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Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  226 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Buddhism and psychedelic experimentation share a common concern: the liberation of the mind. Zig Zag Zen launches the first serious inquiry into the moral, ethical, doctrinal, and transcendental considerations created by the intersection of Buddhism and psychedelics. With a foreword by renowned Buddhist scholar Stephen Batchelor and a preface by historian of religion ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 1st 2002 by Chronicle Books
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Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
The book Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics is a compilation of articles and interviews written and conducted by several respected people in both the Buddhist and psychedelic communities. The pieces explore the crossovers between Buddhism and psychedelics and offer an honest perspective about whether psychedelic substances have a place in a sincere Buddhist practice, and vice-versa.

Following a foreword written by Stephen Batchelor, a preface written by religious studies scholar Huston Smith,
Sep 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Many of the leading American Buddhists became seekers of enlightenment, through meditation practice, as a result of taking hallucinogens in the psychedelic heyday of the 1960s. These essays explore the link between etheogens and awakening. I found the essays fascinating and varied, presenting both the advantages and dangers of this path into perception as it relates to spirituality and truth. Quite a few of my favorite Buddhist writers used psychedelics along the way. For example, having ...more
Jan 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Boomers, seekers,
Can psychedelic drugs, or entheogens as they are referred to nowadays, play an important role in spiritual awareness or are they merely a ticket to unsustainable peak experiences. These are the questions addressed in this wonderful coffee table book.

Many writers in this collection of essays are children of the 60’s who have moved on to Buddhist and other meditative practices. Some now eschew medicinal roads to Satori, while others view them as important components of awakening that opened
Nick Mather
There is no denying that the spread of Buddhism in the US is largely due to use of psychedelics in the 60s and 70s. Many of these psychonauts turned to Asian traditions, especially Buddhism, in order to better understand the manifestation of mind they experienced via psychedelic substances. This book examines that history, along with discussions of how Buddhists view psychedelics - only American Buddhists seem to think it is ok. The book is a collection of articles and interviews with people ...more
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great and up to date collection of essays that really highlights the connection between both subjects. It certainly doesn't propagate drug (ab)use, but centers more around the historical and cultural background of how psychedelics - mostly LSD and peyote during the counterculture of the sixties, and later ayahuasca - fueled a renewed interest in Asian religion/philosophy (Japanese Zen, Tibetan Buddism), a revaluation of local shamanism, as it provided a vessel for 'visionary' art works (Alex ...more
Theo V
Ehh. This made me dislike buddhism even more than I already do. Contained within are excerpts of leaders within the psychedelic and zen communities, almost all of which have a moderately poor understanding of objective freedom. A frequent theme of the righteously interjected optimal "goals" that they mention for one's spiritual path is a sort of mystical oneness ego death; satori.

The whole thing reminded me of the type of people that "The Book of The Subgenius" calls 'enlightenment junkies'.
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
The range of opinion and experience in this collection of essays, interviews and art gave me a lot to think about. My own experiences prejudiced me in the direction of positivity when it comes to the particular combination of psychedelics and Buddhism, but I have to admit to not having enough experience in either. Not enough to solidify my opinion one way or another. So it was very instructive to hear from such a wide array of luminaries and adepts. It took me a long while to read this book only ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. A great read for anyone who’s interested in buddhism or psychedelics. The essays chosen are amazingly eloquent and well-read. As someone who sometimes has ADHD-related problems with reading non-fiction, I can safely say this book never put me off or bored me into starting another book.
Psychedelics were always interesting to me but prior to reading this book I was only mildly interested in Buddhism because of my mom, but this book put me into an entirely new headspace. I’m about to
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book. I was honestly expecting a perspective much more skewed to the pro-psychedelic side of things; the reality is quite the opposite--it often felt to me that much more material arguing caution and even abstinence was present here. With all perspectives covered, however, this is a fantastic collection of essays examining the intersection of Buddhism and psychedelic use and culture from a wide variety of angles. The supplemental artwork presented is top notch and extremely well ...more
Sara Gray
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent! This collection of updated essays from a 1995 issue of Tricycle was filled with fabulous art and words from many Buddhist and psychedelic luminaries. While it falls heavily on the "psychedelics can be good for practice" side, many of the essays posit the opposite opinion in ways that are thoughtful and reasoned instead of just reactionary. It was just the fire I needed to spark up my passion for buddha/dharma/sangha again. A resource for sure.
Capó-Hernandez Family
East meets West

This is not necessarily a book for everyone. I found it to be enlightening and answered a lot of my questions and validated a lot of my experiences. I can see many people that aren’t as open to the idea of these two concepts coming together having trouble getting through most of the book, however, do not judge the book by its cover. The last few chapters, I would say, are more “grounded” and brings you back to this plane of existence.
Noah Beckage
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
An inspiring, complex, and insightful collection of writing and artwork immersed in the convergence of Buddhism, psychedelia, shamanism, and the spirituality at large. Reading this book has been equally enjoyable, knowledgeable, and meditative.
Jun 25, 2019 rated it liked it
It covers a lot of interesting ground, but the essays become quite redundant by the time you reach the end of the book.
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A great collection of knowledge on this under explored, under prioritized topic. It truly helped me understand the place psychedelics have in my growth and understanding as a whatever i am. If you're interested in the topic it is definitely one of the best resources today.

One of my fav parts:

Robert Aitken Roshi: "I don't think drugs have particularly helped anybody arrive where they are...It was just a peculiarity that at the time LSD was discovered and made widespread."
To which Ram Das
Grumpus McGrouchy
Mar 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Good idea, but (in my opinion) poorly executed.
Too much Buddhist doctrine, too little mention of the onerous psychedelic ego-death and how that experience 'turned people on' to the cultures and spirituality and religions of the East to begin with. Then again, I read this book 5 years ago so I may be totally misrepresenting it. Hah ha.
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Eye opening
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Excellent collection of essays regarding the use of chemicals as a tool in the search for theological answers.
William Brant
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
surprisingly balanced take on buddhism and psychedelics.
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
“But LSD is illegal because it endangers Control. Worse, it makes authority seem
funny. . . LSD is illegal primarily because it threatens the dominant <...> culture,
the culture of Control.”
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book thought provoking highly recommended.
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