Religion and drugs

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Many religions have expressed positions on what is acceptable to consume as a means of intoxication for spiritual, pleasure, or medicinal purposes.

Neolithic[edit]

In the book Inside the Neolithic Mind, the authors, archaeologists David Lewis-Williams and David Pearceargue that hallucinogenic drugs formed the basis of neolithic religion and rock art. Similar practices and images are found in some contemporary "stone-age" Indigenous peoples in South America using yaje.

Ancient Greece[edit]

Many Ancient Greek mystery religions are hypothesized to have centered around the use of entheogen, such as the Kykeon central to the Eleusinian Mysteries. Recent research suggests that the prophesies of the Delphic Oracle were uttered by Priestesses under the influence of gaseous vapors.

Hinduism[edit]

Much of Hindu belief and practice grew out of the use of Soma, a god, plant, and drink which is the focus of the Rigveda.[1] The continued entheogenic use of drugs such as Cannabis is not uncommon among various Hindu sects. Cannabis is connected with the god Shiva who is said to have rested in the shade of the Cannabis plant on a particularly hot day. In gratitude Shiva gave the plant to mankind. Often the drink Bhang is drunk in Shiva's honor, it is a tea typically cooked with milk, spices, cannabis leaves and flowers. The leaves of the Kratom tree have also been used traditionally as an ingredient in a tea with mild stimulant and opioid properties.

Hinduism generally disapproves of the use of non-pharmaceutical drugs. In the past, however, drugs played an important part in worship. In the Vedas a drug called Soma was used as an offering and then drunk by the priests. The Vedic god Soma was the ‘master of plants’ and the ‘healer of disease’, in addition to a bringer of wealth. In later Hinduism, Soma was identified with the moon which waxes and wanes when the drug is drunk by the gods. Some Hindu mystics still use cannabis as an aid to spiritual experience.

Hindu beliefs about appropriate use of cannabis illustrate the capacity of cultural systems to order and direct the course of complex phenomenal events. Cannabis manifests diverse and contradictory effects. These depend not only on dose, frequency and route of administration, but also on subjective and cultural contexts (e.g., Pihl, Shea & Costa 1979). It may very well be that the contradictory results of modern research investigations on cannabis stem from the intricacy of these interactions. Given the current state of the art, paradigms of research methodology may very well be inadequate to develop an understanding of such a paradoxical drug. The Hindu cultural system, on the other hand, accommodates the ambiguities of cannabis through its own complex nature. It provides diverse niches through which antithetical effects of the drug are expressed. Cannabis is said to both interfere with motivation to work and facilitate it. A closer examination reveals that these actions are probably related to the way in which this motivation toward action is defined, and the level of use of the drug. While cannabis appears to interfere with execution of highly complex tasks and the long-range planning that accompanies them, it may facilitate concentrated focus on repetitive endeavors. In some commonsense way, it may be quite simply that it changes a user's sense of time and the span of the present as well as the sense of relative importance of present and future. So long as an individual is under the influence of this effect (and living in the context that s/he has structured as a result of it), the urgency of accomplishment in the Western sense is diminished. The Hindu belief system accommodates this by prescribing use in such a way that this effect becomes beneficial. A key factor is that low potency preparations (bhang, thandai) are available. It allows individuals with complex life tasks, goals and obligations to indulge in moderation. The drug is also taken in a ritualized context, facilitating concentration and relaxation. It is taken at times, such as in the evening or on holidays, in which focus on the immediate present is a welcome change. Use of the more potent preparations (ganja, charas) is not condoned for this group. Above all, moderation is enjoined and popular folk belief warns of the potential problems of excess. Ganja and charas are regarded more ambivalently as poisons or semipoisons.[2]

Vaishnavas of ISKCON, founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1966, are prohibited from using tobacco, alcohol, caffeine and any kind of drugs. The same applies for followers of Arya Samaj.

Buddhism[edit]

According to the fifth precept of the Pancasila, Buddhists are meant to refrain from any quantity of intoxicants which would prevent mindfulness or cause heedlessness.[3] In the Pali Tipitaka the precept is explicitly concerned with alcoholic beverages:

"I undertake the training rule to abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness."
Surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.

However, caffeine in tea is permitted, even encouraged for monks of most traditions, as it is believed to promote wakefulness.[4]

Generally speaking, the vast majority of Buddhists and Buddhist sects denounce and have historically frowned upon the use of any intoxicants by an individual who has taken the five precepts. Most Buddhists view the use and abuse of intoxicants to be a hindrance in the development of an enlightened mind. However, there are a few historical and doctrinal exceptions.

