Alcohol in Moderation

April 12, 2013 Comments Off on Alcohol in Moderation

Alcohol is a very misunderstood substance. Its original use in many cultures was limited to the priesthood, to enliven consciousness by restricting the activities of the conscious mind, so that the superconscious knowledge within the individual can flow freely, uninhibited by daily thought and concerns. In Japan, sake, a rice wine, is considered the potion of the poets and is served in Buddhist and Shinto monasteries to enhance the spiritual nature and diminish worldly attachments. The drinking of sake goes along with certain other practices of controlling the mind, based on a well-understood philosophy. In other cultures–Aztec, Mayan, Hindu, Christian and Jewish–wine is considered a holy sacrament.

Beer is a lesser potion, a drink for the common man, and does not fall into this category. Both beer and wine are produced from natural ingredients and through natural fermentation processes, whereas hard liquors are distilled. Another important difference is the concentration of alcohol. In beer the alcohol content is from 3 to 8 percent, and in wine from 9 to 18 percent, compared to hard liquors which are from 25 to nearly 100 percent. The latter our scriptures admonish us to not imbibe.

Man’s religious traditions provide different answers to the consumption of alcohol. The Muslim faith considers it the mother of all evils, the most basic of human sins. The Jews, Christians and others consider it acceptable in moderation, and, in fact, provide wine as sacraments in their places of worship. In Asian societies, propaganda against alcohol is severe, primarily directed toward hard liquors, meaning those of high alcohol content, which tend to quickly craze the mind, punish the body and let loose the lower emotions. These include distilled home brews, such as arrack, bathtub gin, homemade rum and vodka.

In Hinduism there are traditions that are strictly abstemious, and there are traditions that are open to the use of alcohol. Especially the Saivas and Shaktas are more lenient in this matter and have no objection to the moderate, wise use of alcohol. In North India, for example, it is traditional in certain orders for Saiva sannyasins to drink alcohol. This is the tradition that our particular parampara has adopted and it is the custom that we follow today. If you are in a tradition which has a heritage of complete abstention, then you should follow it. If you are in a tradition which does not look down on drinking wines or beers, then you should feel free to follow that tradition.

Hindus of the Jaffna community explain that hard liquor, known as kal in Tamil, are the intoxicants prohibited in the Tirukural and Tirumantiram and which are to be totally abstained from, and that beer and wine, including honey wine, are referred to in the Vedas and ayurveda texts as beneficial for spiritual and religious life under the restraint of mitahara. – from: Living with siva,by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

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