Holi, High.

by Aranyakananda

I have never taken part in Holi while high on cannabis. Am I being a prude? It would appear so by a simple survey of the news stories marking Holi that I have seen, that Holi is not properly celebrated without eating a little bit of bhang, a cannabis-laced “treat”. I don’t want to step on anyone’s preferred method of spiritual awakening, for God’s sake, no pun intended, and I know that many sadhus are known to smoke a cannabis-based substance. Though this lifestyle is also known to be an “excuse to drop out” into a drug-addled haze.

But coming back to Holi, like I said, I do not intend to judge anyone’s definition of spirituality. But for me there is no reason to be externally intoxicated on such an auspicious day. Or ever really. I say externally because I do believe in the intoxication that comes from within. From a plane beyond the physical or even the psychological. I’ll defer in naming it, but it is there.

I was rolling (with Vishnu) away from my computer just now when I realized why this bothers me enough to write about it. I often found myself disappointed in the last week when I’d find an article that I would have liked to share with non-Hindu friends or family in order to introduce them to what Holi is all about, but would shy away from doing so because of the prominence with which the cannabis aspect was featured. I don’t want to give anyone the wrong first impression of Hinduism. I mean honestly if someone was to make such a snap-judgement that is really their thing, but knowing how cross-cultural divides occur based on out-of-context impressions, I do not want to contribute to it. I don’t know if the cannabis aspect of Holi is a Western perspective that is exaggerated and perpetuated in the media?

Could anyone who has had experience with Holi in India shed some light here? Some would say the only way I could possibly understand the connection between psychedelics and spirituality is to try it, which I do not intend to do. I don’t see the point. So please enlighten me with your words.

I suppose it is a little bit like St. Patrick’s Day which fell on the same day this year. For some it is a very Catholic day celebrating St. Patrick’s mission and how he kept the church from disappearing in Ireland. For some it is a little more heritage-based with the parades and the food being the focus. For some it is a drinking festival and nothing more. To each his own, right? But I see myself in the states how the perception of St. Patty’s day as an alcohol-fest is shamelessly perpetuated.

In the same way, surely Holi is not as religiously-based as it is for others, and it is just a party. But do the two overlap? Is the use of intoxicants as a spiritual enhancement that prevalent in India on Holi?

Jai Hari Aum

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One Response to Holi, High.

  1. Dhrishti says:

    I’ve heard of “pot milkshakes” being very common on this holiday, but I find it hard to imagine. So much of Indian culture, especially by Western standards, is quite conservative. For some reason, it wasn’t until very recently that I even learned of the connection between Holi and cannabis. With everything I’ve seen in the media I’m not sure how I’m only just now learning about it.

    At any rate, I’m with you in regard to mixing drugs and spirituality. These various drugs primarily mess with our sense perceptions and mind processes. Certainly the Divine lies far beyond such mundane components of physical existence. I don’t really see how a chemical that skews potentially healthy functioning can lead to an authentic and transcendental experience.

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