The Five-Minute Buddhist Books

Recommended Host

The Pesky Fifth Precept

We’ve had a few interesting posts on the website this past week concerning the fifth precept:

“I undertake the training rule to abstain from drinks and drugs that cause heedlessness.”

That seems pretty straightforward, and in ancient times, it probably was as simple as it seems. But is it still valid?

Note, this discussion took place at http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/99 (The one about the other precepts)

————————————————————————————————————
A Reader recently Wrote:
————————————————————————————————————

I have disagree with the notion this precept is telling the practitioner to abstain from all drugs. The best medical studies show that moderate amounts of alcohol and caffeine have beneficial consequences. Why should Buddhist precepts contradict new discoveries in science? If Buddhism is about reality and its true nature, I think it’s time to live the spirit of the precept (avoid that which, for you, could lead to heedless behavior) rather than the letter. This would mean a person with a genetic predisposition towards addiction (heedlessness) might have to weigh the benefits vs. obstacles of drinking or using a drug much more carefully than one who can easily handle, say, a glass of wine every day (especially if prescribed by a doctor) or an occasional marijuana joint. Also, you said this precept even covers caffeine, but weren’t Zen Buddhist monks known for their use of green tea? In short, this precept seems to be more about avoiding heedlessness, not about which substances you choose to use. Under a strict reading of the precept, even chocolate contains a drug that could lead to heedlessness. I think the key focus should be on one’s behavior subsequent to taking a drug or drink. If the behavior leads to suffering, stop using ‚Äî if not, why stop?
————————————————————————————————————
My Response:
————————————————————————————————————

I am personally still not convinced about the benefits of alcohol that some studies have shown; I think that the tendency to overdo it outweighs any small potential health benefits. It’s just too easy to start down the path to a real addiction problem. That’s just my opinion.

“this precept seems to be more about avoiding heedlessness, not about which substances you choose to use.”

No, I absolutely disagree on this. It specifically mentions intoxicants, there is no vagueness about it. I think in this case it is very clear that they mean intoxicant-induced heedlessness. General “sober stupidity” is another matter entirely, and there are plenty of prohibitions against that sort of foolishness in Buddhism.

I personally don’t drink alcohol (ever) or take any kind of non-medicinal drugs. I do, however, love my caffeine, whether in coffee or soda. I see little harm in it, but I can see where it might affect concentration while meditating. I’m not going to justify it; I know it’s not the optimum situation. Someday I may choose to work on breaking that habit, but right now, I see bigger problems that I need to focus on. As with everything in Buddhism, it’s up to you to work out what is best for you.

It’s not for me to condemn imbibing occasionally in small quantities. The precept itself is pretty clear on the subject, but if science were to unequivocally prove that small amounts were good for you, then Buddhism would adapt to allow it‚Ķ or maybe not in this case since it can still lead to addiction.

————————————————————————————————————
To Which That Reader Responded:
————————————————————————————————————

You wrote: ‚ÄúI personally don’t drink alcohol (ever) or take any kind of non-medicinal drugs. I do, however, love my caffeine, whether in coffee or soda. I see little harm in it, but I can see where it might affect concentration while meditating.‚Äù

By the same token, I see little harm in drinking a glass of wine that has been recommended by my personal physician. We never see harm in taking that which with we are comfortable. Plus the precept is a 2,500-year-old suggestion ‚Äî not a commandment. While the wisdom of not abusing drugs cannot be argued, the people who promulgated this precept knew little about the effects of intoxicants compared to modern research. And, I have to add, there IS some vagueness in a sense about the precept given that it is so old. Very few ancient sayings have survived intact so we really don’t know how it was originally presented ‚Äî ask any honest Bible scholar. The best we can do is ask: Does it make sense given what we know. When we ‚Äúclose the book‚Äù and say ‚ÄúNo further discussion‚Äù or ‚Äúin this case, it is very clear‚Äù we risk making Buddhism into a fundamentalist religion. Obviously, this case is not very clear, or this disagreement (and I see it as a merely friendly disagreement) would not exist.

Also, ask yourself: If green tea was OK for ancient Zen practitioners, why should you worry about trying to quit caffeine?

