Why the Buddha banned booze.

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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby Indrajala » Tue Mar 13, 2012 6:39 pm

Will wrote:Huseng, if you personally wish to try and help someone by sharing a drink, fine. Motive rules anyway, so any bodhichitta motivation will cancel out or mitigate any "violation" of rules.

Besides, if I recall, 'breaking' a vow or rule requires that it be done with contempt for the rule and eagerness to break it again. So relax - but be mindful of your 'potential'.


You have thus answered your earlier question about the benefit.
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby Astus » Tue Mar 13, 2012 6:42 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Okay, if the whole frackin' assembly, including the Buddhas closest students and aids, Arhats, once returners, etc... were incapable of deciding whch precepts should go and which should remain on what basis do us ignoramuses decide?
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It is quite an assumption that every rule existed right at the death of the Buddha. Rather, there was some development over time, although the basics are pretty uniform in the different Vinayas. By the way, the Pratimoksha explicitly says what are the major and the minor rules.
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby Astus » Tue Mar 13, 2012 6:45 pm

Huseng wrote:Maybe what I'm suggesting is only suitable for bodhisattvas with knowledge of skilful means.

It isn't really suitable for śrāvakas who abide by rules for the sake of personal liberation above all else.

Breaking the rules to help others is something bodhisattvas can and often should do. A lot of the literature points to this.


I find that sravakas in Mahayana are mostly caricatures of religiously/spiritually immature people. But yes, the Bodhisattva Vinaya Sutra does say what you do.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby Indrajala » Tue Mar 13, 2012 6:47 pm

Astus wrote:It is quite an assumption that every rule existed right at the death of the Buddha. Rather, there was some development over time, although the basics are pretty uniform in the different Vinayas. By the way, the Pratimoksha explicitly says what are the major and the minor rules.



“The Mahāsāṃghikas were involved in the first division of the Buddhist community in the second century after the demise of the Buddha, that is, the schism betweent the Mahāsāṃghikas and the Sthaviravādins. This schism was most likely invoked by the expansion of the root Vinaya text by the future Sthaviravādins, an expansion that was not accepted by the later Mahāsāṃghikas.”

See Bart Dessein in "The First Turning of the Wheel of the Doctrine: Sar and Maha Controversy" in Handbook of Oriental Studies The Spread of Buddhism, edited by Ann Heirman and Stephan Peter Bumbacher (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 15.
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby Indrajala » Tue Mar 13, 2012 6:56 pm

Astus wrote:
Huseng wrote:Maybe what I'm suggesting is only suitable for bodhisattvas with knowledge of skilful means.

It isn't really suitable for śrāvakas who abide by rules for the sake of personal liberation above all else.

Breaking the rules to help others is something bodhisattvas can and often should do. A lot of the literature points to this.


I find that sravakas in Mahayana are mostly caricatures of religiously/spiritually immature people. But yes, the Bodhisattva Vinaya Sutra does say what you do.


There is a tendency for Buddhist practitioners who actively cultivate prajñā to abandon a lot of rules. Jizang and Kumarajiva are two notable examples from China. Jizang said the Vinaya was for those with weak faculties and Daoxuan noted maintaining precepts wasn't his strong point. Kumarajiva likewise seems to have had little interest in precepts. He had sex a few times as a monk after all and that trailed him for the rest of his life, but his talents and popularity negated the possibility of being excommunicated. Huineng also prescribes more metaphorical precepts than literal ones.

The more wisdom you have, the less you will harm anyone or yourself, hence the need for less rules.
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby tobes » Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:55 pm

I actually really agree with your logic Huseng - it seems to be a matter of upaya to fit 'fluidly' (pun intended) into society. Having a beer or two, especially in places like Japan, would seem to be part of this.

However, I find that personally, even one beer has a very detrimental effects on my concentration and cognitive ability (not just at the time, for an unreasonably long period afterwards). I think that alcohol is a very powerful drug - it effects physiology in very robust ways - and it seems to me, in ways quite contrary to meditative concentration, sharp perceptual discernment, reasoning ability etc.....all of which are core elements of Buddhist practice. For that reason, the precept makes a great deal of sense, regardless of its genealogy.

The caveat, is that this is just based on my particular physiology and (meager) meditative/cognitive abilities. I assume it would be different for someone like Trungpa [insert ten page controversial thread here:].

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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby zerwe » Wed Mar 14, 2012 4:26 am

I think we all can understand that the effects of alcohol bears the potential to impede our mindfulness and

disrupt our practice. However, it was explained to me that the fifth precept was added (after the fact) to protect us from

breaking the other four vows. In our tradition it is suggested that we take only the vows that we intend to keep and their is no requirement

to take on all five if one isn't ready, in fact it we were cautioned against doing so.

