Buddha Booze

Anything goes (almost).

Do you, as a lay practitioner, drink alcoholic bevarages?

Yes
7
27%
No
16
62%
Other (please explain)
3
12%
 
Total votes : 26

Buddha Booze

Postby Cytosine » Tue Nov 17, 2009 5:05 pm

Hi all,

I'm fairly early in my meditation practice (even 25 minutes can be difficult some days), but I have read some scriptures (mostly Theravada as of late, we're reading the Dhammapada in the philosophy course I'm taking) and almost all of them tend to be pretty specific that alcohol and drugs negatively affect the practice. I don't really want to get into the drugs issue as I could write an essay on that (a la Rick Strassman), but I do often wonder about alcohol.

There is no denying that getting blitzed makes you "less mindful" of your surroundings. It is also (in my own experience) very addictive, and can serve as an emotional escape when you're feeling particularly depressed.

In my own searches I found article by Ted Rose: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Buddhis ... y-Sip.aspx

It talks about the practice of "mindful drinking". To quote the article.

Here's the basic idea: Once a meditator has developed basic Buddhist discipline (known as Hinayana training) and adopted the intention to dedicate his or her life to benefit others (the Mahayana view) the practitioner is ready to incorporate Vajrayana teachings, where the simple prohibitions outlined in the Sutras are re-evaluated. When a meditator reaches this point, which often takes a number years in the Shambhala tradition, a dangerous substance like alcohol is viewed as a potential aide for the practitioner. Within the context of strong discipline and clear intention, alcohol holds the possibility of no longer acting as a conventional escape, but instead being a tool for loosening the subtle clinging of ego.

"Imagine you are enjoying a picnic in a beautiful spot with your lover," says McKeever. "You want for nothing in this situation." If you choose to drink at this moment, theoretically, you have no reason to overdo it. You'll drink just enough to relax, to appreciate your situation and, as McKeever puts it, "to help your ego go to sleep."


How do you feel about this? Do you, as a lay Buddhist, indulge in some "mindful" (or less-than-mindful) drinking? Or do you feel that prohibitions against drinking only applies to those pursuing a monastic path?

I feel that if one is non-attached and mindful as in the example given, then there should be no problem in consuming alcohol. Going to extremes (ie. drinking a bottle of whiskey every day for a week while also consuming 12 cups of coffee daily and sleeping four hours a night... Not that I've done that. Recently.) is when problems arise. When I have a beer (singular) with lunch or on a date I feel relaxed and no less "aware" than I was before, but I've seen fellow students get so drunk that they don't know where they are and some have even soiled themselves.

Drugs are a whole other topic, and I have a few papers to write in the interim.
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby m0rl0ck » Tue Nov 17, 2009 5:30 pm

as an alcoholic who has been sober since '91 and a serious meditator for most of that time, thats a load of crap. seriously wrongheaded thinking. alcohol or any drug for that matter, is not going to give you anything you didnt have before you got the buzz, it just harms the clarity. either that guy is in denial about an alcohol problem or just enamored with it as an avoidance mechanism. if you are going to drink, dont make it spiritually romantic, at least be honest with yourself.

oh btw your distinction between alcohol and other drugs is completely false. alcohol is just another drug and a very harmful one at that.

also just wanted to add that i have use the whole tantric getting in touch excuse for drinking and other drug use and you are fooling yourself if you think you are doing yourself any good. but its likely that you already know that or you wouldnt be asking for a second opinion.
Last edited by m0rl0ck on Tue Nov 17, 2009 5:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Tue Nov 17, 2009 5:38 pm

IMHO alcohol is actually one of the worst drugs out there. Avoid at all costs.
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:13 pm

The first five precepts include avoiding intoxicants. The Buddha gave us this advice because it's not conducive to awakening. So I do my best to uphold all five lay precepts, including avoiding intoxicants.

Good luck with your papers and your meditation practice. You mentioned that you're a little new with all of it, so you might find as you go that the alcohol has a more lasting affect on your mind, body, and practice than you notice right now.

