Cannabis has been used in Ayurvedic and Indian medicine for at least three thousand years to treat a variety of health conditions, including nausea and wasting syndromes. It is also prescribed for general health and longevity. To this day body builders in India use cannabis as a part of their training regiment to gain muscle mass, promote digestion, and build strength.
The spiritual aspects of cannabis are considered so profound in South Asia that many religious groups including Buddhists, Naths, Shaivites and Goddess Worshippers have incorporated it into meditation practices, as a means to stop the mind and enter into a state of profound stillness, also called Samadhi.
Cannabis holds a prominent place among Tantrics in India, Nepal, Sikkim, and Tibet to this day. In the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, it is said that Buddha subsisted for six years on nothing but hemp seeds. Various spiritual texts, including the Buddhist Tara Tantra, list cannabis as an important aide to meditation and spiritual practice. In the Tantric Buddhism of the Himalayas and Northern India, cannabis still plays a significant role in meditative rituals to facilitate deep meditation and heighten awareness.
Cannabis is even mentioned in the Indian creation myth, where it is named as one of the five nectars of the gods and designated a “Reliever of Suffering.” In the original myth, the gods churn the Ocean of Milk in search of Amrita, the elixir of eternal life. One of the resulting nectars was cannabis. In the Vedas cannabis is referred to as a “source of happiness.”
In India today, cannabis is often made into a drink consumed by local people and is said to be the favorite drink of Indra, the king of the Indian gods.
Cannabis is most closely associated with the worship of Shiva, one of the three principal deities of India. Cannabis is considered Shiva’s favorite herb due to its spiritual properties. It is commonly consumed by Shaivite yogis, ascetics and worshippers of Shiva, as an aid to their sadhana (spiritual practice). Wandering ascetics, known as sadhus, are often seen smoking cannabis out of a clay chillum as a part of their spiritual practice.