Drinking trends in the Theravada Buddhist world

This is the third installment on Alcohol and the Theravada Buddhist World.

I decided to take a closer look against the ring of countriesĀ that constitute the Theravada Buddhist world, in the context of alcohol consumption. Theravada Buddhism takes a relatively hard stance on drinking alcohol (or any mind-altering substances, for that matter) so it was quite interesting to see great variation in consumption patterns among these countries. At one end of the spectrum was Laos, whose citizens, both male and female, embrace alcohol. At the other end of the spectrum was Burma, the least likely to drink of the bunch.

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Alcohol in the Theravada Buddhist context

This is the second installment on Alcohol and the Theravada Buddhist World.

Theravada?

Theravada Buddhism is often dubbed the most orthodox of the Buddhist sects, especially as it is the oldest surviving branch of Buddhism. The word Theravada, of Pali origin, literally means “doctrine of the elders.” As with other Buddhist practitioners, Theravadins tend to be relatively fluid in terms of devotion and practice. For instance, it’s not uncommon to see a Theravadin devotee make offerings to a Mahayana Bodhisattva like Guanyin.

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A preface of sorts: examining alcohol consumption in Burma and beyond

This is the firstĀ installment on Alcohol and the Theravada Buddhist World.

My curiosity into this topic was first piqued when I saw an infographic on Facebook that ranked alcohol consumption among ASEAN countries: Burma was second to last, only rivaled by Indonesia, a Muslim country. My general impression was that Burma’s relative isolation, alongside Theravada Buddhism — more orthodox than its Tibetan and Mahayana counterparts (Tibetan Buddhism and Japanese Buddhism have more lenient perspectives on alcohol consumption)–was the underlying driving force, the explanation for this observation.

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