Tag Archives: Gautama Buddha

A Reflection on my Social Media Project about AIDS and the Five Precepts

AIDs in Thailand

I created my Midterm Project this semester using social media. My project is called “Helping Those Living with AIDS.” I got eleven comments from people who participated. Some people  just agreed with my project and gave me advice on how to improve  the article such as the comment from thesilverbodhisattva who said,

“Another point to consider is that some people can acquire the disease through means unknown to them, in cases of unintentional contamination. Without proper medical precautions or sanitation in a variety of medical fields, an aid has the possibility to spread through transfusions, shared needles, and even instances of dental operations. There is also the possibility for those who are born HIV positive.”

This comment reminds me and other people to be careful when we use syringes because penetration and blood transfusion can put people at risk for contracting the AIDS virus.

However, I want those who have not been infected with the AIDS virus to be aware of this point as well. There are many other ways of being at risk of contracting the AIDS’s virus. The AIDS’s virus is a serious issue for the homeless and those on skid row. When society or families ignore people who have AIDS, they end up on the street, become homeless, and live on skid rows throughout the country. Therefore, the Thai monks of the Phrabatnumpu Temple are helping the people who have the AIDS’s virus in Thailand. The abbot organized the temple by himself and it is supported by donations. He provides food, clothing, shelter, and medicine for people with AIDS. The important thing is he has instructional media for people who do not have AIDS. He is teaching about Buddhism and offering counseling for individuals and groups concerned about AIDS. He teaches the way we use precept training to protect sangha from AIDS. He talks about the Five Precepts as a very good way of reducing one’s risk of contracting AIDS. A comment from SmartDC was,

“AIDS is one kind of serious diseases in the world. One of the solutions is to avoid from sexual misconduct and honestly observe Five Precepts (Sila). Taking the Buddha’s teachings into practice, we will be happy without any trouble.”

Therefore, the Five Precepts, especially, the third precept, are a very important way to reduce the prevalence of AIDS virus infections. Just like this comment from Humble Monk:

“There is reason to blame the people who’ve gotten infection, but there are many reasons to blame the people who knew AIDS and didn’t protect themselves. Sexual desire is one aspect of desires caused suffering. Being honest with one’s couple under sexual conduct isn’t enough to stop AIDS completely. The way how to completely stop AIDS is to stop one’s desires.”

This is a very good comment and I agree with his comment. If all of us practice the five precepts, especially the third one, I think we can live without fear and worry as well.

Finally, I would like to thank you very much for all of the comments from both people whom I know and I do not know. Your comments helped influence my work and my ideas. I hope my social media project will help our society in many ways. For instance, by helping people become aware of AIDS and understand the victims of AIDS too. More than that, I hope we can stay happily together. Without loving-kindness and compassion our society would be like Hell.

May all being be happy and peaceful in body and mind,

Dhammakaruna.

Please visit my Facebook Page and my original post here at Dharma Dialogue.

AIDs patient and Theravadin Monk.

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THE FIFTH PRECEPT PROJECT Reducing Substance Abuse in Thailand…

Thailand

Thailand (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

THE FIFTH PRECEPT PROJECT

Reducing Substance Abuse in Thailand

I choose to do this topic on a social network level and specifically chose to create a Facebook group named “The Five Precepts of Buddhist Practice” because  realize that substance abuse is a global problem that exists in big and small scale. Recently, I had to the opportunity to walk the streets of Skid Row in Los Angeles. It was very depressing and it is hard to believe there are people in America, the most powerful nation in the world, living in that kind of condition.  The problem maybe many things combined, it is evident that the majority of the people there are drug and alcohol abusers.  Whether in a big country like America or a small country like Thailand where I am from, substance abuse will ruin lives the same way.  Drugs and alcohol, once they take over a person’s life, they will ruin not only health, but destroy relationships, properties, and eventually take lives.  Addictions can be very hard to break.  I am hoping this forum I am creating will get people to come together and raise awareness.

I find that education is the key to enlighten people of the risk of substance abuse.  Educating people on what to do and how to prevent it from happening, I think, will help people live their lives better and happier. You do not have to be a Buddhist to follow the Five Precepts.  But it would help if you understand it and try to apply the rules to your life.  This topic is most beneficial to young adults who may be faced with peer pressure and on the verge to taking drugs.  If this forum will somehow reach someone and help them choose the right path, it is worth it.  I hope a lot of people will participate and I hope Buddha’s teaching will be helpful to everyone involved directly or indirectly in the way of spiritual leadership training.

