Entheogens and Buddhism

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby 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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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby 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

Postby 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.
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby 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!
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby 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

Postby 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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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby 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

Postby 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

Postby 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

Postby 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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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby Alexei » Mon Jan 30, 2012 5:08 pm

perkele wrote:If psychiatrists can use them in a beneficial way, power to them. However, I am extremely skeptical (to psychiatry in general).


Psychotherapists, not psychiatrists, great difference.

E.g. short report about using psychotherapy with drugs for helping ordinary people. Substances can 'enhance rapport and empathetic capacities, lower ego defensiveness, and facilitate accessibility of unconscious material' and it requires professional care, but now in most cases it's impossible due to prejudices and 'clear position'.
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby perkele » Mon Jan 30, 2012 11:08 pm

Alexei wrote:
perkele wrote:If psychiatrists can use them in a beneficial way, power to them. However, I am extremely skeptical (to psychiatry in general).


Psychotherapists, not psychiatrists, great difference.

I thought psychiatrists are the ones who are authorized to prescribe the heavy medicine, and so they would have to be involved here. Am I wrong?


E.g. short report about using psychotherapy with drugs for helping ordinary people. Substances can 'enhance rapport and empathetic capacities, lower ego defensiveness, and facilitate accessibility of unconscious material' and it requires professional care, but now in most cases it's impossible due to prejudices and 'clear position'.

Okay. Much of this sounds interesting.
I said earlier:
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.

I think such drug sessions under careful observation and guidance are probably much less "dangerous" than the casual prescription of standard drugs.
The "danger" I see comes when things become a standardized and careless procedure, quite the same as with individual drug use, I guess.
Anyway, I'd better not judge the work of those people too much, as I really don't know much about it (and hope to avoid it also in the future).


The "trip to Nibbana", however, is a different thing altogether. Don't know much about that too, however. So I'll better shut up.
Anyway, I'll refer back to Moth's post once more here (this one:http://www.dhammawheel.com/posting.php?mode=reply&f=16&t=11320&sid=23ca230fabdca02f1bb63634fb18c365#pr170644), because I think it points so well into the right direction.
And with that I'll disappear from this thread.
:toilet:
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby silentone » Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:17 am

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012 ... epression/

See... I think this might be ill advised and going a bit too far... but its just my opinion. Ketamine always scared me. I'm not really sure how that would help.
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:22 am

perkele wrote:
Alexei wrote:Psychotherapists, not psychiatrists, great difference.

I thought psychiatrists are the ones who are authorized to prescribe the heavy medicine, and so they would have to be involved here. Am I wrong?

It's possible there is a difference in terminology between countries (For example some countries have "physical therapists" whereas we have "physiotherapists"). As I understand it, in my country it is psychiatrists who can prescribe drugs, but I may well be out of date...

:anjali:
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby Ben » Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:50 am

Hi Mike

mikenz66 wrote:
perkele wrote:
Alexei wrote:Psychotherapists, not psychiatrists, great difference.

I thought psychiatrists are the ones who are authorized to prescribe the heavy medicine, and so they would have to be involved here. Am I wrong?

It's possible there is a difference in terminology between countries (For example some countries have "physical therapists" whereas we have "physiotherapists"). As I understand it, in my country it is psychiatrists who can prescribe drugs, but I may well be out of date...

:anjali:
Mike


In Australia (and I think also in NZ), general practitioners (MDs) can prescribe anti-depressant medication but medication for a more serious condition such as psychosis, manic depression and schizophrenia - I think that requires psychiatric evaluation and treatment. My wife is a psychotherapist/psychologist and she cannot prescribe medications.
kind regards,

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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:56 am

Thanks Ben,

My point was that it may be that in some countries "psychotherapist" means someone who can prescribe drugs and in some countries it may mean something else. The medical professions tend to have their own very localized systems...

