Some people agree that drinking alcohol just makes us stupid and taking hard drugs is just too dangerous, but they then ask what about marijuana? People who have smoked almost all agree that it makes them more mellow and often gives them insights which are very similar and profound like what we realize with the Dharma. There are also a great number of medical studies about the health benefits of this drug. Let’s face it, a very high percentage of Dharma practitioners have smoked pot in the past. Here the case is much harder, but still it is not worth it. Why? First, just as alcohol functions to undermine our inhibitions, marijuana functions to undermine our desire to do anything other than more marijuana. This is true, and anybody who has smoked knows what I am talking about. Conventionally, people usually all agree that people who regularly smoke have less ambition and drive than they used to. Whenever free time arises, their first impulse is to light up. As we know from the lamrim teachings, desire is everything. All of the lamrim meditations are ultimately about building up within us an unquenchable desire for liberation and enlightenment. Marijuana deflates our desires, and the more we smoke the less we desire anything else.
Second, if we are even slightly prone to psychiatric disorders, marijuana is downright dangerous. When I was in Geneva, there were three different practitioners who were mentally completely normal prior to smoking marijuana, but they had latent potentials for psychiatric disorders, and after smoking regularly for a period of time, they all three developed very serious psychiatric issues, so much so that all three of them have spent a fair amount of time in mental hospitals. We don’t know what latent potentialities we have lurking under the surface, and smoking could activate them. Perhaps we have smoked a few times without a problem and therefore think we are immune to this problem. But we never know if we are just one joint away from tripping over some invisible karmic wire we didn’t know was there.
Third, marijuana is a gateway drug. It is like crossing the Rubicon, and once we have done so the other drugs which before we said we would never even consider trying suddenly no longer seem that different. Marijuana seems to be OK, perhaps Ecstasy, opium or a little blow might be OK too. Geshe-la explains in the teachings on delusions that the easiest way to stop delusions is to do so early before they have gathered up steam. Once we allowed them to run a little bit in our mind, they can seemingly take on a force of their own and become unstoppable in our mind. It is the same with drugs. Just as they say it is easier to attain enlightenment once we have become a human than it is to become a human if we have fallen into the lower realms, so too it is easier to avoid marijuana now than it is to avoid using other drugs once we have started using marijuana.
Finally, sometimes people object saying that when they smoke marijuana it gives them deep insights into the Dharma, so how can that be bad. Perhaps it is true that when we smoke up, suddenly emptiness makes sense. We see all the connections between the different Dharma teachings. Such experiences can quickly and easily be used to justify doing it some more “for valid Dharma reasons.” So again, just like with the health benefits of drinking a glass of wine every day, let’s assume for the sake of argument that there are deeper insights to be had by smoking marijuana. Once again my question is simple: isn’t have a precious human life also good for gaining spiritual insights? Every time we practice moral discipline for spiritual reasons, we create the karmic causes for an entire precious human life. So what gives us greater opportunities to gain spiritual insights, 80 years worth of a precious human life or a few hours each week for 80 years? And this is setting aside the fact that there are diminishing returns. Perhaps the first time we get high we feel the subtle vibrations of the cosmos, but do we get that same feeling the 20th time we get high? Eventually, it starts to do very little for us. So again, let’s assume you smoke once a week for your whole life. By taking this vow, you will train in this moral discipline 3,120 times (assuming you are 20 and live until you are 80). 3,120 actions of moral discipline translates into 3,120 precious human lives or another 249,600 years worth of precious human existence. What will give you the opportunity to gain greater spiritual insight, 250,000 years worth of precious human life or a few random insights from being high? Again, math doesn’t lie.