The topic I choose to discuss about is addiction in Thailand.  Whether it is addiction to alcohol, drugs, or any kind of outside influence, it causes a person to be careless and mindless.  It alters a person’s mental ability and, more often than not, causes them to make bad judgment.  Being influenced by alcohol and/or drugs changes a person’s mind, attitude, judgment, and if a person is dependent on it, they can become highly addicted to it.  Once it gets to the point of addiction, it can ruin their health, tear up a family/relationship, cause them to lose their job or social status, and many other unpleasant and destructive circumstances

To be addicted to something causes you to lose your freedom – you need to have it, drink it, inhale it, inject it, or use it in order to survive and go on with your life.  That is a form of attachment.  In Buddhism, this form of addiction is breaking of the fifth precept (there are five main Precepts), which is to refrain from intoxication whether it is alcohol or drugs.

Poverty and homelessness issues often times stem from drug and alcohol abuse.  Once people become addicted to substance, they use more to forget their problems and to escape from pain.  The more they use, the more addicted they become.  The more addicted they become, the more trouble they are in.  It is a vicious cycle.  It is an addiction that requires both physical and mental help.

I believe the Buddha’s teaching, although set over 2500 years ago, can be applied back then and can be used in this day and age as well.  Drug and alcohol abuse is a big problem everywhere in the world.  It is the cause of many health issues.  Overdosing on drugs causes instant death while alcohol abuse shortens a person life.  It is a death sentence waiting to happen, and it is all from the addiction.

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The Nattering Nabobs of Nibbāna

Footprint of the Buddha. 1st century, Gandhara...

In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4 H Clubs – the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history. – Spiro T. Agnew, 1970

I’ve noticed something interesting about the Secular Buddhist movement. Many Secular Buddhist practitioners don’t seem to be comfortable with the idea of Nibbāna. Fascinating, but I find this makes me very sad. It seems in their attempt to make Buddhism more palatable to themselves some Secular Buddhist are willing to throw out the most extraordinary and life changing event that the Buddha has to offer to us – the experience of Nibbāna and for some, the complete ending of suffering and stress.

This isn’t surprising, really. Those of us that have grown up in mainstream U.S. society pride ourselves in a “realistic,” “hard-nosed,”  “down to earth” attitude. You can’t build a continent spanning railroad by reading tarot cards nor can you decide which mountain pass to cross by reading tea leaves. But this attitude has two downsides, both of which are present in a conversation I recently had with another Western Buddhist. I’ve edited our conversation to make it easier to read and to remove names. Emphasis is mine:

Them: [1] I for one can’t accept anything that is based on mystic beliefs…the Buddha said not to believe anybody, including himself, and to be a light onto yourself. If I can’t verify an experience for myself it really holds no value to me. My religion is Kindness and my faith is forgiveness…

Me: Do you think the experience of Nirvana is a mystical experience? It is an experience outside time and space. It is an experience is completely outside the normal experiences of the six senses. Is that mystical?

Them: [1] I don’t believe in Nirvana or Enlightenment as my goal in practice. I believe in chipping away delusion and developing compassion and forgiveness. [2] Maybe I go against the stream of the traditional Buddhists, but I like to see myself as an American Buddhist.

First, many mainstream Westerners hold onto a rigid view that the current orthodox views of science offers a complete picture of the world and of the human experience. I don’t think this is true. My first two academic degrees were in Mathematics and Physics and one of the best parts of my scientific training was that I learned the strengths and limitations of the scientific method. I don’t believe science explains everything. Perhaps someday science will advance to the stage where it can explain and predict the aspects of our lives that currently are considered spiritual, but it isn’t there yet.

