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Is Santo Daime a Religion?

The question or assumption that Santo Daime is a religion is often present in the minds of those who encounter this unique Ayahuasca Tradition. The question presents an interesting study. First whenever we attempt to address matters of spirit with language we run the risk of misinterpretation because language occurs within the domain of the lower mind and spirit occurs outside the domain of the lower mind. So we cannot actually converse about spirit in any accurate way, without first addressing the inability of the very language we are using to properly address matters of spirit.
So let’s come to an agreement about what this word, “religion” means. Given that spiritual urge is present in most people and that this urge is “satisfied” or perhaps “hijacked” by what are commonly referred to as organized religions, the word itself has become a mine-field. No one can really point to what makes a religion so let’s decide on that. For the purpose of this conversation let’s say that “religion” involves a set of beliefs about the world of spirit. For the sake of distinction let’s say that “spiritual practice” is not a set of beliefs but a set of practices that forms no conclusions; it merely paves the way for direct experience and personal observations.
By this definition Santo Daime is a spiritual practice, not a religion.
The Santo Daime is a spiritual practice of Collective or Community Shamanism. It is a participatory practice, using the medicine of Ayahuasca and the human voice to connect with the divine. We sing in Portuguese. We sing together, in unison. We collectively invoke divine presence using our voice and the medicine of Ayahuasca.
The content of the songs we sing is a cross-section of cosmologies. African spiritualist, South American shamanist and Christian. These are not belief systems
they’re what we sing about. They are a vehicle for personal transcendence using the human voice to connect with the divine. There is no belief system, simply a practice and a specifically designed “container” for the ceremony. Santo Daime is a spiritual practice, not a religion.
Viva Santo Daime!