Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

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Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

Postby dakini_boi » Fri Jan 27, 2012 7:14 pm

Angelic Fruitcake wrote:allowing myself a glass of wine helps me handle the stress better.


Sounds like you're using the wine as medicine. this is not the same as using an intoxicant.
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Re: Becoming a Buddhist

Postby Mr. G » Fri Jan 27, 2012 8:07 pm

dakini_boi wrote:
Angelic Fruitcake wrote:allowing myself a glass of wine helps me handle the stress better.


Sounds like you're using the wine as medicine. this is not the same as using an intoxicant.


Let's not stretch it too far shall we? :lol:
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
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Re: Becoming a Buddhist

Postby Angelic Fruitcake » Fri Jan 27, 2012 8:15 pm

Mr. G wrote:
dakini_boi wrote:
Angelic Fruitcake wrote:allowing myself a glass of wine helps me handle the stress better.


Sounds like you're using the wine as medicine. this is not the same as using an intoxicant.


Let's not stretch it too far shall we? :lol:


Actually, that stirred an interesting thought in me. What is the definition of an intoxicant? SOmething that alters you mental state? Something that gives you a high? There are plenty of non-recreational drugs, such as antidepressants, anti-psychotics and ADHD-medication, that do alter your mental state. I mean, that's what they're for. Does that mean they're intoxicants? What IS the buddhist perspective on psychiatric medication? I would say that painkillers change your mental state by removing pain. Is it the effect of a certain substance that matters, or the motivation behind ingesting it?
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Re: Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

Postby Mr. G » Fri Jan 27, 2012 8:45 pm

These related threads may be helpful:

Alcohol and Dharma
5 Precepts
Wine and Meat Offerings?
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

Postby Blue Garuda » Fri Jan 27, 2012 9:17 pm

Surely an 'intoxicant' is simply a poison - literally that which is 'toxic', and refers to the body and brain, not the mind.

Intention is important, as accidentally consuming brain-altering substances is not bad karma.

I also recognise that most advice is simplistic - do not drink alcohol etc. - as at the basic level it would be far less effective and meaningful to talk of the mind, of tsog, of transformation etc etc.

Just as we advise a toddler not to cross the road alone, people advise those with few attainments not to drink alcohol or use other drugs which may impede the development of their minds. How do we know? We don't, so the advice is necessarily general.

I can't see how we can be prescriptive or proscriptive by categorising and naming substances - rather we need to guide people against action which impedes their development.

Buddha did not name Miaow Miaow (mephedrone) as a threat, for example - we need to move away from the detail, stand back and use a bit of common sense in applying the 8FP in our own cultures.

P.S. Miaow Miaow is especially not for Catmoons! LOL :)
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Re: Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

Postby catmoon » Fri Jan 27, 2012 11:35 pm

I stay away from the hard stuff. Could I interest you in a hit of this excellent 'nip?
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.
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Re: Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:37 am

Consumption of alcohol was forbidden by the Buddha following an incident where Venerable Sugata drank too much celebratory local brew (it was purportedly black) after having subdued a naga which was terrorizing the people. He vomited all over himself and passed out. The Buddha and Ananda tended to him, and in a drunken haze Venerable Sugata kicked the Buddha. The Buddha summoned the assembly and pointed out what a sorry state Venerable Sugata was in and thereupon forbid the monks from consuming alcohol.

This is why liquor was prohibited. There is no need to stretch the meaning of the prohibition to encompass all substances which may or may not be defined as "intoxicants".
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Re: Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

Postby Angelic Fruitcake » Sat Jan 28, 2012 9:08 pm

Huseng wrote:Consumption of alcohol was forbidden by the Buddha following an incident where Venerable Sugata drank too much celebratory local brew (it was purportedly black) after having subdued a naga which was terrorizing the people. He vomited all over himself and passed out. The Buddha and Ananda tended to him, and in a drunken haze Venerable Sugata kicked the Buddha. The Buddha summoned the assembly and pointed out what a sorry state Venerable Sugata was in and thereupon forbid the monks from consuming alcohol.

This is why liquor was prohibited. There is no need to stretch the meaning of the prohibition to encompass all substances which may or may not be defined as "intoxicants".



