The menace of Alcohol

By Stanzin Dasal Aug 17, 2016
Gen Stanzin Wangdan, Likir monastery: Various Buddhist texts claim alcohol as the root cause of all misfortunes. Indeed, even scientific research has shown a similar result of alcohol's negative consequences on oneself and especially on one's family. Also, it is further listed as one of the topmost drugs that are more harmful to others as the consumer display violent behaviours physically and verbally. From a scientific perspective, research has shown that alcohol leads to memory impairment, coordination impairment and overall is harmful to the proper functioning of human physiology. Thus, in order to maintain proper physiological and mental functioning, one should abstain from alcohol. 
From a Buddhist perspective, consuming any kind of intoxicant distorts the mind. We regard the mind as precious one which has the ability to achieve Mahabodhi/enlightenment. When the mind is naturally present, it works diligently through meditation to master itself.  Alcohol increases one's tendency to remain ignorant in this cyclical Samsara. Hence, it contributes towards living a life full of delusion and suffering. Thus, far is the achievement of satori/nirvana if one consumes alcohol. 
Also, many times, we intentionally and happily gather to receive teachings and initiations from high Rinpoches. Many high initiations require the receivers to have vowed. At least the vows of lay devotees, which have five vows, avoidance of any kinds of intoxications are one of those five vows and highly recommended.  So devotees who received such vows happen to consume alcohol, then one act against those precious vows. Hence, such a situation is a matter of great shame as practising Dharma really requires pure dedication and diligence to the vows.
Furthermore, Buddha has proclaimed that those who consume alcohol, even a single drop of it on tips of grass, are not his disciple and he is not their teacher. Likewise, in Tantra, incapable tantric practitioners who are intoxicated are mentioned as being born in the hell of howling. Thus, alcohol spares no one, not even tantric practitioners.
Here is a popular Buddhist saying, during the era of the Buddha, a monk was visited by a woman who threatened to commit suicide if the monk did not do at least one of the three things she demanded: to sleep with her; to kill a goat for a party, or to drink the alcohol that she had brought for him. The monk thought very deeply and considered the options. He thought that losing his celibacy or killing an animal was a cardinal sin taught by the Buddha. On the other hand, not taking an action would result in the suicide of the woman. So, he decided to drink the alcohol because at that time Buddha has not taught anything specific about alcohol. But when he got drunk, he killed the goat and also slept with her. 
This incident prompted the Buddha to prohibit drinking among his disciples saying that alcohol interferes with rational thinking and is the root cause of all evil.
Many people think consuming alcohol will heal depression and stress that they have. Scientifically it is true that it alleviates one's stress and depression, however, it only provides temporary pleasure. Eventually, it leads to addiction, loss of appetite and poor psychological functioning of one's body and mind.
Alcohol shortens life and brings many diseases. If we are sick, we can’t benefit anyone, we must live a long life and be healthy to benefit others, and therefore we should not drink.
  • Craving on addictions can stop with changing attitude.
  • Be compassionate for self is a helpful way to reduce one’s addiction. You have this precious human life, which has the capability to explore betterment for yourself, your family and people around you. Reflect on some parts of you which are aware inspiration and is outside the craving. Go with this momentum direction with different environments and find different people to talk to. 
  • It will take time, and effort, to overcome it. And for sure it is a tough one and this craving is strong. But it is just a matter of now, it comes and goes, there is nothing permanent of concrete about it. Focus on freedom from obeying this craving out-of-control provided by the addictive substance after all. 
Dr. Nordan Otzer, ENT Surgeon:  Alcohol is used in our society in the name of tradition also. There was a time when we use the 'Chang' the locally brewed barleywine which is easily available in many homes. People at that time used to be busy and are indulge in many physical activities and they used to drink for hydration. Thus, over the years, this local wine has been replaced by other English liquor like Rum, Beer, and Whisky etc which has high alcohol content. Meanwhile, the lifestyle of people has also changed and people are more into living a sedentary type of lifestyle and drinking has become a leisurely activity. 
The problems of cardiovascular disease, liver problems, cancer and many more are very rare before.  Yes, Medical science is more equipped and developed than before but it is seen increasing nowadays because of the changing lifestyle also. 
Ladakh is facing this problem because alcohol acceptability in our society is very high and normal. We use alcohol on every occasion. And the misconception is that our society takes this as a status symbol.
What I feel is that the increasing number of alcohol addict in Ladakh is because of the adoption of modern culture more than our own. 
Development, modernization, advanced technology has made everything open to the youngsters.  Children’s tend to copy those they see which fancy them a lot.  Tourism along with economic boon has a negative impact also; the interchange of culture is again one among the reason for such a situation. The presence of the army, the CSD facilities is again one of the reasons behind this growing menace. 
The need of the hour is to stop or check on this issue. No social changes can be brought instantly or with no time, the fact is that it will take the time to stop all this. A person who is already addicted to alcohol can’t be changed easily until and unless we have a proper de-addiction centre but we can stop this among the new future generation by teaching and let them know about the ill effects and the root cause of all the evil is alcohol from the very small age. The point is to start from every home, we should educate our children. Such a message from the very childhood will make them grew up against it. Social acceptance should be reduced and this will help in reducing the sale of alcohol and which in turn leads to a decline in the rise of the wine shops. 
Today we have an e.g. of state like Bihar, Kerala Gujarat where the alcohol is banned. We have also led and leading a movement called Healthy Ladakh Movement with a vision to eradicate this issue from society.  Such campaign is necessary to spread awareness and understanding among every corner of the to save the future generation from such habits. 
  • Most importantly is social awareness.
  • We should teach about this ill effect from the very childhood.
  • Elders should not drink in the presence of children.
  • Keeping the youth indulge in various activities.
  • Should avoid and stop using alcohol at social gatherings.