Use of drugs for meditation

Yeah, and thank god they did … :pray:
It was the beginning of a revolution, young people who refused to cut their hair, smoked pot and made love in the streets, - settled in small communes in harmony, growing vegetables and refused to take a normal job, - made dangerous music, and experimented with substances that can lead to having real religious experiences …
And of course, this couldn’t go on. But was it because these Hippies was all to blame, or could some of the hysteria from the powers that be, and their brutality used in getting control of the unruly masses have something to do with the cultural drug psychosis?

I do think that fear drives anger, and those forces combined within a clouded mind must result in psychosis. So did these people become psychotic caused by a substance, or was it because society drove them into their own kind of madnness?

I think a bit of both.

And when it comes to F up Buddhism, I’m not that sure about it either, because most of my brilliant western Ajahns was born and grew up in the 40/50/60-ties. Some are monastics, and some became lay-teachers, and I personally don’t know about their lifestyle, but many of them speak fine dhamma to my ear.

And personally, I thank all crazy Harvard professors, kind Hippies, poets and artists that gave me something completely different to listen to in my growing up. If not for them, I don’t think I could have come this far. They provided me with material to access my religious core, which nobody well-behaving conformist could do.

Dhamma from my origin:

Here’s the cure, walking meditation … :+1:

61 years going to the school of hard rocks :+1:

People who talk a lot, often have strong opinions about their truths, and most of that knowledge isn’t the direct kind that bears any truth to it, so they really don’t know. People who hardly raise their voices, I find often have a nice connection to stillness, so that when they say something it comes from true intelligence and direct knowing.

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This is a really interesting topic :slight_smile:

I have no issue with drugs - no moral stance on them. They can be used both skillfully and unskillfully.

But when I hear people advocating quite strenuously that they are useful for moving forward on the Path, I think that in 99.9% of cases this is not true.

Mostly I think that there is a profound misunderstanding of what Samadhi is and what it is used for. If one relies on psychedelics to loosen up the normally concrete-hard conceptual processes of the mind - it is just an external experience. There is no insight into how the mind works. What happens is that View conditions perceptions and interpretations of the experiences. Without Right View, the interpretations are not in line with the Dhamma. The problem becomes that people are so convinced by the experience that they believe that what they have ‘perceived/interpreted/fabricated’ is the Truth.

This is the opposite of the way Samadhi works. Samadhi allows one to penetrate that ‘what one perceives’ is NOT the truth. It leads to understanding, wisdom and letting go. Once one has seen that Samadhi is conditioned, and understands the processes, then one begins to see with clarity and break through delusion. I believe that psychedelics lead to greater delusion. Now they may feel great and they may be useful in certain contexts for certain people, but the results should not be confused with the Path of Practice.

There is also the position that if one is led by someone who has Right View, then they can be led to a range of insights. Well this is ‘better’ than being left to whatever view the person has, but still then this experience is entirely constructed/fabricated by the leader (are you positive they have Right View?). It gives the interpretation of the experience and the person may believe it… But again instead of highlighting the impermanence, and not self nature of the mind, of penetrating the depth to which conditioning and Dependent Arising create our world, there is the assumption of some kind of reality and Truth… something that is accepted as real - after all one has EXPERIENCED it for oneself, how could one have doubts any longer?? That is the problem. Instead of resulting in Nibida (unsatisfactory, impermanent, unreliable, subject to grasping) for how the sense bases and consciousnesses work, it makes one feel that one has had access to ‘the real truth’.

Having a psych background I’ve always been interested in these things. Indeed, hearing more and more about the current wave, I even took some for an experiment a little while back to compare the effects of it with Samadhi. My impression can be described by a simile. Say that our conceptual mind is encased in hard wax, the psychedelic serves to soften that wax somewhat. SO the conditions and View at the time of the experience is what completely determines what is perceived - good trips, bad trips etc etc. It was interesting with the visuals, it was like eye consciousness became detached and just did its own thing separate from the functioning of the (internal/external) sense base of the eye - quite irrelevant, interesting sort of but - meh…
With regards to the joy that many people talk about experiencing- it was certainly there, but it was nothing like the bright pure joy from samadhi, it was ‘dirty/hazy’ sort of smokey dull… Perhaps if one had never experienced anything like it, it might be very attractive (maybe even feel transcendent compared to the experience of daily dukkha) - but really not much compared to Samadhi. It also leaves one with a ‘hangover’, rather than the pure energy, brightness and clarity of samadhi. I won’t ever be taking it again, it’s just totally not worth it. But the experiment was worthwhile. It enabled a comparison rather than just theorizing and propounding ones own position.

My own belief is that people for whom samadhi does not come easily, or at all, sort of convince themselves that this poor facsimile somehow is a legitimate replacement for it. I cannot imagine that if anyone had a choice between samadhi and a psychedelic trip that they would ever choose the latter.

