Osto, Doug

Autobiographic Sketch by Doug Osto

I was born on the Winter Solstice in the year of the Summer of Love, and grew up in the woods of Redding, Connecticut. For the most part my childhood was happy – I have fond recollections of playing ball games on the street with my friends, having adventures in the woods, splashing through brooks and streams, swimming at the local pond in the summer time, snowy Christmases, the smell of fresh mud in the spring, and the colors of the autumnal foliage. I was the middle child of three with an older and a younger sister. We were all born in a four-year period, so we are close in age. Redding is a well-to-do WASP town in Fairfield County, a bedroom community of mainly commuters to New York City. I describe my family as “lower upper-middle class.” Both my parents were first or second generation Italian-American Catholics, born and raised in New Jersey. Neither went to college. My father was an electrical engineer, who landed a good job working for a company that makes machines that analyze blood. My mother was a homemaker.

When I was about ten years old, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. My mother also had herself tested and found out she was also. This was an important revelation for her – her school years were spent in frustration, back before people knew about such things and people were simply labelled “slow” and “dumb.” Because of my learning difference, I was held back in the fourth grade. Part of the challenge of this was that my friends went on to middle school, and I was now in the same school year as my younger sister. This made me considerably older than my classmates, and I felt quite insecure about being labelled as “dumb” for having to stay back a year. However, with dedicated tuition from my mother and hard work during my second attempt at fourth grade, I was able to excel in my studies and tested in the top 90% on standardized tests. From that time on, I became an academic over-achiever, who ended up becoming our school’s president of the National Honors Society, and graduated at the top of my class at one of the best public schools in the country.

While in high school, I discovered two book in the family collection that had a major influence of the direction of my life. When I was sixteen years old, I found a little book in our basement about self-hypnosis called Scientific Autosuggestion.[1] After reading it, I decided to conduct some of the experiments in the book with my best friend Bob. Bob and I took turns hypnotizing each other until we could make the other think his hands were stuck together or that they were stuck to the surface of a table. Although these experiments were fun, the real significance of this book was that it introduced me for the first time to altered states of consciousness. While hypnotized, I experienced the world in an entirely new way – it was neither waking, nor dreaming, but something in between where my imagination seemed to possess extraordinary power. It was as if I had opened a door to an entirely new realm of possibility. Soon after this discovery, I once again found a book in the family’s basement, this one called simply TM on the practice of Transcendental Meditation.[2] This book fascinated me; reading about higher states of consciousness and all the benefits that one could attain through the practice of TM motivated me to track down a local TM teacher to acquire my mantra. I vividly remember the day I received my mantra, and how relaxed I felt after my first twenty minutes of meditation. I started practicing TM every day, twice a day for twenty minutes. After two years of diligent practice, I had had some interesting experiences, but had not attained the promised “cosmic consciousness” the Maharishi spoke of, and began to lose some enthusiasm for the technique.

My practice of TM fostered my interest in other Asian systems of meditation, religion and philosophy, which soon led to my discovery of Buddhism. I clearly recall reading a short essay on the Mahāyāna notion of “emptiness” and feeling an immediate intuitive connection to it. Shortly after this experience, I read Alan Watts’ The Way of Zen and then Philip Kapleau’s The Three Pillars of Zen. In my senior year in high school, I took my first course on Asian religions called “Oriental Cultures,” taught by my favorite teacher and mentor Daniel Cruson. During the summer vacation of 1987, before heading off to college, I had my first formal experience of Zen: a friend of mine and I spent a weekend at Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji, a Rinzai Zen monastery located in the Catskill mountains of Upstate New York.

