Psychedelics And Buddhism - Do They Mix?

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Psychedelics And Buddhism


The use of psychedelic drugs as part of the practice of Buddhism is receiving renewed interest as of late. What is it about this religion and the use of mind-altering drugs that seems so enduringly popular? And are you really a Buddhist if you use them?

There have been numerous treatises written on the topic of Buddhism and psychedelics. Why? Many people, particularly in the West, have found their way to this belief system through psychedelic experiences.

Buddhism is a religion of sorts that is by definition a bit hard to describe. It originated in India from the teachings of a man known as Gautama Buddha, among other names. It has roots in the other great Indian religion - Hinduism. It is a way of thought that attempts to relieve humans from endless suffering. Its fundamental tenant? Only by giving up temporal attachments can we find peace, if not enlightenment. From there on out, there are many branches of the way.

Buddha is thought to have been a prince or influential man in a rich community. After an academic upbringing, he turned to asceticism. From there, to teacher. In his lifetime, he began to amass followers. They, in turn, began to spread his teachings into history.

Through meditation and a focus on the present, Buddhists can “find their way.” And that is often when practitioners turn to psychedelics as a key to unlock the depths of the experience.

But is the use of psychedelics truly following the teachings of Buddhism?

ARE PSYCHEDELICS A “GATEWAY” TO BUDDHISM?

Are Psychedelics A “gateway” To Buddhism?

There are many arguments for and against this idea. Buddhism teaches against the use of externalities to attain enlightenment. It also argues against the “craving” of anything, including a “religious” experience, or a drug to open the door to it.

Nirvana is the attainment of a place of ultimate happiness. It is a place where endless rebirths and pain do not happen. In some understandings, it is the pinnacle of life. In others, it is time at which “self” becomes one with others. And it is here in particular that psychedelics, particularly LSD, begin to enter the picture.

The process of being selfless is one of the major features of psychedelic drugs, and it is in this altered state that many people begin to examine the experience through the lens of this Eastern religion and philosophy.

DID BUDDHA USE PSYCHEDELICS?

Did Buddha Use Psychedelics?

This is an interesting question. He might well have used some psychedelic drugs. The use of somatic drugs was a common part of regional religions. It is certainly possible that he also experimented with psychedelics during his seeking phase. When he established himself, he placed a ban on mind-altering substances.

That said, so what? Buddha was just a man, not a god. If your own personal Nirvana is enabled by a psychedelic trip, who is ultimately to judge you?

WHY IS THERE A RENEWED INTEREST IN THIS ISSUE?

Why Is There A Renewed Interest In This Issue?

There are several reasons why this issue is à la mode at present. The first is a bit of a cultural revival. These ideas were first popularised with the Beat generation. That period is recycling again in cultural discourse. There is massive discontent brewing culturally and generationally. This is true everywhere.

Millennials are looking for new answers. Boomers are seeking spiritual enlightenment. One of the resulting trends? A renewed interest in Eastern religions. The other intersecting one? The rebirth of interest in both cannabis and psychedelic drugs, including for medical purposes. This includes treating so-called “psychiatric” disorders like depression.

In turn, this inspires many to consider the combination of both Buddhism and psychedelic drugs - shrooms and LSD in particular. Those who incorporate such drugs into their spiritual practices are also those who frequently adopt a full lifestyle path; this includes the practice of yoga, too.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness of the present, despite external changes is one of the most “modern” aspects of Buddhism. Letting go of the past and living in the moment, selflessly, is a concept that appeals to this generation, at least in theory. If the ability to feel enlightened is enabled by psychedelic substances, so what? Especially if it helps you attain other goals.

Attitudes really are changing about drugs this time around. Legislation is influencing this, as is social media. So is increased scientific understanding about how the brain and body function together in the presence of psychoactive substances.

Marguerite Arnold

Written by: Marguerite Arnold
With years of writing experience under her belt, Marguerite dedicates her time to exploring the cannabis industry and the developments of the legalisation movement.

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