I know Sorry if my sarcasm didn’t filter through. I was trying to argue that these precepts aren’t so black and white with one precept being compared to another and in absolute terms.
No worries. It is worth highlight that in Ajahn Thanissaro’s introduction to the monastic rules we find something relevant and related to this topic:
There are a few rules where the factors of intention and perception make no difference at all — such as in the rule forbidding a monk to drink alcohol (Pc51) — but they almost always deal with situations where one would be expected to be mindful and perceptive enough to know what’s going on, and so these rules too help in the training of the mind.
But what about the times when we feel like bugs, getting squashed by things in life ? Like that Insect-Guy, Gregor Samsa.
the training rule reads:
Surā-meraya-majja-pamādatthāna veramani sikkhāpadam samādiyami.
Surā-meraya-majja Liquor and intoxicants
Pamādatthana * a careless, negligent or heedless state of being.*
Taking a sip or taste would not lead to a careless state of being. Ie Matt’s example or mine from earlier. For most westerners even a ‘standard drink’ would not.
sikkhāpadam training steps
Training steps implying there is room for improvement. If I go to a gym I couldn’t lift 120kg, but with training I can. I’d have to take steps start with 60kg, which would be easy for many. Then after a few weeks 80kg the 100kg… Someone training in virtue it might be the same. For them training is at first stopping at a single standard drink, however often it is they’d normally drink. Then they might decrease the regularity. Then seeing they don’t need booze to be relaxed and have fun, they might have a sip at an important occasion. Eventually booze starts to taste pretty horrible and they stop.
samādiyami being taken upon oneself
Kind of the opposite to Thou Shalt Not. You need to have a personal investment in the process
Hi all. Mingalapar ( Hello - good day/evening- )from Myanmar. I am Graham but my Myanmar wife calls me Ko Ko
After doing an Advanced Diploma in Theology - Perth Australia, I met my wife and started learning about Lord Buddha and his teachings. If I had not done Theology study I would not have been open to Buddhism or meditation. On studying the 5 precepts, I have taken these as a basic tenant.
I feel this is my responsibility as I continue my journey. In the last 10 years I have had the occasional alcoholic drink but since coming to Myanmar 5 years ago I have totally stopped. My decision, based on what I have studied and learnt. That is what Lord Buddha taught is it not - go find out first.
In Yangon, a new environment is surfacing. More alcohol and international brewers competing with the locals.
Many men drink regularly. So Pasanna, this westerner finds Precept number 5 the easiest to follow. Many Myanmar men find it the hardest.
Also, 45 % smoke and chew Betel nut, which gives them an " alcoholic" type high.
When I attend family functions and the men pull out the whisky, and I say no thanks, they are both a little surprised and a tad embarrassed. They know the precept, but that is their journey.
Hi @kokomyanmar, thanks for joining the discussion. I especially like your last sentence.
Something in your reply reminded me of mn20
I think we could apply it to recommendations for a teacher to give to someone giving up intoxicants.
- Replacement- suggest they ask for a soft drink or water when offered a drink.
- Suggest not drinking for one night to see how disgusting people are by the end of there 2nd drink let alone end of the night.
- Don’t go out to places where the main activity is drinking. Meet friends somewhere else. In the daytime.
- Go from walking fast, to slow to stop- advise they gradually reduce consumption
- Clamp down on them and make them feel guilty.
Just an idea and one I will try next time the question comes up
Another thing I would like to bring to this conversation relates to how adherents of Jainism deal with alcohol. A friend of mine who is originally from northern India said that lay Jains are nowadays quite comfortable with using alcohol and somehow famous for that.
Is anyone here living in India and able to confirm this? If positive, is it the case that the Buddhist precept of abstaining from intoxicants was in the early days a differentiation factor between spiritual communities?
Is it the case that the non-violence centered Jain approach to sila would see drunkenness as a lesser evil to all the unintentional and, in their view, sinful harm necessarily involved in all activities one has to go about as a living being?
The thing is that for those who follow Jainism, in a nutshell, it is only by suspending the building up of karma that the soul is freed up to float and stick to the ceiling of the universe (yep, that’s their awakening in a nutshell). If one take this approach to things then getting drunk and falling unconscious is a lesser evil to all the bad karma involved, from their perspective, in all the not necessarily intentional harm involved in the conscious world!
I think there is something we can take away from this.
