Why not to smoke pot from a Buddhist point of view.

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Why Buddhism views Pot as a no-no (hint: it’s not about morality)

I believe it should be legal, safe, and taxed like alcohol. But I personally don’t smoke, because I don’t find it helpful.

My buddy D and I have had the is-pot-a-good-thing-for-humans argument for years…well before pot became more or less legal in these here parts.

I’ve smoked pot, we’ve all smoked pot. But I was brought up Buddhist, and Buddhism is all about clearing and opening and waking up one’s mind. Pot isn’t always conducive to such, though in limited and mindful quantities it can be a lot of fun, and relaxing. So I don’t smoke, and haven’t done for many, many years. (In high school, in Vermont, however, I had my bogarting everyone’s spliffs phase).

Many folks still view marijuana as immoral. Buddhism doesn’t, and I don’t. It’s about the same as alcohol, to my mind, only far less harmful (alcohol causes so many accidents, and can lead more easily to fights…pot leads to eating brownies, watching TV, deep conversations about where fire goes when it burns out, and deep conversations about Sartre, and God, and Kant). That said, from a point of view of developing one’s path of meditation, pot might not be helpful for most of us.

Still, Buddhism more or less forbids the smoking of pot. I remember my Buddhist teacher, Chogyam Trungpa, invited all his Buddhist students to bring all their pot to “a party” in the early days—and, when they got there, they were ordered/asked to throw it upon a bonfire. Smoking dope is akin to “inviting clouds of ignorance into your mind,” Trungpa Rinpoche said, or something along those lines. I couldn’t remember the exact quote, or find it online, so I asked my momma:

From: Waylon Lewis <info at elephantjournal dot com>
Subject: Re: curious
Date: Wednesday, June 2, 2010, 1:13 PM

Dear Mom,

I looked all over…there’s lots of references to him talking about it as inviting clouds of ignorance in to your mindstream, that sort of thing, but I didn’t find an exact quote.

Dear Waylon,

All I know is what I’ve told you before—Rinpoche told us in the early “70’s, after trying most everything himself without it having much of an effect on him, that we shouldn’t do drugs or grass, “Try ordinary mind instead!”—not that we knew what that was then.

But the message was at least clear to me to give up my hippie pattern of trying whatever was offered; if I were going to have a teacher, I should follow his teachings.

Later in the mid- to late ’70’s he was asked about drinking and he seemed to think that was ok because if one lost one’s mindfulness, the hangover was the re-grounding message.

In the early 80’s he also said over and over again not to mimic his life-style, but to emulate him.

This made sense as all along he had pointed out that Gampopa was not like Mila who was not like Marpa who was not like Naro who was not like Tilopa.  (The monk was not like the yogi who was not like the merchant-farmer-translator who was not like the scholar of the Northern Gate of Nalanda who was not like the man along the banks of the river living off of fish heads and entrails!)

Cheers and love,

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About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


87 Responses to “Why not to smoke pot from a Buddhist point of view.”

  1. Chris says:

    Buddha Shakyamuni instated the precept of abstaining from the use of intoxicants to protect practitioners from being careless, breaking their vows, and causing disharmony. To refrain from the use of intoxicants is an act of compassion and can do nothing but benefit sentient beings.

  2. Chris says:

    The precepts were developed to support a practitioner in developing stability and should be followed if one wants to not waste time on the path. This human life is precious and time is limited. Based off of my own experience any substance that clouds the mind is not conclusive to the practice of Buddhadharma. If you don't want to waste time walking in circles I recommend letting go of extraneous hindrances like drugs and alcohol. We have enough trouble as human beings practicing Dharma sober.

  3. Joyce says:

    Isn't it true that we can become attached or dependent upon anything if there is an emotional void and a need to fill that void with something external that makes us feel better? So, if shopping, exercise, food, sex, alcohol or drugs be addictive, why can't pot? Regardless of if science declares the substance as addictive or not, anything can potentially be addictive if we are dependent upon it to meet our emotional needs. I think if people use pot to either make them feel happy, relaxed or aid in meditation, etc., they need to always be aware of the potential for a dependency. In my opinion, it's far more productive identifying our emotion needs and meeting them internally, rather than using external means.

  4. trin says:

    Marijuana is like any drug, alcohol included. If used regularly by people who have a predisposition it can provoke mental illness. I have experienced addictive behaviour with some of my friends who went from social smokers to chronic smokers. It changes a person's perception and lowers inhibitions. It didn't change them for the better and they have become addicts. If people can use this drug and not harm themselves or anyone else than that is there choice. It's the same as alcohol and I suspect other drugs that will be legalised in the future. I think the problem is not in what drug people use it's the intention with which they use it.

  5. Ric says:

    Rinpoche, responded to a family members question if he would give her permission to smoke pot, to which he replied only for teaching purposses, (from then on used it to learn, and not just waste away high on pot.)

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