard to fall prey to disease. According to a British medical journal, daily beer drinkers are twelve times more at risk of developing cancer of the colon than non-drinkers. It is also reported that even relatively modest social drinking by pregnant women can harm the fetus. The babies are abnormally small, or have small heads or jittery eyes. These are effects associated with what is called the fetal-alcoholism syndrome, which in its extreme form produces very distorted features and a retarded brain. Alcohol also causes irreparable damage to brain cells in adults even when taken in small quantities, while larger quantities can damage vital organs of the body. Drug abuse is even more injurious.
Fully realizing the harmful effects of intoxicants, Buddhism has included abstention from them among the basic moral precepts. The dangers of intoxicants are enumerated in a number of the Buddha's discourses, the most famous of which is the Sigalovada Sutta (D.iii,182). Indulgence in intoxicants causes economic downfall. The episode of Mahadhanasetthi (DhA.iii,129), who squandered a vast fortune by drinking with evil friends and was reduced to beggary in his old age, is a classic example related in the Pali texts of a wealthy man ruined by alcohol.
Intoxicants can cause disputes, quarrels and family violence. Disruption of family life is often caused by addiction to liquor and drugs, and this brings about a whole chain of other related social problems. The Suttas report that ill health and a bad reputation are also caused by the habit of taking intoxicants, which also destroys inhibitions and weakens wisdom. The situation is aptly summarized by a modern writer who said that man's conscience is soluble in alcohol.
Most of the crimes in modern society, as well as serious traffic accidents, have liquor and drugs as the root cause. In spite of the devastating social effects of alcohol that are so evident today, attractive advertisements clutter the mass media depicting liquor as integral to the lifestyle of the affluent, to emulate which is the dream of the common man. People have to be educated and convinced not only of the ill effects of intoxicants but also of the value of will power and strength of character to resist the temptations that society throws in their way. It is only one who is weak in character who will get trapped in these snares.
The individual should also be taught to cultivate a sympathetic attitude toward his own body and mind. They are his instruments of action and it is his own responsibility, and in his own interest, to keep them healthy and efficient. In the meditation on loving-kindness in Buddhism the individual is first taught how to develop a benevolent attitude toward himself. "May I be well and happy" is quietly and mindfully repeated several times each day at the beginning of the meditation to impress upon the mind a compassionate attitude toward himself. When the benevolent attitude becomes deeply ingrained in the mind, the meditator will gradually refrain from habits which are injurious to his own body and mind. It is the paramount duty of all concerned people who realize that society today is in a precarious state, to muster all resources at their command to bring about a change in man's attitude to rescue him from the perils of his own making.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... bl123.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The Fifth Precept in Theravada Buddhism
Bikkhu Bodhi explains in "Going for Refuge" that the Fifth Precept can be translated from the Pali to prohibit "fermented and distilled liquors which are intoxicants" or "fermented and distilled liquors and other intoxicants." Either way, clearly the guiding purpose of the precept is "to prevent heedlessness caused by the taking of intoxicating substances."
According to Bikkhu Bodhi, violating the precept requires an intoxicant, an intention to take an intoxicant, the activity of ingesting the intoxicant, and the actual ingestion of the intoxicant. Taking medication containing alcohol, opiates or other intoxicants for genuine medical reasons does not count, nor does eating food flavored with a small amount of liquor. Otherwise, Theravada Buddhism considers the Fifth Precept to be a clear prohibition of drinking.
Although Theravada monks generally don't march around calling for prohibition, laypeople are discouraged from drinking. In southeast Asia, where Theravada Buddhism dominates, the monastic sangha often calls for bars and liquor stores to be closed on major uposatha days.
http://buddhism.about.com/od/theprecept ... recept.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

metta
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by Dan74 » Fri Oct 30, 2009 9:37 am

I guess this is one place where there is clear divergence of approaches among the schools. In Mahayana, what certainly exists is a clear prohibition against selling alcohol (Brahma Net sutra). In some places people take precepts but the emphasis is usually on avoiding "heedlessness" and "carelessness" rather than the "black letter of the law": ie alcohol is a NO-NO, but other diversions and habits that lead to these states slip through the precept "loophole" and are OK.

