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Meditation teachers & drug users: Daniel P Brown and Culadasa on psychedelics

Experiences don´t count shit (Culadasa)

I only ever had two (very well-known) meditation teachers. As their younger selves, they had been experts in psychedelics: Daniel P Brown (deceased 2022) and Culadasa (deceased 2021).

I will let them speak here about the benefits and risks in a spiritual or meditation context.

Culadasa on the use of psychedelics:

I do not take anything away from the enormous value of psychedelic substances used under the proper circumstances. They can be very valuable, but I don't recommend them to be used based on some instructions that you've read on Reddit (Culadasa)

Daniel P Brown on the use of psychedelics:

So the hallucinogens is something I know a lot about. And I would say that they personally were useful to me, as they have been to other people, to sort of opening up an internal world that you wouldn't know exists to get a larger perspective on will help you in a positive sense to change perspectives, to get a larger perspective on life, but it doesn't solve your problems in that sense.
It´s very similar to mindfulness .

(Click on any image for a link)

Both belonged to the 1960s generation of meditation teachers. Most of them were deeply involved in psychedelics, where they found their mind opened in some way. Then, they found Buddhism, as a more reliable method or path to the same goal. The psychedelic experiencse had been mind-opening, and interesing, but they were rarely stable and transferrable to life.

Both, through their life, are an empirical validation for Mike Crowley´s thesis in "The Secret Drugs of Buddhism", that psychoactive substances were a the root of Vajrayana. My experience validates this thesis.

Daniel P Brown claimed that " hallucinogens are something I know a lot about".

Culadasa (John Yates)  recalled the days when he was known as the trip doctor, knowing how to get people out of bad states. Today, this would be called trip sitter, or, psychedelic facilitator, or psychedelic assisted therapist, and there are lots of courses for that on the internet, some at major universities.

Both of them later went on to warn that psychedelics can result in an unhealthy attachment to special states, such as bliss. The classical Mahamudra teachers gave the same advice: do not cling to mere experiences of "bliss, clarity and non-conceptual tranquillity". Experience is not insight. Or, "insight experiences are not insights" (Culadasa).

Me and psychedelics

In a Patreon group Q&A, in 2021 I described to him my own psychedelic Ayahuasca experience. He said that what had happened is

"an experience that resembles in many ways the way the new normal that you would experience in association with awakening".

There you have it: the author of this post is a TMI-certified awakened being!

Not. It was, as Culadasa then pointed out, "just an experience, and I am glad you described it as an experience". It was a state, not a trait. Nevertheless, Culadasa's words were a great boost to my ego/self, so I am still fighting the ego-enhancing effects of it! Actually no - I just see them arise....

However, the revelations of these luminaries and authors came as a complete surprise to me. I did not know at the time that the history of Buddhism in the East and West had been influenced by psychoactive substances from the very beginning. And that includes Christianity too.

So, here are Daniel P Brown and Culadasa talking about psychedelics in their life, and the influence it had, the benefits and the risks.

The 1960s meditation teachers and psychedelics: Zig-Zag Zen

Like nearly all meditation teachers of his generation (e.g. Culadasa , Shinzen Young, Jack Kornfield, and later Sam Harris) both had come to meditation and Buddhism through psychedelics.

All of them had made significant experiences with altered states, including the "Buddhist" phenomena of ego-loss and one-ness, or non-duality, for which they then found a non-drug equivalent.

A good early record of this, and of the associated conflicts in the Buddhist community, is recorded in the book "Zig Zag Zen" which the author assembles a few leading articles on psychedelics and Buddhism. Also, it has great illustrations!

Since then, there is a huge overlap of research and writing in the field of psychedelics and meditation, both in neuroscience and in cognitive science. The most recent edition of this is the theory of predictive processing, with a good intro presentation by Chandaria.

Daniel P Brown and psychedelics

Dan Brown publicly rarely spoke about psychedelics. The best source is one interview from 2019, where he was explicitly asked for it. This was when the "psychedelic renaissance" was already under way and terms such as "micro-dosing" had become popular.

Dan Brown spoke in public (on podcasts) two times:

  • An interview in 2019

  • An interview in 2022

Dan Brown and psychedelics

Dan Brown, like so many others of his time, encountered psychedelics in his youth. But in contrast to most, he got early experience both as a user and as a therapist / researcher. His professional work with psychedelics preceded the current “psychedelic renaissance” by nearly half a century.

