Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ask Asha: LSD and the Search for God

[You can ask your own question here.]


What do you think Yogananda’s teachings would be on the use of LSD as medicinal and used as a sacred means to experience god. My partner and I have a difference of opinion and has caused many arguments. I think with great moderation it can be useful. But that Kriya is much more helpful in the path to god. LSD use to me seems like an illusory experience of god, not a true experience of god. Of course he feel otherwise.

Thank you
From US


Dear Sara:

I don’t think Master would favor the use of drugs. Everything about drugs is antithetical to true spiritual experience, which comes from purifying the heart, not from ingesting substances. There is no shortcut to ego transcendence.

Yes, drugs sometimes open a person to the idea of expanded states of consciousness. But those same drugs can also bring on frightening experiences, even psychotic states. So those who have a spiritual experience from drugs are tapping in to their own samscars (latent tendencies). The drug itself is neutral.

And if you have spiritual samscars, you want to develop them properly, not squander them on what is actually subconscious indulgence, not superconscious expansion. No saint, master, or true scripture has ever suggested that enlightenment can come through anything but self-effort. There is a reason for that.

Richard Alpert (now known as Ram Das) was one of the early pioneers of LSD in the 1960s. When he went to India for the first time, he took his drugs with him. There he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba. Neem Karoli took a whole handful of LSD pills — a bigger dose than anyone could imagine taking. It had no effect on him. Ram Das took the lesson. Drug induced so-called “spiritual” states have nothing to do with real enlightenment.

When Jesus was asked how to tell a true prophet from a false one, he answered, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” This is a way to evaluate anything that in itself is difficult to examine. Drug experiences by their very nature are subjective, in fact subconscious, so the only way to evaluate them is by their long-term effect.

I have never seen in habitual drug users, even those who claim to use drugs only for “sacred experiences,” the kind of spiritual light you find in those who seek enlightenment through the self-discipline of Kriya and other practices. Drug users generally have a kind of confused aura around them, not the clarity and dynamic will power that characterizes a saint.

For the long term effect of drug use is to weaken the will power. Drugs train you to think that experiences are there for the taking, rather than the fruit of sadhana, self-offering, and the grace of God earned through attunement. Drugs teach you to measure spiritual progress in terms of experiences, whereas true progress is measured by increasing inner freedom. Dependence on drugs to give you experiences is the opposite of freedom.

With drugs you get the impression that a great deal is happening, when, in fact, nothing is happening but a change in your chemistry. Not a change in actual consciousness, just in chemistry.

Spiritual life is about giving. Drugs are about getting. It is simply the wrong direction.

And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that you have no idea what the drug itself might be doing to your brain in the long run. It seems foolhardy to conduct an experiment on your brain that could in the end prove disastrous.

The other question here is “How are you going to work with your partner when you have such a fundamental disagreement?” For I do think the difference is far-reaching. It is easy to call oneself spiritual and to seek God through drugs. To actually dedicate oneself to living in a disciplined, selfless, high-minded way is something else entirely.

If you are hoping to make a life with this person you need to think carefully about whether or not your core values are compatible. One who defines life in terms of the experiences he can get may not have sufficient strength of character to be a partner for a devotee who thinks in terms of what he can give.

Swami Kriyananda’s answer to this same question can also be found in the article at Clarity Magazine, Hallucinogenic Drugs: Are They Spiritually Harmful?

Nayaswami Asha

[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of]

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