Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Anagarika
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Anagarika » Sun Nov 29, 2015 1:32 pm

Bhante's comment is excellent, and Ben's above is important, too. We're using the term "breach" here the way the word precept might be used as a "law."
I usually don't think of the precepts in terms of them being laws or regulations. From the Pali, the taking of the precepts is the undertaking of training rules. As Ben pointed out, intention is very important...one person's use of a drug might be very different from the intention of another's use of it ( ie to cause intoxication and the resultant heedlessness, the reason for the training rule in the first place). Rather than ruminating or worrying about whether we "breached a law," or, "sinned," we might consider whether our practice of the precepts ins consistent with the training of our minds, and the elimination of our unskillful behaviors. There may be occasions where we do not keep some of our precepts perfectly...that's OK, so long as we mindfully endeavor to do better, so as to keep our training focused on our development. Don't beat yourself up if you drink a strong cup of coffee in order to stay up late reading, or get a pleasant "buzz" from too much coffee and chocolate.... just measure what you do against how your training on the path is going.

To note, I take the precepts seriously. I feel they should be understood and taken seriously. Yet, the beauty of the Buddhist practice is that we are freed of concepts of sin, or guilt, or "I'm a f##k up, for drinking too much coffee." These precepts keep us on the path, and so long as we see them in this positive light, we needn't worry too much about whether two cups of coffee is the taking of an intoxicant, for example.

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Mon Nov 30, 2015 2:34 am

Like I have mentioned, I don't think consuming coffee violates the fifth precept. I did say however, that consuming caffeinated products with the intention of getting the psychoactive effects go against the general idea or spirit of the precept.

I also gave pro-caffeine arguments about how caffeine functions as an adenosine antagonist, so that this only prevents this substance from inducing sleep, which makes caffeine more as a molecule that blocks a bodily function, therefore not much of a drug. However, there are other molecules that are stimulants.

There are also different degrees of coffee drinkers, from the person who drinks coffee occasionally, people who drink a coffee in the morning, people who drink coffee throughout the day and heavy coffee drinkers.

When it comes to something like coffee and caffeine however, it's important to take into account that after a certain point, without exaggerating, you can become dependent on a substance to maintain a certain state of mind, and that without it your state of mind is very different. This doesn't break the precept, but it is not a pleasant situation to be it at all (also not in line with concepts such as clinging and maintaining non-artificially-induced wholesome states of mind).

I was away from home this weekend. I rarely sleep well in hotel beds and I had to get up early. Listening to a presentation for many hours in a row and without caffeine would have been very difficult. For that, I find that it is very useful and am happy that such a safe and simple substance to counter sleepiness exists. As your daily source of energy (where it basically just depletes your adrenal glands), it is unreliable and causes problems in the long run, as well as dependence.

Alexander____
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Alexander____ » Mon Nov 30, 2015 7:20 am

samseva wrote: I also gave pro-caffeine arguments about how caffeine functions as an adenosine antagonist, so that this only prevents this substance from inducing sleep, which makes caffeine more as a molecule that blocks a bodily function, therefore not much of a drug. However, there are other molecules that are stimulants.
A drug is not just a molecule that acts as an agonist. For example beta blocker are antagonists. A drug is just a molecule that has a biological effect on the body.

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Tue Dec 01, 2015 4:02 am

Alexander____ wrote:A drug is not just a molecule that acts as an agonist. For example beta blocker are antagonists. A drug is just a molecule that has a biological effect on the body.
What I meant is that since caffeine simply blocks adenosine, the substance that accumulates throughout the day and which causes sleepiness, it isn't a drug in the usual sense of how it is thought of. Not as a chemical substance, but as the other definition; a narcotic. Caffeine simply blocks a compound in the body. It isn't similar to other narcotics where there is a foreign substance that increases a bodily function, such as LSD, cocaine and many other common drugs.

Alexander____
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Alexander____ » Tue Dec 01, 2015 7:32 am

Ah ok I see where you're coming from. But even if we only look at recreational drugs there are some that block receptors such as ketamine which blocks the NMDA receptor.

However, as you say the end point of many drugs leads to an increase in bodily function. The enzyme which caffeine blocks usually breaks down the chemical messenger adenosine. When that stops being broken down it leads to an increase of said messenger which causes all the effects we are familiar with around the body such as adrenaline increasing the heart rate. So stopping a decrease leads to an increase...

