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“Hinduism’ has many religious and cultural traditions which stem from the Vedas, the ancient Sanskrit writings of India. The tradition, therefore, has no clear beginning, and has no single founder or single belief, but there are a number of beliefs and practices which are widely accepted.
Practically all Hindus believe in the idea of reincarnation, in which the eternal soul (ATMAN) moves through different species, from one body to another according to ‘the law of Kama’ ,the goodness or badness of their deeds in this life. The belief that every soul is trapped in a cycle of birth and then death and then rebirth is known as Samsara. The quality of a life that the soul is born into depends on the previous life.
The aim of human life, for most Hindus, is to escape from the cycle of birth and death (Moksha), through union with the Supreme BRAHMAN who is present in everything. Behind Hindu practice is So Hinduism is about the sort of life a person should lead in order to be born into a better life next time and eventually become free from rebirth altogether. Every Hindu wants to escape from this cycle so Hindus aim to live in a way that will cause each of their lives to be better than the life before. Living or acting in the right way is known as dharma.
Every Hindu has a purusharthas, or life goal, and leading a pure life through purity of body and mind is very important so that they are able to carry out their religious duties. To reach their individual goal they must create good Karma through control over gratification of the senses; pleasure; sensual, sexual, and mental enjoyment. The Laws of Manu are guidelines for a pure life and describe the perfect man as:
‘He who has perfect 3 fold control: that is control over speech, thought and actions.’
So a perfect man should only say pure things, think pure thoughts and act in a controlled, alert way. Anything which takes man from this control is harmful and wrong, which is known as AHISMA.
Hindus follow this principle of non-violence, non-harming and therefore use of drugs and alcohol can harm the body and so go against the principle of AHISMA. Also Hindus rely so much on Karmic energy for their ultimate goal that AHISMA and bad actions taint this karmic energy and will affect the rebirth and drugs can therefore be viewed as an obstacle to the ultimate goal of a Hindu’s life. As all living things are part of a life cycle.and as BRAHMAN is in all living things, they deserve respect. Life has value, is sacred and to exploit creation by harming the body with drugs and alcohol
Hindus practice meditation to bring the mind under control and then control the body through the mind eg the Indian custom of walking on a bed of nails without pain.
Drugs, especially Hallucinogenic drugs, do the opposite to meditation as the mind is not under strict control. So drug and alcohol abuse is not generally allowed because a man is not in control leading to bad KARMA and bad REBIRTH.
HINDU LAW states that Brahmin priests are not allowed to drink alcohol as alcohol affects nervous system making you do things you normally wouldn’t d, and
speech becomes slurred which goes against. In the same way LSD affects the way we think and act, causes Hallucinations and makes us do things out of the ordinary
‘For liquor is the defiling dirt excreted from rice, therefore a priest, a ruler or commoner should not drink liquor.’ (11:94)
Since Brahmin priests are not allowed alcohol, most Hindus follow their example and do not have alcohol.
Modern medicine uses drugs to fight disease and suffering. Used properly, drugs like aspirin, penicillin bring benefits whilst others can cause all sorts of harm. They can increase suffering and affect individuals and society. Drugs such as opium can relieve pain but have been exploited by western demand in the form of heroin, which is addictive and causes many problems.
Experimentation for fun can be extremely dangerous and lead to self-degradation, crime and early death. These dangerous drugs are known as speed and grass also called pot, dope or hash, smack and acid. Hindu society in general does not tolerate these drugs. However, in saying this, modern medicine is not rejected because it does benefit the body, which is the guiding line for a Hindu, for a healthy body is needed to perform all religious duties and therefore medicines which restore the body’s natural balance are acceptable.
Hinduism is perhaps the only religious tradition to have had some experience of drugs at an early stage in its history. Hallucinogenic vegetation such as the soma plant, native to India, was used by certain groups to gain ‘religious experience’. As a result, there are certain unclear lines within the Hindu tradition where the use of non-medical drugs are concerned, especially amongst different denominations of Hindus Most of the commonly used drugs in India are derived from the Hemp or cannabis plant. They include Hashish, Bhang, ganja, and charus. Many SADUS still use them to bring on trances or visions. Although Hindus in Britain such as Gujurati traders and Krishna Consciousness regard AHIMSA very highly as a guide to lifestyle, many follow the guideline given by The Law of Manu which states:
‘Meat-eating is not wrong, nor alcohol, nor sex. These are natural actions of living beings; but abstention from such action is highly rewarded.’ (M 5:56)
Abstinence from these every day actions is highly valued amongst these Hindus but they are not seen as bad actions.
The views about alcohol vary again from region to region, and caste to caste. In general, frequent use of alcohol is looked down on, the exception to the rule being Tantrics, whose aim is to unite all things and gain freedom form the restrictions of human life; they therefore use cannabis and alcohol as part of their rituals. In general, it is better to refuse alcohol or drug as laid down by the Law of Manu which warns against wilful addiction.
‘He (man) must not get wilfully addicted to any object or substance of self-gratification; he must try to overcome such dependence through will.’
Hindus realise that the problem of drug abuse needs to be dealt with. It is seen as ‘Trendy’ for upper classes, and for the poor a welcome escape from hard and unpleasant reality of life.
Hindus believe that people who suffer, for whatever reasons, should really be helped, even if suffering is brought about by their own stupidity or bad karmic action. The reason behind this is their respect for life in general and ‘Honour all humankind’ is one of their 4 daily practices. All human beings and forms of life are related through the divine spirit of BRAHMAN . Each person is a part of the whole and a Hindu knows that no-one can be totally evil because of their soul (ATMAN) being a part of the divine BRAHMAN. Therefore it is better to help them and not judge them ; to encourage them to lead a life that demonstrates respect for both religious duties and for their soul and for those of others.
There is some control of drug use in the home as strong family structures are valued and smoking in the presence of elders is regarded as showing a lack of respect.
Also, smoking in India, as in Britain is forbidden on public transport, in cinemas, theatres and temples.
In the modern world drugs are avoided mainly for the emphasis on purity of body, but it is also against the Hindu tradition of still meditation which aims to bring the mind under control and then control of the body through the mind. In everyday life the mind is often led by desires and sense- pleasure of the body, but with meditation
(YOGA) a person is encouraged to take disciplined control over their life according to the Hindu ideal of purity. Drugs, especially ones with hallucinogenic properties would totally reverse the meditation process since the mind would not be under strict control but left to follow its own course. However, any individual would be under an obligation, in the context of DHARMA , to ensure they could continue to pursue their life goals . So in for the Hindu, the use of drugs does not always appear to be considered inappropriate, but the question of limits comes in, and this, as is often the case in Hinduism, is a matter of individual judgement.