SuttaCentral

Would drinking a glass of wine a day for health reasons break the precepts?

Thanks for taking the time to explain all this.

3 Likes

To prevent Alzheimer’s , drinking little wine every day appear unwise unless one already had the sicknesses where alcoholic drinks is needed to serve the purpose of carrying the medicine into the system and activate certain type of medicine functioning .
Another point is , to prevent one sickness , one would destroy three other organs in the long runs , i.e. brain , liver and pancreas .

1 Like

I think you make a good point.

For example, alcohol is one way treat methanol poisoning, which can (IIRC) cause blindness and death. IMO, it would be a wrong grasp of the precepts to refuse the treatment (or refuse it for someone else) because of the precept against alcohol.

I think most here on D&D will agree that precepts aren’t about obedience or blind faith. I don’t think anyone here would suggest that anyone should risk blindness/death from methanol poisoning by refusing ethanol treatment because of the precept against alcohol.

I don’t think there is any good evidence that ethanol has general health benefits though. The only case I can think of is the blood-thinning effects, which can be good for someone who has very constricted arteries due to plaque buildup. Removing the plaque through lifestyle changes would remove the benefit of ethanol though.

But in any case, I think most Buddhist agree that the precepts aren’t an excuse to put our brains and our compassion on the sideline :slight_smile:

2 Likes

as I mentioned somewhere above, I posted that link because it was the first of many that come up with a Google search and because it’s for the general public, and I don’t think people on this forum are interested in the scientific details. You can look up, if interested in the biochemistry relevant to Alzheimer’s, SirT1 and its activation by Resveratrol for example in the scientific papers of Prof Bredesen.

it’s not exactly that. I don’t care about keeping the precepts per se. It’s more exact to say that I wanted to know whether for a Buddhist it’s best to keep the precept on non consumption of alcohol, or to break that precept if that is might possibly have health benefits for them (which would an undeniable advantage for their family since I know how hard it is to have a member of one’s family suffering from Alzheimer’s).
In other words: are the precepts written in stone, and never to be broken because they are good in themselves; or are they just guidelines which in certain circumstances it is wise not to follow? For me the intelligent answer is the second. I think for you it’s the first. :nose:

There might be a hidden danger to taking alcohol habitually even as a medicine. Since we are dealing with impersonal processes, craving states might be arising unbeknown to the person.

Bhikkhus, what one intends, and what one plans, and whatever one has a tendency towards: this becomes a basis for the maintenance of consciousness. When there is a basis there is a support for the establishing of consciousness. When consciousness is established and has come to growth, there is the production of future renewed existence. When there is the production of future renewed existence, future birth, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
SN12.38

(If one believes in rebirth) this might be taking the kammic disposition for alcoholism to a future life. Even putting aside future life’s how can one be sure that they don’t have a tendency towards alcohol addiction in this life.

2 Likes

First there is the fear of future, second is your past experience with alz haunting you.

Then someone with reports you dont even understand says “wine will help”

Well believing in science which havent been proven, then it seems like a blind faith too, even worse. This isnt intelligence or wise.
Even scientists nowadays keep on doubting their researches over time isn it, thats how they keep coming closer to the truth.

Precepts are protection, its ok if you took your protection off, but there are risks of falling in countless samsara which worse than alzheimer if you can see what Buddha seen.

So dont stop practice on precepts, proceed in samadhi and the harmonious life will follow. You’ll see the precept is simply for you to get through to next stage of enlightment, not your highest goal or something to be proud of.

Deal with your fear, see it is just a projection, a horror movie you created for yourself. Reach end of dukha and be freed from all of these.

Look into your past experience also, see if the tragedy is our own craving that makes everybody suffered, whether clinging to past condition where the person hasnt started to ill , is the source of suffering

1 Like

That is not for sure.
But what is sure to me is that taking a drink won’t kill me, but it will get the better of me, so therefore I refrain myself from doing it for the better of me
:potable_water:

what do you mean exactly? I see lots of people drinking in moderation they seem pretty ok

I mean that I can’t let myself decide what is moderate for the better of me. The better of me is the state I know I can reach with a clear conscience, and it doesn’t matter if drinking is ok in a worldly sense.

I’d say that, for most people, there wouldn’t really be any health benefits. The large meta-analysis study in the Lancet last year indicated for up about 7 alcoholic drinks a week, all-cause mortality didn’t differ between drinkers and non-drinkers. There seemed to be no overall health impact either way. From about 8 to 10 drinks, there was a slight increase in overall mortality in the drinkers. After that increase in mortality started steadily heading upwards with increasing alcohol.

For 7 drinks or less per week, there was actually some benefit to cardiac health. However, this was cancelled out by a slightly elevated risk of some cancers (no not net all-cause mortality difference).

It’s possible that for some people (maybe those with family history of heart disease) the cardiac benefits might slightly outweigh the increased cancer risk, but I’m not if this has been established.

I suppose it would be an interesting dilemma if there was strong scientific evidence that a small amount of alcohol was very helpful for particular conditions. For example, if one knew that a few glasses of wine per week reduced the probability of getting Alzheimer’s by 50% (or dropping dead of a heart attack) or something, and one had a family history, then one would almost be getting to the stage where alcohol might itself be a valid medicine. Perhaps it might be justifiable in those circumstances.

I’m not sure the dilemma arises though (or any papers demonstrate any such strong effect). Any effects usually seem to be close to be non-existent for alcohol in small amounts and more and more harmful in higher doses.