In the early 1970s, Dan Brown joined the staff of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Centre, where psychedelic studies were conducted. At the time, he worked with the famous LSD researcher and founder of Holotropic Breathwork, Stanislav Grof. Stan Grof remembered him over 50 years later in 2021, during the Covid time when I visited him.

They conducted studies with moribund patients with terminal cancer, administering a combination of LSD and MDMA (today also  known as ecstasy). The intention was to give the dying a broader spiritual perspective on life before the actual death (as in the famous term "to die before to die").

Dan Brown was also familiar with micro-dosing. But, he noted that while microdosing may temporarily enhance creativity, it tends to yield diminishing returns (through a decrease of sensitivity which I can confirm) and encourages attachment to specific states over time (which I cannot confirm, as micro-dosing is not meant to create "states" in the way full doses do).

The de-legalisation of psychedelics may also have triggered his later interest in attending a retreat with Stanislav Grof for Holotropic Breathing, when psychedelics were made illegal, and alternate routes to "psychedelic experiences" were found.

In 2024, research with psychedelics has been restarted a few years ago in the course of the ongoing "psychedelic renaissance", with MDMA and psilocybin being the first candidates for re-legalisation in a psychotherapeutic context. Still today, one of the prominent goals is to ease the dying process.

Later, Dan Brown advocated for the potential personal benefits of psychedelics in expanding perspectives. But, he was also sceptical: his view was that "drugs" do not offer long-term solutions and may create unhealthy attachments to bliss-states.  

Eventually, Dan Brown favored meditation. His view was that through meditative practices, people can unlock ”states of limitless awareness and creativity” without resorting to "hallucinogenics". This included states of interconnectedness, or non-duality. In contrast to psychedelics, meditation would result in more stable and accessible states and insights, particularly when accompanied by good guidance and instructions.

What Dan Brown did not know: The University of Maryland had been financed by the infamous CIA programme MKUltra. In 2021, he spoke about it.

Dan Brown on "hallucinogens" in the 1981 dissertation

At the time of writing of the dissertation in 1981, psychedelics had been outlawed as legitimate research subject. So, Dan Brown mentioned them but did not refer to his own insights in this serious academic work. Instead, he quoted other people´s work.

Tart has been interested in discovering the distinct changes that occur in one's experience in discrete altered stages of consciousness. He advances two concepts: "state-specificity" and "level-specificity." A state of consciousness manifests state-specificity when it has a distinct organization of psychological structures so as to make this a "discrete-state of consciousness," distinct from other states.
For example, dream states, states induced by hallucinogenic drugs, ecstatic trances, hypnotic trances, and meditative states all are distinctly different states of consciousness. They have "state specificity," and so, one´s experience of self and world is different in each case.
In addition, certain of these states, notably, states induced by hallucinogens and meditative states manifest distinctly different organizations with greater drug dosage or greater meditative experience, respectively. They have "level specificity." Again, one's view of self and world is distinct for each level of hallucinogenic drug experience or meditative experience. Buddhist meditation and state-specific psychology, then, become means to explore the possible forms of knowledge about self and world that come with discrete alterations in consciousness. Both assume what Tart calls, "an interaction of structure and awareness." (Page 83)

He carefully quoted the earlier work on psychedelics:

Research on hallucinogenic drugs during those same decades demonstrated how this concept applied to humans. These drugs cause profound alterations in thecategories of conscious experience, e.g., alterations in perception, memory, time-space organization, sense of reality and sense of self.- Researchers began to sense the implication of this research for a psychology of knowledge. Some researchers began to write about transcenden trealities made available by these drugs. Others began to write on the state-bound constraints of human knowledge.' An individual may have an experience of perception, time-space, and so forth, that bears little continuity with ordinary waking experience, for example, a drug induced experience of circular instead of linear time, or a meditative state devoid of any thinking. (p74)

Dan Brown speaking on psychedelics, 2019

The following text is a partial transcription of an EO 360 interview with Dan Brown. It is the only interview I know of in which he publicly spoke in more detail about psychedelics

He still called them "hallucinogens" as he had called them in his 1981 dissertation. There, he had mentioned them occasionally, without referring to his own work, as any involvement with psychedelics at the time would have been a career risk.

