Wisdom Weed

By Brahma Das

Every year in June the Mendocino County Fairgrounds near our home hosts the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival. The festival features an eclectic mix of Afrocentric rhythms dominated by the immensely popular style of music known as Reggae. Evolving in Jamaica out of calypso and blues in the 60’s and popularized by icon Bob Marley in the 70’s, Reggae music has become the de facto anthem of the Rastafarian religion.

What is the Rastafarian religion? I asked this question to Reggae enthusiasts who had attended the festival and the unusual and conflicting answers I received left me quite confused. The Internet however, enabled me to become acquainted with the theology and fascinating history of Rastafarianism, which began in much the same way as the American Black Muslim movement did, out of racism, oppression, and hopeless poverty. Oppressed people, whether Israelite or African, often seek a messiah and beginning in the 1930s many Jamaicans believed they had found their savior in Haile Selassie, the then Emperor of Ethiopa. This was due in large part to the influence of (back to Africa) political leader Marcus Garvey who prophesized, “Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be your Redeemer.” These words were the catalyst for the first Rasta congregation, formed in Jamaica in 1935. The leader of that congregation, Leonard Howell, proclaimed that through the divinity of Haile Selassie black people would arise from white oppression and return to Africa in glory.

In a nutshell, then, “The Rastafari movement is a monotheistic, Abrahamic, new religious movement that accepts Haile Selassie I, the former, and final, Emperor of Ethiopia, as the incarnation of God, called Jah or Jah Rastafari. Haile Selassie is also seen as part of the Holy Trinity and as the returned messiah promised in the Bible.”

While the idea seems outlandish, one could hardly find a political hero with more apparent messianic credentials than Haile Selassie. Born into a royal dynasty claiming descent from Biblical King Solomon through his consort, the Queen of Sheba, and married to a woman who could trace her ancestry to Islam’s prophet Mohammed, the handsome and eloquent leader known then as Ras Tafari Makonnen (Ras means duke or prince) was crowned King Emperor of Ethiopia on November 2nd, 1930. Upon coronation he took the name Haile Selassie (Power of the Trinity) and became titular head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a mysterious Christian sect that worships the lost Ark of the Covenant. The Ark, believed to have been spirited out of Israel before conquering Babylonians by Menelik, the Son of Solomon and Sheba, supposedly remains to this day hidden in Ethiopia, awaiting divine renewal.

While Haile Selassie’s reign as Emperor of Ethiopia was not exactly stellar in every respect, all considered, he distinguished himself as a benevolent ruler, a champion of human rights, and a determined freedom fighter, leading his nation’s army in the field against Mussolini’s brutal invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. In exile, during the short Italian occupation of his country, as well as beyond, Selassie’s statesmanship and heartfelt pleas for universal justice and human rights endeared him to all lovers of freedom, inspiring figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, and other black civil rights leaders.

In light of all this, I can at least theoretically understand how that first Jamaican congregation and those to follow might believe Haile Selassie a prophet, saint, or even a messiah (defined in the Oxford-American dictionary as “a leader or savior of a particular group or cause”). Still, it seems to me quite a stretch to accept a modern politician, Haile Selassie or otherwise, as a divine incarnation of God. Perhaps the answer to this unusual mystery of faith can be found in the Rasta sacrament known as “The Reasoning.” In this ritual, Rastas use “wisdom weed” (cannabis) to find esoteric truth, often by discussing the Bible, as well as various ancient Ethiopian sacred texts. Through “The Reasoning” the deepest secrets of the religion (such as the divinity of Haile Salassie) are supposedly revealed to the chosen.

Of course Rastafarians are not the only religious people to use cannabis in quest of spiritual realization. Indeed, Rastas, with their matted locks, resemble India’s followers of Shiva who use cannabis to aid in meditation and induce visions. (Incidentally, many historians believe that indentured servants from India first brought the so-called sacred weed to Jamaica after the slave trade there was abolished.) Also in India, turbaned members of the Sikh religious warrior class (Nihangs) are known to drink bhang, a powerful beverage made from cannabis, during their ceremonies. Although Sikh scripture strictly forbids intoxication, the Nihang tradition holds that Sikh leader Guru Gobind Singh gave them special dispensation to consume the beverage in order to heighten their fearlessness before going into battle. (So much for the theory that cannabis is exclusively a peace-enhancing drug.) In addition, various Sufis, Shamans, Coptic Christians, Essenes, and other sects and sub-sects too numerous to mention are also known to use cannabis for religious reasons.

But what, if anything, does “wisdom weed” have to do with religious insight? Like most of my peers of the 60’s generation I experimented with marijuana but I never felt that smoking dope was intrinsic to my spiritual path. However, if one adds scriptural discussion and changes the name from “smoking dope” to “The Reasoning” then to many the affair might take on an air of mystic possibility. One such advocate, Ram Das/Richard Alpert, the famous author of the seminal 1971 countercultural treatise on eastern metaphysics, Be Here Now, lauded marijuana as a portal to transcendental realization. Yet, if marijuana is such a portal, then the question remains as to why so many millions have gone through that door to remain unenlightened or worse; as in gangs, in prison, or insane.

Rastas also point to the fact that Rita Marley, the wife of Reggae musician Bob Marley, claimed to have seen the stigmata, or wounds of Christ, on the body of Haile Salassie when he visited Jamaica in 1966.  If this were so, wouldn’t this be proof of his divinity?

In reply to the question of visions arising from the religious use of marijuana or psilocybin, distinguished guru and author Swami Tripurari writes the following:

Research shows that visual experiences derived from the use of hallucinogenic drugs vary in relation to one’s mental preoccupation. Therefore, persons who use drugs for spiritual purposes will likely have visions corresponding with their particular religious preoccupation. For example, Native Americans and others who practice nature-based religions are said to often experience themselves as animal spirits. Hindus might have visions they imagine to be akin to Arjuna’s experience of the Universal Form of Krishna as described in the Bhagavad-gita, and Christians might perceive their visions as related to the second coming of Christ. Tellingly, persons with no spiritual background or interest whatsoever will hallucinate in terms of their own materialistic interests. Obsessed with the Beatles song Helter Skelter, the drug-induced visions of Charles Manson were of an apocalyptic racial war, one that he personally tried to bring about by murdering innocent people. Nothing at all spiritual about that!

Under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs, one may have visions of Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, or dancing elephants for that matter, but such visions are only temporary creations of the mind. The real Krishna is adhoksaja, beyond the limitations of the mind. His darsana is available to persons like Arjuna, who through their devotion have become his intimate friends. Bhagavad-gita (11.53-54) says that to such great souls Krishna gives the transcendental eyes with which to see him in truth.”

From Sanga: Seeing Krsna, The Power of Love.

The fact that ones experience on psychotropic or hallucinogenic drugs corresponds with the users mentality explains why Rita Marley might have seen the stigmata on Haile Selassie, or “The Reasoning” might reinforce the Rasta claim of Haile Selassie as the divine Jah Rastafari. After all, a person has to be open to smoking cannabis and Rasta theology to take part in a Reasoning session. The trick then, at least for me, would be to be able to convince people of the divinity of Haile Salassie without the help of wisdom weed, something that from antiquity has been done with Buddha, Christ, Krishna, and other deities. It is also important to note that Haile Salassie never claimed to be divine, actually he claimed otherwise. In a news interview in 1967 he said, “I have heard of that idea [that I am divine]. I also met certain Rastafarians. I told them clearly that I am a man, that I am mortal, and that I will be replaced by the oncoming generation, and that they should never make a mistake in assuming or pretending that a human being is emanated from a deity.”

Nor is Haile Salassie on record as promoting the use of cannabis as a religious sacrament. Indeed, Marcus Garvey, the person said to have started it all with one enigmatic declaration, disavowed the idea of Salassie’s divinity, and made a statement that today in California’s marijuana-growing capital, Mendocino County, would be so politically incorrect that many residents here would be embarrassed to repeat it. Garvey proclaimed, “Ganja is a dangerous weed. That our people are being destroyed by the use of ganja there is absolutely no doubt. Between ganja and fanatical religion, we are developing a large population of half-crazy people who may not only injure themselves but also injure us.”

