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Medical Marijuana and Tantra

posted by Davee Evans

250px-Cannabis_sativa_Koehler_drawing.jpg

from Davee Evans

The recent shift in medical marijuana policy reminded
me of the infrequent and yet ongoing conversation about Buddhism and drugs. I recently read a paper published at Erowid, titled Psychoactive Plants in Tantric Buddhism, specifically discussing cannabis and datura usage in various Tantric sources. Then there was a Tricycle issue devoted to the topic of psychedelics, followed by Allan Hunt Badiner and Alex Grey’s book Zig Zag Zen about Buddhism and psychedelics. I shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a synergy for people interested in the inner workings of the mind to explore many mind altering mechanisms. But this then highlights again the difference between renunciant-style Buddhism where intoxicants are avoided per the precepts, and later yogic-styles of Buddhism where anything goes. I wonder if the renunciant style is more in accord with Western puritan culture.

In the Erowid paper, the authors find a number of references to cannabis in Buddhist texts, some as medicinal references and some as practice elements. But the research is still slim. They note that yogi’s practicing the Tara Tantra were required to mix cannabis and alcohol for effective meditation practice. In the Mahakala Tantra it’s included among a long list of medicinal recipes and described as the “perfect medicine” according to W. G. Stablein’s doctoral dissertation from Columbia, and then also recommended there as an elixir to transform the body and mind in the service of liberation. And D.B. Gray’s translation of the more popular Chakrasamvara Tantra includes the quote that cannabis will help one “become a yogin who does what he pleases and stays anywhere whatsoever.”

Renouncing intoxicants makes easy sense. If one is practicing meditation to become more and more clearly aware of the mind stream, then why ingest anything that makes that mind more fuzzy. If I were to guess why intoxicants have such a strong tradition in tantra, and this is just my own hypothesis, it’s that the unpracticed mind is inherently fuzzy already so it’s useful to practice directly with that quality. This has something to do with creating more contrast. Mindfulness meditation would be just one example of increasing contrast in a gentle way. Interrupting the ordinary flow of thoughts makes the mind stream more clearly visible. But then anything might cause one to sharpen the contrast and see what’s going on more clearly, if it were used with that intention. That could include visualizing the world in a different way, or just approaching things in a new way intentionally. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche recommended off-hand once that one could wear work clothes to bed and pajamas to work. I consider that suggestion in the same vein. It’s not that being an odd person is helpful, but doing things to bring up emotions like embarrassment could be a way to have more contrast in one’s day.

But then I can see why practices like that are just not recommended widely. For me personally, there’s enough coming up in a day already to have contrast around. If I were better practiced perhaps, and to the point where interpersonal relationships weren’t already providing enough to consider, then sure I could do things to amp up my practice. But there’s no need. I have plenty to work. I suspect if I tried inviting more chaos through intoxicants or other means now then it would just create more chaos in my day and I wouldn’t gain from it. Worse, I’d be fooling myself and just thinking that I’m doing something spiritual. But I’m not sure I can criticize anyone for that approach, since it’s up to each person to know where they’re at.



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Sean Robsville

posted November 6, 2009 at 4:47 am


Maybe the function of these ‘entheogens’ is to break down the evolutionary-imposed delusion of the self.
http://seanrobsville.blogspot.com/2009/10/buddhism-shamanism-and-use-of.html



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Greg

posted November 6, 2009 at 10:23 am


I’ve been in touch with Parker about this – he runs http://vajrayana.faithweb.com (a great resource) and has done a terrific amount of research in this area. Of interest also is his earlier paper “The Use of Entheogens in the Vajrayana Tradition: a brief summary of preliminary findings together with a partial bibliography.”
http://vajrayana.faithweb.com/rich_text_5.html
Very interesting topic – I’ll invite him to comment further here.
I’m not sure I would consider psychoactive drugs such as mushrooms “intoxicants” (which is not to say one way or the other whether they should be used).



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RFWoodstock

posted November 6, 2009 at 10:53 am


Valid medicinal value, it’s a victimless crime, the War on Drugs WAY too costly, too many arrests for simple possession, tax it and use the money to pay for health insurance and to reduce the deficit…Need I say more?
Woodstock Universe supports legalization of Marijuana.
Add vote in our poll about legalization at http://www.woodstockuniverse.com.
Current poll results…97% for legalization, 3% against.
Listen to RADIO WOODSTOCK 69 which features only music from the original Woodstock era (1967-1971) and RADIO WOODSTOCK with music from the original Woodstock era to today’s artists who reflect the spirit of Woodstock. Watch Woodstock TV.
Peace, love, music, one world,
RFWoodstock



