Entheogens and Buddhism

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Moth
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by Moth » Sat Jan 28, 2012 7:34 pm

edited.
Last edited by Moth on Wed Oct 19, 2016 2:36 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Cittasanto
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by Cittasanto » Sat Jan 28, 2012 8:00 pm

Moth wrote:
the produced result is intoxication, which is a state of heedlessness
Alcohol produces an effect that is obviously careless, carefree, uninhabited, etc. So does opium, so does datura, so does cocaine, etc. Psychedelics produce quite the opposite, you are ultra-aware. If you performed an immoral act whilst on psychedelics the realization of what you had done, and the effect it has had/is having on yourself and others would be exponentiation a hundred-fold. If you did the same thing on alcohol you could quite easily brush it off without a moment's remorse. You simply cannot lump these two things together under the same definition of producing "carelessness/heedlessness" because they are drastically different. That being said, I do not endorse psychedelics, my point is that you are dismissing them for the wrong reason and thus the OP is going to disregard this kind of advice as it contradicts his own experience.
So they don't bring about hallucinations i.e.visuals with open or closed eyes, or distorted perceptions, altered states of mind?
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Moth
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by Moth » Sat Jan 28, 2012 8:04 pm

edited.
Last edited by Moth on Wed Oct 19, 2016 2:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by Ron-The-Elder » Sat Jan 28, 2012 9:59 pm

1q2aw3 wrote:I am by no means propagating usage of psychedelics etc etc.

For those who know how does it work. How do you think taking entheogens affects karma? Would you as followers of Buddhism would be for or against the usage of them?
The idea is to learn how your own mind works, and then to gain control of it, and teach it how to behave in accordance with The Noble Eight Fold Path, for the express purpose of ending our suffering.

What would be the point of doing anything to increase our suffering?

It should be intuitively obvious that is the wrong way to go. Some would say such actions are non-beneficial if not insane. :rolleye:
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by Cittasanto » Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:03 pm

Moth wrote:
So they don't bring about hallucinations i.e.visuals with open or closed eyes, or distorted perceptions, altered states of mind?
This is hardly the point.
that is exactly the point in the context of as a follower of the Buddha.

an intoxicant intoxicated doesn't matter if it is to the left or to the right, it intoxicates.

and the Buddha says...
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
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Ben
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by Ben » Sun Jan 29, 2012 12:11 am

My experience with these drugs is that they are very far from states arrived at via meditation. The hallucinogens distort one's own perception of reality and leave one believing that the distorted perception is akin to seeing things as they really are.
While some hallucinogens have been used in some traditional cultures as part of their spiritual lives it appears to me completely contrary to the Noble Path expressed by the Buddha. Further, I interpret the fifth precept to cover such substances as intoxicants.
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Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by Lazy_eye » Sun Jan 29, 2012 5:25 am

Viscid wrote: It's quite a different experience from alcohol-- it feels like 'cheating' your way into absorption. I highly doubt The Buddha would have encouraged his monks to trip balls.
Yes, I doubt that too. And, just to be clear, I'm not endorsing use of LSD or any other drug.

Still, if we assume -- as many neuroscientists are inclined to do -- that mental experiences have a chemical basis, then logically we'd have to conclude that some of the states achievable during meditation could (in theory) be generated artificially. Likewise, it's possible that meditators are learning to manipulate their own brain chemistry in a way that produces particular effects -- rapture, for example.

Psychedelics can generate mental experiences that bear some resemblance to the "supranormal powers" described in the suttas:
Having been one he becomes many; having been many he becomes one. He appears. He vanishes. He goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space. He dives in and out of the earth as if it were water. He walks on water without sinking as if it were dry land. Sitting cross-legged he flies through the air like a winged bird. With his hand he touches and strokes even the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful. He exercises influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds...
Again, one explanation (though not the only one) is that yogis in India circa 5th century BCE were able to produce "trips" via meditation. The question then arises -- why would experiences achieved through meditation necessarily be more wholesome than similar experiences achieved via psychedelics?