Therefore, despite the visions and claims of wisdom weed proponents I remain unconvinced of the value of using any type of intoxicant for spiritual purposes. For me, the words of another distinguished spiritual leader, Swami B. R. Sridhara Maharaja of India, sum up the issue. He said, “Many so-called holy men smoke marijuana. It helps concentration but that is the material mind, and the material mind under the influence of material intoxication cannot take us to the desired spiritual goal. Only faith can take us to that goal. Mundane things like marijuana and hashish cannot take us very high and will only frustrate us in our time of need. Ultimately, only real faith in the line of pure devotion can help us.”  (The Search For Sri Krishna)

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86 Responses to Wisdom Weed

  1. The real ganja gurus do not advocate smoking the weed anymore.
    There are vaporizer systems on the market now that make ingesting cannabis healthy and medicinal.
    Smoking any combustible substance is unhealthy, but people like the buzz from the weed. Nowadays vaporizing is catching on. There are none of the toxins caused by combustion in vaporized weed.

    Vaporized cannabis is a health tonic that awards many benefits, plus it gets you hammered at the same time.
    So, just a tip to all the users of the sacred sacrament – don’t smoke weed! Vaporize it!

    I know a guy who actually used cannabis vapors to heal his lungs after a wicked bout with swine flu last winter. He went from destroyed lungs to healed lungs in a just a few days on the vapors.

    Ganja vapors are a health tonic, but it also gets the stoner the effect he wants – the meditative mood.

    Vaporizing is the future of cannabis use and it is actually a health tonic and not a health hazard.
    Smoking the weed is bad for your lungs.

    • Good tips. You know a lot on every topic.

    • KB,
      So I guess the proper question when we come across some of your more creative angles on Gaudiya siddhanta is not: “KB, what you been smoking?” but rather “KB, what you been vaporizing?!?” 😮

      • Whohhaahahahahhaaaa vaporizers are healthy Madan what are you talking about? 😀

      • My creative angles come from years and years and years of reading the books of Srila Prabhupada.
        But, I am the guy who was devastated from swine flu who started vaporizing and found out that it helped a lot in curing my wasted lungs. I mean I had swine flu, the cold, the regular flu all at once or something because my lungs were bad and I was afraid that they might be permanently damaged.

        I stopped smoking the weed and started vaporizing and the results were quick, dramatic and undeniable.

        Weed intoxication is an anartha. We all know that. But, for those people whose have fallen into smoking weed (like I did), I can tell them with strong personal experience that vaporized weed is a health tonic that supports immune function and a sense of well-being.

        Please, all you tokers out there, go get yourself a vaporizer and resolve yourself to stop smoking the stuff and damaging your lungs.

        The fact is this:
        1. You get higher on vapors than smoke.
        2. It takes less weed to get high.

        So, there you have it. You actually can get much higher on vapors than the smoke. You can even trip on THC if you vape enough of it. Plus, it takes less weed and therefore saves you money unless you are growing your own.

        Really, vaporizing weed is a great development in cannabis use. Smoking even tastes bad after you start vaporizing.
        Vaporizing simply releases the essential cannabis oils to be absorbed in the lungs without heat, lighter gas or the carbon monoxide or smoke particles caused in combustion.

  2. The use of psychodelic substances in religious ceremonies goes back to Vedic times and the use of soma plant. Most shamanic religions involve using psychodelic substances as well. What are the benefits, from the HK perspective? Realization that there is more to this world than what we can typically perceive, realization that we are not this body, realization that there are powerful unseen forces in the world. But there are risks and drawbacks as well.
    Naga Baba masters are thought to communicate with their celestial Naga (snake) guides through the ganja induced meditation. That practice paralels shamanic use of psychodelic substances.

  3. “Under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs, one may have visions of Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, or dancing elephants for that matter, but such visions are only temporary creations of the mind.”

    Someone could just as well say that the Deity on the altar is a temporary creation of the sculptor, but yet we are assured that Krishna personally enters into the Deity to accept the service of His devotees.

    Gross materialism is hard to overcome in such a materialistic modern world, but there are many instances of people being opened to spiritual possibilities through the use of intoxicants, especially those categorized or used as entheogens. It is not hard to see that for some people this could be a possible stepping stone to real spiritual awakening that would eventually outgrow the perceived need for drugs.

    There would also be risks, such as losing the spiritual focus and increasing one’s hankering for material enjoyment, or the simple danger of having an accident due to the physical effects of the drug. However, if Krishna is appearing in the mind searching for a spiritual awakening through drugs, I would take that as a good sign. Krishna’s appearance is always auspicious.

  4. Paul says, “However, if Krishna is appearing in the mind searching for a spiritual awakening through drugs, I would take that as a good sign. Krishna’s appearance is always auspicious”

    There is a difference in projecting ourselves into the form of divinity AND divinity projecting himself into our form. In one we control the “vision” of him, in the other he controls us. If we want to control the Absolute we should probably try to do so with the force of our love, not the neurochemicals of our world. The objective Absolute is far less limited than the image projected by our minds.

    I wish we could just call it: intoxication is for our own pleasure not His. (this coming from me, the least likely on here to be called a saintly ascetic). There is no easy way to drag him down to us. We must draw him down with attachment and love.

  5. I was an acid master in my days. I took it to the limits in the early 70’s. It helped me to a point because it allowed me to spend days on end reading Prabhupada’s books and practically not eating or sleeping as I prepared myself to go to L.A. temple and surrender in early 75′.
    I did an acid intensive in the last few weeks of my study and consumed unheard of amounts of the lysergic while I studied Bhagavad-gita As-it-Is and my first book the Nectar of Devotion amongst several other books and hearing the tapes and reading BTGs.

    I loved the acid, but I gave it up easily when I read in Prabhupada’s books that it was forbidden.

    I have a suspicion that one early disciple of Srila Prabhupada laced his sweet rice with acid once just to see how he would respond.
    I have no proof, just a crazy psychic suspicion.

    Maybe I was the one tripping when I thought of that?

    I was an LSD master. Few men have ever taken it to the level I took it. I found out that it certainly is not spiritual but it did help me in my genetic/physical transformation as I was reading the books of Srila Prabhupada mainly in the aspect of helping me to become “gudakesa” or the conqueror of sleep.

    Not only must the senses be conquered, but anyone wanting the transcendental experience must also conquer sleep which is very difficult to do, but it gets easier for old men who need very little sleep.
    Acid helped when I was young. But, now I know that the real substance of pleasure is the Holy Name of Krishna which is the most wholesome of all pleasures.

  6. Thanks for this interesting and informative article, Brahma. Since the use of cannabis was legal in Vedic times, I support California’s Proposition 19 to control and tax the use of marijuana in that state. I believe intoxication is detrimental in many ways, especially in spiritual life, but not to the extent of enforcing abstinence upon others by law.

  7. Krishna Chaitanya das

    I know one Prabhupada disciple that told me about LSD helping him come to Krishna consciousness. He said there was a certain person who would take others on an LSD trip when they were ready to surrender to Krishna. They would take LSD and then read a particular verse in the Bhagavad-gita. I’m pretty sure he told me it was 10:2. “Neither the hosts of demigods nor the great sages know My origin, for, in every respect, I am the source of the demigods and the sages.” After taking this LSD trip one would join the temple.

      • I don’t know about the previous story but there may be a speck of truth in it.
        Many devotees attribute their initial interest in Krsna consciousness to the use of psychedelic drugs. While some western devotees may have at one time used psychedelics, the drugs in themselves were not the essential cause of their spiritual pursuit, (remember the vast majority of drug users remain unenlightened or worse, as in gangs, in prison, or insane).