Here, Dan Brown talks abot the "similar experiences", and also gives warnings:

 I would say that hallucinogens, I worked with actually in two respects.
In 1970 and 1971, I was a young student and got interested in hallucinogens and worked at Spring Grove at Maryland Psychiatric Research Center in Baltimore. And we were one of the last human subjects project. We were giving a mixture of what's now called ecstasy and LSD, 400 micrograms, a heavy dose, to people with terminal end-stage cancer.
And so they would develop a larger spiritual perspective on life, and then they would prepare them to die. And I worked on that project for two years until they just pulled all the funding of that research. Now it's getting popular again, but for over 25 years, all the research was stopped in the US.
And I also was a product of the 60s. So I went around in the late 60s and early 70s and organized the medical tents and all the big rock concerts. I did everyone except Woodstock.
But we did May Day and other big concerts like that. So the hallucinogens is something I know a lot about. And I would say that they personally were useful to me, as they have been to other people, to sort of opening up an internal world that you wouldn't know exists to get a larger perspective on life.
That's the positive side. But in terms of what we learned about all that teaching meditation for the last 40-something years, the solution will lead to an attachment to states. People are even looking for more weird and wonderful experiences on the drugs.
And they can't see the whole thing as the dance of awakened awareness. So they develop more attachment to states, and it doesn't lead anywhere useful in that sense. So it's not as simple as take a pill and then you get a mind-altering experience.
And it will help you in a positive sense to change perspectives, to get a larger perspective on life, but it doesn't solve your problems in that sense. 

(Interviewer) That's interesting. So there's a, and I'm going to sound a bit like an idiot here, but there's like this nano or micro-dosing. Educate me a little bit on that and tell me about your philosophy on it. Maybe for me and the listeners, what is it? 

First of all, on a regular basis, we open up creativity. And it does that in the short run, but then you get attached to certain states of mind and you get less creative over time, and the returns are diminishing.
But if you create similar experiences through your own work in meditation, there's a state of, in meditation, in Tibetan Buddhist meditation, called simultaneous mind, where everything is here all at once. And everybody has the same experience of everybody and everything being interconnected within that same field of limitless, timeless awareness. And if you open that up, it's the source of infinite creativity.
So all the sutras in Buddhism are written that way. So you develop a single-minded thought and about a topic you want to discover. And then once you develop that thought, you enter into this timeless, limitless state of awareness, where everything is interconnected within that same field of awareness.
And as you're coming out of that state, you transition out of it. You pull out of that cosmic database everything relevant to that single-minded thought. In Tibetan, we call it the tok chik, the single-minded thought.

Daniel P Brown working with Stan Grof (interview 2022)

Here, he mentions Stan Grof who remembered him well in 2022, as Stan Grof told me. This is in the 1970s. At the time, Stan Grof was the Chief of Psychiatric Research.

So I wanted to see what they were doing in a more formal research training program with high doses of LSD, which is 400 micrograms and dose plus MDMA, which is about a thousand times more powerful than what the kids were getting on the street. Well, when I went down there, it's off the charts.
And then when I went down there, the month before Walter Pahnke had died, he was staying at a summer college in Maine. He never came back. He went by himself, which is one thing you don't do.
So I showed up there and losing my man, taking over the program was Stan Grof. And I worked with him two summers. And we were doing about four trips a day, high dose trips with terminal cancer patients as a team, guiding them through the 16-hour session.
And they would open up a whole world of the mind, because psychedelic means mind manifesting, manifesting the full potential of the mind. And often people who were terrified of dying because they were in early stages of dying from cancer, all of them had end stage cancer. They would open up a larger vision of seeing that dying was just a phase and they would be well prepared to die.They all died, but we felt that we made a difference. And two years later, they shut down all the research in the country, around the world, and it went out of phase for about until now. In the last three or four years, it's gotten very popular again.
We have some understanding of the neuroscience of this today that we didn't have in 1970 and 71. And it's very similar to mindfulness. 

Culadasa on psychedelics

Culadasa spoke about psychedelics a few times. I found the most explicit and deep statements in a Youtube recording of a Patreon group Q&A, where I had asked a question on my own Ayahuasca experience.

Another record of his early experiences can be found in one of the Youtube recordings of his autobiography that was made shortly before he died. He talks about them under the header "Are psychedelics a route/shortcut to awakening?"

