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. MOJO1000 says:

    Maybe smoking weed just feels good.

  2. April says:

    And that's fine, unless you feel like you need to smoke weed to feel good at all.

  3. Erma says:

    I agree that the point of all drugs is to eventually get to a place where you already feel like you are on the drugs. With practice we can access the same feelings sans drugs.

    Marijuana is a drug and is addictive, a lot of people overlook this. There is also something relaxing just about breathing in smoke.

  4. dharma_sing says:

    I have to agree with mojo909, this article covers one very small point of view. Who is is to say why a person chooses to change their consciousness regardless of how they choose to do it.

  5. rootstowings says:

    Awesome article and dead on. Like Chopra says, people who use drugs are misguided seekers. What they fail to see is that the further they seek the further away they get.

  6. sky says:

    Thank you very much for writing this. It is a handy reminder.

  7. BenRiggs says:

    Thank you Scott Robinson…

  8. BenRiggs says:

    Of course smoking weed feels good. You would have to be an idiot to argue that… However lighting something on fire then sucking on it in order to feel good suggests two things in my mind: 1) prior to smoking weed you somehow felt bad or were in some way dissatisfied with how you felt 2) You are trying to solve or repair that dissatisfaction with something you know will make you feel better, i.e. weed.
    I do not think there is anything intrinsically wrong with weed, but there is something confused and misguided about trying to repair your self with marijuana or another external substance. Discontentment has an internal origin and therefore an internal resolution!

  9. YesuDas says:

    Thanks, Ben! Reminds me of that old Peggy Lee song, "Is That All There Is?"

  10. YesuDas says:

    Thank *you*, Ben Riggs!

  11. YesuDas says:

    I don't know him personally; can you arrange a meeting?

  12. pheppner says:

    I wonder if the same argument could be made for alcohol. Could you write the same article and just substitute weed for booze?

  13. BenRiggs says:

    I would certainly enjoy reading an article that substituted boos for weed… But it seems to me that marijuana brings with it a sub-culture that has far more enthusiasm- meaning they are hell bent on defending its use!. I do not think an article like this on alcohol would be as provocative (and therefore popular) as this article is! It is almost as if people look at smoking weed like meditation, prayer, or yoga; but few people if any view alcohol that way. Do you agree?

  14. pheppner says:

    I agree, I don't think anyone would consider alcohol as meditation, prayer or yoga. I was more referring to your comments above: (sorry, maybe i should have just responded to that)

    1) prior to smoking weed you somehow felt bad or were in some way dissatisfied with how you felt
    2) You are trying to solve or repair that dissatisfaction with something you know will make you feel better.
    3) Discontentment has an internal origin and therefore an internal resolution

    Honestly, Is it not the same thing when you come home from work and have a beer to relax? Or get up in the morning and have a cup of coffee to wake up? Of course these things are not controversial, and if you were just looking to provoke conversation, thats great. I'm just saying, we avoid being with "what is" in many more ways than smoking weed.

  15. YesuDas says:

    Well said, R2W–and thanks.

  16. joel gray says:

    Sorry. i realize i didnt say much about weed.
    i think the article isnt really about drugs per se.
    its about rediscovering fascination, tackling our discontent with
    life, and unearthing its meaning.

    Its about finding where we fit in all this mess, and why
    we find ourselves here in the first place.

    Any discussion that deals simply with weed, while amusing, to me, misses the point.

    just my five shekels.

  17. joel gray says:

    See how the difference is all in one's perception? This truly fascinates me.
    Same cell. Different attitude. Radically different outcome. 🙂

  18. Logan says:

    I don’t look at weed as a drug because I don’t abuse it and yes I do smoke weed but not very often. When you abuse something then it’s considered a drug to you because you want it or need it. Coffee for example is a drug to someone because they it to keep them awake. I smoke when I hang out with friends because I’m just having a good time and you sometimes you need to let go and expand your mind and not get tunnel vision for looking at the same direction in life. Marijuana has been used 1000s of years but now our goverments tells us that it’s bad for us never trend into that follow what you think is life you were born with that right listen to the bible not the government.

  19. BenRiggs says:

    Oh yeah I agree with everything you said above.. In fact I am currently using coffee for that very reason! I think the only difference between marijuana and alcohol is on is illegal! There maybe consequences imposed by the outside world for smoking weed that one doesn't receive by drinking alcohol… Other than that I think the difference are trivial.
    And then there is the cult of marijuana, which we have already mentioned.