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Ryan Parker

posted November 6, 2009 at 4:36 pm


For what it is worth, the Saiva and Buddhist tantric literature innumerates a quite different set of reasons for the use of psychoactive plants. Increasing the “fuzziness” of the mind isn’t a purpose I have ever seen mentioned (although in the case of datura there is a tradition of using it in order to test one’s ability to remain unaffected by the illusory appearances which arise).
Rather, medicinal use, the promotion of longevity, the development of special powers generally referred to as “siddhis”, the development of blissful mind-states, the use as sexual-tonics, and non-psychoactive ritual (magical) uses, are among the many reasons found in yogic and tantric literature.
Indic views on the effects of cannabis differ significantly from those in the West, and many yogins regard cannabis as a plant which can help focus the mind rather than increase “fuzziness”. Unfortunately, due to space considerations we left a great deal of interesting material out the article. At some point in the distant future, I hope to put all the data I’ve gathered on this topic together in a single resource.
As to the use of psychoactive drugs in a modern Western context, that is really an entirely separate issue. It is difficult to say how much value the traditional yogic/tantric material is in considering this issue.



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Christopher Mohr

posted November 7, 2009 at 5:00 am


This is interesting, but I have to state the obvious – Vajrayana doesn’t only come in Tibetan varieties. Japanese (and to the extent that it still exists, Chinese) Vajrayana is very clear about the futility of such practices as using intoxicants or hallucinogens/entheogens.
The point that Vajrayana gets at with notions of tantra (which remain widely misunderstood) is the notion that every action that is undertaken, if done in the right way (that it, in ways which are beneficial to one’s understanding of impermanence and unsatisfactoriness), leads to the seeds of liberation. It is not entirely different from the example of the Buddha’s actions not producing for himself negative or positive karma. Getting to the point where one can adequately claim that their actions are legitimately at that level takes years and years of very deep, very difficult practice, and tantra should never be undertaken by beginners or those who have not reached certain levels of attainment.
For example: dancing at a rave. If one were to go dancing at a rave (assuming they did NOT consume intoxicants), viewing the rave, the dancing, and the going as empty of a self (indeed, practicing such acts in order to rid one of the very notion of permanent, unchanging self), impermanent, and lacking in all things satisfactory, and they kept that in mind as they grooved to the music, in some schools of Vajrayana, that could be the key that leads one to the insight necessary to attain liberation.
Of course, it is REALLY difficult to get to the point where one could go and not get caught up in everything that is going on there, and not advised. The point being, if done right, one’s every action contains the potential for enlightenment.



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Anan E. Maus

posted November 7, 2009 at 2:13 pm


As far as medical marijuana is concerned, I certainly think that a more natural drug is probably better for pain relief and whatever other affects that it has. I am sure that it can be regulated in a way that does not promote recreational drug use.
The great Hindu saint, Swami Vivekananda (one of only a handful of people that Mahatma Gandhi recognized as a true saint), wrote about this topic. He said that it is possible that drugs can stimulate the kundalini and open up spiritual channels.
These shamanistic experiences are part of the illumined world of the vital.
The inner world has many realms. While that illumined world of the vital (or, say the subtle body), is higher than the gross physical world, it is not a particular high world in the inner realm.
The inner world of the spiritual heart and soul are far, far, far higher experiences.
So, while they are inner experiences, they are not, properly, particularly high ones. Not that they are bad, they can be very inspiring. But it is a gross error to equate them with enlightenment experiences…which come from a different and higher aspect of the being.
After I started doing some Mexican sorcery practices, some of this shamanistic realm opened up to me. I had experiences with directed dreaming, lucid dreaming, and various other things.
Before I had had those experiences, I had quite a powerful longing for them. But once I had some of those experiences, they reasonably quickly lost interest for me. The realm of the enlightenment experiences just has no substitute. Whatever touches of light I have had through them are completely fulfilling and inspiring.
The shamanistic experiences are more like fulfilling a curiosity for me. Or maybe, if you will, like having a glass of soda pop, versus having a full and sustaining, nourishing meal.
gassho



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Davee

posted November 7, 2009 at 3:07 pm


Thanks all, for the comments. And especially thanks for visiting Mr. Parker, the author of the paper I just discovered.
This notion of fuzziness is my own poor term, and one of the things I’m noticing in my vajrayana practice specifically in regard to contrast. So I’m not sure it either valid or historic way of talking about vajrayana. And I definitely have not practiced with cannabis though i’ve sat with alcohol. Probably the comparison is questionable. Interesting to hear the historical tradition has references to cannabis having more of a ‘focusing’ quality for practice.
But what I mean by fuzziness is a kind of dissociation from direct experience, either from conceptual overlay or just spacing out. Working with that would then be learning how the mind does that in more detail and cultivating insight.
And I think that might be different from entheogenic use as i understand it, where the purpose is visionary or bringing about direct experience. By direct experience in a Buddhist context for me means experiencing the true nature of mind directly. My poor understanding of vajrayana would be more that, like visualization practice, one might use substances or yogic practice to increase contrast using the technique to then highlight how the mind is NOT in accord with the true nature and to see that directly more so than to bring about states of mind where one is in accord with the true nature.
But then, that may have more to do with how my practice just brings up more contrast than direct experience and I’m extrapolating from that.



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Ryan Parker

posted November 8, 2009 at 5:37 pm


Hi Davee,
Thanks for the clarification.
—————–
“one might use substances or yogic practice to increase contrast using the technique to then highlight how the mind is NOT in accord with the true nature and to see that directly more so than to bring about states of mind where one is in accord with the true nature.”
—————–
This accords in a general way with my understanding of how datura was understood in some (but by no means all) contexts. However, the use in generating special powers (similar to shamanic abilities) was probably a more widespread use.
Warmly
Ryan



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aiswariya

posted November 13, 2009 at 7:41 am


its a very thin line that one has been treading on , but how to monitor and maintain it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack! however the bill has its pros and cons, on a personal note, coming here from buddhist reading it is radical reading ! one must say!
regards



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SunflowerPipes

posted November 19, 2009 at 3:19 am


Someday I imagine we will all live in a land were men and women alike are free to do what they choose to do with their own bodies. A world were one really does have right to pursue happiness as they see fit. Even if it is sitting at home smoking from a glass pipe.
Sunflowerpipes.com



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cartucho r4i

posted November 21, 2009 at 4:24 am


I have been using medical marijuana occasionally for about a month to help deal with some arthritis pain. Now I have never really used it much as a kid or anything, maybe three times total, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I was hoping for something better than vicodin, maybe like the experience i had trying oxycontin a couple times.
cartucho r4i



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Tantra Teacher

posted February 4, 2010 at 7:05 pm


The dosage, setting, accompaniments, music and support that goes with hemp use of tantric intent are all very different from the Western world’s use of it as a party drug.
Dosages are far higher, as a rule, and it is not a thing that one needs to experience more than a few times … just until certain aspects of ego let go and the territory around death has been experienced.
In this context, it is an extreme practice. It is as scary as can be, which is partly the point. It is definitely not a “for everyone” kind of thing. It is not even nearly a “for every tantrika” kind of thing.
Basically, the drug convinces the body that it is dying, and the natural processes of death are experienced. No actual deaths have ever been recorded in centuries of even Western medical use.
One can appear dead though. Breath very slow indeed, and heartbeat too soft and slow to be felt as a pulse. The Romeo and Juliet drug. Two hours to two days, depending on body weight, dose and quality.
At minimum, a Granny Weatherwax sign “I ain’t Dead” is necessary. It could be very dangerous indeed to be “treated” with adrenaline injections, or defibrillation.
In the relatively tiny dosages taken by social drug users, it’s effects are far milder, and very different. Basically, it enhances the most central urges and feelings. That which is most true.
This is why someone drunk enough to be brave enough to smoke some is in for a rough time. The central experience of drunkness is enhanced. The poor/lucky fellow is then in the state he would have been in if he had drank twice as much.
This is why some people have a paranoid or fearful reaction to it. Their true, scared, nervous state is enhanced, making it impossible to suppress. If their habit is to suppress their true state, this is very uncomfortable indeed.
Even though it is far safer, individually and socialy, than alcohol and is increasingly being legalised, it is unlikely to ever replace alcohol significantly as a social drug. There are just not that many people who can enjoy enhancement of their central true condition. Most of the poor beloveds live out their lives in varying degrees of fear and adrenaline elation. Most of them require the consciousness-reducing effect of alcohol to get a break from their lives.
Musicians, dancers, surfers and others use it because of this enhancement. The same goes for people who are genuinely enjoying themselves.
As legalisation and acceptance of it’s use progress, it may find use with psychotherapists of a Jungian persuasion, in preference to LSD.
The most recent studies I have read indicate it temporarily messes with short term memory, but improves long term memory.
But, as mentioned, now belaboured: The use of this in Tantra is traditionally a secret, used with great care as to appropriateness and safety. Also, not often enough for anyone to be worried about it.
A good awareness of death, and the acceptance of the fact of one’s own physical death is of course essential to a seeker. Meditating on the recent death of a family member, friend, child or even a pet is good. So is hanging out in a hospital emergency room, or seeing death up close, as in war or civil righteousness.
An old traditional recommendation was to spend 3 months at a burning ghat (charnel ground) witnessing the disposal of the dead. In India you can still do this.



