Spiritual Use of Cannabis
Healing and Spiritual Traditions that Use Cannabis
Cannabis has been used for over a thousand years by most of the world’s great cultures as a medicine. Most people in the west are unaware that many ancient cultures also recognized the value of cannabis as an aide to spiritual practice.
Like any powerful medicinal plant, the energies of the plant must be used in a way that harnesses its basic properties to promote health and healing. When used correctly it can have a profound, enlightening effect.
For this reason, sects within Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Sufism and a variety of other religious groups have used cannabis for spiritual practices. Below is a brief overview of cannabis spiritual history compiled through various textual and online sources with a focus on ancient spiritual practices.
Cannabis Use in India
The spiritual aspects of cannabis are considered so profound in South Asia that many religious groups including Buddhists, Naths, Shaivites and Goddess Worshippers(2) have incorporated it into meditation practices, as a means to stop the mind and enter into a state of profound stillness, also called Samadhi.
Cannabis holds a prominent place among Tantrics in India, Nepal, Sikkim, and Tibet to this day. In the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, it is said that Buddha subsisted for six years on nothing but hemp seeds.(3) Various spiritual texts, including the Buddhist Tara Tantra,(4) list cannabis as an important aide to meditation and spiritual practice. In the Tantric Buddhism of the Himalayas and Northern India, cannabis still plays a significant role in meditative rituals to facilitate deep meditation and heighten awareness.
Cannabis is even mentioned in the Indian creation myth, where it is named as one of the five nectars of the gods and designated a “Reliever of Suffering.” In the original myth, the gods churn the Ocean of Milk in search of Amrita, the elixir of eternal life. One of the resulting nectars was cannabis. In the Vedas cannabis is referred to as a “source of happiness.”(5)
In India today, cannabis is often made into a drink consumed by local people and is said to be the favorite drink of Indra, the king of the Indian gods.
One of the most commonly consumed preparations of cannabis in India is called Bhang. Bhang is offered to Shiva images and statues throughout India, especially on the festival of Shivratri.
Cannabis is such an important part of the religious culture of Benaras, the main city of Shiva worship, that it is sold in government-run shops and used by pilgrims and common folks alike, being part of the religious culture.(7)
In reviewing the use of cannabis in India, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission conducted a government study on the matter and made the following conclusions in their report:
"...It is inevitable that temperaments would be found to whom the quickening spirit of bhang is the spirit of freedom and knowledge. In the ecstasy of bhang the spark of the Eternal in man turns into the light the murkiness of matter.
"...Bhang is the Joy-giver, the Sky-filler, the Heavenly-Guide, the Poor Man's Heaven, the Soother of Grief...No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang...The supporting power of bhang has brought many a Hindu family safe through the miseries of famine. To forbid or even seriously restrict the use of so gracious an herb as the hemp would cause widespread suffering and annoyance and to large bands of worshipped ascetics, deep-seated anger. It would rob the people of a solace on discomfort, of a cure in sickness, of a guardian whose gracious protection saves them from the attacks of evil influences..."
Ayurvedic and Indian doctors still prescribe cannabis to treat a range of conditions. Slowly the west is finally beginning to recognize the true values of this remarkable plant.
Cannabis Use in China
A Chinese Taoist priest wrote in the fifth century B.C. that cannabis was used in combination with Ginseng to set forward time in order to reveal future events. It is recorded that the Taoists recommended the addition of cannabis to their incense burners in the 1st century A.D. and that the effects thus produced were highly regarded as a means of achieving immortality. In the early Chinese Taoist ritual, the fumes and odors of incense burners were said to have produced a mystic exaltation and contribution to well being.
Cannabis Use in Japan
Cannabis Use in Ancient Iran
One of the few surviving books of the Zend-Avesta, called the Venidad, "The Law Against Demons", calls bhanga (marijuana) Zoroaster's "good narcotic,” and tells of two mortals who were transported in soul to the heavens where, upon drinking from a cup of bhang, they had the highest mysteries revealed to them.
Cannabis Use in Ancient Europe
The famous Greek philosopher Herodotus wrote about the use of cannabis by the Scythians, whose cultural practices he observed and wrote about.
According to Herodotus cannabis was an integral part of the Scythian cult of the dead wherein homage was paid to the memory of their departed leaders. Cannabis has been found in Scythian tombs dated from 500 to 300 B.C. Along with the cannabis, a miniature tripod-like tent over a copper censer was found in which the sacred plant was burned.
Cannabis Use in Africa
Members of the Rastafari movement use cannabis as a part of their worship of God and for Bible study and meditation. Rastafarians see cannabis as a sacramental and deeply beneficial plant and consider it to be the Tree of Life mentioned in the Bible. Bob Marley, amongst many others, said, "The herb ganja is the healing of the nations." The use of cannabis, and particularly the use of large pipes called chalices, is an integral part of what Rastafarians call "reasoning sessions" where members join together to discuss life according to the Rasta perspective.
According to Rastafari philosophy, "the herb is the key to new understanding of the self, the universe, and God. It is the vehicle to cosmic consciousness" and is believed to burn the corruption out of the human heart.(8)
Cannabis Use and Islam
However, many historical groups of Muslims considered hemp as a "Holy Plant.” Medieval Arab doctors used hemp as a sacred medicine which they called among other names kannab. The Sufis (Muslim mystics) originating in 8th century Persia used hashish as a means of stimulating mystical consciousness and appreciation of the nature of Allah. They maintained that hashish gave them otherwise tremendous interiority and basic insight into themselves. They also claimed that it gave happiness, reduced anxiety, and increased music appreciation.(9)
According to one Arab legend Haydar, the Persian founder of the religious order of Sufis came across the cannabis plant while wandering in the Persian mountains. Usually a reserved and silent man, when he returned to his monastery after eating some cannabis leaves, his disciples were amazed at how full of spirit he was. His disciples went out into the mountains and tried the cannabis themselves. So it was, according to the legend, that the Sufis came to know the pleasures of hashish.(10)
1. Wikipedia, Cannabis Prohibition
2. White DG. The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions of Medieval India. University of Chicago Press. 1996. p 19,118–9,412
3. Rätsch C. Marijuana Medicine. Healing Arts Press. 2001. p 45
4. White DG. The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions of Medieval India. University of Chicago Press. 1996. p 19,118–9,412. (Tara Tantra reference)
5. Touw M. “The Religious and Medicinal Uses of Cannabis in China, India and Tibet.” J Psychoactive Drugs. 1981 Jan–Mar;13(1):23–34. p 24,25,28,28,28
6. Wikipedia, Cannabis Spirtual Traditions
7. Wikipedia, Cannabis Prohibition, and Picture of Bhang Shop from Wiki-Commons
8. Rastarfarian and Coptic Gospels Pamphlet, Erowid Extracts
9. Bhang or cannabis is also known to be popular amongst Sufis as an aid to spiritual ecstasy. Fuller, Robert (2000). Stairways to Heaven. Westview Press. ISBN 0813366127
10. Abel, Earnest. Introduction to A Comprehensive Guide to Cannabis Literature
The Hidden Story of Cannabis in the Old Testament
For more information about cannabis see http://nexusilluminati.blogspot.com/search/label/cannabis
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