Yoga and Entheogens (aka Drugs) Do They Mix …

Yoga and Entheogens Towards a Deeper Understanding

[Please Note: This is the first in a series of pieces dealing with entheogens (god-inspiring substances; aka plant medicines, psychoactive drugs, psychedelics, hallucinogens the latter two terms somewhat obsolete or fallen into disfavor) and yoga. I will be asking, and attempting to resolve, certain thorny issues such as, Can or should entheogens be used by one who seriously walks the yoga path? and What benefit might they have for the serious student of yoga? and How has the yoga/spiritual communitys changed towards entheogens since the 60s and now, and why? and What are the legal and moral issues and ramifications? And so on.

First you might want to check out the following Wiki article on Entheogens, just in case you need to get up to speed (

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entheogen

Next, watch the following video of a lecture by Ram Dass speaking on the subject of his experiences with and reflections on entheogens (and for more info. on Ram Dass, either go to his website: http://www.ramdass.org/ ; or read the following Wiki article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Dass ) :

Heres the second part, too:

Finally, for right now well conclude with Ram Dass famous story of what happened when he gave LSD to his guru, Neem Karoli Baba. Please be sure to read my comments afterward, too.3~**********************************************3~When I First Came to India (by Ram Dass)

In 1967 when I first came to India, I brought with me a supply of LSD, hoping to find someone who might understand more about these substances than we did in the West. When I had met Maharajji (Neem Karoli Baba), after some days the thought had crossed my mind that he would be a perfect person to ask. The next day after having that thought, I was called to him and he asked me immediately, Do you have a question? Of course, being before him was such a powerful experience that I had completely forgotten the question I had had in my mind the night before. So I looked stupid and said, No, Maharajji, I have no question.He appeared irritated and said, Where is the medicine?

I was confused but Bhagavan Dass suggested, Maybe he means the LSD. I asked and Maharajji nodded. The bottle of LSD was in the car and I was sent to fetch it.

When I returned I emptied the vial of pills into my hand. In addition to the LSD there were a number of other pills for this and thatdiarrhea, fever, a sleeping pill, and so forth. He asked about each of these.

He asked if they gave powers. I didnt understand at the time and thought that by powers perhaps he meant physical strength. I said, No. Later, of course, I came to understand that the word he had used, siddhis, means psychic powers. Then he held out his hand for the LSD. I put one pill on his palm. Each of these pills was about three hundred micrograms of very pure LSDa solid dose for an adult. He beckoned for more, so I put a second pill in his handsix hundred micrograms. Again he beckoned and I added yet another, making the total dosage nine hundred microgramscertainly not a dose for beginners. Then he threw all the pills into his mouth. My reaction was one of shock mixed with fascination of a social scientist eager to see what would happen.

He allowed me to stay for an hour and nothing happened. Nothing whatsoever.

He just laughed at me.

The whole thing had happened very fast and unexpectedly. When I returned to the United States in 1968 I told many people about this acid feat. But there had remained in me a gnawing doubt that perhaps he had been putting me on and had thrown the pills over his shoulder or palmed them, because I hadnt actually seen them go into his mouth.

Three years later, when I was back in India, he asked me one day, Did you give me medicine when you were in India last time?

Yes.

Did I take it? he asked. ( Ah, there was my doubt made manifest!)

I think you did.

What happened?

Nothing.

Go! Jao! and he sent me off for the evening.

The next morning I was called over to the porch in front of his room, where he sat in the mornings on a tucket. He asked, Have you got any more of that medicine?

It just so happened that I was carrying a small supply of LSD for just in case, and this was obviously it. Yes.

Get it, he said.

So I did. In the bottle were five pills of three hundred micrograms each. One of the pills was broken. I placed them on my palm and held them out to him. He took the four unbroken pills. Then, one by one, very obviously and very deliberately, he placed each one in his mouth and swallowed it another unspoken thought of mine now answered.

As soon as he had swallowed the last one, he asked, Can I take water?

Yes.

Hot or cold?

It doesnt matter.

He started yelling for water and drank a cup when it was brought.

Then he asked, How long will it take to act?

Anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour.

He called for an older man, a long -time devotee who had a watch, and Maharajji held the mans wrist, often pulling it up to him to peer at the watch.

Then he asked, Will it make me crazy?

That seemed so bizarre to me that I could only go along with what seemed to be a gag.

So I said, Probably.

And then we waited. After some time he pulled the blanket over his face, and when he came out after a moment his eyes were rolling and his mouth was ajar and he looked totally mad. I got upset. What was happening? Had I misjudged his powers? After all, he was an old man (though how old I had no idea), and I had let him take twelve hundred micrograms. Maybe last time he had thrown them away and then he read my mind and was trying to prove to me he could do it, not realizing how strong the medicine really was. Guilt and anxiety poured through me. But when I looked at him again he was perfectly normal and looking at the watch.

At the end of an hour it was obvious nothing had happened. His reactions had been a total put-on. And then he asked, Have you got anything stronger? I didnt. Then he said, These medicines were used in Kulu Valley long ago. But yogis have lost that knowledge. They were used with fasting. Nobody knows now. To take them with no effect, your mind must be firmly fixed on God. Others would be afraid to take. Many saints would not take this. And he left it at that.

When I asked him if I should take LSD again, he said, It should not be taken in a hot climate. If you are in a place that is cool and peaceful, and you are alone and your mind is turned toward God, then you may take the yogi medicine.by Ram Dass3~********************************************3~

Note: This story is actually a combination of two stories that Ram Dass told, the first (from his first trip to India in 68) is recounted in his book, Be Here Now. The second story is to be found in The Only Dance There Is, which is a collection of his lectures given at the Menninger Foundation in the early Seventies. I found the story here: http://neemkarolibaba.com/content/view/106/39/

I just want to conclude with a few comments and questions on what Ram Dass wrote: First, are these stories true, or only partly true? I ask this partly because one western yogi who went to India around the same time as Ram Dass recently wrote to me that he doesnt believe the whole Ram Dass mythology. Well, Ram Dass might have made the stories a little more elaborate and interesting, but my feeling is that the basic stories that he gave LSD to NKB and it didnt seem to have an effect on him are true. I believe that Bhagavan Das (who was present at the time) has confirmed as much, too.

The second question I want to bring up is: Was Neem Karoli Baba recommending that any serious yoga aspirant could take LSD, or only Ram Dass?It seems from this story, that he was just okaying it for Ram Dass, not for anyone else. The question then is: Did Ram Dass continue to recommend its use when he returned to the States? Not publicly, as far as Im aware, because by that time LSD was illegal. My understanding is that from that point on, Ram Dass began to publicly recommend and teach yoga practices like chanting, meditation, breathwork, etc., as alternatives to psychoactive drugs such as LSD. At the same time, as in the above videos, Ram Dass did continue to speak on the positive effects that psychedelics (entheogens was not a word in vogue at that point) had on his own life and consciousness, but also discussing their shortcomings, as well.

Please write me, though, if you have more information on this subject. I will return to it again in future blog entries. Thanks for listening! Namaste

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