Shaun :cheers:
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby Indrajala » Wed Mar 14, 2012 6:20 am

tobes wrote:I actually really agree with your logic Huseng - it seems to be a matter of upaya to fit 'fluidly' (pun intended) into society. Having a beer or two, especially in places like Japan, would seem to be part of this.


Not consuming any alcohol with my Japanese colleagues proved a bit anti-social to be honest. Everyone else (most priests) had their wine and beer, and I abstained with oolong tea. It always raised questions and sometimes jokes. In the Japanese social context it is considered impolite to not have at least one drink when everyone else is. As a foreigner I was exempt from such expectations, but I sensed some unease at times to be honest. I could have discussed things in a much smoother way had I just had a beer with them.

The other thing I realized is how the whole abstaining from any alcohol led to pride and intolerance of others. This of course was my fault, but I learnt from it and hopefully have the capacity now to avoid such pitfalls in this and other contexts.
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby ram peswani » Wed Mar 14, 2012 6:56 am

Huseng wrote:
tobes wrote:I actually really agree with your logic Huseng - it seems to be a matter of upaya to fit 'fluidly' (pun intended) into society. Having a beer or two, especially in places like Japan, would seem to be part of this.


Not consuming any alcohol with my Japanese colleagues proved a bit anti-social to be honest. Everyone else (most priests) had their wine and beer, and I abstained with oolong tea. It always raised questions and sometimes jokes. In the Japanese social context it is considered impolite to not have at least one drink when everyone else is. As a foreigner I was exempt from such expectations, but I sensed some unease at times to be honest. I could have discussed things in a much smoother way had I just had a beer with them.

The other thing I realized is how the whole abstaining from any alcohol led to pride and intolerance of others. This of course was my fault, but I learnt from it and hopefully have the capacity now to avoid such pitfalls in this and other contexts.





I take one glass of beer and lo I have to sit in awareness meditation for solid two hours extra to come to normal.
Two glasses of beer ruin my whole day.
So in social gatherings i balance my decisions considering the above factor.
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby tobes » Wed Mar 14, 2012 7:40 am

Huseng wrote:
tobes wrote:I actually really agree with your logic Huseng - it seems to be a matter of upaya to fit 'fluidly' (pun intended) into society. Having a beer or two, especially in places like Japan, would seem to be part of this.


Not consuming any alcohol with my Japanese colleagues proved a bit anti-social to be honest. Everyone else (most priests) had their wine and beer, and I abstained with oolong tea. It always raised questions and sometimes jokes. In the Japanese social context it is considered impolite to not have at least one drink when everyone else is. As a foreigner I was exempt from such expectations, but I sensed some unease at times to be honest. I could have discussed things in a much smoother way had I just had a beer with them.

The other thing I realized is how the whole abstaining from any alcohol led to pride and intolerance of others. This of course was my fault, but I learnt from it and hopefully have the capacity now to avoid such pitfalls in this and other contexts.


I know all about this one Huseng, being in Australia where booze is basically the (one, holy, absolute) religion. When one rejects the sacred cow of the holy land - which is amber fluid here - one is held to be gravely immoral and deeply suspect.

I generally endorse the fluid-upaya approach you are asserting - but I frankly hate the totalitarian imposition of ill conceived moral norms even more than I do the effects of alcohol - which means I dig in and always refuse. But I suppose it is not really on the grounds of principle/precept - it is simply that I enjoy my perceptions and the way my mind functions without alcohol.

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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby catmoon » Wed Mar 14, 2012 8:21 am

Hmmm... had I started this thread, I probably would have titled it "Why the Buddha didn't ban booze".
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby LastLegend » Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:02 am

When people are drunk, they are likely to break the other 4 precepts.

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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby Seishin » Wed Mar 14, 2012 10:04 am

Huseng wrote:
Seishin wrote:Are we talking about for montastics only?


The five lay precepts include a prohibition on alcohol as well, so yes it includes everyone, not just monastics.


As other people have said, not every temple/school/group/teacher describes the fifth precept as "prohibition" so that got me confused.

There have been articles about the detrimental effect on cognitive ability after one drink, which we should bare in mind. However, I know that here in the UK, if that precept wasn't there, many many Buddhists would go out binge drinking, as that is our culture here. A sip of champers at a wedding doesn't seem to break the precept IMHO, but like I said, that all depends on how that precept is interpreted, and what culture you're brought up in.

So, IMHO, the precept to abstain should remain.
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby Indrajala » Wed Mar 14, 2012 10:37 am

Seishin wrote:So, IMHO, the precept to abstain should remain.


I agree. I think it is best to avoid drinking alcohol for various reasons.

However, there are circumstances where it is necessary to consume alcohol, especially in the context of a bodhisattva operating out in the rough and tumble world rather than in a safe cloistered monastic or homely environment.

