Meditation 5. Refrain from the use of intoxicants  

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5. Refrain from the use of intoxicants

Q: I have a problem with the meditation. Before, for a few years, I was taking quite a few hallucinatory drugs.

M: So what happens now? If you don’t take, it’s fine, good for you. Of course you damaged a little the brain cells; but it’s all right, we’ll repair it. So you have problems when you meditate. What kind of problems?

Q: Concentration.

M: Concentration. That’s why you have to practice, of course. But I think you’re okay, you’ve repaired. Don’t worry about that. Just concentration; just a common “disease” of this world’s people. So don’t worry, take it easy and when you meditate you always have to remember here (Master points to the wisdom eye) with all sweetness and loving kindness. Then it massages your inner brain. Use your love, contact inside, that’s all you need. Because you didn’t take drugs for too long, it’s okay. It’s repairable. You do the Quan Yin Method, it will repair more. It will mend all the tissues and recharge them with new life and energy. Don’t worry about that.

You have to do it more diligently. Even if you can’t concentrate, you do it. When you do the Guan, the light, of course, it’s not easy to concentrate. But the Quan Yin Method, even you don’t concentrate, it’s also there, so it will help you. The Quan Yin Method means the sound, it’s the most beneficial for this kind of problem.

I’m very happy that you have quit the nasty habit and come back to your beautiful Self, fragrant with the elixir of love. It’s more suitable for you, for such a handsome guy.

So he is very clever and strong. It very difficult to get out of that habit. If you are in, I think you’re finished. Many people are finished. Sometimes they end their lives because they can’t do anything about it. You know drugs are very nasty. When a drug addict has no “food,” drugging “food,” then he feels like millions of needles are pinching him from inside and then his whole body is like on fire — things like that, when he can’t get it on time. Terrible, and they’re in agony all the time; or like thousands of snakes biting them at the same time, everywhere from inside the brain, and all that. That’s how drugs damage the nerves of people and make them die a horrible and slow death.

That’s why all of the drug people are the most horrible beings in this world. They trade such a poison, killing people’s brains, energy, youth and their precious intelligence. The drug selling people are terrible. If they realize what harm they do to the world, I think they would stop. I don’t think they realize it because, as the drug dealer they probably don’t take it themselves. They know it very well, they don’t take it. If they take it they always have enough supply, so they would die eventually from the poison but not in such agony. They would die with drugs, that’s all. Over dose and die quickly, but not in such agony. So they don’t realize what harm they’re doing to the youth of this world.

It’s terrible. See how terrible it is? Very rare people can get out of that habit. This is really terrible. All the time the world is in trouble.

Actually drugs are one of those things we can avoid, therefore we must avoid them. We must avoid spreading suffering to humankind by trading drugs, encouraging the use of drugs, have anything to do with drugs, or covering for the people who buy, sell or accidentally stumble on drugs and become the victim of them. We must avoid it — drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and things like that. It’s the disaster that we can avoid, so we must avoid. We can die anytime of anything, of course; but if we inflict suffering upon ourselves and upon other people, then we take the karma.

Of course in the war too. The people who order war take the most heavy karma. So if we go to hell, we see all kinds of people there. If one day you’re bored and you want to go “shopping” in hell, you have a look. Almost all the famous murderers are in there and they are suffering all the time. They are suffering the feelings that they caused to millions or billions of victims when they were alive. That’s what’s called hell. There is no need of a devil to pinch you, to fork you, to chop you, to grind you — no need. Your eternal turmoil is enough to kill you every day. The more people you kill, the more people you abuse or agonize, the more suffering and the longer you have to experience that.

From “The Horror Of Drugs”
News 85, Selected Questions & Answers
Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai
Hsihu, Formosa
June 27, 1995
(originally in English)

Q: I’m in theater, working with some artists and I also work with a lot of dancers, actors, actresses, musicians. I often see those people I work with; they often smoke pot, doing a lot of stuff just to get out of their own personal frustrations. Well, as an artist, we always want to be open-minded and try as many things as possible; but since I’m following the Quan Yin Method, I sometimes feel like I’m unable to do that. Of course I know that I shouldn’t do it, but sometimes they have this theory like, “Try something in order to be a good artist.” Sometimes I get very confused so I’d like to ask for Your suggestion and support.

