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Magic Mushrooms and Psychedelics

A reader writes:

First of all: thank you for the podcast and website.  It has been extremely educational.

I am very new to Buddhism, I don’t really consider myself a Buddhist yet, but I am soaking up all the ideas like a curious child.  I came drawn to it through the desire to practice meditation and naturally started doing my research.

My question is this:  I know now that it is Buddhist practice to refrain from alcohol and drugs in order to keep a clear mind and so as not to do harm to others, but in the past I have taken mind altering substances such as magic mushrooms, and feel they have opened up my mind and allowed me to look at things from a more spiritual point of view.  Many cultures in the world embrace various “teacher plants” as a path towards spiritual enlightenment.  I honestly feel that some of the revelations I’ve had while on mushrooms have taught me some of the truths of Buddhism before I even heard of them as such.  How can something so spiritually powerful be a negative thing to one’s enlightenment and education?

Thanks so much

My Response:

Because it’s not real. The prohibition against alcohol and drugs are not solely for the purpose of avoiding doing harm to others as you say; they are there because they cloud your judgement and make meditation more difficult. Those other cultures that you speak of don’t place the same emphasis on meditation and reaching Enlightenment as Buddhism does.

A Buddhist wants a clear mind (Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration) and one of the goals of all that meditation is to learn mental control and achieve mental clarity. You cannot reach that state artificially; it might seem like a good idea, but it’s not.

Some kinds of drugs lead to addiction. I shouldn’t have to point out the problems with that kind of attachment. Another point to consider is long-term effects and flashbacks. I’m no doctor, but I have heard that drugs such as LSD can cause flashbacks and hallucinations years after ingestion. That kind of lack of self-control is not something with which a Buddhist would want to deal.

I’m curious as to what those revelations were about, drop me a note!

3 comments to Magic Mushrooms and Psychedelics

  • Wes

    Some drugs may feel as if they are spiritually beneficial, particularly when one is under their influence. When sober, you may even have a sort of hope or delusion that they are benefiting you in some measure, leading to more use. In my experience these are dangerous feelings, as the alternative mental state produced by drugs is inherently ephemeral and many are very powerful (and so inciting of cravings). Not only this but most (all?) drugs are in some ways intellectually debilitating. You can’t gain true spiritual power by avoiding the state of mind that you (hopefully) spend nearly all of your life in. Nor can you truly practice when your brain is surging with distracting drug induced thinking. To me drug use is practically dukkha in a physical form – their use leads to wasted time, craving, attachment, and ignorance in almost every case.

  • lenny bruce

    Au contraire my fine Buddhist friend. The clarity of mind that you believe that you attain is the illusion that has been impregnated in your belief system. You believe that the world is as your clear eyes perceive it, and that is the point of the mind control that has seperated humanity from its spiritual origins. Mushrooms and entheogens provide the way to break out of the mind control that tells you that you need to learn self hypnosis in order to experience the spiritual world. The mushroom experience is far more real than the experience of self hypnosis and you no longer limit your discovery to the bounds of your own imagination. Mushrooms open the doors of perception to reality.

  • I agree with the comment above mainly…
    the development I’ve gone through with the help of plant teachers is immense. And while i agree, that dwelling on or relying on this means of accessing higher consciousness is flawed. The point stands that any generalization that ‘everything that is perceived through psychedelia is an illusion’ is no more correct than ‘the minds limited subjective view of reality is always tangled in illusion’.

    I recommend meditation and disciplined practice to anyone seeking spiritual development. But i also would never be so bold as to say that the plants messages are wrong( or that Anything is completely wrong, who am i to attempt to define right and wrong objectively, I’m no buddha! ). If one is respectful in ones life one will find what is right, and sometimes gurus come in the form of plant allies from my exp.

    I wrote this detailed although about maintaining respect with plant teachers. If you plan to work with them i suggest giving it a read 🙂 I’ve practiced shamanism as well as traditional meditations for 8 years now and all this info has come through my own exps, no dogma rehashed convention. 🙂

    I think siddhartha would support your quest to discover for yourself if these plants are something to work with…
    “Do not give up your authority and follow blindly the will of others. This way will lead to only delusion.”

    “Find out for yourself what is truth, what is real. Discover that there are virtuous things and there are non-virtuous things. Once you have discovered for yourself give up the bad and embrace the good.”

    – The Buddha