Refraining From Taking Intoxicants

Venue: Residence of Lee Hock Seng

Special occasion: Dana upon moving into new house

When Buddhists move into a new house, they invite monks for dana in order to make merits. These merits are then shared with the devas who are around. In doing this, one is offering one of the highest dana possible to the devas. The devas are honoured and, in reciprocation, will protect the house and its residents. Those whom the devas have sympathy for are bound to meet with good fortune.

Ven Kumara then continues with the series of talks on ‘Blessings’.

The next blessing is that of refraining from taking intoxicants.

Here’s a story on the origins of intoxicating drinks. Long ago in a forest in the Himalaya Mountains, there was a big tree. The top branches grew such that they formed a receptacle-like depression where rain water collected. As a creeper plant climbed up the tree trunk, its fruits fell into the pool of rainwater. Sometimes birds also dropped fruits into it. They then fermented in the water.

The monkeys and birds that drank this fermented liquid became intoxicated and fell into a drunken stupor after which they woke up. A forester witnessed this. Curious, he tasted the fermented liquid. It made him feel good. A hermit came along and the two of them had a good time drinking and feeding on roasted birds.

The idea then came to them that they could make money by selling this fermented liquid. So they collected the drink and sold it to the people in a nearby city. As their business was good, it did not take long for them to realise that they had to find out how they could manufacture it themselves. They spent time studying the process and were able to mass-produce alcohol. The inhabitants of that city soon degenerated into drunkards who could not work. Consequently, they could not afford to buy the alcohol.

Seeing that their sales had dropped there, the two men moved to Savatthi, another city, to continue their business. The King himself was so taken with the alcohol that he bought 500 jars of it. Soon he was partying on the alcohol.

Sakka Devaraja (Thni Kong, the God of Heaven) saw this and decided that he must do something to prevent the world from being ruined by this evil habit. He came to earth in the guise of a Brahmin and levitated himself in front of the King, carrying a jar. The King was curious and asked the Brahmin what the jar contained. The Brahmin replied that if he wanted to know, he would have to drink it himself, but warned him of the consequences.

“You’ll be in a stupor, unable to control your mind, actions or speech. You will also be unable to discriminate between good and bad, and become shameless. Your reputation will suffer and you will lose the respect of others. You will also break your precepts. In doing so, you will also harm others as well as yourself.”

The King realised the folly of taking intoxicants and destroyed his store of alcohol. However, alcohol had already been discovered and continues to be made and drunk till this day.

During the time of the Buddha, a monk who was an accomplished meditator with psychic powers took intoxicants, became drunk and unmindfully laid on the ground with his feet pointing at the Buddha. The Buddha criticised the foolish act and set down a Vinaya rule prohibiting monks from consuming alcohol.

Here, we can see that taking intoxicants can bring about much evil. If one were to refrain from it, one could be free from all these evils. So, we can rightly say that refraining from taking intoxicants is a great blessing.

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