Thank you for your clarification. I really like to hear the actual background for the precepts, the logic behind the Buddha's wisdom. There are so many ways clear messages can be distorted, considering how difficult communication is and how biased we all are. Unfortunately, I have a hard time finding literature that really offers a historical background to the precepts. The philosophy and the reasoning behind the concepts of compassion, non-attachment and non-self are attainable through meditation and reflection, but some of the buddhist rules and precepts seem to rely on the language of culture and tradition and that makes them difficult to understand without context.

I am slightly handicapped though. My mind operates by logic and rationality with little insight into emotion and human functioning. Maybe that's where I fail? I easily succumb to black-and-white thinking.
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Re: Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Sun Jan 29, 2012 4:37 am

Angelic Fruitcake wrote:
Thank you for your clarification. I really like to hear the actual background for the precepts, the logic behind the Buddha's wisdom. There are so many ways clear messages can be distorted, considering how difficult communication is and how biased we all are. Unfortunately, I have a hard time finding literature that really offers a historical background to the precepts.


Precepts constantly have to be reinterpreted to fit with developments and changes in a society.

That being said, I think the meaning behind the precept prohibiting alcohol became rather distorted over the centuries. Alcohol came to be perceived as a sinful drink and anyone consuming it was likewise to be seen as morally reprehensible. This is why in some sutras like the Brahma Net Sutra (Chinese version) you see it saying that anyone handing liquor over to another person will be reborn without hands.

In reality, if you actually read the reason why the Buddha banned liquor it was entirely practical. There were a lot of young men in his sangha and not all of them were advanced yogis. This is why the Vinaya for monks reflects more a kind of standard house rules than anything else. Don't drink liquor. Watch where you urinate. No associating with women. These are all practical rules when you're having to organize and maintain a sangha of young men who are engaged in religious practices including celibacy.

The development of bodhisattva precepts saw a lot of changes. They expressly allow someone to engage in actions that would otherwise be prohibited if it is to aid other beings. So, in that context, having a brew or two with the lads while discussing suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering and the means to achieve it is not at all wrong, but actually meritorious.

That being said, it might be argued that most individuals are not capable of really judging when it is appropriate to make such compromises, and hence it is best for them to just stick to their precept commitments. That means abstaining from consuming all liquor.

Still, the Buddha is on record according to Venerable Ananda as saying that the sangha should do away with all the "minor precepts". He unfortunately didn't ask what those "minor precepts" meant, and Mahakashyapa ordered a meeting to discuss the matter. No consensus was reached and finally he just said that all the precepts would be maintained.

We might actually conclude two things here:

If Venerable Sugata had not got wasted at the party after placating the naga, the rule prohibiting alcohol might not have been laid down.

If the Buddha considered the prohibition on alcohol a minor precept, then the sangha could have (or should have) disregarded it. Unfortunately, Venerable Ananda failed to ask which precepts were to be considered minor.


The philosophy and the reasoning behind the concepts of compassion, non-attachment and non-self are attainable through meditation and reflection, but some of the buddhist rules and precepts seem to rely on the language of culture and tradition and that makes them difficult to understand without context.


In my opinion bodhisattva precepts are largely motivated by compassion and more yogic-oriented goals while the Vinaya and the lay precepts which are oriented around it, albeit to a much lesser extent, are oriented around practical concerns.
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Re: Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

Postby Angelic Fruitcake » Sun Jan 29, 2012 6:18 am

I shouldn't try to assert any opinion on why and what the precepts are. I have read far less than all, or at least most, of you.

One of the things that initially drew me to buddhism, after having been non-religious for many years, was the explicit encouragement to think for yourself. I have always found it difficult to digest rules that are given without explanation or without being allowed to use logic and reasoning to determine their value. I don't think I am wise enough to know the correct way to live your life (if there is "one" correct way), but given that I probably know the details of my circumstances better than anyone I still prefer being able to use my own judgement. So far, most of what I've read of buddhism strikes a chord with me both logically and intuitively. Therefore, I am more inclined to listen to advice and guidelines given by buddhists. But I am torn. My mind does not readily accept gray scales, it prefers black and white.
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Re: Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

