By Daniel Scharpenburg
Lion’s Roar published an article on August 16th called, The New Wave of Psychedelics in Buddhist Practice.
It’s about people who are bringing mushrooms and LSD and who knows what else into their Buddhist practice. One of my heroes, Brad Warner, wrote a scathing rebuttal on his blog which you can get to here.
I’ve heard this many times. You can’t pick and choose in Buddhism. It’s not a buffet.
People say things like that when I express that I don’t think rebirth is something that happens. With that in mind, it’s a wonder to see this new development.
So, anyway, that’s why this article is a new experience for me. I’m going to defend the traditional view.
In full disclosure, I’ve never tried a psychedelic drug. There was a time when I wanted the opportunity, but I don’t run in the kinds of circles where I would know how to find things like that.
The troubling thing isn’t that there are people saying Buddhists can use psychedelics. I have my own complicated relationship with the fifth precept, but these people are saying that psychedelics can make Buddhism better. And the troubling thing is that it is published in Lion’s Roar. This means that Drugged Dharma just became MAINSTREAM. Those of us speaking out against it are renegades and outsiders.
How did this happen? I don’t know. Lion’s Roar is powerful, though; much larger than this website.
I like Ram Dass a lot. He was a professor who experimented with LSD and was inspired to go to India and find a guru and become a Hindu. His story is great, but part of the point is that when he found his guru—when he found his spiritual path—he didn’t take LSD anymore. Psychedelics opened the door for him, but it wasn’t the answer.
I don’t mean to say psychedelics are bad. They’re being studied by scientists today in a way that they never have before and I think that’s a good thing. And maybe they do open people up and get them ready to receive spiritual teachings. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m wildly unqualified to answer that. I just know that they’re not Buddhism.
The Buddha knew about psychedelics and said we didn’t need them for spiritual practice. Do people know that? There were plenty of people practicing with psychedelics in his day. I’m not even going to argue that psychedelics break the fifth precept, but it seems like using psychedelics as part of a Buddhist retreat is something a little like having an orgy as part of a Buddhist retreat.
Where would we draw the line and say, “that’s not Buddhism anymore?” I don’t know the answer.
Often people think Buddhism is too boring, and that’s what I think this comes from. Psychedelics are hip and cool and a way to make things less boring, but we should allow ourselves to be bored—especially in the context of Buddhism. Most of our practice is boring and that’s okay. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Far be it for me to be a traditional voice, but this trend seems scary.
People say it’s a faster and easier way to awakening too. I’m not sure about that. Retreats are expensive enough and I’m not sure we want the stigma associated with breaking the law.
I’ll close by sharing this quote from Master Silly Mountain (Han Shan Deqing) about trying to take the easy way in our practice.
“The easy path is always so appealing. So why do I prefer the hard way? On the easy path we take things for granted. We get lazy and bored. This is a formula for trouble and loss. When we go the hard way, we know we can’t let our guard down for a moment. We have to stay alert to meet the challenges. Solving problems makes our mind keener and our character stronger. This is achievement! This is true gain!”
Editor: Dana Gornall
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