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Buddhadharma : Fall 2018
32 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY ➤ at the shrine, receiving a bag of mushrooms to eat, and then bowing before the Buddha before returning to their zafus. In Vajrayana sanghas in Oregon, Colorado, and Washington, DC, practitioners are using psychedelic substances during tantric feast offerings, including mixing psilocybin into the torma, the sacrificial cake that is ritually offered to the deities and later eaten by the prac- titioners. Some practitioners ingest mushrooms or LSD before the liturgy begins so the full effects of the substances can be felt through- out the entirety of the practice. One Vajrayana practitioner in Boulder described placing one drop of LSD from a tincture into the kapala (ritual skull container) on the shrine as an offering and another in her mouth. She said the substance helps remove her habit- ual deluded way of seeing herself and the world. Another practitio- ner in Virginia said mushrooms help him in the generation stage of visualizing deities in the form of light, as well as in the dissolution stage of resting in the spacious clarity of mind. are psyChedeliCs dangerous? In spite of the increased use of psychedelics in association with dharma practice over the past decade, taking psychedelics is not without risks. Most psychedelic substances are illegal in the United States and have been since the Nixon administration categorized LSD, mushrooms, and other psychedelic substances as Schedule 1 drugs, more restricted than cocaine, opium, and methamphetamine. But apart from running afoul of the law, might taking psychedelics cause harm to one’s body or mind? The more common risks include the often-reported “bad trip” in which one experiences panic attacks or intense terror, albeit tempo- rary. However, several fatalities have also occurred during ayahuasca retreats in South America, including the unexplained death of an eighteen-year-old American in Peru and a nineteen-year-old British student in Colombia who reportedly had a toxic allergic reaction. Using psychedelics may also pose particular dangers for those recovering from substance addictions, according to Valerie