Kindly,
Laura
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby Cytosine » Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:28 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:as an alcoholic who has been sober since '91 and a serious meditator for most of that time, thats a load of crap. seriously wrongheaded thinking. alcohol or any drug for that matter, is not going to give you anything you didnt have before you got the buzz, it just harms the clarity. either that guy is in denial about an alcohol problem or just enamored with it as an avoidance mechanism. if you are going to drink, dont make it spiritually romantic, at least be honest with yourself.


I would say that your point about the author's rationalization and it's a good one. But could you also have such a negative reaction to someone treating meditation practice this way since alcohol had such an obviously damaging effect on your life? I can admit that while I have had my own drinking issues, some people are certainly more touched by it than others (likely due to certain genetic factors; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/disp ... ?id=103780).

I wouldn't call what the author has an alcohol problem. Having a beer to relax is hardly a problem. Having a case of beer to relax is. The author outlines that, yes, overindulgence is a problem and that arises from a lack of mindfulness. I don't get the sense that he's using it as an avoidance mechanism either. Is he romanticizing it? Maybe a little. If you could drink your way to enlightenment, I'd be a Buddha by now.

m0rl0ck wrote:oh btw your distinction between alcohol and other drugs is completely false. alcohol is just another drug and a very harmful one at that.


I never said that alcohol wasn't a drug. Any chemical substance ingested for its physiological or perception-altering properties is a drug. That includes everything from caffeine to heroin. I, however, have done enough "party" drugs to feel that there are certainly distinctions that should be considered. To lump them all together would be intellectual dishonest.

m0rl0ck wrote:also just wanted to add that i have use the whole tantric getting in touch excuse for drinking and other drug use and you are fooling yourself if you think you are doing yourself any good. but its likely that you already know that or you wouldnt be asking for a second opinion.


My excuse to drink is generally that I really like beer. I avoid drinking when I'm depressed as that just tends to turn into binging and wallowing. Overall, I just wanted to see what the take would be on it. All of the Buddhists I know engage in light social drinking and occasionally smoke cannabis. Some others engage in hard drug use, but that is generally frowned upon. I wanted to hear other opinions.

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:IMHO alcohol is actually one of the worst drugs out there. Avoid at all costs.


Alcohol is definately quite a harmful drug, but there's a whole universe of stuff that's way worse out there. Any opiate, crack, meth, PCP, and now ketamine are vastly more addictive with worse long term consequences than alcohol. Ever been to a methadone clinic? Worse than a lot of alcoholics, and most of them can never get straight.

"Avoid at all costs" seems a bit extreme.

LauraJ wrote:The first five precepts include avoiding intoxicants. The Buddha gave us this advice because it's not conducive to awakening. So I do my best to uphold all five lay precepts, including avoiding intoxicants.

Good luck with your papers and your meditation practice. You mentioned that you're a little new with all of it, so you might find as you go that the alcohol has a more lasting affect on your mind, body, and practice than you notice right now.

Kindly,
Laura


Thanks for the reply, Laura. I may as I go; I've certainly noticed that periods of intense practice make me lower my alcohol consumption. But I've been cutting back since the summer, anyways. I'm a student and it's rather hard on the wallet.

Anyways, back to the grind.

Merci,
C.
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby m0rl0ck » Wed Nov 18, 2009 6:32 am

Actually there arent any drugs worse than alcohol according to this table: (except maybe tobacco)

http://drugwarfacts.org/cms/?q=node/30

and if you factor in the involvement of alcohol in car crashes, violence and risky sexual behaviours i bet the toll would be a lot higher. if you add in the social ills, child neglect, spouse abuse etc its an even uglier picture.

judging from your comments i think you need to be careful and take your alcohol use seriously.
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby dharmagoat » Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:36 am

I chose "other" because my drinking habits are such that to answer either "yes" or "no" would be misleading. I very seldom drink, and when I do, it involves such small quatities that any alcoholic effects are usually unnoticeable. I have been a strict teetotaller in the past, and intend to be again very soon. Now that I have restarted regular meditation, I am beginning to notice how even extremely low levels of intoxication can affect my ability to concentrate.
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby KeithBC » Wed Nov 18, 2009 8:49 pm

I am inclined to vote "Other", for the same reason as Dharmagoat.