M: These people, they are confused. They feel very empty in their lives. After they’ve tried all their best to please the public, of course then they are empty, and they don’t know where else to turn. When they call to Buddha, Buddha doesn’t answer; when they talk to Jesus, Jesus just hangs-in there. (Laughter) So then of course, they try something to quickly fill their emptiness inside. Any kind of work for the public gives you this empty feeling aftermath. You must know. That’s a great sacrifice that every artist must make.

Q: Should I change my career?

M: No. You have your Master, you have the Quan Yin Method. You have the meditation which is quicker than the pot to fulfill your inner satisfaction and peace. Why do you need these cheap substitutes? You tell them. You should lead them instead of letting them lead you. You are the light, you don’t follow the darkness. (Applause)

Q: Sometimes I just feel like I’m so alone among these people.

M: No. You’re not alone. You are there to lead them. You are there to bless them, you are there to give them what they don’t have, you are there to be their strength, because they are in darkness. You are the only light, and you want to dim yourself and go into the darkness too?! (Applause)

God put you there so that there is one light in the darkness. You talk to them, tell them there are better ways, more noble ways, less damaging, more fulfilling. They are lonely, they need you. You must be strong. Be thankful. Artists’ jobs are very noble. You make a lot of people happy, make their time pass quicker. When they watch a good movie, it’s educational. When they watch a good theatrical performance, it’s educational.

Of course, whenever we give, we empty out. That’s why they feel more lonely. Artist feel more lonely after the big applause from the people. They feel more empty. I know that. Every Sunday I know that. After every group meditation, I know that. I empty too. I empty everything out, so that you feel fulfilled and happy. But I often feel very lonely and empty, not to talk about artists. But I have to be strong. You have to be strong. We are there to be strong, for people to lean on. We are there to show the way, to be a beacon. Don’t be tempted to go the easy way. You’ll fall, then you will regret and bring a lot of people down with you. You know your mission, why you are there. You’re not only an artist, you are a saint. (Applause) I hope that it helps you.

You are a saint. Remember! Forget your outward mask as an artist. You are a saint in disguise to be there so people feel better. Talk to them about something more noble, more meaningful. Even though they reject you, their minds record. Give them more good recordings than what they have been recording up to now. Up to now, they have recorded all the negative things, so you have to replace that with better recordings for their minds. Whether they accept it or not, the mind still records it. Later, it will germinate, it will bear fruit. You don’t have to take credit for anything you do, just do it.

Every time you talk to someone or you please someone, even though it is very good, it takes something out of you. That’s for sure. That will be refilled later, only if you know that. But some people don’t know — takes longer. They want quick results. They feel such a tremendous rush of emptiness upon themselves and they just get confused, panick, and feel lonely. So other people tell them, “Oh! You just smoke this and you’ll feel in heaven.” They try that out of curiosity, out of weakness, out of frustration. Then they go down the hill and they cannot stand up anymore. That’s the problem.

Anything you can try, but how will your life be later? So we have to understand, every choice we make is free will, but the consequences are different. God lets you try anything you want. But because you have wisdom, you have to know what choices are good for you.

From “Confusion Of Artists”
News 85, Selected Questions & Answers
Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai
Group Meditation in Los Angeles, California, USA
July 13, 1997
(originally in English)

Q: What causes the problem of alcoholism? What causes it to arise in the alcoholic’s spirit?

M: There are many causes. First of all, a lot of people are weak, and they cannot resist the temptation to run away from problems. Instead of facing their problems, they run away. People run away from problems in different ways. Some people choose alcohol. Some people choose to literally run away from the scene of the problem, or from the person that they think is causing them problems, or embarrassment. Instead of solving problems with each other, talking with each other, they run away. They use any excuse, or go to any other house, visit any other friends, or do anything to run away, instead of talking. Or instead of making the person understand why he is angry, why she is angry, they just run away.

And some other people cannot talk, cannot run away, because they have no chance, no choice, or are too lazy to run away, and then they consume alcohol. Running away in the mind, pretending to be deaf and dumb to the world, they make a mess of themselves. And then, they make themselves worse, so people don’t even bother with them, or talk to them, and they just pretend to be dead. This is a way of running away from problems. These people are weak. That’s all. This is a sign of weakness.

