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Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics
by Allan Hunt Badiner and Stephen Batchelor, Alex Grey


"Zig Zag Zen" delves into the complex and often controversial intersection of Buddhist practice and psychedelic exploration. Editor Allan Hunt Badiner curates a collection of essays, poems, and interviews from prominent figures in both the Buddhist and psychedelic communities. The book doesn't shy away from differing opinions, showcasing a spectrum of perspectives on this intriguing topic.

Key themes explored in the book:

  • Historical connections: The book explores the historical use of psychoactive plants in various spiritual traditions, examining whether they played a role in early Buddhism. While no definitive evidence exists, the book acknowledges the possibility and explores its implications.
  • Similarities and differences: "Zig Zag Zen" draws parallels between the insights gleaned from psychedelic experiences and the core tenets of Buddhist philosophy. Both emphasize interconnectedness, impermanence, and the illusory nature of the self. However, the book also highlights key differences, such as the potential for psychedelics to become crutches or distractions from genuine spiritual practice.
  • The role of intention and integration: Contributors emphasize that the value of any altered state experience, psychedelic or meditative, depends heavily on the user's intention. The importance of integrating these experiences into one's daily life and practice is stressed throughout the book.
  • Ethical considerations: The book delves into the potential risks and benefits of psychedelic use within a Buddhist context. Concerns about ego-inflation, escapism, and the potential for harm are explored, alongside arguments for the potential of psychedelics to catalyze spiritual awakening and deepen compassion.
  • Personal stories: Many contributors share personal anecdotes of how psychedelics have interacted with their Buddhist practice, offering diverse and nuanced perspectives on the issue. These personal narratives provide tangible insights into the potential benefits and challenges of this intersection.

The book features contributions from a diverse range of voices, including:

  • Buddhist teachers and scholars: Joan Halifax Roshi, Robert Aitken Roshi, Stephen Batchelor, Lama Surya Das, and others offer their insights from a traditional Buddhist perspective.
  • Psychedelic advocates and researchers: Terence McKenna, Ralph Metzner, and Rick Strassman share their perspectives on the potential of psychedelics for spiritual exploration and psychological healing.
  • Writers and thinkers: Gary Snyder, Ram Dass, and others provide unique and thought-provoking perspectives on the intersection of Buddhism, psychedelics, and human consciousness.

Overall, "Zig Zag Zen" provides a nuanced and thought-provoking exploration of the complex relationship between Buddhism and psychedelics. It avoids offering easy answers or advocating for any particular stance. Instead, it encourages readers to engage with the topic critically and to draw their own conclusions based on their own understanding and experience. This makes the book a valuable resource for anyone interested in the intersection of spirituality, consciousness, and altered states of awareness.