Postby Konchog1 » Sun Jan 29, 2012 7:44 am

Angelic Fruitcake wrote:My mind does not readily accept gray scales, it prefers black and white.
Haha I know that feeling.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

Postby dzogchungpa » Sun Jan 13, 2013 7:57 pm

I happened to pick up the "Dictionary of Buddhism" by Keown last night, and the very first entry is this:
Description: abhabba-ṭṭhāna

(Pāli, impossibility). List of nine things of which an Arhat is said to be morally incapable. These are (1-4) breaking the first four of the Five Precepts (pañca-śīla), (5) storing up goods, and (6-9) acting wrongly out of attachment, hatred, folly, and fear.

see: http://dictionary.buddhistdoor.com/en/word/15412/abhabbatthana
I think its interesting that Arhats were considered to be "morally incapable" of breaking only the first four precepts.
This seems to indicate some fundamental difference in how the fifth precept was viewed.
ཨོཾ་ཏཱ་རེ་ཏུཏྟ་རེ་ཏུ་རེ་སྭཱཧཱ༔
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Re: Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

Postby dzogchungpa » Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:28 pm



I just checked the Digha Nikaya references given in the PED as quote at the above link, and here is what they say, in Walshe's translation:

from p.435:
any monk who is an Arahant, whose corruptions are destroyed,
who has lived the life, done what was to be done, laid
down the burden, gained the true goal, who has completely
destroyed the fetter of becoming, and is liberated by supreme
insight, is incapable of doing nine things: (1) He is incapable
of deliberately taking the life of a living being; (2) he is incapable
of taking what is not given so as to constitute theft; (})
he is incapable of sexual intercourse; (4) he is incapable of
telling a deliberate lie; (5) he is incapable of storing up goods
for sensual indulgence as he did formerly in the household
life; (6) he is incapable of acting wrongly through attachment;
(7) he is incapable of acting wrongly through hatred; (8) he is
incapable of acting wrongly through folly; (9) he is incapable
of acting wrongly through fear. These are the nine things
which an Arahant, whose corruptions are destroyed, cannot
do


from p.495:
'Five impossible things: An Arahant is incapable of (a)
deliberately taking the life of a living being; (b) taking what is
not given so as to constitute theft; (c) sexual intercourse; (d)
telling a deliberate lie; (e) storing up goods for sensual indulgence
as he did formerly in the household life

ཨོཾ་ཏཱ་རེ་ཏུཏྟ་རེ་ཏུ་རེ་སྭཱཧཱ༔
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Re: Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:13 am

An intoxicant in Buddhism is something that causes delusion and fogs the mind and causes one to forget what at other times we know, and slows and impairs our responses and senses, or unnaturally speeds our mind up in ways that we are too distracted to be mindful. Generally intoxicants cause us to sortof slip into chemically induced fantasy.

While there are occasional medicinal uses of things that "intoxicate",

Generally speaking, avoiding intoxicants in Buddhism means using intoxicating substances to deal with "stress" or to chemically induce fantasy, or to forget about one's problems, or simply for recreational fun.

It makes us drastically less mindful, and causes us by negligence and lack mindfulness to do real harm to ourselves and others through our actions of body, speech and mind.

Not to mention generally dims our awareness and wisdom.

Intoxicating oneself is synonymous with deluding oneself in Buddhism.

And Delusion is one of the three poisons. And is considered one of the causes of all suffering.

Therefor a Buddhist would not wish to intoxicate oneself any more than a Buddhist would wish to knowingly indulge in Greed or Anger/Hatred.

A responsible Buddhist trains to teach themselves to refrain from intoxicants.

In Gassho,

Sara H.
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

Postby dzogchungpa » Tue Jan 15, 2013 9:40 pm

Sara H wrote:An intoxicant in Buddhism ...


OK, thanks for clearing that up :roll:
ཨོཾ་ཏཱ་རེ་ཏུཏྟ་རེ་ཏུ་རེ་སྭཱཧཱ༔
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Re: Understanding Intoxicants in Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Tue Jan 15, 2013 9:59 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:
Sara H wrote:An intoxicant in Buddhism ...


OK, thanks for clearing that up :roll:


Jus' coverin' the basics... *grins* :tongue:
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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