The second issue is more subtle and, I hate to say it, something I missed. When I showed this paper to a friend of mine who has studied Orientalism, the first thing she said was that the statement “Maybe I go against the stream of the traditional Buddhists [e.g., Asian], but I like to see myself as an American Buddhist” was on the edge of being racist and at the very least showed a dismissive attitude towards Asian culture. I have to agree. At some level (probably unconscious) a belief in the superiority of mainstream Western culture helped form that statement. “Americans are too advanced to believe in the nonsense of mysticism, unlike the Asian practitioners.”  I realize it is impossible to know the intent of the speaker. I doubt this person meant harm, but from my multicultural studies here at the University of the West, and from my training in Buddhist Chaplaincy, I have learned this doesn’t matter. If we want to follow the Buddha’s ethics of non-harming we must be extremely mindful of the often unexamined biases we have about our own cultural superiority.

We also need to remember a very powerful philosophy, something mainstream Westerners call pragmatism (e.g., William James). “If it works, use it.” Westerners, of course, don’t own this concept. Before humanity discovered germs, we found that pouring alcohol into a wound reduced the number of people who died, so we kept pouring alcohol into wounds. Humanity found (using primitive statistics) that keeping sewage away from wells kept people from getting sick, so we kept sewage away from wells even though we didn’t know why this worked. If it worked, humanity used it, though often we didn’t have a scientific explanation.

The same holds true for the practice of Buddhism. If, as Dr. Grzegorz Polak says in his book, “Reexamining the Jhānas: Towards a Critical Reconstruction of Early Buddhist Soteriology”

It seems very possible that if one started reading the suttas without any previous knowledge on Buddhism, he would see the jhānas as the most important element of the Buddhist doctrine.

Then perhaps we should find someone who uses the jhānas and ask them how this practice helps them on the path. If we know people we trust who we believe have experienced Nibbāna, then maybe we should open our minds to the possibility that we can awaken, either partially or fully and do so in this very lifetime.

Because I believe so strongly that awakening is possible in this very life, when a respected teacher such as Stephen Batchelor says this, I’m deeply saddened:

I am a secular Buddhist. It has taken me years to fully “come out,” and I still feel a nagging tug of insecurity, a faint aura of betrayal in declaring myself in these terms. As a secular Buddhist my practice is concerned with responding as sincerely and urgently as possible to the suffering of life in this world, in this century (our saeculum) where we find ourselves now and future generations will find themselves later. Rather than attaining nirvana, I see the aim of Buddhist practice to be the moment-to-moment flourishing of human life within the ethical framework of the eightfold path here on earth. – Stephen Batchelor, “A Secular Buddhist,” Tricycle Magazine, Fall 2012, emphasis mine.

Because of firmly held cultural views about what types of human experience are acceptable (and because of the mistaken belief that striving for Nibbāna is incompatible with Engaged Buddhism and the path of the bodhisatta), Secular Buddhists such as Mr. Batchelor downplay Nibbāna. Since Batchelor is a widely respected teacher there will be those who will follow his teachings and believe they represent the total possibility of Buddhist practice. When I started practicing, one of the aspects of Western Buddhism that so excited me was the teaching that lay people as well as monks could awaken. This is not a teaching that has existed throughout the history of Buddhism. Using Theravāda Buddhism as an example, there appears to be a period in time, which lasted as long as perhaps a thousand years, when many Theravāda practitioners believed the world was so corrupt that no one, lay or monastic could awaken. For most of Buddhist history lay people were expected to work toward a better rebirth by collecting merit. It was not expected that they could or should try to awaken. It was the people of Burma, oppressed by colonialism, who realized that Theravāda Buddhism was dying in their country and something needed to change. They started teaching that people could awake, yes, even lay people. And thus begin the revival of Buddhist meditation and the revival of the belief in Nibbāna within the Theravāda tradition, a revival that arose independently in many other Buddhist traditions during that same era. It is my deepest hope that Convert Western Buddhism will not throw away the great gift given to us by those who practiced Buddhism before it came to the West, the gift of Nibbāna in this very life.

My thanks to my reviewers for their help improving this post. All opinions expressed and mistakes made in this post are my own.

On 4/19/13 I edited the post slightly to clarify a couple of points.

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Sensitivity, Samvega, Buddhism and Alcoholism

Roger Ebert, american film critic.

Roger Ebert, american film critic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clinical research shows Buddhist mindfulness t...

