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Genie in a Bottle — 5 Comments

  1. Hi,

    A very interesting post and one I fully agree with. I especially like the way you suggest that following the fifth precept is the aim, if not the definition, of a Buddhist.

    But I do see many ‘Buddhists’ (their definition – who else’s?) drink. Not just Thais who are – after all – born into the religion, but also westerners who are keen enough to convert – but not keen enough to follow the basic lay precepts.

    And for those, people who claim to have been convinced by a new religion, to have joined it even, but who then choose not to follow its basic ethical rules, I’d quote Bhikkhu Bodhi from an article entitled ‘A Discipline of Sobriety’:

    “The fifth precept, it should be stressed, is not a pledge merely to abstain from intoxication or from excessive consumption of liquor.

    It calls for nothing short of total abstinence.”

    You can read the full article here:


    His conclusion:

    “If the current trend continues and more and more Buddhists succumb to the lure of intoxicating drinks, we can be sure that the Teaching will perish in all but name.

    At this very moment of history when its message has become most urgent, the sacred Dhamma of the Buddha will be irreparably lost, drowned out by the clinking of glasses and our rounds of merry toasts.”

    Perhaps, it might come across as preachy or as looking down on someone by insisting on complete abstinence, but if drinking really is drowning out the Dhamma, perhaps a little preaching is called for.

    With metta,


  2. Good comment.

    With all the precepts they are guide for improvement, and heavy preaching and absolute rules/interpretations serves to cut out the many rather than encourage them to grow.

    It is the same for monks – some people would like to cut out all the monks they perceive as ‘bad’ or ‘non-practising’ etc … but the temple is for people not devas. What would be the point of only allowing the very purest holiest people to ordain?

    Similarly for lay followers, we should approach kalyanamitta (friends on the path) with a sense of encouraging each other. And lets be honest – the occasional drink is the least of some people’s problems …. I have never mastered Right Speech for instance.

    Thus I would not like to disclude anyone for breaking a precept if they are basically good. At the same time, renunciation and purification is the name of our game.

  3. Thank you for your article.
    My opinion is that the ideal must be proclaimed, so that people know what is the right path in matters of precepts and behavior, but in the same time, as you said, we should encourage each others to improve ourselves and not give up the practice if at this moment, we are not still capable of observing all precepts. After all, the Dharma embraces us here and now, starting with our present state of mind, and not with what we should become. Buddhism is not for Buddhas, but for sick people like us.

  4. Maybe no one has killed their parents after drinking too much caffeine. But have you heard of the “Twinkie defense”? In 1978, Dan White killed the Mayor and a Supervisor and his lawyer claimed he had eaten too many Twinkies and sodas, thereby aggravating his mood swings with an excess of sugar. He was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder.