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.