Mike Crowley began studying Buddhism with a Tibetan lama in 1966, becoming an upasaka of the Kagyud lineage in 1970 and was ordained as a lama in 1987. In order to augment his Buddhist studies, he acquainted himself with Sanskrit, Tibetan and Mandarin Chinese. Mike has been a guest lecturer at the Jagellonian University, Cracow, the Museum of Asia and the Pacific, Warsaw, the California Institute for Integral Studies, San Francisco, and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work has been published in Fortean Studies, Time & Mind the Journal of Archeology, Consciousness and Culture, Psychedelic American, and Psychedelic Press UK. In January 2016, Mike received the R. Gordon Wasson Award (for outstanding contributions to the field of entheobotany) for his book “Secret Drugs of Buddhism).
TITLE: Secret Drugs of Buddhism
The Vajrayāna movement of Buddhism began in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. Among its many innovations was the use of a sacrament called amṛita (“immortality”) in Sanskrit. The word amṛita is much older than the Vajrayāna, however – the Ṛig Veda (composed c. 2000 BC) used it as a synonym for soma, the divine intoxicant. Although many scholars believe that soma was the Amanita muscaria mushroom, the White Yajur Veda describes two varieties, one red (A. muscaria?) and the other “blue-throated” (Psilocybe cubensis?).
There is little mention of amṛita after this until it plays a central role in several Hindu myths (c.500 BC) and, later still, in Vajrayāna Buddhism (c.500 AD). Buddhist texts indicate that their amṛita was a truly potent psychedelic. There are even drawings from 9th century Japan which depict certain Buddhist deities as identifiable Psilocybe species. Indeed, it would seem that many Vajrayāna deities are, in fact, apotheoses of psychedelic plants. Thus, the fact that Panaeolus camboginiensis (a particularly potent mushroom) grows exclusively on water-buffalo dung could explain such buffalo-deities as Vajrabhairava and Yamāntaka as well as the legend of an enlightened buffalo-herder with magical excrement. Another group of deities (e.g. Khadiravaṇi-Tārā, Hayagriva, Vajrakila) relate to an Indian analog of ayahuasca which used Acacia catechu as a source of DMT.