The sad thing is that, IMO, as a result they are putting in the conditions that will make it harder to get to samadhi… Chasing what appears to be a good short term option, or a short cut, they hinder the conditions for proper development of Samadhi.

Of course for those using it in a therapeutic manner, for ordinary people not on the Path, it can be of benefit.

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Stanislav Grof in his book “LSD Psychotherapy” presents research based on his 5000 clinically approved, observed and documented, therapeutic (and some very powerful) sessions with LSD (when it was still legal), and none of his patients ended up with schizophrenia or any mental problems. Pretty much all of them reported positive change in their lives. The book also shows how many of psychedelic experiences are very difficult and challenging but if there is proper guidance leads to deep healing. There are four matrix of unconscious according to Grof:

  1. Mother womb (heavenly bliss)
  2. Birth (hell)
  3. Birth canal (hell but light in the tunnel)
  4. Rebirth - (heavenly bliss)

To go through the process you need to complete the whole journey, which btw. is what initiation for a shaman truly means in some traditions. So people who might be considered schizophrenic after psychedelic use are either people who had latent schizophrenia already, or from Grof’s perspective are people who didn’t complete this particular journey to the end. Such journeys happen only on high doses and over long periods of time, oftentimes on many separated trips, when the next one is continuation of the last. According to Grof, experienced guide is essential. In psychedelic therapy, the therapist is the guide, in indigenous use, shaman was in this role.

Grof in his sessions chose people well (who according to some psychological study didn’t had latent psychosis or schizophrenia) and did completed their journey - that’s why effects were so positive and didn’t left anyone “in the dark” even tho such many sessions were conducted.

Stanislav Grof - LSD Psychotherapy, Hunter House 1977.pdf (22.9 MB)

I highly recommend reading this book before criticizing this method. I think this is by the way one of the best texts on nature of the mind outside of the Buddhist tradition. I would say Stanislav Grof is such a figure for psychedelic culture like someone like Ajahn Chah is for Buddhism. If you seek knowledge about certain tradition/method, I suggest learning from the best in the subject like him. Grof really knows this subject as few people on this planet.

I will just add, that for example Shipibo tribe, is a tradition of 5000 years old use of very powerful psychedelics, where shamans use it for lifetime and dedicate their life to this spiritual path. It is completely different thing having occasional trip than delving really deep into this. Psychedelics, just like meditation, is like a lotus flower that opens up with time, and in indigenous use was almost always connected with other spiritual practices. It is different path for sure.

Of course there will be people who create certain hybrids. I find it a little shocking as well that people use Ayahuasca on Buddhist retreats and I’m not sure if these two things mix up well together in one event… I certainly feel better when this things are separated, and individuals on their own may choose to use both methods if they want to, but in a different time and place. But I’m not the one to judge anything. Good? Bad? Who knows?

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I have huge respect for him!

Thank you for sharing this, and I agree that drugs of any kind, will never be able to touch Samadhi, for how utterly strong, pure and clean Samadhi is, when done right. Samadhi, when done right (and it’s of course contingent on causes and conditions), is an exceedingly, exceedingly clean “high” (and here I reluctantly set aside the deeper reasons for, and benefits from the Samadhi, reluctantly referring to the raw feeling of it), such that there’s really no fair comparison to drugs. It’s apples to oranges. Drugs would fall away from one’s life if one could see this disparity, and there would be no academic tapdancing in an attempt defend them. The Marcus Aubreys of the world would be accused of yelping like a jackal, when they meant to roar like a lion. Or peeping like a chick, instead of singing like a cock.

Clinical treatments, as a justification for using these drugs? Ok, I suppose, for those who have clinically diagnosed problems, and take them under clinical supervision and control of some sort.

The most ardent anti-smokers are people who have smoked themselves :slight_smile: Quite some monastics used to smoke pot before they ordained and just so you know, quite some surgeons are on coke. So let’s not be too hard on others when we still remember the taste of space cake ourselves.

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Btw. to chill out a little, if you wondered how a curandero looks like, here you can hear and see Maestra Olivia. Not a really scary figure. :slight_smile: :yellow_heart: [Monastics please beware, it might be considered singing so might go under the precept, but I think it should be considered chanting, because Ikaros are sacred Shipibo healing songs :slight_smile: ]

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Lets not get caught up in making judgements about the ‘absolute’ value of each thing. There is lots of evidence about the efficacy of psychedelics for use in certain purposes, or for a Shamanist path… But this is not the Buddhas Path. They are different things. It is when one tries to hybridize them that the problems begin.