In the autumn of 1987, I began attending Grinnell College, a private liberal arts college located in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa. Grinnell (in those days at least) was a “hippy college,” and I lived my first year on the south campus, or “hippy side” of the college. Like most liberal arts institutions in the U.S., there was plenty of marijuana being smoked and the occasional presence of magic mushrooms during special events such as the annual “Alice in Wonderland” weekend party. By my sophomore year at Grinnell, I decided that I would study Buddhism, gain a Ph.D. in religious studies and teach at the university level. This was largely due to the influence of Dan Lusthaus, who was a visiting professor at Grinnell for the 1988–89, academic year. During my undergraduate years, I had some minimal experience with Zen, sitting infrequently with a small, informal Zen group in town consisting of Grinnell professors, students and friends. Also during my junior year studying abroad at Durham University, I began an informal study of the sixties and psychedelics. It was during this time I read Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream by Jay Stevens, and Aldous Huxley’s classics, The Doors of Perception, Heaven and Hell, and The Perennial Philosophy.

After graduating from Grinnell, I studied Buddhism while on a Fulbright Scholarship in Sri Lanka (1991–92) under the gifted and talented program for graduating seniors. While in Sri Lanka at Peradeniya University, I studied Buddhism with Gunapala Dharmasiri, a professor of philosophy specializing in Buddhism, and spent many hours in lively discussion with him. Dharmasiri was something of a “black sheep” at Peradeniya. A former Buddhist monk, he had disrobed and was married with four children when I met him. He was also a self-proclaimed Mahāyāna Buddhist in Sri Lanka – a stronghold of Theravavāda Buddhist orthodoxy. However, Dharmasiri quickly charmed me with his good nature, compassion, quick wit and humor. To me he seemed to embody the “crazy wisdom” of the great Indian Mahāsiddhas. Soon after our first meeting, Dharmasiri suggested that I read Entering the Path of Enlightenment, Marion Matics’ translation of the Mahāyāna Buddhist poet Śāntideva’s classic Bodhicaryāvatāra.[3] While reading this book I underwent a cathartic experience that I can only describe as a “conversion” to the Mahāyāna Buddhist path. Also while in Sri Lanka, I was very fortunate to meet Godwin Samararatne (1932–2000),[4] a lay meditation teacher. Godwin radiated gentleness, kindness, warmth, and compassion. His teachings and his gentle nature were to have a profound effect on my understanding of Buddhism and Buddhist meditation. While practicing meditation at Nilambe, Godwin’s meditation center up in the tea plantation country of central Sri Lanka, I had one of my most profound “break-through” experiences.

After my time at Nilambe I underwent a difficult period in Sri Lanka suffering from amoebic dysentery, intestinal salmonella and typhoid fever. As a result, I had lost about twenty-five pounds from my illnesses. During this time, I had a number of encounters with baby boomer Buddhists, who believed that psychedelics are valuable tools to advance one on the Buddhist path. Feeling somewhat “stuck” in my meditation, I thought that perhaps I needed to have a true psychedelic experience. I had discovered a local Ayurvedic medicine called Madana Modaka containing cannabis prepared in ghee paste. I knew that marijuana taken in high doses could make you hallucinate. Unfortunately, I did not know at the time that cannabis when orally ingested in large enough quantities could also lead to psychosis. After procuring some Madana Modaka through a friend from an Ayurvedic dispensary, I proceeded to take a massive overdose while completely on my own. Needless to say, I did not attain enlightenment! I did, however, definitely trip; in fact, I had a classic “bad trip.” After several days of not sleeping, I realized I was in a bad way and flew home to the States. It took several months of hard work and professional help to regain my physical and psychological equilibrium. As negative as it was, this experience taught me a valuable lesson about the potential dangers of psychedelic misuse, and that every individual has physiological and psychological limits, which cannot be transgressed without serious consequences.

In the autumn 1993, I began the Master of Theological Studies program at Harvard Divinity School (HDS). While a student at HDS (1993–95), I had the fortunate opportunity to work closely with the venerable Masatoshi Nagatomi. Through a seminar he was teaching on “Maitreya in the Buddhist traditions,” Professor Nagatomi introduced me to the Mahāyāna Buddhist scripture known as the Gaṇḍavyūha Sūtra. I vividly recall purchasing Thomas Cleary’s 1500 page, single volume edition of The Flower Ornament Scripture (his English translation of the Avataṃsaka Sūtra) from the Divinity School bookstore. I immediately read its final chapter (the Gaṇḍavyūha) and was enthralled by the sūtra’s vision of the universe as an inter-reflecting, interpenetrating organic totality wherein each point in spacetime contains the whole of spacetime. The following spring, I began an independent study with Professor Stephanie Jamison to work on the Sanskrit Gaṇḍavyūha. Reading the scripture in Sanskrit filled me with indescribable joy. To me the text was a doorway to a magical, infinitely vast universe filled with limitless wonders.

