Lama Anagarika Govinda (1898-1986) was a German Mystic who primarily spent most of his spiritual formation (20 years) as a member of the Kargyutpa Buddhist Order. He was though, the quintessential eclectic seeker after truth, spending time in Sri Lanka and Burma before traveling with his wife, Li Gotami, to Tibet and embedding himself there in a hermitage. He was well versed in Mahayana, Vajrayana, as well as Theravadin Traditions. Most of his writings well reflect this special blend of spiritual disciplines. My favorite book of his, The Foundation of Tibetan Mysticism, was released in 1969. A companion piece, Creative Meditation and Multidimensional Consciousness followed in 1977; this particular text was utilized during our Dharma-series, The Tathāgatagarbhatārā Tantra. Another prominent text is his spiritual autobiography, The Way of the White Clouds, A Buddhist Pilgrim in Tibet, 1966:
Just as a white summer-cloud, in harmony with heaven and earth, freely floats in the blue sky from horizon to horizon, following the breath of the atmosphere—in the same way the pilgrim abandons himself to the breath of the greater life that wells up from the depth of his being and leads him beyond the farthest horizons to an aim which is already present within him, though yet hidden from his sight. —Lama Govinda, The Way of the White Clouds
His Dharma name, Govinda, has an interesting connotation:
“Govinda” is a sacred name in both the Buddhist and Hindu traditions. For the Buddhists, it is the name of one of Gautama Buddha’s disciples; for the Hindus, it is one of the names of Krishna. It means “Lord of the Cows.” For Lama Govinda himself, it may have also carried an intense personal meaning: Hermann Hesse’s masterpiece Siddhartha was published in Germany in 1922; in this allegorical novel, Govinda is the name of Siddhartha’s best friend and companion on the path to enlightenment. (Richard Power. The Lost Teachings of Lama Govinda . Quest Books. Kindle Edition.)
Our primary interest with Govinda in this series concerns his link with the LSD equation. Apparently, he had tried it sometime in 1966:
In 1966, Ralph Metzner introduced Timothy Leary to the German born Lama Anagarika Govinda, who lived in Evans-Wentz’s old cottage in the Himalayan village of Nanital. “The lama had been most impressed to learn that The Psychedelic Experience contained a dedication to him,” Leary wrote in Flashbacks. Govinda had requested an LSD session, which Metzner provided. For the first time, after thirty years of meditation, the lama had experienced the Bardo Thodal in its living, sweating reality. According to Leary, Govinda told him that “many of the guardians of the old philosophic traditions had realized that the evolution of the human race had depended upon a restoration of unity between the outer science advanced by the West and the inner yoga advanced by the East.” (A High History of Buddhism, from a 1996 Tricycle Magazine Article)
This account is backed-up in Govinda’s excellent article: Drugs and Meditation Consciousness Expansion and Disintegration versus Concentration and Spiritual Regeneration, wherein he states that he’s speaking from “experience” concerning the drug. Govinda emphatically states in the article that the psychedelic experience is not conducive to proper meditation:
I am not speaking theoretically, but from my own experience—is that LSD totally deprives us of any control: we are so helplessly tossed about by our emotions and deceived by hallucinations or creations of chaotic imagination that our attention is scattered and confused by thousands of fragmentary images and sense impressions. Meditation, on the other hand, is a creative process that converts the chaos of upsurging feelings, thoughts, uncontrolled volitions, and contending inner forces into a meaningful “cosmos” (a harmonized “uni-verse”) in which all psychic faculties are centered and integrated in the depth of our consciousness. Only the creation of this inner center makes us into consciously spiritual beings and lifts us beyond the blind drives of our animal nature that binds us to the chaos of samsara (the world of delusion). LSD, on the other hand, leads away from the center into an ever more fragmentizing multiplicity of unrelated, eternally changing projections of subconscious thought contents, which, though momentarily capturing our attention, leave us as completely passive spectators of a psychic film-show; and the longer we devote ourselves to its contemplation, the surer it will suffocate all creative impulses and all individual effort towards their realization. (Richard Power. The Lost Teachings of Lama Govinda (pp. 70-71). Quest Books. Kindle Edition.)
Govinda states that having the experience of Consciousness-Expansion is definitely not the same as becoming enlightened:
But the mere expansion of a muddled consciousness, in which the faculties of discrimination, mental balance, and understanding have not yet been developed, does not constitute an improvement and will not lead to the attainment or the realization of a higher dimension of consciousness; it will only lead to a worse confusion, to an expansion of ignorance and an indiscriminate involvement in irrelevant impressions and emotions. Therefore, wise persons would rather follow the advice of the great spiritual leaders and benefactors of humanity by concentrating the mind and improving its quality, instead of trying to expand it without rhyme or reason, that is, without having developed the faculty of understanding or discrimination. (Richard Power. The Lost Teachings of Lama Govinda (p. 69). Quest Books. Kindle Edition.)
He unequivocally stressed that the better route to take are the Traditional Spiritual Paths, wherein one is guided by the well-documented, authentic- experiences (devoid of any external stimuli) of spiritual masters throughout the millennium. Another predominant factor to consider here is that “one’s Will” needs to be present in guiding the adept’s mind through oftentimes labyrinthine twists and turns during the journey , whereas in the psychedelic episodes the Will is jettisoned as one’s consciousness becomes enraptured with incessant sensate-data. Indeed, for Gonvinda, the Will is the matter:
Here, it seems to me, that the middle path (as proposed by the Buddha and advocated in Assagioli’s attitude) is a sound method on the path of realization. It makes use of human endeavor and effort as well as intelligence (in form of clear thought and higher aspirations) as a starting point for meditation. The Buddha’s illumination was, as Assagioli points out, “the result and the reward of his willed endeavor.” It is clear that this “will” is not the ego-motivated will of the ordinary self-seeking individual, but what Assagioli would term the “Transpersonal Will,” a will that has been sublimated and transformed into a force, directed beyond all narrow aims and purposes, transcending individual limitations, and finally turning the individual into “a willing channel through which the powerful energies of the universe flow and operate.” (Richard Power. The Lost Teachings of Lama Govinda (p. 27). Quest Books. Kindle Edition.)
Without the creative act of the Transpersonal Will, neither drug-induced visions (which are not an expansion of consciousness but a confused transmission of neurological messages) nor the auto-hypnotic trance states of misguided meditative practices, have any spiritual value, but are merely attempts to escape the realities of life. (Richard Power. The Lost Teachings of Lama Govinda (p. 28). Quest Books. Kindle Edition.)
Govinda always emphasized the factor of the “individual” temperament throughout most of his writings. The individual must be predominant and fully “present” at all costs lest the collective pre-natal state swallows one up. This is really a sobering-mentality, one that I stressed in The Dhammapada in Light of the Unborn:
Refrain from indulging the animated sense-factory thus stopping the spinning composed and manufactured imagery that flashes Mind projections across the soiled-screen of vexatious intoxications. Sober-up! Deconstruct the toxic playground whose perilous poison prevents the developing gotra from maturating into full Blooming Bodhi.
With all the aforementioned being said, though—and this will undoubtedly blow your mind—in full light of this entire series as a whole (another blog to follow) I wouldn’t mind perhaps trying LSD under strict protocols, [provided] that it was supervised with the stature of someone with Lama Govinda’s character and constitution. I don’t state this lightly. Given my solid foundation with sound Spiritual Principles spanning an entire lifetime (I will turn 62 on August 21), I sense that my possible psychonautic experience will be a well-prepared one, in eager expectation of witnessing new vistas (and perhaps new insights, peppered through new neural-pathways) in multidimensional panoramas.