Consuming alcohol

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39211

    #46
    This Precept will come up again in a few weeks during our Jukai Preparations.

    For now, I am going to offer a bit more on my personal view of this Precept. However, I wish to underline that my interpretation is not for everyone, and there are several folks in this thread who are stricter in their attitude toward alcohol, all for good reasons. They are also right in how they undertake this Precept in their lives.

    In my view, a person with issues of addiction, prone to anger and violence and the like, should not drink one drop. For them, any drinking of alcohol is poison. I would also refrain from drinking in the presence of a friend I knew was prone to such issues. Beyond that, I do not believe that a glass or two of the vine is a source of world evils, any more than I will refrain from lighting candles and incense merely because the same smoke and fire, if out of control, can destroy homes and forests, injure passers by, light explosives or damage the environment. Everything in balance, control and moderation.

    The original Vinaya Precepts typically began as cautions against the extreme which, in the hands of the zealous, evolved frequently into total bans "just to be safe", assuring that the Precept would not have any possibility to be violated or itself become a cause of violating other Precepts. Some Buddhist scholars point out that the no such rule existed in the early Sangha, but was developed in response to several extreme cases, reported in the Vinaya, where monks consumed alcohol and became extremely drunk, sick, garrulous, disorderly and the like, and thus a source of great disorder within the Buddha's fragile community. Over time, this became a total ban, as commentators focused on ethical issues and the potential effect on mindfulness. Many Mahāyāna thinkers thereupon reacted against rigid interpretations of rules and precepts arguing that if motivated by compassion or other benevolent purposes, committing acts that would otherwise be outright violations of one's precepts would actually be meritorious. Alcohol was seen as having the potential, if consumed in the extreme or at inappropriate times, to cause a loss of mindfulness or to contribute to the breach of other Precepts such as those on anger and sexuality, but alcohol itself need not do so if itself consumed mindfully. (See, for example, http://huayanzang.blogspot.jp/2012/0...t-alcohol.html) This led to a greater tolerance of small and healthful alcohol consumption in China, Japan and other places.

    As we shall see during Jukai, the Precept undertaken speaks of our poisoning by intoxication in many forms (including by the need to shop, consume, own and the like), but not necessarily minor behavior not amounting to becoming truly "intoxicated".

    Again, the foregoing is just an interpretation applicable to some people, while other people have good reasons to honor a stricter or total prohibition on drinking.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-30-2014, 09:42 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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    • david u
      Member
      • Aug 2014
      • 6

      #47
      I am not “worried” about suffering I am “concerned”. I agree with you Amelia, and perhaps you are very much there, and I am not. However I would not do away with compassion so quickly. While certain lofty ideas are not integrated fully (and that is where I am). I think that I should be compassionate and have concern for those that suffer around me, while not taking the suffering as something absolute of course. We all know intellectually that in the end ALL IS WELL beyond Nirvana and Samsara. Also, if we are never born there is no need for this Sangha or the Dharma or this conversation either and we should just keep silence.
      Gassho

      Comment

      • Geika
        Treeleaf Unsui
        • Jan 2010
        • 4977

        #48
        I didn't mean it literally.
        求道芸化 Kyūdō Geika
        I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

        Comment

        • jeff_u
          Member
          • Jan 2013
          • 130

          #49
          Thank you Jundo.

          Gassho,
          Jeff

          Comment

          • Jundo
            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
            • Apr 2006
            • 39211

            #50
            Hi,

            Someone wrote me to ask about this statement by me ...

            But do not drink before or during Zazen. One need not cloud the mind to taste Reality.
            But, since I believe that "Zazen" is not only what happens on the cushion, but also has the meaning of life when we rise from the cushion and go about our day, doesn't that mean that I sometimes "drink during Zazen", perhaps clouding the mind to Reality going about the day?

            I wrote this ...

            Hi,

            Well, I also know that Zazen does not end on the cushion, and is all of life ... all the world. I would not drink before or during sitting on the cushion. I do not drink for most of the day, or many days at all. I do not drink when I am working, playing with my daughter, driving the car ... in fact, I rarely drink at all, and never much when I do. All that is "Zazen" too, and opportunities to Practice, in the wider meaning.