Clinical research shows Buddhist mindfulness techniques can help alleviate anxiety , stress , and depression (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m taking a course at University of the West called “Buddhism and Addiction Recovery.”  The class is taught by Tom Moritz.  Great class (my teachers and fellow students at UWest are absolutely wonderful) and I’m learning a great deal about Western Buddhist approaches to alcohol and addiction recovery.  Present practice mostly consists of using the mindfulness practices made famous by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn to break addictive and counterproductive patterns of behavior.   This mindfulness practice has its basis in a modern Theravada Buddhist practice called vipassanā.[1]

Tom has frequently brought up how often alcoholism is found in creative people.  In popular culture this link has long been made, but now science seems to agree.[2]  Recently we lost the wonderful Roger Ebert to cancer.  Ebert was a well-known and extremely influential film critic.  What is less well known is Ebert struggled with alcoholism, finally, in desperation, turning to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in his thirties.[3]

Why this link between alcoholism and creativity?  I’m not sure science really knows.  Two theories have long been put forward to explain the link; first, drinking alcohol helps the creative process.  Second, alcohol is a form of self-medication for some underlying pain that tends to associate itself with creativity.   For example, depression has long been linked to both alcoholism and creativity.  Recently creativity and high environmental sensitivity[4]  have also been found together.  For some alcoholics, high environmental sensitivity may also be a form of pain:

[A]lcoholics are more sensitive. This sensitivity relates especially to nuances of interpersonal relationships. Alcoholics have a “low rejection threshold.” They feel more apart or left out. Incidentally, a drink or two “works wonderfully” to deal with this feeling. Yet, it is known that sensitive people are often especially creative. Alcoholism seems to selectively strike gifted people. Most American Nobel Prize winners in literature suffered from alcoholism.  – Betty Ford Center website[5]

The sensitivity of the alcoholic and how this sensitivity can be used in Buddhist practice as part of the recovery process will be the focus of this blog entry.

Alcohol numbs.  And for people overwhelmed by their sensitivity to the world, alcohol can initially appear as a great release.  The reality, of course, is that alcohol and other numbing drugs are a terrible trap.  Many of the steps in the twelve-steps of AA can be thought of as a de-numbing process, bringing the alcoholic back into contact with the world and giving the alcoholic the emotional support and skills necessary to touch the world “raw.”  For AA, spirituality is a key part of the de-numbing process.

Buddhism can also be thought of as a de-numbing process.  In basic Western Buddhist practice de-numbing is achieved through present moment mindfulness.  Present moment mindfulness breaks the practitioner out of the shell of numbness they have built around themselves.  One of the key purposes of this shell is to protect the practitioner from the emotion of samvega which I will discuss later in the article.

In my style of Buddhism[6] de-numbing can be taken to extraordinary levels.  Buddhism[7] is about taking the practitioner’s innate sensitivity and making this sensitivity so trained, so powerful –via the practice of jhāna– that even the most refined, pleasurable conditioned states of human experience (the highest states of jhāna) are seen to be stressful.  This realization allows the practitioner to let go of the conditioned world as seen through and experienced by the human brain (as represented by the five khandhas), thus allowing an experience of Nibbāna, and finally a mind that feeds upon Nibbāna; unborn, unconditioned, undying.

The sensitivity of the person bewildered by the pain in the world, who sometimes is a person susceptible to alcohol, causes emotions to arise.  The Pali term for this complex association of emotion is samvega[8].  Samvega is said to be the emotion the Buddha felt when he first saw the effects of aging, death and illness.  Samvega, as Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu translates it, is a complex mixture of shock, fear, and urgency. Fear that there is no way out of the suffering.  Shock that life, as normally lived, is so hard and meaningless.  Finally an anxious urgency arises causing an effort to discover a way out of this terrible suffering.  Samvega is considered the emotion leading the sensitive person onto the path.  On the path, the sensitive person converts samvega to the joy of pasada, the emotion arising in the heart when a path leading out of suffering and stress is seen.

Why is samvega so important to the sensitive alcoholic, even one not interested in Buddhism?  The experience of samvega is normal for a sensitive human being and is not something that needs to be avoided[9].  Sadly, most people drown the emotion of samvega when it arises in their heart.  Some drown it with distraction.  Some drown it with forms of German Romanticism.  Some drown it with alcohol and end up drowning themselves.  One of the greatest and most destructive delusions is that ageing, death and illness can be dealt with by numbness.  Understanding the normalcy of samvega gives it a constructive place in our lives.  We no longer need to numb this wise emotion.  In addition, for those interested in Buddhism, Buddhism is a powerful path to transform samvega into joy.