Because we are all God’s children, we are so used to heavenly bliss over there in Heaven. And when we come here, nothing is to our liking. Everything is so terrible, everything is so hard on us. And then when we have a few more problems, we can’t bear it any more. Then we try to run away. We try to recover the peace that we once had in Heaven. And so we use all kinds of substitutes in order to shut out the problem. That’s it. So that’s alcoholism. And then they turn to alcohol, or drugs, or whatever, or women, or gambling. And also sometimes, bad spirits, ghosts, also possess them, and also make them drink, if they are weak. If they don’t believe in God too much, if they’re too prone to a kind of negative, dark thinking too much, then they attract the dark elements.

When I talk about spirits, it doesn’t necessarily mean ghosts. There are bad elements everywhere, as well as good elements. If we clean ourselves and become good, and our energy is good, then we attract more good energy, more positive elements and they surround us everywhere. And if we are bad, we are dark, then we attract more dark elements in the surroundings, in the atmosphere. Do you know where the dark elements come from, and where the good elements come from? From human society. When people think badly, they create the dark element, dark energy and woe to us. If we become dark, and susceptible to this kind of dark element, we say we are possessed by bad spirits.

If we are cleansed, we’re pure and we raise our thinking and spirit to a noble level, then we attract more noble energy, noble elements, from a noble group of people, whose thoughts are noble and elegant and beautiful. Then we attract that. So, say, if the people who are dark, who give in to the pressures of life and who want to run away, don’t elevate themselves, then they attract this kind of bad energy from people who generate bad thoughts. Because everything we think, everything we say, generates energy, and it hangs around in the air everywhere. And whoever belongs to that group catches that kind of thing.

So with the people who are alcoholic, sometimes it is like that. Or gamblers, I mean, addicts, they are like that. But don’t blame the spirits for anything. Blame yourselves. We have to choose. That’s why I say, “Choose your lifestyle.” You have to choose whatever you want to be. You have to choose it with all your might, or else you’re weakened. And then all the bad energy will overpower you, and then you can’t get up anymore. Once you are down, it’s difficult to get up. Choose your way of life. The way you have chosen is good already, so just continue to make it better and better. Then you will just attract better and better energy. That’s why your life has started to become better. It’s not due to me, it’s due to you. You’ve chosen a better way of life. You chose to walk in the sun, so you see the sun. If you choose to stay in a room, a dark room, you see darkness. It’s all your doing. I am not doing anything.

From “The Cause of Alcoholism”
News 105, Selected Questions and Answers
Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai
London, UK
August 26, 1997
(originally in English)

Q: How can we help others who have addictions to overcome them?

M: Like to drugs and alcohol? You should just encourage them if they want to, but they’ve got to help themselves. And if they’re trying to help themselves, you should encourage and support them as much as you can. But only they are the ones who can help themselves. You just stand by, support, and encourage. It’s very difficult. But if they really want to break a habit, it takes three weeks. Any habit can be broken in three weeks. So tell them to hang in there for 21 days. Then it’s done, whatever it is. You can break anything in three weeks’ time if you persist every day up to 21 days. If they can survive until that time, they will be finished with their addiction.

Q: What specifically should they do for those 21 days?

M: Abstain. Abstain from whatever gives the addiction. For example, if they are alcoholic, they should abstain from alcoholic beverages. Clear the refrigerator; stay away from drinking friends. Don’t even dream about a bar; even in a dream, don’t go near! Don’t circle around the liquor store. Anywhere they go shopping, they should just close their eyes and go directly to where they want something. For example, if they want butter, they should put their blindfold on and go directly to the butter only. And don’t look right or left, because there will be alcohol everywhere.

Meanwhile, they should substitute alcohol with the things that they like second-best, but are harmless. For example, if they love to watch movies, they should just watch them every time. If they like, they can chew chewing gum, to keep their mouth occupied. They can keep drinking: Any time they want to drink alcohol, they should just grab milk, soy milk or juice, as a substitute. And, if they used to drink alcohol from a certain bottle, they can put milk in that bottle and keep drinking from it. Substitute something that is also stimulating and interesting but not harmful. They should go to a lot of sports activities and meet with friends who are very supportive. They can see the doctor, change their environment, and maybe change jobs. Or, if there’s no need, maybe they can change something in their lifestyle. For example, if they have always wanted to play football but have never really taken time to do it — they can just do it now, you know, anything to occupy their time for the 21 days. And then they will forget all about it.

Friends are important, but good friends only. They should steer clear of their drinking friends. Of course, they can go to a yoga class or go swimming. Spiritual practice does help tremendously, such as yoga or meditation. Substituting the lower desire for a higher one makes them feel more elevated and worthwhile.

