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The Same Old Zen

by Sensei Alex Kakuyo

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Marijuana and Meditation- A Buddhist Perspective

Case in point, I was talking with some friends about it the other day, and one of them replied, “You should just smoke weed instead.” That really pissed me off.

How can we study the mind if we constantly change it with substances?

But somewhere around the two-hour mark he learned to be okay with it. The physical torment didn’t change, but his mind did.

There’s no way I could have learned those lessons by just getting high.

But what if I was high at the same time that I was meditating? Yes, the boredom that came with staring at a wall would’ve been easier. And the pain in my legs would’ve been less. But that’s not the point. I don’t want to be numb to my pain. I want to learn from it. Marijuana won’t help me with that.

Marijuana and Meditation- A Buddhist Perspective

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There’s a lot of frustration outside the Buddhist environment isn’t there ?

I don’t understand. You say being high interferes with your meditation. What about cold showers? What about loud music? Seems to me that people should not do things that interfere with their meditation. 🙂

4 hours of straight sitting meditation does not seem compassionate to oneself and would seem to create a lot of suffering

Using intoxicants into heedlessness is different than having a glass of wine or hitting a joint, although ‘heedlessness’ is subjective. I personally prefer to do Zazen without marijuana, but not before my morning coffee. Each practitioner knows in their ❤ whether they are upholding the precepts as they relate to their individual circumstances, and circumstances can always change.

I used to equate meditation with intoxication when I was younger. I also took psychedelics my first several times looking for insight rather than just pleasure.

I’ve abstained from drugs and alcohol for 8 years now and I do feel that a mind clouded by substances is problematic in meditation. Diet, rest and ethical conduct also have a major effect on my meditation and the effect meditation has on my mind.

In some ways I can see that the reasons people get intoxicated are the same reasons people meditate: to relieve suffering, sustain happiness, go beyond mundane experience, have a more profound experience of mundane existence.

However meditation has a healing and revealing effect on the mind. Whereas intoxicants in the long run cause damage to the mind and the way we conduct our lives. Of course this article is about pot, which has minimal consequences in contrast to other intoxicants. But many people have a difficult time being okay without that as a crutch. And that amounts to a lack of true freedom. And the degree of alteration to the mind can be as profound as other drugs.

I think it takes a level of openmindedness, maturity, and often a good sensible teaching for people to choose to let go of use. I think that extended periods of sobriety, meditation and reflection will reveal the benefits of continued abstinence as part of the practice.

Sometimes knowing that it is part of the precepts is enough to convince people who want to follow the original traditions of Buddhist life. But often that doesn’t cut it.

As a personal recommendation, I would strongly suggest that people really look into the benefits of sobriety and costs of use. In the end one of the major points of Buddhism is to let go of superficial, temporary, and destructive ways of seeking relief from pain and a deep experience of wellbeing.

The Same Old Zen by Sensei Alex Kakuyo Search This Blog Marijuana and Meditation- A Buddhist Perspective Case in point, I was talking with some friends about it the other day, and one


When the Dalai Lama recently revealed his support for the use of medical marijuana, advocates of the drug discovered they had a new ally. But are the Dalai Lama’s views on medical cannabis breaking rank with the traditional Buddhist stance? Or are Buddhists generally in favour of medical marijuana as well?

Primary to the debate is what Buddhism calls the “five precepts”: refrain from taking life, don’t take what’s not yours, avoid sexual misconduct, don’t speak falsehoods, and avoid intoxicants.

It’s the last precept that’s a sticking point when it comes to medical marijuana.

Rev. Dr. Bhante Saranapala, a Buddhist monk and preacher working at the West End Buddhist Temple and Meditation Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, contends that the fifth precept forbids marijuana in any form.

“The five precepts are moral principles, and one of them is to refrain from intoxicants. If any substance leads to heedlessness, or could make one unconscious, you have to refrain, regardless of whether you think it’s good,” he says. “It alters the pure nature of the mind.”

The possibility exists, he added, that “you would not understand what you’re doing, or what you’re saying (while high). That’s why this is distinct.”

Historically there are few, if any, references in Buddhism regarding marijuana as a medicine, according to an article on

Yet, the San Francisco Patient and Resource Center notes that Buddhists have used cannabis in tandem with meditation practices “as a means to stop the mind and enter into a state of profound stillness, also called Samadhi.” They add: “Various spiritual texts, including the Buddhist Tara Tantra, list cannabis as an important aide [sic] to meditation and spiritual practice.”
One source notes that Buddha himself believed cannabis was a cure for rheumatism.

Brian Ruhe, of the Theravada Buddhist Community of Vancouver, sides with the Dalai Lama on the issue.

“I’m in favor of [medical marijuana] as well. I explain it by saying the idea of medical marijuana is reducing suffering, and reducing suffering is good. In this case it’s reasonable, showing intelligent use for that situation,” he adds.

Ruhe has been a practicing Buddhist for 22 years and spent seven months as a Buddhist monk in Thailand in 1996.

“Medical marijuana is OK because Buddhism is a path of intelligence, discernment and compassion, not just following rules,” he contends.

“The Buddha said his teachings were not internally inconsistent because sometimes he would say one thing to a person, and something else to someone else. This is an example.”

Ruhe, also the author of two books on meditation and a teacher of university-level courses on Buddhist philosophy and meditation, emphasizes that the medicinal aspect is key. “You should avoid recreational marijuana, to avoid deluding thoughts.”

Sean Hillman, a Buddhist scholar-practitioner and a University of Toronto doctoral student in Religion, Bioethics and South Asian Studies, says that “it is difficult to establish an authoritative stance” on many issues.

As such, “what people choose to ingest is their private business, not subject to Buddhist religious scrutiny,” Hillman notes.

He spent 13 years as a Buddhist monk, ordained by the Dalai Lama. His research straddles religious studies and medical anthropology, with a strong interest in the interaction between religion and end-of-life decision making.

“Simply, when the pain at hand is addressed without any intoxicating side effects, medication has been administered correctly and pain management is effective,” he states.

“Finding the best delivery method and dosage are the challenges. If there is intolerable pain, it is not yet managed. Going beyond this threshold can lead to side effects, including drowsiness and even respiratory failure. I would ask if it is possible to treat illness by this means without side effects.”

The real challenge, therefore, may not be inherent in the chemistry of the drug. Unwieldy side effects are “obstacles on the various Buddhist paths,” as Hillman puts it.

Ajahn Punnadhammo, a Buddhist monk ordained in Thailand in 1992 who runs the Abbot of Arrow River Forest Hermitage in the Thunder Bay, Ontario, region, says most Buddhists would find medical marijuana acceptable because the use of opiates as painkillers for severe injury or illness has already been around for decades and Buddhists don’t oppose that medicine.

“Recognizing that any of these substances are open to abuse, most Buddhists would accept their proper medical use with due caution,” Punnadhammo adds.

HOW DO BUDDHISTS VIEW MEDICAL MARIJUANA? When the Dalai Lama recently revealed his support for the use of medical marijuana, advocates of the drug discovered they had a new ally. But are the