Vajrayana[edit]

Many modern Buddhist schools have strongly discouraged the use of psychoactive drugs of any kind; however, they may not be prohibited in all circumstances in all traditions. Some denominations of tantric or esoteric Buddhism especially exemplify the latter, often with the principle skillful means:

Alcohol[edit]

For example, as part of the ganachakra tsok ritual (as well as Homa, abhisheka and sometimes drubchen) some Tibetan Buddhists and Bönpos have been known to ingest small amounts of grain alcohol (called amrit or amrita) as an offering. If a member is an alcoholic, or for some other reason does not wish to partake in the drinking of the alcoholic offering, then he or she may dip a finger in the alcohol and then flick it three times as part of the ceremony.

Amrita is also possibly the same as, or at least in some sense a conceptual derivative of the ancient Hindu soma. (The latter which historians often equate with Amanita muscaria or other Amanita psychedelic fungi.) Crowley (1996) states:

"Undoubtedly, the striking parallels between "The legend about Chakdor" and the Hindu legend of the origin of soma show that the Buddhist amrita and the Hindu soma were at one time understood to be identical. Moreover, the principal property of amrita is, to this day, perceived by Buddhists as being a species of inebriation, however symbolically this inebriation may be interpreted. Why else would beer (Tibetan chhang, "barley beer") be used by yogins as a symbolic substitute for amrita [Ardussi]? Conversely, why else would the term bDud.rTsi be used as a poetic synonym for beer?

Conversely, in Tibetan and Sherpa lore there is a story about a monk who came across a woman who told him that he must either:

  • a. kill her goat,
  • b. sleep with her, or
  • c. drink a mug of beer.
  • d. All of the above.

The monk thought to himself, "well, surely if I kill the goat then I will be causing great suffering since a living being will die. If I sleep with the woman then I will have broken another great vow of a monk and will surely be lost to the ways of the world. Lastly, if I drink the beer then perhaps no great harm will come and I will only be intoxicated for a while, and most importantly I will only be hurting myself." (In the context of the story this instance is of particular importance to him because monks in the Mahayana and Vajrayana try to bring all sentient beings to enlightenment as part of their goal.)

So the monk drank the mug of beer and then he became very drunk. In his drunkenness he proceeded to kill the goat and sleep with the woman, breaking all three vows and, at least in his eyes, doing much harm in the world. The lesson of this story is meant to be that, at least according to the cultures from which it delineates, alcohol causes one to break all of one's vows, in a sense that one could say it is the cause of all other harmful deeds.[5]

The Vajrayana teacher Drupon Thinley Ningpo Rinpoche has said that as part of the five precepts which a layperson takes upon taking refuge, that although they must refrain from taking intoxicants, they may drink enough so as they do not become drunk. Bhikkus and Bhikkunis (monks and nuns, respectively), on the other hand, who have taken the ten vows as part of taking refuge and becoming ordained, cannot imbibe any amount of alcohol or other drugs, other than pharmaceuticals taken as medicine.

Similarly, the famous Kagyu and Nyingma Trungpa tülku, tertön, abbot and meditation master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche – well known for introducing Vajrayana teachings to the Occident, founding Naropa University (the first accredited Buddhist university in the United States), creating the system of Shambhala Training and for his friendship with many important figures of the Beat movement – practiced and espoused for his students what he deemed "mindful drinking". The Shambhala Buddhist practitioner and writer Lodro Rinzler states that, "The intent is not to get the monks wasted but to take what is seen as a poison and transform it into a tool for spaciousness. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche attempted to lead his Vajrayana students in the West in what he referred to as "mindful drinking," with mixed results. Some students engaged the practice to the point where they felt a loosening up on their ego and their dualistic sense of "me" vs. "the world." Others threw up."

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, is known as teetotaler and non-smoker.

