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Thread: Booze theory

  1. #1

    Booze theory

    Well, in sending the good ole precepts to hell I drank 3 cups of chianti while reading Loori's intro to the art of sitting, and I tumbled upon "The resulting form (of the stone carved by the river as compared to the practitioner carved by zazen ) has as much to do with the stone as with the action of the water". I can't start to explain the sweetness of this fact becoming clear to me; it feels like I've always known it, and yet the verbalization reconciles me with why some people in every sangha are the way they are: some angry, some shy, some full of shit, some craving for the mystical, some faithful, some whatever adjective you like (and most of us, all the adjectives at one time or another). Well, duh, the river can't transform a big rock into a little one, or a red one into a neon blue one.

    Anyways, the point of this rambling post is a different one. The point is that maybe (a maybe based on my perceptions at the time) the wine helped me get into a calm state in which I was savoring every phrase just like you would your favorite poem. I've been throug this situation before: something that normally would not (and in fact has not) called my attention before , suddenly becomes easy to grasp and let go when I achieve some relaxation (this time thanks to wine)

    Let me paraphrase the precept: "I vow not to drink booze but to keep the mind clear" (of course the precept has dozens of different forms, but I'll take this for the sake of discussion). So I won't drink to keep the mind clear, uh? So what the hell is a clear mind? Granted, a clear mind goes way beyond the perception of being more calm, understanding, compassionate, etc. But is it possible that a clear mind exists while drinking 3 glasses of wine (or, terrible heresy, thanks to the wine?)

    Wanshi Sogaku: "If enlightenment neglects serenity, then agression appears... If serenity neglects enlightenment, opacity screws up the Dharma". So meditation requires a component of serenity, and for those of us who live in the regular world as opposed to the monastery, serenity just happens to be not so achievable (you put the name of you favorite angry buddhist here). Can a little bit of ethanol help? Is that cheating?

    This is just for general consideration. I toss the idea with very little to defend it; indeed, I am anxious to see how you deconstruct the bullshit in the suggestion that booze is acceptable.

    But again, it is at least theoretically possible that booze (within measure) can help achieve some balance and some serenity in the modern, overstimulated mothertrucker? Ideally we should all go to Antaiji and leave the bull behind, but I don't think they have that many spots available. So for those of us out here (and I'm allowing for now the dichotomies of here and there and all that), my theory is that it is possible to drink 2 or 3 shots and actually have a mind more clear and receptive than before. Of course, this is just a temporary thing, but everything is temporary: the alpha waves following zazen do vanish, the fabulous kensho does fade into militarism and peronal interests, etc.

    Having said that, I vow not to do it tomorrow (cause the darn bottle is empty)

    Gassho

  2. #2

    Re: Booze theory

    I can guarantee my mind would more more cloudy going to some retreat where you get 5 hours of sleep every night than if I drank a couple glasses of wine every night. So how does that work? Besides, intoxication is a construction of the mind :mrgreen:

  3. #3

    Re: Booze theory

    Hi Alberto,

    Interesting post!

    Quote Originally Posted by Alberto
    But again, it is at least theoretically possible that booze (within measure) can help achieve some balance and some serenity in the modern, overstimulated mothertrucker? ...my theory is that it is possible to drink 2 or 3 shots and actually have a mind more clear and receptive than before.
    I've had similar experiences and to some degree, I agree with what you're saying. My caveat is that along with the increased intellectual clarity, I also experience a tendency toward emotional extremes. So, while I may come to some sudden intellectual understanding, something that might make me a little sad or a little happy will suddenly make me extremely sad or extremely happy. In addition to being more intellectually receptive, I'm also more emotionally receptive. Thus I can't really say that this kind of mild inebriation gives me overall clarity of mind. It makes some things clearer, but some things less balanced.

    That said -- this is just my experience with booze. Other people probably experience intoxication differently.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alberto
    Ideally we should all go to Antaiji and leave the bull behind...
    Sometimes that's what I'd like to do, but I suspect I'm really better off where I am. I'm sure I'd run away to a monastery and spend years figuring out that my problems had little to do with my location.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alberto
    Having said that, I vow not to do it tomorrow (cause the darn bottle is empty)
    I feel your pain Thankfully, since we're not at a remote temple, we have access to liquor stores...