Just as important to the sensitive alcoholic is the high esteem Buddhism gives to those of great natural sensitivity.  Without sensitivity samvega does not arise.  Without sensitivity the path is not taken.  Without sensitivity wisdom does not arise, ignorance is not left behind.  Sensitivity is a blessing, not a weakness[10].

Breaking bad behavior patterns is critical when an alcoholic is struggling to live skillfully.   The secularity of mindfulness allows it to reach those not interested in Buddhism.   But for the alcoholic interested in the path Buddhist practice has much more to offer.  At the beginning of recovery, when the human brain has not yet healed from the damage of heavy drinking, fear and confusion are overwhelming.  Buddhist devotional practices can help the alcoholic deal with these powerful emotions.  As the alcoholic’s brain begins to recover, mindfulness practices can help.  Metta meditation can help the alcoholic begin to forgive themselves and construct a complete moral inventory.  The five precepts give gentle, constructive, guidance on how the recovering alcoholic should behave.  The Buddha’s teaching of non-harming give the alcoholic direction on how to act in each moment.

Further in the recovery process, when the brain has more completely healed and more skillful patterns of behavior have been established (through AA or other organizations), the alcoholic can use their sensitivity to deeply understand the world using Buddhist teachings and use jhāna and other more advanced forms of Buddhist meditation.  Through the act of helping other alcoholics, and through overcoming ignorance via the practices of Buddhism, the recovering alcoholic can transform their experience in hell into deep compassion and joy.

I would enjoy hearing your thoughts?  Is sensitivity and alcoholism linked, or is the concept of a sensitive alcoholic just a cop out?  Have I missed some aspect of Buddhism that would be useful to an alcoholic?  Do you have specific practices that would be of use to an alcoholic?  If your understanding and practice of Buddhism is different than mine, does this difference have advantages for an alcoholic?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to use the comment feature of this blog to respond.  May all beings be free from suffering!   May you be happy and safe!


1. Though vipassanā is often claimed to be ancient practice, vipassanā, at least as we know it, is a modern invention that arose in Burma as a response to Western Colonialism.  Vipassanā was created as a “scientific” meditation practice in order to keep Buddhism relevant in the scientific world forced upon the Burmese by Christian missionaries and the colonial government.  In the Pali Canon, the term vipassanā is rarely found and when it is found it is often linked to samatha, perhaps a form of concentration practice.  This compares to the prevalence of the type of meditation called jhāna (which is likely not what the Pali Canon calls samatha and is absolutely NOT the same as the so called vipassanājhāna”).  References to jhāna are found throughout the Pali Canon.  As Polak says, “It seems very possible that if one started reading the suttas without any previous knowledge on Buddhism, he would see the jhānas as the most important element of the Buddhist doctrine.” If you wish to read more on this subject, I suggest reading “Race and Religion in American Buddhism:  White Supremacy and Immigrant Adaption,” by Joseph Cheah. He has two chapters on the origins of vipassanā and how it has moved to the U.S. , “Strong Roots” (http://www.bcbsdharma.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/StrongRoots.pdf) and “Reexamining Jhāna, Towards a Critical Reconstruction of Early Buddhist Soteriology”, by Grzegorz Polak.

2. For example, “Verbal creativity, depression and alcoholism: An investigation of one hundred American and British writers,” in the British Journal of Psychiatry (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8733792).

4. For example, see “Higher sensory processing sensitivity, introversion and ectomorphism”, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3409988/

6. And other forms of Buddhism, also.

7. Again, I am speaking about the form of Buddhism I practice.  Buddhism is too rich for this to be the only path of practice.

8. Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu has this to say about samvega:  “Samvega was what the young Prince Siddhartha felt on his first exposure to aging, illness, and death. It’s a hard word to translate because it covers such a complex range — at least three clusters of feelings at once: the oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it’s normally lived; a chastening sense of our own complacency and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly; and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle. This is a cluster of feelings we’ve all experienced at one time or another in the process of growing up, but I don’t know of a single English term that adequately covers all three. It would be useful to have such a term, and maybe that’s reason enough for simply adopting the word samvega into our language.”  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/affirming.html

9. Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu:  “As the early Buddhist teachings freely admit, the predicament is that the cycle of birth, aging, and death is meaningless. They don’t try to deny this fact and so don’t ask us to be dishonest with ourselves or to close our eyes to reality. As one teacher has put it, the Buddhist recognition of the reality of suffering — so important that suffering is honored as the first noble truth — is a gift, in that it confirms our most sensitive and direct experience of things, an experience that many other traditions try to deny.”  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/affirming.html
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THE DANGERS OF ALCOHOL AND DRUGS “THE FIFTH PRECEPT”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS?