By the time I reached Harvard, I self-identified as a Buddhist, and while at HDS, I was active in the Harvard Buddhist Students group. Also while a student at Harvard, I became part of a small group of Divinity students and friends who were interested in the spiritual use of entheogens.[5] During the 1994–95 academic year, our Harvard group would gather together often to discuss our philosophical and religious views, share our writings, and explore consciousness. As Fate would have it, one such gathering on January 21, 1995, became known as the “Harvard Agape,”[6] and has gained some scholarly notice.[7]

After Harvard, I moved to Seattle in the autumn of 1995. In 1996, the Department of Asian Languages and Literature, University of Washington, awarded me a two-year recruitment fellowship, and I began working on a second Master’s degree. The mid-Nineties was a good time to be a graduate student of Buddhist Studies at the UW. In 1996, The University began a joint research venture with the British Library called the “Early Buddhism Manuscript Project.”[8] Led by Professor Richard Salomon, the project was developed to transcript, edit and translate a recently discovered substantial collection of Gāndhārī Buddhist manuscripts from the Northwest of India. Hailed as the “Dead Sea Scrolls of Buddhism,” some of these documents date as far back as the first century B.C.E., making them the oldest Buddhist manuscripts known. Collaborating with Salomon on this project were Professor Collett Cox, post-doc research fellow Dr. Mark Allon, and graduate students Timothy Lenz, Jason Neelis, and Andrew Glass. Also, during the nineties, UW’s Asian Languages and Literature department hired Professor Ulrich Pagel as a Tibetan specialist. Consequently, the UW was at the time the best place in North America for a traditional philological approach to Buddhism. Not only were great scholars involved in this project, they were also excellent teachers, mentors and generally outstanding human beings. While at the UW (1996–2000), I studied Sanskrit, Pāli and Tibetan, and wrote a study and translation of the final prose section of the Gaṇḍavyūha for my Master of Arts in Asian Languages and Literature.

After completing my M.A. and getting married in 1999, I began my Ph.D. research at UW. Unfortunately for Buddhist Studies at UW, Ulrich Pagel decided to take a position at his alma mater, and returned to London to teach at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Subsequently, Ulrich’s position at UW was not replaced, leading to the closure of the Tibetan program, and I lost funding for my Ph.D. After weighing our options, my wife Lynn and I decided to follow Ulrich to London so that I could continue my Ph.D. at SOAS.

London is a massive, old, expensive city. I admit it has its charms; but a social worker and a grad student don’t have a lot of money and being poor in London can be a challenge. We ended up living in the more economically disadvantaged parts of East London – Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Dalston, and Stoke Newington. These places are poor, dirty and dangerous (the getting mugged in broad daylight kind of dangerous). We hung out in rough pubs and mingled with an array of unsavory types. For the most, we had a good time.

In the early 2000s, SOAS was a great place to study religion. Originally created to train spies and missionary for the British Empire, SOAS offered a unique and stimulating environment for undergraduates and graduate students. The student body was highly diverse – it was as if the Empire had imploded bringing with it young people from every corner of the earth. The hub of social activity was the SOAS bar, located in the basement of the main building. Here marijuana was openly smoked, and many a pint consumed as undergrads, graduate student and faculty mixed and engaged in lively discussion. While working on my dissertation, I had an opportunity to teach introductory Sanskrit for several years and a number of courses on Buddhism and religious studies. I also worked part-time in the Coins and Metals Department of the British Museum headed by Joe Cribb, and for the International Dunhuang Project at the British Library under Susan Whitfield. Both of these places were stimulating and friendly work environments and I fondly remember them.

