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
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!