මුල් පිටුව | බොදු පුවත් | කතුවැකිය | බෞද්ධ දර්ශනය | විශේෂාංග | වෙහෙර විහාර | ඉංග්‍රිසි ලිපි | පෙර කලාප | දායකත්ව මුදල් |


Buddha’s portrait of the boozer

By A.G.S. Kariyawasam

The Buddha’s contribution to human well-being has been immense. One of the main themes he had selected and highlighted in his battle against social evils was alcoholism as represented by the fifth of the Five Precepts, dealing with the use of liquor and drugs. By reading, assimilating and practising the Buddha’s admonitions on this subject, the unfortunate liquor - addicts would stand to benefit immensely.

In the celebrated Sigala Discourse of the Digha Nikaya (No. 31), the Buddha enumerates six channels through which a person’s wealth can get dissipated, affording the first place to alcoholism. Translated literally His definition on this evil here would run as “Indulgence in intoxicants which cause infatuation and heedlessness” which fits in with the Pali wording of the fifth Precept as well. The two terms and meraya here sura refer to alcohol prepared through fermentation and distillation respectively. It may also be mentioned here that there had been ten varieties of liquor in Buddhist India in general, five under sura and five under meraya, excluding the various other preparations of moon-shine.

These alcoholic liquors were manufactured basically from flowers, fruits, rice, flour etc. All these intoxicants should be avoided because they create a state of intoxication or majja leading to heedlessness or pamaada. Plainly, accepting the dangers of the liquor habit, the Buddha maintains that through the repeated consumption of liquor, one becomes an “alcoholic” whose health and wealth become subjected to a continuous ruin. Not only he loses the wealth he has so far earned but he will block his prospective sources of wealth as well. This is quite an obvious social evil in today’s society as hardened drunkards who fall within the category of wage-earners quite nonchalantly forget all their financial obligations towards their families and society as their first preference is the “bottle” when funds are available. Labourer segments is the worst in this regard.

Illegal sources

The miseries of the affected families continue to mount without a solution in sight. This inevitably would lead to a search for illegal sources of income paving the way for bribery and corruption among the wage-earners. Such situations contribute their share to family and social violence as well. The Buddha thus highlights this as an evil aspect of alcoholism applicable and apparent here and now in the enduring present (sanditthika) and continuing till the individual remains unreformed.

The Buddha next draws attention to the ensuing quarrels (Kalaha) through the liquor habit when he, quite realistically, recounts them as initial verbal fights ending up in physical ones, leading at times to loss of life and limb as well.

Domestic woes originating and centering around this evil are legion. Domestic violence, which has become a major problem today, is almost invariably linked to the liquor habit. Newspapers are full of reports about such clashes as a daily feature in many a household, ending up in eternal rivalries, ruined families and homicides, at times members of the same family killing each other as father killing the son and vice-versa. More than fifty percent of household violence is due to the liquor habit. The crime rate, homicides in particular, is all the time showing an upward trend in the country, alcohol serving as its main booster.

The next liquor-related evil enumerated by the Buddha is its unfailing and inevitable contribution to its consumer’s ill-health. It has been aptly defined as” a breeding ground for diseases”, the illustration cited being the diseases of the eye, perhaps regarded as the organ easily affected by alcohol. But, its effect on the consumer’s liver is unfailing and rapid, when it becomes chronically affected under the term ‘cirrhosis’ as designated in medical terminology.

This means that when the habit becomes established, the victim’s health deteriorates beyond recovery. This would be surer and faster, if the variety of liquor belongs to various variety of liquor belongs to various varieties of specially harmful concoction called kasippu, covering all kinds of illicit brews.

Evil reputation

The next evil effect of alcohol in the Buddha’s enumeration is the evil reputation (akitti), a drunkard would earn for himself. The commentary explains this in the following terms. “Under the influence of liquor, people assault their fathers, mothers, and others and speak what should not have been spoken and commit certain actions which should not have been commited.”

As a result of these indisciplined acts, “they become severely censured in society and sometimes punished with amputation of hands and feet, while these evil consequences follow them even into their next birth.” It is common knowledge that to be branded in derogatory common Sinhala parlance as “ a “bebadda, beba, raagudda’ etc. is itself sufficient contamination for him as these terms have a stigma attached to them. Even a man of achievements cannot escape this stigma because the socially devaluing power of the habit remains unaffected despite the attainment of social position, be it through wealth, education, political power etc. In matrimonial matters, it can become an insurmountable barrier, and quite justifiably so.

The next in the Buddha’s list of an alcoholic’s woes is his downright seamlessness which is quite succinctly described by the phrase meaning “removing one’s cloths”. The commentary explains that such a person be haves in quite a lowly fashion so shamelessly as to expose his person in any public place through his extreme intoxication. He would not feet any uneasiness in walking along a public highway in his birthday suit, as it were.

Scenes reminiscent of such behaviour are not uncommon in our public places such as bus stands, pavements etc, where such drunkards continue lying like unto dead bodies for house and hours.

Weakening the intellect

In this Buddha’s enumeration, weakening of the intellect is given as the next ill-effect, which He has defined as “the weakening of one’s inborn intelligence which one has hard-earned through his own good kamma” for which the story of the Buddha’s one-time attendant (prior to Ananda) Saagatha Thera is cited in illustration. This highly intelligent disciple of the Buddha had once become badly intoxicated when he once became the victim of some ploy in being plied with intoxicating drinks on his alms round by several householders. On his return journey, he fell unconscious and was taken to the Buddha who admonished the monks using him as an instance for the harmful effects of liquor.

The Buddha once brought to their senses a group of women who got drunk and went on singing and dancing in the Buddha’s presence, by instilling fear into them and then preached the quite meaningful Dhammapada stanza number 146:

“What laughter, what merry-making, when the world is ever burning (by the fires of passion). Shrouded in darkness, why don’t you seek the light of wisdom?”

If the Buddha were alive today, he would very strongly advise people not to fall victims to the promotional strategies of modern-day liquor-dealers with their provocative advertisements and television visuals which are so captivatingly presented that the less discerning individuals can get the impression that liquor elevates one’s soul!

Courtesy - the Buddhist

Vesak Annual (2005)

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