I seldom drink, but I do enjoy an occasional wine or beer. My annual consumption is less than many people's daily consumption. When I do drink alcohol, it is always mindfully. I am aware of its mind-dulling effect, and I mindfully choose to experience and enjoy this effect to a limited degree.

When I took the lay precepts, my preceptor recommended not taking the fith if I did not feel comfortable committing to it. I think that was sound advice. I remain mindful of it, and have never in 25 years exceeded my self-imposed limit, or ever felt tempted to do so.

Om mani padme hum
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:04 pm

About six months ago I had a beer and a half, after not consuming any alcohol for over a year. It tasted so gross and it made me feel really, really bad. It hurt my stomach with heartburn, it irritated my depression, and just felt somehow bad and icky and foggy. And I used to love a good dark frothy beer! To me that was a really tasty indulgence in the past.

So now it's easy for me to keep that precept. Just try a dry spell, you might be surprised how much you notice the ickiness. I thought I was in for a real treat when I popped that bottle cap. But it was actually a treat to staring down the porcelain bowl.

Best,
Laura

:toilet:
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby TheLionSleeps » Sun Nov 22, 2009 6:06 pm

I've taken the 5 precepts, and was told at the time that the fifth means total abstinence. This is one precept that I find fairly easy to keep, because of all the harm I did to myself and others when I was under the influence of marijuana and amphetamines a couple of years ago. I must say, I've yet to see a person using any non-prescribed drug who wouldn't be better off without them. But there is a point where the harm is really minimal. The fifth precept is for the purpose of maintaining control over our own behaviour, and if there are no significant changes occuring in someone's behaviour then there are more important things you can be fretting over. Total abstinence is a very positive step to take in your life and if you feel you can do it - take all 5 precepts formally.
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby Blue Garuda » Sun Nov 22, 2009 7:57 pm

Sorry, you can't use Tantra as an excuse for 'you' to drink alcohol. But what about after self-generation as a deity?

The Vajrayana vows have branch commitments which involve abandoning negative actions especially killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and ............. taking intoxicants.

However, here's a conundrum:

Having self-generated as the deity, the deity has no such limitations on drinking. (Drink)

However, as the deity is a perfect being, I guess there may be no reason to spell out that deities should not drink alcohol. (Don't Drink)

Deities can, of course, commit any act they please and it will not be harmful to them or others because their intention is always pure. (No point in drinking as has no effect on them.) ;)
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby ground » Mon Nov 23, 2009 6:03 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:Avoid at all costs.

Agreed.
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby Luke » Tue Nov 24, 2009 7:03 pm

Alcohol is used in small quantities for certain Vajrayana rituals. For example, after a visiting Tibetan lama gave my sangha a Vajrasattva empowerment, the younger Tibetan monk helping him poured us each a small amount of blessed "nectar" (dilluted whiskey) which we drank out of our palms.

There is also the famous story of Gampopa meeting Milarepa:
When Gampopa met Milarepa for the first time, the latter offered this new disciple a bowl of chang (Tibetan beer). Although Gamapopa initially hesitated to drink it because it would be a violation of his monastic vow, he did so anyway, which demonstrated that he would receive the full lineage teachings of mahamudra and tantra from Milarepa. This was an historic moment. After this significant meeting, Gampopa practiced with great diligence and endured many hardships under his guru; he had many experiences and finally attained great realization. He became the most important disciple and the lineage holder of Milarepa.
http://www.kagyuoffice.org/kagyulineage.gampopa.html

So following one's guru take precedence over other vows in Vajrayana, but I doubt that a real guru would ask a student to do anything truly unethical. The problems arise when someone fancies that he or she is a great guru when this is really not the case and orders his or her students to do unethical things which someone with true wisdom (like Milarepa) would never ask them to do.

There are also stories of some of the Mahasiddhas drinking huge quantities of liquor without getting drunk, but I'm not qualified to interpret the life stories of the Mahasiddhas.

I drink occasionally. I don't get crazy when I drink like some people I've known. It doesn't change my personality or my judgement. It only makes me lazy. I never drink close to the times when I meditate, though.

