Me and my brother visited this pizzeria recently and he ordered two apple juices. Ryder's Wild Apple to be exact. I drank a sip of it and it tasted and smelled a bit like alcohol and obviously had the apple taste. But it had that beer smell. And then only I saw the label 8.8%. And I stopped drinking after it.

Did I break my 5th precept? I'm a person who doesn't take my precept very lightly. But I want to know whether I broke my 5th precept or not.

  • You're probably going to benefit from the following: Some vinegar have a tiny bit of alcohol percentile in them. Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 13:47

5 Answers 5


Did I break my 5th precept?

In order to break the 5th precept, the following four factors need to be present and fulfilled:

  • Mada-niyam -- intoxicants.
  • Patu-kamyata-cittam -- the desire to drink.
  • Tajjo vayamo -- the effort is made.
  • Pitappa-vesanam -- the intoxicants being drunk passing the throat.

Very importantly is the second factor, i.e. the desire to drink. This is also known as intention/volition (Cetanā).

If just one of these factors are not fulfilled, the precept is still intact.

  • Pali has not Mada-nīyasaññī, but the other sikkhāpada have. So although person does not know "this is Mada-nīya", but that person want to drink, then drunk. Sīla broke. Cetana of this sikkhapada is difference from the other 4 sikkapada because just this sikkhapada is acittaka. So in vinaya pali wrote "Bhikkhu has broken pacittiya precept, although he think that it is not alcohol, while drinking (majje amajjasaññī pivati, āpatti pācittiyassa)". The commentary also have the same comment like pali. See: Vinaya Surā­pāna­sikkhā­pada Pali. suttacentral.net/pi/pi-tv-bu-vb-pc51
    – Bonn
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 15:45
  • Are these four factors the same for all the precepts?
    – m2015
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 16:33
  • @m2015. No, they are not but they are similar in nature. Common for all precepts, is that intention/volition has to be present. Visit this website and all factors for all 5 precepts will be shown.
    – user2424
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 16:49

Your 5th precept has not broken because the alcohol has not enough to make your unwholesome consciousness arise after drink.

This precept have 4 elements to done. You already done the last 3 elements, except the first "Mada-niyam -- intoxicants". (Patu-kamyata-cittam -- chanda to drink, chanda is not desire, and you have chanda to drink anything in that glass).

My reply is very difference from the others because I decided this from these all conditions:

  1. pali included amajjasaññī (innocent of that beverage), too.
  2. commentary said "must broken by unwholesome consciousness", but the elements of sikkhapada have not Madanīyasaññī .
  3. This sikkhapada also not included in 10 akusalakammapatha, too. But it is in 5 sikkhapada, that can let people go to niraya.

So the way to broke this precept should be unwholesome consciousness, that arise after drink, because of that drinking. And that unwholesome consciousness must can be done someone in 10 akusalakammapatha, too.


I would say that if you stop drinking something the moment you realize it contains alcohol then you are following the fifth precept, as the point of the precept is to keep you out of the troubles which come from intoxication and addiction.

From a strict rules lawyering perspective it's a little ambiguous around intention. Some commentaries would argue that intending to drink something that happens to contain alcohol is enough. Others would argue that you must be intending to drink alcohol. Both interpretations have the potential to be problematic: if you drink something not knowing it contains alcohol and get drunk you can go do stupid things so not knowing clearly doesn't make it okay. But taking this logic too far can cause fear and paranoia and increases problems in your life instead of reducing problems. And the contrary argument brings up problems with wilful ignorance.

In such cases of ambiguity it is good to fall back on common sense: it is reasonable to taste something to see if it safe to eat/drink; it's better to check in advance but no-one is expected to have perfect foresight nor be paranoid. Even the idea of "breaking" the precepts is a little misguided, the precepts are not magically purifying, they are helpful prescription on how you should live if you want to avoid some serious problems in your future and create a stable foundation for practise. Even if you do feel you broke it a little bit, it's enough that you are resolved to do better in the future.

  • How would wilful ignorance work in this circumstance?
    – AnoE
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 10:12

What's with the fear of breaking it anyway? It's not like committing a sin in Christianity. The precepts are just behaviours suggested to help you along the path. Maybe you need to stop worrying about it and look at how attached you are to the whole idea of keeping them. Personally I love a good glass of wine every know and then. I believe it to be healthy in moderation. I'm not a monk and I'm not going to live a life of asceticism. Life is to be enjoyed and in my opinion good wine is part of that. Relax.

  • I don't drink anything different than tea, water or maybe cola etc. in maybe 99% or 98% of the days in a year but I upvoted this answer.
    – Murathan1
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 17:51

Let me take a different approach to this.

I sometimes shudder at the meticulous, deliberate approach I see from many in Buddhism. Much more exacting than I could ever justify purely from a canon that was passed down by word of mouth for 500 years. This is NOT to say that any of the interpretations (like Nanavara Thera) are wrong - - just that their approach may be a little more exacting than is necessary.

Everyone appears to address this question from a perspective that in the west we call "criminal law". As a criminal defense attorney myself I have been dealing with these incidents for decades and the criminal justice system has hundreds of years and millions of cases further defining this concept we call intent (Cetana).

For example - the description of 4 factors necessary to violate the 5th precept written by Nanavera Thera. In the west this is what we call criminal intent and it is taught to attorneys attending post-graduate Law School. My point here is that we are unnecessarily exacting by going this deep. It's not nearly so complicated.

Are you an alcohol drinker? As a result of this incident would you now call yourself a consumer of alcohol? Remember the acorn. We are not defined by our condition at any given moment in our life. That is much too linear. If we ARE going to so label then at least do it by a predominant trait and not a singular incident. Thats the philosophical approach called "utility" and it's also the most rational. It's what we think of when we consider fundamental fairness.

You cannot live life being so exacting. It's all about balance. The lines defining either side are NOT clearly drawn - it's all gray instead of black or white. That's where we normally live. In the gray. So in the gray where the lines are vague we examine the entire context and not just one incident. Again I ask - are you a consumer of alcohol?

No. An accident does not make you a drinker of alcohol. Your guilt shows that immediately. If I wanted to control you I would say "but you should strive for perfection". Thats not my intent though. My intent is to relieve your concerns and remove the trouble from your mind. See how I almost took that another direction? Intent matters and we get it from context. Keep striving. The path is a hard one.

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