Other[edit]

There is some evidence regarding the use of deliriant Datura seeds (known as candabija) in Dharmic rituals associated with many tantras – namely the Vajramahabhairava, Samputa, Mahakala, Guhyasamaja, Tara and Krsnayamari tantras – as well as cannabis and other entheogens in minority Vajrayana sanghas. [5]

In the Ngagpa tradition of Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism – and particularly in the Aro gTer sect – the Pancasila is wholly presented from the point of view of Dzogchen; as such the fifth precept is re-defined as "to refrain from the intoxication of duality, and to become drunken with primordial wisdom". Also Padmasambhava, one of the forefathers of Tibetan Buddhism, is said to have tested the mahasiddha Yeshe Tsogyal with a range of medicinal substances to see if she could hold her clarity while in altered states of consciousness. He furthermore, according to lore, subjugated Rahu (the tantric deity of drug and poison dealers) to serve as a protector of the Dzogchen teachings.

In 2002, a book titled Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics, which details the history of Buddhism and the use of psychedelic drugs, was published. The work was edited by the popular visionary and psychedelic artist Alex Grey, an admitted user of LSD and DMT and also a Vajrayana practitioner.

Zen[edit]

Zen Buddhism is known for stressing the precepts. In Japan, however, where Zen flourished historically, there are a number of examples of misconduct on the part of monks and laypeople alike. This often involved the use of alcohol, as sake drinking has and continues to be a well known aspect of Japanese culture.

The Japanese Zen monk and abbot, shakuhachi player and poet Ikkyu was known for his unconventional take on Zen Buddhism: His style of expressing dharma is sometimes deemed "Red Thread Zen" or "Crazy Cloud Zen" for its unorthodox characteristics. Ikkyu is considered both a heretic and saint in the Rinzai Zen tradition, and was known for his derogatory poetry, open alcoholism and for frequenting the services of prostitutes in brothels. He personally found no conflict between his lifestyle and Buddhism.

There are several koans (Zen riddles) referencing the drinking of sake (rice wine); for instance Mumonkan's tenth koan titled Seizei Is Utterly Destitute:

'Seizei said to Sozan, "Seizei is utterly destitute. Will you give him support?" Sozan called out: "Seizei!" Seizei responded, "Yes sir?!" Sozan said, "You have finished three cups of the finest wine in China, and still you say you have not yet moistened your lips!"'

Another monk, Gudo, is mentioned in a koan called Finding a Diamond on a Muddy Road buying a gallon of sake.

Judaism[edit]

Judaism maintains that people do not own their bodies - they belong to God. As a result, Jews are not permitted to harm, mutilate, destroy or take risks with their bodies, life or health with activities such as taking life-threatening drugs. However, there is no general prohibition against drugs in Judaism, as long as they don't interfere with one's ritual duties and don't cause definite harm, though most Rabbis generally prohibit drugs, in order to avoid social, legal and medical problems in their community.

Spiritual use of various alcoholic beverages, sometimes in very large quantities, is common and well known. In some Jewish communities there is a tradition to get drunk on Purim until they forget the difference between the Hebrew phrases "Cursed is Haman" and "Blessed is Mordechai", which signified reaching the spiritual world Atzilut where all opposites unite. In many Jewish communities it is customary to drink on Simchat Torah as well. Drinking in small quantities as a mind-altering practice is commonly used during the Farbrengens of the Chabad Hasidim. A large body of Chabad literature refers to the spiritual dangers of drinking, but a few anecdotal references refer to the spirutal power of alcohol, when used for the sake of connecting to God and achieving brotherly love among fellows Jews.[citation needed] The Lubavitcher Rebbe forbade his Chassidim under the age of 40 to consume more than 4 small shots of hard liqueurs.

[6] Wine plays a prominent role in many Jewish rituals, most notably the kiddush. Hasidic Jews often engage in a free ceremony called "Tisch" in which drinks such as Vodka are drunk in a group. Drinking is accompanied by singing and the study of the Torah.

Some Hasidic Rabbis, e.g. the Ribnitzer Rebbe used to drink large amounts of Vodka on some special occasions, apparently as a powerful mind-altering method. The Ribnitzer Rebbe also practiced severe sleep deprivation, extremely long meditative prayers and a number of ascetic purification rituals. During his life in the USSR he used to immerse himself every day in ice water.

The spiritual use of caffeine and nicotine as stimulants is well known in the Hasidic communities. Many stories are told about miracles and spiritual journeys performed by the Baal Shem Tov and other famous Tzaddikim with the help of their smoking pipe. Some people suggest that, judging by the nature of these stories, the tobacco was sometimes mixed with strong mind-altering drugs. [7][8]

A popular Hasidic saying relates coffee to the Psalmic verse "Hope in God". The Hebrew word for "hope" ("Kave") sounds identical to the Yiddish word for coffee. Coffee is believed to have power to awaken the soul to the worship of God.

