Can I take the Fifth Mindfulness Training (the Fifth Precept), and still drink an occasional glass of wine or beer with dinner?

(taken from Thich Nhat Hanh, For a Future to be Possible, 2007, Appendix 1, p109-110)

Thay [Thich] Nhat Hanh advises us not to drink any alcohol, if possible. If you still have a strong inclination to drink, please do so mindfully. Look deeply into the conditions of your liver, your heart, and the fact that humankind is wasting a lot of grain and fruit making alcohol instead of feeding other humans. Meditating in this way will lead us to feeling uncomfortable when drinking any amount of alcohol.

If you are not ready to stop drinking entirely, please take the first four mindfulness trainings and try to drink mindfully until you are ready to stop. Thay [Thich] Nhat Hanh advises those who take the Fifth Mindfulness Training [Fifth Precepts] not to drink at all, even one glass of wine or beer a week. French authorities advise their citizens that one glass of alcohol is okay, but that three is saying hello to the damage that an accident can cause. But how can you have a second or third glass if you have not had the first?

Under normal conditions, we may drink one or two glasses of wine from time to time. But in moments of despair, we might have five, six, or seven glasses in order to forget our sorrows. This can lead to alcohol abuse. A lovely grandmother on a retreat in England asked this question, and I told her, “You are a moderate drinker, but are you sure all your sons, daughters, and grandchildren are like you? If during one or two moments of despair they gradually drink more and more and become alcoholic and destroy themselves physically and mentally, who would be responsible? Haven’t you participated partly in that process? If you keep the Fifth Mindfulness Training now, you may be the torch for the future generations of your grandchildren. You keep the mindfulness trainings as a bodhisattva and not as an order that you are forced to obey.”

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