Why People Smoke Weed.

Via Scott Robinson
on Nov 17, 2010
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Source: via Magazin on Pinterest

What is here is also there; what is there, is also here. Who sees multiplicity but not the one indivisible Self must wander on and on from death to death. –Katha Upanishad II.i.9

I used to smoke weed when I was younger, until I discovered that the world is fascinating already. When I let the dogs out at night and hear the wind soughing in the neighbor’s gigantic sycamore tree, its looming form blotting out the stars over our back yard, it is fascinating; when we open up the Styrofoam cooler in the shed and find that the children have filled it with grass while playing Underground Railroad (apparently the grass represented provisions of some kind) it is fascinating; when I am bawling out my five-year-old, and my six-year-old tells her, “Daddy’s not saying you’re not a good person, Sophie,” it is altogether fascinating.

We all need fascination—what Paul Gauguin called “a sense of the beyond, of a heart that beats.”  One evening while our first daughter Clare was still a baby, my wife and I were having dinner at a friend’s house when Clare began to get fussy. Our hostess picked her up and took her across the room to look at a candle.  “Let’s get fascinated!” she said.  Our baby stared, rapt and slack-jawed, at the flickering flame, and I saw for the hundredth time how numinous and mesmerizing the world was in her infant eyes.  Not presuming to have all the answers about anything she saw, or to be able to control things by naming them, she was happy to let the world be its fascinating self–almost as though she could detect “the dearest freshness deep down things”[i] with some special sixth baby-sense. “We see the world with the five senses,” said Swami Vivekananda, “but if we had another sense, we would see in it something more.”[ii]

Longing for this “something more” is, I believe, the reason people smoke weed; having lost the baby-sense, people turn to THC to open their minds to the bottomless fascination of the world. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”[iii] But changing is hard, and chemicals can seem to bypass the need for it.  It’s not for nothing that the body’s neurotransmitter that the cannabinoids in marijuana mimic is called “anandamide”; ananda is Sanskrit for “bliss.”[iv]

A young monk went to Abba Moses–one of the Desert Fathers of 3rd and 4th century Egypt–for advice on spiritual advancement. “Go and sit in your cell,” the Abba told him, “and your cell will teach you everything.”  Your life as it is, here and now, is gravid with everything you need to know–but it seldom appears that way.  And yet, if we had eyes to see—if we could get our thoughts out of the way of our perceptions–who knows what we could detect in the seemingly undifferentiated landscape of our lives?  If we had no mental category for “green,” the woods would be a riot of color.

The summer after I graduated from college I was with a group of friends, and we had all eaten psilocybin mushrooms.  For some time, I didn’t understand what the fuss was all about; I didn’t seem to be what I thought of as “tripping” at all. “I just feel stoned,” I said to a friend.  “That’s it,” she replied:  “Just relax into it.”

And she was right:  as soon as I let go of my prefabricated mental construct of “tripping” and simply allowed my experience to be what it was, I discovered that I was indeed tripping, and in a big way.  It was all happening already, but my willing-it-to-be had kept it from my awareness. Sober, I had the life I wanted already, and I didn’t know it, because I never “relaxed into it.”

Sri Ramakrishna said that spiritual seekers climb the stairs of renunciation one by one, and when they finally reach the roof, they discover that it is made of the same brick and lime as the stairs.[v] We are not going anywhere, because we are already there—or at very least, “there” is not essentially different from “here,” now matter how much we sacrifice to our belief that is surely must be.

Jesus was apparently trying to get his hearers to “relax into it” when He told them, “The kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”[vi] There is no place to go;  it is already here–you are already there.

This is how the world regains its fascination: by our looking at it neither through the eyes of deluded desire that compare it to something “better” in our heads, nor through the eyes of calculation and greed for gain, but through the eyes of the Kingdom within, the eyes of a little child who sees “the dearest freshness deep down things.”  Not of drugged sleep, but of alert wakefulness.

“Could you not stay awake with me for one hour?” Jesus asked His disciples on the last night of His earthly life.[vii] So OK, smartass, I tell myself:  if you’re Jesus—if you abide in Him and He in you like vine and branch[viii]–stay awake with yourself! Don’t be continually falling back into the sleep of life inside your head, don’t be always drawing a veil of expectations and desires between yourself and your life.  Don’t end up like Jacob, who had to physically wrestle with his Creator and sustain a painful injury before he could say,  “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.[ix]

Vedanta philosophy uses the image of coiled rope in a dimly-lit room to explain our cognitive dysfunction. If upon entering the room we mistake the rope for a snake, we will be unable to see the rope, and we cannot see the rope until we stop seeing the snake.  As long as we see our lives as preparatory, stalled, unreal or unfulfilling, we cannot see them as numinous, fascinating, “charged with the grandeur of God.”[x] The earliest Christian texts speak, not of the “return” of the Christ, but of Christ’s “revelation;” when the scales fall from our eyes, we will see that we are already in God.  This is surely what the Psalmist longed for when he prayed,

