I have one more reader comment on the ‚ÄòGreat Intoxication Debate‚Äù from last week (see the comments on last week’s post here and here), and then I think I’m going to let that subject go for a while ‚Ä¶ until it comes up again- somehow I don’t think we’ve really resolved it, or that we ever will for some.
A Reader recently wrote:
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 Kimberly, 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 precept 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 precept is to avoid heedlessness and realise that to stay on the middle way we need to know what our boundaries are.