While living in London, Lynn and I enjoyed a “hipster” lifestyle and went out often to dance clubs, rock shows, pubs and alternative parties. Lynn was particularly enamored with the social possibilities of living in London. Being more introverted, I quickly found the crowds, noise and hustle and bustle of the city overwhelming. Nevertheless, by following her lead, I had many interesting and exciting new experiences. However, things took a dark turn in 2002, when Lynn’s mother had a near-fatal stroke and was permanently incapacitated, and my father was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Then instead of going out to party and have a good time, we began going out to party and escape from the emotional pain from our losses. From here, things quickly degenerated to the point where I felt like my life was out of control. In the end, sadly our relationship paid the price and separated.

In the Spring of 2004, my father passed away. That same year I submitted my dissertation, “The Gaṇḍavyūha-sūtra: a study of wealth, gender and power in an Indian Buddhist narrative,” and was awarded my in Ph.D. from SOAS on Halloween of the 2004. Ulrich managed to procure me a teaching fellowship at SOAS for the 2004–5 academic year, which was both a blessing and a curse. Before I completed by Ph.D. after my father had died, I bought a one-way ticket to Seattle at the end of June. My plan was to submit my thesis and leave London for good. However, with the job offer I would need to return to London and work full-time on a .4 contract (only 40% of a full-time salary). It was a difficult choice, but since I had no other academic job prospects, accepting the employment at SOAS kept me working in the field and would look good on my C.V. The downside in taking the job, however, was that I managed to alienate some of my fellow postgrads and other faculty at SOAS, who felt I did not deserve the position, and damage my friendship with Ulrich through arguments about my teaching load and rate of pay.

My practice of Buddhism during my time in London was primarily solitary meditation or sitting with my close friends Natasha and Jonathan. I vividly recall practicing zazen under a tree in Finsbury Park during the summer heatwave of 2003. It felt like I was trapped in an oven being purged of my negative karma in one of the Buddhist hells. My contact with formal Buddhist organizations at this time was minimal. I had a short involvement in East London with what I can only call a “tantric Buddhist cult” in 2002. This was a secretive and close-knit group of perhaps 20–30 convert Vajrayāna Buddhists led by a charismatic, western self-styled guru. The group met on full-moon days for empowerments by the guru who gave students new Sanskrit names, and bestowed secret, oral and written teachings. Emphasis was placed on the special connection (samaya) with the teacher, mantra recitation, and emptiness. Wrathful Buddhist deities such as Heruka and Mahākāla were commonly invoked. After I broke samaya and left the group, I was appropriately threatened with a tantric curse if I publicly revealed the identity of the teacher or his students. I had only one other significant encounter with the living tradition while in London. In the autumn of 2003, I requested and received a formal student-teacher interview with Dharmavidya (David Brazier), a Buddhist author, teacher, and founder of Amida-shu, a U.K. based Pure Land tradition. Although brief, this meeting made a strong impression on me and led to my hosting David during his visit to New Zealand several years later.

In July of 2005, Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand, hired me to teach Asian religions in their Religious Studies Programme. New Zealand was a fresh start for me. I remember as a teenager, seeing a coffee table book of photographs from New Zealand, and deciding right then if I ever had an opportunity to go there, I would. The photos didn’t lie – it truly is a country of stunning beauty. With a population of only four million people, the two islands of New Zealand possess thousands of acres of unspoiled native bush and mountain country. For the most part of my thirteen years here, I have be able to live in rural communities and enjoy the best the North Island has to offer in country living and hiking in the Ruahine Range.

During my first year in New Zealand, I was actively involved with the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) through their centre in Palmerston North (Amitabha Centre). After a sex scandal occurred among the monastic leadership of the New Zealand NKT, I lost interest and discontinued my association with the organization. After leaving the NKT, I began attending a small weekly meditation group in Palmerston North hosted by the local chapter of the Mountain and Rivers Order (MRO) of Zen Buddhism founded by the late Daido Loori Roshi. The MRO is an American-based, contemporary Zen movement that has its headquarters at the New York Zendo in New York City, and its main monastery, Zen Mountain Monastery, in Upstate New York. Throughout the years I have attended three sesshins with MRO (including one in their main monastery), and maintain a friendly, though informal, relationship with the Sangha.