Anyway totally off topic but because of all the cultural attitudes to drugs I think it's good to get the facts straight when it comes down to the pharmacology and physiology!

Drugs to this. Drugs do that. I find that once I really get down to the meditation though these things tend to melt away.

With much metta

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Tue Dec 01, 2015 7:59 am

Alexander____ wrote:The enzyme which caffeine blocks usually breaks down the chemical messenger adenosine. When that stops being broken down it leads to an increase of said messenger which causes all the effects we are familiar with around the body such as adrenaline increasing the heart rate. So stopping a decrease leads to an increase...
Adenosine isn't an enzyme and caffeine doesn't break it down. What happens is that since caffeine resembles adenosine, it attaches to the receptors and therefore prevents adenosine from doing what it does, which is to induce sleepiness.

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subaru
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by subaru » Tue Dec 01, 2015 9:37 am

As far as I know there is no judge or jury to determine if I have broken a precept and punish me for my mistakes.

I do not take illicit drugs therefore I do not know what they will do to my mind... but my interpretation the 5th precept is; everybody's mind and body is different; ie even if I take Cocaine <or substitute with your drug of choice, coffee even> , (and assuming that the law of the land does not punish me hohoho) , I don't consider me breaking the precept if :
1) I have full control of my faculties
2) I do not harm others or myself
3) I am aware and remember what I do, think and say
4) I am able to establish Samadi or Sati or dispel papanca if and when I want to
5) basically function like a sane human being
6) and ofcoz my intention of taking it is not unwholesome


thats my opinion ofcoz, I am NOT advocating taking illicit drugs.. I am not drugged now, and am willing to admit that I am wrong if someone is kind and compassionate enough to show me the correct view, thank you in advanced.. and am fully aware that what I say here, will cause results that I have to reap in the future, no escape hohoho...

there..
:candle:

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Alex123
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Alex123 » Tue May 03, 2016 7:20 pm

Pinetree wrote: I haven't used amphetamine, don't know what effects it has.
Helps to study for the exams, gives desire to vacuum the house, and take out the garbage. Nothing to mention about positive effects with concentration for those suffering with ADHD.


I wonder why there is even a question about coffee? It doesn't do the same thing as alcohol or other serious mood altering drugs. Coffee helps with headache, reduces pain (a little bit), and can help concentration.

Isn't the spirit (as opposed to mere letter) of the 5th precept is to avoid taking those substances that can really mess one up and cause seriously bad negative actions (ex: cause violence or to break other precepts?).
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Tue May 03, 2016 10:01 pm

Alex123 wrote:I wonder why there is even a question about coffee? It doesn't do the same thing as alcohol or other serious mood altering drugs. Coffee helps with headache, reduces pain (a little bit), and can help concentration.

Isn't the spirit (as opposed to mere letter) of the 5th precept is to avoid taking those substances that can really mess one up and cause seriously bad negative actions (ex: cause violence or to break other precepts?).
Because caffeine is a stimulant. You could argue that it actually helps with concentration and so on, but in a way, you could say that large doses of caffeine would have very similar effects as low doses of methamphetamine, or other drugs in the same category. Do we choose to restrain from using the substance or do we regulate the amount that we ingest, in line with the intensity of the resulting effect? What about half a glass of beer? Or chewing on coca leaves—i.e., to get the effects from the small amount of cocaine they would contain?

Furthermore, it artificially or chemically induces a specific state of mind, which I know from experience that in higher amounts does lead to things like restlessness and makes the hindrances more liable to arise. These are all things the fifth precept is there for.

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Tue May 03, 2016 10:27 pm

On a different aspect regarding regular coffee drinkers, the chemically-created states of mind—increased concentration, alertness and so on—are dependent on ingesting the substance that creates these effects. What I often see with regular coffee drinkers is that their normal physical and mental state is maintained by a number of cups of coffee. Without these cups of coffee, they can be sluggish, irritated and so on. This means that their baseline is when they drink coffee, but their normal state, without caffeine, is in the negative. Therefore, to maintain a normal state of mind, by definition, people in this situation are dependent on caffeine, of which provides them with normal energy and focus.