Some Kabbalists, including Isaac of Acco and Abraham Abulafia, mention a method of "philosophical meditation", which involves drinking a cup of "strong wine of Avicenna", which would induce a trance and would help the adept to ponder over difficult philosophical questions.[9] The exact recipe of this wine remains unknown; Avicenna refers in his works to the effects of opium and datura extracts.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, a prominent researcher of Jewish meditations, mentions in his books LSD and mescaline as a source of positive spiritual experience. He suggested that some medieval Kabbalists used some psychedelic drugs, though it was discouraged by the more conservative mystics.[10][11] Indeed, one can find in Kabbalistic medical manuals cryptic references to the hidden powers of mandrake, harmal and other psychoactive plants, though the exact usage of these powers is hard to decipher.

According to Aryeh Kaplan,[12] cannabis was an ingredient in the Holy anointing oil mentioned in various sacred Hebrew texts. The herb of interest is most commonly known as kaneh-bosem (קְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם[13]) which is mentioned several times in the Old Testament as a bartering material, incense, and an ingredient in Holy anointing oil used by the high priest of the temple. Many Rastafarians, who use cannabis as a sacriment, identify as Jewish.

According to Josephus, the head-dress of the Jewish High Priests' was modeled upon the capsule of the Hyoscyamus flower, which he calls "Saccharus". This Greek word for sugar stems from the Hebrew root that means "intoxicating".[14]

Benny Shanon, a psychology professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, proposed that Moses may have been high on hallucinogenic mushrooms at the time he received the Ten Commandments.[15]

Christianity[edit]

Many Christian denominations disapprove of the use of most illicit drugs. There are some suggestions that the Bible may refer to it.

The primary advocate of a religious use of cannabis plant in early Judaism was Sula Benet also called Sara Benetowa a Polish anthropologist, (1903–1982), who claimed (1967) that the plant kaneh bosm קְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם mentioned five times in the Hebrew Bible, and used in the holy anointing oil of the Book of Exodus, was in fact cannabis. [16] The Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church confirmed it as a possible valid interpretation.[17] The lexicons of Hebrew and dictionaries of plants of the Bible such as by Michael Zohary (1985), Hans Arne Jensen (2004) and James A. Duke (2010) and others identify the plant in question as either Acorus calamus or Cymbopogon citratus.[18] Kaneh-bosm is listed as an incense in the Old Testament. It is generally held by academics specializing in the archaeology and paleobotany of Ancient Israel, and those specializing in the lexicography of the Hebrew Bible that cannabis is not documented or mentioned in early Judaism. Against this some popular writers[19] have argued that there is evidence for religious use of cannabis in the Hebrew Bible, although this hypothesis and some of the specific case studies (e.g., John Allegro in relation to Qumran, 1970) have been "widely dismissed as erroneous" (Merlin, 2003).[20] Many Christian denominations permit the moderate use of socially and legally acceptable drugs like alcohol, caffeine and tobacco. Some Christian denominations permit smoking tobacco, while others disapprove of it. Many denominations do not have any official stance on drug use, some more-recent Christian denominations (e.g. Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses) discourage or prohibit the use of any of these substances.

Because Jesus and many Biblical figures drank wine, most Christian denominations do not require teetotalism. In the Eucharist wine represents (or among Christians who believe in some form of Real Presence, like the Catholic and Orthodox churches, actually is) the blood of Christ. On the other hand, some Christian denominations, notably Methodists associated with the temperance movement, use grape juice instead.

The best known Western prohibition against alcohol happened in the United States in the 1920s, where concerned prohibitionists were worried about its dangerous side effects. However, the demand for alcohol remained and criminals stepped in and created the supply. The consequences of organized crime and the popular demand for alcohol, led to alcohol being legalized again.