Science has unequivocally proven small amounts of alcohol are beneficial, therefore, my Buddhism has adapted. This is not my opinion, several studies over a number of years have shown the benefits of moderate alcohol in fighting heart disease and (with wine) increasing antioxidants. Granted, overuse is unhealthy but that is true in the use of any natural substance — food, alcohol, drugs, plants, etc. My 21st-century adaptation of the precept is:

“I undertake the training rule to abstain from misusing drinks and drugs that cause heedlessness.”

By the same token, I try to space my daily wine apart from zazen meditation (same for green tea) because I do recognize that even a glass could interfere in a small way but that’s a far cry from eliminating it from my diet. I also try not to eat heavy meals near this time since the chemicals in foods can also affect meditation. It’s all about moderation (feel free to append this to my previous comment).
——————————————————————

Comment on this post at either this post:

Or the original: http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/99

25 comments to The Pesky Fifth Precept

  • Jason

    I would like to retract one statement. Strike the words “an occasional marijuana joint.” I really can’t say that it would not lead to heedlessness. However, if one has a serious medical condition (like glaucoma) and a joint can alleviate the suffering, it surely doesn’t violate any precept.

  • Kimberly Scott

    I just watched this very interesting lecture given by UC Berkeley Prof. Burke called “Buddhism in a Global Age of Technology.” Burke starts with a history of the migration of Buddhism before moving on to Buddhism in the modern age. At one point in the lecture, as an aside, he discusses the use of alcohol and mentions the studies that point to its “healthful” benefits. He goes on to question the validity of the studies which say people who drink a glass of wine a day are healthier than those who don’t by using the argument that perhaps people who drink a glass of wine a day are wealthier than those who don’t and therefore, have better healthcare. I thought this was a very valid point.

    I don’t know the answer to the alcohol and drug question. They both have caused considerable devastation and suffering in my own family. I personally feel abstinence is the best policy. That said, I don’t practice abstinence with perfection. For the most part, I don’t use alcohol and I never use illegal drugs. I felt compelled to join this discussion because it seems this precept is being presented as a “commandment.” What happens if someone “violates” it? Is it a “sin?” Do they get kicked out of the club? Are they not a “real” Buddhist?

    In my mind, I feel the desire to follow the path does not mean one will not wander from one side of it to another, or will never set foot off of it here and there. We are human and this is why I believe the Buddha reminds us to follow the middle path.

    My attraction to Buddhism is exactly its SEEMING lack of fundamentalism. (I haven’t been exposed to it enough to know any different, yet.) I like the “use your head” basis for practice. If is it true to you after thinking on it from all angles, it is true. If having a glass of wine with dinner causes you and your family no suffering, it is not for me or anyone else to say whether or not you should have it. Not even the Buddha.

    “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

    ~Buddha

    Here is the link to Burke’s lecture: http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=6,6875,0,0,1,0

  • And there you go, bringing an excellent thought to the table- Why does there have to be a RIGHT or WRONG, BLACK or WHITE answer to this? There doesn’t. Every person and every case is individual and unique.

    Although, as you and I both said, you cannot go wrong with abstinence. If someone can consistently limit themselves to one glass a day (or some other non-intoxicating quantity), then that’s fine. In my own opinion, it’s still a “gateway drug” for most people, but if you really have kind of control, then it’s not my place to say you can’t have your evening wine.

    As you point out, it’s all too easy to get locked into a “fundamentalist” mode of thinking, where everything has a black or white answer. Feel free to point this out whenever you catch me doing it in the future!

  • Timothy Hilgenberg

    Brian, first of all thank you for the huge effort you have been putting into this!

    As to my 2 cents worth on this – I agree with Kimbely, it’s about the Third Way – whatever that is and while I agree that personally you cannot go wrong with abstinence. This is not necessarily true in social situations were refusal to imbibe may cause hurtful or offence in the same way as refusing food or gifts.

    It is not for me to judge what is right or wrong, it is for me to avoid doing harm and if this means having a glass of wine or beer so be it.

    From other Buddhist lectures on this topic I’ve taken away the impression that this percept addresses exactly your worry: gateway drugs that start you on the slippery slop and the idea is perhaps “don’t even lead me into temptation”.

    Most things we do have some kind of “drug effect” on us – our body produces its own opiate derivative: endorphins – they can be released through a variety of things, exercise, sex, food … so my understanding of the percept is to avoid headlessness and realise that to stay on the middle way we need to know what our boundaries are.

