One of the five moral precepts is to not consume intoxicating alcohol. If you currently drink alcohol, you should try to give it up altogether. Those who take large amounts of intoxicants should try to gradually cut down and eventually give it up altogether.
If you absolutely insist on drinking alcohol, you should exercise moderation and restraint in your consumption. You should also contemplate why you drink alcohol. Most people don’t drink alcohol for the taste.
If they drink alone, it is usually in order to find release from tension and stress. When they drink socially, it is usually to conform to the group. You should also be fully aware that even a small amount of alcohol distorts consciousness and disrupts self-awareness. Consumption of large quantities of intoxicants can have devastating consequences – even death to you and to others.
Why did Buddha advised that people give up alcohol? Because people are already intoxicated enough with their families, friends, material possessions, wealth, status, etc.
That’s plenty enough without making things worse by also taking intoxicants. These things just create darkness in the mind. As we discussed in our article on Karma, Good actions bring good results and bad actions bring bad results. What good results will come from becoming intoxicated?
Sometimes people who drink alcohol say, “I just can’t give it up.” Why can’t they give it up? Because they don’t see the liability in it. If they clearly saw the liability in it, they wouldn’t have to wait to be told to give it up. If you don’t see the liability of something, that means you also can’t see the benefit of giving up. Buddhists often say that when you break the moral precept of not drinking, you can easily break all the other moral precepts. Consider the parable below:
A man is faced with a decision. Before him, he is presented with a few bottles of wine, an attractive woman that isn’t his wife, and a lamb. Although all are against his morale code, he must choose between drinking one bottle of wine, sleeping with the woman or killing and and eating the lamb.
The man is given 24 hours to make and carry out his decision. The man thinks about it and decides that he will drink the bottle of wife since he thinks that drinking isn’t a bad as infidelity or killing. The sun rises the next morning and the man is discovered hungover, in bed with the woman and the lamb has been slaughtered and consumed.
It turns out that the man, with good intentions, drank the first bottle of wine. Then, being fairly intoxicated he drank the rest. From there on, he was completely intoxicated and decided to kill and eat the lamb since he was hunger and to sleep with the woman to fulfill his desires.
If you clearly see the liability and the benefit of something, then you won’t have to wait for others to tell you about it. Some beginner Buddhists insist that drinking small amounts of alcohol is only a ‘small thing’ and isn’t really breaking a precept. Yes, it is only a small thing and if you can’t practice even a small thing, your commitment and resolution isn’t very strong. If you have this view, you are just playing at practice and not taking it seriously.