In the Subha Sutta, Ananda is asked to visit Subha. Ananda declines because he is intoxicated, under the influence of some substance– the time is “not proper”.
Catch up on this exploration.
Ananda was a bit older than Buddha. Buddha had just passed. I hear that Buddha was 80 years old at the time of Buddha’s death. Ananda must have been 80-something.
Is it unreasonable to think that he may have taken some kind of opiate? There are many psychoactive substances in the regions through which Buddha’s friends traveled.
The moral baggage that we westerners attach to the use of opiates (or whatever was sedating Ananda, making the occasion unsuitable) may not have been present for Ananda. In one fruitful discussion on the Buddhist-Internet, I learned that **intention** is important. In this discussion, I learned that we may be seeing the application of the “Middle-way” with regard to intoxicants. Ananda’s intention would have been important.
Just Exploring the Suttas.
I’ve been asking for guidance on this topic, but the Buddhist-Internet (on various Facebook groups) does not seem to think it is an important topic.. some have even said the Sutta is not important (but yes, this was on a “Mahayana” group.. and this is a Pali Sutta.. some people draw too many lines).
All Suttas are ‘important’. And, yep, all Suttas are unimportant with regard to the fact that you must, at some point, actually *practice* what is contained, in outline, in the Suttas. Suttas are just little maps– they are not actually important or unimportant– it all depends on how one utilizes the methods presented therein. Leave it to the Christians, and the other ‘People of the Book’, to worship books.
All topics are ‘important’ and ‘unimportant’– it just depends on your perspective. What may seem important to one person may not be important to another. It is strange that, instead of simply ignoring my question, some have chosen to attempt to censor me. Nope. I am free. I will seek whatever I want to seek. No dogma or cultural hangups will get in my way.
Study and Practice.
You may have heard the phrase, “Study and Practice”.
There is another phrase that may be helpful to those who are afraid to critically analyze a Sutta:
“Turn, do not be turned, by the Sutras”.
And, those who are afraid to approach the topic of addiction have their own reasons.. which I shall not consider.
So, last time, we ended up with a hacky translation of the important phrase from the Subha Sutta.
The youth asks Ananda to visit Subha, Ananda replies:
I learned that Matta, or Majja, is “intoxication”. Akalo is the unsuitability of the occasion.
Now, I want to see what the precept against intoxication looks like (in Pali).
How is Matta used in the precept against intoxication!?
- 1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
- I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
- 2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
- I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
- 3. Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
- I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
- 4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
- I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
- 5. Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
- I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
So, right away, I see that veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami is repeated over and over. This must be the part that means “I undertake the precept to..” So, we want the core of the statement, let’s ignore veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.
Now, in the 5th mindfulness training (as they are called by Thich Nhat Hanh), we find the use of “majja”. Here is the precept against intoxication. But, this is a different term/phrase than what we see in the Subha Sutta. Although, in the Subha Sutta, the other Pali words attached to Matta simply indicate that one is “now under the influence”.
So, here, what do these attachments (Surameraya..) do to ‘majja’?
What exactly is Surameraya?
I’m going to play with a different dictionary today.
What does it say about Majja?
Majja (nt.) [fr. mad, cp. Vedic mada & madya] 1. intoxicant, intoxicating drink, wine, spirits Vin i.205; D iii.62, 63; Sn 398 (+pāna=majjapāna); VvA 73 (=surā ca merayañ ca); Sdhp 267. — 2. drinking place J iv.223
We even see that in VvA 73 (must be some abbreviation for some text), we get at the rest of the term! (=sura ca merayan ca) ? What is this?
Surā (f.) [Vedic surā] spirituous (intoxicating) liquor (“drink”) Vin ii.295; 301; iv.110; D i.146; A i.212, 295; It 63; J i.199, 252 (tikhiṇaŋ suraŋ yojetvā mixing a sharp drink); DhA ii.9; Dh 247; as nt. at J vi.23 (v. l. surā as gloss). — Five kinds of surā are mentioned, viz. piṭṭha˚, pūva˚, odana˚ (odaniya˚), kiṇṇapakkhitta˚, sambhāra — saŋyutta˚ VvA 73; VbhA 381.