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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by Viscid » Sun Jan 29, 2012 6:12 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Still, if we assume -- as many neuroscientists are inclined to do -- that mental experiences have a chemical basis, then logically we'd have to conclude that some of the states achievable during meditation could (in theory) be generated artificially. Likewise, it's possible that meditators are learning to manipulate their own brain chemistry in a way that produces particular effects -- rapture, for example.
Is the psychedelic experience similar to a state achievable in some sort of meditation, and why do we make the assumption that it is? I was fairly convinced a few years ago when experimenting with psychedelics that the state MUST have been very similar to the state achieved by some well-practiced meditators because the experience itself was overwhelmingly imbued with eastern spiritual philosophical themes of which I had not been previously very interested. I saw the yogis meditate and assumed that's how they went about getting to that state. The jhanas as I've heard described, however, don't sound anything like tripping on LSD, so now I doubt it. Maybe the state, if it really did inspire a lot of eastern thought, was brought on by yogis through starving themselves or chugging on Soma juice. Maybe it's a completely different state altogether, and that knowledge and wisdom was realized by other means. :shrug:
Lazy_eye wrote:The question then arises -- why would experiences achieved through meditation necessarily be more wholesome than similar experiences achieved via psychedelics?
Progressing in meditation takes a whole lot more dedication than gobbling down a $10 hit of blotter. The drug cheapens the whole thing.. like baseball players who take steroids... we have more respect for people who have honestly struggled to achieve something great. Being a masterful meditator, I'd like to believe, tells you something about a person's character: they're virtuous, insightful, authentic people. Anyone can do drugs.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James

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Ben
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by Ben » Sun Jan 29, 2012 6:51 am

Viscid wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:Still, if we assume -- as many neuroscientists are inclined to do -- that mental experiences have a chemical basis, then logically we'd have to conclude that some of the states achievable during meditation could (in theory) be generated artificially. Likewise, it's possible that meditators are learning to manipulate their own brain chemistry in a way that produces particular effects -- rapture, for example.
Is the psychedelic experience similar to a state achievable in some sort of meditation, and why do we make the assumption that it is? I was fairly convinced a few years ago when experimenting with psychedelics that the state MUST have been very similar to the state achieved by some well-practiced meditators because the experience itself was overwhelmingly imbued with eastern spiritual philosophical themes of which I had not been previously very interested. I saw the yogis meditate and assumed that's how they went about getting to that state. The jhanas as I've heard described, however, don't sound anything like tripping on LSD, so now I doubt it. Maybe the state, if it really did inspire a lot of eastern thought, was brought on by yogis through starving themselves or chugging on Soma juice. Maybe it's a completely different state altogether, and that knowledge and wisdom was realized by other means. :shrug:
Lazy_eye wrote:The question then arises -- why would experiences achieved through meditation necessarily be more wholesome than similar experiences achieved via psychedelics?
Progressing in meditation takes a whole lot more dedication than gobbling down a $10 hit of blotter. The drug cheapens the whole thing.. like baseball players who take steroids... we have more respect for people who have honestly struggled to achieve something great. Being a masterful meditator, I'd like to believe, tells you something about a person's character: they're virtuous, insightful, authentic people. Anyone can do drugs.
Well said, Viscid!
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by Dan74 » Sun Jan 29, 2012 9:48 am

Lazy_eye wrote:
Again, one explanation (though not the only one) is that yogis in India circa 5th century BCE were able to produce "trips" via meditation. The question then arises -- why would experiences achieved through meditation necessarily be more wholesome than similar experiences achieved via psychedelics?
I guess drug induced altered states of consciousness, even at their most sublime and transformative, are still sort of cheating your way to the result and the trouble that comes afterwards is integrating the experience and insights. This can be a real problem since one has not gotten there in a steady continuous manner through one's effort.

For example I have heard more than one story about a user who was one with the Universe and was not interested in being a small lump of flesh that lasts an eyeblink after the effects wore off. This is extreme and it's not all like this, but I think it makes a point.

Without laying the necessary foundation of sila and the hard work, these experiences can also lead to a great deal of inflation, people believing they are gods, gurus, etc.

The hard slog of ordinary practice helps us let go of a whole lot of rubbish, and face up to much more. This is bypassed with psychodelics and various other techniques. So after I was the Big Mind, why would I want to be the schmuck that is me again? Might as well believe I am still the Big Mind, right?

Lot of pitfalls, lots of risks, few benefits, I think.

Mind you my first mushroom trip many many moons ago was very interesting and I did become a great proponent of psychodelics for a while. A friend who took them with me quit smoking too. She became greedy though and wanted more and it ended quite badly.

I don't miss them anymore though.
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by Cittasanto » Sun Jan 29, 2012 10:59 am

Good Post Viscid!
I did do a search of some plants which produce these effects, and noticed some were used in indian religious practices is this soma juice one do you know?

but I would be interested in seeing a ECG or other brain scan to compare he meditative state with this, I would be sure the activity is different.
but that does remind me of another thread!
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by Lazy_eye » Sun Jan 29, 2012 7:34 pm

Dan74 wrote:I guess drug induced altered states of consciousness, even at their most sublime and transformative, are still sort of cheating your way to the result and the trouble that comes afterwards is integrating the experience and insights. This can be a real problem since one has not gotten there in a steady continuous manner through one's effort.

