Hinduism And Drugs: A Brief History…

Hinduism And Drugs: A Brief History

“We have drunk Soma and become immortal; we have attained the light, the Gods discovered. Now what may foeman’s malice do to harm us? What, O Immortal, mortal man’s deception?”  -The Rigveda (8.48.3)

Most people don’t realize this, but Hinduism was built on the idea of using psychedelics. Known as Soma, this psychedelic drink induced states of enhanced awareness, expanding the practitioner’s spiritual perceptions. The Vedas (the first Hindu texts), have a large selection of hymns that specifically name the plant as important for spiritual rituals.

This plant was considered so important, in fact, that it was thought to be on the same level as the gods in ancient times. Many of the depictions of the gods even had them drinking it! Over time, this drink evolved into depictions of a lunar deity, with the full moon symbolizing the cup from which the gods drank.

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The Holy Cows

These days, no one is completely sure what the soma drink was made of, but there are several supporting theories as to how it was grown. Perhaps the most interesting is the role of cows in India. Everyone knows that cows are considered sacred in Hinduism, but the question is why Certainly, they play an important role in the culture; they do everything from produce food (milk), farm, and transport people.

But could there be another, more spiritual use? The answer might surprise you: It’s theorized that the soma plant was grown in cow dung.

This would create an inextricable link between holy rituals and cows- solidifying their holy status in Indian culture. Pretty fascinating huh?


Perhaps the most well-known drug used in Hinduism today is marijuana. Cannabis has been used ever since the use of soma, but with far less special emphasis. Shiva is often depicted as smoking marijuana, with a pipe in one hand and a staff in another- leading many Shiva followers to regularly smoke themselves when practicing meditation.

Contemporary Hinduism

Today, most sects in Hinduism abstain completely from using drugs. Why? Because they teach drugs are a limiting way to achieve spiritual progress.

Most gurus and spiritual leaders teach that drug use can give momentary glimpses of spiritual perceptions, but do not provide any lasting transformations. Instead, meditation and deep spiritual work is needed. In this video below, Sadhguru, a contemporary spiritual teacher in India, gives an interesting talk about the effects and use of marijuana in spiritual living. What do you think? Is the use of drugs something you believe can be beneficial to someone spiritually?


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Matt Caron

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Matt is the content manager of the Sivana blog, an enthusiastic Yoga teacher, and life voyager. He strives to inspire…

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