The two are separate things, with different objectives and methods. They might both involve ‘mind states’, but it pretty much ends there. If you want to follow the Shaman route, fine. If you want to follow the Noble 8 fold Path, fine. Just don’t confuse them, or think that bits from each can replace bits of the other… this is cherry picking in line with ones own preferences and beliefs (part of the problem from the Buddhas perspective).

There is really no basis to compare them … they are different paths. they would only be comparable if they purported to have the same destination - only then could one compare the merits of each in getting to that same destination. But they don’t have the same destination. But one can compare the ‘joy’ arising from taking a drug, with the ‘joy’ arising from experiencing Samadhi. Just like I can compare the sweetness of eating a mango, with that of eating chocolate, or how refresed one feels after natural sleep as compared to sleep resulting from a sleeping pill.

The Buddhas objective was to fundamentally put an end to suffering, and ending re-birth. His solution was implementing the conditions for the taming of the mind , ending defilements, penetrating delusion, destroying ignorance and eradicating craving. This is very specific.

The Buddha explored other paths at the time and rejected them as not delivering the objective. He said he had discovered the Path to achieve his objectives - Enlightenment of the Samma Sam Buddha - and his instructions are very clear… put them in place and one has the possibility in experiencing for oneself what the Buddha was pointing to through his teachings. It’s not complicated - it may not be easy, but the instructions are clear.

However, wanting the same results and not putting in place the required conditions, will lead you somewhere else. That’s all. Nothing controversial here. Really the fundamental principle (or universal law if you have confidence in the Buddha) underpinning all this, is that of Dependent Origination/Cessation.

I’d be very interested to hear the perspective of Bhante @sujato on this subject, if he has the time. :pray:

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No doubt there couldn’t be a clearer contradiction of the precepts. I see this as another manifestation of a self-serving type of spirituality. Unfortunately, due to a very negative and common idea of Buddhism as a laissez-faire, laissez-passer subjectivism, this has become commonplace. I do share your feelings of disgust at this.

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As we go further and further from the time the Buddha preached the Dhamma, it’s only natural that the teachings become impure and diluted. It’s pretty sad to read, but really all we can do, imho, is to be well-practiced upasikas and upasakas, well-practiced bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, and to embody the Dhamma as best as we can to the fullest expression we can. That way those who have “little dust in their eyes” who can give rise to wholesome states of mind and even stream-entry, at least, can find purer and kinder examples of the practice.

I think too there’s something very Christian towards the shaming of drug use or the “high bar of morality” we tend to have towards these things. Being around wholesome and moral people are the best steps towards enlightenment, but the precepts are training rules…if I’m not mistaken it’s taking refuge in the Buddha that’s the first step.

If people have faith in the Triple Gem arise in them even through this distorted teaching, then when we encounter them wouldn’t it be more useful to gently support those who still struggle with seeing drug-use as beneficial, to gently guide them to seeing the dangers of such a practice, and to be, if you can handle it, a more wholesome influence in their lives?

Instead of the shaming. Although I understand the anger that arises from seeing the Dhamma distorted in its way, idk I think it helps to remember that the Dhamma is for those who are still deluded and to act with the Dhamma in mind as a cure.

Just my thoughts as someone who has worked closely and existed with homeless folks, drug addicts, and other transient people who encounter the Dhamma through these New-Agey spaces, who are in deep pain and are simply trying to alleviate their suffering.

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I think it’s the same trap that we hear from both teachers and experienced practitioners, - that’s fine, now let go!

Blockquote when I reflected on my trips with LSD and other psychedelics, I saw that after a glimpse of the possibility of transcendence, I continued tripping only to reassure myself that the possibility was still there. Seeing the possibility is indeed different from being the possibility. Sooner or later you must purify and alter your mind, heart, and body so that the things which bring you down from your experiences lose their power over you. Psychedelics could chemically override the thought patterns in your brain so that you are open to the moment, but once the chemical loses its power the old habit patterns take over again. With them comes a subtle despair that without chemicals you are a prisoner of your thoughts.

I wake up in the morning after the bell rings once, hearing it one more time won’t make me more awake.

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If your intentions is pure. And you where a long time meditator. It will not do you harm.

And it must be done only when you needed. Meaning healing. I think if you are in a karma, the universe will naturally send you to the people that do this practice in samsara. They are medicine if seen with proper understanding. I believe it’s because what Buddha said. Groups of people come together because same elements. With a pure mind you will get insight. But once that happens Like a naturally event in your life. I say get out. Because keep doing it kinda is a trap. If you no longer in need of it. But see this way we all been in this samsara doing every kind of path. So who of us didn’t take this path once? Think about it. :woozy_face:

Hmmm… how many times must someone enter a state of altered Consciousness before realizing that no matter how wonderful the experience may be in the moment, it is ultimately Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta? At what point does the excitement and interest in the ‘next great thing’ turn into disgust, dispassion and letting go?

