NZASR Conference 2018, NZASR Conference 2011

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LSD DHARMA: Psychedelics and Buddhism in America
Douglas Osto

Last modified: 2011-09-27


In recent decades some attention has been given to the possible connection between the contemporary practice of Buddhism and the use of psychedelic drugs. Among the various publications on the topic are the 1996 issue of the popular Buddhist magazine Tricycle devoted to Buddhism and psychedelics, and a book titled Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics. Noteworthy in Zig Zag Zen, are contributions from prominent American Buddhists such as Stephen Batchelor, Jack Kornfield, Lama Surya Das, Richard Baker Roshi and Joan Halifax Roshi, who admit having ingested psychoactive chemicals in the 1960s, and who also recognise to various degrees an influence of these substances on their spiritual development. According to essayist Erik Davis in his contribution to Zig Zag Zen, there is a current American Buddhist subculture, which continues to use psychedelics as part of their religious practice. By employing recent data acquired through an online survey, and extensive interviews conducted in person throughout the United States and via Skype video calling, this paper explores aspects of an American psychedelic Buddhist subculture and argues that it could be productively viewed as a type of “home-grown” American Buddhist neo-tantra.


Buddhist Studies; ethnography; American Religion


Allan Hunt Badiner, ed., Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2002

Tricycle (volume 6.1, Fall 1996)