    T

  • Jason

    You expressed the opinion that one glass of alcohol per day is a “gateway drug.” Please provide scientific studies to bolster this claim. I know of none but I do know (and have interviewed) several 90-100-year-old people who have also had one drink per day for health and have never entered the “Gateway” of addiction. If your assertion were true, then millions of social drinkers would be on heroin by now.

    As far as the Burke lecture. While he may be right, he is merely putting forth a conjecture (“perhaps”) based on no known research (They “may” be richer. They may even be fatter, blonder, shorter, taller, who knows). The studies on the efficacy of wine include populations in rural France and stretch back for years before better healthcare was available. The benefits of moderate doses of wine for heart health are, thus far, incontrovertible. Thanks.

  • Jason, “drug” may have been a poor choice of words. I meant that one drink leads to more drinking. Every drunk begins with a single drink.

    I know of no evidence that shows that drinking leads to drug use. That wasn’t what I meant at all.

  • Chris M

    I do know of situations where alcohol has been a ‘gateway’ drug. When I was younger I used to go to parties and drink, and on one occasion in particular I was very, very drunk, and someone offered me marijuana (which I later found out also has LSD in it), and even as reckless as I was back then, I normally would have never agreed to using marijuana, but I was extremely drunk and my judgment wasn’t what it should be, so I smoked it. I haven’t touched alcohol since then. I know that isn’t ‘scientific’, but I just wanted to share my personal experience to let you know that it does happen.

  • Jonathan

    Hi, all.

    Here’s my idea about this. Caffeine speeds mind up, alcohol slows it down. They both interfere. I don’t believe it is possible to be constantly mindful by taking these drugs which affect the mind. This seems very logical to me.

    It is my experience that, even in small doses, it hinders my efforts, in a subtle way, to obtain a clear view of reality. I have got rid of both drugs. I sometimes have the desire for them, but then I can use this as part of my practice. It is beneficial to me.

    Jonathan

  • Jonathan

    All of that comment, by the way, is meant in the spirit of “this works for me”. I’m not preaching. I don’t like preachy types.

  • tom

    Smoking pot is not addictive (physically). I find it relieves stress and certainly does not cause me to make “heedless” decisions (it actually causes most to OVER analyze). It’s not a “poison”; you can consume tons of it without dying (unlike say alcohol or even fluoride for example). It makes most people more pleasurable to be around. It seems some people who are saying to avoid at all costs are more attached to it than others who toke a few time a year.

  • Lee

    what a great discussion filled with lots of justification. I’ll share my experience a bit.. I drank alcoholically 30 years ago and had to put myself into a treatment center to quit. I have not touched it since…however i have loved the pot. when i got involved in serious practice i put down the pipe and for some years just trained. an occasion occured where i was offered a smoke. I did. the (Oh I know it’s not addictive…then how come when I have it i smoke it..how come when I smoke it and want to quit I can’t go to sleep easily for a couple of days???) addiction returned and i began smoking pretty regularly… still training… but something interesting happened… it became harder and harder to go to the temple to be with the sangha… I later learned … I was making the precept true … i withdrew myself from the sangha.. I finally put the pipe back on the alter and returned to serious practice. For me i’ve found it gets in the way of training. If i could have the occasional drink or joint it would probably be OK but for me the occasional becomes quickly the norm and as much as i’d like to justify it … it does not help training… it impeeds training … Gashho!

  • More recent studies concerning the “glass of red wine once per day” theory have shown that the wine is predominantly ineffectual in improving health. The original studies stating otherwise did not consider other variables that would lead to better overall health. Upon closer inspection, people who habitually drink one glass of red wine per day also habitually exercise and eat healthier meals. Subsequently, the wine is not a medicine‚Äî the lifestyle made these people healthy.

    I don’t have a link to a copy of these latest studies, but a search in Academic Search Complete or Lexus Nexus should return the desired information.

  • Also, many fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, berries and spinach contain loads more antioxidants than wine. Drinking wine because of the antioxidants has become a millennial magazine fad. The foods mentioned above also contain so many other vitamins and minerals (yay, fiber) that drinking wine instead of eating the alternatives is more like substituting an energy bar for a candy bar.

    Happy eating!

  • One more post. This time branching, in a way, from Kimberly Scott’s post.
    There is a tendency by “Western” Buddhists to reduce much of the practice to a single phrase “everything in moderation.” This can be dangerous as we are often blinded by our personal desires and aversions and we fail to notice attachments/aversions growing in the corner.

