A Comment on the Fifth Precept

I was going to weigh in on the fifth precept debate, but I don’t have anything new to add to the discussion that hasn’t already been said by many others somewhere else. Instead, I’m including a (lightly copy-edited) comment I’ve seen Marcus leave on several sites that seems cool, thought out and conciliatory.

This has been a huge discussion both here and across various blogs, a discussion which – now the dust has died down – has led me to re-examine those sentences of mine that started it off:

“The fact is, if you are serious about Buddhism, you don’t drink. The Buddha’s words couldn’t be clearer.”

I certainly stand by the second sentence. Perhaps now, in hindsight, I should have re-phrased the first to say “The fact is, if you are serious about Buddhism, you ASPIRE NOT TO drink.”

My original point was not to try to say a sip of alcohol makes you a non-Buddhist, which is clearly nonsense, rather, it was written in response to those who think that excessive drinking can somehow be an integral part of a Buddhist lifestyle.

In contrast to this I continue to stand by the words of the Buddha and look towards Master Thich Nhat Hanh: “To persuade one person to refrain from drinking is to make the world safer for us all.”

May all, drinkers and non-drinkers alike, be safe and well.

I myself don’t drink, but I can honestly admit that I’m not serious about Buddhism in the same way that Marcus is. That’s fine, because we’re both in good company.

One thought on “A Comment on the Fifth Precept

  1. Archivist’s Note: Comments have been preserved from the original website for archival purposes; however, comments are now closed.

    atlasienSeptember 11, 2009 at 4:17 AM
    Moot point for me since I’m allergic to alcohol and stopped drinking for medical reasons (vindicated this year by medical research). I have alcoholism in my family, though, so it’s something I still think about a lot.

    AnonymousSeptember 11, 2009 at 8:07 AM
    Thank you Arun,

    That’s a very kind, generous post. Thank you.

    And yes, we are all in wonderful company indeed!

    With palms together,


    KyleSeptember 13, 2009 at 10:12 AM
    You know the funny thing is I don’t really even drink. And yes, I agree with Marcus’s aspire statement, very well said.

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