            But you know, I found myself at Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago, watching the game with a beer in hand. Another day, I was sitting on the porch with a friend, recalling the past, enjoying a glass of wine. That was "Zazen" too, that was life, and an opportunity to Practice in its widest meaning. Sometimes, I sit with "what is" ... and that includes on a sunny day in the bleachers, or an evening on the porch. I was sitting there, one with the moment and just what was. I guess you could say that, in that moment, I was at unbroken oneness with ball game and friend, sun and sunset, glass in hand, the breeze on my cheek ... all being the Reality of the Moment.

            Again, just my take of "Zazen never ends" and this Precept. Other peoples' ways that may avoid drinking and Buddhist Practice altogether are good for such people. And for some people to drink at all, especially the addicted, is pure poison.

            Gassho, J
            The great 15th Century Japanese Zen Master, Ikkyu, wrote ...

            Wild roses,
            Plucked from fields
            Full of croaking frogs:
            Float them in your wine
            And enjoy every minute!


            Gassho, J
            Last edited by Jundo; 08-30-2014, 09:39 PM.
            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

            Comment

            • Geika
              Treeleaf Unsui
              • Jan 2010
              • 4977

              #51
              Thank you, Jundo. I really feel the same way.

              Gassho
              求道芸化 Kyūdō Geika
              I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

              Comment

              • Meikyo
                Member
                • Jun 2014
                • 197

                #52
                Originally posted by Amelia
                Thank you, Jundo. I really feel the same way.

                Gassho
                Yes.

                Gassho
                ~ Please remember that I am very fallible.

                Gassho
                Meikyo

                Comment

                • drunkenboat
                  Member
                  • Aug 2014
                  • 5

                  #53
                  I have been thinking a lot about the issue of alcohol lately, as I have begun to sit zazen again after five years. Part of the reason why I stopped was because I had a big upheaval in my life. I fell in love with a woman from Spain and found myself uprooted and living in an entirely different continent with a new language and a new culture that differs greatly from the Puritanical, American culture in which I was raised.

                  In Arizona, friends often say to each other "Let's grab a coffee," and then they catch up at the coffee shop. Here in Spain we say "Vamos a tomar algo," meaning "Lets get a drink" and by "drink" everyone means beer. Or maybe wine, in the winter.

                  Socializing, for better or for worse, in a Spanish context, is done in bars. The interesting thing is that the American concept of a bar -- a damp, dimly-lit cave-like atmosphere with couple of shady types huddled around a pool table -- is almost impossible to find over here. Bars are full of light. They're loud with chatter and laughter. No one drinks alone. In the summer everyone sits out on sidewalk terraces.

                  Living outside of America now, I see how American views on alcohol -- decidedly negative -- have influenced our relationship to the substance. Let's not forget that alcohol was illegal in the States not too long ago. If our perception of alcohol stems from stems from our deeply embedded Puritanical, dualistic thinking ("alcohol is for when you're sad and want to drown your sorrows, alcohol is for unbridled, hedonistic partying, alcohol only leads to ever darker, deeper depravity"), then alcohol will always manage to be just that.

                  I am exaggerating to make a point, of course. At least in my mind, these views and tendencies are not so pronounced; they lurk under my surface perceptions.

                  So getting back to what I was saying about drinking here in Spain, I am faced with a dilemma: what do I do when I am out with my friends? Abstain? It's a bit like the Jehova's Witness kids at school who refused to pledge allegiance to the flag: of course I can abstain, but there is a real risk of isolating the people around me as a result.

                  I personally find myself susceptible to a subtle and insidious PRIDE that can sometimes piggyback on my practice if I'm not careful: self-congratulatory feelings for keeping up zazen every day, etc. Abstaining absolutely from alcohol -- in MY view, I reiterate -- could easily meld itself to a sense of superiority if I'm not careful, or give rise to feelings of pity or disdain for all the ignorant people around me busy intoxicating themselves senselessly.

                  I recently read -- after having read Jundo's recommendation -- "Bringing the Sacred to Life" by John Daido Loori. In the questions and answers section I was struck by what Loori had to say about rigidity in practice:

                  Discipline is different from rigidity. There is a tremendous difference between being locked into something and being personally disciplined. If you lose your sense of humor, lose your flexibility, take a close look at what you're doing. Are you looking for control or for freedom? Attaining complete freedom is implicit in this practice. That's what should be coming out your zazen. Instead of tightening, you should be loosening up {emphasis mine}.
                  Maybe joining our friends for a beer or two -- or three, why not? -- allows us to connect more deeply with them in that moment, overriding any mind-made ideas of "poison" and the like.

