One out of twelve people in this world is supposedly a drunkard…and it all starts with one social drink! As per the April 2013 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, reduction of alcohol consumption is an important cancer prevention strategy, as alcohol is a known carcinogen even when consumed in small quantities. Studies have consistently shown that alcohol consumption is a significant risk factor for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus and liver; more recent research has shown that alcohol also increases the risk of cancers of the colon, rectum and breast. As per estimates, alcohol accounts for about four percent of all cancer-related deaths worldwide. Drinking changes a person’s sense of time - the span of the present as well as the sense of relative importance of the present and future. The use of intoxicants is viewed as a hindrance to the development of an enlightened mind. Buddhist monks are expected to refrain from the consumption of any fermented or distilled beverages, since they could prevent mindfulness. Indeed, why would God condone the consumption of alcohol when it could lead to separation from Him? In Buddhism the Right View - which can also be translated as ‘right perspective’, ‘right outlook’ or ‘right understanding’ - is the right way of looking at life, nature and the world, to understand how our reality works. An understanding of Right View inspires the person to lead a virtuous life, free of the use of any intoxicants, through the mastery of the art of mindfulness.
Gambling is an addiction that devalues a human. The gambler within a person’s psyche tries to outrun the odds; in fact gamblers, in their hurry to ‘strike’, often attempt to outrun time! Once a gambling behaviour is ‘learned’, a gambler will keep playing at a high rate, even when the win rate is low. Winning soon becomes less important than playing. A gambler increasingly becomes self-centred and manipulative; he readily lies. His funds and luck finally run out, leaving him destitute in every sense. The separation from or rejection by society culminates in a frightening sense of unreality and emptiness within him. The sin of gambling has a bad effect on society. It promotes crime, as those who lose their money often take to stealing, or get drunk to drown out their sorrow. It contributes to greater poverty, as it entices even those who cannot afford it, to gamble. It leads to addiction, with many becoming obsessed with the hope of winning the jackpot. All these, in turn, put great stress on families, which results in more broken homes. Children of gamblers suffer from an acute lack of attention. In the Rigveda a gambler says, ‘My wife holds me aloof, my mother hates me’. The wretched man finds none to comfort him. Gambling has also been referred to as the ‘secret disorder’. Gamblers will rarely seek treatment for this disorder, unless forced by circumstances, or when they have reached a particularly low point in their lives. Even then, for some the addiction soon regains control.
A majority of gamblers are alcoholics, and a vast number of alcoholics may have a co-morbid gambling addiction, often undiagnosed. Two of my very close friends took their lives because of the great penury their families had to undergo, due to their failed gamble in the share market. Another friend, who owned a huge business empire, lost it all to gambling. Those caught in the vicious gambling (and invariably alcoholism) whirlpool often eat and sleep poorly, get no exercise and suffer depression and ill-health (like cardiovascular problems, headaches and gastro-intestinal illnesses). Those in their last throes experience little of their earlier adrenaline buzz or even a raised heartbeat; in fact their heart rates increase after they have finished gambling - indicating withdrawal effects.
If we live satisfied with our lot as providentially given to us, and positively work towards attaining our developmental goals in life, we will gradually grow into healthy sustainable natural beings. The problems arise when we try to bypass the ‘karmic cycle’ and attempt to take charge of the Universe’s control panel, because we think that we can control our destiny. Alcoholism and gambling are but two of the ‘consequences’ that we pick up on the way. Recovery from them is a gradual process. Like anyone who has had an unfortunate habit, dependency or addiction would know, it comes by keeping good association and by replacing a negative with something positive. We can live through each moment of our lives on this planet either submerged in the blind alley of addiction and self-destruction or soaked in the Divine light of love and compassion for all. This choice He has left on us.
Dr. Rajesh Bhola is President of Spastic Society of Gurgaon and is working for the cause of children with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities for more than 30 years. He can be contacted at email@example.com