Like Namdrol said, too, a glass of wine with a meal is probably not going to intoxicate a person, and might have a medicinal benefit as well.

In any case, we have to admit that in the early sangha the disciples could and indeed did drink alcohol.
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby Nighthawk » Wed Mar 14, 2012 10:45 am

Huseng wrote:
tobes wrote:I actually really agree with your logic Huseng - it seems to be a matter of upaya to fit 'fluidly' (pun intended) into society. Having a beer or two, especially in places like Japan, would seem to be part of this.


Not consuming any alcohol with my Japanese colleagues proved a bit anti-social to be honest. Everyone else (most priests) had their wine and beer, and I abstained with oolong tea. It always raised questions and sometimes jokes. In the Japanese social context it is considered impolite to not have at least one drink when everyone else is. As a foreigner I was exempt from such expectations, but I sensed some unease at times to be honest. I could have discussed things in a much smoother way had I just had a beer with them.

The other thing I realized is how the whole abstaining from any alcohol led to pride and intolerance of others. This of course was my fault, but I learnt from it and hopefully have the capacity now to avoid such pitfalls in this and other contexts.


I can really relate to this back in my Theravada days. Glad I don't follow any of these precepts religiously anymore which damaged me spiritually. Damaged meaning reinforcement of the ego/strong pride.
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby Seishin » Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:03 am

I have just remembered something I learnt in my history lessons at school :tongue:

Many cultures, throughout the world, have had to drink alcohol at one point or another because it was the only clean safe thing to drink due to drinking water being contaminated. It is possible that monastics would drink alcohol because, depending on where they were, it was the only safe thing to drink.
So yes, it would seem that sutra is the turning point when alcohol was prohibited, but it's hard to say exactly in what context monastics where drinking alochol in the first place.It's hard to imagine a monk would go out for a brewksi with his mates, as is customery today, so it's kind of difficult to equate the lifestyle then to now.


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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby Indrajala » Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:29 am

Seishin wrote:I have just remembered something I learnt in my history lessons at school :tongue:

Many cultures, throughout the world, have had to drink alcohol at one point or another because it was the only clean safe thing to drink due to drinking water being contaminated. It is possible that monastics would drink alcohol because, depending on where they were, it was the only safe thing to drink.
So yes, it would seem that sutra is the turning point when alcohol was prohibited, but it's hard to say exactly in what context monastics where drinking alochol in the first place.It's hard to imagine a monk would go out for a brewksi with his mates, as is customery today, so it's kind of difficult to equate the lifestyle then to now.


Gassho,
Seishin.


One idea as to why some precept sets prohibit the sale of alcohol as a primary precept while the actual consumption of it is a minor precept, such as in the Brahma Net Sutra, is because such systems were for cold climates where passing a harsh winter comfortably required one to consume some kind of alcohol.

In such circumstances it was likely seen as a necessary misdeed, so to speak.

However, I think in much of India monks probably did not drink alcohol. Even if you had no clean water available, there was always milk. :smile:
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:52 am

Huseng wrote:However, I think in much of India monks probably did not drink alcohol. Even if you had no clean water available, there was always milk. :smile:
And chai! The idea that one has to drink alcoholic beverages due to water contamination doesn't really apply. Look at the majority of Muslim countries for example. Lots of bad water, lots of tea!
Beer was one way to "preserve" water so that it did not become brackish. But how many of us here are sea dogs crossing the Pacific or Atlantic ocean on a leaky wooden frigate? Rum was a later invention after the conquest of the Carribean and access to large sugar plantations.
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby Seishin » Wed Mar 14, 2012 12:20 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:The idea that one has to drink alcoholic beverages due to water contamination doesn't really apply.

I wasn't saying that it applies in todays society, but historically, that was just one reason to drink alcohol. There are of course other reasons for drinking alcohol historically, and there were of course other nonalcoholic drinks available. I wasn't saying there weren't. I was just trying to point out how hard it is to imagine in what context a renunciate would drink alcohol. Like I said, it's hard to imagine a monk going out for a drink with his mates! :tongue:
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Re: Why the Buddha banned booze.

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed Mar 14, 2012 12:44 pm

People who think a glass of wine or a beer will hinder their realization and discuss over this act a little silly, IMO. Keeping oneself sober is, obviously, a good piece of advice. Banning alcohol altogether is a silly precept that treats people as if they were all mentally challenged or too immature. I agree with your reasoning Huseng.
People who can't control themselves when drinking just don't have what it takes, it seems to me. Abstaining from drinking is very easy when compared with the many situations practitioners will face when taming the mind. If someone can't handle the booze, there's plenty for him not to handle further down the road.
If someone was an alcoholic, then such person faces a different scenario. Otherwise it's silly thinking that a pint will block your progress. That thought alone is what is blocking it.
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