Friday, August 1, 2014

Entheogenic use of Cannabis and Yoga

Pat Macpherson, Seth Auberon, CC Liu (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly (Wikipedia edits)
Sadhus: India's Mystic Holy Men (Dolf Hartsuiker). Reviewed at

An entheogen ("generating the divine within") refers to substances or practices used in a spiritual, religious, shamanic, or sacred context, whether natural or human made, to expand consciousness. Checking out is abuse, but tuning in may be searching (WQ).

What, man? I'm cool. I can maintain.
Cannabis (street name Mary Jane) has been used in an entheogenic ("generating the divine within") context in India since the Vedic period dating back to approximately 1500 BCE but perhaps as far back as 2000 BCE.
WARNING: Avoid intoxicants (in accord with fifth precept, see below). Wisdom Quarterly advocates only the healing use of plants and exercise, not their abuse. Hemp is a miracle; weed is not. Not high-THC, but high-CBD content, is medicinal.
There are several references in Greek mythology to a powerful drug that eliminated anguish and sorrow. Herodotus wrote about early ceremonial practices by the Scythians [some argue that the Buddha's family, the Shakyans, were in fact the Scythians], thought to have occurred from the 5th to 2nd century BCE.
Spiritual endeavors are not about partying.
Itinerant Hindu sadhus (revered full-time spiritual seekers) have used it in India for centuries (Edward Bloomquist. Marijuana: The Second Trip. California: Glencoe, 1971). And many yogis look like it, which is not to their credit or benefit, with their dreadlocks (jata), droopy countenances, and failure at spiritual attainments.
  • The goal of the Eightfold Path of Yoga, according to Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, is the stilling of the mind, the vrittis. What does this have to do with Buddhism? Patanjali's whole system of exposition and language (hybrid Sanskrit) would not have been possible without Buddhism:
Patanjali's "eightfold path" of yoga
The factors of the Path to enlightenment
Vyasa's Yogabhashya, the commentary to the Yoga Sutras, and Vacaspati Misra's subcommentary state directly that the samadhi techniques [right concentration] are directly borrowed from Buddhism's meditative absorptions [the Noble Eightfold Path defines samma samadhi as the first four jhanas], with the addition of the mystical and divine interpretations of mental absorption.1
Even if you get blissed out, remember to breathe! Maty Ezraty teaching (
According to David Gordon White, the language of the Yoga Sutras is often closer to "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, the Sanskrit of the early Mahayana Buddhist scriptures, than to the classical Sanskrit of other Hindu scriptures.2 According to Karel Werner,
Patanjali's [yoga] system is unthinkable without Buddhism. As far as its terminology goes there is much in the Yoga Sutras that reminds us of Buddhist formulations from the Pāli Canon and even more so from the Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma and from Sautrāntika."3
Uma's dad Robert (
American Buddhist and Dalai Lama translator Prof. Robert Thurman writes that Patañjali was influenced by the success of the Buddhist monastic system to formulate his own matrix for the version of thought he considered [Vedic] orthodox.4

However, it is also to be noted that the Yoga Sutras, especially the fourth segment of the Kaivalya Pada, contains several polemical verses critical of [some] Buddhism, particularly the [philosophy of the] Vijñānavāda (Yogacara, "Yoga Practice") school of Vasubandhu.5
Ancient and modern India and Nepal
Sick hippies, intellectuals, and sell outs
The earliest known reports regarding the sacred status of cannabis in India and Nepal come from the Atharva Veda estimated to have been written sometime around 2000-1400 BC,6 which mentions cannabis as one of the "five sacred plants."7
There are three types of cannabis used in India and Nepal. The first, bhang, consists of the leaves and plant tops of the cannabis plant. It is usually consumed as an infusion in beverage form and varies in strength according to how much cannabis is used in the preparation.

The second, ganja, consisting of the leaves and the plant tops, is smoked.

The third, called charas or hashish, consists of the resinous buds and/or extracted resin from the leaves of the plant. Typically, bhang is the most commonly used form of cannabis in religious festivals.
Maybe it's called "pot" because it makes couch potato's pot bellies crave potato chips or called "dope" because... well, it isn't making Bud any wiser. If beer is "liquid ignorance," dope may be its gaseous form. Moreover, CBD is more useful than THC.

  • “After years of [pot] growers aiming to boost THC percentages in their crops, many growers have switched to focusing on producing CBD-rich strains because of the increasing demand by medical users” - WQ (
Marijuana in modern Hinduism
Aghori yogi ritually drinking sacred bhang from human skull cup with Shiva behind.
During the Indian and Nepalese (particularly in the Terai and Hilly regions) festival of Holi, people consume bhang, which contains cannabis flowers.8,9

According to one description, when the amrita ("elixir of life") was produced from the churning of the ocean by the devas and the asuras, Shiva created cannabis from his own body to purify the elixir (leading to cannabis' epithet, angaja, or "body-born").

Yogi dozing off on nails (
Another account suggests that the cannabis plant sprang up when a drop of the elixir dropped on the ground. Therefore, cannabis is used by would be Hindu sages due to its association with the mythical elixir and Shiva. Wise drinking of bhang, according to religious rites, is believed to cleanse karma, unite one with Shiva, and avoid the miseries of hell in future lives. [It may well have the opposite effect depending on what one does, the karma one engages in, while intoxicated.]
It is also believed to have medicinal benefits. In contrast, foolish drinking of bhang without rites, which is considered bad karma.10 Although cannabis was regarded as illegal and designated a Schedule 1 drug (no redeeming value), many Nepalese people consume it during festivals (like Shivaratri), which the government tolerates to some extent, and also for personal and recreational purposes.

Buddhism and pot
I'm totally into Buddhism, yoga, veg food. I just use this as like medicine, man. - Yeah, right!
In Buddhism, the Fifth Precept is to "abstain from wines, liquors, and intoxicants that occasion heedlessness."

How this applies to cannabis is variously interpreted. Cannabis and some other psychoactive plants are specifically prescribed in the Tibetan Mahākāla Tantra for medicinal purposes.

However, Tantra is an esoteric teaching -- a questionable blending of Hinduism and Buddhism -- not generally accepted by most other forms of either Buddhism or Hinduism.11 More

Meditate for health and to end all suffering.
1. John David, The Yoga System of Patanjali with commentary Yogabhashya attributed to Veda Vyasa and Tattva Vaicharadi by Vacaspati Misra. Harvard Univ. Press, 1914.
2. White 2014, p.10.
3. Karel Werner, The Yogi and the Mystic, Routledge, 1994, p.27.
4. Robert Thurman, "The Central Philosophy of Tibet." Princeton Univ. Press, 1984, p.34.

5. John Nicol Farquhar, An Outline of the Religious Literature of India, p.132. 
6. Courtwright, David (2001). Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World. Harvard Univ. Press. p.39.
7. Touw, Mia. "The religious and medicinal uses of Cannabis in China, India and Tibet". J Psychoactive Drugs 13 (1).
8. Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission. Simla, India: Government Central Printing House. 1894. Chapter IX: Social and Religious Customs.
9. "The History of the Intoxicant Use of Marijuana". National Commission of Marijuana and Drug Abuse.
11. Stablein WG. The Mahākālatantra: A Theory of Ritual Blessings and Tantric Medicine. Doctoral Dissertation, Columbia Univ. 1976. pp.21-2,80,255-6,36,286,5.

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