In ancient times alcohol was often believed to have divine origins, to be “a gift of the gods” and is still used in the rituals of some religions. Buddhism took a far more realistic view of alcohol’s beginnings. According to a legend in the Jatakas a fruit tree with a fork in its main trunk once grew in a certain forest. Rain water and ripe fruit would collect in a hollow in the fork and, warmed by the sun, the resulting concoction would turn into a crude natural ale. One day a forester came across a flock of happy drunk birds and discovering that their inebriation was due to drinking the concoction, became the first person to discover and introduce alcohol into the world.
The Buddha’s main objection to alcohol and indeed to all recreational drugs was that it befuddles consciousness thus making mental development difficult. He also often warned against alcohol’s negative social effects. Consequently abstaining from all recreational drugs including alcohol is the last of the five Precepts that all Buddhists are expected to practice.