        The essential cause of devotion to Krsna is bhakti sukrti gained by sadhu sanga. Swami puts it like this: “For many external reasons, some not even religious, persons may apparently become interested in the path of pure bhakti; however, according to Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami and Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the real reason one begins to tread that path is nitya sukrti gained by sadhu-sanga, the association of a devotee. The conclusion is that only through sadhu-sanga will one develop faith in the path of suddha bhakti.”

        And of course a drug-induced vision of Krsna is not necessarily “Krsna appearing in the mind”. In most cases it is simply a hallucination based on an associative experience–a hallucination that may, or may not, lead one on to higher pursuits.

        That said—I should admit that I was introduced to Krsna consciousness in 1971 by an ex-ISKCON member who had returned to my small town in Western Pennsylvania to start his own LSD/Krsna commune. He was known in town as Tony The Guru, and there is quite a story there, with some interesting lessons. While he had a few core followers, perhaps twenty, some even shaved up with sika, he influenced even more to chant Hare Krsna. However, as it turned out, I was the only person from his group to actually join the movement, and later Tony recanted and became a born-again Christian.

        Yes, Tony The Guru–may be the title of my next article.

        • edhaniyasvabhava das

          Yes, i would like to hear this story. And thank you for the information and historical references used. Radhe!

  8. honestly I would be more interested in learning more about Jewish or Islamic mysticism then about bunch of pot heads who don’t wash their hair, but its a free country and i do appreciate the information and effort put into this article.

    • I have seen personally a younger guy who was not very spiritually inclined become very spiritually inclined after a few trips on shrooms. So, it can help to inspire a person to believe in other realities apart from our physical existence.
      There are many examples of mundaners getting interested in spiritual topics after using psychedelics.

      The substances cannot and do not invoke any spiritual effects, but they can shock the complacent mind into becoming interested in spirituality.

      This has happened many times. Still, I do not recommend it to anyone, but if they choose it themselves it might help reboot the mind to a better understanding of the mystical.

      Basically, these psychedelics activate the dream portion of the brain while one is awake and that is what causes hallucinations.
      Dreaming while you are awake is not spiritual, but it is a crazy enough experience that a lot of people get interested in spirituality after using some.

      There are lots of different experiences in life to help to turn people towards spirituality. Psychedelics might help some people out of their mental limitations as a sort of shock treatment of altered consciousness.

      Psychedelics were part of the whole scenario when Prabhupada came to bring KC to America. Many acid heads became devotees.
      Even today I can tell you that psychedelics are fairly popular with the young generations and they are in many ways continuing the legacy of the previous generation.

      I took lots of it. I never saw Krishna, Jesus or pink Elephants dancing.
      Even if I would have seen the form of Krishna due to a hallucination that would have been spiritual form as Krishna’s form is always spiritual no matter where it appears or how it appears, even if it is in a hallucination.

      For people spiritually inclined I don’t see any use for them to take the stuff. But, it might be useful on a conditioned mind covered in a hard shell of ego and unable to open up to a radical and new understanding of God and reality.

      Sometimes it takes something really profound to shock people out of their complacency. If information and philosophy doesn’t register, then maybe a wild ride on the Acid will open up their mind.

      I have seen profound transformations for the better in some people who used psychedelics, so I don’t base my opinions on old wives tales or urban legends but personal observation and experience.

      • I also believe there is some truth in this (that hallucinogenics can initiate spiritual searching). Medics can tell a person is brain dead when the pupils become dilated and don’t respond to light–an effect nearly identical to that produced by hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, etc. With marijuana, the pupils don’t become fixed in dilation but quickly oscillate back and forth between dilated and undilated. In other words, hallucinogenic drugs produce a type of “near-death” experience in the brain, and “near-death” experiences are known to often initiate spiritual interest and searching. Not that I would recommend this, of course, nor is it always so, but there is probably some correlation between the two. I’m not sure what the effect of multiple, unguided and prolonged “near-death” experiences are but it likely isn’t good!

        I have also read the systematic Vedic process for taking soma, which is delineated in the works of Sushruta. Apparently, soma was a very powerful hallucinogenic drug similar to peyote. Its effects would last for about two weeks, emaciate the body, produce vomiting, etc. but also generated powerful hallucinations and visions. This was believed to purify the body and mind of the guided patient, much like fasting or having a “near-death” experience would be. Soma was administered through fixed rituals for various medical purposes.

      • I smoked cannabis last year for pain in my body that were the result of a motorcycle accident. By chance, I began listening to the Ravi Shankar album “Chants of India,” which is a very spiritual album. It was as powerful as meditation (which I now do), and changed my life. I no longer smoke, but it definitely is what tuned me into Hinduism. I will also add that while understandably some will reject cannabis as a substance that dulls the physical mind and prevents one from truly expanding the conscience, it was the best way FOR me to do so. I suffer extreme anxiety and have my whole life. It is hard to focus. But when I was high, the frantic mindset was silenced… indeed I was able to consciously tune out my negativity, relax, and focus completely on meditating on the Supreme. It benefitted me greatly and changed my entire life!

        I no longer use cannabis. I still meditate, although it is considerably more difficult to relax and tune out my negative thoughts, even while chanting. So in summation, perhaps it doesn’t work for some. For some it may be the only way. I know that my Lord loves me immensely, and in the future should I use it again? I think my intentions will be understood. It is He who knows my intentions. Jai Radha-Krsna!

        • Interestingly, Patanjali in his Yoga Sutra 4.1 says that mystic power (siddhayah) can be attained by birth, austerity, mantra, meditation, or by herbs (osadhi). In his commentary to this verse Shankara here mentions ‘soma’ a mysterious Vedic concoction that modern theorists try to link with cannabis, mushrooms, ephedra, and other herbs. Other ancient commentators on the Yoga sutra say that indeed certain herbs can produce ‘out of body experiences.’

          However, Srila Sridhara Maharaja likens such experiences as entering the world of mind, which is ‘out of body’ though not exactly spiritual—as Bhagavad Gita refers to mind as a material element.

  9. from cow dung grow mushrooms (psilosabin cubensis), highly psychoactive if somebody is or trying to remember or chant hari names ,the question should be his vision are truly product of the mind or this compound are accelerator of our inner felling and desire?, rshis use this compounds , maybe our neuro-soup is a product of the symbiosis we have for millions of years with this compound, maybe that is one of the reason krishna love mother cow too. transcendental inner accelerators of rasa.

    • “Transcendental inner accelerators of rasa?” Sorry, but that is sadly mistaken.

      In my (fairly extensive) experience with the substances under discussion, and after much thought in an attempt to make sense of my experiences while using them, my conclusion was (and still is) that they are amplifiers of whatever is already in the mind and have nothing to do with bringing one closer to Divinity.

      No material compound is going to really help anyone in the realm of bhakti; they are mutually exclusive–one is of the gunas and the other is nirguna. Sattva-guna can help us to do spiritual practices out of which genuine spiritual insight arises but psychedelics and entheogens are tamasic–they delude the user into thinking they are more realized than they really are. Not very useful if one is interested in going beyond the gunas.

      Krsna’s love for the cows is because they are the embodiment of innocence and of selfless giving, not because psylocybin grows on cow dung. And where is your evidence that rsis used it?

  10. Jayatirtha gave plenty of Srimad Bhagavatam classes totally blitzed on LSD. Eventually he started his own whacky cult and we all know how it ended. It is very unfortunate that Iskcon was dominated by the ex-dopeheads. Some of these guys live in a fantasy world even today.

  11. Rastafarians’ theology not withstanding, its a fact that ganja is an essencial element in shivaite sadhana. They call it the holy herb.

    It can be said that, if the sincere longing in the heart is for God and God alone, the means for such search will fall into the category of adjustables according to time, place and circumstances. And perhaps also, as a sub category of circumstances, substances. Indeed, its interesting how the very word ‘substance’ can have positive and negative meanings, according to context.

    It is said that Srila Prabhupada’s father would keep ganja to offer to visiting sadhus. He did so with the view of taking potential blessings from any possible source available. This stance is not against the principles of utilizing favorable elements for the cultivation of God consciousness. The key word here being ‘favorable’, not elements.