In 2008, Routledge published my first book based on my Ph.D., Power, Wealth and Women in Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Gaṇḍavyūha-sūtra. That same year I began teaching a weekly non-sectarian mindfulness meditation class at the Theosophical Hall in Palmerston North. The group's focus is on the practice of mindfulness of breathing to promote physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The meetings are walk-in and open to any person interested in meditation. I offer these classes as a community service, and the loose knit group of regulars are my spiritual friends and constitute my own ecumenical and theological community.

After completing my book and a couple of articles on the Gaṇḍavyūha, I was looking for a new research platform. For many years, I had the ambition to produce the first complete English translation of the Gaṇḍavyūha from the Sanskrit. Since the sūtra is over four hundred pages long in the Suzuki and Idzumi (1949) edition of the text, this would be a rather serious undertaking. After unsuccessfully approaching a number of publishers with the project, I decided to take my old mentor Richard Salomon’s advice and begin by translating a section of the text. Having written a study and translation of the final prose section of the Gaṇḍavyūha for my M.A. thesis, I decided to tackle the concluding sixty-two Buddhist Hybrid verses, which circulated independently throughout Asian as an important liturgical text commonly called the Bhadracarī. After publishing my translation in the New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies (12.2 December 2010), I was ready for a new book research project.

Having established myself as a Buddhist Studies scholar through my work on the Gaṇḍavyūha Sūtra, I was a bit concerned about becoming “a one-trick pony,” and wanted to expand my research field beyond this one Mahāyāna text. Thinking about my own personal experiences and the introduction of Buddhism to the west, I began to reflect on the pivotal role of psychedelics in the 1960s. This was something of an “elephant in the room” when most people discuss the introduction of Buddhism to American, and had not been adequately addressed in the scholarly literature. Also, I have read about and met numerous people who claim to have been “turned on” to Buddhism through some psychedelic experience. I have even read a number of references to the “psychedelic” or “hallucinogenic” nature of certain visionary accounts in Mahāyāna sūtras such as Avataṃsaka Sūtra and my very own Gaṇḍavyūha Sūtra. All of this led me to ponder the supposed similarity between drug-induced experiences and the visionary accounts described in these sūtras. This inquiry drove my research in two new directions: one has been to investigate the possible role of altered states of consciousness (ASCs) in the origins of the early Mahāyāna movement; the other has been to investigate the cultural and social significance of psychoactive substances such as LSD on the introduction and continued development of contemporary American Buddhism.

For some time a side-interest of mine had been research on the origins of Mahāyāna Buddhism. In 2008, I presented the paper “Research on ‘Early Mahāyāna’: Reassessing the Evidence” at the XVth Congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (IABS) in Altanta. In this paper, I highlight some fundamental flaws in the current “forest dwelling hypothesis,” and attempts at relative chronologies of early Mahāyāna sūtras. For the next IABS in 2011, I organized and convened a panel, “Approaches to Early Mahāyāna.” Daniel Boucher, Natalie Gummer, David Drews, Joseph Walser, and I presented our papers on the topic, and we were fortunate to have Paul Harrison, one of the foremost scholars in the field, as our respondent. The panel was a huge success, with an overflowing conference room. In my paperImagination, Altered States and the Origins of the Mahāyāna,” I presented for the first time my hypothesis concerning the role of altered states of consciousness in the development of Mahāyāna Buddhism. As a follow-up to this panel, Paul Harrison organized a special invitation-only conference on Early Mahāyāna in conjunction with the U.K. Association for Buddhist Studies (UKABS), held in Cardiff, in July 7–8, 2012. Here I present the paper, “Altered States and the Origins of the Mahāyāna,” which is included in Paul Harrison upcoming volume, Setting Out on the Great Way: Essays on Early Mahāyāna Buddhism (Equinox, 2018).