When I awake, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see You face to face.[xi]


[i] Hopkins, Gerard Manley.  “God’s Grandeur”

[ii] Vivekananda, Jnana Yoga. Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1982.  (28)

[iii] Matthew 18:3

[iv] http://drug-abuse.suite101.com/article.cfm/what-does-marijuana-actually-do

[v] The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Abridged edition.  Translated by Swami Nikhilananda.  Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1988.  (271)

[vi] Luke 17: 20b-21

[vii] Matthew 26:40

[viii] cf. John 15:15

[ix] Genesis 28:16b, ESV

[x] Hopkins, Gerard Manley.  “God’s Grandeur”

[xi] Psalm 17:15b, NLT


About Scott Robinson

Scott Robinson taught college music at a Christian university for ten years before leaving to pursue creative work and fatherhood.  He has written for Sojourners Magazine, PRISM, Cross Currents, Minnesota Parent, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  He currently composes, records and performs original kirtan with his band Mandala mandalaband.net. Scott is a professed member of the Third Order of St. Francis,  and lives in Philadelphia with his wife, two children, and two incessantly shedding dogs. 


58 Responses to “Why People Smoke Weed.”

  1. Wholey Guacamole! says:

    I agree with you 100% on this article. I could never "relax" into the high of smoking or drugs, largely do to the fact that I absolutely love my life sober. Thank you for vocalizing perfectly something that I've been trying to explain for some time!

  2. Laura says:

    Smoking weed actually doesn’t feel good for everybody. Smoking weed feels absolutely terrible for me, and I don’t see how stating the truth about my experience makes me an “idiot.” Personally, I cannot relate to people’s positive experiences with this substance. It’s like hearing someone describe the flavor of chocolate as sour… Fine for you, but a vastly different experience than mine. It is hugely inaccurate to assert that everyone’s experience with marijuana is similarly positive. I smoked weed for years, having an anxious, negative internal experience every time, unable to figure out what was “wrong” with me because I was having a different experience than the relaxing, positive experience I believed I was supposed to have.

  3. Sara says:

    My father is in constant, acute pain…broken metal plate in his neck, two broken spinal fusions and was told that he needs another surgery. Forced into early retirement, and devastated. Sometimes he is in so much pain that he can't move from bed for days; weed is the only thing…that helps. He became addicted to pain killers and had to go to rehab. It almost killed him. Weed is the much safer alternative. This article is one-sided, which is based on assumptions.

  4. Jettha says:

    People who smoke pot do so for many reasons mainly to escape from the hash reality of life, just to get high in a party, having a good feeling for awhile; certainly not all do so for getting close to god or seeking enlightenment. Your article seems to point to the fact that people do so for the latter reason. The title of your article is quite misleading!

  5. Jettha says:

    Smoking pot may give you some relieve from from troubled minds but like all medicine, the effect is only temporary; and when the effect is gone, you gonna come bak to the reality of life and probably feel even more depressed. The Buddha says " mind is the foremost to all our thoughts". One can't resolve and escape from our problems or seek enlightenment by smoking pot. All depression and problems can only be solved by the mind itself either through psycho therapy or properly guided meditation….the answer are all within us. However, I must say that in some cases of depression, it's the imbalance in the chemicals and peptides in our brains which only proper medicine can cure. One may be born with the imbalance of certain peptides or the cause of depression maybe due to the pressure of life and stress. One needs to trace the roots of his or her problems.

  6. Ashley says:

    I've been a drug & alcohol user & sober daily meditator and yogi, and everything in between. High or sober, seeking can still be misguided. Once you know that whatever you seek is within you, you can go about your life being unattached to your choices & going with the flow of what you desire and how you live.

    There is no right way. There is no wrong way. It just is…and it's all good.

    p.s. if you smoke weed, I just want you to know that it doesn't make you any less spiritual. your pursuit of a rich inner life is not insincere because of your choices. deepok doesn't know you 😉

  7. Jettha says:

    Agree absolutely! As Krisnamuthi says….truth is a pathless land.

  8. Liz says:

    I really identify with this response! I have been a weed user off and on for about 12 years now…I've run the gamut, from being a sad stoner trying to escape unhappiness and boredom through weed (and other drugs to be honest) to opposing smoking altogether. Now I'm at a time in my life where I feel really content with where I'm at, and yes, I still smoke weed sometimes. I'm a happy, productive, creative, professional adult who takes care of my life, works hard, and gives freely to others, and I'm an incredibly deep and spiritual person if I'm sober or not. So if now and again I enjoy getting a bit stoned and laughing extra hard at a funny movie, or getting a little bit baked and painting in the park by my house, I'm going to do it.