Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Intoxication Sutra

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Ashley Wells, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly, excerpt "A Brief Code of Buddhist Ethics" from the discourse "Advice to Householders," Sigalovada Sutra (DN 31)
Drug addict Sugarnose Barbie knows how to party on a budget (weheartit.com)
Snorting fluoride?
There are four motivations of bad karma (unskillful, unprofitable deeds). The Buddha rhetorically asked, "Due to what four causes is unskillful karma produced?
  1. "Led by desire one perpetrates unwholesome actions.
  2. Provoked by anger one performs unskillful deeds.
  3. Motivated by delusion one engages in demeritorious conduct.
  4. Stirred by fear one produces harmful karma.
"But to the extent that one is not motivated by greed, aversion, wrong views, or fear, a lay follower accumulates no unwholesome karma."
Smoking on that gas with a mask (Julia Ferguson/flickr)
Who led by craving, contempt, confusion, or cowardice
Transgresses the self-discipline thus proclaimed,
All of that person’s glory dims and fades away,
Declining like the light of the waning moon.
But who in spite of desire, dislike, delusion, or dread
Does not transgress the self-discipline thus proclaimed,
All of that person’s glory gains in strength,
Dazzling like the light of the waxing moon.

"Liquid Ignorance" (npr.org)
"There are six channels for dissipating wealth.
The Buddha further asked, "What are the six channels for dissipating wealth that one avoids pursuing?
  1. "Indulging in intoxicants which occasion heedlessness,
  2. roaming the streets at unseemly hours,
  3. frequenting unsavory shows,
  4. being infatuated with gambling,
  5. associating with the foolish,
  6. being addicted to idleness."
[Why?] "There are, young householder, these six miserable consequences to indulging in intoxicants which occasion heedlessness:
  1. "loss of wealth,
  2. increase in quarrels,
  3. susceptibility to disease,
  4. loss of reputation,
  5. indecent exposure,
  6. weakened intellect.
What if I, Barbie, were to get high and get a Snookie makeover? Aarrgh!
"There are, young householder, these six harmful consequences to roaming the streets at unseemly hours:
  1. "You are unprotected and unguarded.
  2. Your spouse and children are unprotected and unguarded.
  3. Your property is unprotected and unguarded.
  4. You are suspected of crimes.
  5. You are the subject of false rumors.
  6. You encounter many troubles.
"There are, young householder, these six unskillful things associated with frequenting unsavory shows. One who does so remains restless and agitated, wondering:
  1. "Where is there dancing?
  2. Where is there singing?
  3. Where is there music playing?
  4. Where is there reciting?
  5. Where is there this entertainment?
  6. Where is there that entertainment?
"There are, young householder, these six unwelcome consequences to being infatuated with gambling:
  1. "One is despised due to winning.
  2. One grieves on account of losing.
  3. One dissipates one’s wealth.
  4. One’s word is not relied on.
  5. One comes to be disparaged by friends and associates.
  6. One, unable to properly support another, is not much sought after."
"There are, young householder, these six disagreeable consequences to associating with the foolish:
  1. "Any gambler,
  2. any wastrel,
  3. any drunkard,
  4. any cheater,
  5. any swindler,
  6. any violent person
"is one’s friend and companion.

"There are, young householder, these six unprofitable consequences associated with being addicted to idleness. Nothing is accomplished because one is not inclined to put forth the effort to get any work done, instead thinking:
  1. "It’s too cold!
  2. It’s too hot!
  3. It’s too late in the evening!
  4. It’s too early in the morning!
  5. I’m too hungry!
  6. I’m too full!"
Buddha, Afghanistan (Gandhara)
"Living in this way, one leaves many wholesome and profitable things left undone. New wealth is left unacquired. And savings dwindle away." After the Buddha explained in detail, he summarized in verse:

Some are two-faced friends,
Saying ‘friend, friend’ to your face.
Some are with you through your hour of need
And should be recognized as friends indeed.

Sleeping and cheating,
Quarreling and causing harm,
Unwise association and miserliness --
These six causes ruin a person.

One regarding fools as friends
Is given to disadvantageous ways
On account of which one grieves in two places --
In this world and the next.

Dice-and-promiscuity, drinking, dance-and-song,
In bed by day and regarding night as the time to rise,
Associating with fools, a heart to hardness inclined --
These manifold causes ruin a person.

Who indulges in games of chance, consumes intoxicants,
Consorts with partners as dear to others as their very lives --
Associating with clouded rather than enlightened minds --
Such a person declines just as the waning moon.

Intoxicated, broke, destitute,
Thirsty even when drinking,
One sinks in debt like a stone in water --
And bringing disrepute, one is soon bereft of kin.

Who by habit sleeps the day away,
Looks on night as the time to wake,
Ever intoxicated and indulgent,
Is unfit to lead even the household life. Full sutra

The Buddhist Layperson
Wall Street is one h-ll of a place to be a Buddhist, dealing drugs, laundering profits, owning wage-slaves, and trafficking living beings in a three-piece suit as a banker, broker, or rainmaker (elephantjournal.com)
While Buddhism recognizes that bread [sustenance] is essential for life, it also stresses that [humans] do not live by bread alone. 
How one earns and why one earns are equally relevant. Gain a living, a livelihood, by methods detrimental to the welfare of living beings harms one, harms others, and harms others (human society at large).

