This thread is meant as a starter for the discussion of contemplative traditions and psychedelics and their possible connections, similarities and differences. Please, be respectful towards others and contribute in a way that is constructive and good spirited. Do not come here just to accuse others being stupid or delusional. If you want to do that, go to social media.
Critical contribution is always welcome. But critical approach means something like being able to discern and careful examination and judging. So, when being critical, make sure you know what you are talking about. Explain your reasons and show your reasoning so that others can understand and appreciate your point of view. Then others can answer to your criticism and that can move the conversation forward. Thank you!
Here´s something to start the conversation. There is an interesting book out called Secret Drugs of Buddhism. Psychedelic Sacraments and the Origins of Vajrayana. 2 ed. 2019. Synergetic Press. It is written by Mike Crowley and there is a foreword in the book by Ann Shulgin.
In his book, Crowley makes a case that psychoactive plant sacraments were used in the vajrayana Buddhism. He also claims that the soma potion of early Hindu scriptures and amrita in the vajrayana scriptures were real, potent entheogens. Do you think he is right or wrong and why? Were entheogens used with a (defined) purpose in vajrayana or in other traditions? What do you think?
This video is simply for starting conversation. I don´t know who Raja Choudhury is, but some of the points he makes in the video are interesting. There are some analogies I find questionable (like yoni means pineal gland because it looks the same), but I believe at least some of his claims may be backed up by more rigorous historical study/archeology in the books he mentions at the ending part of the video.
And then the second and probably more interesting question. In the last parts of his book Crowley ponders: “…it is conceivable that a modern school of Buddhism might arise that incorporates the thoughtful use of psychedelics.” Can you see this happening or not and why? Do you think it should happen or not and why? Do you have personal experiences to share that would indicate that this could be possible? What do you think?
I thought his presentation was interesting but he didn’t convince me that psychedelics have been used in buddhism. His presentation was full of his own conclusions not backed up by undeniable evidence, so I doubt about the use of substances in the past but this doesn’t mean that they couldn’t become part of dharma in future, though I don’t think it is necessary or that anything was lacking in dharma in terms of removing self-delusion and making attainment of buddhahood possible.
I’ve taken peyote once with a native american medicine man, who is also Shinzen Young’s teacher, but it had no effect on me at all. I’ve been told that the amount of it was too small. I don’t know, maybe so, but I was very disappointed. I hope to try it again but have no plans.
I don’t have any doubt at all that psychedelics or entheogens were available and used by vajrayana yogis in the past, but I don’t believe that they were the foundation of practice or teachings. From my own experience of psychedelics (psilocybin mushrooms, mesculine from San Pedro cactus, LSD, ayahuasca), I can easily recognize themes in vajrayana, such as the various teachers’ hats, mandalas, fractals, etc., that also occur in psychedelic visions. Images from ancient Egypt, such as the Eye of Horus, the headgear of the pharaohs, use of the blue water lily, and sacred geometries, have a very similar vibe to vajrayana to me.
I think that these substances have value in that samsara becomes exaggerated to an extent that vipashyana can be more effective. Also, there tends to be a period of sedation during use of the substances that can be quite useful when subtle grasping of the mind becomes dramatically apparent. Moreover, if one takes a heroic dose of a given psychedelic plant, experiences ego death and recognizes the empty nature of mind, one can make legitimate progress on the path. However, if emptiness is not recognized, there is the risk of believing the display and deviating far from the path.
IMO, psychedelics can be useful and very probably were useful to yogis of various traditions in the past, but are not a very good path in themselves. A reliable progress map from a proven method is absolutely necessary. I don’t believe that a modern school of Buddhism needs to incorporate the use of psychedelics at all, but it should be prepared to acknowledge their usefulness on an individual basis as well as be experientially aware of the pitfalls.
This is an interpretation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead from a psychedelic POV, which I read a few years ago and generally enjoyed: