I nearly didn’t write this guide. The only thing more addictive than jhana is drugs and jhana. (Actually, it’s sex, drugs and jhana — but that’s a topic for a different post.) On the other hand, this technology does exist and I might be helping to bring concentration meditation into the 21st century.
Here is a list of drugs which either aid concentration meditation or simulate aspects of those states. I will clearly label which drug does what. Please note that I reached Nirodha Samapatti without drugs, so I feel I’ve paid my dues.
The usual disclaimer applies: I have no qualifications, I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m making this up as I go along, and many of these substances are illegal. Don’t do any of this.
In my opinion as an inveterate drug user, concentration meditation adept, and neuroscience hobbyist, jhanaic states arise primarily via the following neurotransmitters:
- Dopamine: Focus, fascination, one-mindedness, rapture.
- Opioids, a.k.a. endorphins: Well-being, pleasure, absorption, euphoria, relaxation, equanimity.
- GABA: Relaxation, absorption, equanimity, pleasure, one-mindedness.
It therefore makes sense that drugs which enhance the actions of those neurotransmitters will facilitate or simulate concentration meditation states. I have found this to be the case.
Concentration meditation seems to be a strong activation and conditioning of the left brain. It trains the left brain to be even more laser-like — an even higher-focused lens through which elements of reality passed from the right brain can be viewed. Jhana’s focus, fascination, pleasure, addictiveness and cheerfulness correlate with the left brain’s mode.
For a quicker reference, here are the Wikipedia entries:
Jhana role: Activator, simulator
Neurotransmitters: GABA-B, dopamine
Legality: Mostly legal; check local laws
I’m starting with the best. Phenibut is the hands-down greatest jhana drug of all time. It is such a cheat code that one would be forgiven for simply using it all the time.
You can consider the phenibut state to be immediate and persistent “access concentration”. First jhana is attainable remarkably quickly by turning your attention to any object. Absorption and fascination is gained almost immediately. Staying with the object allows a rapid progression through the first four jhanas.
The better you get at concentration meditation without phenibut, the faster and easier it becomes while on the drug. Formless realms are easily accessed via persistence. While on phenibut I find it extremely easy to “skip” to fifth jhana (infinite space): simply imagine there is a “gap” between yourself and your object, and make that gap the object. The gap then expands infinitely and gives an immediate feeling of spaciousness in the breath.
A good approach is to to notice the elements of the various states (the “jhana factors”) and how your mind progresses through each (how it “latches on” to the next jhana), then simply recreate that progression without the drug. Make some written notes after each session if it helps.
Jhana role: Activator, simulator
Neurotransmitters: GABA, dopamine, minor opioid, many others
Legality: Mostly legal
Perhaps a surprising entry, one alcoholic drink (e.g. a beer) is surprisingly good for activating access concentration and facilitating entry to first jhana. You may have noticed, if you have ever played pub games such as pool or darts, that you become noticeably better, more focused and relaxed after just one drink. Any more than one drink and these factors give way to sedation and make focus more difficult. I have found a single shot of whisky before practice to be a usable aid for concentration meditation.
Jhana role: Simulator
Neurotransmitters: Opioids, serotonin, norephinephrine, many others
Legality: Prescription drug; shifting legality and circumstance; best considered mostly illegal; check local laws
Tramadol effectively emulates the equanimity and pleasure of first jhana. It has no teaching value because it does not show a progression through to first jhana pleasure, but rather just lands you there. Highly addictive and largely pointless beyond basic hedonism and sedation.
Jhana role: Activator
Neurotransmitters: Poorly understood, but in my experience modulates dopamine as at least part of its action
Legality: Prescription drug; probably mostly legal; check local laws
A cheat code for focus. Turns the left brain up high. Gives rise to OCD-like tendencies while not meditating (if prone). I find modafinil too intense and “buzzy” to be enjoyable, so while it facilitates access concentration and some absorption it blocks the soft pleasure, equanimity and relaxation elements of first jhana, for me. Your mileage may vary.
Combine modafinil with phenibut to become basically a walking jhana. This was one combination that, a couple of years ago, tricked me (for the umpteenth time) into believing I “had it all figured out”. I even began writing a post about it entitled “My Unicorn”. However, like most state shifts brought about by drugs, the effects were lost a few weeks later and I sat looking at that post in disbelief as I found myself back in the “old, bad reality”. I am happy to say that that kind of cycling is now largely a thing of the past, and that was achieved via non-drug “enlightenment” experiences.
