Sativa, Satya, Sadhus – Cannabis and the Indian Ascetic

Did you know it’s pretty common to find sadhus or Indian ascetics, irrespective of sect, consuming cannabis or hashish? In fact, it would be not unusual to see scores of sadhus living in huts and smoking cannabis throughout the day. They use hookahs or special water pipes or chillums to smoke hashish and cannabis. Though cannabis consumption is illegal in Nepal, the use is quite widespread, especially during religious festivities.

Cannabis and the Indian Ascetic
Photo by Biswarup Ganguly, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Cannabis and the Indian Ascetic

Such cannabis usage does not contradict the ascetic’s renunciation as per Indian traditions and scriptures. In fact, some religious texts hold the substance to be associated with Lord Shiva and intricately linked to mysticism. Furthermore, scientific studies have found that most sadhus consume cannabis daily. One-third of the surveyed sadhus believed that weed should be an integral part of the Hindu way of life.

The Life of the Sadhus

The emphasis of the Sadhu is very much to attain maximum possible discipline, austerity and self-mastery. The daily routine is intended to make the body pure and elevate the mind to a higher state. The means followed by Indian ascetics are recitation of sacred verses preferably in their original, thousand-year-old Sanskrit language.

The other essential part of the ascetic is prayers. The ascetic owes nothing, but a staff made of wood, a begging pot, typically made of aluminum and a cloth bag. The latter usually stores the few possessions sadhus can keep, like copies of holy texts, religious items, and a spoon. Sadhus are expected to meet their hunger by begging for food and food only. They shun all other alms, including money, preferring to avoid the troubles that the world and its items bring with themselves. Peace both for oneself and all existence is the only goal that the ascetic aspires for.

However, not all sadhus stick to such a severe form of spirituality. Many Indian ascetics do part-time duty as occult practitioners. Some of the actions they perform to supplement their lot achieved through begging are:

  • Fortune-telling
  • Providing spiritual guidance and mentoring
  • Manufacturing and selling amulets and talismans called kavachas
  • Exorcism
  • Tickling people with feather dusters
  • Tattooing
  • Juggling
  • Singing
  • Providing spiritual interpretation of dreams
  • Selling ayurvedic herbs for medical use and creating potions
  • Casting spells
  • Reading palms

The Reasons Behind Cannabis’s Popularity Among Sadhus

The mood-enhancing effects of cannabis are well known. That, together with the emotional state induced by the drug, facilitates and heightens spiritual perceptions. The goal of the Indian ascetic while consuming cannabis is entirely spiritual. i.e., to feel one with God, to connect with the supreme consciousness that binds us all. Like many other psychedelic drugs, cannabis too produces varying results upon consumption. The latter depends a great deal on the person’s mental state at the particular moment and what he intends to achieve by consuming the drug. It can be used both to escape reality and society to temporary ecstasy and bliss besides promoting universal oneness. Sadhus hold that the effects of cannabis help to make the soul pure, and they view the substance in an almost semi-divine light. It makes them turn inward, focus, concentrate- the key elements of a satisfying meditation session or other types of spiritual experience. That’s why cannabis and the Indian ascetics are inseparable.

Whether you are contemplating the true nature of life and the universe or trying to feel one with the supreme consciousness, the spiritual effect of cannabis, if appropriately used, is indeed profound.