I rather think that great teachers like Sasaki Roshi knows what he is doing when he drinks and is less heedless and careless at the worst of times (and at 102) than most of us here, at our best. I am especially skeptical of those who rush to condemn and "excommunicate". These is indeed a careless and heedless attitude.

_/|\_
_/|\_

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by Individual » Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:45 am

Wouldn't avoiding heedlnessness imply avoiding alcohol?

You might say, "No, because Sasaki Roshi can drink alcohol mindfully."

Meh. People shouldn't be disparaging of others in a way that is not helpful, but Sasaki Roshi should set a good example for others, not a bad one, if alcohol is truly a "no-no".
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by Khalil Bodhi » Fri Oct 30, 2009 11:48 am

I mean this with all due respect but, as Buddhists, shouldn't we take the Buddha as our exemplar when it comes to right conduct? The roshi of whom you speak may be a great guy with great attainments and a heart over-flowing with compassion but he's certainly not a samma-sambuddha. Who do you think knows better? Anyway, I apologize for any offense I may cause but, having myself been down that road to the point of almost losing my life, I just couldn't resist. Metta.

Mike :anjali:
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by Sanghamitta » Fri Oct 30, 2009 11:55 am

Khalil Bodhi wrote:I mean this with all due respect but, as Buddhists, shouldn't we take the Buddha as our exemplar when it comes to right conduct? The roshi of whom you speak may be a great guy with great attainments and a heart over-flowing with compassion but he's certainly not a samma-sambuddha. Who do you think knows better? Anyway, I apologize for any offense I may cause but, having myself been down that road to the point of almost losing my life, I just couldn't resist. Metta.

Mike :anjali:

Does Zen recognise the concept of a Samma-Sambuddha ? Does it not instead talk about all beings having " Buddha Nature" equally ?
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by Khalil Bodhi » Fri Oct 30, 2009 11:58 am

Hmmm...good question. I guess that's the point where you're really talking about comparing apples and oranges.
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by BlackBird » Sat Oct 31, 2009 12:05 am

Having spent most weekends of my teenage years drinking 'till I was sick, I've seen a lot of the nasty results alcohol causes. Fundamental ignorance has to be at play for people to consider these sort of things in any way enjoyable.

Drink a little alcohol, and you're reinforcing your craving for things to be different, drink a lot and things become exponentially worse.

If long term happiness were in the compass direction of North, then having a drink is like turning around and taking 5 steps South. If happiness is your goal then by drinking even a glass, you're just creating more work for yourself.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Dan74
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Re: About the fifth Śīla

Post by Dan74 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 12:21 am

There is also a sutta involving an actor where the Buddha tells him that what he does will lead to a rebirth in the lower realms (from memory).

Now is all entertainment and music inherently harmful?

It seems that in Anglo-Saxon cultures drinking is similarly linked to harm, but it does not have to be as I tried to show above.

Khalil :hello: , I am not here to defend Sasaki Roshi's drinking, nor do I assume that he is a completely enlightened being, a Buddha. Most likely he isn't. So no offense at all.

What I am questioning is a blanket condemnation of any alcohol consumption as un-Buddhist and people involved as not being Buddhist. I would say the same about vegetarianism, even though there is a much clearer connection to Sila there, in my view.

If I have an issue with drinking, then of course it is best to stop altogether. And even if I don't have a issue, it is good to stop - for reasons discussed above. What I don't see as useful is a militant attitude like the one found in many vegetarians. A categorical judgmental attitude is far more detrimental to practice than an occasional drink with one's meal, in my opinion.

_/|\_

PS
Sanghamitta wrote:Does Zen recognise the concept of a Samma-Sambuddha ? Does it not instead talk about all beings having " Buddha Nature" equally ?
This is really a question for Pannasikhara, but from what I know, I would say that there is definitely a concept of a fully liberated one, an arahat which is the same (though a Buddha is understood a little bit differently than in Theravada). Zen is part of Mahayana, and Mahayana sutras describe liberation in some detail. Zen masters too spoke about it in some detail but the amount of attention given to it varies between sects (the various Chan sects, Soto/Rinzai and Son). As for all beings having the Buddha Nature, this is said in some sects but the meaning is that this Buddha Nature still needs to be uncovered or realized. Otherwise why practice? The point is that it is nowhere else, nor comes from elsewhere as I understand it.
_/|\_

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