Applying Buddhist Concepts and Practices as a Guiding Epistemic and Ethical Framework for Psychedelic Experiences
- 12:00 - 12:30
- Track 4: Rudolf Virchow Room
Psychedelic experiences lack an a priori epistemic and ethical framework that helps navigate the experience. The psychonaut may thus apply a framework for understanding the experience according to the religious, cultural and societal setting she finds herself in. Western psychonauts, lacking a traditional system wherein their psychedelic experience can be embedded, sometimes adopt religious or spiritual systems of meaning from other cultures or other contexts e.g., Amazon shamanism. Adopted systems can be coherent or eclectically assembled, often adding a psychological reading of the experience, psychology being a familiar frame of reference for many westerners. Mostly, such an adopted framework has some reference to healing or liberation from suffering, be it mental or physical, which will suit many spiritual searchers. However, systems borrowed from other cultural contexts may have elements that are not easily accepted by western psychonauts, such as witchcraft, or such systems may simply be laden with alien religious and cultural concepts and imagery, thus lessening their appeal to a western audience. A system which is bridging ancient religious thought and rationally based psychology is “western Buddhism”. In the shaping of western Buddhist modernism, a secular and psychologically oriented strand of Buddhist thought has evolved which is both committed to traditional, canonical sources and ready to strip itself of foreign religious elements. Yet its tenets are still true to the core Buddhist doctrine i.e., the liberation from the suffering of heart and mind through mental training. In the context of psychedelic experiences, Buddhist concepts and practices offer useful ways of understanding such experiences as opportunities for healing, personal growth, and giving an ethical perspective to the journey. As such, they are guiding the psychonaut through the challenging encounters of the psychedelic journey. One example of this is the notion of ‘clinging’ as a root cause of suffering i.e., holding. on to pleasant experiences and rejecting unpleasant ones. Another example is the emphasis given to cultivating a clear and wholesome intention, and the overarching aim of practicing for the good of all beings. Lastly, a helpful aspect of Buddhist theory and practice is the prominence given to a solid ethical foundation of one’s thought, speech and actions. If such concepts and ethical bases are at hand during the psychedelic journey, they can be of great support. The presentation will show some Buddhist concepts, link them to the psychedelic experience, and argue for their usefulness as a foundation for such experiences.
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