I have been interested in Buddhism for about 5 years now, reading and researching and trying to gain deeper understanding. I have one thing that keeps me from becoming a complete lay buddhist, and struggle with the interpretation. I know that alchol is not allowed, but, I like a glass of wine with my dinner or sometimes with a friend etc, I do not think that this leads my mind to wrongful behaviour or words??? Is it quite literal that no alchol is allowed?? or just getting falling over drunk? I lead I belive a good life, and both my husband and I are in caring professions, a doctor and a nurse, and wonder if this will always prevent me from becoming a lay buddhist??
I have no one here in NZ to study with here in my home twon of Rotorua and so have no guide or anyone else to gain insight and wisom from and guidance on this journey. Can you help?? How do I become a practising lay buddhist?? How do I teach my children in the buddhist ways?? Thank you.
Thank you for asking me.
The Buddha encouraged us to use our common sense and human intelligence to analyze and practise his teachings. Refraining from taking intoxicating substances is the fifth of the five precepts which a lay Buddhist practises. The reason for keeping this precept is to prevent us from falling prey to intoxication which will lead to many problems such as drunken driving, wife bashing, unwholesome behaviour, and what have you. The danger of intoxication as you know, is that the mind takes over the person, and this person will not be in full control of himself, leading to unwholesome and dangerous conduct. The Buddha advised us to refrain from intoxication so that we can avoid such problems.
However, if the person is responsible enough to know what he is doing and can control his consumption of alcohol within limits, then this person is not exposing himself to impending dangers. I don't see any harm in allowing some harmless sensual indulgence, as a lay Buddhist. The stricter advice is that if one does not want to be contaminated with pollution, it is better for one to live away from the polluted area. Just like the advice "Keep Away From Drugs".
The Buddha never imposed commandments upon his followers. There is no such thing in Buddhism that one CANNOT do. The Buddha merely advised his followers to live a dignified and harmless live. The more conducive way to live as such is to keep the 5 precepts, thereby avoiding a lot of problems. Should we choose to live otherwise with all the unwholesome activities, then be prepared to face imminent problems and dangers.
The rendition of the 5 precepts is "to refrain from" and not "cannot". The Buddha gave us the complete freedom to choose the manner we want to lead our lives. The choice is ours. In the final anaylsis, a good Buddhist is one who conducts one's live in a harmless, dignified, and peaceful manner, free from hatred, greed and delusion; and most important of all, free from fear and restriction.
As for teaching your children Buddhism, you can always start from the idea of freedom in practice. It is this freedom in practice that Buddhism stands aloft. Then you can encourage them to ask questions and provide them Buddhist answers. If you have difficulty in the answers, please visit this site and I will be too happy to help out.
In the meantime please surf through www.buddhanet.net
to identify a suitable temple near you. This site will also provide suitable links to Buddhism worldwide.
When I was in Auckland (1988-1992) I used to go to
Auckland Theravada Buddhist Association
29 Harris Road, Mt Wellington, Auckland NZ
Tel: (09) 579 5443
Contact: Dr. Benita Ameratunga (President)
This temple is affiliated with
Buddhist Society of Western Australia
18-20 Nanson Way, Nollamara, Perth, WA 6061
Tel: (08) 9345 1711, Fax: (08) 9344 4220
Web site: www.bswa.org
Spiritual Director: Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso
Teachers: Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso and Ajahn Sister Vayama
Ajahn Brahmavamso is an English monk and is a very popular Dhamma speaker from the Ajahn Chah lineage of Thailand.