GANJA = Spiritual Schizo = Old Snot.
There is much confusion today among people in general and spiritual seekers in particular around marijuana use: its long-term effects on the mind and body and its overall impact on spiritual practice and quality of living. The following is an attempt to weigh in on this important topic from a Tantrik Kundalini Yoga perspective.
Smoking pot is not the benign recreational activity we would like to believe. Over time it creates an extraordinary amount of heat in the body, thereby taxing the organs and inhibiting overall health and longevity. It further generates an incredible amount of wind in the mind and, for the meditator, only serves to compound “ monkey mind.” An excess of wind disturbs prana and diminishes clarity, eventually compromising overall sanity.
Our culture abounds today in heat and wind. We see this in our collective tendency toward overstimulation and overactivity in all aspects of life. It further accounts for our improper relationship to Time. With regular pot use we are cultivating more of the same.
Beyond all overt physical and mental effects, pot will produce certain subtle energetic consequences in our experience. Given enough time, all substances, prescribed or illicit, will create false channels. Pot’ s inherent pharmacological properties make it one of the most effective substances at producing these false channels. By channels we mean the body’ s gross anatomical structures (organs, vessels, nerves, lymphs, etc), its quasi-physical energetic plumbing, the nadis (as treated in traditional Chinese medical (TCM) acupuncture and Ayurvedic marma therapy), and the mind’ s subtle psychic energy. It is through the channels that we self-regulate and relate with the world at large. Alter them sufficiently and we change-perhaps permanently- our internal biological, psychological, emotional and spiritual processes. We create new channels, effectively forfeiting our natural wisdom. Give up natural wisdom and we will incrementally lose our ability to relate to consensus reality and to contribute to the world. False channels, built up over time, manufacture a false reality.
Nor is pot the effective upliftment tool for achieving blissful states of breakthrough and transcendence. At best, THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol (the operative ingredient in pot), may act as a catalyst to open us beyond some personal limitation. But beyond such a one-off, continued usage cultivates the drug channels as the body comes to recognize the substance as itself. Altered sufficiently, the body’ s chemistry will no longer require the plant additive for maintaining the false channels. Go a long time cold turkey… then suddenly take just one toke and- wham! We reignite the drug channels just like that. Ask any sadhaka who has experienced this and they will tell you: It is no joke.
Living a dual life as a sadhaka and a “ pothead” will actually prohibit us from doing real spiritual work. The nature of the universal energy, or kundalini shakti, residing at the base of the pelvis is to move upward toward liberation and God, while that of the ahamkara, the self-image former or “ I am-maker,” is to move downward toward ignorance and further bondage. Feed our channels this mixed message of up-down, up-down long enough and we will create a psychic split, what the great Tantrik adept Paramahamsa Satyananda Sarasvati called “ spiritual schizophrenia.”
For a human being cultivating the spiritual path to enlightenment the most important thing is to remain in Presence. Presence is the purified expression of this human realm (nara loka) and it is not mere attentiveness or “ being present” with something or someone. Presence is pure awareness without discursive mind chatter. It is not dependent on any object or person and is not generated by effort but, on the contrary, is the space of awareness remaining after all contrived effort is relaxed into the wakefulness of our Essential Nature.
For many sincere sadhakas, the karmic package bestowed at birth presents enough of a challenge to cultivating unbroken presence, maintaining dharmic view and keeping all beings in our heart. What legitimate reason could there possibly be to want to compound the path with a drug whose net effect is to retard all sensory-motor coordination and to dull the mind’ s inherent wakefulness? Tantra has a theory called the six realms, or sad loka, teachings.
Embedded in the coded twilight language of the myths of India (particularly the Mahabharata and Ramayana epics) lie much of the theory of Tantrik alchemy and philosophy, including these six realms teachings. Humans, gods, demons, ghosts, animals and titans interact in these epics and each being expresses the emotional, mental and spiritual behavior characteristic of their realm of birth. Each realm is a type of karmic environment unique from the other five in many ways. A being takes incarnation in one of these six realms based upon their previous lives’ activities. Say, for example, a human being were to live their life full of hatred and paranoid fear of persecution. If they were unable to gain full enlightenment at the time of their death they would most likely take their next birth in the demon, or hell, realm (rakshasa loka) because the karmas performed during their life match the karmic environment of the demon realm.
