Pilgrimage has long been a part of global Buddhist practice
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    The Psychedelic Journey to the Zafu Paid Member

    I was nineteen when I first dropped acid. A sophomore at UC Santa Cruz, I was living with my best friend, Kat, in a ramshackle beach cottage. We gave each other a long gaze, wished each other luck, and each swallowed a tiny piece of paper, blotted with a dot of LSD. Then we lay down in the tiny living room on the plush, blood-red carpet and waited for the acid to hit our systems. No one had advised us to vacuurn. As the LSD came on, Kat and I, immobilized, were captive to an onslaught of animated lint and cat fur. We closed our eyes in an effort to escape the writhing, multicolored environment, and the universe cracked open. I became complete peace, pure luminosity—no self, no form, no time. Free from identification with my body, I realized that death only exists in the imagination of humans. More »
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    To the Source Paid Member

    When my mother took LSD in 1975, under the amicable supervision of Stanislav Grof and Joan Halifax, she had no idea I was growing inside her. Throughout the trip, she commented on the movement in her belly, how it pulsed and distended. That was me. I was smaller than a grape seed, yet I was clearly huge. My mother and I achieved a psychic union that was more vast, more seamless than even our circumstance. Perhaps I remember expanding; beyond my cells, their race of microscopic bloom; beyond the amniotic womb—yet corded to the flesh creating me. My early introduction to psychedelics, two weeks after conception, is not remarkable. My parents, a Spanish teacher and a sculptor/businessman, were involved in Esalen during the early seventies and lived for a period in a San Francisco ashram. More »
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    The Jesus Lama: Thomas Merton in the Himalayas Paid Member

    In his best-selling biography The Seven Storey Mountain (published in 1948), Thomas Merton tells of his conversion to Catholicism and subsequent entry into Our Lady of Gethsemani, a Cistercian abbey in Kentucky. To a world savaged by war, Merton's embrace of a Christian life was made all the more authentic by his Cambridge-educated intellect, stunning candor, and the New York street humor he acquired while attending Columbia University. Single-handedly, he restored credibility to the very possibility of contemplative virtue which had been long denigrated by liberal intellectuals and traditional Christians alike. His was a voice of sanity, filled with sacred wonder, and replete with inquiry and contradiction. More »
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    Yagé and the Yanas Paid Member

    With more than a little trepidation, my girlfriend Marion and I boarded a flight to Hawaii. Once buckled in, I fell into a deep and unusually restful sleep. Hours later, I raised the shade and, overcoming a blast of near-blinding light, peered out the small window. The palm-fringed handful of islands strewn in a random arc in the middle of the blue Pacific looked like the last grains from a weary sower’s hand. I remembered that it wasn’t for the black sand beaches and helicopter rides over volcanoes that I had made this journey. It was 1987, and my moment with a shaman was coming near. I had an appointment with yagé, the “vine of the soul.” More »
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    The Nuns' Island Paid Member

    Here in the nunnery the afternoon is for sleep, study, contemplation. The night before, Ayya Khema suggested that we imagine we are going to die shortly and then see what we cling to. I find I am sad to lose my possibilities—for achievement, and, yes, for liberation. Why am I here, after all, if I do not believe in my capacity to be enlightened?—though we are made so uneasy by this idea that we make jokes. Sydney, a 26-year-old Fulbright scholar from Florida, says that should sudden illumination awaken her, she will telegraph her family: "Bingo!" More »
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    Pointy Rhinestone Glasses Paid Member

    Tan Chawut's Chanting echoed out across the temple grounds—as startling as the cry of the tree-dwelling gekko, as reassuring as the whirring of cicadas. I had journeyed to his monastery—Wat Rumpoeng (Lum-pung) in Northern Thailand—in search of tranquility and insight, the fabled twin blessings of Buddhist meditation. The regimen was rigorous: 20 hours daily of sitting and walking meditation in strict seclusion. During the last three days of a two week retreat, in an exercise known as "determination," retreatants were expected to meditate round the clock without lying down. A meal of rice gruel and greens was served at six a.m., the main meal at ten. For the rest of the day we fasted. Visiting and idle chit-chat were discouraged. More »