Instead, for the benefit of all, most of all for one's own benefit, one pursues "a peaceful occupation," as the "Discourse on Blessings" (Maha Mangala Sutta) calls it.
The Buddha admonished listeners [lay Buddhists] to avoid five kinds of livelihood. Refraining from these five constitutes the minimal definition of right livelihood, the seventh factor along the Noble Eightfold Path to happiness now, a good rebirth later, and eventually enlightenment even in this very life. Those five are:
  1. trade in weapons,
  2. trade in human beings (slavery, etc.),
  3. trade in flesh (which includes pimping, human trafficking, breeding animals for slaughter, transporting beings, etc.),
  4. trade in intoxicants (drug and/or alcohol dealing),
  5. trade in poisons (which would seem to include ignorantly dealing in toxic allopathic pharmaceuticals).
These forms of commerce add to the suffering in this world. We might regard economic activity as a means to an end -- that end being the full development of a person. Work serves us. But if it enslaves us, it should not be regarded as any kind of suitable livelihood.
We should not be so preoccupied with business (our "busy-ness" to be more accurate). Are we earning a living that leaves us no time to live? Are we making money now only to be enslaved by the karmic results later? 
  • NOTE: If we go to jail for a misdeed, that is NOT the karmic result. That is simply a mundane consequence. The karmic result will be experienced as mental resultants (vipaka, grievous sensations, remorse, misgivings, regret, misery, psychosomatic troubles) and fruits (phala, unwelcome circumstances, fruitions, ripening of deeds.]
While income and wealth through right (fitting, suitable, harmless) means will bring satisfaction and happiness, the mere accumulation of riches for their own sake will only lead to dissatisfaction, emptiness, disappointment, and may even result in unbridled acquisitiveness and self-indulgence, resulting in subsequent physical pain and mental suffering.
The enjoyment of wealth implies not merely its use of it for one's own happiness here and now but also the giving for the benefit of others (and therefore of ourselves later) as well. Will drug dealing lead to such well being? Or will it lead to no advantage at all when the results finally catch up with us?

DRUGS - dealing or consuming
Happy Hotei at the altar (DanieljDyer/flickr.com)
The Buddha's attitude toward intoxicants (alcohol or drugs) that occasion heedlessness is clear. Abstain because the heedlessness that results from their consumption, or worse addiction, leads to suffering for a long time. Why?
The immediate aim of Buddhists is happiness, which comes from security here and now in our present existence. The distant objective is the lasting peace and security of nirvana , which is freedom from repeated birth and death with the attendant disappointments, frustrations, agonizing forms of suffering, and the general pain of aging, sickness, heartbreak, and death.

The only tool at our disposal to achieve both of these goals is the heart/mind, which under the wise guidance of a teacher who leads us in the direction of liberation, which we ourselves must do after the Path is pointed out. We gradually learn to use skill, without doing ill to ourselves or others. 

Now one of the best ways of impairing this precious heart/mind -- making it dull and blunt, unfeeling, uncaring, and unenlightened -- is to consume intoxicants.
Even when taken in moderation, or socially, they have a pernicious influence. Our minds are dulled and distracted, our hearts hardened and made unduly vulnerable. And our bodies suffer as well -- prematurely aging, increasingly subject to accidents and injury, abuse... Then our character, our habits and dispositions, tendencies and temperament, are disturbed. What becomes of our moral and ethical qualities?
Under their effects of intoxicants (toxic substances), the mind becomes confused, the heart confounded. A drinker finds it difficult to distinguish between a right and wrong course of conduct, a suitable decision, the meaning of skillfulness and unskillfullness, true and false.

Such a person then wrongs oneself, wrongs those whom one lives with, and wrongs society and the environment at large.

One who abstains, on the other hand, follows the Buddha's advice and abstains, is sober and bright. One's mind is sharp and luminous. One's heart is open, compassionate, and tolerant.

One is therefore able to exercise physical, mental, and moral control. One enjoys clarity and cogency, can easily understand what is going on in mind and in one's surroundings.
Happy as a bodhisattva (Moondoxy/flickr)
What of a Buddhist who, as a rule, refrains from alcohol and drugs, but occasionally finds oneself placed in a delicate situation being offered an intoxicating drink at a social event, say at a party thrown by a superior or at some important function? Accept or refuse? At least two possible courses are open -- politely decline (e.g., on medical grounds, which are justifiable) or request instead a non-alcoholic drink. One need not feel obliged to explain or make excuses.

Mindfully noting what is taking place, we impress on our minds that deviating from the Path the Buddha pointed out is to fall away, even temporarily, and become susceptible to heedlessness, recklessness, and confusion.
Alcohol and drugs are funny in that they impair our ability to think clearly, decide wisely, and perform any task competently. If a Buddhist layperson, aiming at perfectionism, occasionally lapses -- that is the very definition of perfectionism. Far from leading to "perfection," it leads to discouragement, a sense of futility, inaction, and lapsing.

Approximating what good we are capable of, we are free. We suddenly have strength. We decline, we choose wisely, we will, we follow enlightened advice, we live in the world, but we do not sink in the mire of it, which would be to our great peril.

Question: DMT?
Anonymous Reader 3,961,953
  • Q: Hey, what about "mind expanding drugs" -- entheogens, natural DMT, pineal gland hormones, magic mushrooms, IBOGA, rye mold extract (LSD), harmine, peyote cactus, ayahuasca, daime, tsentsak, natemä -- or Jerri Blank's Glint, Ecstasy, Lando Griffin's Toad, Limitless, and the like?
  • A: Do they lead to heedlessness?
  • I don't know.
  • Q: Why are you trying to live by hard-and-fast rules and absolute axioms when you are an adult capable of making decisions, distinguishing harmless from harmful actions, and living as if this is your life?
  • I don't know.
  • A: Yeah then, our advice, don't take drugs. Grow up instead.
  • But in some articles Wisdom Quarterly seemed to be saying that DMT...
  • Grow up, Arthur Jackson!

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