Summary of Culadasa´s position on psychedelics

Culadasa cautiously acknowledged the potential benefits of psychedelics, having personally used substances like 5-MeO-DMT, psilocybin mushrooms, and mescaline in his youth. While he did not recommend consistent psychedelic use due to issues like lack of control and unpredictable effects, he saw a place for judicious and controlled use in specific circumstances with proper guidance.

He said that many Western dharma teachers, including Culadasa himself, began their spiritual journeys with extensive psychedelic use, which served as a motivator to explore Eastern philosophies and practices. He viewed psychedelics as providing temporary glimpses and insights into a deeper truth, emphasizing the importance of not mistaking these experiences for permanent shifts in perception or spiritual accomplishment.

Culadasa recognized the psychological healing and spiritual value that substances like ayahuasca can offer in a proper ceremonial context with trained guidance. However, he cautioned against casual recreational use without the appropriate set, setting, and guidance.

While he acknowledged the benefits of psychedelics, Culadasa encouraged individuals to move beyond relying on substances for spiritual development. He saw psychedelic experiences as "early baby steps" that reveal cracks allowing the light through. The emphasis should be on removing the veils of delusion more fully through ongoing practice and insight embodiment, avoiding the pitfalls of misinterpreting temporary states as spiritual attainments and getting stuck at early stages without disciplined practice.

The potential benefits of psychedelics, as mentioned by Culadasa, include providing motivation for spiritual development, psychological healing, offering temporary glimpses into deeper truths, and imparting valuable lessons. However, he underscored the importance of using these substances judiciously and not becoming attached or misled by temporary states, instead using them as inspiration to pursue a deeper truth through ongoing practice.

Culadasa in his Youtube autobiography: experiences don´t count shit

The following transcription is from Episode 3 of his Youtube autobiography, first given to his Patreon group.

I don't know how familiar people are now with what happened in the 60s, but just before the summer of love, isn't it? It was just before the summer of love. As a matter of fact, that was, I was all, I was a part of all of that. Before the end of the second semester, I actually packed up and drove to California and went to Los Angeles.
Well, you know, taking the interstate, you end up in Los Angeles first and then head north to San Francisco, A to Ashbury, countless LSD trips along the way. Even before I left on this odyssey, I'd been introduced to a variety of psychedelics. I'd gone gathering peyote mushrooms in West Texas and began to, you know, with other people of similar interests, experimenting with that psilocybin mushrooms.
Well, purified mescaline, in addition to the peyote cactus, which just as an aside, is different. Even though mescaline is a primary active ingredient and peyote is a mixture of alkaloids, it produces a significantly different overall effect in peyote than with just purified mescaline. I was just, I was exploring all these things and I felt like through these psychedelic or psychoactive or entheogenic, I mean, my favorite term was entheogenic because that was how I experienced these, the effects of these, as they were opening the doors of perception to exactly the kind of vistas that I could relate to as having something to do with the mystical pursuits that I had been engaged in and seemed to show some promise of understanding.
Remember at this time, Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, who became Ram Dass, these were, these people were highly respected and saying incredible things about the potential of this. We, as young people, went out and tried these things and we discovered that, gee, this really does seem to be this wonderful way into a whole new universe of understanding. In my experience, psychedelics did just, it just illustrated so completely in a profound experiential way what I had already discovered is the illusoriness of the world we lived in and the perceptions that we had. So, yeah. So, I, this was, I was ready for something new. I was desperate.
Everywhere I had looked, I'd come up dry. And now here was something that offered something immediately, tangibly promising of the direction that I wanted to go. And so, yeah, I immersed myself completely in it.
I did go to San Francisco. I, you know, I participated in the whole thing. Lovings in the park.
Even when I went back to Houston, large numbers of people would spontaneously gather and half of them would be tripping on something or other. And in those environments, I came to be a trip doctor. I don't know if you're familiar with that term.

(Interviewer) I think that you better explain that for the benefit. I'm sort of familiar, but I think it would be good to talk a little bit about that.

People who had ingested psychoactive substances would not infrequently have experiences that were so shocking to them that they would be, they would have a bad trip.
And it was this kind of spontaneously self-reinforcing thing, sort of like somebody who's had panic attacks, if they believe they might be having a panic attack, it'll trigger one, right? If somebody believes they're having a bad trip, it'll trigger a bad trip. And I was especially good at just talking people into, hey, you know, don't fight it. Just accept it. Everything's going to be all right.