A REFLECTION ON A VISIT TO SKID ROW, DOWNTOWN LA

My class “ Spiritual Leadership”, lead by Professor Danny Fisher, took a field trip to downtown Los Angeles to the famous Skid Row on March 19, 2013.  It was a very interesting experience as I got to see a different kind of life that I have never seen before in America.  Here we were in America, thought to be the richest, most powerful nation on earth, and all I could see hidden underneath big tall buildings and skyscrapers were people scrambling for bare necessities – food and shelter.  It was like hell on earth.  I am not naïve to poverty and poor quality of life as I too, come from a small village in the northern part of Thailand where people work for minimum wage as farmers in the rice field.  But Skid Row as I witnessed it was far worse and beyond what I had imagined.

We walked through the blocks and saw homeless people sleeping, walking, sitting, doing things we normally do in the comfort of our own home, except these homeless people do it on the street.  From the foul smell in the air everywhere, it is evident they go to the bathroom on the street too.  These are people just like you and me, but they, at some point in their lives, lost their way and became homeless.  It is a very sad reality.

It is a social problem every big city in America faces.  Homelessness comes from poverty that may have been brought on by not being educated enough or being ignorant about education, but often times, it stems from addiction to drugs and alcohol.   Most everyone I saw lying around at Skid Row was drunk and incoherent.  They all looked intoxicated, high, stoned, and under the influence.  To help a person who is down and out and homeless, you give them a roof over their head and the problem is fixed.  But to help a person with substance abuse, you need professional help.  There just is not enough resources and manpower to do all the clean up and so homelessness becomes the ugly, dark side of society.

Homelessness is an ongoing issue.  Seeing how these people live, one cannot help but wonder how can a person ever get out of this situation?  Or better yet, how does a person become this way to begin with?  As a Buddhist, I see how living without finite rules and living aimlessly without a clear understanding of which is the right path can be destructive to one’s life, as seen in the people on Skid Row.  Had these homeless people learned the Buddha’s teaching of refraining from intoxication, the Fifth Precept, their lives would probably be a lot better today.

The Buddha himself was once homeless.  He left his royal palace, disregarded his Prince status, and lived his life on the street just like any homeless person.  Although he was homeless, he was not mindless.  The Buddha was alert, aware, and mindful.  He was insightful in knowing how consumption of alcohol and drugs is very destructive, which is why there is a Fifth Precept to restrict the use and help people maintain a good way of living without negative influence.  Substance abuse causes a person to lose their mind, their sanity, and I think it is one of the biggest reasons people become homeless.

The Buddha spoke quite clearly of the dangers of alcohol.

“There are, young householder, these six evil consequences in indulging in intoxicants which cause infatuation and heedlessness:

(i) loss of wealth,

(ii) increase of quarrels,

(iii) susceptibility to disease,

(iv) earning an evil reputation,

(v) shameless exposure of body,

(vi) weakening of intellect.

Dice, women, liquor, dancing, singing, sleeping by day, sauntering at unseemly hours, evil companions, avarice — these nine causes ruin a man.

Who plays with dice and drinks intoxicants, goes to women who are dear unto others as their own lives, associates with the mean and not with elders — he declines just as the moon during the waning half.

Who is drunk, poor, destitute, still thirsty whilst drinking, frequents the bars, sinks in debt as a stone in water, swiftly brings disrepute to his family.”Who by habit sleeps by day, and keeps late hours, is ever intoxicated, and is licentious, is not fit to lead a household life.” ( From  http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=5929&start=0)

As I walk the streets of Skid Row with my class, I wonder if any of the people there had ever been told to stay away from drugs and alcohol.  They might have heard it, probably.  But in looking at how they are still there today, they did not take that advice.  Skid Row remains to be a place these homeless people call home.  The poor souls who are lost, addicted, and abused by much of their own doing.  It really is hell on earth.

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