    I agree with your overall point: For example with coffee; why is being tired a problem, something that has to be solved?

  20. BenRiggs says:

    Maybe there isn't anything wrong with him, you, or me?
    But I think the big picture here is, whether or not I am willing to deal with that question, and not try to medicate or distract myself from it.

  21. abutterflyloves says:

    I have often wondered if our DNA has a clue on what we prefer. I cannot stand the smell, or the effects of Pot or other substances. And the people I see that are "dope" smokers, always seemed a little slow in intelligence. I am sorry if that offends people. I know I look like a total idiot when drinking multi shots of Jose Cuervo Gold.

    I use to think I wrote better drunk. It's simply not true. Drugs and alcohol just slows down the brain, and allows us to focus more on one thing. With practice and dedication, you can achieve the same focus with meditation before writing, art, etc.

  22. YesuDas says:

    Thanks so much for this, Emily; yes, I certainly did not mean to include medicinal use in this piece. As someone else has pointed out, the piece is really less about weed per se than about our tendency to flee reality. Thanks for being so open and thoughtful in your response.

  23. YesuDas says:

    Thanks, ABL. I'm inclined to agree–though of course, I have never experience the "Cuervo Way" for myself!

  24. yogiclarebear says:

    This is an excellent article. I also smoked when I was younger, until I had a bad experience that "sparked" into motion a terrible turn into anxiety related struggles. Reading this I realize that my "bad trip" was for me a harsh realization that the "drugged fascination" wasn't going to be a substitute for realizing the Truth via the change that comes from going through the tough stuff organically, "naturally."

    Very good piece.

  25. YesuDas says:

    Thanks, YCB. A bad weed experience finally put me off the stuff long enough to think about why I was doing it in the first place, too.

    My older daughter is also named Clare, and we call her Clare Bear, too!

  26. […] is natural—especially when someone threatens your livelihood. Or whenever. Good, Bad, Edible, Inedible: labeling is a survival […]

  27. Scott says:

    Fascinating how the comments section reveals so much about the commenter's degree of capacity for multiple perspectives…it's like getting to read a whole different article every time.

    As for weed. I smoked/ate/vaporized it for many years to varying degrees. Took breaks, went back….never really drank much after I legally could as it lost the edge that interested me.

    I felt like weed "opened" so many spaces inside my consciousness and body that felt great and kept me deeply drawn to exploring. And it made sex seem so much more amazingly energetic and alive.

    Around the time I was noticing that even a few days after smoking that my Awareness seemed less crystalline, a day came in meditation where this voice simply said, 'You're using weed as a short-cut to feel things rather than develop your capacity to open to them now on your own. Everything you love about experiencing while using weed is already here, are you willing to open that wide?'

    And at that time, the answer was a strong yes. At that time it felt like the thing to do was take everything associated with weed out of my house, to renounce for a while and see what would arise.

    The first few weeks brought strong nostalgic cravings. I can still find those feelings if I look.

    AND related or not, the Clarity of Awareness seems to have more depth, breadth, and width to it, and increasingly so these last several months. Right now it's edgy for me to not use it and explore there. Not good or bad or right or wrong, just where my edge is. And that interests me.

    Thank you for the article!


  28. Pearls and Poets says:


  29. […] is what happens when we aren’t mindful, when we don’t listen, when we allow double speak and social biases rule our thoughts and our […]

  30. not always true…what if you are happy feel good and you like the different sensations — (I don't smoke personally HOWEVER) how is it different than going to yoga to FEEL that feeling? or meditating to FEEL that feeling. Not everyone is doing things to repair anything… do some people use it that way? absolutely but none of us can presume what an others experience is.

  31. […] do. You’re truly amazing. And it’s not like you really need my love or praise, because millions of other people love you too. So big […]

  32. Julie says:

    You’ve overlooked the very real medical application of this substance. Many people use cannabis to alleviate painful and challenging health conditions. Calling this substance dope is street-think and erroneous. This plant presents many gifts to the medical world and is capable of feats well beyond a mellow THC psychotropic effect, and one has only to educate themselves about the capabilities of the myriad of other cannibinols found in this plant. Furthermore, not one single study has shown it to be addictive, either physically or psychologically. Do we consider taking a NSAID for inflammation and pain “running away from your physical reality”? This piece is based on the opinions of one who has not walked the path, and therefore has little ground to stand on regarding why they think people smoke “dope”. Have some more Kool-aid.

