Restraint from Drinking Intoxicants
F.5 Ex.Mahādhana: a millionnaire reduced to rags (DhA.iii.129ff.)
In the time of Lord Buddha there was a family of bankers who had 80 million to their name. The son was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and his parents loved him so much that when they got older they pleaded with him just to live off the family inheritance and never to earn his living. They said, “You are our only child. Even if you were to spend the money all your life, there is so much you would surely never manage to use it all up. So just take it easy. It would be much better then the stress of earning a living.”
The son didn’t like working for a living anyway, so he agreed wholeheartedly. He settled down to the onerous task of spending his parents’ fortune and passed the time playing the guitar or singing songs.
In another nearby town there was a daughter born to another bankers’ family and her parents loved her so much that when they got older they pleaded with her in just the same way, just to live off the family inheritance and never to earn her living. They said, “You are our only child. Even if you were to spend the money all your life, there is so much you would surely never manage to use it all up — so please take it easy. It would be much better then the stress of earning a living. You could live nearby us so we won’t get lonely in our old age.” The daughter agreed and whiled away her time spending her parents’ fortune.
When both the daughter and the son came of age, both families looked for a worthy partner for their child. They found a worthy partner in each other and so their marriage was arranged. This couple was amply provided for but they had no idea how to manage their wealth. At the time when the parents on both sides of the family passed away the couple had been left with a total inheritance of 160 million — the millionaire boy would seek audience with the king three times a day.
In that town there was a group of drunkards. They would get drunk and chatter idly and dream of ways to be able to get free drinks their whole life long, because they thought alcohol was the greatest drink in the world. One day, they came up with the idea of persuading some wealthy person to become an alcoholic like themselves — then they would be able to manipulate that millionaire’s wealth. They did their homework and found out how rich the millionaire boy was. They found out that he went for royal audience three times a day and what route he took on the way back from the palace with his retinue. The next day the drunkards waited nearby the millionaire boy’s usual route and acted like they were having tremendous fun. When they saw the millionaire boy, they toasted him shouting, “May you live to be a hundred years old.” The millionaire asked his man-servant (who was a drunk himself) what the group was doing. The manservant said, “the men are drinking a drink called ‘alcohol’ (which at that time was not well known)”. The millionaire asked what alcohol was. The man-servant replied, in the manner of alcoholic, “It is the most delicious drink in the world. If you were to have just a sip of alcohol, you would feel very lively. You will be a new person. It’ll reduce cholesterol. If you have high blood pressure, it will reduce your blood pressure. If you have low blood pressure, it will raise your blood pressure. It’s good for you in every way.”
The millionaire boy said, “If that is the case, bring some alcohol for me to try!”
He thought he would only have a sip, but the taste was so seductive he felt intoxicated. All the drunkards gathered around him cheering him on to drink more and that is exactly what he did. He drank more and more until he wasn’t himself any more. The drunkards smirked to themselves. The millionaire boy kept on paying for more drinks — drinks for himself and drinks for all the other cronies too — because it’s no fun to drink all alone. You have to have company when you are drinking, so that you can chat and boast and tell tall stories. And just getting drunk wasn’t enough — he would go out buying expensive flower garlands and would invite musicians and dancers to perform for him and would always reward them with lavish prizes. He would do the same thing every day. Before long all that was left of his fortune were empty treasure chests. The treasurer came to advise the millionaire boy that there was not nothing left of his fortune of 80 million. The millionaire boy asked “Doesn’t my wife have some money to her name?” The treasurer answered, “Yes sir! She does still have some wealth.”
Therefore as soon as the millionaire boy got his hands on his wife’s fortune he continued his drunken extravagance as before, until eventually the fortune was exhausted again. Now in order to raise some cash, he was reduced to selling all his beautiful estates. To slake his thirst, he sold off his orchards, his coach and horses, trinkets around the house and eventually the house itself.
In the beginning they asked the permission of the new owner to stay on in their former house. Their handsome looks became forlorn. In their old age they were driven from the house by the new owners. So they had to wander from one house to another looking for refuge. Eventually they had to resort to a begging bowl to feed themselves.
One day the Lord Buddha, with Ānanda as his attendant, passed through that town and seeing the husband and wife begging for the monks left-overs by the monk’s refectory, the Buddha smiled to himself. Seeing the Buddha smile, Ānanda asked the reason. The Buddha replied, “Ānanda! Look at this millionaire son formerly rich, but who has squandered 160 million and who must now take his wife around begging for a living in the city.”
“If this millionaire’s son hadn’t squandered his wealth, but in his youth had invested in business, he would be the richest man in the city by now, because he has a lot of merit in his past. If he had renounced the world in his youth he would have become an arahant. If his wife had renounced the world as a nun in her youth. She would have become a non-returner [anāgāmi].”
“If this millionaire’s son had squandered his wealth only in his youth, but in middle age had invested his wealth in business, his previous merits would have caused him to become the second richest man in the city. If he had decided to renounce the world in the middle age he would have become a non-returner [anāgāmi], and his wife if she had ordained as a nun, would have become a once-returner [sakīdāgāmi].”
“If this millionaire’s son had squandered his wealth in his youth and his middle age, but had invested his wealth in his old-age, his previous merit would have caused him to become the third richest man in the city and if he had decided to renounce the world in his old age, he would have become a once-returner [sakīdāgāmi]. If his wife had ordained as a nun, she would have become a “stream-enterer [sotāpana].”
“Unfortunately, this couple have completely squandered their wealth and have lost their opportunity to cultivate to path for Nirvana. Ānanda! Foolish people who fail to cultivate virtue in their lives, and who fail to earn their living when they are young, will become forlorn like an aging heron, living in a dried-up pond with no more fish to prey upon. They hadn’t cultivated virtue in their youth — nor earned their living either. In their old age all they can do now is reminisce with regret about their former wealth like an arrow that falls to earth when its momentum has run out.
Therefore the harm of alcohol apart from it destroying the drinker also ruins the lives of the rest of the drinker’s family, destroys our wealth and security and obscures the pathway to Nirvana. This is the harmfulness of alcohol — therefore if you have alcohol in your possession stop drinking it, pour it away and discard the bottles. Make sure your home is alcohol free.
F.6 Ex. Choice of which Precept to break
There were once a man and a wife who lived near the mountains. One day the husband left home and went to live in a cave in the mountains to keep the Five Precepts. After a while, his wife began to miss him and went to him in his cave, threatening to kill herself if he continued with the ‘Five Precepts nonsense’. The man found the threat rather worrisome, so offered to break one of the Precepts in order to save the life of his wife. The wife brought him a cow, a young woman and a bottle of liquor and told him to take his pick of which Precept to break. The man thought that to kill the cow would be destructive — and equally to rape the young woman— so he settled for drinking the liquor because it didn’t seem to bring harm to anyone else. After one sip of the liquor he found it good and drank the whole bottle. Inebriated, he killed the cow and raped the young girl too. The moral of the story is that abstaining from alcohol serves to preserve the intactness of all the other four Precepts!