                  I personally like restrictions. They help me construct identity. I'm Buddhist. That means I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't get angry. I don't fantasize about women or money or travel... BUT these restrictions really just set me apart from THE OTHERS, the non-Buddhists, the drinkers, the smokers, the ones prone to anger, the sex maniacs, the wealth-seeking go-getters, the globetrotters. This, I realize, is just an ego game.

                  So for that reason, I might go out and drink with my friends. They don't see that as a bad thing; I made that in my mind. And hopefully it also serves to show me that I am not so special, and the point is to be flexible, not rigid.

                  Addictions are another thing, of course. But I am speaking from my experience as someone who does not have any drinking problem.

                  What do you think? Am I way out in left field?

                  Comment

                  • Ryumon
                    Member
                    • Apr 2007
                    • 1693

                    #54
                    Interesting point. I grew up in the US, moved to France almost 30 years ago, then moved to the UK a year and a half ago. French people drink in cafés, for the most part (unless they're in clubs, or in upscale bars in big cities). Until a few years ago, these were sleazy places with lots of cigarette smoke, and lots of alcoholics. There are, of course, plenty of nicer cafés, but the default café is one where you really don't want to hang out very long.

                    Here in the UK, pubs are totally different. First, most of them serve food, and many have very good food. Second, while there's lots of rowdiness on weekends - I never go to pubs on Friday or Saturday nights - they're often very relaxed places.

                    This said, I would disagree with your description of American bars. Yes, there were some of those where I grew up in Queens, but when I lived in Manhattan, most bars were a lot nicer. A lot depends on the size of the town or city you are in. You're in Madrid, and I think you'd find things very different in smaller towns in Spain.

                    So, yes, cultural constructs around drinking affect the way people see alcohol. In France, while there are a lot of alcoholics, the general feeling is one of relaxed tolerance; drink a little, it's fine; get soused at a meal with friends, that's okay every now and then. In the UK, on the other hand, there's a lot more stigma to drinking, going as far as using a "units of alcohol" system on bottles of beer or wine. One bottle of beer may have, say, 2.3 units of alcohol - easy to keep track - and another less than 2; it's all based on the alcohol percentage. There are public campaigns against drinking in the UK, as binge drinking is a big problem (I saw this when I lived in York for 8 months; the number of totally shit-faced people on the streets on weekend evenings - and not very late - is astounding). In France, however, bing drinking hasn't really taken hold.

                    Anyway, I drink a bit; I like wine, cider, single malt whiskeys. I don't prohibit it, but I try and remain relatively moderate. But I won't hesitate to enjoy myself at a meal with friends over a few bottles of wine.

                    Gassho,

                    Kirk
                    ---
                    Ryūmon (Kirk)
                    流文

                    SAT/LAH

                    I know nothing.

                    Comment

                    • Risho
                      Member
                      • May 2010
                      • 3179

                      #55
                      To me moderation is the key, and isn't that the Middle Way? As pointed out, to some a drop of alcohol is poison because some people are addicted to alcohol. For example, I have friends who can smoke a cigarette once in a while. I used to smoke regularly 12 years ago, and if I had one now it would be poison; I'd probably be right back into it.

                      But I like having a drink once in a while... in moderation. Drinking to me is not poisonous. If I'm around others, who it is damaging to or has affected negatively, I will abstain completely. Otherwise, I have a beer. I like beer. Oh of course it must be done responsibly... no driving. That is all part of moderation.

                      Here in Florida we have really cool bars dedicated to beer, and they also have good pub grub as well.... although I'd love to get my hands on some "official" fish and chips in the UK some time

                      It's funny that the precepts discussion on intoxicants always goes to alcohol when there is another intoxicant that we often consume far more of, caffeine. That is like poison to me actually. I had to stop drinking caffeinated drinks... it throws me way off. And that is absolutely a drug. Further, a drug mustn't necessarily be alcohol or a drug -- it could be too much of anything that can take us over and be damaging to us (tv, food, people, etc).

                      Oh and to drunkenboat... you are right.. we are very puritanical about drinking in the US. Funny fact, alcohol could have been illegal and marijuana legalized but the powers that be went for alcohol. lol

                      Gassho,

                      Risho
                      Email: risho.treeleaf@gmail.com

                      Comment

                      • Daitetsu
                        Member
                        • Oct 2012
                        • 1145

                        #56
                        I think it depends on the context as many have said here.