I guess this differs from person to person. The best and the brightest don’t necessarily need to stick their finger in the socket… they manage to learn from observing the experiences of others.

:laughing:

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Everyone’s got different inclinations for sure. Doesn’t make one better than the other–it’s all just suffering. One can be the bestest and brightest but if one hasn’t untangled the fetters–that doesn’t matter. And if one has untangled the fetters–even the “lowliest” once they untangle the fetters have equal attainment as the “best” who untangled it first.

I can think of a highly important perspective on one indeed “being better than the other”. Which kind of elderly person would you prefer to be around, and take care of? The kind who still has a bright, sharp mind, because they took good care of their brain their whole life? Or an elderly person with very poor memory, who is much, much higher maintenance because of all that copious weed they smoked earlier on (and the problem was by and large avoidable)?

Or here’s another case. Which parent do you think a very young child would rather have (if they magically had the option to choose, and magically had a mature view of the situation)? A parent who does no recreational drugs, and is emotionally available to a high degree, or a parent who does recreational drugs on a regular basis, perhaps not right in front of the young child, but then being in the subsequent “Sketchy Sunday” emotionally-drained state around the child on a regular basis, depriving the child of the emotional availability they need for proper emotional development - as Dr. Gabor Mate above can explain in fine detail (he explains “attunement” or lack of “attunement” very well).

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You’re a surgeon I believe. Presumably, nay hopefully, your patients benefit from legal, responsible and competent use of appropriate anesthetics for pain management; excitement does not feature as a motivation.

I wouldn’t blame the child in your example for seeking comfort elsewhere.


Would we deny a drowning individual a flotation aid? Maybe. Let them sink beneath the waves to serve as an example, all the while condemning them for not knowing how to swim.

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That’s a harsh way to frame it. That kind of “tough love” should be used very sparingly I say, and only under carefully-considered circumstances - not as any sort of mainstay method of teaching (and that would be, IMHO, a case of subscribing to the view of “crazy wisdom”). And I speak from vast experience here, being subjected to it personally.

I don’t deny that many spiritual seekers start their spiritual journeys with the perspective-broadening assistance of drugs - so is that valuable change in perspective something we can dispraise? Clearly, without such experimentation, we would have far fewer Western Buddhists whatsoever. So while the benefits in that sense are clearly there - when approached ever so carefully - what all too often also happens is that a very fine line is crossed where the horizon-broadening benefits are gone past, and it becomes spiritually damaging. It’s a very easy mistake to make - even by those who like to believe they did all sorts of homework about dosage sizes, safety precautions, etc. So it becomes this very double-edged sword.

Did I ever categorically say “never do drugs”? No I didn’t, so please don’t imply those words came out of my mouth. All I say is “watch out for the double-edged sword, which is statistically likely to actually cut you, sometimes rather severely”, from what I’ve seen. There’s no “unseeing” all the damage of this sort, which I’ve seen over the years. The proof is in that pudding.

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I always get a feeling of something familiar in discussions of this type. There seems to be an underlying assumption or a kind of understanding that since all views are to be abandoned eventually, all views are either equally valid or equally pointless and therefore have to be treated on the same footing.
I don’t subscribe to that currently. Whether it is a specific situation or a general principle, some views and thought patterns and behaviors cause increase in unwholesome qualities, whether overtly or strengthening underlying tendencies. They have to be abandoned eventually, sooner rather than later. Some behaviors most definitely give rise to wholesome qualities or at the very least have a minimal chance of sustaining unwholesome qualities. They have to be developed.
I know this sounds overly simplistic and not nuanced and sophisticated but given what is at stake, why play with fire?

All those are “preferable” and not “better,” where I’m taking better as an assumption that there is more value in one versus another.

I’m also offering this perspective to shift conversations about drug use away from blame and shame and towards compassionate understanding.

Yes it’s difficult to be around the non-virtuous examples you gave–one can respond compassionately in one of two ways: extricate yourself if possible as much as you can OR if you have capacity, to be a support for this person if they are trying to change.

Ultimately I’m not here to convince you to take my stance nor do I want to take your stance as I don’t see any usefulness in it for sharing Dhamma or building faith in others. To me, this perspective you share only leads back to shame instead of the truly useful thing…which is to realize the danger in drug use or any not-virtuous habit, really.

Because that’s not how deluded human minds work, imo. A lot of us should be able to let go of romance or sex or television or video game or music because those are also inherently dangerous–less “dangerous” than drugs because of current society for sure, but all lead to intense states of addiction. Just my thoughts :man_shrugging:

If one has been marinated to the core in a dysfunctional environment, then the fire may seem like home, so to get out of the fire one must fire a torpedo into one’s mind.

Short sharp shock :boom: