What do you want from your spiritual practice? What do you want from life? To me these are the same question.
Since I was a small child, I have always wanted to find out about reality. What is going on here? What is our place in the cosmos? What is the nature of the self, of existence?
I hit puberty in the late 60s and was a teenager and young adult in the 70s. I tried a variety of recreational drugs.
No matter what the drug – marijuana, psychedelics, cocaine, or opiates – I arrived at the same conclusion.
I might get jumped up, or experience something “cool,” or even have an insight, but every drug I tried ultimately impaired or dampened the clarity, natural intelligence and just basic goodness of my everyday life. The world experienced through drugs was just not as interesting or vibrant as the world encountered in my normal, un-high state.
Much later, I received what I consider to be some very good teachings about the use of drugs when you are trying to self-realize. The gist of these teachings is: Waking up is about waking up and remaining awake. No drug can do this for you.
Anandamayi Ma, my Satguru, gave many teachings on this point.
In the search for Reality one must not allow oneself to be overpowered by anything, but should watch carefully whatever phenomena may supervene, keeping fully conscious, wide awake. — Anandamayi Ma
Marijuana is now becoming legal in many U.S. states. That is my motivation for writing this message.
If you are already convinced that marijuana or other drugs mix well with spiritual practice, then this message is not for you.
If you feel it’s harmless to zone out with recreational drugs now and then, or more than now and then, then this message is not for you.
As Ma taught, everyone’s path makes sense as seen from that path. All paths are God’s.
I’m writing this for those with some questions or doubts about drug use and the process of waking up. I hope it is of benefit to you.
Intoxication is Intoxication
There is an undeniable relationship between the experience of being high, or drunk, and enlightenment.
One of my favorite authors wrote: I drink because God denies me true intoxication. (Severo Sarduy)
Relief from the burden of the self is sought through both drugs and spiritual practice. As does spiritual practice, drug and alcohol use can relieve physical and emotional tension and lower various boundaries.
Depending on the drug, one might experience flashes of clarity, visions, meetings with other realm beings, flights of imagination, important insights, or just a rush.
Spiritual practice offers all this and more. In fact, the realized state is sometimes referred to as divya – God intoxicated.
But the results of spiritual practice differ from the results of drug use in three important respects:
- The positive effects of consistent spiritual practice are permanent and infinitely more thorough and far-reaching than anything that can be obtained through the use of drugs.
- The relief from the burden of individuality that generally occurs through use of marijuana, opiates and alcohol is a by-product of numb out. The relief from this burden that occurs through spiritual practice is the result of profound relaxation, opening of the senses and the dawning of clarity.
- Long-term drug and alcohol use leads to impairment of body, energy and mind. Long-term spiritual practice leads to enhancement of body, energy and mind.
So, you could say that the desire to use and some of the outcomes of using drugs and alcohol exist on a continuum with spiritual practice, but they are not that.
My teachers have always encouraged me to realize the Self, continuous and unbroken, by engaging in unbroken spiritual practice. Identifying and integrating with primordial awakeness happens on the meditation cushion, at work, at play and even during sleep.
Taking time outs to numb out or go on drug-induced adventures doesn’t figure in.
Where marijuana is concerned, the longevity of the effects on your mind and subtle energy body is well known in Ayurvedic circles. So even recreational use of marijuana can create subtle distortions in your mental perceptions and senses that last well beyond that doobie you smoked last Tuesday.
While absorbed in meditation, whether one is conscious of the body or not, whether there be a sense of identification with the physical or not – under all circumstances, it is imperative to remain wide-awake; unconsciousness must be strictly avoided. One must be fully conscious, wide awake. . . . To fall into a stupor or into yogic sleep will not take one anywhere.
— Anandamayi Ma
Self-realization is resting in the natural state, a condition of blazing aliveness, clarity, spontaneity, and continuity with life as it is. It is not trance or distortion. It is also not a cool or one-off experience.
The momentary, partial relaxation, or boundarilessness one can experience using drugs is a distant, pale echo of the profound immersion in the infinite that characterizes the fruit of sadhana.
The insights or teachings one may garner using drugs such as ayahuasca are, at best, baby steps toward primordial wisdom. And any insight worth having, all the insights in fact, are already there for you to realize from the beginning without drugs. Why? Because what you are realizing through spiritual practice is the nature of your own self.
Sadhana means directing to the goal. We have enough stuff enticing us to detour from the path, or settle for limited insights without drugs being added to the mix.
As Ma said: Don’t settle for anything less than waking up. Keep on continuing. It will happen.
“Those who desire to remain intoxicated by Reality do not require artificial intoxicants. Indulging in false things will only increase falsity, for every direction is indeed infinite. Those who desire the truly genuine Thing proceed of themselves with great intensity so as to progress in their sadhana.” – Anandamayi Ma