What is Buddhism's stand on alcohol? 

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The meaningful and mindful practice of Buddhism entails reaching for Nirvana, or a state of mind and body in which suffering ends completely. There are ways to get to Nirvana, such as Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. All seek the same goal, which is to become enlightened.

In order to achieve enlightenment you must be in a state where you can be ready to learn a myriad of life lessons and experiences as they connect you with the rest of the world. The 5th precept of Buddhism states that individuals should not consume any form of "intoxicant" that may adversely cloud the mind and interrupt the process of self-awareness. Therefore, recreational drugs and alcoholic beverages are linked to violating this precept.

It is known, however, that in countries where Buddhism is practiced there is not a general rule that completely prohibits the consumption of alcohol. In fact, drunkenness is actually what is frowned upon more than anything.  However, during the 1960's the hippie movement in the Western Hemisphere directly linked the use of LSD with "achieving Nirvana", and achieving that insight which is expected as an end result. All still remains controversial, and open to diverse interpretation. Therefore, the ultimate understanding of the 5th precept is entirely dependent on the views of all followers as a unit.