Is LSD A Gateway Drug To Buddhism?

Dr. Rick Strassman, a psychiatric researcher with a specialization in psychotropic drugs, on the “enlightenment experience” and hallucinogens as a pathway for Westerners into Buddhism and Hinduism:

I went to a Zen temple in my early 20s, and, ever the scientist, every chance I got to speak to a monk one on one, I asked every one of them if they had tripped on psychedelics and how important their trips were in their decision to become a monk. And I’d say 99% of these junior monks in their 20s all got their start on LSD.

20 Comments on "Is LSD A Gateway Drug To Buddhism?"

  1. yeah, but strassman isn’t a buddhist anymore
    his work with dmt got him ostracized

  2. asshurtmacfags | Nov 19, 2012 at 1:28 pm |

    Haven’t watched the video yet, but psychedelics can definitely bring someone into a state of christ/buddhic/cosmic consciousnesses. The trick is extending that state of being into sober reality, a very hard thing to do. Hell, after many psychedelic experiences there is still quite a bit of hateful prick left within me. Everyday is an epic battle between the monkey who lives inside me and my desire to try and operate at a higher state of being. Unfortunately the overreactive chimp wins out more than I care to admit.

    • I think the drug accelerates what would otherwise be a much slower process, which is what I’m guessing accounts for the phasing in and out situation that you mention. One is presented with a hyper exaggerated version of everything it could be all at once which relates fairly indirectly to how this conciousness is integrated into everyday living in sobriety. Straussman doesn’t really address why or how the LSD experience has such a high buddhist conversion rate but my theory is this. The buddhist texts I have read indicate that buddhism on the whole is a system of living that emphasises good health. During the trip, every point of suffering and pleasure is intensified to the point that the smallest kinks in our minds and bodies are brought to our attention to be worked through. The drawn out way of daily practice in meditation and mental discipline without drugs achieves this but in a much more meticulous and stable fashion, allowing time for all faculties to adjust accordingly.

      I’ve also read the theories of Dr Stan Grof on the subject of ‘spiritual emergence’ which seem to support this. He considers the new conciousness to be much more energy consumptive than the previous state of being, and failure to recognise this can lead to physical adjustment problems if the transition is too sudden.

      • Kevin Leonard | Nov 20, 2012 at 12:00 am |

        I felt that ecstacy (MDMA) reveals more of the suffering/ pleasure principles. LSD was much more of a mental deconstruction for me. I was never aware of “suffering”. I would suggest that the “high Buddhist conversion rate” is because psychedelics readily reveal the illusory nature of the shared consensus reality. It is a profound thing to realize that everything you believe is real is simply nothing more than a mental construct. Eastern philosophies have written extensively on the subject, so trippers who have had relevatory experiences seek counsel from those that can shed light on their experience. There are probably more Buddhist conversions because Buddhism is more accessible than Vedanta. And nobody is reaching enlightenment in Sunday School.

        • But what if the everything-is-an-illusion illusion is an illusion too?! D:

          • Kevin Leonard | Nov 20, 2012 at 11:32 am |

            I asked a teacher once, “So what do you make of this whole “awakening” business?” He replied, “One day you may be looking at a tree and you come to the realization the branch of the tree has the same pattern as the whole tree. The you look at a twig on the branch and you realize it has the same pattern as the branch, and therefore, as the whole tree. Then you look at a leaf and you see the pattern on the veins is the same pattern as the twig, and the branch, and the whole tree. At some point you have to just stop and wonder how far this thing goes.”

          • I’ve only experienced psilocybin trips so far. But the two dozen times or so I’ve gone to the other side thru shrooms, I’ve always woken up the next day feeling incredibly vulnerable–like I’ve been briefly exposed to something that I’ve been in preparation for my whole life. Many times I’ve sat quietly on couches while I’m tripping, remembering the things that people have said to me and finding such deep meaning to it all. It all seems to lead down a path of knowledge that I’m slowly unfolding for myself as I create the ever-changing present moment. Sometimes, when I’m ‘sober’, I can think myself back into the mentality of the trip–I can break down all around me into the fractal illusion that I know it is. I collapse the wave-function with my observation, therefore, I’m the only observer of reality. That mentality can be frighteningly lonely at times, but utterly empowering other times. It’s the difference between a solipsistic coma on the one hand and a puppet master on the other.

        • Kevin Leonard | Nov 20, 2012 at 11:34 am |


  3. todd southern | Nov 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm |

    I think literacy is the the gateway to just about anything that strays from what is considered normal.

  4. Heh, I like how he has a T. pachanoi in the background behind him.

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