:anjali:
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby Ben » Tue Jan 31, 2012 2:00 am

Hi Mike,
mikenz66 wrote:Thanks Ben,

My point was that it may be that in some countries "psychotherapist" means someone who can prescribe drugs and in some countries it may mean something else. The medical professions tend to have their own very localized systems...

:anjali:
Mike

Yes, that is my impression as well.
Some years ago I was encouraging a friend of mine in eastern europe to seek some treatment for an acute episode of, what looked like to me, depression. That person was initially prescribed medication from a psychotherapist/psychologist in that country.
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby Alexei » Tue Jan 31, 2012 7:30 am

Psychotherapists can work together with psychiatrist (in case of author of the report I posted) or sometimes they have medical education themselves.

My point is that drug-potentiated psychotherapy could improve lives of many people, not just mentally ill.
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby silentone » Tue Jan 31, 2012 11:35 pm

Unfortunately psychotherapy and psychiatry are heavily embedded in the pharmaceutical industry and this makes me suspect to many of the treatments they offer. My personal experiences with psychiatric medications is that many were not helpful to me. There is a certain tendency when using any drug either in a supervised or unsupervised setting to increase the dosages and attribute any change in mood/outlook to the drug. Its the sort of pattern that seems to reinforce itself over time. It is apparent that some people need help... but there is no short cut for mindfulness when using drugs or medications. My own therapists and psychiatrists led me into a quagmire with the over prescription of certain meds. When the first one don't work... they put you on another, that one doesn't work... the process repeats itself over again, and soon they bring in combinations of the same ones you tried, and they try essentially every permutation they can imagine. Soon the side effects become so extreme that they begin prescribing new medications, with entirely different side effects, just to blot out the mess they're making with the first two. Sadly I feel this prescription culture is fed by drug companies. Meta studies have shown that many of these drugs are little better than placebo... maybe slightly useful, but not enough to justify the levels of use they sometimes are prescribed at. I have also seen studies that in under developed countries many mental disorders are transient... there seems to be evidence that some of these drugs actually make mental disorders permanent. I think that in many cases the drug companies have probably suppressed studies they have funded showing perhaps less than stellar results and its often easier in psychology to attribute the positive change a therapist sees in a patient if they are expecting to attribute it to a drug. In other words, they expect the drug to work and so they read any improvement as an indication of the drugs efficacy. Naturally this is all quite profitable. Is it helpful? Sometimes.

"I think such drug sessions under careful observation and guidance are probably much less "dangerous" than the casual prescription of standard drugs.
The "danger" I see comes when things become a standardized and careless procedure, quite the same as with individual drug use, I guess."
++Perkele ... i would agree with this... all individuals involved must be mindful... even more so when a patient is vulnerable.

comparing types of drugs....

My own experience is that natural is usually better, but not fool proof.

An example.

Many people take sleeping pills like valium and xanax to fall asleep. They are highly addictive and cause all sorts of changes in your brain, but thats fine because the drug companies make billions off this practice. People say, well "whats the alternative" ...
I recently discovered that Maypops (passiflora incarnata or passionflower fruit) were commonly used for this purpose (sleep, anxiety, epilepsy) and were actually listed in the The National Formulary from 1916-1936. They are non addictive, non habit forming, improve the quality of sleep and can actually be used to help people coming off of valium addiction. How interesting that they aren't used anymore.
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Re: Entheogens and Buddhism

Postby Alexei » Wed Feb 01, 2012 9:48 am

As far as I know there is widespread (legal) misuse of psychoactive drugs in some counties, e.g. United States. I think it's really harmful.

I meant quite different thing, kind of substances that don't eliminate manifestations or 'heal' by themselves, on the contrary 'facilitate accessibility of unconscious material' by producing symbolic images, memory recalls, regressions and transference which can be more easily accepted and worked through in the atmosphere of a therapeutic relationship. Relationship between patient and therapist is a key factor and healer, drug is not.
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