Since leaving the hospital, I’ve had nary a drink. Strange, attempting to sip whiskey made me crawl in pain while partaking beer has produced negligible issues. This leads me to precept 5 – abstention from fermented drink that causes heedlessness.
Of the five great gifts — those original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, principles — the last one has been tough to nip in the bud. Oftentimes, I theoretically banter, “Can I partake of a beer or two if my drink does not cause heedlessness? Or must one abstain completely?”
From a true Buddhist perspective, by abandoning the use of intoxicants, one receives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. So yeah, I get all that. However, if Christ turned water into wine, are we to presume Christ accepted liquor? Or did Christ simply perform the miracle, but abstained? Tough call. Still, as a Buddhist living a simple life, there are many times when I concur with Chesterton, “Let a man walk ten miles steadily on a hot summer’s day along a dusty English road, and he will soon discover why beer was invented.” Additionally, beer is a required accruement for any Cubs fan, for one couldn’t survive a game without symbolically leaping from Wrigley’s upper deck.
Having lived in Alabama, I remember passing through Clay County, infamously known for being the last ‘dry county.’ Technically, it’s illegal to have any form of alcohol within county borders … period. I thought you couldn’t be a real county unless you have at least beer. One could have a minor-league baseball team, maybe some hidden ICBM nuclear weapon launch sites or the world’s largest annual county fair. But at the very least, you need beer. Clay County affords none. But the point being, many residents, religious or otherwise, bootleg alcohol weekly. And amazingly, the sun continues to rise in the east and set in the west.
From another perspective, there are ten Demeritorious Deeds (Dasa Akusala Kamma). All of them occur through some form of bodily action:
- Sexual Misconduct
- Harsh Speech
- Frivolous Talk
- Ill-Will (hatred)
- Wrong Views
On a comedic note, a fellow blogger noted that by violating Precept 5, he violated almost every Demeritorious Deed noted.
But for a person living on borrowed time, I try not getting into guilt trips. Living in precepts and vows is part of a long journey of purification and clearing the mind. Thich Nhat Hahn mades an interesting comment in For a Future to Be Possible: Buddhist Ethics for Everyday Life, in that if one lives fully in one precept, they actually live fully in all five. If one takes only 1 precept but they live fully in it, according to Hanh, they’ll eventually keep all five.
Hahn may be right. Basically, going to the extreme either way is awful. Drinking to excess and trying to drive, play sports or negotiate a multimillion-dollar contract would be unwise. So be wise. Be respectful.
And all wisdom aside, if I’m close to death’s door, I’m requesting a shot of Blanton’s Bourbon.