    If a ‘stoned’ sadhu can actualize genuine spiritual blessings, then evidently its not all evil about the substance he utilizes.

    I have heard the anedocte that, once, a western pilgrim went to Srila Sridhara Maharaja with a troubled heart to ask for guidance. He revealed that he had an attachment which was so great that he feared he might be barred from bhakti altogether. He confessed that he was very fond of ganja. Srila Sridhara Maharaja appearently expected something worse, and so on hearing the confession said, and I paraphrase, “Oh that is not so bad, it will fail you in the end, but it does not get in the way of your bhakti per se.” Again, I am just paraphrasing, but the point was that Srila Sridhara maharaja made it clear that it wasn’t in itself a fatal impediment to bhakti. It can be interpreted that, as the following of the four principles is a brahminical mandate rather than a strictly Gaudiya Vaishnava mandade, non intoxication is a cleaningness abiding practice rather than a refraining from sin one. If the cleaningness element is maintained, then there is no sin. If the intention in the heart is correct, then bhakti corrects everything around it. Bhakti is independent, completely free.

    • It is one thing to smoke, etc, but another to begin to philosophize about it and to try to turn something that is clearly pratikula into something that is anukula.

      • That is true. But its very much one thing as well to speak of ganja from the point of view of the US’ government systematic brainwashing tactics of “war on drugs”, and another thing to speak of the substance withing a religious context.

        A question still remains, Swami: How was that Srila Prabhupada’s father was able to get blessings from ganja smokers? Especifically ganja smokers. Love me, love my joint. Or is ours rather a religion of usage? Usage of people, that is?

        • They amy have offered blessings but did he get them? Prabhupada became disillusioned by them.

        • Maybe that was the blessing 🙂

        • The father wasn’t evidently ‘desillusioned’. And was able to help the son. Why would the son be ‘desillusioned’ then? Did he not take his father seriously? Was he using the father in a relative way? If the blessing wasn’t taken, it wasn’t because of its lack of potency. Unlike you Swami, Srila Prabhupada spoke sweetly and affectionately about his father , including the methods his father used to try and obtain every blessing. Srila Prabhupada recognized his father as a ‘pure devotee’. This evidently included his father’s actions. Otherwise, at what point would Srila Prabhupada dismiss the genuine good wishes for spiritual blessings from his father as a joke? At what point did Prabhupada consider that his father made a fool of himself by consulting with smoking ganja and such other sadhus?

          I don’t think he actually did. He celbrated the superior position of his father all thorughout his life, and was proud to mention the father’s actions.

          I think the joke is on those of us who miss this little detail of love and affection between two pure devotees and their extended entourage. 🙂

        • The father helped the son and the son respected the father. What was the blessing? I did not realize that I was not speaking sweetly about him. My point was that they offered blessing but it’s questionable if they had any to give.

        • Bhaktikanda: “…is ours rather a religion of usage? Usage of people, that is?”
          IMO in many ways, yes – and very much so. Squeeze them out like lemon and then toss them out like garbage… yukta vairagya, you know, this great end justifies any means… and this approach backfired in a spectacular way, with thousands of disillusioned followers and ex-followers… burning through the new converts like no other religion I can think of. You reap what you saw…

          Is giving sadhus weed worse than giving young men sannyasa (and everything that goes with it in Iskcon, like fame, profit and distinction), knowing they will almost certainly fall down? How many lives were messed up in each case? At least Iskcon has lots of very nice temples to show for, at least in India…

        • If you are right in your assessment here Kula (and I tend to agree with your feelings), then the blessing actually did indeed backfired, lol!

          Smiley faces answer all questions, no doubt.


        • I honestly and strongly believe that ours is only a period of initial turbulence, when the validity of various approaches in Krsna consciousness is being established. Things are indeed changing and getting better. Krsna consciousness becomes more and more based in reality. Lies, distortions, cultism, hype, and empty promises are being burnt away before our very eyes. What is starting to emerge is working rather well. I already see that newer generations of bhaktas hold much promise and the current diversity of preaching is amazing!

          Things are looking good! 🙂

  12. Srila Prabhupada:

    It is not difficult to remember Kṛṣṇa. Here Kuntīdevī describes Kṛṣṇa with reference to lotus flowers. Similarly, when Kṛṣṇa describes Himself in Bhagavad-gītā, He says, raso ‘ham apsu kaunteya: “I am the taste of liquids.” So one can remember Kṛṣṇa by tasting water. Even if one is drinking liquor, if he thinks, “The taste of this drink is Kṛṣṇa,” he will one day turn out to be a great saintly person. So I can request even drunkards to become Kṛṣṇa conscious, what to speak of others, because Kṛṣṇa says, raso ‘ham apsu kaunteya: “I am the taste of liquids.” Generally in this context “liquid” is taken to mean water. But liquor is also liquid; it is only sugar and molasses or some other combination fermented and distilled. Of course, it is bad because it creates intoxication. Although in one sense nothing is bad, liquor is bad because it creates bad effects. In America there are many drunkards. There is no scarcity of them. But I may request even the drunkards, “When drinking wine, kindly remember that the taste of this drink is Kṛṣṇa. Just begin in this way, and one day you will become a saintly, Kṛṣṇa conscious person.”

    So, could not a toker remember that Krishna is “the healing herb” and become Krishna conscious like the wine drinker thinking of the liquidity in the wine as being Krishna?

    Maharaja, is this a fair statement?
    (don’t be mean)

    Prabhupada taught drinkers to chant Hare Krishna and remember Krishna, so I think it is about time for weed to get the same endorsement.

    I think stoners that read Prabhupada’s books and chant Hare Krishna are not in any spiritual jeopardy, though the weed needs to be given up at some point in the life of the aspiring spiritualist.

    You can’t attain super-consciousness when you are stoned.
    Super-consciousness is a state of supreme sobriety that even requires sleep deprivation, so being stoned on weed is going to prevent the state of super-consciousness from awakening to the Supersoul in the heart.

    Still, one can still accumulate knowledge, pious credits and service credits even while stoned on the weed.

    The real danger is forgetting Krishna. If one is prone to getting stoned and remembering Krishna, then we can rest assured that he is moving in the right direction albeit at a slower pace.

    • I think that this particular healing herb can only be offered to Lord Balarama or Lord Shiva. Otherwise there may be some rasa-bhasa… 😉

      What could be more natural than a bunch of stoned stoners chanting Maha-mantra and dancing in a native American trance style (The Supreme Ghost Dance)? I think our popularity would skyrocket in no time and there would again be talk about Hare Krishnas taking over the world in a few short years… 😉

      Seriously though… that would need to be a separate church… sort of a separate HK tribe… and maybe the movement would eventually learn how to get along with other tribes: the Ritvik tribe, the Stoner tribe, the Taliban tribe, the Gay tribe, the NM tribe, the TS tribe… all chanting and honoring prasadam together like one happy family… one can only dream! 🙂

  13. The father helped the son and the son respected the father. What was the blessing? I did not realize that I was not speaking sweetly about him. My point was that they offered blessing but it’s questionable if they had any to give.

    What was the blessing? In the words of Srila Prabhupada, “To be a devotee of Srimati Radharani”.

    The point seems to be that Srila Prabhupada’s father believed the sadhus had blessings to give.

    Why shouldn’t we?

    • I see. He would ask everyone to bless his son to be a devotee of Radha. And he became one. That is nice, but I do not think it is clear evidence that pot smoking “sadhus” have the power to bless one with service to Radha. Surely not all of those sadhus smoked, and my impression was always more that Prabhupada felt that it was his father’s desire that had power.

      • Perhaps the desire of his father had power because he was such a generous soul who supported so many different sadhus? I doubt his father was clueless as to the shortcomings of some of the sadhus he was helping. Perhaps it was this generosity and broad spiritual vision that earned him that power? Who knows… but I am sure he would have seen the accomplishments of his son as a tremendous blessing.

