Tuesday, June 19, 2007
SoHo, June 2007
Buddhism has guidelines, known as the Ten Grave Precepts, that offer adherents a path to walk while minimizing harm and delusion. They’re sort of like the Ten Commandments, but maybe not as commanding -- they’re guidelines, a framework for living life, as opposed to strict rules.
Not killing. Not stealing. Not lying. Not gossiping. That kind of thing.
One of the precepts focuses on not taking drugs. The premise is that “all beings of the Universe are unclouded from the beginning, but the haze created by their use of drink and drugs keeps them from acknowledging it,” as Robert Aitken wrote in his book “The Mind of Clover.”
I thought about this precept after my outing on Saturday night, where I certainly had more than an adequate amount to drink. I wasn’t sloppy drunk, but two drinks is about as far as I usually go -- any more than that and I’m pretty much over the edge. On Saturday, over the course of the evening, I had two gin & tonics and about five glasses of wine! No wonder I felt fuzzy the next morning.
My theory on drinking, like most things, is that it’s a matter of balance. I mistrust absolute rules, because there are always situations that demand that they be broken. For example, if I’m out with friends and they toast someone’s birthday, I’d like to preserve the balance of the occasion and share the drink. Even dining with friends who buy a bottle of wine, I like to share in the bottle. It’s about the fabric of the companionship, and not making an issue of my ideas and beliefs.
I think a glass of wine or two, on occasion, is utterly harmless. It’s only problematic to drink habitually, to run away, or to the point that you literally lose your mind. I think I can be mindful even with a glass of wine in me; but probably not with five glasses!
Anyway, I’m not doing that again anytime soon. I wasn’t really hung over -- not like I’ve been in college -- but as I went to the Zendo the next morning, I didn’t exactly feel like my normally unclouded self!
“On your cushions, each breath is a going to sleep; each breath a wakening. With each exhalation, leave everything behind, except your practice. In daily life, your practice will be your task at hand and your movement from one thing to another, including, of course, recreation and rest. But wherever you are, self-centered thoughts are waiting in the wings. Give them a wave, but don’t let them take over. This is the enlightenment of all the Buddhas, the precept of not taking drink or drugs.” -- Aitken, “The Mind of Clover”