Most people drink because it’s become a habit. Also they feel that life is so boring that they keep drinking, and the more they drink, the less activity they have. Then the less activity, the more they’re bored. And so it continues, like a devil’s circle. They have to substitute this habit for something better. They have to think for themselves; for example, what made them feel good before, in their whole life, from childhood until now? What kind of activities gave them the most pleasure? Note it down, “Number 1.” What kind of people gave them the best support and happiness to be with? Note that down, “Number 2.” What kinds of places gave them a very, very good time, like a comfort zone of good memories? Note it down, “Number 3.”

And then they should make sure they have all these things at this time; it’s very important for them. Then their lives will be happy, fulfilling and interesting. They will have enough strength and aim to go forward, in order to forget their bad habit also. By just sitting there, trying to suppress themselves with no other substitution, they will kill themselves. It can be very, very tough. But if a person is so busy that at night he comes home and “drops dead,” even if alcohol is put right in front of him, he won’t have a chance to even grab it. He may try to, but he will fall asleep already in front of the bottle.

It’s similar for all of us, not just for addicted people. If you are having a tough time or going through a period where you’re depressed by anything, like maybe a broken heart, a love affair that just ended, or an unsuccessful business-anything that disappoints you or makes you depressed-just find a substitute for it right away. Sit down and think back as far as you can remember: What made you happy before? Who made you feel good? Which place triggered the best interest or feeling in your life? Go there, if possible. Meet those people who have common interests with you and who are good for you, who make you feel confident, make you feel loved, supported, and “buddy-buddy.” And do the things you used to do or you wanted to do, or that you’ve already tested and know they make you feel really good. So go for those things; busy yourself with all those interesting things and interesting people and interesting places. And then you’ll have no time to even think of alcohol.

Most of the time we drink or smoke because we’re bored or we’re anxious and we worry. The reason we’re anxious, bored or worried is because we are without the people we love and like; we are without the activities that interest us and give us pleasure; we are in places where we are depressed and where we don’t like the environment. So, the more you are depressed in that environment and without friends and without interesting activities, the more you drink or smoke or whatever. Hang on through the tough time. Twenty-one days are guaranteed to break any habit whatsoever, twenty-one days at the most, every time. You can break any habit in 21 days.

So you know why Shakyamuni Buddha went to sit under the Boddhi tree for 49 days? He was just making sure! (Master and audience laugh) Jesus also went to the desert for 49 days. Why 49 days? Seven sevens or seven threes. Remember how God made the world in seven days? He made a mess of it, but at least it was in seven days. So we can repeat this cycle with many of our activities in life, if we want to achieve something. That’s why sometimes we have a seven-day retreat. We could have it longer, but now we are having it. Whoever has time can just stay longer: 21 days or 49 days, and become a Buddha instantly. After a month and a half, the Center will be full of walking Buddhas (Audience laughs). Why not? In Tibet, the Buddhas (Tulkus) are running all over town. It means they have living Buddhas everywhere, so we can make some here. (Applause)

There’s a trap, however. When you are in this kind of depression or in need of something, it is very, very difficult to get up and go to the places that give you pleasure, to contact the people who make you feel loved and supported, or to go do the activities that bring you happiness. But do it! You just have to try it once. And once you get there, you’ll be happy you did.

Just tell people that. You have to make the effort just to begin; that’s it. The beginning is important. Once you begin, you will continue, because you will have all the pleasure and happiness again. You won’t remember the bad habits. You might still remember, but your day is now full of activities and interesting people — you do this, go there, talk about this, make jokes, hang together, have a party, and have fun. Then you don’t have time to think too much. You do think maybe, but less intensely than when you have nothing to do, with just a boring job and boring home to come to, and you’re friendless and lonely — that will kill you. Nobody can step out of an addiction that way, without support, without the happiness to substitute for it. You need people who interest you and make you feel good, places that bring you pleasure, and healthy activities that interest you or make you feel happy.

From “Tips for Breaking Habits”
News 125, Questions and Answers
Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai
Florida Center, USA
June 8, 2001
(originally in English)


The Five Precepts

1. Refrain from taking the life of sentient beings

2. Refrain from speaking what is not true

3. Refrain from taking what is not offered

4. Refrain from sexual misconduct

5. Refrain from the use of intoxicants

The Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

Master on Meditation

Meditation Questions & Answers

Helpful Tips for Meditation


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