                        While I live in Germany - which is known for its enormous beer consumption - I hardly consume any beer during the year.
                        Perhaps in summer when it's hot outside. When I have to drive though (and most times I want to drive myself) I have a zero alcohol policy.
                        However, when I was in France having a glass of white wine to a baguette and some cheese, listening to the waves crashing on the shore - man, it's hard to beat that combination...

                        Gassho,

                        Daitetsu
                        no thing needs to be added

                        Comment

                        • Andrea1974
                          Member
                          • Mar 2013
                          • 56

                          #57
                          Friday evenight...long week of work is over...sitting on the porch....drinking a glass of red wine with my wife...watching sunset...talking and laughing together; it is a very healthy habit (for me).

                          "Everything in moderation, including moderation.” -Oscar Wilde

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                          • Khalil Bodhi
                            Member
                            • Apr 2012
                            • 317

                            #58
                            If only to add a counter-point I admit that I'm a complete teetotaler when it comes to the precept. In my own, unenlightened perception even a little fire burns and I trust in the Lord Buddha's wisdom whne he devised the five precepts for his lay followers as the best way to get out from under suffering. But, to each her/his own. May we all find true happiness in this very life!
                            To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
                            -Dhp. 183
                            My Practice Blog

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                            • Jundo
                              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                              • Apr 2006
                              • 39211

                              #59
                              Originally posted by Khalil Bodhi
                              If only to add a counter-point I admit that I'm a complete teetotaler when it comes to the precept. In my own, unenlightened perception even a little fire burns and I trust in the Lord Buddha's wisdom whne he devised the five precepts for his lay followers as the best way to get out from under suffering. But, to each her/his own. May we all find true happiness in this very life!
                              Hi KB,

                              I will say this, and it is a bit of a Mahayana interpretation of such. In our strange way of viewing Samsara with a Buddha's Eye, one may leave home and (if the heart is right) stay at home with one's family without the least contradiction, one may have a family and children and (if the heart is pure in one's motives) maintain "celibacy" at once ...

                              VIMALAKIRTI NIRDESA SUTRA

                              At that time in the great city of Vaishali there was a rich man named Vimalakirti. ... His mind was cleansed and purified through long practice of the Buddha Way, firm in its grasp of the Great Vehicle, and all his actions were well thought out and planned. He maintained the dignity and authority of a Buddha, and his mind was vast as the sea. All the Buddhas sighed with admiration, and he commanded the respect of the disciplies, of Indra, Brahma, and the Four Heavenly Kings. ... Though dressed in the white robes of a layman, he observed all the rules of pure conduct laid down for monks, and though he lived at home, he felt no attachment to the threefold world. One could see he had a wife and children, yet he was at all times chaste in action; obviously he had kin and household attendants, yet he always delighted in withdrawing from them. Although he wore jewels and finery, his real adornment was the auspicious marks; although he ate and drank like others, what he truly savored was the joy of meditation. ... He engaged in all sorts of businesses, yet had no interest in profit or possessions. To train living beings, he would appear at crossroads and on street corners, and to protect them he participated in government. To turn people away from the Hinayana and to engage them in the Mahayana, he appeared among listeners and teachers of the Dharma. To develop children, he visited all the schools. To demonstrate the evils of desire, he even entered the brothels. To establish drunkards in correct mindfulness, he entered all the cabarets.
                              ... and one perhaps can drink in moderation and (if the heart is balanced and pure), remain a "teatotaler" at once. However, it takes great wisdom and balance to be able to live so.

                              Buddhism has changed and changed and changed again, as it moved from land to land. Many "Greater Vehicle" Mahayana folks believed that the Buddha intended his early "Lesser Vehicle" Teachings (a term that has gone out of favor) for certain ears and audiences who, perhaps, could not hear ... and live the great wisdom and balance ... of the Perfection of Wisdom. I personally think that it is just different teaching for different ears ... not a matter of lesser or greater ... and that some folks need to take the Precepts and other Teachings one way, some another, for their own Path and needs.

                              Gassho, J
                              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                              Comment

                              • Khalil Bodhi
                                Member
                                • Apr 2012
                                • 317

                                #60
                                To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
                                -Dhp. 183
                                My Practice Blog

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