Sunday, October 27, 2013

Nirvana and psychedelics

Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly, special thanks to Oliver Hockenhull
The Buddha smiling in stone (
"Neurons to Nirvana"
Nirvana is a Sanskrit term (Pali nibbana). But the special meaning the Buddha gave to the word is confined to Buddhism. The word existed before the advent of Buddhism. The Buddha used it as a verb (action or occurrence), not as a noun (person, place, or thing). It means to liberate (moksha), the freedom following enlightenment (bodhi, "awakening").

Nirvana is also very technically called "the unconditioned element," indicating its special standing among all the myriad of conditioned (composite) elements that form heaps. The Buddha was taking particular aim at the illusion of "self" or "ego" that arises from clinging to the Five Aggregates (explained by Bhikkhu Bodhi).
Nirvana literally means "quenching" or "slaking" as of thirst or "blowing out" as of the painful fires of craving (tanha, literally "thirst"). The principal analogy spoken of is the "blowing out" of a dependently-originated candle flame.
In addition to "the end of suffering or disappointment," nirvana may also be defined technically as "the end of greed, hatred, and delusion." It is often confused, confounded, or misinterpreted with Brahminal/Hindu and even Mahayana notions of enlightenment as "pure or original consciousness."
It is in this sense that the makers of "Neurons to Nirvana" are using the term. Many ancient Indian philosophical/religious groups now loosely use the term nirvana, assigning to it their own definition. It is understood as being involved in yogic processes and may even be used as a synonym for the goal of Patanjali's "eight limbs" (ashtanga) of yoga, namely, moksha.
The makers of the film are understanding and placing the use of psychedelics in the arena of natural medicine, as ancient technologies of consciousness, as yogic and/or tantric practices.

Further information is available in the book ZigZag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics, which provides a fuller discussion of the intersection of the two. The essay by Dokushô Villalba Sensei -- a Soto Zen master, the founder and spiritual director of the Spanish Soto Zen Buddhist Community and of the Luz Serena ("Serene Light") -- is particularly excellent.
Zig Zag Zen
[This book is] a treasure trove -- inspiring, frightening, powerful, funny, eye-opening, and a source of great wisdom on a subject that our society finds endlessly confusing. - Mark Epstein

"[It is] a must read for anyone who is concerned about the future of Buddhist practice." - Robert Thurman

"[It] touches all the high points... it is an important book." - Laura Huxley
"[It] challenges Western Buddhists to acknowledge their closeted psychedelic legacies, while confronting users with the troubling duality undermining any chemically dependent spiritual path." - Douglas Rushkoff
  • READ NOW: FOREWORD by Stephen Batchelor, PREFACE by Huston Smith, INTRODUCTION by Allan Hunt Badiner.
  • Edited by Allan Hunt Badiner; images edited by Alex Grey (30 color images, 240 pages). 

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