A depiction of the churning of the world in the ancient Indian creation myth.
Most people are startled to find out that every major pharmacy in America offered cannabis tinctures as medicine until the 1930’s when cannabis prohibition began in the US.
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
Cannabis has been used in Ayurvedic and Indian medicine for at least three thousand years to treat a variety of health conditions, including nausea and wasting syndromes. It is also prescribed for general health and longevity. To this day body builders in India use cannabis as a part of their training regiment to gain muscle mass, promote digestion, and build strength.
The spiritual aspects of cannabis are considered so profound in South Asia that many religious groups including Buddhists, Naths, Shaivites and Goddess Worshippers 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. Various spiritual texts, including the Buddhist Tara Tantra, 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.