Another round: alcohol

There are a number of thoughtful threads already on SC D&D on the 5th precept and alcohol consumption. (edit: i do not know how to make handy links at the bottom of an OP but one can simply search D&D alcohol to see some). :slight_smile: Buddhists seem to have been talking about whether an occasional drink is a problem since the time of the Buddha, and it does not seem likely to stop. As it is often a concern, additional information from a recently published scientific study might be useful to consider:

CNN report No amount of alcohol is good for your overall health, global study says

Lancet study Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016

From the study Interpretation,

Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for global disease burden and causes substantial health loss. We found that the risk of all-cause mortality, and of cancers specifically, rises with increasing levels of consumption, and the level of consumption that minimises health loss is zero. These results suggest that alcohol control policies might need to be revised worldwide, refocusing on efforts to lower overall population-level consumption.

The CNN article includes a little immediate criticism which notes that many choices including automobile driving and even being born are not risk or mortality -free. And if we are on a Middle Path, a gradual path, which leads ultimately from liberation from all suffering (including that of mortality and rebirth!), still, metta and compassion seem essential, for each and all.

May all be happy, peaceful, ultimately liberated.


Did Buddha say consuming alcohol is bad?
Whoping 127 posts and 15000 visits!
After this post I stioped consuming alcohol for now about five years.


Another sticky post.

Having seen the thread of the post above which mentions Bhante @sujato, it might be helpful to note that several people objected to this characterization of Bhante’s words in the video

Cara: “I don’t hear Bhante saying that drinking occasional alcohol is an acceptable part of the 5 precepts at all, more our attitude in how we should relate to ourselves around them. We should forgive ourselves and others, and continue to aspire and work for better.”

Dharmacorps: “I don’t think thats what Bhante Sujato was saying. I think he was saying that when you are starting you are aspiring to complete the precepts completely. He said nobody is going to come down and land on you if you do drink a small amount (true, the Dhamma police wont lock you up or something).”

Having listened to the video, i understood Bhante’s words in a similar manner.

:slight_smile: no need for confusion.


Thanks @Cara, @ERose and @dharmacorps, nice to know someone is paying attention!

The five precepts are a training, not a set of absolutes. Anyone who makes any efforts towards keeping them should be supported, not castigated because they are not perfect. But when someone asks me whether taking a single glass of wine at a meal is breaking precepts, the answer is yes. Should they do it? No.

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I find it interesting that in DN31 four corrupt deeds are mentioned, rather than five. I automatically expected alcohol to be in this list; I guess I need to investigate the historical origin of the precepts.

2. Four Corrupt Deeds
What four corrupt deeds have they given up? Killing living creatures, stealing, sexual misconduct, and lying: these are corrupt deeds. These are the four corrupt deeds they’ve given up.” That is what the Buddha said. Then the Holy One, the Teacher, went on to say:
“Killing, stealing,
telling lies,
and committing adultery:
astute people don’t praise these things.”


This is sometimes the case where the 5th precept is omitted in the suttas in lists of wrong actions, but its clear that the 5th precept is seen as a way to protect onesself and others from breaking the other 4. It doesn’t mean it is of lesser importance.

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:slight_smile: Doubtless that is logically the case; can you point me to a sutta that says this explicitly? I’d be grateful if you would. I’ll put a question about the precepts into a separate thread.

I think there are numerous. I may have a book which has references–will try to get to it this weekend :slight_smile:

I think that it is worth checking Khumbha Jataka (Ja 512), which among some lay Theravadin communities is considered the origin story of the 5th precept:



Hopefully updated list:


The level of consumption that minimises an individual’s risk is 0 g of ethanol per week, largely driven by the fact that the estimated protective effects for ischaemic heart disease and diabetes in women are offset by monotonic associations with cancer.

The Blessed One said: "Ananda, Udayi’s way of presentation, with which Carpenter Fivetools disagreed, was correct, indeed.
But also Carpenter Fivetool’s way of presentation, with which Udayi disagreed, was correct.
In one way of presentation, I have spoken of two kinds of feelings, and in other ways of presentation, I have spoken of three, of six, of eighteen, of thirty-six, and of one hundred and eight kinds of feelings.[2]
So the Dhamma has been shown by me in different ways of presentation.

It seems that the Buddha often presented the Dhamma, for example items found on a list, in different ways. Thus, all the lists (actually) taught by the Buddha seems to be considered correct by him, even if the lists are not always identical.