        I would not discount the blessing powers of ganja smoking sadhus because of all the weeds in the garden of devotion to God ganja seems like a minor problem… 😉

      • But surely the father wasn’t under the influence of illusion when honoring those sadhus, the ones who did smoke. Sounds like he saw potential everywhere, as is echoed in so many shastric descriptions of the mind of a pure devotee.

        Regarding ganja/pot/cannabis, its pretty obvious that the substance is perceived in two very distinct ways, depending which culture one comes from: We westerners see it as a ‘drug’ while in India (where we have great interests invested), its seen even as a holy thing. Personally I favor the broader view, the Indian view, even if in our Gaudiya religion it becomes irrelevant due to us having a built-in, so to speak, method of getting high. Much higher in fact.

        The medicinal usefulness of cannabis seems scietifically confirmed again and again. And as far as intoxication, as someone mentioned, its less harmful than alcohool, tobacco or even caffeine. There is more harm in synthetically manufactured drugs such as prozac, etc., more risk of dependence and so forth than in any amount of cannabis one can use. Or so its heard.

        In conclusion, the herb is villified without much ground for such.

        Rastafarians may not be reaching God by smoking ganja, true. But that they might be better preparing themselves for such in a future life or even this lifetime compared to a meat eater or even a tobacco smoker, that should be pretty obvious to those who put themselves in the position of judging. Judge with real spiritual insight, please. And with real knwoledge of The Weed.

        • He honored them in some sense but we cannot say exactly what sense that was, and all people deserve some honor except ourselves. But I do not believe that it was the ganja smoking sadhus’ blessing that positioned Prabhupada in Sri Radha’s service. And I do not believe that ganja smoking is anukula for bhakti, while it does have other effects, some of which may be beneficial. So I hope you will allow me that.

        • Srila Sridhara Maharaja said that it (ganja smoking) ultimately fails us. So its not anukula. But he also said that it does not impede the flow of bhakti either. Therefore I am not so quick to believe myself that those sadhus where empty of blessing power for Radha bhakti because they smoked ganja. They may not have delivered it alone, but in the wider picture their contribuition was sought. Bottom line is, there was no need for Gaur Mohan De to make diplomatic manouvers so to obtain bhakti for his son. What he did [when he asked for those blessings] was as genunine and pure and act of devotion as any. In other words, there was no material calculation, but trust in the source. And trust based in knowledge, evidently. Did Prabhupada thought he knew better than his father? Probably not. Did Bhaktisidhanta? We certainly don’t think so.

        • Prabhupada himself felt that those sadhus were empty. Thus he became disillusioned about sadhus in general. So much so that when he was encouraged to meet BSST he was hesitant, and only when his friend insisted that this sadhu was different did he agree to meet him. You make too much out of their “blessing.” Prabhuapda attributed his spirituality to his guru and his father, never the so called sadhus’ blessings. To bless one such that they become an eternal servant of Radha requires that one is an elevated Vaisnava. Had the ganja sadhus been such Prabhupada would not have been disillusioned by them.

        • Where does SM say that it does not impede the flow of bhakti? Here is what he does say in the context of speaking about ganja with one man who said he was attached to smoking it. He told the man that it was small attachment in comparison to money and women. He means that comparatively it is easy to give up, The main human drive is not for intoxication, but for sex, money, fame, etc. . :

          “We have seen with our own eyes, so many opiumeaters also came in the Matha, and they left it gradually. Generally these ordinary sadhus, they use this ganja. Ganja helps concentration, but that is material mind. Material mind, and disturbs the faith, the enemy to the faith. Only faith can take us there. Sraddha, and not any material intoxication. But the misguided souls, they think that ganja [marijuana], charas [hashish], so many things helps in our meditation. It may do something, but that is limited, that will frustrate in time of need, and cannot rise up very high, cannot help.”

        • Wow, you say that ganja smoker is better than a meat eater or a tobacco smoker. While I respect ganja smokers too (I will bow before Lord Siva even if he smoking ganja and I don’t deny that there can be people who can be spiritually advanced and be smoking ganja even though I won;t imitate them), but I don’t see the drug one smokes as a good criterion for comparison between different people. Some ganja smokers smoke cigarettes perhaps because they are legal. Anyway, you can be the judge.

  14. I’ve heard a story that Bhaktivinode would roll joints for his hired laborers around his property so they would not have to stop work to do it.
    I have heard this story from couple of respectable sources.
    So, I just wonder……………when the Thakur was rolling them doobs if he ever tried a bit? Maybe just a little toke to get the joints started.
    Them joint smokers of Bhaktivinode probably turned up as followers of Srila Prabhupada in a future birth.

    I had a dream once that I was a beggar on the side of the road and Srila Prabhupada as a householder came by and put a little money in my donation can.

    • I heard that it was Bhaktisiddhanta, and he was rolling bidis (cigarettes) so the workers would not have to take as much break-time while working on the temple. I Don’t know what’s true, but the latter scenario sounds more realistic to me.

  15. Sri Radha Vallabha

    Just a technical note on the article(as ska lover I cannot resist telling this):
    reggae did not evolve from calypso and blues just like that.
    First, in the 50’s and 60’s, blues, calypso and mento were blended into bluebeat and ska, which later on got simplified and slown down into rocksteady and then further into reggae.
    I have about +150 ska albums (some reggae* from the 60’s as well). That music had not much or little to do with Rastafari, compared to the later reggae from the 70’s and onwards.
    Neither did ska, rocksteady and 60’s reggae have any substantial relation with any drugs.
    Once more, just a technical note. Thanks.

    *known as skinheadreggae (and many other names)

  16. Krishna Chaitanya das

    I remembered listening to a recording of this conversation once and thought it might be relevant. It is from a morning walk on February 10, 1976 in Mayapura.

    Prabhupāda: … He used to invite so many saintly persons, and he would pray, “Please bless my son”—I was very pet son—”that he may become a devotee of Rādhārāṇī. Rādhārāṇī may bless him.” That was his only prayer.

    Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Fulfilled.

    Prabhupāda: Yes. He was inviting so many saintly persons. That is the old system, to receive saintly person.

    Hṛdayānanda: Śrīla Prabhupāda, you said that you were not so much impressed by the saintly persons that were coming.

    Prabhupāda: Yes.

    Hṛdayānanda: Why was that?

    Prabhupāda: Not all of them were real Vaiṣṇava. That was my discrimination from the beginning of my life. I never liked these bogus swamis and yogis. I never liked. But my father had no discrimination. “Never mind whatever he is. He is a saintly person. Receive him.” He was giving fortnightly… There was one Māyāvādī sannyāsī in Kālīghāṭa. So first of all the father was sannyāsī. Then his son was sannyāsī. So we had very good relationship with him. I also used to… Because father was going… So he would carry gāñjā for him—in those days gāñjā was very cheap—so much gāñjā and so much butter. Whenever he would visit, he’d give some red cloth, gāñjā, and butter.

    Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Your father would give him gāñjā?

    Prabhupāda: That, to sannyāsī.

    Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Why?

    Prabhupāda: Well, he was smoking gāñjā.

    Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: But why did he supply him?

    Prabhupāda: He did not discriminate that this is bad. He smokes, and he had some regard for him. “All right, take gāñjā.” (laughter)

    Hṛdayānanda: So Kṛṣṇa is also like that if we…

    Prabhupāda: He was offering him something, “Whatever he likes.” That was his theory.

    Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Friendly.

    Prabhupāda: Yes. “It doesn’t matter.” He did not know the gāñjā smoking was bad for sādhu. That is impression in India. We criticize, but in India, in every sādhu samāj they smoke gāñjā.

    Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Still?

    Prabhupāda: Oh, yes. Not high class. These bogus swamis and yogis. They…

    Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Yes, that Mr. Das, the lawyer who came here?

    Prabhupāda: Ah.

    Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: I used to visit him, and he had one sādhu who used to come who was his guru, and he would also smoke gāñjā.

    Prabhupāda: Yes. Gāñjā smoking is not taken as bad in India, by the sādhus, not ordinary men.

    Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Right. He told me, Mr. Das, that it increased his meditation and ecstasy.

    Prabhupāda: Whatever it may be, gāñjā smoking by the sādhus, sannyāsīs, is not taken very bad serious. The hippies learned from them. Allen Ginsberg introduced… “Yes. Gāñjā smoking is very good by the saintly person.”

    Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: I think your Guru Mahārāja spoke strongly against such persons.

    Prabhupāda: Oh, yes. And from him we learned that intoxication, any kind of intoxication, is bad.

    Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura also was…

    Prabhupāda: He was also not very serious, but Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was very serious, and we learned from him. No, it is śāstrīya. No intoxication is good.

    Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: How is it that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was not so strict in that regard, yet his son, who learned from him, became very strict, like a rod?

    Prabhupāda: (chuckles) Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was so strict (laughs) that because he married twice, he used to say, “strī-saṅgī, attached to woman,” even his father. (laughter) He was very strict. Sometimes when he would be angry, he’d, “You strī-saṅgī.” And don’t discuss this thing. (laughs) He was very strict. No excuse, no compromise.

    Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: That’s where you got all of that from.

    Prabhupāda: My is imitation, but his was real. (laughs) All these Navadvīpa people were afraid of him.

  17. In Jaiva Dharma ch. 7 we find and interesting conversation between Advaita and Digambara the shakta.
    Digambar says:

    What ganja did you smoke to dream up the fantastic story that an all-knowing personal God exists? By believing that story you attained only suffering. In the next life what benefit will you earn that I will not also get?
    I do not know. What is the use of believing in a personal God?
    Serve the potency! You will merge into the potency. In her you
    will rest forever.

    • Ganja smoking is not that bad as devotees obsessed with regulatory principles make it out to be, but it is clearly not recommended for bhakti by SP. And it is so surprising that people advocating that SP should be followed to the letter(“as it is without editing”) also pick and choose things which SP said according to their taste.

        • Ganja smoking is not that bad as devotees obsessed with regulatory principles make it out to be, but it is clearly not recommended for bhakti by SP. And it is so surprising that people advocating that SP should be followed to the letter(“as it is without editing”) also pick and choose things which SP said according to their taste.

          Reply to this comment »
          swami bv tripurari says:
          August 7, 2010 at 12:04 am
          Well said.

          It shouldn’t be surprising though, in my opinion. If we look real closely, and do it with honesty, we will see that the choosing and picking SP’s statements ‘according to taste’ is done by everyone. Its inevitable that this will happen in relation to the legacy of someone already departed. We cannot consult with Srila Prabhupada personally, so we consult with our own understanding of what he left.

          This is why I don’t believe that understanding Srila Prabhupada’s then rejection of certain sadhus took absolute precedent over his father’s understanding of the same sadhus. And definitely such understanding cannot be applied for all times to come, but rather should be open for adjustment according to time and circumstances.

          Ganja smoking is not an impediment for bhakti, and as candidly and honestly revealed by some devotees here in this very conversation, believed to have even helped their bhakti somewhat. We can judge these devotees experience to be rather maya, but the devotees are nevertheless still around, still pursuing KC. So at the least it can be honestly conceded that it does not impede bhakti.

          And so lets face it, as much as some of us might want to claim such, Srila Prabhupada is not the monopoly of anyone particular interpretatin anymore. Never was, as we can see by the way KC is developing.

        • It is silly to say that those who insist upon a literal reading are not different from others when they pick and choose. And the means for understanding what Prabhupada meant is not left to anyone’s imagination. It is answered by the system of guru parampara. After the departure of the guru we have three choices as explained by SSM: become one, follow a current one, get out of the way.

          Ganja smoking is not favorable to bhakti and saranagati involves giving such things up. You have yet to demonstrate from sastra or sadhu that it is not an impediment to bhakti. “Impediment” does not mean that it will cause one to give up bhakti, it means that it can stunt one’s growth, and in this case it will likley distort one’s understanding and produce rationalization. That is what you are doing. Do you smoke? Do your friends?

          Can you point us to a current or previous Gaudiya acarya who teaches that ganja is helpful for bhakti. On this particular issue SSM was insistent that only bhakti can help bhakti, bhaktya sanjataya bhaktya.

  18. How about Salvia divinorum?

    About 10 years ago, after hearing how big the child abuse problem in ISKCON was, I got thrown by maya and hadn’t chanted japa in several weeks or a few months. Then I was in a hotel for a week for a training for work, bored like crazy, and a coworker offered me some. He had tried it and didn’t think it did much, so I tried some.

    First hit gave a weird but pleasant sensation of my subtle body twisting, which lasted a few minutes. Then my friend left, and I tried another. I took my japa beads and fell back onto the bed, chanting really fast and clear, with intense concentration. My experience was feeling the weight of the material nature pressing down upon me, and how chanting the Hare Krishna mahamantra lifted that weight off and gave me freedom, knowledge, etc. I felt that Krishna was near me, possibly hiding behind me or moving around invisibly. This lasted about 10 minutes.

    I tried a third time and immediately took off all my clothes and became a cow. I was a cow waiting to be slaughtered. I stood there frightened, as a cow, listening to the number of mooing sounds from the front diminish the cows were getting killed. Then I remembered Krishna and immediately came back to my human body.

    I got dressed and tried a fourth time, despite being worn out from the first three, and but it didn’t do anything but give me anxiety along with a feeling of seeing a future misfortune that I might possibly be able to avert.

    I spent the rest of the night chanting japa, and the next day I finished about 30 rounds the most I’d ever chanted in one day, and the day after almost 30 again. It was so powerful for renewing my faith in Krishna consciousness and chanting Hare Krishna that I decided then that if I ever stopped believing in Krishna, that I should try it again and see what happens.

    • Inspiring Story!! I will try some too to get closer to Krsna!

    • Some states are making Salvia illegal. But, a few years ago you could buy the stuff at the head shops in Gainesville.
      I have never tried it, but I hear it is a very intense trip that only lasts a few minutes as opposed to the 16 hours on acid.
      People report seeing these little Leprechaun type people when they are tripping on salvia.
      Salvia is a common plant that you can many times buy at Walmart, Lowes or Home Depot. There are some very powerful concentrations of Salvia out there that will turn you into a vegetable for a few minutes, so it can be quite a ride for anyone who is not prepared for such a detachment from normalcy.

      Personally, I have lost all fascination for psychedelics.
      At one point I loved the stuff, but nowadays I don’t seek or enjoy those kind of departures from normal brain function.

      I do enjoy the vapors though and with all the pain that I am in and have been in for several years, it does relieve some of my stress and anxiety.
      I have double hernias and a bad back. I live in pain and have been for about 6 years now.
      So, the vapors do help me deal with the constant pain I have been in for the last 6 years with hernias and a bad back.

      Lately, my back and my hernias have practically made me a cripple. So, for now, I still use the vapors.

      • Syamasundara Dasa

        I use salvia stir-fried with butter to coat cheese and asparagus home-made ravioli for Dauji-Gopala. I am so euphoric after that, I giggle, I smile, sometimes I want to jump, spin and scream, and after the offering I have this flavor, like of asparagus in my mouth.

