[The following is a question raised by a congregation member and answer by the Bhaktabandhav editor.]
Question: Why do devotees of Krsna proscribe drug intake?
Answer: There are four legs of dharma: satya or truth, sauca or cleanliness, tapa or austerity, and daya or compassion. There are four sinful activities that destroy these four principles of dharma: meat-eating, which destroys compassion; illicit sex, which destroys purity (internal and external) or cleanliness; intoxication, which destroys austerity; and gambling, which destroys truth or honesty. Wherever these four sinful activities go on, Kali Maharaja, the ruler of this degraded age of quarrel, resides.
Vaisnava-dharma proscribes the above four sinful activities for initiated practitioners. When he inaugurated the Krsna Consciousness Movement in the West, Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada required aspiring disciples to pledge to refrain from these four pillars of sinful and degrading activities. Srila Gurudeva, Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, similarly had devotees pledge to abstain from meat eating, intoxication, gambling, and illicit sex.
Intoxication destroys austerity. Intoxicants are addictive, and by taking them, one completely loses self control and cannot perform proper sadhana-bhakti. We can simply observe the lives of those addicted to intoxicants, and see how they descend into chaos and depravity. Drugs affect the subtle and physical body. It can also increase pride, by opening up subtle channels. But as devotees, we are not interested in these aspects of the subtle body. Our goal is to enter into soul realization and self realization, and drugs are an obstacle to this.
For those who say, they only take drugs recreationally, but do not become addicted, we say, this is just for material sense enjoyment, and is unfavorable to Krsna consciousness.
In our spiritual process, we endeavor to cleanse our body and make it a temple of God. Taking intoxicants pollutes the body and makes it difficult to always be absorbed in devotional activities, which is our intended practice.
Drugs are taken for various reasons. Some people take drugs for pleasure, some take them to suppress pain and depression. On the path of bhakti, devotees are naturally made joyful by the process of singing and dancing in kirtan, taking the Lord’s wonderful prasada remnants, and other spiritual activities. A person absorbed in the joy of true devotional life does not need extra, material stimulants.
A Krsna Concious devotee also understands that either dulling the senses with drugs or hyperactivating them is not beneficial to them spiritually. It may be fun and seem innocent in the short term, but certainly bears significant undesirable long-term effects if habituated. And this is generally the result. By dabbling the foot in the current of heavy drug intake, one who is not fully self-controlled is most often swept away in the stream of addiction, leading to the destruction of the life essence.
Some people say that drugs can help people come to Krsna, and that some people come to Krsna specifically by taking drugs. But we can see on the other hand, that there are millions and millions of drug addicts who do not come to Krsna. Taking drugs is not prescribed in sastra as a means of coming to God consciousness. And it is not our obective to glorify the myriad of dark holes one may crawl out of on the way to the salvation of the soul.
Our devotional practices are on the transcendental platform, above the material modes of nature. They spiritualize the body and mind and help absorb one in the true purpose of life. Drug intake may open up the mind to subtle realms of thought, however, these thoughts are hazy and cloudy intimations at best. Intoxicants cannot give enlightenment, because that is the nature of sattva-guna, the mode of truth, purity, and goodness, whereas drugs are known in the Vedic scriptures to be in the mode of darkness and ignorance, or tama-guna. Instead of spiritually heightening the consciousness, they make one more materially possessed, whether on the gross or subtle material planes. While drugs may enable one to penetrate into subtle realms otherwise unknown to those on the gross plane of existence, these subtle material planes are of no actual use to the soul, but merely represent another, often more dangerous and powerful trapping for the soul. The subtle body and realms are also material trappings.
The interest of devotees of Krsna is awakening divine consciousness. We don’t even advise the yogic or mystic process, what to speak of any other material process. It only increases pride. Opening the mind and attaining material mystic siddhis, one becomes obsessed with these things, like being posssessed by a ghost. People mistake this as some kind of spiritual realization, but true spirituality is a process of the heart and a tendency of the soul, beyond matter. Taking drugs is thus an inhibitor to true spiritual development. It is not recommended by Vaisnavas, and is prohibited to initiated practitioners on the bhakti of pure bhakti.