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Tantra Teacher

posted February 4, 2010 at 7:22 pm


The dosage, setting, accompaniments, music and support that goes with hemp use of tantric intent are all very different from the Western world’s use of it as a party drug.
Dosages are far higher, as a rule, and it is not a thing that one needs to experience more than a few times … just until certain aspects of ego let go and the territory around death has been experienced.
In this context, it is an extreme practice. It is as scary as can be, which is partly the point. It is definitely not a “for everyone” kind of thing. It is not even nearly a “for every tantrika” kind of thing.
Basically, the drug convinces the body that it is dying, and the natural processes of death are experienced. No actual deaths have ever been recorded in centuries of even Western medical use.
One can appear dead though. Breath very slow indeed, and heartbeat too soft and slow to be felt as a pulse. The Romeo and Juliet drug. Two hours to two days, depending on body weight, dose and quality.
At minimum, a Granny Weatherwax sign “I ain’t Dead” is necessary. It could be very dangerous indeed to be “treated” with adrenaline injections, or defibrillation.
In the relatively tiny dosages taken by social drug users, it’s effects are far milder, and very different. Basically, it enhances the most central urges and feelings. That which is most true.
This is why someone drunk enough to be brave enough to smoke some is in for a rough time. The central experience of drunkness is enhanced. The poor/lucky fellow is then in the state he would have been in if he had drank twice as much.
This is why some people have a paranoid or fearful reaction to it. Their true, scared, nervous state is enhanced, making it impossible to suppress. If their habit is to suppress their true state, this is very uncomfortable indeed.
Even though it is far safer, individually and socialy, than alcohol and is increasingly being legalised, it is unlikely to ever replace alcohol significantly as a social drug. There are just not that many people who can enjoy enhancement of their central true condition. Most of the poor beloveds live out their lives in varying degrees of fear and adrenaline elation. Most of them require the consciousness-reducing effect of alcohol to get a break from their lives.
Musicians, dancers, surfers and others use it because of this enhancement. The same goes for people who are genuinely enjoying themselves.
As legalisation and acceptance of it’s use progress, it may find use with psychotherapists of a Jungian persuasion, in preference to LSD.
The most recent studies I have read indicate it temporarily messes with short term memory, but improves long term memory.
The enhancement of “true state” is the obvious explanation why those who need repressive political and religious orgs will are firmly against it, and those who willingly face their true feelings are sometimes be in favour of it.
But, as mentioned, now belaboured: The use of this in Tantra is traditionally a secret practice, used with great care as regards appropriateness, usefulness and safety. Also, not often enough for anyone to be worried about it.
A good awareness of death, and the acceptance of the fact of one’s own physical death is of course essential to a seeker. Meditating into the depths of feelings around the recent death of a family member, friend, child or even a pet is good. So is hanging out in a hospital emergency room, or seeing death up close, as in war or civil righteousness.
An old traditional recommendation was to spend 3 months at a burning ghat (charnel ground) witnessing the disposal of the dead. In India you can still do this. The lessons available around actual death are at least as useful.
Anyway, although you know it is large, you are unlikely to find someone who can advise reliably on right dosage … so just forget it!



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Casandra Meier

posted June 14, 2010 at 8:25 am


If only I had a nickel for each time I came to blog.beliefnet.com.. Superb article!



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Oswald

posted September 27, 2010 at 9:40 pm


for me, medical marijuana and Tantra should be applied together. the medicinal purposes of marijuana and meditation is a good way to achieve spirituality. It allows one to focus the mind into the light to attain oneness. I believe that there should be more studies with this matter. the are people in India that practices oneness using hashish or marijuana itself.



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JL's Hemp Network

posted September 30, 2010 at 7:42 pm


I have used marijuana as a recreational escape for many years…about 13 to be exact. I had quit for two years until I severely damaged some discs in my back due to improper lifting techniques. I guess those safety videos I slept through actually had some valuable info!
I had 3 epidurals, and was hopped up on vicodin and percocet and muscle relaxers for a while. But I got tired of feeling wasted all the time. So I went back to MMJ, and won’t ever look back.
I have started to incorporate it with my daily meditations, and have found that I have a calmer mind as well as getting a deeper meditation for longer than I had just trying to be sober and meditate. I have found that mixing medicinal mushrooms with hemp protein has also given my body a much needed boost in immunity and mental clarity.
This is truly a remarkable plant, and I almost regret abusing it for so long, not knowing how incredible it is. The ignorance of youth, I guess…



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OtherSide Farms

posted November 9, 2010 at 8:17 pm


That was great post! Join us in our fight! Visit medical marijuana orange county to see how we’re helping.



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