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At the other extreme of Hindu thought from the foes to stimulants, to the worshippers
of the influences that, raising man out of himself and above mean individual worries, make
him one with the divine force of nature, it is inevitable that temperaments should be found to
whom the quickening spirit of bhang is the spirit of freedom and knowledge. In the ecstasy
of bhang the spark of the Eternal in man turns into light the murkiness of matter or illusion
and self is lost in the central soul-fire. The Hindu poet of Shiva, the Great Spirit that living
in bhang passes into the drinker, sings of bhang as the clearer of ignorance, the giver of
knowledge. No gem or jewel can touch in value bhang taken truly and reverently. He who
drinks bhang drinks Shiva. The soul in whom the spirit of bhang finds a home glides into
the ocean of Being freed from the weary round of matter-blinded self. To the meaner man,
still under the glamour of matter or māyā, bhang taken religiously is kindly thwarting the
wiles of his foes and giving the drinker wealth and promptness of mind.

In this devotion to bhang, with reverence, not with the worship, which is due to Allah
alone, the North Indian Mussalman joins hymning the praises of bhang. To the follower of
the later religion of Islam the holy spirit in bhang is not the spirit of the Almighty. It is
the spirit of the great prophet Khizr or Elijah. That bhang should be sacred to Khizr is
natural. Khizr is the patron saint of water. Still more Khizr means green, the revered
colour of the cooling water of bhang. So the Urdu poet sings 'When I quaff fresh bhang
I liken its colour to the fresh light down of thy youthful beard.' The prophet Khizr or the
Green prophet cries 'May the drink be pleasing to thee.' Nasir, the great North Indian Urdu
poet of the beginning of the present century, is loud in the praises of his beloved Sabzi, the
Green one. 'Compared with bhang spirits are naught. Leave all things thou fool, drink
bhang.' From its quickening the imagination Musalman poets honour bhang with the title
Warak al Khiyall, Fancy's Leaf. And the Makhzan or great Arab-Greek drug book records
many other fond names for the drug. Bhang is the Joy-giver, the Sky-flier, the Heavenly-
guide, the Poor Man's Heaven, the Soother of Grief.

Much of the holiness of bhang is due to its virtue of clearing the head and stimulating
the brain to thought. Among ascetics the sect known as Atits are specially devoted to hemp.
No social or religious gathering of Atits is complete without the use of the hemp plant
smoked in ganja or drunk in bhang. To its devotee bhang is no ordinary plant that became
holy from its guardian and healing qualities. According to one account, when nectar was
produced from the churning of the ocean, something was wanted to purify the nectar. The
deity supplied the want of a nectar-cleanser by creating bhang. This bhang Mahadev made
from his own body, and so it is called angaj or body-born. According to another account
some nectar dropped to the ground and from the ground the bhang plant sprang. It was
because they used this child of nectar or of Mahadev in agreement with religious forms that
the seers or Rishis became Siddha or one with the deity. He who, despite the example of the
Rishis, uses no bhang shall lose his happiness in this life and in the life to come. In the end
he shall be cast into hell. The mere sight of bhang cleanses from as much sin as a thousand
horse-sacrifices or a thousand pilgrimages. He who scandalises the user of bhang shall suffer
the torments of hell so long as the sun endures. He who drinks bhang foolishly or for
pleasure without religious rites is as guilty as the sinner of lakhs of sins. He who drinks
wisely and according to rule, be he ever so low, even though his body is smeared with human
ordure and urine, is Shiva. No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang. The
students of the scriptures at Benares are given bhang before they sit to study. At Benares,
Ujjain, and other holy places yogis, bairagis and sanyasis take deep draughts of bhang that
they may centre their thoughts on the Eternal. To bring back to reason an unhinged mind
the best and cleanest bhang leaves should be boiled in milk and turned to clarified butter.
Salamisri, saffron, and sugar should be added and the whole eaten. Besides over the demon of
Madness bhang is Vijayā or victorious over the demons of hunger and thirst. By the help of
bhang ascetics pass days without food or drink. The supporting power of bhang has brought
many a Hindu family safe through the miseries of famine. To forbid or even seriously to
restrict the use of so holy and gracious a herb as the hemp would cause widespread suffering
and annoyance and to the large bands of worshipped ascetics deep-seated anger. It would rob
the people of a solace in discomfort, of a cure in sickness, of a guardian whose gracious protec-
tion saves them from the attacks of evil influences, and whose mighty power makes the devotee
of the Victorious, overcoming the demons of hunger and thirst, of panic fear, of the glamour
of Māyā or matter, and of madness, able in rest to brood on the Eternal, till the Eternal,
possessing him body and soul, frees him from the haunting of self and receives him into the
ocean of Being. These beliefs the Musalman devotee shares to the full. Like his Hindu
brother the Musalman fakir reveres bhang as the lengthener of life, the freer from the bonds.
of self. Bhang brings union with the Divine Spirit. 'We drank bhang and the mystery I
am He grew plain. So grand a result, so tiny a sin.'

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