Is it ok to take some alcohol occasionally?


Then why do you say the occasional drink is OK?


Not everything is so black and white-- some things are shades of grey. I totally abstain from alcohol and all intoxicants and have for quite some time now. I understand that is the clear teaching of the Buddha and would discourage anyone from taking any intoxicant in just about any circumstance.

BUT, There is a big difference between discouraging people from intoxicants and intolerance/judgement. I drank for years and stopped because it was a problem for me. For some time (maybe a couple years), I did drink AND attempted to follow the other precepts. Having a reactionary attitude like this can and does alienate well intended people trying to get sober. From what I can see here, it doesn’t sound like you get that, but as an alcoholic in recovery, I do. I would recommend taking a broader perspective here especially if you are in a position of a dhamma teacher. You have a responsibility to practice right speech in addition to encourage people to hold the precepts.


I am not judgmental or intolerance for others consuming alcohol.
I know the people come to my meditation group consume alcohol.
They consume alcohol while I am with them on the social occasion.

What I am trying to say here is that Buddha never said that consuming alcohol occasionally is Ok.
If anyone says that Buddha said consuming alcohol occasionally is ok, that is the wrong speech.
It is disappointing for me when monks who suppose to teach Buddha dhamma misrepresent Buddha’s teaching.


Because if you actually only have single standard drink and stop at that it doesn’t cloud the mind or lead to carelessness. If you are unable to stop, then it’s not a good idea.

I lived with someone who drank much more than a standard drink and as much as I cared for them and suggested they address there drinking problem they did not stop. They did not have alternative skilful means for addressing their mindstates. They were not interested in mental cultivation, even after many years of me living with them and practicing diligently. Any judgement only caused us both much pain. Unfortunately I’m not an arahant.


Then why don’t you have an occasional drink?


I am not interested in the taste,
I have nearly no personal finances,
I am not excited by food or drink in general,
I have no social environment for such things.

Why would I drink living in a monastery?
That’d be a sure sign of a drinking problem! Hehe


As far as I can tell, nobody is claiming that “consuming alcohol occasionally is OK” nor is anyone saying “the Buddha said consuming alcohol occasionally is OK.” I think that is your misinterpretation of what people are saying.

If you don’t like the quality of monks, why don’t you ordain? :slight_smile:


How about if I offer you a bottle of scotch as Dana?
and a bottle of Coke. A sure fire thing for your taste.


It better be a single malt islay :stuck_out_tongue: then I could pass it on to a good friend who loves a nice peaty Scotch.
I wouldn’t drink it.

At the end of last year I was given a dozen bottles of expensive wine. I gave them away as a Christmas gift.


Ok, I will add a bottle of Coke and some bites for your appetite.
We will have a meditation party.


I will drink the coke but the nibbles will have to be before noon.

If anyone puts Coke in a single malt Islay, they are just drinking to get intoxicated. This I do not condone :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


Riffing a little bit on what Anagarika Pasanna has written, such as

this also, for me, has been a byproduct and benefit of 8 precepts. It took me over a year to “detox” from romantic intimacy, from being social to being more isolated, from being attentive to food and to usual sense pleasures to using food as a basic morning fuel, to showering ( in my case) with only cold water (when the Koung Jor refugee camp gets hot water and a varied diet, I’ll get it), to divorcing myself from beds, hairstyles, entertainments and music. But, as an athlete trains for a marathon, you happily give up the mundane behaviors of lay life to create a mental and physical environment suitable for samadhi, study, and the cultivation of an internal, solitary life that is perhaps healthier and happier. You interact with people without goals or agendas, and see others as friends, sisters and brothers. You appreciate, after a period of time, that a renunciant life is highly compatible with a contemplative life.

One would never drink in a wat, in part as it is forbidden, and in part we owe a duty to the laity (and to ourselves and brother/sister trainees) to behave in a manner befitting the ordination we have taken, whether it is a lower 8 precept ordination, 10 precept samanera/samaneri, or highest ordination. I have argued that an overly dogmatic view of the 5th precept leads to far more suffering and neurotic beliefs among Buddhists than a daily small glass of red wine might (with cardiac health as its intention), but at the same time, the precepts are to be respected and followed.

I just have this idea that the Buddha meant for this Path to be joyful, to be vigorous, and to be filled with positive energy. The more that we weigh ourselves down with anguished discussions over the 5th precept, the less energy we have to cultivate metta, karuna, joy and balance in our lives.


A single standard drink is enough to make a sniper loses his head or a tanker become roasted meat. While the level of single-mindedness of professional soldiers are absolutely impressive and hence exceedingly sensitive to alcohol, that level is still quite shallow compared to that of a monastic in jhana. With this simple logic, any monastic planning to make some decent progress with jhana, even a drop of alcohol would be bad enough, let alone a single standard drink. Anyway, the situation for lay folks would vary depending on their level of commitment to the Path. There’ll be folks who observe the Five Precepts to the letter, there’ll be folks who try to observe but still break them from time to time, and there’ll be folks who break them all the time. Know where you are and try your best to improve yourself in accordance with the teaching of the Four Right Efforts


I think Buddhist snipers have problems with other precepts. Maybe a small drink could help them keep the 1st one! :stuck_out_tongue:

As I understand the 5th precept, it is to protect you from messing up the other 4.
It has the added benefit of assisting in meditation.

Anecdotally; I decided to ‘stop drinking’ the day I had my first deep meditation experience. It took tasting that level of clarity to show me there was no point in drinking (or many other sense pleasures). I was able to have such an experience while still having a glass of wine every few days, but once I’d had the experience it seemed pointless to drink. I then only had a drink 3 or 4 times a year. It didn’t affect my meditation noticeably. If I noticed that it did, I wouldn’t have continued drinking.

Do I think monastics should drink? Absolutely not. They are undertaking a higher level of training. Just like they keep higher training in other sense pleasures. I also don’t think monastics should handle money but that’s a whole other thread! Money can lead to as much heedlessness as a single drink. Yet many lay people are quite happy to hand money to monastics rather than use the donation boxes provided.

Bringing this back to EBTs:
No one else has addressed the terms pamadatthana or sikkhapadam.


I think the best is to analyse, with proper understanding of Pali grammar of course, the whole wording which wraps up the 5th precept:

Kathañca, bhikkhave, puggalo attahitāya ceva paṭipanno hoti parahitāya ca?
ekacco puggalo attanā ca surā­meraya­majja­pa­mā­daṭṭhānā paṭivirato hoti

“And how is one an individual who practices for his own benefit and for that of others?
He himself abstains from intoxicants that cause heedlessness and encourages others in undertaking abstinence from intoxicants that cause heedlessness.
– AN4.99

Maybe @sujato or @Sylvester could enlighten us ?


I’m dropping sura meraya majja only because they’re agreed on as liquor and intoxicants.

The part of the compound I’m interested in is pamādatthana. Which as I can see is made from
Pamāda and thana

The SC dictionary says pamāda isāda
negligence; indolence; remissness; carelessness.

This isn’t the same as abstinence.

Tthana is a form of behaviour?ṭhāna

Am I incorrect about pamāda? Can pamāda mean abstain?


The first recorded pub crawl?

It looks like before this rule was set the monks where allowed to take spirits. This might relate to you Jain question @Gabriel_L


Pamāda is “heedlessness”, ṭhāna is a “cause or basis”, so “basis for heedlessness” or perhaps in colloquial English, “intoxicant”.


Thank you Bhante. I appreciate the clarification


So, bhante, is it the case then that surā­meraya­majja­pa­mā­daṭṭhānā was a catch-all term for all usual sorts of intoxicants found in the time of Buddha?