Humans are unique among the six realm beings in that they can express many of the attributes of another realm without having to be 100% incarnated in that realm. A human can act, feel and think quite like a demon, god, ghost, etc even while still in a human body. This type of dislocation can occur at any time and may occur so frequently or with such intensity that the human being forgets what it was like to be a human. The human birth is extremely difficult to achieve in Tantra and its preciousness is this incredible flexibility. The power to achieve full-stop spiritual liberation (moksha) in this one lifetime is our natural birthright, as equally is our ability to choose a lesser, meaning more mundane, fate. Each of us are our own binders and liberators.
The tricky thing with marijuana is that often our intent is to create a great suspended animation state of ultimate bliss with no pain, called god realm (deva loka), or sometimes a heavy, narcotized state of perpetual dullness, called animal realm (pashu loka). But the effect of sustained pot use is invariably the experience of hell. Ask any pothead: If they say differently, either they are lying or are completely unawake to their actual situation.
The demonic experience is one of ultimate persecution. Everything is innately painful to the demon. All is attacking them and must therefore be counter-attacked. The person experiencing this constant persecution possesses no ultimate center from which to draw nourishment. In the face of their ultimate separation from the unitive, the hell realm being reflexively attaches to and projects hate. Tantrik adepts describe the energy body of this person as a brown, sluggy, “ old snot” aura. This is like a mass of mud peeling from off of a hill. A crumpling sandman. This despite the person’ s outer shiny, happy “ it’ s all good” appearance, which people lacking an energy body of their own, they say, will be unable to see through. The demon’ s inevitability is of dying a completely hellish experience in the after-death states, of being ripped apart until the karma of Time burns out….
Long after we have thrown away our bongs and without the sustained presence of the drug, the channels continue to produce the urge toward the particular realm fixation according to the intensity, frequency and duration of the prior usage. As long as we are ego-fixating in a particular realm we are choosing to remain outside of presence. We can not have human presence until our channels are cleared. This might take years, decades even. (Constitutionally speaking, we know that stronger people tend to clear superficially quicker, while weaker people tend to clear more thoroughly.) Eventually as sadhakas we must create strong, healthy channels without the presence of drugs of any kind.
Actually meditating while maintaining stoned channels creates a patterning over time whereby the drug takes on the qualities of human presence, except through the lens of the realm fixation. Over time, the sadhaka will lose the discriminative capacity to differentiate between human presence and the realm fixation. Lose that capacity for presence and, according to Tantra, we have lost our humanity.
In Kundalini Tantra (Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, 1984), Sri Satyananda Sarasvati describes ten methods for awakening the force of enlightenment kundalini, one of which is through the use of specific herbs, called aushadhi. While these awakenings tend to occur strictly under the close guidance of a Tantrik guru, sometimes an initial drug experience can create an authentic aushadhi awakening. It is, however, the exception and not the rule. Just as likely, the wrong individual can use a drug one time and go off the deep end.
In this New Age, we can get caught up in and overly impressed by our own or other’ s experiences of awakening. We must remember at these times there are three stages to the movement of kundalini: awakening, rising and stabilizing. Kundalini awakenings are a dime a dozen and happen everywhere, all the time, both consciously and unconsciously. Any yogi worth their salt will tell you that anyone can have an awakening and that once the energy has awakened, only then has the real work begun…. The bulk of authentic spiritual work involves the kundalini’ s rising and stabilizing. Real, permanent growth has a life cycle: first, we liberate bound energy; in so doing, we come to realize our stuck-ness and make the unconscious conscious; at which point, we must continue with a ton of sadhana in order to stabilize the realization.
In Tantra, fully arisen and stabilized kundalini shakti alone is freedom. Smoking a joint, whether for “ relaxation” or as a political protest, is conceptualized freedom at best, and will have the net effect of further entrenching us in our deeply held sense of individuation and in binding limitation, or suffering. This we call samsara. Samsara is our conditioned, limited existence and requires no chemical aids in imposing its restriction upon us.
Probably Sri Satyananda Sarasvati said it best in reference to his time in India’ s high Himalayas living with both authentic yogis and addicted phony sadhus: “ I smoked up there in the mountains with all the Naga Babas all those years and all I got was lung disease and a chronic cough.”
* Based upon oral teachings received at the feet of his guru, Dharmanidhi Sarasvati, Tantracharya. Any misinterpretations or misrepresentations are wholly the responsibility of the author.
Dharmamegha had the good fortune to meet his guru in 2006 and currently lives with him and a small community of householder yogis practicing Tantrik Kundalini Yoga in the mountains of Northern Thailand. He is ever hopeful for a resurgence of the timeless wisdom of the Mahasiddhas in this dark time of mass-misappropriation of the Hatha Yoga teachings. Look out! Unlike 2012, it’s coming….