  33. roy says:

    weed is a great anti-depressant and anti-anxiety agent. so folks medicate themselves with it. but like all substances, it's globally psychoactive and does not get to what specifically irritates your being. it's a temporary salve. try a combo of meditation or psychotherapy of some sort to heal in a deeper way. it also takes a lot of energy to be stoned and that is why the tribes used weed only on special holiday rituals. yes it temporarily takes you away from your troubling thoughts, but there are many ways to get liberated from mind that do not challenge the purity and health of your body. take care of your beautiful and special pet. discover your truth in the boundlessness of the boundaries.

  34. dave says:

    In every human culture across the ages, only two things appear universally. Some notion of deity/spirit and its worship, and some desire to find a way to get off your face. All cultures, separated by vast distances and ages, develop these two things. Every single one.

  35. Dr. says:

    It took me months of using weed in a meditative way to come to the conclusion that I have been depressed for many years of my life and that I have been running from the emotional trauma of the past, but not with weed. See I only started smoking a year ago, but the trauma that I had been trying to escape stemmed from my childhood. Weed helped me to realize this, and because of this I started seeking professional help. I will have to stop smoking once I start medications (wish me luck) but I will never be able to say that weed took me away from reality. Weed took me deeper into it and for that I am grateful. I think that it's up to each individual to keep track of how they're using their tools to seek their own Truth. To be aware of whether they're trying to escape or trying to find help. I meditate regularly, exercise often, read, write, play music, and draw. Weed never slowed me down, but it helped me to recover.

    As Ram Dass once said, "It doesn't matter how you get there, just that you get there."

  36. Natural-I says:

    Only one plant told me I didn't need to smoke marijuana, twas marijuana itself. Pot is a great teacher, but like all teachers you have to let them go, even gurus have to be let go… so that you can really fly! But like all good teachers marijuana also deserves respect and can be kept that way. If marijuana is an entry way into the spiritual world for many, let's not deny it. The majority of deep commentators here appear to have used this entry way at one time or another… let's not deny it to others on the ground that they have found higher realities that are truer to human nature, like to simply be present for instance. One step at a time. Yet others didn't need to go through this entry way at all to keep awake their "baby fascination". Good for them. We are all happy here 🙂 Peace and Love always. Gosh, that posting really do make me want to smoke a nice blunt…

  37. Anon says:

    I think the association of "dope smokers" with those who are "slow in intelligence" may be based on those who are open about their use. Those who are in the professional field and often times extremely intelligent may suffer dire consequences for such disclosure.

  38. NotStupid says:

    It's a stupid and pointless article that this guy wrote because he thought he had a cool story to tell about it. Weed won't get in your way of seeking the truth if you don't let it. And if you don't have experience with it, you should probably keep your mouth shut because you sound like those D.A.R.E. to keep kids off drugs clowns who Dr. Gupta just admitted have been lying to us for their entire existence about what Marijuana really is.

  39. stonerboy says:

    It may be true that the stereotypical weed users is "slow in intelligence". But that's pretty meaningless, as I hope you realize. I happen to know of many very highly intelligent and high-achieving individuals who regularly use weed. Here are a few examples: 1) An MD that does both clinical practice as well as research. He brings in millions of dollars a year in grant money to the research institution he is associated with. He has several patents to his name. He is the "attending" at a major trauma hospital. And he likes to get high from time to time. 2) A mathematician and computer scientist that leads projects for a leading software maker, has dozens of patents to his name (significant ones), and is a major stoner, and 3) another software and networking engineer that has multiple published papers in peer-reviewed journals (IEEE and ACM), and gets high pretty regularly. Enough examples for you? Anecdotal evidence isn't really evidence – sufice it to say that I disagree with your opinion that "dope" smokers are not very intelligent.

  40. Sienne says:

    Weed isn't a drug because of how YOU use it? That's a bold statement.