(Interviewer) So you sort of had a natural way with helping people through these really difficult experiences, which can seem sort of quite spiritually threatening, right? As I understand it.

Well, I had some real life counterparts to bad trips.And I was sort of already prepared in advance to deal with the tricks the mind can play. Interesting.

(Interviewer) And so this seemed to offer you a lot.However, and I'm going to be a little bit challenging here, and that is to say to you, but if I were next to you back in 1968 or 69, I'd be saying to you, okay, this is all good. And you're having all these experiences, but I don't know of any examples such as Teresa of Avila or St. John of the cross, or any of these people that were doing this by taking mushrooms. So had you at that point just given up on the idea that were those now fairy tales to you? And this was the only way you felt that science had the only answer here, science and chemicals?

No, not at all. Quite the opposite. Now, to put this in a proper context, at this point, I knew absolutely nothing about Eastern philosophies, religions, mystical practices, anything else. Meditation, that's something that came evolved naturally as a next step from this. To me, to all of us, this was some wonderful new discovery. And then what was also coming to light at the same time. From today's perspective, it might be challenging to put oneself in the mind frame of 1960s.
Most of us only learned as a part of that experience, that the use of psychoactive substance is something that had a tremendous history, going back a very long ways. When I was using peyote, it was sort of like, well, here's something that is similar in many ways to LSD, and it can produce similar things. But here it's not made in a laboratory.
It's not something that was discovered by accident a decade or so ago in a laboratory. This is something that's in a plant, and all you have to do is go and find the plant and prepare it appropriately. It came later, the recognition, well, what we discovered is we were encroaching on Native American church territories and basically stealing peyote.
Anyway, I don't want to get off topic there. But no, this appeared to be a novel way of reaching the kinds of things that John of the Cross and Avila and the unknown author of The Cloud of Unknowing and people like that were talking about. And none of us really had the larger frame of reference to know that all of these things, similar things have been explored in other cultures and other parts of the world for a long time.
Like I say, that grew out of this from our fascination with psychoactive substances per se, and the experiences that they gave rise to. Now, whereas many of the people I was with, it was just, oh, wow, this is new, this is great, makes me feel good. I feel like I understand myself and things so much better.

(Interviewer) But you still had a purpose here. You were still looking for this. This was not just about having a good time and having orgies in the park.

