Am I Against Intoxication?

I am not “against intoxication.” I just haven’t had been drunk or high for many, many years, and have lived the majority of my life that way. It’s not because I am “against it.” It’s because I practice yogic mantra-meditation and rarely have much, if any, interest in drinking or getting high. When the opportunities for intoxication arise I simply find that I don’t have a hunger for what it offers, or that I have better ways of accomplishing the same effects.

I’m not “against” it. I just don’t need it.

I think alcohol is a useful, practical social thing. Alcohol and drugs are also a part of Vedic culture. Soma, for example, is an intoxicant, and is practically the most essential ingredient in Vedic ritual. Pot, aka Cannabis Indica is (as the “Indica” part indicates) a native and deeply rooted part of Indin cultures for centuries, if not millenia. In fact, the vast majority of really traditional Indian culture considers alcohol a dangerous drug, but employs cannabis as the safe and socially acceptable drug.

I don’t recommend or promote drug use, but that doesn’t mean I am “against” it.

If someone wants to be a serious yogi (including bhakti-yoga) and advance in their meditation (including nāma-japa), I would unequivocally recommend that they abstain from significant drugs like alcohol, cannabis, and so on, because the goal of yoga is to gain full control of one’s mental powers, and drugs actually work against that (though in some ways they present an illusory facade of doing otherwise) because drugs free our mental powers from our intellectual control – the opposite of what yoga works towards.

But it’s hardly realistic to expect everyone to seriously practice yogic meditation (even many of the people who have some degree of sincere initial interest in yogic meditation) so I don’t see the point of preaching to such people that it’s extremely important that they immediately stop using social drugs like alcohol and cannabis in normal social contexts and to normal social extents.

Even when I was younger and was a “straightedge hardcore kid” the militant stuff like “bring back prohibition” and “I’ll kill you for blowing smoke in my face” just made me embarrassed or amused (respectively).

I acknowledge that there is definitely such a thing as “substance abuse.” People get carried away with a lot of things, including intoxication. It’s the “getting carried away” part that seems to be the essence of the problem. Drugs do seem to be dangerously prone to “getting carried away with” – and/or they seem to have more dramatic impact when we do get carried away with them, so I certainly respect and applaud anyone – yogi or not – who abstains from intoxication for whatever reason. But that’s hardly the same as saying I’m “against it.”

Manu puts it nicely in Manu-saṁhitā (5.56). “There is no evil in eating flesh, getting intoxicated, and having sex, for these are natural behaviors of embodied beings. There is no evil in these things, but abstaining from them is a great virtue.”

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