Thursday, June 17, 2010

Soma siddhas and alchemical enlightenment: psychedelic mushrooms in Buddhist tradition

I recently found this journal article that was very interesting. It talks about how the Buddhist traditions have ties to the uses of the hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita muscaria to help them reach enlightenment. In relation to the other book I have been reading by McKenna "Food of the Gods" it would make sense and I am sure McKenna would support this theory. Here is some of the paper:

In suggesting the connections between the symbols in these legends and the Amanita muscaria, it is certainly not my intention to pound a square peg into a round hole. If any of my suggested interpretations can be shown to be incorrect, this will trim the deadwood, and my case will stand on the points that remain. I hope the few loose ends left above will not detract from the fabric of my argument regarding Abhayadatta's legend of Karnaripa. I hope my efforts to examine every possible clue will not be mistaken for Wassonian 'monomaniacal... paranoid.., mycocentricity' (Weil, 1988, pp. 489-490). The suggestion that some Buddhist siddhas used a psychedelic drug will be dismissed out of hand by many. The use of 'intoxicants' is against the contemporary orthodox Buddhist ethic. In a footnote to his interpretation of a beer-brewing recipe as a metaphor for the process of enlightenment, Ardussi (1977, n. 37, pp. 123-124) denies 'that Vasubandhu's reference to magical powers deriving from the use of herbs (Abhidharmakosa VII. 53) suggests a type of mystical experience comparable to, or contributing to the better understanding of experiences obtained otherwise through meditation'. I believe I have demonstrated that some contemporary nonorthodox Buddhist 'alchemists' find precedents in the Mahasiddhas Nagarjuna and Aryadeva, who agreed, 'We need to eat the alchemical medicine'. Perhaps my analysis of these legends and sym-bols can provide a basis for new research by scholars of Buddhism, Tantra, alchemy, Soma studies, Eddic studies, ethnopharmacology, comparative mythology, transpersonal psychology, shamanism and history of religion. The relationship of a drug-induced psychedelic experience to 'genuine' mystical experience or to Buddhist enlightenment is debated today (Ratsch, 1989; Tart, 1991) as earnestly and as inconclusively as it was in the early years of wide-spread use of psychedelic drugs. I believe my identification of Amanita muscaria as the alchemical agent which brought 'realization' to these Buddhist adepts can help determine the value of the psychedelic experience in Buddhist tradition. Orthodox scholars may object but they can no longer 'Just say No'.

You can read the full paper here

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