As regards booze and meditating, I have spent a lot of time listening to and reflecting on the teachings of Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Ajahn Geoff), and one of the things that he stresses is that if you want to withdraw from stuff like alcohol use and other addictions, it really is best to use meditation to create strong states of pleasure in both body and mind. Forgive me if I'm rehashing things you've already heard, but he's one of the few Western monks in the Thai Forest Tradition that I know of that puts a marked emphasis on the gradual development of a regular practice of jhana as a practical goal. I've never been drunk in my life and am a teetotaler, so I can't speak to that, but I am celibate and have used meditation to uphold that discipline, and I would say that, as much as you may have heard it repeated, it really is essential to have a daily meditation practice, because otherwise, when the chips are down, you won't have the sense of inner strength and rapture that will allow you to avoid breaking a precept. If, however, you gain that sense of stability and meditative pleasure that permeates not only your mind but even your body (I've felt it as a pleasant and gentle "electric hum" that goes throughout my body but feels strongest at the extremities), your mind will not feel pressured by things outside, and it will be able to resist a lot of its own crazy ideas.
I hope that wasn't just a repeat of stuff you've heard before. I lurk this thread every couple of weeks and thought this would be a good time to share my thoughts with you. I've been a Buddhist for almost three and a half years now, and will have a future (if I live that long) as a Theravada bhikkhu, so I consider the Dhamma to be the most important thing in my life by far.
(If you're interested in listening to Thanissaro Bhikkhu's teachings, here's a url: dhammatalks.org He adheres closely to the Theravada tradition alone, and he also keeps very high Vinaya standards at his own monastery. You can find essays, books, and translations by him all over Dhamma Talks
and at Access to Insight.)
P.S.: I noticed you guys discussing the Dhammakaya movement. They're a cult, as far as I can tell. They've gone through legal problems because of their unscrupulous finances, and they have an eccentric interpretation of the Dhamma that mainly focuses on how AWESOME their eccentric interpretation is compared to the traditional approach. Don't pay them any mind.
edited 30th Sep '12 4:09:47 PM by ThDaSu