    I don’t feel qualified enough to venture into the Dhamma surrounding the negative aspects of “everything in moderation,” but I’m sure I’ve heard a sermon by Ajahn Brahmavamso or perhaps the Bhavana Society that touches on the notion (If you don’t live in Australia, you can watch and/or hear Ajahn Brahm’s sermons via youtube and podcast. The Bhavana Society can be found via podcast).

    Remember: it’s not the result, but how we arrive at it. We’ll harbor no regret by investigating and acting out of kindness and compassion; promoting community, happiness, and health for ourselves and others.

  • Yesh

    It is my belief that based on the published medical research over the past decades which very clearly indicate that even very little amount of alchohol can lead to the death of a considerable number of brain cells. Unlike in the other organs, apparently there is no mechanism in the human body to repair or replace these lost brain cells.I am not aware wheather enough research has been done to identify which parts of the brain is effected most and what are the functions effected in the long run in a moderate drinker.Please somebody educate me if i am wrong on above facts. While acknowledging that there is an ongoing discussion among Buddists , Scientists and interlactuals about the role physical brain plays in the conciousness and the thinking process, which is another realm ,Buddha in Singalowada Sutta very clearly states five maladies of alchoholism, the very first one being the Reduction of brain power / Weakening of inteligence .Hence if brain has anything to do with how your mind works , how inteligently you may analyse your thoughts or how fast you may grasp the noble teachings, then abstaining altogether is the only safe option. The detrimental aspects which will come in the long run with reduced mental capabilities may far outweigh the benefits you gain from the antioxidents in your daily drink, making the realization of ultimate wisdom, the very thing we seek being a buddhist, even more elusive.

  • Jamie

    The research on what happens to brain cells is actually pretty fascinating. They did find out about 10 years ago that brain cells do regenerate. I found this web site through Google; the exposure that I’ve had to this subject came from Science News, though, a few years back.
    http://www.brainlightning.com/regen.html
    If I remember correctly, lack of sleep was the chief retardant to the rate at which your brain cells regenerated, but it would make sense that alcohol would also inhibit new cell growth. Strangely enough, both Prozac and marajuana were shown to stimulate regeneration, as well as commonsense practices such as exercise.

  • Yesh

    Thank you Jamie. I found the site . I still think even if there is a regeneration mechanism of brain cells the Regeneration rate against the kill ratio caused by alchohol in a moderate regular drinker might still cause depletion of capacities. May be ,the natural regeneration is meant to handle the cell losses caused by a normal non abusive lifestyle,where as a contineous intake of alchohol, even in small quantities might cause a “Net cell loss” making a person go dim-witted in the long run.

  • Jami

    Raised in a sub-culture where ‘herb’ for the ‘wine’ dominated, I find the ‘joint’ advocacy interesting. Rastas smoke Ital Herbs (sensimillia, Lambs Bread).

    These herbs certaily calm the mind, rest the spirit.The ital herb allows a meditative practice whose results are perhaps deeper than ordinary meditative practice (perhaps great practioners may achieve). In India, the view of ‘drug’s’ and ”’intoxicants has been informed by Western legal definitions. Drug definitions are culturally relative; and pre-colonial India had a different list.
    Sikhs have strict view of intoxicants like Buddhist (but allow the drinking of Marijuana on a religious event.)Bihar and Nepal region have some of the most meditative herbs. When Buddha and Buddhist mentioned intoxicants, can we say the definition was timeless and universal?

