Share Pin Email
feature image
Live Free

Dear Rinpoche: What Are Your Views on Substance Use?

A Buddhist meditation master provides guidance on readers’ real-life problems. Here is his advice on occasional substance use.

10
Author Image
Buddhist Master
SHARE:

Dear Rinpoche,

I’m curious to hear your views on occasional substance use, particularly the more socially acceptable substances of alcohol and marijuana. Obviously, substance abuse is a serious issue, as are all forms of addiction, but I’m not talking about that. Specifically, I’m asking to hear your thoughts on moderate, recreational use. Do you think the occasional drink or joint is a dangerous indulgence to always be avoided or do you think if used responsibly and in moderation substances like alcohol and marijuana are okay, perhaps even beneficial from time to time? I know the 5th precept warns against the use of intoxicants, but how is this best applied in the modern world? Does that mean no glass of wine when out for dinner with friends? Or is that following the letter and missing the intent? As an interesting piece of data (can’t vouch for its veracity): In France where people are exposed to responsible alcohol use at a much earlier age, often around 11-14, there are actually fewer cases of binge drinking and alcoholism than there are in the US. The French have an old adage: Drink to enjoy not to forget.

Sincerely,
Curious About Consumption

Dear Curious,

We often think of drugs and alcohol as addictive substances, but nowadays there are so many things we can become addicted to: watching movies, our phones, the Internet, etc. So many sensory habits are cause for addiction. We need to understand our relationship to these habits. For many of us, we need to consistently keep moderation in mind.

When we look at the teachings of the Buddha carefully we can see that they are quite moderate and practical. That said, ultimately I think it is important to not be intoxicated. Intoxication can of course result from taking a substance, but we also experience mental intoxication, which arises from many different factors. The intoxication that comes from ingesting a substance is actually easier to stop than mental intoxication. These two can go hand-in-hand.

If you’ve taken the five precepts of the Buddha’s teaching then you should not take substances because one of these vows is explicitly about abstaining from intoxicants. Now, if you have not taken that vow and you want to enjoy a drink in social life, that is a different issue.

On the whole I think it comes down to the individual: One must know his or her own mind. You said you are not referring to addiction in your question but the issue is actually primarily about addiction. Some people can take substances and not be addicted, others are more susceptible. It can sometimes be useful: Certain ancient medical practitioners used marijuana as medicine.

Even within the scriptures there are descriptions of taking what we would normally call “intoxicants” as medicine. There may be medicinal uses of drugs that we usually associate with addiction, but you might take that substance to produce a beneficial result. At the same time, we often like to make excuses for ourselves. We continually take substances and convince ourselves that we are not addicted. “Oh the Buddha said do things in moderation, so why not?” In fact we are repeatedly under control of the substance.

Outside of the vows, I think to say you are absolutely not allowed to take a substance is one extreme. However, when you say you are totally allowed, that is another extreme. This is my observation. The methods of conduct in the Buddhist teaching are articulated to improve a person and prevent him or her from falling into an extreme. The precept to not take intoxicants exists because we are so easily addicted to them and because we make unclear decisions under their effects. We are so susceptible to falling under the power of so many sensory experiences. But when you look carefully at the Buddha’s teaching we see that things are largely individual and that a great number of precepts exist to prevent obsession on many levels and to prevent us from hurting ourselves and others.

With Compassion,
Rinpoche

Need advice? Submit a question to Rinpoche here.

By

SHARE:

Comments (0)

An Expert Guide to Crow Pose

Download Sonima’s comprehensive guide to this exciting “reach” posture and enjoy the benefits of expert instruction at home!

Get the Guide

Load More

Find us on Instagram

@LIVESONIMA
  • .
.

The short answer is that you should have a very well established Intermediate Series practice. 
Postures like Kapotasana and all of the leg-behind the head positions should be easily accomplished before venturing into more advanced asanas.

Personally, I prefer students to practice full Intermediate Series for a year at minimum before introducing any other asanas or starting Advanced Series.

What’s the rush?
  • It’s the first full moon in July, which means, in India, it is Guru Purnima. 
This is a special day marked for students and spiritual seekers to pay respects to their teachers. 
Today, we would like to thank our leading contributor in reference to all things yoga, R. Sharath Jois @sharathjoisr 
We are so grateful to have his experience and expertise to share the Ashtanga yoga teachings with all of the dedicated students around the world! 
Om Sri Gurubhyo Namah 🙏🏽
.
.
.
Photo 📸 @ifilmyoga .
.
.
.
#gurupurnima #sharathjois #paramagurusharathjois #sharathjoisusa2019 #guruji 
#yogalifestyle #yogaliving #positivenergy #positivelifestyle #positivemindpositivelife 
#mindfulliving #livewell #livefree #livefit #sonima #livesonima #healthylivingrevolution #healthierchoices  #balancedlife #createbalance #createhealthyhabits #brainhealth #mindbodyconnection #celebratelife #grateful
  • Start your week off straight! 
When your posture is off, you’re bringing improper alignment into everything you do. 
Some of the benefits gained by improving the way you stand are: improved digestion, easier breathing, elevated mood, decreased anxiety, and less headaches, not to mention, more efficiency in your workouts. 
Read more about eight unexpected benefits from realigning your posture in the article linked in our bio. .
.
.
.
.
.
@egoscue_institute 🙏🏽
#egoscuemethod #neckpain #chronicpainrelief #yogalifestyle #yogaliving #positivenergy #positivelifestyle #positivemindpositivelife
#mindfulliving #livewell #livefree #livefit #sonima #livesonima #healthylivingrevolution #healthierchoices  #balancedlife #createbalance #createhealthyhabits #brainhealth #mindbodyconnection #simplefitness #stayhealthy #fitnessvideo #mondaymotivation #mondaymantra #posturecorrection #structuralrealignment
  • Do you want to learn how to let go of emotional baggage and stay guilt-free at every meal—all the way through to dessert? 
Try this simple trick explained in the article linked in our bio! 🥞 .
.
.
.
.
.
#foodlover #foodie #foodguilt #foodlove #foodwithfriends #makefriendswithfood 
#yogalifestyle #yogaliving #yogicdiet #yogadiet #positivenergy #positivelifestyle #positivemindpositivelife 
#mindfulliving #livewell #livefree #livefit #sonima #livesonima #healthylivingrevolution #healthierchoices  #balancedlife #balancediet #createbalance #createhealthyhabits #brainhealth #mindbodyconnection #foodlove #lovefood
  • .
.
It is very normal to feel unmotivated in your practice at times. This question came from a student who has been practicing for 8 years, but now is facing many challenges and finding it difficult to get on the mat. .

The most important thing you can do is reassess your reasons for wanting to do a daily yoga  practice and adapt the practice to fit your needs as you face life’s challenges.
  • Time to hydrate. 
Do you have insomnia? There is a strong possibility that you are not drinking enough water. 
Researchers are beginning to observe a link between chronic dehydration and sleep issues. .

Read more on the subtle signs of dehydration by following the link in our bio. .
.
.
.
#timetohydrate #dehydrationrehydration #dehydrationrelief #drinkmorewater #yogalifestyle #yogaliving #yogicdiet #yogadiet #positivenergy #positivelifestyle #positivemindpositivelife 
#mindfulliving #livewell #livefree #livefit #sonima #livesonima #healthylivingrevolution #healthierchoices  #balancedlife #balancediet #createbalance #createhealthyhabits #brainhealth #mindbodyconnection
#sleepissues #sleepbetter
Receive fresh content delivered to your inbox every week!