Originally posted by ivanhoe
...... drink alcohol ?
Do they advise not to drink it ?
Do they forbid it ? Why ?
Is drinking alcohol compatible with trying to achieve "nirvana" ?
It totally depends on which denomination of Buddhism.
In Theravadin Buddhism, no alcohol for monastics, not advised for laymen either.
In Tibetan Buddhism, none for monastics, some lay practitioners may drink socially.
In Zen Buddhism, none for monastics, some lay practitioners may drink socially.
In Tantric Buddhism, the "left hand" non-monastic approaches, alcohol is not avoided and may even be "used" as a vehicle to test one's consciousness (though this is not recommended unless one is advanced in one's practice).
As for "alcohol and Nirvana," the two are not really related. Nothing in phenomenological reality is related to Nirvana, because it is the condition of being free of attachments to form. So alcohol is no more (or no less) compatible to attaining Nirvana than is money, sex, drugs, status, fame, or any of the other "ten thousand things" as Lao Tzu called them.
The key to Buddha's teaching is what he called "the middle path". This refers to moderation in all things, but not necessarily abstinence unless one is a monastic (monk or nun), or unless it's clearly in one's highest interests to abstain (as for example in the case of alcoholics or those with self-indulgent tendencies).
Buddha himself grew up as a pampered prince, freely indulging in everything. Round about age 30 he realized all this was getting him nowhere. He then saw a dead body, and became curious about death. He left his palace and for the first time he saw sickness, disease, poverty, etc. (his father, a minor king of northern India, had sheltered him from the world). Buddha was so disturbed by these things that he renounced his titles and wealth and became a wandering ascetic. He practiced extreme austerities for six years in the forest, including starving himself, and living totally destitute. But after six years of this he realized that such denial of life was not the answer either.
Near death from starvation a woman offered him some food, which he ate. He then sat under the famous Banyen tree and resolved not to move until he'd become fully enlightened. If was under this tree that he formulated the principles of his teachings, called the "Noble Eightfold Path", the basis of which is the "Middle Way". The Eightfold path consists of Right Knowledge, Right Aspiration, Right Effort, Right Speech, Right Livelihood, Right Behavior, Right Mindfulness, Right Meditation.
Nothing about Right Beer, or Light Beer for that matter, but most lay Buddhists I've known are not opposed to the odd cold one...