The cannabis plant serves a thousand purposes and is a remarkably renewable resource (it literally grows like a weed). This global shift towards legalization is long overdue and offers hope that we can yet reverse the absurd suppression and violent defamation this sacred plant has suffered in the last century.
In his book, Shiva’s Broken Dream— detailing the world history of cannabis and the powerful movements to vilify it — Mel Thomas relates how,
The Vedas… describe how cannabis was created when the Gods stirred the heavenly oceans with the peak of Mount Mandara. A drop of amrita (heavenly nectar) fell from the sky and a sacred cannabis plant sprouted on the spot. Lord Siva brought the cannabis plant down from Mount Mandara for the pleasure of Mankind and for this the plant was consecrated to him [Siva].
Indeed, there are some intriguing theories that the cognitive and spiritual evolution of mankind was due in part to our interaction with sacred plants acting as vehicles for higher consciousness. For example, did you know mushroom spores can survive the vacuum of outer space?
The Ayurvedic tradition recognizes marijuana (known as vijaya in Sanskrit) as a medicinal herb. However, it is only ever recommended in minuscule doses, and always in combination with other more sattvic herbs to balance the tamasic effects of cannabis.
Alakananda Ma, a highly respected spiritual teacher and doctor of Ayurveda, acknowledges marijuana as “a muscle relaxant, euphoriant and analgesic” in her article on the topic. She explains,
Although long revered in India as a sacred plant of Shiva, ganja has, as we have seen, significant physical, emotional and spiritual impacts. In its ancient cultural setting, it has for centuries been used by world renouncing sadhus in conjunction with fasts and severe austerities.
In such a context, ganja could potentially be of value on the spiritual path, although this author has rarely met a ganja-smoking sadhu who had attained the ultimate goal. Taken out of its cultural context and introduced into a party lifestyle unheard-of in ancient tradition, ganja has become far more problematic.
This is a crucial point. Neo-hippies and new-age spiritualists often invoke the use of ganja as an ancient and therefore legitimate tool on the road to enlightenment. What these invocations generally lack, however, is the proper ceremonial context and attendant sattvic lifestyle habits that accompanied the practice in the past. Ritualistic inhalation of a sacred herb on rare, auspicious occasions is very different than daily spliffs or perfunctory bong rips.