They are not critical for realization/awakening/enlightenment.
I grew up eating meat and I still eat meat. I have never stopped eating meat. Enlightenment revolves around realizing who/what you are…eating meat or not eating meat isn’t a factor in realizing this. If you feel you don’t want to eat meat, that is fine. If you feel you want to eat meat, that is fine.
Funny enough, if you give up meat because you think it will help awakening or you believe it is non-harming or being compassionate…this could turn into ego inflation and thus become another obstacle to enlightenment. I am now a better person because I don’t eat meat and I am now superior to those who eat meat…see what I mean?
Then if you visit a person’s house, do you expect them to then alter the foods they would normally prepare (if they eat meat) so they don’t serve you meat? If they forgot, you were served something with a little meat, and you didn’t know and ate the meat, would you hold it against them or yourself? This all potentially becomes a whole new egoic game.
Alcohol has never been something I have consumed much. I am kind of allergic to it…drinking alcohol usually makes me feel sick. I can drink a little sake. I don’t think it is a factor that you abstain from alcohol, but you have to realize it can be a distraction.
Like any intoxicant, it dulls the senses. Enlightenment is to see clearly. So if you spend your free time drinking, it will make realizing enlightenment more difficult. Also, alcohol is an escape for many. They are bored or sad or fearful, and they want to take a drink. This is becoming dependent on alcohol. Then that is just one more dependency that must be overcome. I have heard some say they are happy when they drink…but the trick is to be just as happy regardless if you drink or don’t drink.
For these various reasons, drinking alcohol in moderation is important. You don’t have to abstain from alcohol. If you feel you don’t want to drink alcohol, that is fine. If you feel you want to drink alcohol, that is fine. Like the previous (eating meat), if you abstain from alcohol because you believe that is what spiritual people do or it may help in awakening or whatever…again it could become a form of ego inflation because now you see yourself as superior to those who continue to drink alcohol.
Celibacy is also not a factor. I have been very selective, but not celibate by any means. Like alcohol, sex can be a distraction…and it also may inflate the passions and ego. If you are sad or bored, and decide to go look for someone to have sex…and feel that sex is what you need to be happy…then it is distracting from inherent happiness. You don’t need sex to be happy…but you don’t have to be celibate either.
But sex can be an expression of love in a relationship…and such an expression could help (to a degree). Love tends to dissolve the ego. But also think of tantra – they use everything (including sex) to awaken. Not that sex really is a path…but it is not the obstacle so many claim it to be. If you feel you don’t want to have sex, that is fine. If you feel you want to have sex, that is fine. Just don’t become dependent on sex or overly distracted by it. Perhaps try to use sex as a way to break the ego a bit (a union on multiple levels and a surrendering) instead of inflating ego and passions. Again, if you abstain from sex because you think you will be closer to God or Enlightenment…this could become ego inflation if you see yourself as superior to those who continue to have sex.
Put it this way, prior and post my own realization…I eat meat, drink alcohol, and have sex. So I would have to conclude that all three are not critical to realizing enlightenment.
I will also say it is a myth that everyone who is enlightened must have ceased all or any of these as well. It is a myth that none of the enlightened have sex. It is said they lack all desire (which is also a myth). What is lacking is the need and craving for sex…that you need sex to be happy. The enlightened are happy and content if meat, alcohol, and sex happen to be absent…but if available they are free to partake in it as well (if they want to).
These are not only not critical for awakening, but they are not even issues. There is no relation what-so-ever, to partaking or abstaining having any influence. In fact, this has just been another distraction from the real issue…the “I”. Who/what are you?