Medium to heavy coffee drinkers won't like to hear this and it might hit a sensitive spot, but I think all this is quite true and factual.

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Mkoll
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by Mkoll » Tue May 03, 2016 10:30 pm

samseva wrote: You could argue that it actually helps with concentration and so on, but in a way, you could say that large doses of caffeine would have very similar effects as low doses of methamphetamine, or other drugs in the same category.
Regarding caffeine vs. methamphetamine...

Sympathomimetic effects, maybe. But the psychotropic effects (on mood, perception, consciousness) are not the same. Their respective pharmacologies are completely different. Caffeine also doesn't cause measurable brain damage with long-term use, unlike methamphetamine.

Regarding caffeine vs. cocaine...
Same points as with methamphetamine except for the brain damage. But long-term use of cocaine has its own problems.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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daverupa
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by daverupa » Tue May 03, 2016 10:35 pm

samseva wrote:...in a way, you could say that large doses of caffeine would have very similar effects as low doses of methamphetamine, or other drugs in the same category.
This is absurd.

Coffee has an effect, but so does sugar. You haven't demonstrated that it leads to heedlessness in the way that alcohol consumption does, which is the basic standard here for the precept. You've got some sort of crusade going, but it's not a rational one; it's not against the precept to drink coffee, nor juice, nor an energy soda, nor tea, and so on.

It boggles the mind.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Tue May 03, 2016 11:44 pm

Mkoll wrote:Regarding caffeine vs. methamphetamine...

Sympathomimetic effects, maybe. But the psychotropic effects (on mood, perception, consciousness) are not the same. Their respective pharmacologies are completely different. Caffeine also doesn't cause measurable brain damage with long-term use, unlike methamphetamine.

Regarding caffeine vs. cocaine...
Same points as with methamphetamine except for the brain damage. But long-term use of cocaine has its own problems.
I did say large doses of caffeine compared to small quantities of methamphetamine.

Regarding the pharmacological similarities with caffeine and methamphetamine, both largely affect dopamine (same for cocaine) and other monoamines mecanisms of the brain. Also, with increased energy, norepinephrine also naturally kicks in, which methamphetamine does chemically. Although I do agree with the neurotoxic properties of methamphetamine, of which caffeine has almost none. All that apart, they are both classified as stimulants, so even if a drug acts primarily on epinephrine mechanisms, while another acts on norepinephrine and another acts on some other similar neurotransmitter, the effect will be very similar.

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daverupa
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by daverupa » Tue May 03, 2016 11:56 pm

:alien:

Well, sorry to bother y'all.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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samseva
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Re: Coffee, Chocolate and the 5th Precept

Post by samseva » Wed May 04, 2016 12:16 am

daverupa wrote:This is absurd.

Coffee has an effect, but so does sugar. You haven't demonstrated that it leads to heedlessness in the way that alcohol consumption does, which is the basic standard here for the precept. You've got some sort of crusade going, but it's not a rational one; it's not against the precept to drink coffee, nor juice, nor an energy soda, nor tea, and so on.

It boggles the mind.
Sugar is not a psychoactive drug, while caffeine in coffee is. A typical sugar high is only due to an overload of a concentrated form of carbohydrates, which inevitably results in a sugar crash due to a large amount of insulin released in the body, since an excess of glucose in the body is toxic. Caffeine, or any other stimulant, is a psychoactive drug, which is very different.

Have you never taken multiple cups of coffee? If you already drink many cups a day, have you ever tried drinking ten or so cups, which would be the equivalent to 4 or 5 cups for someone who doesn't drink coffee on a regular basis?

Not only does medium to large doses of caffeine cause restlessness, heavily increased flow of thoughts, agitation and irritation, but high levels of caffeine—the amount that some people occasionally drink, and some few who regularly drink—can induce symptoms of psychosis, even in healthy individuals.

http://www.academia.edu/1487404/Caffein ... estigation
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19407709
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25856116
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22472312

With the current trend of energy drinks, things are far worse, since we are just starting to see the effects of these new products.

While this isn't the norm, and I am not on a crusade as you are trying to portray me, caffeine is far from the benign drink it is regarded as. Which is what I am basically putting forth.
Last edited by samseva on Wed May 04, 2016 12:50 am, edited 3 times in total.

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