Taking intoxicants

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Questions and answers on the use of intoxicants for both novice and seasoned students of Buddism.

Question: What would you say to a new student of Buddhism who is smoking pot (and has been for years) and sees it as okay to mix with practice?

Venerable Thubten Chodron (VTC): It seems that this person isn’t yet clear on his or her motivation for practice. He or she needs to reflect: Am I seeking mental clarity? Am I seeking to change my old bad habits? Am I ready to begin observing and acknowledging my motivations? Am I seeking feel-good experiences or am I seeking genuine spiritual transformation?

Question: What would you say to a Dharma student who has been practicing for some time and continues to take intoxicants, even though their intake is moderate and not abusive?

VTC: I’ve seen several instances of people who have practiced the Dharma for many years who continue to drink (moderately) or to smoke pot. Again, it appears to me that their motivation for practice is still fuzzy. They often have reasons for continuing to take intoxicants: “If I don’t my colleagues will think I’m prudish,” “It makes friends feel more at ease if I join in with what they’re doing.” But to me, these reasons seem to be either a way to avoid acknowledging one’s own attachment to intoxicants, or a weak sense of one’s own values or a wish for others’ approval that easily lead one to go along with peer pressure.

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