The Fifth Precept

"Do not drink alcohol..." was a bit too strict for me. I was used to more flexible interpretations of the fifth precept such as "Do not cloud your mind with alcohol." I never had a problem not clouding my mind with alcohol while enjoying a glass of fine wine after work. Thay's interpretation offered no loophole for me. Consequently, I did not feel ready to take the precept when Thay gave a retreat outside Chicago in 1988. It is so nice to enjoy some wine and relax. Yet, it always bothered me that good wine was so expensive when compared to other more valuable beverages such as milk or fruit juices. I also felt uneasy with the fact that I needed something from outside to make me feel relaxed inside. Nevertheless, I was not quite ready to seriously take the fifth precept in 1990.1 bargained with myself, 'This time I'll take the fifth precept, but I'll keep open my own loopholes. 'I do not destroy my body with alcohol. I just enjoy a glass of wine once or twice a week."' It didn't work. I took all Five Precepts last May and have not had the slightest longing since to buy or drink wine. There is no need for me to clench my teeth and fight with some deep desire. Wine just does not tempt me any more, and I feel good about it. The funny thing is, when I drink some delicious apple cider instead of wine, there is only the feeling of enjoyment and no discomforting after-taste. I sincerely thank Thay and the supportive sangha at the Mundelein retreat for helping me become a more mature human being.

Annie Reinhardt
Madison, Wisconsin

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