Spiritual experience due to psychedelics
"there was a discussion in this forum (why mantra cannot be performed by a machine) regarding the attempt to replace living pandits with devices like Ipod to chant sanskrit mantras. Similarly, isn't there a possibility to reduce the spiritual experience gained through meditation/Yoga to the experience due to psychedelics and eventually replace meditation/sadhana with psychedelics?
Sam Harris in his Huffpost blog seem to equate the experience due to the ingestion of psychedelics like LSD and spiritual experience gained through meditation, although he is cautious about the former.
"...it cannot be denied that psychedelics are a uniquely potent means of altering consciousness. If a person learns to meditate, pray, chant, do yoga, etc., there is no guarantee that anything will happen. Depending on his aptitude, interest, etc., boredom could be the only reward for his efforts. If, however, a person ingests 100 micrograms of LSD, what will happen next will depend on a variety of factors, but there is absolutely no question that something will happen. And boredom is simply not in the cards. ...It is, however, a difference that brings with it certain liabilities."
This approach presupposes the material nature of our consciousness as opposed to the dharmic position of many layers of reality. Also, it separates the metaphysics of objective outer cosmos and the subjective inner consciousness, which is antithetical to integral unity."
"Very interesting post, specially your conclusion. Many of these western scientifics, whose scientific knowledge I don´t doubt, but have a very limited vision influenced by subtle abrahamic ideas like only one life. Their potential as researchers is very much limited, provided that they cannot help but associating mind to the brain, and the end of everything with the death. If they could go further, see the implications into the world of samskaras and vasanas brought from life to life, how would they explain it? There would be a revolution in their own minds. Like they cannot afford going further, they end up relating every spiritual experience as provided by the brain. As a material effect of a material cause, that´s all. Instead of seeing that the brain could be a material tool in the hands of an spiritual consciousness. I think that is why many western scientific become atheists..."
Prasad responds to the previous two posts:
"... the dharmic position of many layers of reality is nothing more than another "unfalsifiable presupposition" from a scientific point of view. I am not aware of any evidence through neuroscience which requires any neuroscientist to consider a Dharmic view of many layers of reality as a scientific theory or position. Thus, there is no reason also for scientists to presuppose anything of the sort of a divide between what is the cosmos and what is inner consciousness. The duality between mind and body(brain) is not a chief concern for neuroscience as far as I know, since there is no scientific evidence as such for any mind separate from a body.
"...the Western scientific tradition has been reductionist rather than integral. Reductionism attempts to explain wholes in terms of their parts. This works, to a large extent, in ways that are practical, and hence modern science has made major contribtions to our lives using this principle.
The unity assumed in most of the dharmic traditions is a unity of consciousness. Western scientists and philosophers often ask how consciousness can arise from the chemistry of the brain. In the Indian tradition, we find the reverse problem. Absolute consciousness is understood to be the source of everything. The challenge is to understand the ordinary world of multiplicity."
Even your definition of dhyana "to effect the triumph of one's will over the constantly drifting/changing mind", is also another mental state with a different/dynamic biochemical composition, according to neuroscience. So why to do all the tough sadhanas? We can put our efforts in producing drugs that will give an 'enlightened state' and distribute them to all?
This is not philosophically possible from the viewpoint of vedanta. The 'turiya' state which is the self and the pure consciousness is not a state of mind but is the whole essence of other three states, waking (jågrat), dream (svapna) and deep sleep (susupti). So the self transcends the other three states. The knowledge of neuroscience(and even the world) which is in realm of the waking state is limited and it cant find ways to reach a state that transcends it.
Another important point neuroscientists like Sam Harris make is that such altered mental states of mind do not represents reality by any means. This is in line with the basic axiom of science, the objective existence of the universe.
A Sadhaka in dharma religions does not need to start with such an axiom. That's why realised sages from Ashtavakra to Ramana maharishi describe enlightenment with analogy of 'waking up from the dream'. So a sage indeed perceives a different reality. That's why I mentioned different layers of reality.
Finally, there is more to dharma than the reductionist scientific methods. Dharma traditions take a nuanced approach to one of the pramana (epistemic tool), Sabda, the verbal testimony. The words of a realised Yogi which becomes smriti, is accepted and followed if it agrees with Sruti. This is why we have guru sishya traditions which help seekers in their spiritual quest. "