Book Review: Psychedelic Buddhism

by Lama Mike CrowleyINNER TRADITIONS
reviewed by Kate Madden Yee
Psychedelic Buddhism by Lana Mike Crowley

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Even those of us who consider ourselves square may be intrigued by a growing renewal of cultural interest in psychedelic drugs—signaled by a recent flood of books that explain just how to take advantage of the substances’ therapeutic and spiritual benefits (we’re looking at you, Michael Pollan). But not many of the writers of these tomes link psychedelic drug use to any particular spiritual tradition or practice.

Tibetan Buddhist lama, tripper, and writer Mike Crowley does. His latest offering, Psychedelic Buddhism: A User’s Guide to Traditions, Symbols, and Ceremonies, describes how to combine mind-altering drugs with a Buddhist practice, contending that the two make a great combination as a “route to the wisdom of the ages.”

Crowley began studying Buddhism in the mid-1960s and became a lama, or Buddhist teacher, in 1970. Logic and reasoning can only take us so far in a quest for enlightenment, he says: Buddhists use meditation to realize nondual awareness, but it’s not the only way to get there. “Psychedelics generally have enormous potential as spiritual tools,” he writes.

The book addresses a range of topics, putting every-thing in the context of Buddhist meditation practice. Crowley does some work to lay out a case for why, in a tradition that many associate with avoiding the use of substances (see the fifth precept, which prohibits intoxication through any means), it’s just fine for a Buddhist to take drugs, declaring that “these vows are purely optional and not a formal prerequisite of Buddhism, which actually has no dogma.”

“I would recommend that all Buddhists take at least one psychedelic trip in their life to check in with their tathāgatagarbha, their Buddha-nature, and to gauge their progress in meditation,” he urges. “Perhaps they should take a trip every year, just as an aid to general sanity. I know I do.”

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Book ReviewsBooksBuddhismPsychedelics

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