By Mza.zakky –
Buddhism is divided into two main divisions and several sub divisions based on country and culture. Fundamental beliefs include the three jewels, the four noble truths, the eightfold path and the five precepts. The three jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings), and the Sangha (the community) and taking refuge in them is the basis of Buddhist practice. The four noble truths are the universality of suffering, the origin of suffering, the overcoming of suffering and the way leading to the suppression of suffering.
The way or path is known as the eightfold path and consists of dṛṣṭi (ditthi): viewing reality as it is, not just as it appears to be, saṃkalpa (sankappa): intention of renunciation, freedom and harmlessness, vāc (vāca): speaking in a truthful and non-hurtful way, karman (kammanta): acting in a non-harmful way, ājīvana (ājīva): a non-harmful livelihood, vyāyāma (vāyāma): making an effort to improve, smṛti (sati): awareness to see things for what they are with clear consciousness, being aware of the present reality within oneself, without any craving or aversion, samādhi (samādhi): correct meditation or concentration.
The five precepts outline Buddhist ethics. Do not kill, be kind to all creatures. Do not steal, give rather than take. Do not lie, be honest and open. Do not misuse sex and do not consume alcohol or use recreational drugs.
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 behavior. 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 Sri lanka, identify as Buddhists. Despite the Buddha’s teachings, a number of Srilankan Buddhists adolescents consume alcohol.
A survey conducted in a semi-urban community in southern Sri Lanka (total sample size n = 783) revealed that
5% of females and 52.5% of males aged above 10 years old were current alcohol users. Age-specific prevalence
of alcohol use was highest among those aged between 40 to 50 years for both sexes. By ethnicity, the highest prevalence was found among Tamils (43%), followed by Sinhalese (32%) and Muslims (9%).
WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004
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.
Islam also has same philosophy about alcohol consumption. Islam’s holistic approach to health and well-being means that anything that is harmful or mostly harmful, is forbidden. Therefore, Islam takes an uncompromising stand towards alcohol and forbids its consumption in either small or large quantities. Alcohol is undoubtedly harmful and adversely affects the mind and the body. It clouds the mind, causes disease, wastes money, and destroys individuals, families, and communities. Researchers have proven that there is a strong link between alcohol and gambling. Drinking impairs judgment, lowers inhibition, and encourages the type of risk taking involved in gambling and dangerous activities. God tells us in the Quran that intoxicants and gambling are abominations from Satan and orders us to avoid them. (Quran 5: 90)
Alcohol is considered highly carcinogenic, increasing the risk of mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, and breast cancers. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, causing the child to be small at birth, have some facial malformations, small eye openings, webbed or even missing fingers or toes, organ deformities, learning disabilities, mental retardation and much more.
Even though it is clear that alcohol is responsible for a great many evils it is legal and even encouraged in most societies. In Muslim countries where alcohol is forbidden many people still find it difficult to resist temptation and fall prey to the disease that is alcoholism. Amazingly even in the light of such startling evidence against alcohol, people around the globe continue to consume alcohol in ever-increasing amounts.
At the time of accident, 89% of drivers and 28.1% of pedestrians were under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol was related to 67.4% of accidents taking place during the night.
According to the Department of Traffic Police, the detections of driving under the influence of alcohol were 8.86% in 1990 but had increased to 20.75% in 1993.
According to the Ministry of Health, the number of cases of those hospitalized due to alcohol psychosis, alcohol dependence and alcohol withdrawal had increased by 4436 cases from 1998 to 1999.
– WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004
Alcohol affects the mind and makes sinful behavior and evil actions fair seeming. It creates enmity and hatred between people, prevents them from remembering God and distracts them from praying, and calls them to participate in unlawful sexual relationships. Alcohol generates shame, regret, and disgrace, and renders the drinker witless. It leads to the disclosure of secrets and exposure of faults.
“Satan wants only to excite enmity and hatred between you with intoxicants (alcoholic drinks) and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of God and from the prayer. So, will you not then abstain?” (Quran 5:91)
“O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), gambling, idolatry, and diving arrows are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. So avoid that so that you may be successful.” (Quran 5: 90)
The Quran is a book of guidance sent to all of humankind. It is a set of instructions from the Creator for His creation. God links alcohol and gambling to idolatry and declares it filthy and evil; however, He is merciful and generous towards the believers and acknowledges the power of addiction. Islam is a community-oriented faith. There is no place for an individual to do what he wants to do, if it hurts others. Alcohol abuse affects not just the alcoholic but also his or her family, and community. There is great wisdom in the prohibition of alcohol.
A survey conducted in a semi-urban community in southern Sri Lanka (total sample size n = 783) revealed that 5% of females and 52.5% of males aged above 10 years old were current alcohol users. Age-specific prevalence of alcohol use was highest among those aged between 40 to 50 years for both sexes. By ethnicity, the highest prevalence was found among Tamils (43%), followed by Sinhalese (32%) and Muslims (9%). WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004
According to this report Tamils and Sinhalese are first opponents of a main concept (precepts) of Buddhism. We can’t kill human by approving alcohol. So as Muslims, we follow Islam as well as many concepts of Buddhism. We never give halal certificate to alcohol. In these things Muslims are real Buddhists. Why don’t refrain alcohol from srilanka? We are ready to make history. We Muslims invite Sinhalese to make our nation as wonder of Asia by giving haram (not acceptable) certificate to alcohol
*Mza.zakky – student of Faculty of medicine, Eastern university