Psychedelic Drugs and Krishna Consciousness
This is an article on the topic of psychedelic drugs we have found in the old edition of the Back To Godhead magazine (1967 #7) written by Hayagriva Dasa. Enjoy! The following is a letter received by the editors which pretty well speaks for itself:
In your December 1st issue of Back to Godhead, you ask for comments by your readers when they feel it necessary, and I would herewith like to offer a humble observation.
Far too far often I find your philosophy hyper-critical of LSD and other psychedelic chemicals. Speaking personally, I would be much more likely to join in your celebration if it were not for the fact that I do not wish to be made to feel guilty about my past ingestions of these mysterious sacraments. Furthermore, in all honesty, I am sure you will admit that the majority of people now deeply interested in Krishna Consciousness would never have been so were it not for the spark of spiritual curiosity ignited in them by their LSD sessions.
This is an age of machine misery and computerized death, and any avenue of spiritual seeking which the American people seek to trod is far better than its alternative. Don't choke yourself off by participating in an undeclared war against acid and grass. People will come to you without this. No doubt more than you are presently receiving. Let the beauty of your quest speak eloquently for itself, and let all people you reach be proud of their own humble search. Too many of us have been guilty for too long, and we are tired of it.
I hope I have made my point. I think it is an important one.
Peace and love,
San Francisco, California.
First of all, we would like to express our gratitude and appreciation for this sincere and well-put comment. We've withheld the writer's name rather than chance hurting him in some way. In response to his questions, Hayagriva Das (Howard Wheeler) has written the following essay entitled, "Psychedelic Drugs and Krishna Consciousness," which will also be published as a separate pamphlet. We hope this question and answer will clarify our position for all who are in doubt of it. We will be glad to hear more and more from our readers on this subject. And now, Mr. Wheeler's essay:
Due to the recent psychedelic drug movement in America, many people have come to us and asked about the Society's stand regarding LSD, gunga (marijuana), peyote, mescaline, psylocibin, yage, etc. in reply, we would like to say that as a society, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has nothing to do with drugs or drug intoxication. We are neither for nor against the use or repression of such drugs. We are not qualified to judge positive or negative effects, and therefore our policy is one of non-interference, especially in regards to legalization, administration, etc. Believing that people naturally do what they like, we feel that it is not our mission to condemn the actions of others but to suggest, in a positive way, their adopting Krishna Consciousness and chanting the Maha (Hare Krishna) Mantra. Drugs and drug movements are not our concern. We are interested in the eternal Reality, which is Krishna, the Supreme Lord.
However, members of the Society and those seriously pursuing Krishna Consciousness, following the Vedic Way and the injunctions of the Spiritual Master (guru) Swami A.C Bhaktivedanta, do not take intoxicants such as alcohol and drugs. Our authorities are the Spiritual Master, the Bhagavad Gita, and, of course, Lord Krishna -- and none of these recommend the use of drugs for spiritual development.
There are a number of reasons we do not encourage psychedelic drugs for those who are interested in pursuing Krishna Consciousness.
1. We believe that our natural state of consciousness is one of ecstasy. Therefore it is not necessary to attempt to alter our consciousness by a chemical process. In actuality, we are eternally in samadhi, in union with God, being His eternal parts and parcels. This is our constitutional position-it is not a position brought about by fasting, vigils, drugs, self-mutilation, etc. the position is already there. If we do not see our position or understand it, it is due to our ignorance. They way our of ignorance is Krishna Consciousness, which helps us to attain our natural unconditional state of freedom and bliss (Sat-Chit-Ananda) in Krishna. To the best of our knowledge, drugs only construct a reliance on a material substance and lead to bondage to that substance -- therefore, for our purposes, they do not lead to unconditional freedom, but to spiritual regression.
2. Drugs, as an artificial means of exhilaration, are not new. Psychedelics in the form of peyote and "magic" mushrooms have been known to American Indians for hundreds of years, and thousands of years ago, "soma" and similar drugs are recorded to have been used in India. Over the centuries, psychedelics have been known to and rejected by great saints, mystics, sages, incarnations and spiritual leaders. 130 years ago, the American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson was also aware of attempts to attain cosmic consciousness by abortive, artificial means:
It is a secret which every intellectual man quickly learns, that beyond the energy of his possessed and conscious intellect he is capable of a new energy (as of an intellect doubled on itself) by abandonment to the nature of things; that beside his privacy of power as an individual man, there is a great public power on which he can draw, by unlocking his human doors, and suffering the ethereal tides to roll and circulate through him; then he is caught up into the life of the Universe....For if in any manner we can stimulate this instinct, new passages are opened for us into nature; the mind flows into and through things hardest and highest, and the metamorphosis is possible...This is the reason why bards love wine, mead, narcotics, coffee, tea, opium, the fumes of sandalwood and tobacco, or whatever other procurers of animal exhilaration. All men avail themselves of such means as they can, to add this extraordinary power to their normal powers.