For example cocaine, amphetamine family, phenidate family, mucuna pruriens.
Jhana role: Activator
Neurotransmitters: Dopamine (also serotonin and norepinephrine for some of the stims, and a cocktail of neurotransmitters for mucuna pruriens)
Legality: Mostly illegal, with the exception of mucuna pruriens
Dopamine drugs are a cheat code for focus, fascination and rapture. My advice, if you do use stims, is to microdose them. Unfortunately stims tend to create intense feelings which can become anxiety. In some respects this can actually work as a trainer since you will have to learn to calm those feelings in order to enter equanimity and relaxation. In other respects, junking on dopamine drugs is retarded and is a recipe for addiction.
Mucuna pruriens however is quite “smooth”, is completely natural, and is almost universally legal. I recommend buying the whole ground plant rather than lab-made extract/pills (plant extracts are generally completely retarded and are another symptom of the West’s left-brained obsession with “parts” rather than “the whole”). I get mine from India for like five bucks for a whole kilogram. I found that on eBay. Tolerance to mucuna builds quickly and you will probably have noticeably diminished response even after just one day’s use. It can take several days to recover tolerance. Uniquely, mucuna delivers the “pleasure” jhana factor and some equanimity — whereas the stims are, in my experience, a bit too “rushy” on their own to deliver those factors.
For example ketamine, methoxphenidine.
Jhana role: Activator, simulator
Neurotransmitters: NMDA antagonist
Legality: Mostly illegal
Dissociatives numb the body and remove its inputs from the mind-body-perception loop. This is exactly what happens at the high-level jhanas (5-8, the formless realms). Dissociatives throw you straight into the formless realms. The problem is, if you cannot reach those levels without the drug then you likely won’t be able to control the state with the drug, and the whole thing will just descend immediately into some long, uncontrollable trip. Bad trips can definitely happen on dissociatives, though they are less likely than on psychedelics, in my experience. Because I knew what I was trying to achieve, and knew vaguely the stages I would be going through on the trip, I was able to maintain a level of control for at least parts of the experience. However, much of the trip was still chaotic and disturbing. For this reason I cannot ethically advise anyone to try dissociatives, and the legal issues are also problematic.
I learned an absolute shit-ton about the body, the mind, and how experience arises via interaction between the two (which are actually non-separate) via dissociatives. As reported in MCTB, and confirmed through my own experience, the formless realms imprint a blissful, equanimous mood on the practitioner which can last for several days afterwards. We also see this in ketamine treatment on depressed patients and injured patients whereby there can be spontaneous remission of bad mood and pain, respectively. I believe the mechanism of action in both high-level jhana and ketamine treatment is the same: roughly speaking, the individual’s “personality” or “experience programs” are “stored” in the body’s fascia. A bad mood, negative outlook etc. is a systems-wide phenomenon which plays out via the fascia, which is the connective tissue which permeates the entire body. This is how bad mood is reflected immediately in posture, for example. Ketamine “wipes” these programs by literally stopping the neuronal firing patterns throughout the body which maintain them. It can be seen as a kind of “reboot”, to continue our computer analogy. Here is a good little video to watch later if you want to learn more about fascia: Thomas Myers – Fascia 101
I had my first fruition while on a combination of methoxphenidine and LSA (which were both legal at the time). The ascent to fruition consisted of literally seeing reality as vibrations, “investigating” those sensations via the “shooting the space invaders” method from MCTB (which actually turned out was simultaneously numbing or “cancelling out” sensations from all over my body, via REM, at a rate of possibly hundreds per second). Then I saw the “face of God” formation and reality turning into a doughnut before finally blinking out entirely for a moment (which is known as a “fruition”). This, if memory serves, is the “exit via the Door of Self” listed in MCTB. It took me another few months however to be able to recreate this process without drugs, at which point I could finally claim to have attained First Path.
These experiences — especially learning to “wipe” the mind-body’s personality programs and emotional responses via jhana — led directly to extremely powerful “reimprinting” tech being revealed to me, which I have not published yet, partly because I have still been getting to grips with it, but mainly because it revealed how much was still left to do on my muscles and posture (which is thankfully now finally coming to an end). This whole process culminated in potentially the greatest “fix-all” muscles and posture tech ever devised: a genuine solution, never-before-seen, which is nevertheless difficult and arduous to complete, and at times psychologically disturbing. I will talk more about this soon on the blog.