— âdhiṭṭhaka addicted to drink J v.427. — geha a drinking house J i.302. — ghaṭa a pitcher of liquor J iii.477. — ghara=˚geha J v.367. — chaṇa a drinking festival J i.489; DhA iii.100. — dhutta a drunkard Sn 106; J i.268; iii.260. — nakkhatta a drinking festival J 362; SnA 185. — pāna drinking strong liquor J i.50; iv.23; VbhA 383. — pāyikā a woman drinking liquor J v.11. — pipāsita thirsty after strong drink S ii.110. — pīta one who has drunk liquor J i.426. — mada tipsiness, intoxication A iv.213; J i.352, 362. — meraya ( — pāna) (drinking) rum & spirits A i.261; ii.53. See also (pañca — ) sikkhāpada. — vitthaka bowl for drinking spirits J v.427; DhA iii.66. — soṇḍa a drunkard DhA iii.129. — soṇḍaka id. J v.433.
So, it seems that Surā is an intoxicating drink. We see its use in various contexts. We also see the other term that is significant to our exploration: meraya.
So, “Surameraya” must mean something like, “drinking alcohol”. Does that make sense? And, then, there is our original term: Majja. And, combining these all together it seems that Suramerayamajja means something like: “drinking until intoxication.”
Does that make sense?
Now, the other word: pamadatthana.
Difficulty finding what this means..
I see that Pamajjati means:
Pamajjati1 [pa+mad] 1. to become intoxicated S i.73. — 2. to be careless, slothful, negligent; to neglect, waste one’s time S iv.125, 133; Sn 676, 925, 933; cp.
So, the ‘Pa’ and the ‘ti’ must be modifying the meaning of Majja.
I also see Thana means:
— See thambha & thūṇa. — maccharin obdurate & selfish, or very selfish DhA iii.313; VvA 69; PvA 45; — hadaya hard– hearted J iii.68.Thana
Could pamadatthana mean something like, ‘to be hard-hearted, selfish, obdurate’?
The point of this post was to compare the terms used for Ananda’s intoxication and the term used in the 5 precepts, in the precept against intoxication.
In the Subha Sutta we have:
It seems to indicate that Andanda was ‘now intoxicated’.
And, in the Pancasila, we get:
Which seems to mean something like: “drinking until intoxication.”
And, pamadatthana, which seems to indicate that the intoxication is of a selfish, or ‘heard-hearted’ nature.
So far, I am seeing support for what was suggested by a friend on the Buddhist-internet (Arjuna). Intention is important.
Ananda’s intoxication lacked the heard-hearted, selfish nature of a destructive addict, as he had attained a degree of awakening, there were no such clingings.
(and then, another question: had Ananda attained arahantship yet? At this point in the story, had he realized? It was shortly after Buddha died and I hear legend that Ananda was not enlightened until after Buddha’s death. Don’t know much about this tho.)
We are seeing the application of the Majjhimāpaṭipadā with regard to intoxicants… In the Pali Canon!
Cry about it, or don’t… That is up to you.
For me, this exercise has been fruitful. I have shared it for the benefit of others like myself, with similar questions and inclinations.
I would still like to learn more.
Arjuna also told me that there is a sutta in which Buddha discourages the use of cannabis.
There are indicators, eg in the Sigalovada Sutta (DN 31) that cannabis was taken in the Buddha’s time, but that the Buddha warned of its drawbacks & potential as a drain of resources (for a layman). i think it doubtful that a monk would’ve taken it therefore.
I will explore this more in the future.
Whether proper western buddhists approve of this exploration, or not. Meh. Doesn’t matter. This is why I shall never join an order of monks, a tradition, a religion– I am free to practice Buddhism from the refuge of my own island. And, so are you.