The main thrust of my argument in this chapter is that at least some of the visionary descriptions (sometimes called samādhis) found in Mahāyāna sutras, which recount the appearance of infinite buddhas inhabiting countless jewelled buddha-fields, were inspired by Buddhists, who entered altered states of consciousness through the practice of mind-altering technologies such as fasting, sensory and sleep deprivation, intense concentration, visualization meditation and hypnosis. After experiencing such an alteration of consciousness, charismatic Buddhist teachers could have instilled such experiences in their disciples through hypnotic suggestion and preaching. These sermons would then be recorded as new sūtras, and these visions at times would become valorized as samādhis and contribute to an emerging Mahāyāna Buddhist culture. Future practitioners reciting, copying, and memorizing these sūtras could induce trance-like states leading to the replication of such visions in their own experience. Thus, these visions formed an experiential basis for the emergence of new Mahāyāna sūtras and the new Buddhist cosmology found in these texts.

My other research trajectory led to my decision to write a book on the relationship between Buddhism and psychedelic spirituality in America. Such a project would not have been possible if it were not for the pioneering work of such scholars as Charles Prebish, Rick Fields, Stephen Batchelor, Duncan Williams, and Christopher Queen. In the 1990s, through the work of these scholars American Buddhism became established as a legitimate field of research within Buddhist Studies. Also, more popular writings such as the Tricycle Magazine’s special edition on Buddhism and psychedelics (Fall 1996), and the book Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics (2002) broke ground in this area. My goal was to build on these initial works for a more nuanced and sophisticated view of the relationship and interaction between convert Buddhism and psychedelic spirituality in America.

For my research, I began with an online survey titled “Attitudes toward Psychoactive Substances among American Buddhists” through the SurveyMonkey website. The survey was open from July 19, 2010 to July 26, 2011, and 196 people responded to it. Significantly, I received the most responses to the survey shortly after posting a link to it on the H-Buddhism list. Moreover, of the 177 who answered the question, “What is your highest level of education?” 57.6% responded that they had attended graduate school. Thus my survey may largely represent what Charles Prebish calls “A Silent Sangha in America”– academics studying Buddhism who also have a personal interest in the religion.[9] I also interviewed twenty-nine individuals in person, through the internet via Skype software, and through email exchanges from September 2010 to December 2011. While a number of individuals I interviewed are well-known figures in the American Buddhist subculture and/or the American psychedelic subculture, many were not and chose to remain anonymous. The end result of my five years of research was the publication of Altered States: Buddhism and Psychedelic Spirituality in America (Columbia University Press, 2016).

After completing Altered States, my writing once again moved in new directions. One was to pursue the emerging new market in self-publishing as a creative outlet to publish more general interest books such as fiction, translations, and practical books on philosophy, meditation, and self-help. Through self-publishing one can bypass the tedium of peer-review, the middleman of an academic press, and the stacks of citations required by academic publishing, and get the message out in an affordable format with no required initial costs, while keep the majority of the sales profits for oneself. Moreover, I found that writing and publishing non-academic works facilitated new ideas leading to academic publications. For example, my best selling work, Modern Sāṃkhya: Ancient Spirituality for the Contemporary Atheist (2016), inspired me to write the article “No-Self in Sāṃkhya: A Comparative Look at Classical Sāṃkhya and Theravāda Buddhism” (Philosophy East & West, 68, January 2018). My other self-published works include The Supreme Array Scripture, Chapter 55: The Vow to Follow the Course of Samantabhadra (2014), East Asian Philosophy: A Brief Introduction (2017), An Introduction to Mindfulness (2017), and Minding the Black Dog: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness Meditation (2017).

On the more academic side, I am currently writing up my research for my next book on the contemporary revival of Nondual Kashmir Śaivism. This was inspired by my interest in contemporary western adaptions of Asian religions while working on Altered States, a desire to go beyond disciplinary boundaries and write a book on “Hinduism” (which Buddhologists rarely do), and to finally go to India. While engaging in fieldwork in January 2017, I was extremely fortunate to spend three weeks in Varanasi studying Kashmir Śaivism with Mark Dyzckowski, one of the leading scholars in the field. I was also able to fulfil a lifelong dream and visit the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, which turns out was quite an emotional experience for me of devotion to the Buddha.