  19. I was tripping heavy on Acid the first time I ever saw a book of Srila Prabhupada. I started my spiritual quest in Virginia Beach, Va. where I was stationed at the Oceana NAS. Back in them days in the Navy there was no drug testing and the barracks on base were about like a college dorm as far as being filled with young men smoking weed in their rooms.
    One fellow sailor Scott Irwin is the guy that started me on my spiritual quest. He was into yoga and was a follower of Vishnudevananda. He aggressively canvassed me to learn what he could teach and so I submitted and this guy taught me lots of things and started me into yoga, meditation and vegetarianism.
    When I got out of the Navy in January of 75 I went back to my hometown in Indiana to begin a new life as a civilian again.
    I started teaching two of my old friends about yoga, chanting Om, vegetarianism etc.
    One night us three were tripping at this friends house, chanting Om in a circle trying to find the white light. Then, we all experienced a flash of light simultaneously and started to talk about it. Then, Mike said “I got a book on yoga at the mall today. some guy came up to me at the mall and gave me this book for a donation”
    I told him to bring me the book so I could look at it.
    Mike went back to his room and came out with the original small NOD.
    The moment I got my hands on it I started to taste a very sweet subtle flavor something like Apricot. I looked at the pictures and was just blown away by the picture of Radha-Krishna on the front and the pic of Prabhupada on the back.
    I wanted that book real bad. Mike asked me if I knew what the book was about and I told I didn’t know quite yet but I assured him and the other Mike both that this book was the end of my searching and that I would spend the rest of my life cultivating the Bhakti-yoga of the NOD.
    So, it took me a while to finally find my own NOD because Mike would not sell me the one he had.
    I finally found some Prabhupada books at Karma Records in Broadripple Village near Purdue University in Indianapolis.

    I acquired several Prabhupada books at that time, went and acquired a large supply of acid and went home and spent the next few weeks learning about KC. Soon, I resolved to go to L.A. and join the movement of Prabhupada.

    So, my whole induction into KC and studying Prabhupada’s books was linked to my acid tripping. In fact, after getting the Prabhupada books I think I tripped everyday for about two months until I had read and reread the Gita, NOD, some Bhagavatams, some CC, some small books, some BTGs and some audio tapes.

    I am not so sure I could have been that focused and that intense and ready to give my life to Prabhupada at that time had I not been taking the acid, sleeping very little, eating very little etc., I am not so sure that I would have been so determined to give up my future and give it to Prabhupada.

    I had no association and no temple nearby, so I was on my own.
    I think the acid certainly helped me in that sabbatical of study which primed me for joining the movement.

    I have done some acid since then and some shrooms, but I always come back from the trip realizing that no profound spiritual revelations took place and it was simply 16 hours of madness and cerebral malfunction.

  20. By the time I got through all these posts, I forgot what the heck the article was about. I’ve always tried to remain open-minded regarding other people/friends who do smoke, but I have to be honest….it has taken its toll on ALL of them. Especially the ones who have convinced themselves that THEY are somehow different. THEY only smoke for the “wisdom and insight” they gain. THEY are expanding their consciousness…dude. Let’s be real here…they are fooling themselves just as much.

    • I agree with you Jason. Just like all attachments (which are, after all, addictions), attachment to ganja subordinates our perception and reasoning and we find that the right thing to do is smoke, for any number of subjectively good reasons. I speak from past experience, not that the point is not plainly obvious.

      This topic sure has stirred up some odd things.

      • “This topic sure has stirred up some odd things.”

        It actually made me better appreciate the variety of devotees out there 🙂
        Jaya Sri Krishna sankirtanam!

    • I agree also, Jason. People who smoke ganja for “wisdom and insight” are definitely fooling themselves. When I visited my hometown a few years back (after a decade of being away) I met one of my friends from my pre-devotional life. He was a smoker then and has been since, and he has about 5 brain cells that still work. I was actually a bit shocked that this formerly very smart and sharp person now can hardly carry on a normal conversation because he so often forgets what he just said. So whatever wisdom and insight that is gained from using ganja (if any) is clearly undone by the long term effects of its use.

  21. I would go so far to say that the majority of my friends who have smoked for a LONG, LONG time…even they dislike “that guy” who comes over to get high and starts babbling and sharing his “realizations”. That kind of pompous smoker is seen as just as ridiculous as the guy at the bar who wants to talk politics and religion 🙂

    I know a few young devotees here in the east bay who are disciples of Narayana Maharaja who smoke. I can’t imagine that he would condone that for initiated students, but, at least they are honest about it. They don’t try to find some justification for it within the context of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

    • Yes, like Bipin Bihari Goswami also smoked, but I don’t think he found justification for his smoking.

    • Sri Radha Vallabha

      To Jason: to confirm, my diksa-guru is Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja and I know firsthand and secondhand that he clearly disapproves of his initiated disciples using tobacco, ganja, alcohol and the like.
      I think no Gaudiya Vaisnava guru would approve of these things (…?)

      • I also know that he initiated a young couple in Badger even though he knew they were both using ganja.
        So, he has knowingly initiated several pot smokers that I know of. Badger was full of them and he took over that Mountain as best I can see.
        He requires no particular standard of Puarascharya, but rather passes out Hari Nama quite liberally.

  22. It is silly to say that those who insist upon a literal reading are not different from others when they pick and choose. And the means for understanding what Prabhupada meant is not left to anyone’s imagination. It is answered by the system of guru parampara. After the departure of the guru we have three choices as explained by SSM: become one, follow a current one, get out of the way.

    Ganja smoking is not favorable to bhakti and saranagati involves giving such things up. You have yet to demonstrate from sastra or sadhu that it is not an impediment to bhakti. “Impediment” does not mean that it will cause one to give up bhakti, it means that it can stunt one’s growth, and in this case it will likley distort one’s understanding and produce rationalization. That is what you are doing. Do you smoke? Do your friends?

    Can you point us to a current or previous Gaudiya acarya who teaches that ganja is helpful for bhakti. On this particular issue SSM was insistent that only bhakti can help bhakti, bhaktya sanjataya bhaktya.

    No Swami, I don’t smoke anything. My friends, well, I have quite a variety of acquaintances. I know of devotees who smoke pot and remain in the game, so to speak.

    You ask for guru, sadhu, or sastra. I am yet to be completely convinced that Srila Prabhupada’s father isn’t to be considered a sadhu. Srila Prabhupada called him a pure devotee of Krishna. By the sheer power of his purity, he got Krishna to manifest even through the blessings of ganja smoking yogis. It seems simple to me.

    • Not according to SP, as I have already pointed out. He did not attribute his spiritual success to ganja smoking sadhus. If his father was a “pure devotee,” then the real blessing came from him. The fact that he was blind to “sadhu’s” faults is a good quality no doubt, but it does not serve the preaching mission well to be so, as SP himself and all other acaryas have demonstrated. Acaryas are bound to teach by their behavior and speak against that will be detrimental to others.

      • Thank you Swami for your viewpoint. I appreciate your patience in this discussion. I will retain my feeling that Srila Prabhupada can be read a bit on the acintya-bedha- abedha side on this one. Which is to say that personally I would put the quotation marks on the word ‘faults’ rather than on ‘sadhu’s’.


        • In Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita, we find this:

          Gour Mohan did not have a high opinion of Bengal’s growing number of so-called sadhus-the nondevotional impersonalist philosophers, the demigod worshipers, the ganja smokers, the beggars-but he was so charitable that he would invite the charlatans into his home. Every day Abhay saw many so-called sadhus, as well as some who were genuine, coming to eat in his home as guests of his father, . . .

          So it was apparently due to his charitable nature that Gour Mohan brought these folks into his home.

          However, when Srila Prabhupada invited the Gaudiya Math devotees for a program in his home in Allahabad, his father wasn’t happy to see them, apparently thinking they were from the Ramakrishna Mission or something. When he realized they were Gaudiya Vaishnavas, he realized he had made a mistake.

          I think it’s good for us to acknowledge that using cannabis, etc. is not favorable to bhakti, we need not necessarily judge those who do use it too harshly. It does, as Swami says, stunt their spiritual growth. Of course, initiated disciples who promised to refrain from intoxication will most likely find it am impediment to grace. But when I have reason to believe that some devotees I know use cannabis, I simply adjust the way I associate with them accordingly. If our relationship were an old, deep one, or if they seemed to want a deeper relationship, and I thought I could help, I might ask them about it. Otherwise, I figure my interest in their lives is limited.

        • Just a note: The Prabhupada Lilamrta of Satsvarupa Gosvami is not what everyone would unanimously call an authorized assessment of the facts in Srila Prabhupada’s life.

        • That is true, but it is probably better researched in this regard than any other opinion—more so than yours or mine.