For example I have heard more than one story about a user who was one with the Universe and was not interested in being a small lump of flesh that lasts an eyeblink after the effects wore off. This is extreme and it's not all like this, but I think it makes a point.

Without laying the necessary foundation of sila and the hard work, these experiences can also lead to a great deal of inflation, people believing they are gods, gurus, etc.

The hard slog of ordinary practice helps us let go of a whole lot of rubbish, and face up to much more. This is bypassed with psychodelics and various other techniques. So after I was the Big Mind, why would I want to be the schmuck that is me again? Might as well believe I am still the Big Mind, right?

Lot of pitfalls, lots of risks, few benefits, I think.
Good points, Dan (and also from Viscid). I'm reminded of a Chinese saying which goes something like this: "if you try to reach heaven in one leap, you'll leave a dragon in your wake". One crucial thing about the dhamma, it seems to me, is that's a complete system, containing various checks and balances to keep any one element from going awry. .

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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by silentone » Sun Jan 29, 2012 10:32 pm

I am frequently told my views are not buddhist so my words may mean little.
I never used LSD so, I cannot particularly say what the effects are like.

I have tried several other entheogens, mushrooms, and found them to be an interesting experience. They are supposed to be a more subtle experience. I wouldn't call anything I experienced "enlightenment" ... I would say that they produced a period great "insightfulness" that seemed to linger some time after. I found the insight I gained helped me with certain mental health issues I was having at the time and I have always viewed them as positive experiences, though not the kind one should neccessarily repeat over and over again. Still, these experiences affect my thinking even now.

I do not believe I experienced heedlessness. I never lost control of myself, and I never did anything I would regret after the fact. I don't know any other way to judge my actions, than by their consequences. Throughout the experience I found my empathy towards others magnified signfigantly. This seemed to last a while after. They are tools, nothing more. If enlightenment could be tied to a particular chemical configuration of the brain, it would be available from the pharmacy.

The analogy I would use to describe my perception of their use, is that of the tools one would use to repair a house. Some tools are simply not useful. Using alcohol would be like using a wrecking ball to fix the trim. Others are only useful, but only in very specific circumstances. The determinant factor is always the purpose they are being used for, and the actual results you obtain from their use. If you use a drug to party and have sex, thats probably not getting you anywhere.

Some entheogens are now being studied for long term effectiveness against certain mental disorders. That would obviously be an entirely different context.

It seems to me many people want a hard and fast rule that they can apply categorically, but it doesn't seem nearly that simple without ascribing to some sort of essentialism (IMHO) about either the chemicals themselves or the nature of enlightenment as it relates to physical structures.

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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by perkele » Sun Jan 29, 2012 11:44 pm

I'm surprised to see a good discussion about psychedelic drugs vis-a-vis spiritual development.
Especially Moth's insights are very valuable and expressed with great clarity, IMO. I take my (imaginary) hat off to that: :sage: -> :thumbsup: (and my beard, too!)

@silentone: You raise a good point here about "essentialism" as you call it which is just another mode of distorting reality.
However, better to have a clear position sometimes than just to say "all is relative" about possibly dangerous things.

If psychiatrists can use them in a beneficial way, power to them. However, I am extremely skeptical (to psychiatry in general). I think this is quite dangerous in various ways.

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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Post by Tyler » Mon Jan 30, 2012 1:17 am

Viscid wrote:
Is the psychedelic experience similar to a state achievable in some sort of meditation, and why do we make the assumption that it is?
I'm glad you said this. I think this assumption is very cultural. Some of the strongest purveyors of Buddhism to the West (i.e. Timothy Leary, Ram Daas) were very interested in altered states of consciousness via the use of Entheogens. Unfortunately everyone they were introducing their ideas to weren't as far along as them and a lot of people got hurt by their teachings.

I think the answers seem to lie somewhere between what Moth & Ben are saying about Entheogens producing delusion and distortion and what Cittasanto is saying stating from the Tipitaka. The end result of entheogenic use can very well result in a state that can be learned from once its effects wear off BUT the bare bones result is that it could lead to a confusion and carelessness.

I don't condone drug use but have learned from the sharing of experiences. At the same time these experiences/intoxicants are not the pure end result of understanding the dhamma. All of our life experiences seem to be intoxicating although some are more powerful than others. It seems that Kamma has a major effect on our ability to clearly understand any of these situations whether it be falling in love or taking a powerful mind altering substance. We are luckily close enough to the dhamma to see where these behaviors can lead us astray. The amount of carelessness seems very dependent on the amount of understanding we have of ourselves and the intoxicants that we encounter. That said, it is important to think about what exposure to the intoxicating aspects of life mean when we remove ourselves from the equation and how having had that exposure effects the kamma of all living beings.

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