If we were to apply it to every one of the 5 precepts,
After taking on the precept of non killing, we don’t kill occasionally.
After taking on the precept of non stealing, we don’t steal occasionally.
After taking on the precept of non sexual misconduct, we don’t cheat once in a while.
After taking on the precept of non lying, abusive speech, we don’t lie once in awhile.
After taking on the precept on non intoxication, we don’t drink or shoot ourselves up once in a while.
We undertook these willingly (no one forced us to) and we should come clear to ourselves when faced with temptation that it’d be against the very purpose of what we set for ourselves in the first place.
Imagine i made myself quit smoking, knowing the pros and cons to it, knowing how bad it is for me. But once in awhile when the craving comes, i’ll try and justified to myself, i’m not harming anyone by smoking a stick, just a stick com’on it’s not gonna hurt.
But less than real, that one stick lead to the second and to the third, which lead to a life time to giving in to oneself, until the deathbed. If we undertook the precepts knowing why the Buddha taught us to, it’d be good to face up to it.
PS: The smoking analogy is real. I’ve battled smoking for most part of my life. Sometimes succeeding in quitting for months and sometimes taking it back up again. That’s my vice. I guess i’m lucky that alcohol’s taste doesn’t sit well with my taste bud.
The precepts aren’t black and white.
Let’s take the 2nd training rule as an example.
The coarse end is holding up a bank.
This would be a disrobable offence.
Less coarse; stealing a Snickers fun-size.
Not something you would be procedures for. Not a disrobable offence. Still really not good for your mind or the cashflow of the shop owner.
‘Stealing’ a potato chip from a friend’s plate. Most people in a recent Dhamma group I was in thought this was fine. For someone fine tuning this might not be.
Being disorganised and lazy and therefore arriving late to meet someone. Stealing their precious time. Most people in the same group thought this was an aspect of the training they would consider more seriously.
There are many more examples to do with the others too. I could give examples but hopefully you get my point.
The training is to be refined from the coarsest to the finest forms. And even if sometimes broken, by taking precepts people are at least agreeing on a ‘moral ideal’, as Bhante Sujato outlines in the beginning of this talk.
I am not advocating complacency. I am advocating training to strengthen the heedfulness-muscle.
I think for this precept to be genuinely helpful those people who have an addiction or craving for alcohol, probably shouldn’t drink at all. Others who don’t have such a problem might benefit from letting go of the defilements around being too strict with oneself or worse … the conceit ‘I am soo very virtuous!’.
I heard from Ven Premasiri that when he was observing dhuthanga- a stricter form of discipline, his head monk would slip him extra food, which he wasn’t supposed to have according to his extra strict discipline. This was to disrupt the mental state of being too fixed- but of course this is rather advanced practice. For the normal joe- just keep the precepts might suffice.
This is what happens with alcohol too.
I know at least two cases who just quit but then start smoking and drinking again because of this just only once approach.
In my case, I stopped both smoking and alcohol, cold turkey.
There are a number of things I would like to improve upon when it comes to restraint of the senses and so on… I imagine it’s the same kind of wobbly path for most of us? 2 steps forward, one step back? At one time feeling like you’re on the Path and at others, feeling lost in an opposite conditioning.
So I can have some empathy for anyone seeing the 5th precept as something worthy of keeping, but is struggling to some degree to keep it. I feel so lucky to be able to say that I never really got into alcohol and couldn’t see what all the fuss was about and when I decided to keep this precept, it was the easiest thing to do. And it makes me feel so happy and relieved.
I know in the past I’ve been judgemental of others who haven’t kept precepts purely. I didn’t see that they did actually value what the 5th precept is all about and that they were doing the best that they could. I hope I’m not so quick to judge in future.
I do still feel saddened when I see good, kind people, who know about the precepts, willingly drink because it is “the done thing to do”. Perhaps there are other factors at play but I have observed that there’s a sort of dissapation of their brightness, like something has taken it’s toll on their faculties, that seems to take place over a number of years. It does sadden me to see this. Partly also because it means that people who know about the Dhamma are not Practising it and therefore not Protecting it; basically the Sasana as a whole is being weakened and the chances of the Truth lasting in the world for all our sakes, is diminished.
