Buddhism and Alcohol
By Sanja Blackburn

Alcohol consumption is inconsistent with a Buddhist's quest to understand and develop the mind. Buddhists believe that by practicing meditation, wisdom and morality, every individual has the innate ability to experience true happiness.
The Buddha encouraged his followers to refrain from consuming any kind of intoxicant. This included alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. These substances are said to be inconsistent with Buddhist beliefs as they distort the mind. Buddhists regard the mind as precious; they work diligently, through meditation, to master it.
Buddhists follow five precepts, serving as guidelines for correct and moral behaviour. One of the precepts clearly states that Buddhists should 'refrain from taking intoxicants'. Buddhists adhere to these guidelines with differing degrees of success.
Only a small number of followers practice Buddhism seriously, even though an overwhelming number of people in Buddhist countries, such as Thailand, identify as Buddhists. Despite the Buddha's teachings, a number of Thai adolescents consume alcohol.
Despite the popularity of Buddhism as a philosophy in the west, few people are willing to follow the Buddha's advice regarding alcohol. People with a shallow understanding of Buddhism may believe that alcohol is acceptable if used in moderation, justifying this in terms of the Buddha's preaching of the 'Middle Way' philosophy.
The Buddha was against any form of alcohol consumption, even in moderation, because of the effect it has on the mind.
Mindfulness is central to Buddhist philosophy. This concept requires a constant awareness of changes occurring in the mind and body. Mindfulness enables the individual to react wisely to emotions and sensations when they arise. Alcohol distorts the mind and makes it impossible to practice this tenet.
Karma is another Buddhist teaching inconsistent with the use of alcohol. The Buddha taught that each individual must be responsible for one's own Karma. This involves being responsible for the consequences of one's actions, speech and thoughts. Alcohol tends to encourage irresponsibility. It is possible to generate much negative karma while under the influence of alcohol.
The Buddha taught that true happiness was to be found in letting go of attachments. Many people are deeply attached to the feelings they experience when drinking alcohol. Through meditation it is possible to let go of this attachment. Buddhist meditation has been successful in treating alcoholism.
Many people use alcohol as a means of avoiding problems that arise in life. Buddhism encourages people to deal with life's difficulties and challenges. It encourages individuals to view problems as opportunities to learn and grow. By practicing meditation, an individual can develop the courage and determination to deal with life, rather than rely on alcohol to create an artificial sense of contentment. Alcohol consumption is inconsistent with Buddhist beliefs for a number of reasons. Buddhists exert an enormous amount of effort through meditation in order to change the mind. By consuming alcohol the individual is unable to have any control over the mind.

ANSI/American National Standard Institute
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