The Five "Rules" on the Path of Surrender, Awakening, and Responsibility

The Five
Image by Gerhard Lipold

On Shiva’s path of surrender there are guidelines and sug­gestions but very few actual rules. Because the practices are so ori­ented toward letting go—yielding to the current of the life force that wants to pass through your body, allowing the body to move spon­taneously in response to the awakened current—it’s not possible to map out specific protocols and instructions for you to follow.

No one can give you a specific technique for how to surrender. You have to find out for yourself what surrender is, and the way you respond to the felt current of the life force as it makes its way through the conduit of your body will be unique to you. Your dance won’t look like anybody else’s, and no one can dance your dance but you. You invoke Shiva. The body starts awakening. And you let go and allow whatever happens.

The Highest Standards of Ethical Behavior

Even though no one can instruct you how to be or to behave, a foundation fixed in the highest standards of ethical behavior is just as important for Shiva yogis as for their Buddhist sisters and brothers. The fifth precept against intoxicants is the only guideline for ethi­cal behavior that the followers of Buddha and Shiva would disagree on. 

Taking cannabis for a follower of Shiva isn’t in any way an unethical action. In fact, quite the opposite is true. If cannabis sup­ports the Shiva yogi in practices of awakening and surrendering, then not to take it would amount to an ethical violation of one’s highest purpose.

One way to square this dilemma between the ethical precepts of Buddha and of Shiva is to reframe them slightly and to reorient their directives into a language that reflects the need for you to take respon­sibility for yourself and for all your actions, for you to determine what is right or wrong for you.

Don't Do This, Don't Do That

The Buddhist Five Precepts (and more than half of the Ten Commandments) are couched mostly in negative language: don’t do this, don’t do that. What might the Five Precepts sound like if they were expressed in positive terms, things to do rather than things not to do?

Here are two versions of the Five Buddhist Precepts that will serve followers of both Buddha and Shiva. The first version is the one we shared earlier in this book. The second, I believe, says much the same thing but treats us not as children who need to be told what not to do, but as adults who are committed to taking responsibility for ourselves and our evolution:

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Don’t harm living things.

Don’t take what isn’t given.

Don’t engage in sexual misconduct.

Don’t lie.

Don’t take intoxicants.


Honor life.

Be generous in all ways with others.

Be clean in your sexuality.

Mean what you say, say what you mean, speak with truth.

Put into your body only what feeds and nourishes your body and soul.


The current of the life force is the lightning rod of enlightened con­sciousness. It brings our evolutionary potential right into the body and grounds it there. The life force is precious, so keep exploring and discovering ways to release and heal blockages to its current— which can be felt in your body as a palpable flow of sensations and energies—so it can move more freely through you. Understand how we are all part of a web of life force as vast as the universe, inextri­cably linked and connected, so honor this precious force in everyone and everything.


An old Indian saying tells us that everything that’s not given is lost. Keep giving of yourself, in all ways and at all times. Let the life force flow as freely as possible through the conduit of your body so it can radiate outward and touch others.

Listen for what others need and, when possible, give them what they need. Never be miserly with your radiance, nor dim it down. As in the Tibetan practice of tonglen, a potent breathing practice that literally means “giving and taking,” be so open that you can breathe in the suffering of others and breathe back out to them the balm of relief.


Our sexual energies are often the first overwhelmingly potent and magnetic forces we encounter in life that scream out to us to accom­modate them. Know that they’re okay. No one can tell you how to be in your sexuality. You have to figure it out for yourself. You may be attracted to men. You may be attracted to women. You may be attracted to men and women. You may be monogamous and bond with a single partner for life. You may be polyamorous and be attracted to multiple partners. You may be naturally celibate and prefer to be with your own company and energy. The attractions may change.

However your attractions manifest, be respectful in your sexual expression and exploration by treating and honoring your partner, as well as yourself, as a goddess or god. Imposing celibacy on a young person is an unethi­cal action. It can dam up the natural energies that need to flow freely through the body, and it deprives the young acolyte of the challenge— so necessary for his or her spiritual growth—to face these energies, feel them, respond to them, and learn how to be at peace with them on the journey through life.


Be as honest as you can possibly be in your use and choice of words. Let your word be law in the universe. The universe always hears the words from your mouth as truth, so be precise with your language and careful about what you say.

Be as truthful to yourself as you are to oth­ers. It’s okay to say no. If lying to evil honors life, let that lie be your truth. Truth is its own balm.


Your body is your visible house of worship. Your soul is the perme­ating force that invisibly fills every cubic inch of that house. Listen to your inner voice and felt sense to tell you what you need to nour­ish your body and grow your soul, and put that into your mouth. Only you can make the decision as to what is healthy for your body and grows your soul. Remember to chew and swallow well.

Differentiate between what grows your soul and what dulls your mind. Be honest with yourself about this. If something—anything— starts becoming a problem, let it go. If anything is felt to support you in your growth and opening, welcome it into your life. There’s noth­ing wrong with putting any substance into your mouth so long as it’s not harming you or anyone else.


And I would hasten to add a sixth precept to this list: Forgive your­self for those moments when you fall off the wagon. Just hop back on again as soon as possible. Remember, you’re the one taking responsibil­ity for embracing these embodied precepts, so know that the precepts are not the long arm of an authoritative law telling you how to behave or else. Know that they’re behavioral guides to help you keep moving forward on your journey through life, always and ever in the direction of greater freedom.

Cannabis and the Law

Besides the ethical concerns of the Buddhists, there are also very real legal concerns surrounding the use of cannabis. While there are many hopeful signs of evolution in the laws surrounding cannabis, most jurisdictions still view my interpretation of this precept with disdain. Our society has evolved humanistically in so many ways, but still reacts negatively to many personal behaviors even though they do not in any way violate the Golden Rule.

Regardless of the law, the precepts of embodied responsibility challenge us to make our own decisions when it comes to ingesting cannabis, or any other entheogenic plants that have been used for millennia to help heal the soul. The first four of the traditional Five Precepts of Buddhism and the precepts of embodied responsibility are in complete agree­ment. It is only the implications of the fifth precept that strikingly differ.

Even so, this fifth precept of embodied responsibility in no way promotes a profligate indulgence in alcohol or drugs. Take what grows your soul. Avoid what makes you dull. This final embodied precept essentially tells us that any behavior is okay so long as it doesn’t harm anyone, including ourselves.

Copyright 2018 by Will Johnson. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission. Publisher: Inner Traditions Intl.

Article Source

Cannabis in Spiritual Practice: The Ecstasy of Shiva, the Calm of Buddha
by Will Johnson

Cannabis in Spiritual Practice: The Ecstasy of Shiva, the Calm of Buddha by Will JohnsonWith the end of marijuana prohibition on the horizon, people are now openly seeking a spiritual path that embraces the benefits of cannabis. Drawing upon his decades of experience as a teacher of Buddhism, breathing, yoga, and embodied spirituality, Will Johnson examines Eastern spiritual perspectives on marijuana and offers specific guidelines and exercises for integrating cannabis into spiritual practice.

Click here for more info and/or to order this paperback book and/or download the Kindle edition.

About the Author

Will JohnsonWill Johnson is the director of the Institute for Embodiment Training, a teaching school in Costa Rica that views the body as the doorway, not the obstacle, to real spiritual growth and transformation. The author of several books, including Breathing through the Whole Body, The Spiritual Practices of Rumi, and Eyes Wide Open, he teaches a deeply body-oriented approach to sitting meditation at Buddhist centers around the world. Visit his website at

Video with Will Johnson: Relaxing in the Body of Meditation

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