(From Essays, 2nd Series, "The Poet.")
However, Emerson makes it clear that he does not condone such artificial means, which he considers to be used by an inferior type of man. He also deems the results to be imperfect and temporary, for in actuality deterioration and dissipation are provoked by reliance on external stimuli.
Never can any advantage be taken of nature by a trick. The spirit of the world, the great calm presence of the Creator, comes not forth to the sorceries of opium or of wine. The sublime vision comes to the pure and simple soul in a clean and chaste body. That is not an inspiration, which we owe to narcotics, but some counterfeit excitement and fury. Milton says that the lyric poet may drink wine and live generously, but the epic poet, he who shall sing of the gods and their descent unto men, must drink water out of a wooden bowl...His cheerfulness should be the gift of the sunlight; the air should suffice for his inspiration, and he should be tipsy with water.
(From "The Poet")
3. The great mystics, incarnations, sages, religious leaders, etc through the ages never used drugs in their spiritual undertakings nor advocated their adherents taking them. This includes Lord Krishna, Brahma, Vasudeva, Narada Muni, Shakara, the great Indian Acharyas, Lord Chaitanya, Lord Buddha, Lao Tzu, Huang Po, Confucius, Mohammed, Socrates, Plato, Lord Jesus Christ, His apostles and disciples, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, innumerable other Christian saints and mystics, the metaphysical poets, Milton, Dante, William Blake, the American transcendentalists, Emerson, Thoreau, Emily Dickinson and Whitman -- the list can extend indefinitely. And typically, the principle religions of the world -- Buddhism, Taoism, Mohammedism, Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism -- forbid the use of drugs by their adherents. Obviously, drugs are not necessary for spiritual realization, and they are not recent discoveries. Children feel no need for them; nor will adults if they only see things as they truly are.
4. Krishna Consciousness involves a firm belief in Krishna, the Supreme Lord, Who is the Absolute Controller and Proprietor of all things. He has not given any indication that drugs provide a legitimate means for reaching Him. He sets down the way by which man may reach His Supreme eternal Abode in the Bhagavad Gita, and no mention is made of drugs. Quite the contrary, He condemns those who follow their own way to the exclusion of Scriptures (Gita 9.3; 16.23-24).
5. From our personal observation of LSD-users who have come to the Society under the influence of or shortly after an LSD "trip," we have found them to been generally confused, disoriented, and badly in need of help. Their conversations have not indicated them to be enlightened beings. Many have had to resort to hospitalization, psychiatrics, etc. Not only are the drugs'results artificial and imaginary, but it they tend to make the user think himself to be further spiritually progressed than he actually is. Many young "avatars" have dropped by the Society to teach Swami Bhaktivedanta about God. In fact, some have claimed to be the Shining, Omnipotent One.
6. The effects of the drugs are only temporary; the drug user is "up" shortly after taking the drug, but after a few hours he "comes down." Krishna Consciousness teaches how to "stay high forever" without bringdowns, by chanting one's way into eternity. Nor do drugs free one from material hankerings such as food, sex desires, etc..,but sometimes rather provoke desires.
7. Some members of the Society experienced psychedelic drugs extensively before meeting Swami Bhaktivedanta, and they now no longer take them. Some consider their previous drug experiences as a kind of spiritual "undergraduate" study and now consider Krishna Consciousness to be graduate school study. Krishna Consciousness teaches one how to swim in the spiritual ocean without water-wings.
In conclusion, we would like to encourage the positive and age-old method of Krishna Consciousness, approved by the great acharyas (spiritual masters) of India, as a true method of spiritual advancement and development. The results are eternal. Through sincere practice, one can come to know his relationship to God, to the world, God's relationship to the Universe and to the individual soul, and ultimately one can attain realization that one is not matter but spirit soul eternally related to the Supreme, and, through Krishna's grace, reach His supreme and eternal Abode. We encourage psychedelic drug users to finish their experimentation, graduate once and for all, and take up God realization under a qualified spiritual master such as Swami Bhaktivedanta. Then they can chant their way into eternity and face God independent of "sugarcubes."