'husbands of prostitutes' & other religious beliefs

Sat 22nd March 2014
Living to Be Happy 

Spirituality and Intoxication The Trilogy - Part 2

Spirituality is simply a way to fully understand the way life works. By following the spiritual teachings passed down by enlightened people for thousands of years, we practise being the best we can be by unconditionally and absolutely sharing the love with all things, including our Self, in the present moment now. That is spirituality. Everything else is extra topping.

In order to be unconditionally loving and compassionate, we need to live ethically and morally. The Buddha named this sīla which means abstaining from all actions, all words, and all deeds that harm our Self or anyone/thing else.

Jesus, Muhammad, all buddhas (enlightened people) have something to say on wholesome moral actions. Gautama the Buddha gave a list of precepts, not rules or commandments, but rather descriptions of how an enlightened person lives, so that when we start on our own spiritual path, we can ensure that we respond correctly and compassionately in every situation.

The fifth precept states that an enlightened person abstains from all intoxicants.

An exact definition of an intoxicant would be a toxin (poison) derived from plant or animal origin that directly affects our physical and emotional state. This includes the main social drugs: alcohol, marijuana, nicotine and caffeine.

This is a pretty tough thing for many of us to imagine (including me!) – never drinking a beer, wine, or coffee; never eating chocolate or drinking a fizzy drink (as they contain caffeine); and never smoking a cigarette or joint again.

However, it is non-negotiable. The Buddha states that an enlightened person abstains from all intoxicants because intoxicants induce ‘heedlessness’ (a lack of care, negligence or recklessness). This includes neglect for our own health, neglect for others and neglect for our own Self. In other words, consumption of intoxicants is not a compassionate action.

Society does not agree. We are encouraged to consume intoxicants throughout our day, every day. Religions are interpretations of the teachings of enlightened people by people who live in society, so it makes sense then that religions want to ensure that their moral code fits well into the society we live in.

Returning to Medellin after my own investigation into intoxication, I felt a real regression and loss of ground on my own spiritual path to become more loving to my Self and others. I feel like during my investigation, I literally intoxicated my Self.

I therefore wondered how religions deal with the issue of Self-compassion versus the amount of intoxication that is normal in society today. What I discovered was sometimes amusing, sometimes even shocking, but very illuminating!

The Buddha Way is unobtainable; I vow to obtain it.” Bodhisattva Vows

Buddhism is not considered by all to be a religion because it does not argue that there is a God, or one controlling Creator. Nevertheless, the various Buddhist groups do have their own mantras, meditative practices, and different lamas who they turn to for spiritual guidance based on their own interpretations of the teachings of Guatama the Buddha.

Theravada Buddhism, for example, states that the Buddha's fifth precept can be translated from the Pali to prohibit 'fermented and distilled liquors which are intoxicants' or 'fermented and distilled liquors and other intoxicants'. Zen Buddhism, on the other hand, interprets the fifth precept to mean solely abstention from fermented and distilled intoxicants. Mahayana Buddhists see drinking liquor as a minor offense, but selling it is a major breach of the precepts.

In Buddhism, the guiding purpose of the precept is seen to be to prevent heedlessness, not to prevent the actual intoxication of the body. This is why Buddhists focus on the consumption of alcohol, but may also include all recreational drugs or, most broadly, any substance which can have an intoxicating effect. This is why some Buddhists even stay away from onions and garlic because of the way that they affect clear thought, especially before meditation.

read more here 

“Every intoxicant is khamr (alcohol) and every intoxicant is haraam (forbidden)” Hadith 

In Islam, an intoxicant means something that can cause you to stop thinking about Allah, so you actually loose your ability to think properly or make sound judgments. Therefore, in Islamic religion, like Buddhism, the main concern is the intoxicating effect, but Islam is also concerned with the harm to the human body. As such, all intoxicants are likened to alcohol, and all alcohol is forbidden.

Alcohol is forbidden in all Muslim nations, and the Muslim nations of Turkey and Egypt were instrumental in banning opium, cocaine and cannabis back in 1925. Despite such strict policies on intoxicants, tobacco and caffeine are not banned and widely used throughout many Muslim nations.

read more here

"Wine that gladdens the human heart, oil to make faces glow, and food to sustain their strength." Jewish Bible

Jews are not permitted to harm, mutilate, destroy or take risks with their bodies. For Jews that is interpreted as no ‘life-threatening’ drugs. There is no general prohibition against drugs in Judaism, and the use of caffeine and nicotine as stimulants is well known in the Hasidic communities.

The use of alcohol, sometimes in very large quantities, is also common. In some Jewish communities there is a tradition to get drunk on Purim until they forget the difference between the Hebrew phrases 'Cursed is Haman' and 'Blessed is Mordechai'. Drinking in small quantities as a mind-altering practice is commonly used during the Farbrengens of the Chabad Hasidim; and wine plays a prominent role in many Jewish rituals, most notably the kiddush. Hasidic Jews often engage in a free ceremony called ‘Tisch’ in which drinks such as Vodka are drunk in a group. Drinking is accompanied by singing and the study of the Torah.

read more here

“For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb." KJV Bible

In Christianity, Jesus and many Biblical figures drank wine, so Christian denominations do not require teetotalism. During Holy Communion, wine represents the blood of Christ, or in the Catholic and Orthodox church actually is the blood of Christ. Methodists prefer the use of grape juice.