  • Humans are habit forming creatures. I use to smoke lots of pot everyday and everynight, because it relived stress. But it left me in my own world and I didn’t want me to bothered by not even my wife. When I ever felt stressed I immediately needed a smoke or a glass a wine to relax. When I tried to quit smoking pot, I started to drink more wine. I guess my body was looking for the a stimulant. Well to make a long story short, when I official quit smoking pot and drinking wine, I started to withdraw badly. My moods were really bad. I became very angry and started a lot of fights with my wife. I slowly started getting into Buddhism and started to meditate and man, after at least six months, there is nothing that can explain the joy I feel. The power of mediation is real!! I have became a serious practitioner ever since and stop justifying smoking pot. I used to be that person that use to say its fine, but I witnessed the monster I turned out to be. I recognized that I have a addictive personality, which many people also do. The trick is this, try quit taking that stimulant for at least six months and see if you crave for it. See if it changes your moods to worst. The problem with any stimulant is that it becomes something you rely on to make you feel relaxed, and the truth is, we all have this True Relaxation inside of us all ready. We we born into this world naked without a joint or a glass of wine. We DO NOT need ANYTHING to help us relax, we have the potential already inside of us, and that is what the Buddha was and is trying to show us, our BUDDHA NATURE, or if you are a Christian our CHRIST NATURE, but you must discover it. Pot or Alcohol will just put a bandage to your stress, but Deep Samadhi, Right Concentration on a daily basis will lead you to True Nirvana, not a pseudo temporary relaxation that is dependent on anything. “Rely on nothing” said the Buddha. He also said “Look Within.” Jesus said it Himself, “Know Yourself,” Find the Kingdom within, and you will not be thirsty again. I haven’t had a craving of pot or alcohol eversince I have devoted myself to the Noble Eightfold Path. And trust me this is not trying to bring any praise to me, I could care less for it, because praise doesn’t profit me or anybody anything. It is better to give yourself completely to the Path and you will truly see the True Effects that the Buddha talks about or any Sage talks about. But to each is own, discover it on your own, the Sages can only point to the Way, let the self die, and awaken the Bodhichitta, your Buddha Mind.

  • J.Frick

    I too have struggled with heavy marijuana use in the past, and it was vajrayana practice that helped me to overcome it because it forced serious self reflection. Occasional marijuana use probably does no harm and likely allows for some interesting experiences and insights. Probably the same for many other drugs. But lets be realistic. Spiritual and mental development is hard. It requires honest self reflection and confrontation of one’s mental and emotional negativities. It is about peeling away the obscurations and delusions of the mind, and gaining real insight into the nature of ones own mind is not as simple as having a smoke or dropping acid. It’s about confronting your demons. You might get some “flashes” of what you feel are pure insight, but how do you know these are not just more delusions and fantasising of the mind?

    If you are a habitual marijuana smoker and trying to find a way to justify continued use while you embrace a spiritual path like buddhism—perhaps take some time to reflect on the Buddhas teachings regarding desire and craving and be really honest with yourself about what kind of karma you are creating. I know it is hard though. I also know that those in denial of an addiction will not be convinced until they are really ready to address it. I know, I have been there.

  • Jessica

    I felt a little sad when I read this all.I am only 36 and have recently been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I have drank very little in the last 10 years maybe one social drink a month, and recently I have read studies that link moderate alcohol consumption to a delay in the joint destruction associated with RA. I have decided that this may be a good addition to the medication available and will do so with my doctors blessing. I do not and have never had a drug or alcohol problem and I think that for some this would not be the right decision but for me it may slow a frightening disease and allow me more functional years. I am not looking for an escape of to be continually buzzed I am talking about one drink a day. I cannot see where this would be prohibited for me, as if it leads to me being able to live my life more fully, then that to me is a good thing.

  • AndrewSuber

    The Pali scriptures name fermented drinks especially. Certainly, as a former ascetic, the Buddha would have been familiar with cannabis. Why didn’t he name it specifically as a forbidden substance, then?

    I am afraid that the prejudices in China against cannabis have made it more taboo than rice wine. Similarly, the Japanese hold sake drinking as an important social ritual despite it being specifically forbidden over and over by the Canonical Corpus.

    From an objective viewpoint, alcohol is more dangerous to spiritual progress than cannabis. The overuse of cannabis is detrimental to right concentration, right mindfulness and right effort in many people. For some, however, moderate use may help to calm minds and bodies racked with stress and pain.

    We are allowed to use aids to mediation: powerful mantras, healing and calming foods, yogic postures, etc. If a practitioner honestly finds moderate use of cannabis conducive to a balanced, healthy spiritual life, it is allowed. If cannabis is ingested in order to delude ourselves, intoxicate ourselves, or avoid the moral, ethical and spiritual problems of dukkha, then we should avoid it. Especial care must be taken that one is truthful with oneself in this regard. It is more dangerous to rely on good things than bad things!

  • John

    I believe that as long as one gives themselves fully to their practice then taking drugs/alcohol is irrelevant.

    Ultimately meditation will point out all the issues with substance abuse as well as USE. When one gains more mastery with meditation even amounts as small as a single drink can produce mild intoxication and more importantly a noticeably rebound effect in mood a few day’s later. To reach the deeper states of absorption one needs to do things that still their mind more while also minimizing the things that disturb the mind. It’s hard enough a a lay practitioner trying to hold down a job in the modern world. Talk about ripples on the waves of calm!

