Restraint from Drinking Intoxicants (6-2)

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Blessing Twenty:
Restraint from Drinking Intoxicants


F.3 Ex. Bhagraghaṭa Jātaka J.ii.431ff.
Once the banker Anāthapiṇḍika had a nephew who had squandered 40 million by his drinking habits, leaving him penniless. The nephew therefore came to Anāthapiṇḍika’s home asking for some financial help. The nephew said he would use the money to invest in business — to set himself up in life. Anāthapiṇḍika was pleasantly surprised to hear his drunken nephew wanted to earn his living. He gave him 1,000 and taught him a few tricks of the trade. The nephew thanked Anāthapiṇḍika and wasted no time in going out with his friends at spending all the money on booze.

Later he came back to Anāthapiṇḍika saying he had lost all his money in business due to lack of experience and asked for money again. Anāthapiṇḍika pretended he didn’t know what was going on and this time gave the nephew only 500, again telling him to invest it wisely. The shameless nephew spent all 500 on the alcohol again.

For a third time, the nephew returned to ask for more. Anāthapiṇḍika gave him two pieces of coarse cloth instead of money, knowing he would be more likely to make an effort to sell it. The nephew did sell the cloth but again he spent all he had earned on alcohol.

He came back to Anāthapiṇḍika for a fourth time with an outstretched palm. This time Anāthapiṇḍika had his nephew thrown out into the street. The nephew was destitute and lodged at this person’s house or that, until eventually the nephew died in poverty.

Anāthapiṇḍika felt somehow blameworthy for his nephew’s death. Was there something more he could have done? He sought audience from the Buddha telling him the whole story. The Buddha said that it was not only this life that the nephew had been beyond help.

In a previous lifetime when the nephew had been given a wishing cup, it still couldn’t help him. It still couldn’t satiate his appetite — so it is no surprise that with Anāthapiṇḍika’s limited means weren’t enough to help him.

The Buddha concluded briefly, but Anāthapiṇḍika invited him to give more detail. The Buddha thus revealed the story of the past as follows:

In the past, when King Brahmadatta reigned in Benares, the Bodhisattva was born as a millionaire, inheriting a fortune of 40 million from his father. He had only one child — a son. The Bodhisattva liked to perform acts of charity regularly, giving alms and pursuing other forms of virtues until the end of his life. When he passed away the Bodhisattva was reborn as Indra, the king of heaven. The only son inherited the fortune of 40 million, but instead of investing it in business, he had a huge pavilion built — not as a place of worship but as a drinking place.

There he whiled away the time drinking with friends, hiring dancers and singers and gave them extravagant prizes for their performances. He did the same things every day — this and nothing else — living a life of drink and recklessness. Eventually his wealth was exhausted. He had to sell-up everything he owned. He was left destitute, wearing only rags and wandering the streets.

Indra surveyed the world and saw his former son destitute — his inheritance squandered on alcohol. Out of mercy, Indra appeared to the son saying “Now you are in great hardship. I feel sorry for you, so I’m giving you this magic pot — take good care of it. Never drop it. If it breaks, it will lose its magic powers. It will produce whatever you wish for.”

The son accepted the cup and Indra gave him a sermon before returning to heaven, re-iterating that he should never let the cup break. The son promised to take good care of it. “Good,” said Indra, “Because its your last chance to liberate yourself from hardship and poverty!”

As soon as Indra was gone, he made a wish for all types of wealth and spent all the wealth on alcohol. He drank alone or in company singing and dancing merrily, holding the wishing cup in one hand and a bottle of liquor in other. He felt more and more incapable. He came to the point where his merit had run out — because the alcohol had uprooted the last of his merit. He started to play with the wishing cup for fun, throwing it in the air and catching it. Eventually it fell to the ground and broke — irreparably. And so he returned to his former hardship, with a begging bowl, a burden on society to the end of his days.”

“Anāthapiṇḍika! As it was in the past, so it is now — this man has not changed his ways.” Thus for an alcoholic even the gift of a wishing cup is still unable to bring happiness or prosperity. From their foolishness drinkers even destroy the luck they already have. Even though he had had the chance to help himself with a magic pot even more powerful than any money, as a drunk he could not do anything to help himself. He was beyond help. Therefore before helping someone, look to see whether they are going to use the money you give them to buy alcohol. Sometimes you pay labors more wages — instead of the work they do improving, it gets worse because they have more money left at the end of the week to spend on drink. Make sure that before you help someone, they stop all forms of the Six Roads to Ruin, even if they are your own family or parents.

F.4 Ex. Putting your land in a whisky bottle
There was an old uncle who loved to drink liquor. His wife and children warned him again and again but he would not listen. He sold all his land to buy liquor. One day the son came home tired from the fields and saw his father drinking and thought, “How can I teach my father to see through his stupidity?” The boy took a goad and beat a buffalo trying to force the buffalo into an earthenware pot.

The father said, “Stop that at once! How can you expect to force a buffalo into a tiny jar like that?”

The boy said, “Father it’s no more illogical than what you do every day — you have managed to put all of the land on this farm in your whisky bottle!”

Then the father managed to see what his son was teaching him — if his son was doing something crazy, then he was the crazier of the two of them.


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