Can psychoactive substances be helpful in the process towards enlightenment, or are they rather counterproductive?
"In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali refers to the siddhi - supernatural abilities. They can happen because of four different reasons: janmam (rebirth), matram, aushadham (medicinal herb), tapas (asceticism). Even though Patanjali has mentioned aushadham, he is not promoting it, because they are external substances and stimulants - so the effect is not coming from within. A person can become dependent or addicted to the substances and as it is an induced state, that is not coming the natural way, in some cases the risk of depression is higher when the substance is not available. There are some yogis who know how to use it and only the people who really know it can use it, but only if the substance is used as a catalyst for a deeper purpose. If you don’t have any experience and don’t have a guide, I would not recommend doing it. I haven’t ever tried hallucinogenic substances. I know that even just experiencing their effect, could be harmful, so I never felt the temptation to try it. However, if I felt it strongly, I would try it."
"Any substance that we use to heighten our awareness is actually limiting. We can have a moment in which we break through certain boundaries and in which truth and the greater reality shine through, but it is only like a diluted residue of the full truth. There is a reason why yoga, as science, teaches us to first and foremost take care of this temple we live in (our physical and energetic body) – going from the gross to the fine -, and this excludes the use of substances like alcohol, drugs and coffee.
Since my awakening I haven’t and I don’t need anything. Except for the fact that I’m drinking coffee sometimes, although I know I shouldn’t. But previously in this life I have smoked and drank alcohol and I tried several substances when I was very young, like marihuana, LSD or ecstasy. So, I know what I’m talking about. I was ignorant at that time. But even though you can never reach higher consciousness by using these drugs, I do realize that they have broadened my horizon. I became aware that there are alternative realities.
I’ve also spent time with Anangu people (an aboriginal tribe) in Australia deep in the outback. And I’ve learned some of the laws that they live by – ancient teachings. They don’t have a written language and pass their knowledge through arts, dance, singing, and also dreaming and some of these dreams are evoked by certain plants which they find in the desert. These people are a living proof of humans that are still fully in touch with their own spiritual selves. So, I can’t say there’s no use to it."
"I’d not say, taking LSD is something spiritual, but you recognize that all that you used to see as real can change. And that just by taking this substance, you can take a step into another realm while the reality you were used to is still there, only distantly. That probably is one of the reasons why yoga got more popular in the 1960s (the years of the boom of psychedelic substances). I think most of us need such an eye-opener to get a glimpse of a reality that is different from what we’ve been told all the time.
One particular day, when I took LSD with friends, I must admit that that was probably one of the most beautiful days in my whole life. I had a depression and then, all of a sudden, there was this feeling of oneness and wholeness. I believe, therefore, it is not quite correct to actually call these substances ‛drugs’ or to put them into the same category as heroine.
The hallucinogenic substances helped me to open up and I became aware I needed to do something. I was never much of a sports person, but when I felt I really should take care of my body and of my psyche it was pretty clear to me that I should try yoga."