I know there’s an argument, (the intention behind which, I believe, is to give people a break and some encouragement to keep trying to keep their precepts) that suggests that if the drink isn’t intoxicating and is only a small amount, then it’s not so bad. Perhaps that’s a good place to start and I completely applaud any efforts to even move towards keeping this precept.
I would like to offer my own humble view, and that is the big picture view that takes into account the possibility of more than one life. I see myself as cultivating a habit that may stand me in good stead in whatever possible future there may be. I am cultivating a habit not just for this life, I am taking a long term view of the matter, because goodness knows what I’ll be surrounded by in another life - perhaps all I’ll have in my next life will be the habits I’ve grown in this one…
With Mudita for everyone keeping the 5th Precept and for everyone trying to keep it and for everyone who at least thinks it’s a darn good idea to keep it! Good on us all!
And you nailed it.
Mudita and Metta!
Although the fifth precepts is also the easiest one for me (my heart out for those that is their hardest precept to keep to), it is one that i take much care for.
It is due to something someone said to me when i was younger, which reaffirms the Buddha’s guide for us to keep the fifth precept.
This person is a Psychologist who worked in prison for a part of his life, being a counselor for the inmates. He told me, he has never seen a smoker hurt another person when he doesn’t get his smokes. But he has seen lots of alcoholic who hurt their families and friends and even other people when they don’t get their alcohol. Of course i suppose addiction to drugs also have this effect, that’s why it’s the fifth precept.
It won’t work.
Trust me, I say this from my experience and observation of others.
It is like the last staw kill the camel’s back.
Especially, it is demeaning to a dhamma teacher to consume any alcohol.
I remember once some men discussing Buddha Dhamma while enjoying their glass of scotch and brandy. The women in the kitchen were laughing at them for their hypocrisy.
I could say ‘it does work. Trust me from my experience’
Inferring alcohol is as addictive as cigarette is untrue.
Let’s look at some stats from the US government agency on drug abuse:
Estimates from research suggest that 32 percent of tobacco users and 15 percent of alcohol users become addicted, according to the NIDA
In 2013, 30.2 percent of men and 16.0 percent of women 12 and older reported binge drinking in the past month. And 9.5 percent of men and 3.3 percent of women reported heavy alcohol use.
In other words; 85% of people who have a drink don’t become addicted. 70% of people who drink don’t binge drink and 90% of people who drink aren’t regular heavy drinkers. Alcohol is half as addictive as smoking.
These are stats of general populations too. Not of people interested in mental cultivation. This gives me confidence that people who are interested in mental cultivation, who are valuing clear mindedness and learning wholesome means are indeed capable of moderating there intake to a level that is apamadatthana. This level could eventually be zero, but that’s not even what the training asks.
This is meant to be the path of gradual training in the middle way. Saying Thou Shall Not to many people is more likely to set them up for a binge cycle. I’ve seen this with food consumption. Someone will start ‘eating clean’, not having chocolate or bread or potato chips at all because it’s ‘bad’ and then wind up head first in a pile of junk food again.
If they learn strategies where they are becoming kinder to themselves and others (mettā) and ways to deal with stress (anapannasati and walking meditation) and have a small, measured quantity of ‘junk food’ on a consistent basis, the ‘power’ of that food diminishes, as does the guilt. There self worth increases and they become less interested in dealing with emotional situations with external stimulus.
Good luck Pasanna.
Enjoy your occasional drink.
Buddha said there are four types of people. (I can’t recall the sutta)
1)They help others but do not help themselves.
2)They do not help others but help themselves.
3)They help neither themselves nor others.
4)They help themselves and others.
Decide which category you wish to be in.
Just to make it clear; I don’t drink. I don’t engage in any sexual activity. I don’t eat in the afternoon. I don’t watch television, listen to music or play computer games. I don’t wear deodorant, perfumes or makeup and I dress in the same clothes every day. I only handle money and engage in commerce for the purposes of the 4 requisites and to further my study of the Dhamma.
I choose to do these things because I have personally experienced the benefit. It is a means of mental cultivation and provides a more peaceful life.
I don’t do it so I can judge others or hold a moral high ground. People so harshly judge themselves already. No body can change another person each is the owner of their own kamma.
Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu.
This is music to my ears.
Well Buddha thought like this too.
But he changed his mind and decided to teach.
Perhaps this the Maha Brahama talking to you.
“Prasanna, there are some people with little dust in their eyes. Go and teach them. you can change them”