The majority of Buddhists try to follow the Five Moral Precepts, in order to aid them in following the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold path is the way the Buddha left behind in order for others to achieve enlightenment. Taking drugs would be directly against the claims of the Five Moral Precepts, which tell Buddhists not to take intoxicating substances, like alcohol, caffeine or any other drug. This is because it clouds the mind and Buddhists focus on clearing the mind through mediation. Taking drugs would undo all this work. They also believe that taking drugs will then lead to bad decisions which might lead to breaking the actions on the Noble Eightfold Path, such as saying ‘bad things’ rather than ‘good things’ (see ‘Right Speech’).
There is nothing in the Bible that directly bans the use of drugs for recreational reasons. For this reason, as with many ethical issues, Christians need to interpret other teachings in the Bible and apply them. For example,
- St. Paul teaches that ‘your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit’ and that ‘anyone who destroys God’s Temple, God will destroy him’. This suggests if you deliberately harm your body then God will not be pleased!
- The Book of Proverbs contains a great deal of advice against drunkenness and the mistakes to which it can lead. Many Christians think that drugs, even if not bad in themselves, can lead to mistakes being made.
- Christians are taught follow the laws of the country they are in (Jesus taught ‘Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’), so if drugs are illegal they should not use them.
However, Alcohol is permitted in Christianity, especially as part of Mass. Jesus commanded his followers to drink wine in memory of his blood which was spilled for them. Many Christians are part of the ‘temperance’ movement, such as Methodists, who encourage their ministers and congregations not to drink.
There are no specific teachings in Hinduism that tell people not to take drugs. The focus in Hinduism is on a personal journey towards Moksha (release from Samsara, the cycle of life, death and rebirth). That means that Hindus must be free to practise their dharma (duty) in the way they see fit. There are two broad schools of thought in Hinduism:
- Some believe that drugs cloud the mind and lead to bad decisions. If you take drugs you are unlikely to achieve your dharma, you will lose kharma and move away from Moksha. For this reason drugs are frowned on.
- Others, such as Shivite monks, use natural herbs (similar to cannabis) in order to access ‘higher’ planes of consciousness and aid in meditation. Depending which yoga you follow, such as Jnana Yoga (which focuses on spiritual and emotional awakening), you might pursue this through the use of drugs, as actions are less important in this yoga.
All intoxicants, including alcohol, are haram (impure) in Islam. Muslims believe that these cloud the mind and take a person away from Allah. They can also lead to breaking other religious rules while under the influence of these drugs. For this reason most Muslims do not use drugs or drink alcohol.
The Book of Genesis, at the start of the Torah, contains the idea of Stewardship – that our bodies (and the world) are on loan from God, and thus we should look after them. Taking drugs might damage our bodies and this would disrespectful to God’s creation.
However, wine is used in many Jewish ceremonies, such as Shabbat and Pesach. Jews are also commanded to become so drunk they cannot tell if they are cursing Haman or praising Mordechai (see the Book of Esther) during the festival of Purim. However, this is once a year and Jews do not condone regular drunkenness.
Khalsa Sikhs, that is, initialled Sikhs who have taken the vows of their religion (see the story of Vaisakhi), have promised not to take drugs, smoke or drink alcohol. This is because it is a distraction from the pursuit of a good life. Guru Nanak spoke specifically about the evils of tobacco in the Reht Maryada, in a story in which he kills a wild tobacco plant. Sikhs should focus their minds on serving God and other people, and not be distracted by drugs.
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