Question: I’ve heard you say that everything is all right in moderation. Can you speak more about that, and does it apply to drinking alcohol and smoking?

Swami Satchidananda: There is a saying, in the Tirukkural, one of the oldest spiritual texts in Tamil, “You can even tell a lie if it doesn’t hurt anyone, and if it brings some benefit to somebody.” So, whatever you do in life, let there be no harm to anyone, and some benefit to someone.

God created everything for a purpose, even poison. Don’t we use poison in medicine? If you don’t know how to use it, you can kill yourself. Alcohol, by itself, is not bad, but what is the purpose? Will it bring you some benefit? Oh, just a little bit is okay for me. The problem is that you don’t stop with just a little bit. That is only the first step and the next time, a little more, and again, even a little more. It doesn’t stay within the limit.

The ultimate goal in doing anything should be that it does some benefit, and no harm. We don’t have that benefit in drinking alcohol. And alcohol is not natural. When you dig a well, do you get alcohol? It is man-made. Everything in nature is always good, if you know how to use it properly. In homeopathy, all kinds of poisons are used in the remedies. One example is cobra snake poison. Nature or God has never created anything dangerous, anything that will hurt us, if we know how to use it. If fire is used for cooking it’s good, but if you use it to burn a building it’s bad. An ordinary pen-knife, is it good or bad? Cut a fruit, it’s good; cut a throat, it’s bad. Electricity, good or bad? Plug in a lamp and you get light; plug in your finger—not good! That means we should know how to use everything properly: it shouldn’t hurt anyone and it should bring some good to somebody or something.

Because alcohol doesn’t bring any good to anyone, and the amount that one drinks keeps going up, we advise that you do not drink it. Smoking is another example. If God wanted your lungs to be filled with smoke, God would have created a plant with cigarettes growing on it. Keep that in mind.