In sum, my life in Buddhist Studies has always involved both practice and study. My personal interest in Buddhism has definitely motivated my academic study, while my scholarly pursuits have simultaneously fuelled my personal interest. Unlike many baby boomers, my interest in Buddhism got me interested in psychedelics, and not the other way around. These days as a father of five children (eight-years-old and under), I don’t have much time or energy for the entheogenic explorations of my youth. Although I have never promoted their use, I believe that if taken responsibly under the right conditions, psychedelics can be beneficial medicine (spiritual or otherwise). Future plans for research include a return to the Gaṇḍavyūha in order to write a “Mahāyāna theology” based on the scripture for a contemporary audience. And I still have not given up on the goal of one day translating the entire Sanskrit Gaṇḍavyūha. I firmly believe that if Buddhist Studies wants to continue to remain relevant to a wider audience, we need to continue to produce quality translations accessible to non-specialists.









[1] Alfred E. John, Scientific Autosuggestion For Personality Adjustment and Development: Your Key to Mental and Physical Health (Westport, CT: Associated Book Sellers, 1957).

[2] Harold Bloomfield, et al., TM: Discovering Inner Energy and Overcoming Stress (New York: Dell Publishing, 1975).

[3] Marion L. Matics, trans., Entering the Path of Enlightenment: The Bodhicaryāvatāra of the Buddhist poet Śāntideva (London: George Allen & Unwin Limited, 1971).

[4] For more on Godwin, see “Godwin Homepage,” accessed on 5 April 2015, http://www.godwin-home-page.net/.

[5] “Entheogen” was the favored term used by our group. However, I have always found the expression a little pretentious, and prefer “psychedelic” in most cases. Moreover, as a Mahāyāna Buddhist, I do not view any particular substance as possessing the “divine within.” Given emptiness, all phenomena lack an essence, and therefore none can be inherently divine. “Psychedelic,” on the other hand in its literal sense of “mind-manifesting” captures the possible utility of these substances for a Buddhist. In this regard, I view certain psychoactive substances as spiritual and psychological tools or medicines that may be employed skillfully by a Buddhist on the bodhisattva’s path.

[6] It is important to note that “The Harvard Agape,” is an unofficial and etic term applied to the event, which was in no way formally affiliated or endorsed by Harvard University. Moreover, the event took place off-campus in a private rental property in Cambridge. The participants in the event simply called it “The Agape.” Others attached the Harvard name to it because the majority of people participating in the event were Harvard Divinity School students at the time.

[7] See for examples, “The Harvard Agape,” Council on Spiritual Practices, accessed on  December 29, 2014, http://csp.org/nicholas/A54.html;  Aline M. Lucas, “Entheology,” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 27.3 (1995): 293–295; Aline M. Lucas, “What is Entheology,” in Psychoactive Sacramentals: Essays on Entheogens and Religion, ed. Thomas B. Roberts (San Francisco: Council on Spiritual Practices, 2001) reprinted in Thomas B. Roberts, ed., Spiritual Growth with Entheogens: Psychoactive Sacramentals and Human Transformation (South Paris, ME: Park Street Press, 2012), pp. 169–177; Kenda Creasy Dean, Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004), pp. 94–95; and more recently, Charles Foster, Wired for God? The Biology of Spiritual Experience, Reprint edition (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2012). See also Steve Turner, Amazing Grace: The Story of America’s Most Beloved Song (New York: Harper Perennial, 2003), p. 204, wherein he refers to one of our group singing the song “Amazing Grace.”

[8] See http://ebmp.org/, accessed May 2, 2018.

[9] Charles Prebish, “The Academic Study of Buddhism in America: A Silent Sangha,” in American Buddhism, ed. Duncan Williams and Christopher Queen, 183–214.