Following are the 3 unrighteous bodily conducts out of 10 unwholesome actions described in suttas such as Saleyyaka Sutta.

  1. Killing living beings
  2. Stealing
  3. Sexual misconduct

I would like to know the reason why the intake of intoxicants, liquor and drugs is not listed as one of unwholesome actions.

6 Answers 6


In a way, the 10 unwholesome actions already take into account the intaking of intoxicants in the sense that intoxicant is a condition for the manifestation of any one of those 10 unwholesome actions. When one is drunk, it could serve as the condition that leads to killing, stealing, raping, etc.. OR it could just cause him to throw up and then pass out. In other words the 10 unwholesome actions are listed because they're all manifested explicit actions while taking intoxicants is a to-be-manifested action..


Once I heard that in early Indian kings use to take a drink in the evening. The Buddha was careful not to introduce this precept in early day of his teaching until most of the Kings, ministers and tycoons where his disciples. Later when this happened this was introduced. If this was prematurely introduced many who were taking habitual or customary drinks might not have been inclined to listen to the Dhamma. This is just a theory to explain the lack intake of intoxicants in some Suttas some which were early days of the dispensation.

  • 1
    Thanks for your opinion. But I don't agree with your reason. Let's keep digging; there should be a deeper meaning for this. Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 14:56
  • The Buddha always was mindful of the timing and the audience always. So it should be to do with this. Some period it was not the right time as with the vinaya. Some times it was not needed for the listener in case does not have the vise. Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 3:57
  • Also Sāgata who was Skilled in the Heat-Element (Tejodhātukulasa) and one of the 80 great disciples also on one occasion drank. It was this occasion that the Buddha forbade drinking for the monks. See: SURĀPĀNA-JĀTAKA Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 4:05
  • Also the suggestion to provide drinks was by the Chabbaggīyā Bhikkhus as a gift or gratitude for taming a menacing Nāga. So perhaps the Buddha had not preached that even the basic Sila should include refrain from taking intoxicants at least up to this point. Also when offered drinks as Dana, highly accomplished Sāgata partook it. Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 6:01
  • I think the case of Sarakani Shakya who drank to death but praised as a Sothapanna by the Buddha is the best example ever. Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 13:30

Buddha told Ven Sariputta that he would not answer to any questions or teach anything that might promote heedlessness. So here is strictly my opinion. Perhaps there is threshold of consuming alcohol or intoxicants?? For example, if one uses cooking wine to prepare a dish for its aroma, would that consider breaking a precept? What about fermented rice for desert (yeast+rice+sugar)? It has slight alcohol in it but not enough to alter mind. Again, my opinion, there could be a possible threshold of consuming intoxicant but mentioning it would promote heedlessness. It could possibly be that there is some qualifier in the 5th precept that is best not to mention? Best not to consume it at all.


The Unwholesome actions produce a karmic seed that will definitely fruit.

For example, even if you killed someone out of self-defense, there would be a negative result.

Even if you got angry towards someone because they are harming themselves, you would produce a negative karmic seed.

That is why these are "unwholesome" fundamentally.

Many things that produce an un-sober state on the other hand only do so after a certain point. There are many medical situations where it is necessary. Many medicines have alcohol as an agent. The same goes for other inebriating drugs. It is of course better to avoid them altogether but there is no diet that is fundamentally unwholesome.

On the other hand, the unwholesome actions are on some fundamental level going to cause some karmic repercussion.


First of all, the Buddha never talks about drugs as such. He talks about alcohol, including a form of alcohol that was used in Ayurvedic medicine as an anesthetic, i.e., a drug, but the Pali suttas do not include any words that can be directly translated as "drugs." Alcohol is frequently absent from lists of prohibited activities, including the famous Pansil, i.e., Five Precepts. There is a fourfold version of pansil called the Four Restraints. As to why this is the case, the answer is that it is because the Buddha did not prohibit alcohol for the first eight years of the sangha. The Buddha only prohibited alcohol when a monk got drunk and passed out, embarassing the sangha. This happened during a famine, when all that the villagers had to offer the monastics was palm wine. Subsequently drinking alcohol was added to the Four Restraints to make the Five Precepts, and the Buddha forbade the ordination of drinkers, but at the same time drinking alcohol is a very minor offence in the Vinaya, requiring confession only.

  • Do you happen to remember where an earlier version of the five precepts (i.e. the "Four Restraints") is mentioned?
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 18:36
  • Many places. I did note them in my book, Conversations with the Buddha. Give me a day or two, and I will list the suttas in the Digha Nikaya which reference the fourfold version. Its very common (you'll probably start noticing it now that I've called your attention to it, if you read the Pali Canon at all).
    – user4970
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 3:00
  • Thank you, it's a very apposite answer to the question. There's a post here referencing introducing the rule for monks (which implies it wasn't one of the original rules), but I hadn't noticed the same (that the rule was later) for the lay precepts (except that it's counted as the 5th precept).
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 10:12
  • "The suttas that follow refer to four precepts, excluding alcohol: D 1, 22, 25, 27, 29, 31. However, D 29 seems to be a late sutta, but incorporates the fourfold version of the precepts that exclude alcohol." (Conversations with the Buddha, p. 15, n. 14).
    – user4970
    Commented May 29, 2016 at 15:16

Everybody is intoxicated. Some people to food, some to sex, some to power, some to alcohol. Buddha never said anything about sex, food, alcohol or other intoxicants. Sexual conduct is only defined for monks. Buddha never said anything about householders. Meditation alone is the cure for intoxication of any kind. Please remember Buddha's path is path of intelligence. Any intelligent person will see an intoxicant as bondage and will set himself free of it. There is no need for any Sutta.

  • What is your reference to what Buddha said or not said? Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 21:08
  • People who go by book never reach anywhere. Essence of buddha's preaching is important. Buddhas always talk about principles not dos and donts. Buddha being a wise man will not deal with vices but the root cause. Root cause of vices is rooted in your desire. If you are not habituated to an intoxicant whether it is wine or a woman it is not a hindrance. A monk is supposed to lead disciplined life to move towards Nirvana faster but householders are not. Therefore Buddha neither commented on sex life of a householder nor on intoxicant. For all vices there is one cure - meditation. Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 5:10
  • This is incorrect if we take traditional texts as evidence of what the Buddha said, since, e.g., abstention from intoxicants is one of the five lay precepts, as is abstention from sexual misconduct.
    – Adamokkha
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 15:10
  • Buddha said what to whom is debatable. If you have a chance to meet a live Buddha you will know the difference. What you are talking about is intoxicants. What i am talking about is addiction. Intake of intoxicant is not wrong addiction is. I am giving you a perspective which is different than traditional text. Take the fifth percept to mean any addiction. Then whether it is tea, coffee, wine, sex etc all are taken care of. If you are not addicted to any of them it is right otherwise wrong. Use it in your definition of fifth percept and you will see the difference. Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 19:34

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