2 Likes

I’m not sure if this was cited previously, but here’s a nice essay from Gil Fronsdal on the 5th Precept: The Fifth Precept and The Power of Renunciation – Insight Meditation Center

I see the question of "Would drinking a glass of wine a day for health reasons break the precepts? " as akin to the anatta doctrine. Put briefly, the self is not a thing. Our perception of self is actually an observation of a process. And similarly, the precepts are not a thing to be broken, like a cup, or a law. The precepts are training rules, and this course of training is a process. It’s a path that we practice, with the goal of reaching liberation. How we get there is very much dependent on how well we practice.

I like the way that Gil Fronsdal places emphasis on the concept of renunciation, versus that of “law breaking.” Even if there might be good medical reasons to consume alcohol, we then might ask if we might be able to let go of this and avoid alcohol. Might then will our minds be brighter, and more settled with the idea that we are living a life of renunciation. Might then the pathway toward the jhanas (the ultimate and final step on the 8fold Path) be more open or available to us?

There are world class Muay Thai fighters that smoke cigarettes. There are likely great meditators that have accessed jhanas that drink a glass of wine each night. We can only intuit what seems to work best for ourselves, as we train ourselves in this practice and in renunciation. Thankfully, this Path is one of training and process, and not rigid laws. It all falls on each of our shoulders to decide what practices work best, and what kamma we are creating along the way.

I was going to comment on the benefits of small amounts of alcohol with memory, but I forgot what I was going to write…

4 Likes

Hello Friend.

I apologize if this is off topic. But I would like to suggest an alternate approach to this inquiry.

In my practice and experience, focusing on the negative aspects of life, health etc., tends to produce negative results. Whereas focusing on more wholesome and positive practices, activities and aspects of life tend to produce more positive results.

My kind suggestion, if you don’t mind, would be avoiding the focus on this potential life outcome and instead focus on the “controllables”. Obviously if you see a truck coming and about to hit you, move out of the way. But focus and worrying about things like uncontrollable diseases and life outcomes will lead to more stress and suffering, which is not the goal of this path we walk together.

I hope this makes sense and I wish you nothing but the best with all of the loving kindness available.

1 Like

yes this makes sense and it’s great advice thank you. However I don’t think it necessarily excludes also thinking what to do to decrease the odds of bad future outcomes.
It’s a bit like when going to the doctor, I would have a positive mind and trust that my body will heal itself, but this does not exclude seeing a professional who might perhaps give me some medicine to improve the chances of healing. It’s not a very valid comparison perhaps because for Alzheimer’s it’s more about prevention that cure, but I hope that you see what I mean. :anjal:

1 Like

I would have 3 if I may. I hope this is not aking too many; at the same time I read in the suttas that people often asked the Buddha 3 times (though in that case it was 3 times the same question) so perhaps 3 is a good number. :wink: :smiley:

  1. Why did you send me a link to a page of Harvard Medical School in which they write Drink—but just a little. and use that to give me the advice that one should not drink at all when at risk of Alzheimer’s disease? (they say ‘this has not been proved’ but in medicine there are hardly ever any conclusive proofs, so some evidence appears to be ‘good enough’ to act upon)

  2. Why are you categorical about the precept when applied to red wine (which I doubt existed at the time of the Buddha in India - there’s a huge difference between that and spirits which make you drunk even when consumed in small quantities) when in your own tradition the precept was not applied to tobacco and betel nut (both of which your teacher’s teacher, Ajahn Maha Bowa, used)? I understand monks don’t approve of tobacco nowadays. So is this precept evolving through time? And in this case how can you have a precept whose interpretation is so fluid, and at the same time have such an unshakable attitude towards it (or better, towards the interpretation of that precept at a given time)?

  3. Can you explain, if possible, what you meant here?

For my part I meant that it is sad and scary to see people live their lives based on a ancient text (be it the Bible or the suttas) without applying any reflection to it (it is sad because it is degrading to what I understand to mean being human). I consider it as scary and sad as abandoning your will to a guru in a modern sect (with the difference that a contemporary guru is in flesh and blood and you can ask them for clarifications; in the suttas you can’t even do that, so as I noted above for example, sometimes intoxicants include tobacco, sometimes they don’t).
Thank you in advance if you find the time to address these points :anjal:

1 Like

… “Seeing” like this seems a personal view; I don’t think it’s seeing as it is. It seems a strawman argument. Can humans even function that way?

I recognize you asked the questions to @Khemarato.bhikkhu but it’s a public thread. :wink: Many individual reflections happen.

1 Like

You are making wild assumptions and judgments about other people. No wonder it’s troublesome to you.

Sure! I’ll answer in reverse order:

  1. I meant that in Buddhism, I have to be the owner of my own actions, and that if I want happiness I cannot expect it from anyone else.

  2. I’m categorical about the precept because the precept is categorical.

  3. I shared the link to contextualize the medical advice you have been advertising: drinking is not among the top recommendations and came with a stronger caveat than the other preventative measures. I assumed that since you had posted on this forum that you were asking in good faith and would respond positively to an answer from a Monastic.

Since my answers above clearly haven’t satisfied you, I invite you to go live your life in whatever way you think is right. This is the last communication you will receive from me.

Best wishes,
Khemarato Bhikkhu

4 Likes

The OP question has been asked and answered. The thread has been drifting in an unbeneficial direction, and it seems that further discussion will not add anything substantial.

metta and karuna to all beings :pray::dharmawheel:

9 Likes