Restraint from Drinking Intoxicants
C. DAMAGE FROM DRINKING ALCOHOL
C.1 Damage arising from drinking alcohol (visible this lifetime)
In brief the Buddha taught (D.iii.182-4) that, even without waiting to see what will happen to us as the result of drinking alcohol in the next life, the damage alcohol does is as follows:
1. It destroys your wealth: it will start eating into your income from the day you start to drink.
2. It destroys friendship — in the beginning people look like they are drinking to be sociable, but at the end of the night they may be breaking bottles over one another’s heads
3. It destroys your health
4. It destroys your respectability
5. It destroys your honour
6. It destroys your intelligence.
These are all dangers of alcohol visible in the present lifetime.
C.2 Damage arising from drinking alcohol (visible next lifetime)
If we take a longer term view, drinking alcohol this lifetime stores up countless forms of retribution for future lifetimes:
1. Speech impediments: Some people are born mute, and it turns out that such people passed away while drunk, while they were so drunk they couldn’t say anything coherent. Even after a long time in hell, they may still not be able to throw off their speech impediment. A lesser form of the same retribution is to suffer from a stammer;
2. Madness: Some people are born mad or mentally incompetent as a result of having drunk a lot of alcohol in their past. The hallucinations experienced when drunk become a permanent state of mind in a future birth. Some experience paranoia. Lesser forms of the same sort of retribution are to lack steadfastness and self-confidence or to be gullible. Some people hear only a few words of praise from the opposite sex and elope with them — or hear a few words of criticism and hang themselves. Some are incapable of doing anything more than sitting around all day and daydreaming — ‘building castles in the air.’
3. Mental Deficiency: Some are mentally retarded having been so drunk in previous existences that they were unable to think straight — in a later existence this becomes a permanent state of being.
4. Arising as a Crawling Animal: Even the crawling animals like snakes and lizards have drunkenness in previous lives as their causes — previously they were drunks who had been rehearsing crawling on all fours since they were still human. The difference between poisonous snakes and non-poisonous snakes is the difference between vengeful drunks who create suffering for others and those who get drunk and remain benign.
It is because the long-term effects of drinking are so difficult to control that when we come to the task of adjusting the quality of the mind, the Buddha had to teach us to avoid alcohol repeatedly.