Exactly. Yeah, this is what was the predominant thing, but not entirely. There were a lot of people like myself, too.
Actually, my first encounter with psychedelics was when I was working at the University of Texas Medical Branch before I got into university. And somehow or another, I came in contact with somebody, a professor from the University of Tennessee. And he had been following very closely the work of Tim Leary and other people at Harvard.
He was a professor of psychology, which is why he was aware of all that and following it. And one of the things that he was, he told us about this, and he proposed that we go and we scour all of the local stores for morning glory seeds, heavenly blue and pearly gates. Now, these have an analog of LSD in a relatively high concentration, these seeds.
And so we bought as much of these seeds as we could, ground them up in a coffee grinder, prepared them in ways that he, and we did a couple of trips, so to speak, using the morning glory seeds. And so this would have been several years earlier, but I did have this previous experience and it had touched something in me, but ingesting ground morning glory seeds is an ordeal in itself. A reaction to it is severe gastrointestinal reaction. It's painful cramps involving vomiting. And it's only after you've gone through that part of the ordeal that you begin to have the experience of a psychoactive substance. And for whatever reason, I didn't do further research on morning glory seeds ever, but the experiences that I have touched on something that were nothing nearly as powerful as what I later experienced with LSD and things like that.
So I did have some previous experience with that, previous acquaintance, which had kind of been stored away in the back of my mind, but came to the surface when this whole new counterculture of psychedelic drugs and the whole psychedelic revolution took place. So this fit in, in a way that I'd already touched upon. So it was, you know, I'd had a previous inkling and now all of a sudden this seemed like it might be the answer that I wasn't finding in my previous pursuits.
Well, the outcome of this, you know, I had, I remember I started out counting my LSD experiences and somewhere, somewhere in California on the beach, I hit 33. And then I, for one reason or another, I never knew how many times altogether in that period, but I'd never bothered to count the times I'd used other things. The only reason I mentioned that I actually counted 33 LSD trips is when I say I got into this in a big way, I got into this in a big way, right? Including discovering things like you couldn't use it to, you couldn't use it twice too close temporal proximity, or, you know, it wasn't going to work as well. And sometimes the consequences could be very problematic. What I learned from this, it's a deep exploration. I went into this seriously. I wasn't dabbling. I wanted to plumb the depths.
And the conclusion I came to was one that quite a few of us in those days came to. Those of us who saw this as part of a spiritual journey was to realize its limitations. It was unpredictable. There was no framework to interpret these experiences. It's like you're just grasping at things that were just beyond the limits of the ability to make sense of. It was like opening doorways to mysteries, but with no way to step across the threshold and truly enter into the other side. Well, other than very temporarily, and then it was gone.
And actually that made a really strong, that one lesson is something that's carried over throughout all my meditation practices, spiritual practices in general, is experiences that come and go. So frankly, I say experience doesn't mean shit. It's whether or not those experiences produce a real permanent transformation.That's the only thing that counts.
And that was the problem with psychedelics. They didn't provide a clear path to complete lasting transformation, merely glimpses, isolated experiences. It's true, you could use something like this, particularly the plant medicines, and go on an extended journey of several days. But still, whether it was six hours or whether it was four days, it was just it was just a slight excursion. And you're left with no permanent knowledge and transformation.
Well, some bits and pieces of permanent knowledge, but no framework. It almost sounds like you're describing a dream that you wake up from, and then you struggle, you remember little bits of it here and there, but you can't remember the whole experience. And and it's touched you, but in a way that you can't, you can't really quantify or capture again.
Well, the main thing is, it's in a way that you can build on. Yeah, you don't have a way to go forward with it. Just like you'll have another dream some other night, you might take a psychoactive substance on another occasion. But that dream on another night, and that experience on another occasion, it's its own thing. It's not there's no continuity between it and what's gone before. Well, that's probably not true.
But there's no easily discernible continuity that you can build on.

(Interviewer) So I do want to, you know, for the benefit, this is going to be on YouTube. And I think it's important to give a disclaimer here, we are not suggesting that people go out and use illicit substances, or that this is a, I mean, I think you're already saying it, but this is not in the context of what you're describing.We're not talking about in Native American traditions, or whatever. But this is not a path that you think actually leads anywhere as far as true spiritual growth and awakening in the long term.

Yes, I tried it.I tried it as thoroughly as I think anybody ever has. And after I satisfied myself that it was not the answer. And that's the important thing to get across.
I learned from it. But one of the most important things I learned, well, two things. One is that somehow there is a way this was, this was, you know, it's real, it's, it's something real.But that's all it was, is a glimpse, is all I could ever provide. Yeah. I mean, you could learn and grow to a certain degree.
But, you know, a lifetime of playing with psychedelic. Later, I saw what it did to Timothy O'Leary. I saw what it did to Terence McKenna. I saw what it did to these other people who continued on with it. Yeah, you know, I chose not to. Yeah. I realized the limitations of it.

(Interviewer) And is, am I right in thinking that what you're saying is I tried, you know, I, I went all the way so that you don't have to, you know, there are more fruitful ways for you to explore.

That's right.There. Let me just add something to this. I'll jump ahead several decades, where I went back to this, but I went back to it in the context of shamanism, which I also trained in, and with the traditional uses of these plant medicines in context.
Peyote and the, the mushroom veladas and San Pedro Mesa ceremonies. And all of these sorts of things, ayahuasca ceremonies were trained ayahuascaros. All of these things are enormously powerful.
Those many years later, I discovered how over hundreds and thousands of years, people had learned to use these psychoactive substances in a way that truly was a path of spiritual development. So I went back and re-explored that years later in that context. But at that time, in the naive use that we had at that time, in the knowledge, I, what I recognized most clearly was what it pointed towards, and the fact that it couldn't deliver it in itself.
Right. So I was not the only one. There were quite a few of us.And most of us were pretty much ignorant of anything Eastern other than Chapsuri, which actually is not even Chinese.