Joel Hendon suggests in a rather wishy-washy online article that Jesus drank grape juice too. He states that “... some have indicated that Jesus himself, used fermented wine as the drink to represent his blood when he instituted his Supper to his apostles on the eve of his death. This however, can be shown to be absolutely untrue and is one of the only cases where a distinction can be proven.” He proves this by saying “Now, the reason we can tell that this wine was not fermented, was the fact that each household was required to clean every trace of any thing which would ferment or cause fermentation from their homes and destroy it for this celebration."

The only convincing quotation I could find in his article against alcohol was the one heading this section, which does clearly state that it is not recommended to drink alcohol if you wish to be filled fully with the love of God. The quotation comes from an angel of the Lord speaking to Zacharias about the coming miraculous birth of his son, John the Baptist.

read more here 

“Kabeer, those mortals who consume marijuana, fish and wine - no matter what pilgrimages, fasts and rituals they follow, they will all go to hell.” Bhagat Kabir ji

The Sikh faith was founded by Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the Punjab area, now Pakistan, and follows the teachings of 10 Gurus which can be found in a holy text which is considered the 11th and final Guru.

I find this religion really interesting as it is one of the most recent, and yet developed from the oldest - Hinduism. For example, they believe in karma and reincarnation as Hindus do, but reject the caste system as everyone is equal.

In the Sikh faith, no intoxicant is good for the health, and all are forbidden. Tobacco is particularly condemned. The way that Sikh opinions on intoxication are expressed, however, can be really over the top. 

Sant Sewa Sigh states in one very entertaining article “One of the chemicals found in tobacco and the most destructive, addictive, potent and dangerous, is nicotine. One drop of pure nicotine is poisonous enough to kill 6 cats or two dogs instantly. Eight drops can kill a powerful and active animal like a horse, in a matter of seconds. The point to contemplate is this: if a few drops of nicotine can kill a large animal like a horse then, how poisonous is nicotine and will it not poison a human being who takes tobacco.”

Ved Vyas writes in the old Hindu scriptures called the Puran that the demigod of knowledge Brahma told his son Na arad that a person who smokes, inhales or eats tobacco goes straight to hell and becomes a filth eating pig in his next life. He doesn’t stop there either. He writes further that a person who uses tobacco gets more punishment and is committing a greater sin than if they eat flesh, drink alcohol and fornicate with their mother and sister combined.

Guru Arjan Dev ji tells us that “Those fools, who drink in the wine of evil-mindedness, become the husbands of prostitutes.” The Sikh way of life is to become intoxicated with love for God - but not to be very politically correct it seems. 

read more here 


On my travels, I am currently reading the book 1984. I recently came across a section in which the protagonist Winston is experiencing love. George Orwell writes “Winston had dropped his habit of drinking gin at all hours. He seemed to have lost the need for it. He had grown fatter, his varicose ulcer had subsided, leaving only a brown stain on the skin above his ankle, his fits of coughing in the early morning had stopped.” 

George Orwell is saying that feeling love makes us far happier than alcohol and is a real solution to our problems rather than a means to mask them.

We are taught in our society by everything around us that it is the external that will make us happy, and religions institutions have been formed within our societies. Please understand that I am not being anti-religious here, this is just a fact, but if we look at the various religious groups that exist today, how many are glowing with constant happiness due to their love for God?

It seems to me that the danger of the interpretations made by some religious groups is that they teach that it is our faith in an external entity out there that will provide us with the love to feel completely happy. Some religious groups even seem to form their own religious texts by selecting specific teachings to support this interpretation.

The teachings of a God, Buddha, Lama (or any other enlightened being) make much more sense when we use the teachings to develop the best of who we are - our Higher Self - and do not rely on the enlightened being to make us happy. This is done through Self compassionate actions such as meditation, introspection, mindfulness, charity, altruism, and letting our Self be our guide.

Such actions require the nurturing of a very calm mind free from agitation - and the use of any intoxicant (caffeine, alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, etc) causes us to lose our mental clarity on some level.

Spirituality teaches us we must be Self-compassionate. So then we cannot be involved in actions that will reinforce the non-calm mind we are actually attempting to eradicate, since this just is not Self-compassionate - or can it be? 

For example, is it actually less Self-compassionate to restrict yourself so completely that you make yourself miserable rather than to have an occasional wine or coffee? What about in situations where you would offend someone or be a social outcast by not accepting a drink, chocolate, coffee or something, and isn’t marijuana sometimes medicinal, such as for treating arthritis?

Ultimately the question whether or not it is okay to intoxicate our bodies depends on the following:

Can intoxication be a compassionate action?

That is a big question, which I am going to answer in one final article on the subject, and when the time comes for this final post, I will need your help!

Be inspired ♥



  1. I'll forgo commenting until I've read the final article...