A few thoughts on the interface of spirituality and psychoactive chemicals: the value that they can have, some of the dangers, and some tips for how to make psychedelic explorations be useful and safe.
I think that most people who pick up spiritual practice are looking for more peace and stillness; we want our movements, thinking, and speaking to be easeful, unforced, non-compulsive, and perhaps even almost effortless. A common image in Zen poetry is of bamboo swaying in the wind. One explanation for this is that bamboo swaying in the wind moves – but it moves in an unforced and easy way.
Years ago, there was a study done about mystics, saints, and great spiritual teachers throughout history. The researchers read the writings and went over their teachings of these folks, and found that there seemed to be a nested hierarchy of mystical and spiritual experiences
I think of my car as an object. But the cars that I’ve owned and driven around in the past are no more – I think now that the steel, fiberglass, plastic, aluminum, etc molecules that made up their parts are scattered all over the planet.
What is real to us when we are in dreamless sleep? What is a dream made out of, and where does a dream happen? If “God” does not exist, then what is “God” made out of? Nothing, a void.
I just finished reading the book “Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing“, which was written anonymously under the pen name “Jed McKenna”. I had heard about this book for years, but had formed mostly negative impression based on the words and actions of those who said that they had read it. Several friends who I trust…
A friend emailed me yesterday, and asked “If the Buddhist doctrine of anatta (which holds that the self is an illusion) is true, who is it that is accumulating karma? I’m genuinely puzzled by this, especially as it pertains to the concept of re-incarnation and the Atman (two seemingly incongruent concepts to anatta).”
My friend was asking about karma, which is the idea that we are the inheritors of the results of our actions – in other words, the idea that what we sow, we reap. A common example of karma: if we eat healthily, exercise, and get enough sleep, we will probably be relatively physically healthy, and, if we don’t, we won’t. Simple enough.]
The most mature spiritual paths are those with that balance between a simultaneous rising up towards the one and sinking down into the many; this means realizing that the imminent and the transcendent are both Divine
A friend of mine posted on Facebook a graphic making fun of religious notions of morality as “handed down from God”. I responded: I think a lot of atheistic objections to religion are a reaction to a simple-minded concept of the Divine. Yes, many people do indeed think of Divinity as an all-powerful Man with a White Beard who has a bunch of rules, a bunch of demands, and a quick temper. But that vision does not fit with the more sublime and subtle Divinity that, for example, the deep spiritual mystics and sages throughout the millennia have talked about experiencing.
Heading back to the city after three months of simple stillness in the monastery, I was staring out the car window at the passing gas stations and shopping malls, at all the billboards and the neon. I turned to the Zen priest driving me, and said, “It all seems like a dream.” He shot back, “What makes you think that it isn’t”?
“Do you know that old age, disease, and death must overcome us, no matter what we are doing? What do you wish to be doing when it overtakes you? If you have anything better to be doing when you are so overtaken, begin on that now.”
“What I’m about to tell you is very real – I’m telling you the truth – I’m telling you what’s really so for those people: their inability to respond, their bound-upedness, is the highest expression of love which they are able to muster. About this I know the answer: they have a capacity for love, like yours or like mine, which is absolute. The only thing bound up in their life is the expression of that capacity. So, what you’re getting is a bound expression of an absolute love for you.”
The molecules on the outer edge of “you”, say the ones on the edge of the cell membranes of the cells that are on the outer edge of your eye, are just as enmeshed, electron-swapping-wise, with the molecules in the air around you as they are with the molecules further back in the cell wall. In other words, it is scientifically impossible to say where “you” end and “your environment” begins – from this perspective, it all seems to be one interconnected whole.
If you want to understand “enlightenment” not just as a concept, but actually learn how it feels to disidentify with yourself as a finite human being, and to instead experience yourself as an expressive action of the entire universe, then this may be the perfect book for you. Nisargadatta’s teachings are relentlessly confrontational and cosmically mind-blowing. If you are ready for them, the words in this book can take every belief (and perceptual) system that you have, and blow them out of the water, stretching you wider than you could have conceived possible. Some times in reading it, I have felt that this book is IT, the end point of the whole journey.
Center of all centers, core of all cores,
almond self-enclosed and growing sweet–
all this universe, to the furthest stars
and beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.
I am happy because yesterday I arrived at a new understanding of what the ultimate reality of the universe – the essence that people have labeled “God” – may be. I know that theories about the universal oneness are spurned by mainstream Buddhism, but I am still going to share here the idea that…