But I think it's dangerous to suggest "mindful drinking" as a Dharma practice to ordinary people. A person will almost certainly become deluded and distracted by drinking a lot before they've developed a great deal of control over their mind and bodies. Alcohol is just alcohol and isn't holy unless it's been blessed by a lama. Ultimately, the only truly holy thing is the Buddha-nature of all sentient beings.

But if Milarepa offered me a beer, I would definitely drink it!
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Nov 27, 2009 6:48 am

Greetings Luke,

Luke wrote: I think it's dangerous to suggest "mindful drinking" as a Dharma practice to ordinary people.

Agreed. At best, if someone drinks, they should strive to remain mindful, compassionate and replete with lovingkindness.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby Luke » Sat Nov 28, 2009 8:00 pm

As a result of this discussion, I've been thinking more about my feelings about drinking. Honestly, I rarely enjoy drinking, and I generally only do it to fit in in certain social situations or to participate in certain tantric rituals.

I don't crave alcohol--but I do crave mangos! They are the most fascinating and delicious fruit I've ever eaten. I would easily pass up a glass of whiskey for a few fresh mangos.

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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby Blue Garuda » Tue Dec 22, 2009 11:54 am

Cytosine wrote:In my own searches I found article by Ted Rose: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Buddhis ... y-Sip.aspx

Here's the basic idea: Once a meditator has developed basic Buddhist discipline (known as Hinayana training) and adopted the intention to dedicate his or her life to benefit others (the Mahayana view) the practitioner is ready to incorporate Vajrayana teachings, where the simple prohibitions outlined in the Sutras are re-evaluated. When a meditator reaches this point, which often takes a number years in the Shambhala tradition, a dangerous substance like alcohol is viewed as a potential aide for the practitioner. Within the context of strong discipline and clear intention, alcohol holds the possibility of no longer acting as a conventional escape, but instead being a tool for loosening the subtle clinging of ego.




I've just notivced that the original quote refers to practice in the Shambhala tradition. Its founder, Chogyam Trungpa, was frequesntly drunk in public and reputed to be an alcoholic. It is quite feasible that he sold this viewpoint to his followers to justify his addiction.
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby Huifeng » Tue Dec 22, 2009 12:33 pm

Wouldn't be the first time that people take that sort of approach.

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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby catmoon » Wed Dec 23, 2009 3:34 am

LauraJ wrote:About six months ago I had a beer and a half, after not consuming any alcohol for over a year. It tasted so gross and it made me feel really, really bad. It hurt my stomach with heartburn, it irritated my depression, and just felt somehow bad and icky and foggy. And I used to love a good dark frothy beer! To me that was a really tasty indulgence in the past.

So now it's easy for me to keep that precept. Just try a dry spell, you might be surprised how much you notice the ickiness. I thought I was in for a real treat when I popped that bottle cap. But it was actually a treat to staring down the porcelain bowl.

Best,
Laura

:toilet:


But but I do this all the time, months without a beer or a whisky. And when the time comes, the experience is almost transcendental. Don't bet your last dollar on people replicating your experience!
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby Potato » Thu Dec 24, 2009 10:48 pm

I voted Other. I don't like being intoxicated by any substance, and I have not been intoxicated in over twenty years. I do sometimes enjoy a single glass of beer with a good dinner, and at weddings or on New Year's I'll drink a toast with a single glass of champagne. So while I don't abstain from alcohol entirely, I do refrain from becoming intoxicated. If for some reason alcohol became unavailable, I wouldn't miss it.
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Re: Buddha Booze

Postby ronnewmexico » Fri Dec 25, 2009 11:28 pm

Generally no I do not participate in this.

It seems to serve no purpose. If I do want to feel dizzy and lightheaded for some spiritual purpose, as in watching mind....I may hike uphill at a high altitude at a very fast pace while attempting to chant a mantra of longish duration. That works quite fine, and has side effects that are probably not of the negative kind, as there is no hangover, and I have not injested a poison.

Others may.....that's fine with me. Mostly I find them however not good company when they are participating in this. So I avoid this circumstance mostly.
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