One of the factors that led to these techs becoming available to me was that these experiences — both on the drug and, later, without the drug — strongly developed my synaesthesia. I already had stronger than normal synaesthesia via my previous meditation work, and apparently due to a natural inclination towards synaesthesia. Now however my synaesthesia is really strong. For example, I literally see distortions in fascia as winding snakes or cables, so I know exactly where to work in my body at any moment. I see emotional events as visual objects and can choose to either engage them, integrate them or let them pass by, and can indeed induce emotional states of my choosing by creating such objects. I am not sure how much of that can be taught but it’s something I intend to explore and develop further. I am not claiming to have complete control over my emotional systems (far from it) — and I’m not sure that’s possible or even desirable. However, the level of control and the capacity for self-repair that is achievable has amazed and delighted me.
Jhana role: Activator, simulator
Neurotransmitters: Various; poorly understood
Legality: Check local laws
LSA is a precursor to LSD and is found naturally in a few plants. It is a psychedelic tryptamine drug. The brand I used was called Druid’s Fantasy and it came in capsules (6 per pack).
Through faffing about with various drugs at different doses I discovered that there is no such thing as a low dose of a psychedelic. Even one capsule of LSA would significantly alter my thought processes, perception and mood. Sometimes LSA was well tolerated — for example, at times, even taking all 6 capsules on a night out would give way to a pleasant and fairly controllable trip. Other times, just taking one capsule would ruin my night. Dosing was therefore impossible to predict or optimize. However, minimizing doses does definitely seem to limit the amount of trouble one can potentially cause oneself. I should also warn you that LSA causes nausea and sometimes takes hours to work — and sometimes just half an hour! It is truly an unpredictable drug, in my experience.
LSA was also a strange one for me in that the “style” of trip changed dramatically depending on circumstances (“set” and “setting”). I generally do not like psychedelics because I find them too chaotic and at times disturbing. Weed for example is particularly useless to me; even one drag will destroy my ability to think in any useful way whatsoever, and fear dominates the emotional backdrop. I have no particular intention or desire to ever try psychedelics again.
Psychedelics pull back the curtain a little and let you have a peek at non-duality. However, under certain circumstances (which I have still not been able to quite pin down), LSA functions as simply the most powerful concentration meditation drug in the world. Let’s say I was just using the dark stuff behind my eyelids as my “object”: on LSA I was able to just look at that like it was a literal “thing” in front of me, just like I’m looking at this screen now. It’s very hard to describe what that was like, and I know it doesn’t sound very exciting, but it really is. I could have it be completely pure, or completely solid, or made out of electricity, or whatever I wanted. I could look at each sensation within it. I then realized I could turn it into mind-made objects which appeared with total artificial purity, clarity and solidity, since they were entirely mind-made and did not have to come in through the senses. I could also have visions of whatever I wanted, like watching the purest images conceivable on the highest-definition television. This was all done with zero need to suppress verbal thoughts, or any of the other faffing that usually goes into forming a stable concentration state — the state was just “there”.
I can create mind-made objects using jhana without drugs, but it typically takes me a while to get into that mode, and if I’m honest I can’t really be bothered to do it any more. When I do make mind-made objects in non-drug jhana, I find that there comes an unpredictable tipping point when that object will suddenly “pop out” and take form. This can be pretty disconcerting at times, since there is suddenly “something” where a moment ago there was nothing. Images of people are particularly scary as they are completely static, which the lower brains interpret as something like a corpse. I can see now how concepts of “demons” could arise from such practices, and why concentration meditation at high levels can send some people a little bit crazy (and MCTB talks a bit about “grounding” exercises in the event of such situations, such as stopping all concentration meditation work for some time, and doing very body-orientated things like eating heavy foods). On LSA however visions tended to have movement and “life” and were not disconcerting at all.
LSA, when used in quiet sitting practice on your own, tends to give an extremely good mood. In fact, I found this mood to be identical to Equanimity from the Theravadan map of the Stages of Insight, which I discovered those few months later when I had reached that stage without drugs. LSA is literally a hack to jump straight to that level. Combined with the hack for the formless realms provided by methoxphenidine, it is little wonder I was able to hack a fruition way before I had reached that level in my non-drug practice. However, this combination is extremely hardcore and you would have to be a complete idiot to try it. I would not even recommend dissociatives or LSA individually, let alone together. It is literal madness.
In a future post I intend to make a table for both the Stages of Insight and the jhanas showing which drugs correlate with each stage or state. It might be possible to create a programme of teachings, meditation exercises and drug use, set out in stages, in order to bring the time taken to achieve enlightenment down to a year, a month, or even less.