Intoxicants: Bending The Rules?
There’s a new article today on CNN about a monk in Japan that mixes hip hop, Buddhist sutras and alcohol in hopes of attracting younger people to the Dharma in Japan. Right off the bat, I do enjoy a beer (Guinness, love my dark beers) with dinner if I happen to go out with my wife, so I’m not playing the hypocrite role here, just making an observation.
Anyway, I’ve always understood that one of the precepts says to abstain from intoxicating substances. While that could be painted with a broad brush, it mainly reflects alcohol consumption. There has been debate about whether or not this means complete and utter absolution, or if we can “bend the rules” a bit.
Not living back in the day of the Buddha and asking him myself, I cannot say what the absolute is here, but from the sound of it he was pretty stearn…
To dispel any doubt about his reasons for prescribing this precept, the Buddha has written the explanation into the rule itself: one is to refrain from the use of intoxicating drinks and drugs because they are the cause of heedlessness (pamada). Heedlessness means moral recklessness, disregard for the bounds between right and wrong. It is the loss of heedfulness (appamada), moral scrupulousness based on a keen perception of the dangers in unwholesome states. Heedfulness is the keynote of the Buddhist path, “the way to the Deathless,” running through all three stages of the path: morality, concentration, and wisdom. To indulge in intoxicating drinks is to risk falling away from each stage. The use of alcohol blunts the sense of shame and moral dread and thus leads almost inevitably to a breach of the other precepts. – Bhikku Bodhi, A Discipline Of Sobriety
The line gets fuzzy though when we start to look deeper into this, especially in the form of addiction. Alcohol has a strong addictive quality for some people, especially those with the chemical makeup that are prone to addiction. The question is this, how do we discern the difference? Those that have the addictive quality very well may not think they do, hence the denial part of addiction.
As the Dharma manifests itself in a new way, I believe that people are interpreting the precept differently to suit this time and age. The interpretation is this, do not take intoxicants to the point of intoxication. Honestly, I could do without the beer I drink on occasion, but it’s good to enjoy from time to time as long as their is no pull to want more and be excessive with the consumption. How do we know though if we are not feeding the addiction?
How do you all feel about this precept? Can alcohol be used in moderation and can we drink alcohol in a way where we do not become intoxicated? I for one, whether it’s one beer or two, can immediatly tell that I have drank alcohol. The fuzziness it produces is almost immediate for me. How do you feel about this?