Islam[edit]

Islam prohibits all drugs that are not medically prescribed.[21] Islam's prohibition of drugs[22] stems from two concerns:

  • their intoxication effects
  • their harm to the human body

There are numerous verses in the Qur'an and hadith that ban intoxicants (including alcohol). The prophet Muhammad said:[22]

Every intoxicant is like alcohol, and every (type of) alcohol is prohibited. (Muslim)

The second reason for banning drugs is that they are believed to have a harmful effect on the body. The Qur'an says,

"And make not your own hands contribute to your destruction." Surah, Al-Baqara, 2: 195

The Muslim nations of Turkey and Egypt were instrumental in banning opium, cocaine, and cannabis when the League of Nations committed to the 1925 International Convention relating to opium and other drugs (later the 1934 Dangerous Drugs Act). The primary goal was to ban opium and cocaine, but cannabis was added to the list, and it remained there largely unnoticed due to the much more heated debate over opium and coca. The 1925 Act has been the foundation upon which every subsequent policy in the United Nations has been founded. Cannabis use and abuse as an intoxicant was largely unknown in the West at that point, but Islamic leaders have been critical of it since the 13th century.

O You who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones and (divination by) arrows are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. Avoid (such abominations) that you may prosper. (5:90)

Satan’s plan is to sow hatred and enmity amongst you with intoxicants and gambling, and to hamper you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. Will you not give up? (5:91)

There are no prohibitions in Islam on alcohol for scientific, industrial or automotive use.

In spite of these restrictions on substance use, tobacco and caffeine are still widely used throughout many Muslim nations.

Bahá'í Faith[edit]

Bahá'ís are forbidden to drink alcohol or to take drugs, unless prescribed by doctors. Accordingly, the sale and trafficking of such substances is also forbidden. Smoking is discouraged but not prohibited.

Rastafari movement[edit]

Many Rastafarians believe cannabis, which they call "ganja", "the herb," or "Kaya" is a sacred gift of Jah and may be used for spiritual purposes to commune with God but should not be used profanely. However, other drugs, including alcohol, are frowned upon. Many believe that the wine Jesus/Iyesus drank was not an alcoholic beverage but simply the juice of grapes, or other fruits.

Asatru[edit]

Alcoholic drink is commonly used during Asatru blots but non alcoholic drink can be substituted. [6] [7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Soma
  2. ^ Morningstar, PJ. "Thandai and chilam: traditional Hindu beliefs about the proper uses of Cannabis". J Psychoactive Drugs 1985 Jul-Sep;17(3):141-65. Morning Star PJ. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  3. ^ Dahlke, Paul; Sīlācāra, Bhikkhu; Oates, L.R.; Lounsbery, G. Constant (1963). "The Five Precepts" (PDF). The Wheel Publication (Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society) (55). ISSN 0068-3345. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ one place this story is referenced is in the more Western article 'Sherpa Purity' by Sherry B. Ortner, published in the magazine American Anthropologist. The beginning of that article is available online, here: http://www.jstor.org/pss/672339 but the story is not available unless you login etc.
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ [3]
  8. ^ [4]
  9. ^ Aryeh Kaplan, Meditation and Kabbalah, p. 108
  10. ^ Aryeh Kaplan, Jewish Meditaion, p. 27
  11. ^ Aryeh Kaplan, Meditation and Kabbalah, p. 156
  12. ^ Kaplan, Aryeh (1981). The Living Torah. New York. p. 442. ISBN 0-940118-35-1. 
  13. ^ "Cannabis and the Christ: Jesus used Marijuana". Cannabis Culture. 
  14. ^ Josephus, Antiquities, Book III, 7:6
  15. ^ "'Moses was high on hallucinogenic drug when he received Ten Commandments,' claims top academic". Daily Mail (London). 2008-03-05. 
  16. ^ Rowan Robinson, The Great Book of Hemp, Health & Fitness, 1995, pag. 89
  17. ^ "Marijuana and the Bible= Erowid.org". 2002-03-01. 
  18. ^ Lytton J. Musselman Figs, dates, laurel, and myrrh: plants of the Bible and the Quran 2007 p73
  19. ^ Dan Merkur The Mystery of Manna: The Psychedelic Sacrament of the Bible (2001); James D. Dure, Manna Magic Mushroom of Moses : Manna Botanical I.D. of a Biblical Sacrament (self published, 2000)
  20. ^ Economic Botany M. D. Merlin Archaeological Evidence for the Tradition of Psychoactive Plant Use in the Old World - University of Hawaii "23 May 2011 - ".. Judaism (Dure 2001; Merkur 2000), and Christianity (Allegro 1970; Ruck et al. 2001). Although this hypothesis and some of the specific case studies (e.g., Allegro 1970) have been widely dismissed as erroneous, others continue"
  21. ^ "Islam: Drugs". 
  22. ^ a b Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. "Islam Prohibits Alcohol and Drugs". 

Further reading[edit]