    Every person is at their own place on the path. Only their mind can tell them what needs the current focus.
    No reason to be overly strict with rules and dogma unless one is becoming a monk.
    Just watch the mind and be dead honest with your self at all times.
    Do that sincerely and you will be further down the path than most. IMHO.

    Peace

  • Anonymous

    My argument here on this “the pesky fifth precept” ( to refrain from intoxicant and drugs that cause heedlessness)might give me further insight into it while placing it. As I myself is having a bit of issue practicing this other precept.
    As I’ve come to realize, the Buddha’s words has passes down from his generation to this generation by disciples who have practiced it (Sangha). And from what I’ve learned whatever the Buddha taught has a purpose – which is to make beings happy. Now the fifth and other precepts must have this purpose.
    Probably for most lay people this fifth precept is an issue. “We are lay people enjoying sensuality; living crowded with spouses & children; using Kasi fabrics & sandalwood (eg. Designer’s Clothes in this time); wearing garlands, scents, & creams; handling gold & silver (excerpt fr AN 8.54). This is how the Buddha’s disciples enjoy the home in his time, and the Buddha never objected it. But his advice to this man in AN 8.54 (anguttara Nikaya) was in brief: accomplish industriousness, accomplish vigilant over your wealth, accomplish good friends and company, maintain a balance livelihood – the purpose of these instructions are for happiness and well-being for lay people in this life.
    In that advice if you have accomplish good friends then you should be on that level of happiness where you are not perplexed by the issue of the pesky fifth precept as the Buddha has said that a good friend posses’s the quality of being virtuous ie. restrained by the householders precept and that anyone who has good friends is expected to be virtuous. So by accomplishing such good friends the issue of the pesky fifth precept is resolved.

    But for happiness in the next life the Buddha advised the lay man he had to cultivate four other qualities. And these qualities are spiritual qualities, they involve practicing the the Dhamma. The Buddha advised lay men in the same Sutta – cultivate faith, virtue, generosity, discernment/right View. These instructions are for happiness when we meet the end maker after death.
    Again for our happiness after death it involves practicing virtue according to the Dhamma. Now the Buddha described his dhamma as being “well expounded and timeless,” so in my reasoning, for me to benefit from practicing the dhamma that is well expounded and timeless with happiness as it’s purpose I don’t have to wait on anyone to fulfill that practice. So that leave me toe to toe, face to face with the pesky fifth precept.
    Now what is the meaning and purpose of avoiding drugs and intoxicant that cause heedlessness for a lay man? In my reasoning this means whatever drugs and intoxicants that cause people to act heedless a layman must avoid it, the purpose is to avoid endangering yourself and others from practicing opposite of what is for your welfare and happiness. eg. in the worldly sense, a person might get himself so drunk he can’t do his Job at work, He might be high on weed that he sleep away business time or in a stupor he might get in trouble with the law and spoil his business, etc. Example in a spiritual sense, a person might spend much of his time enjoying being drunk or and high on weed that he might be heedless of the value of cultivating faith in the Buddha. Down the line when a person is drunk or high he is given to act in a shameless and detrimental way and his mind is given to be bogged halting his capability to understand the the dhamma particularly the Four Noble Truths, the supreme opportunity for man and god.
    If drugs do this to people I would advice anyone who wants to practice the Dhamma not to partake.

    Now this being the perceptual rule lets criticize it with the supreme ruler (like a yard stick), the quality of the middle way (too tight, too loose as extremes to avoid). Now I will give an active example i now of, myself taking cigarette breaks. This is on the side of the rule (Like a scale) as being bad. But as a lay man “enjoying sensuality” is there a ground on the rule (middle way) for enjoying the sensual urge of a cig in a lay man daily life. My reason is yes as long as he is able to maintain his job, his wealth, good friends in the dhamma, and maintain a balance livelihood. further if he can maintain faith, virtue (four major precept), charity, and understanding of the four noble truths, on a daily basis its fine for him if he has that urge. I think this might also be fine for other recreational drugs if its use comes with the mentioned criteria… its up to the layman and his good friends in the dhamma.
    Then again, the Buddha in my argument and observations is not worried about substances, he is worried about disciples being heedless as other readers has mentioned.

    P.S> Remember to observe Buddhist Sabbaths at least weekly, it can take a lay man far on the path.