(Interviewer) So, I mean, I know this is a slightly delicate question, but I think it bears asking. Because meditation is such a long, you know, if you're following Samatha Vipassana, and that sort of, it's a long training that requires a lot of dedication and resolve, let's say, usually for most people to bear fruit.So for a lot of people, especially us Westerners, we're often looking for the easy way, the quick way, and the simple way, particularly to something as alluring as enlightenment. So from your perspective, would you say that these other traditions, the Ayahuasca, all this sort of thing, the Native American traditions, all of that, do they lead to the same kind of depth of spiritual realization that you've experienced with practicing the Buddhist path?

Well, I believe they do, but not very often. They take a long, long time, and they have the potential to reach the same places. But it's not a fast and efficient path. It's less efficient and less rapid. I'm speaking now from the perspective of 50 years later, that what I've discovered is that these Eastern paths are very rapid, and they're very effective.

Culadasa in his own words (Patreon group Q&A with questions on psychedelic issues)

This partial transcription is taken from a Youtube recording of his (then) private Patreon groups, in which he answered questions personally. In this one he received a few questions on the use of psychedelics and answered them in detail.

You may recognise my name in this video, as I too asked a question (in written).

 I had that experience when I was 15. I became a seeker after truth. It took me quite a while and it helped to, it really helped to make it clear to me when the good old 60s hit, I was in my 20s and started playing around with mescaline and psilocybin and things like that. It sort of solidified what I had been discovering since I was 15, that everyone is equally deluded. 
As a matter of fact, I've milked my own Sonoran desert toads. I live where the Sonoran desert toads live. And I've milked the little glands on their head onto a piece of wax paper and let it dry and smoked it. 
And for those of us who sought a deeper truth, that's what profound means, profound, deeper, a deeper truth, something closer to some kind of ultimate. This is what motivated us to try to find a better way. And we read about mystics and we read about, of course, most of the Western mystics are inaccessible to us and few in number and hidden in the modern day.
And all we have is the writings that have been preserved or some of the more famous Muslim and Christian and non-Christian mystics. But we discovered that in the East, a lot of these traditions still lived. In Japan and China and India and places like that, Thailand, Burma, Tibet.
So we sought a better way than psychedelics. Psychedelics had opened the window
So I do not take anything away from the enormous value of psychedelic substances used under the proper circumstances. They can be very valuable, but I don't recommend them to be used based on some instructions that you've read on Reddit.


Badiner, A., Grey, A., & Batchelor, S. (2018). Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics (English Edition). Synergetic Press.

Brown, D. P., & Thurman, R. (2006). Pointing Out the Great Way: The Stages of Meditation in the Mahamudra Tradition (Annotated). Wisdom Publications.

 The book builds on the 1981 dissertation by Daniel P Brown "Mahamudra Meditation Stages".

This text is discussion topic on a "" series

It is also available as PDF here:

Brown, D. P. (1981). Mahamudra Meditation-Stages and Contemporary Cognitive Psychology (Dissertation).

This dissertation is a free download. It is a massive, highly technical volume that nevertheless gives an unparalleled insight into the education of a yogi.It draws on the knowledge of cognitive science as of the late 1970s, so it is not the newest in this regard.As compensation, Daniel P Brown gives some insight into the experiments with trichoscopy. to which he still referred in his retreats in 2021.The University of Chicago library entry:

Original URL of PDF:

Brown, D. P. (2019, April). EO 360°: A podcast by the Entrepreneurs’ Organization: Transforming The Mind | Dr. Dan Brown. Retrieved December 16, 2023, from

Crowley, M., & Shulgin, A. (2019). Secret Drugs of Buddhism: Psychedelic Sacraments and the Origins of the Vajrayana (2nd ed.). Synergetic Press.

Culadasa, & Immergut, M. (2017). The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness. Hay House Uk.

Culadasa (John Yates). (2013). Handbuch Meditation [Buch]. Arkana.

German translation of "The Mind Illuminated"

Culadasa (John Yates). (2021a, March 24). My Journey:  Episode 3 -  Experiences don’t mean sh. . . [Video]. YouTube.

Culadasa. (2021c, September 17). Culadasa June 2020 Patreon Q&A N°2 Recording [Video]. YouTube.

On Psychedelics

Gebel, T. (2024, January 22). Daniel P Brown, CIA and LSD research: a meditation teacher´s involuntary involvement with program MKUltra. . . Till Gebel.

Taft, M., & Chandaria, S. (2022, December). Meditation and the Bayesian Brain with Shamil Chandaria. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from 


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