    --Charles

  4. #4
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Booze theory

    I believe that in addition to affecting neural receptors, alcohol (and other mind-altering compounds) affect thought receptors. I, too, find that a glass or two of wine can help me understand things at times, giving me better insights, and allowing words to penetrates layers of preconceptions.

    However - and this is a big however - I think the mind gets used to alcohol (and other mind-altering compounds), which reduces the effect, both the euphoric and ideational effects. (And I have some experience with that - not with alcohol, but with other chemicals.) As one gets used to it, the newness wears off, and things just become blurry.

    So while I think it's a good idea occasionally, experience tells me that it's a bad idea in the long run - not the occasional glass or three, but regularity.

    Kirk

  5. #5

    Re: Booze theory

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    I believe that in addition to affecting neural receptors, alcohol (and other mind-altering compounds) affect thought receptors. I, too, find that a glass or two of wine can help me understand things at times, giving me better insights, and allowing words to penetrates layers of preconceptions.

    However - and this is a big however - I think the mind gets used to alcohol (and other mind-altering compounds), which reduces the effect, both the euphoric and ideational effects. (And I have some experience with that - not with alcohol, but with other chemicals.) As one gets used to it, the newness wears off, and things just become blurry.

    So while I think it's a good idea occasionally, experience tells me that it's a bad idea in the long run - not the occasional glass or three, but regularity.
    Ah, the Middle Way works again! The difficulty is keeping to the middle. It would be sad to depend upon alcohol as the only way to insight.

    Thanks for the interesting thread.

    Gassho,

    Linda

  6. #6

    Re: Booze theory

    Hey people!

    I drink sometimes a barrel, doesnt make me any better or worse. Think though that reality is full of delusions, dont get caught.

    Gassho

    Jarkko

  7. #7

    Re: Booze theory

    I have had some truly marvellous original inspirational ideas when under the influence of alcohol. Unfortunately, upon sobering up the next morning, they turned out to be impractical, silly nonsense. :? I like a glass of wine before a meal sometimes, but I find that if I meditate too soon afterwards I notice (I think that you really notice things like this when you do Zazen) that there is a kind of muzzy, foggy feeling produced by the wine.

    Gassho,
    John

  8. #8

    Re: Booze theory

    Nice post Alberto.

    Alberto wrote:
    But again, it is at least theoretically possible that booze (within measure) can help achieve some balance and some serenity in the modern, overstimulated mothertrucker?
    :|
    Help who achieve some balance and serenity? Me? You? Jundo? Foster Brooks? Paula Abdul?

    Seriously though, I think there is no way for me to answer this as a hypothetical.
    Every person has to navigate their way through the choices and consequences of things like this. For me, I think I would avoid using any external sedative to achieve the serenity you are talking about. It seems somehow related to relying on the kyosaku to stay awake. The stick can be helpful for some, but it could also take away the self-sufficiency of one's practice.

    My wife is a toxicologist and she often says "the poison is in the dosage." Water can be poisonous in large doses, yet you will die without water. Wine is harmful in large doses, and research suggests small doses are beneficial to most people's health, but we do not require it to survive. So, how much, if any at all? How do we calculate cost vs. benefit? I have no idea . . . so, I haven't been much of a contributor here, but I thought I'd throw in my bit.

    Bill

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IGUuVQ_7ZY[/video]]

  9. #9

    Re: Booze theory

    There is no correct or incorrect right or wrong. Only choices that we make. We can choose things that are more conducive to a balanced practice or not.

    some balance and some serenity in the modern, overstimulated mothertrucker?
    And where's practice? Where's this serenity with just being. Where's the coming and going of Wines and moments. Where's the middle of all the gossip and wondering? Where's the place where you can see and hear, touch and taste?

    A quick fix is not what Soto Zen is really about I think. It is seeing through every little tendency, and watching the coming and going with a "clear" bodymind.

