Is The Temple Offering Ayahuasca Tourism?
The Temple is a traditional medicine healing center. We are not a ‘tripping’ or tourist center for experimenting with what some would pigeonhole a hallucinogenic drug – we are working with a sacred medicine and traditional healers offering genuine, deep healing.
We welcome guests from all walks of life. Far from being “tourists”, our guests are people who are seeking to address unresolved issues that often significantly affect their well-being through a healing system that is not available in their home countries yet is a gift from the natural kingdom. The word ‘tourism’ stigmatizes both the healing work we carry out and our guests, who certainly do not come to the Temple for recreation or a holiday. The cost to attend an ayahuasca retreat at the Temple that often changes one’s life is significantly less expensive than spending up to tens of thousands of dollars on healthcare in the West.
True healers of the Amazon are a walking encyclopedia of knowledge of the plants and techniques for healing all manner of illnesses.
One of our objectives is to ensure that this system and knowledge is not lost. We work with healers – young and old – whose practices are sometimes being ignored by local villagers and who, before working at the Temple, had no option but to farm traditional crops or rely on family handouts to survive. Indigenous healers across the planet are record-keepers of an ancient system of working with medicinal plants that cannot be patented.
Unfortunately, this knowledge is rapidly being lost due to missionary activities, pharmaceutical drugs replacing traditional plant medicines, industrial development practices and the Western socio-economic model that has spread throughout the Amazon. Many indigenous people now live as hostages to an economic growth model that disrespects and abuses their rights as well as brings severe social and environmental contamination.
Ironically and sadly, many Peruvians, whether mestizo or indigenous, are turning their backs on their ancestral cultures, their old ways of life, traditional medicine and even their indigenous identity. The growth of ayahuasca centers in the Amazon is taking place in this context. It is meeting a demand from people around the globe who are seeking to find answers to health issues and spiritual questions that are not met in their ‘developed’ home countries.
Increasing numbers of people are coming to the Amazon in search of traditional medicine. In many ways, this demand is restoring its practice.
The Temple only works with honest, well-intentioned, experienced and kind healers, ensuring that guests are not susceptible to unscrupulous ‘shamans’ operating with hidden agendas and unethical practices. We take the risk away from the pot-luck search of finding a shaman in Iquitos. Unfortunately in the Peruvian Amazon (and outside of the Amazon), there are both good and ‘less than honest’ shamans. Money again is a key reason for this corruption (as well as overt interest in sexual relations and power). The Temple has developed its reputation through working with meticulous levels of integrity since our inception in January 2007 and by working only with genuine and caring healers in a safe, protected and compassionate environment.
The Temple envisions its healing work within a broader framework of social and environmental responsibility. As such, we are also the primary funding mechanism for the Peruvian non-profit organization:
The Chaikuni Institute of Permaculture
The Chaikuni Institute of Permaculture was established by the Temple in 2012 as a non-profit organization and educational hub working for a truly sustainable future for the Peruvian Amazon. Through the union of ancient indigenous traditions with contemporary permaculture design, we teach and apply regenerative community-based development practices in Amazonian communities.
The Temple seeks to challenge models of development in the Peruvian Amazon that value life only for its contribution to economic growth and not social and environmental well-being. These models have historically excluded the traditions of local communities as well as ignored the environmental sustainability of development. We promote community development that supports and is in alignment with the protection and regeneration of natural ecosystems and the preservation and restoration of indigenous cultural traditions.
We are working towards a new direction for development that supports place-based economies comprising small, locally owned enterprises that function within a community-supported ethical culture to engage people in producing for the needs of the community and its members. We believe in a decentralized, democratic vision of social transformation where grassroots initiatives can begin to plan for low-carbon ‘energy descent’ on a community level.
A New ‘Spirit-Assisted’ Healthcare Model
Due to the work of our NGOs, the Temple has established close relationships with many indigenous leaders across the Peruvian Amazon, from community chiefs (apus), leaders of local and regional indigenous federations to the President of AIDESEP – the national indigenous federation of the Peruvian Amazon. We have also welcomed congress-people from the Peruvian parliament who have attended ceremony with us at the Temple.
We are also now actively facilitating academic research into the efficacy of ayahuasca treatment with ICEERS (International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service) and exploring further research study opportunities with MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies) and CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies).
We are committed to developing credibility both in Peru and the West about traditional Amazonian plant-based medicine and healing practices. The growth of interest in Amazonian traditional medicine can be a positive development provided it is managed with integrity. We are dedicated to raising awareness and valuing traditional medicine as a valid and highly beneficial healthcare practice, ensuring that it is not exploited or used for manipulative purposes. The Temple aims to implement a model that benefits the greater good of the community at large, throughout the Amazon.
The Temple and our associated projects are working hard to develop a new vision for healthcare that offers an alternative to the capitalist model. We therefore do not see the Temple as a tourist operation but a socially responsible, purpose-driven healthcare organization that is committed to affecting positive social change, preserving traditions and protecting the environment.
Code of Operation for Ayahuasca Centers
We also propose that a code of operation is developed for ayahuasca centers, in conjunction with AIDESEP and the Peruvian Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Health. We believe regulation is necessary to encode ethical and safe practices that adopt a model of total social responsibility and allot a portion of revenue to community-based projects working on sustainability. We are also advocating for a set of strict safety protocols to be adhered to at all centers offering ayahuasca to foreign guests.