        • I thought about qualifying those comments by mentioning my own reservations about the Lilamrita, especially since the motive for inviting the different kinds of sadhus to his home were the author’s. I didn’t intend to present anything there as strictly authoritative, but I thought it was interesting. It seemed to me that many of the comments were based on our memory of such passages, so I thought I’d remind us of the passage itself. I also found it interesting because SP’s father didn’t completely lack discrimination. He was really grouchy about coming downstairs to receive folks he thought were from the RK mission, even making some remark about it.

  23. All I can say is that a few “psychedelic” experiences made me directly perfectly aware of an over-arching PERSONALITY in charge or behind all phenomena and persons and that this personality is ultimately humorous. I’ve had absolutely horrible trips also and can recognize them for what they were but still the pivotal moments remained in my memory.

    The Ultimate Experience I had finally set me on the Vedic path and that was a particularly auspicious trip we’re I experienced the Soul Particle in my chest and the realization of how my body had developed according to my karma. All the while, my mind was perfectly clear and my mentality serene. I can now recognise all of these trips as particular moments that Hrsikesa had “planned” for my soul. Then, after this, I tried to duplicate the experience, but it completely went the opposite way due to various stupid reasons incurred by myself and I experienced the world according to the “completely material” worldview. It was hell. Then I sought out “Spirituality”. I was in a daze untill I found “Easy Journey to Other Planets” where the Soul Particle was described as well as the Supreme Personality of Godhead ! Now it all made sense to me ! The freakin entire universe made sense to me (at least to my current perception). Bhagavad Gita has carried me through the last 2 years of my life, which has been quite the “battlefield”!

    Anyways, I think there is definitely a purpose for “psychedelics”, at least ritualistically or scientifically. The correct culture just needs to be in place to cater intelligently with these things dealing with the subtler planes.

    PS. The way in which Cannabis has helped with my service to Lord KRSNA is by putting me in the right meditative state within the turmoil of materialism. It backfires sometimes and unnecessary thoughts enter the mind and anxiety sets in, so I wouldn’t recommend it at all actually:), but It’s a useful tool for me in music and design work. Maybe just a “Karma Equalizer” sometimes. I apologise if I repeated something.

    Hurry Krsna !

  24. Enjoyed your comments Swami Tripurari… First class web site. Thank you.

  25. I read an interesting article in the NY times about hallucinogens being used to treat depression.

    “Scientists are especially intrigued by the similarities between hallucinogenic experiences and the life-changing revelations reported throughout history by religious mystics and those who meditate. These similarities have been identified in neural imaging studies conducted by Swiss researchers and in experiments led by Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins.

    In interviews, Dr. Martin and other subjects described their egos and bodies vanishing as they felt part of some larger state of consciousness in which their personal worries and insecurities vanished. They found themselves reviewing past relationships with lovers and relatives with a new sense of empathy.

    “It was a whole personality shift for me,” Dr. Martin said. “I wasn’t any longer attached to my performance and trying to control things. I could see that the really good things in life will happen if you just show up and share your natural enthusiasms with people. You have a feeling of attunement with other people.”

    The subjects’ reports mirrored so closely the accounts of religious mystical experiences, Dr. Griffiths said, that it seems likely the human brain is wired to undergo these “unitive” experiences, perhaps because of some evolutionary advantage.”

    You can read the whole article at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/12/science/12psychedelics.html?_r=1

  26. I see alot of hindus talking about..smokeing ganjah…i am a rasta i smoke smoke ganjah for Him give man all seed baring plants to man… so for rastas we partake in this because of the bible..also smokeing goes as far back when man where fromed in Him
    Image..I&I JAH RASTAFARI..peace and love..to all

  27. The whole idea behind hallucinations based on experiences and beliefs doesnt apply to dimethyltryptamine.

  28. Pranama,

    Of course, the Vaisnavas do not intoxicate themselves. Strength and direct perception come from absolute purity. However, with respect to the smoking of pot and its benefit for higher vision or religious inspiration it’s not so much a matter of IF you transgress the rules, but HOW are you doing it and WHY.

    Not mentioned in the discussion above are quantity and frequency, motivation, focus, and company. There’s a difference in indulging daily or smoking once in a while. There’s difference in enjoying for leisure in the company of others which is tamasika, or doing inner work in solitude which is sattvika. When the latter is done to advance your bhakti, it’s even transcendental. There’s difference in blowing your head off and rolling over in a coma or taking very little once in a while just to loosen up the constriction of your conditioned ego or super-ego and look beyond the ordinary vision to connect the dots of various experiences and decisions you made. In other words, if done moderately, it can help advance your integrity towards Krsna greatly. Indulgence is the problem, but controlled use is difficult.

    The use of cannabis should be cultivated like bhakti is cultivated gradually and over many years. It is my experience that my sensitivity and integrity are higher on pot when used only after large intervals. If one uses daily, one’s consciousness is being suppressed and one will not be able to digest the experiences of daily life. If you take it once in a while you will notice the beauty and the ugly of your ordinary behaviors, thoughts, etc. and you can correct them or cultivate them.

    If not abused, pot can open you up to the fluidity of transcendental consciousness in each living being and see Krsna everywhere. And when bhava takes over, the pot will be forgotten all together. Krsna is a psychedelic personality Himself, isn’t He?

    In a conversation with Sri Narayana Maharaja, Tamal Krsna asked him, “What about smoking?” Narayana said, “If there’s no harm to bhakti… I don’t say, you should smoke, but if there’s no harm to bhakti…”

    A sadhu said, “If I don’t smoke, I always think of smoking, and when I’m smoking, I always think of Krsna.”

    • If not abused, pot can open you up to the fluidity of transcendental consciousness in each living being and see Krsna everywhere. And when bhava takes over, the pot will be forgotten all together. Krsna is a psychedelic personality Himself, isn’t He?

      For the record, I do not agree with this statement, nor does sastra, nor Gaudiya tradition. Smoking pot does not generate bhava. It is not an anga of bhakti, and only bhakti gives bhakti. And sadhus are not characterized as those who always think of smoking. If smoking gives Krsna, as your “sadhu” says, it is more powerful than Krsna. That which can give Krsna is more powerful than Krsna. Such is bhakti, which is constituted of Krsna’s svarupa-sakti.

      psychedelic: “relating to or denoting drug that produces hallucinations.” No, Krsna is not psychedelic.

      The very same ideas you promote above were promoted by a prominent disciple of Prabhupada named Jayatirtha, who did not fare well.

  29. Let me see whether I can somewhat harmonize the comments of Indiradasi and Swami.

    The example of Pundarika Vidyanidhi is of course significant. It is dangerous to make judgments about other devotees based on an external viewpoint, all the more so if one is judging as a kanistha-adhikari.

    However, we are not to imitate Pundarika Vidyanidhi’s example, just as we are not to imitate Shiva’s drinking the ocean of poison.

    As such, as a devotee I cannot say with certainty that there are not some pot-smokers who are very elevated devotees, but I cannot use this as a justification or excuse to allow my own pot-smoking. If I am a pot-smoker, I need to judge myself as very low, and not think that I could be another Pundarika Vidyanidhi.

    To put this in perspective, however, let’s remember that Vaishnava-aparadha is far more dangerous than pot. It’s possible that a pot-smoker may be a very advanced Vaishnava, though one sign of advancement will be that he or she denies that advancement, such that we need to look closely at other evidences of advancement. However, one who is a Vaishnava-aparadhi may have perfectly refrained from flesh-eating, illicit sex, gambling and intoxication, yet by dint of Vaishnava-aparadha such an individual is a danger to himself and to others far more than any pot-smoker.

    Tying this all together, then, let’s consider that it is a form of Vaishnava-aparadha to use the example of a devotee such as Pundarika Vidyanidhi as an excuse for one’s own sense-indulgences, or to cheapen bhakti by suggesting that Krishna may be attracted to us because of our sense-indulgence. So, while pot-smoking may be one of the lesser obstacles obstructing the development of bhakti, we ought not to deny that it is an obstacle.

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