  41. mrchokeys says:

    In states where the medical cannabis industry has been allowed to develop, it is no longer necessary to "smoke weed" to get the many potentially beneficial effects of the plant. Tinctures, edibles and topicals are available in a wide variety of formulations. In fact for those who do not wish to get high, but are seeking other ingredients, particularly CDB (Cannabidiol) special preparations are available. Almost all use of cannabis is medical in some sense. While is possible to abuse cannabis, much like food, TV, soda-pop and porno, it is not addictive. People did not start getting "addicted" to cannabis until the addictions industry started offering costly treatments for this supposed addiction. Psychological dependency, and physical addiction are two different animals. Anyone who thinks they are addicted to cannabis has never actually been addicted to real drugs, such as those pushed by big pharma and organized crime. I speak from personal experience. As a medical doctor told me once "it's the only thing that won't will kill you." It is not a "pathway to a higher reality," but can help bring the triviality of everyday stressors to light, bringing anxiety to the surface where it can be experienced, examined and dispatched with. Not everyone can do it, some get caught in the initial phase and can't get past it. Nothing is entirely harmless, or good for eveyone, but as herbal medicines go, cannabis is one of the most effective and least harmful when used properly.

  42. SOHAI.org says:

    Marijuana is non-toxic and is physically not addictive at all. Psychological addiction? That is in the same realm as chocolate, food, sex, etc.

  43. RasTinny says:

    Well I think different people smoke for different reasons. This article is another failed attempt to find a single 'silver bullet' explanation. That said cannabis is a herb and it is completely normal for humans to use herbs for healing food and relaxation. Indeed 'better is a dinner of herbs where love is….' You said you'd list 2 things but your second thing looks to me like just an elaboration of the first. I use herbs for relaxation but I also use music, meditation, sex, cooking, eating, driving, sport, work, friends and although I dont drink alcohol I know others drink alcohol or have other methods to relax. Each should be free to use what works for you in a sustainable way. Smoking is not good for your lungs whether it is cannabis or tobacco whether it is legal or not illegal. But so is sugar, fat and aging. The longitudinal studies on cannabis use show that Cannabis is good for you

  44. jay says:

    "Longing for this “something more” is, I believe, the reason people smoke weed"

    wow, you think there is ONLY one reason?

  45. RasTinny says:

    It does not follow that because smoking Cannabis feels good you must have been dissatisfied with how you felt before. People use cannabis for different reasons and one of those may indeed be relaxation, food, drink(tea), meditation, healing and so on… Cannabis is a herb and it is completely normal for humans to use herbs for food, healing ( variety of animal and clinical evidence that cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid present in cannabis, may be an effective atypical anti psychotic in treating schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), flavoring and so on. Indeed there is absolutely nothing wrong or misguided about using herbs to repair discomfort. The entire history of human medicine is based on using herbs or plants to heal ailments… But the pharmaceutical companies have probably thought you that medicine comes in a bottle or a strip with a price tag… Indeed 'better is a dinner of herbs where love is….' You said you'd list 2 things but your second thing looks to me like just an elaboration of the first. I use herbs for relaxation but I also use music, meditation, sex, cooking, eating, driving, sport, work, friends and although I don't drink alcohol I know others drink alcohol or have other methods to relax. Each should be free to use what works for you in a sustainable way. Smoking is not good for your lungs whether it is cannabis or tobacco whether it is legal or not illegal. But so is sugar, fat and aging. The longitudinal studies on cannabis use show that Adult Cannabis use is most likely good for you; Indeed those that moderately use cannabis are found to function psychologically better than those who abstain. You may avoid the negative effects of smoking by eating or drinking cannabis.

  46. Rastaman says:

    I always find it funny – those that used to use weed. USE it, freely accept the mind altering ( upgrading) wisdom it imparts, then turn around and badmouth it. Failing to see – that they got where they are now because of it.

    Plants bring about consciousness – the same with all the magical plants.

    Learn from your teachers, but please don't disparage them.

  47. YesuDas says:

    Who's bad-mouthing anything, Rastaman?

  48. YesuDas says:

    No doubt; medical use is, of course, another thing entirely.

  49. Davros says:

    People I know who do alcohol do it one night a week – and not to excess. Weed smokers I know do it morning, noon and night.

  50. Davros says:

    'Expanding the mind'. Walk around any run down council estate and marvel at the number of 'expanded minds' lolling about in their gardens. Have you ever been around loud mouthed pompous drunks when you are sober? That's exactly what it's like for the rest of us when confronted by those with 'expanded minds'. Druggies are aggressive, threatening and arrogant and this is NOT the deal we were sold in the 60s. Where are the peaceful potheads? I find them all to be miserable and indolent. Now, this is the bit where you – the pseudo-intellectual – respond with bile. One of the best things about the internet is that you can interact with druggies without the threat of violence.