    So whatever your choice is, that's really up to you, but (as Dogen says) Ceaseless effort. There are times when we are groggy, there are moments when our center cannot be found. We want to run away. Say "To Hell with it." Sleep etc., It is at these times we must manifest the effort "to do." TO WAKE UP. Even if for a moment.

    Some wine has great flavor. I don't purchase it. No real reason. I just feel I can do without it. If your bodymind is clear than drinking wine really isn't an issue or a topic. Zazen just ends up taking the cake.

    Another question you could ask is "What is it that is overstimulated anyway?"

    G,W

  10. #10

    Re: Booze theory

    This quote from Dogen is becoming clearer to me as time goes on:

    Impermanence is swift; life-and-death is a vital matter. For the short while you are alive, if you wish to study or practice some activity, just practice the Buddha-Way and study the buddha-dharma.

    ....It is difficult for us untalented and inferior people to concentrate on and complete even one thing. It is no good at all to do many things at the same time and lose steadiness of mind.
    G,W

  11. #11
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Booze theory

    I love wine and would not practice a religion that forbade me to drink it.

    That said, there are reasons for the precept. Alcohol lowers inhibitions. How many times do people get into "Uh-oh..." situations because they were inebriated? One also finds that there is a huge correlation with criminal behavior and alcohol and drug use. If it's found that someone who committed a particularly heinous crime did it for or because of drugs, it produces a bit of a "Oh, okay," response. We've all got some sort of nasty critter or another locked up in a subconscious basement closet that might get loosed when we intoxicate ourselves. And while this experience can be quite educational, we don't always escape the experience unscathed, if we even survive it. Death don't have no mercy and we can't beg off a severe consequence because "it was just a stupid mistake."

    Of course, that's the extreme. But it's very real. Drink and drugs can completely fuck everything up in a heartbeat. The folk wisdom approach is to simply practice moderation, know one's limit, etc. Of course, in Buddhism, one is also trying to develop concentration and mindfulness, which even small amounts of intoxicating substances can mess with. That said, the bottom line is your own ability to examine your experience and be honest with yourself. I find that a very small amount of alcohol (2-3 glasses of wine) can make me feel a little clearer, a little less tense and preoccupied, for a while (and then I get sleepy). But I also know that with even just that small amount I'm more likely to do or say things I might otherwise choose not to do or say... sometimes it seems alcohol chases Wisdom away completely. Which is why some people drink...

  12. #12

    Re: Booze theory

    Please refrain from the "F" word. Gentle words and all that.

    As opposed to some folks in the Nishijima network, I do believe that nice words make a nice atmosphere, kind words help kind relations. Call me your old grandmother!

    We are free to use any words, and we drop all idea of "rude" or "sweet" words in Zazen ... and all idea of "words". Now, that being so ... please try gentle words. All things in moderation, and that includes booze and the "F" word.

    Of course, where appropriate, please "F" away ... but not gratuitously. THANK YOU.

    Also, please, no smoking in the Zendo, switch off your cell phones, no swimming or skateboarding, and remove your own litter. THE MANAGEMENT. :roll:

  13. #13
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Booze theory

    Sorry, Jundo. No disrespect meant. I'll do my best to avoid cursin' in the future.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Of course, where appropriate, please "F" away ...
    Um... okay :lol:

  14. #14

    Re: Booze theory

    Hi all

    I hail from a family of alcoholics & the predominant effect was negative, with lots of aggression & other stuff. Despite all this it hasn't turned me off alchohol & like many here I enjoy a few glasses occasionally. These days I am normally asleep within 45mins of the first glass.

    I, too, have experienced that great feeling of wellness that a few drinks can bring.But I find (with alcohol), it is balanced on a knife edge & that feeling is fleeting, Certainly, with a young family I have learnt not to drink until after they have to gone to bed - I am less patient as a Dad when I have had a few.

    Interesting thread - thanks

    Jools

    ps -I do know some very happy functioning alcoholics - they just need to blunt the impact of the world a bit

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