Is Santo Daime a religion?

Yes and no.

Mestre Irineu, the founder of Santo Daime specified that the works are part of a “doctrine” (from Latin: doctrina, meaning “teaching, instruction”) .

Someone who practices Santo Daime in his view of what he was initating was that they would be a Daimista in their embodiment, but Catholic (or Christian) in their faith. Mestre Irineu would not conduct weddings, and absolutely would never call the community or physical building a “church”. Mestre Irineu specified that Daime works are held in “centers”, not “churches”. Mestre Irineu never founded any church.

There is an important distinction between a religion and a doctrine in this case because religions are generally dogmatic and have something equivalent to a chatechism. There is no document ever created that says what Daimista’s “should believe”, however the Catholic church absolutely does do this and they tell you what you are supposed to believe and not supposed to believe. That is what makes Catholicism a religion, it is telling you what to believe about God.

In the line of Padrinho Sebastião, Daime centers are called churches. Daime is considered a religion. They specifically publish this on their website. I cannot comment about the nature of what is or is not a religion in the modern western understanding, but I can point this out in the perception in the differences in the initiators of the respective Daime traditions.

One other point to explore as to why Mestre’s Santo Daime is not a religion but Padrinho Sebastião’s is, is to see that the surrounding context of their respective communities. Mestre’s community in Alto Santo was part of the city of Rio Branco and the members of his center were people who were using the amnenities and community of city life in Rio Branco. It was possible for them to have a priest wed them, they could go to the city hall and get government documents. Santo Daime was a new tradition that they embodied, however it did not govern their day to day actions.

On the other hand with Padrinho Sebastião’s community – starting at first in Colonia Cinco Mil and later to the fullest extent of founding his own little settlement deep in the Amazonian jungle – is that his line was a comprehensive lifestyle for its practioners. The community aimed for total off-grid self sustinance (although today it may no longer be due to the luxuries of modern society and cellphones and digital money transfers) and Padrinho Sebastião took the ultimate role of religious leader in spiritual and social communal life of all people. There was absolutely no option for its members to even think about attending another church or being able to receive the offerings that a church provides such as baptisms and weddings – so the line of Daime that was manifested was able to provide all of that in a single ever-expanding framework.

One question for concern comes up as Daime has left Acre, firstly in other parts of Brazil and later the entire world, is that everyone who is working in the line of Padrinho Sebastião in these places (probably 95% or more of Daimistas) now sees Daime to be their religion. “Religious exemption” is being battled for in court so that Daimistas can protect their rights to practice the doctrine. But the debate comes up – is Buddhism a religion or not too?

Additionally, the question then arises, does the Daime as they experience it provide them everything that a church can and should? If you are practicing Daime in a “church” that has not yet applied and got legal exemption and you are a group of 4 people doing the works together, when the time comes for you to get married who is going to wed you?

The question as to whether or no Daime is a religion has two main concerns:

  1. In the practitioner’s eyes in how they perceive the doctrine which they practice. What are they looking to get out of Santo Daime and are their needs fulfilled?
  2. The general public’s perception of Santo Daime.

One big misconception about Santo Daime is that it gets seen as a “legal excuse to use ayahuasca” which absolutely could not be further from the truth. Even when the media reports on it, they talk about how people are tripping out and vomiting. There is never a mention about the clean white uniforms, the endless hours of effort to learn to sign and dance in perfect co-ordination with tons of other people at the same time. There is never talk about Mestre’s mission to create the world’s first entheogenic framework (that can be practiced by anyone) to be oriented towards “right action”  of perfect divine co-ordination that will help the entire world so that we can see our own flaws and defects in order to become the absolute best citizen of our community and country.

Occassionally, you will see posts pop up on internet forums (such as the Ayahuasca.com messageboards or reddit.com/r/ayahuasca) that people talk about how they want to start their own churches so that they can drink ayahuasca legally, and then these people will cite the Daime or UDV as some justification as to how they are going to “make up” a religion so they can drink ayahuasca legally. Sorry guys, but real religions are not made up – they are revealed!

God revealed the 10 commandments to Moses on the mountain and assigned him to bring the “law” to the Israelites. The Angel Gabriel revealed himself to Mohammed and assigned him to bring “Islam” to the world. The Virgin Mary (the eternal divine mother spirit who was immaculately conceived and incarnated into a body on Earth to later become the Mother of Jesus Christ – as explicitly defined by Catholicism) revealed herself to Mestre Irineu and assigned him to be the one to bring the “doctrine of Santo Daime” to any who feel called to participate in it.

This is analagous to the idea that Christianity has where the bible was written by God and not by man. The hymns of the Daime come through the practitioners in such an undisputable example of actual channeling, but there are many hesitations to talking about this part of the practice because there are fears that Daime could be dismissed as some ‘woo’ type of thing citing things to happen that have not yet been able to be “scientifically proven” in “studies”.

There are some other “churches” that have been created, particularly in the USA, since the 1960s that are nothing more than an attempt to get a legal excuse to take recreational drugs. Santo Daime could not be further away than these false religions. Many Daimistas have worked so hard to show that the Daime is so fundamentally different than “drugs”.

Daime is not a “drug”. The experience of taking Daime is absolutely so fundamentally different than any drug. Pharmaceutical are predictable and generally have the exact same effects every single time. You take a pharma pill or some white powder drug and you can map out exactly what the next 15min, 2hr, 4hr, 6hr will be and feel like. The effects of Daime are different every single time and it is like an intelligence entering your body and trying to wash out all the junk and garbage and bad thoughts that you have built up in your mind. Daime forces you to work hard to serve it, gives you homework and you better do your homework or else it will not open up and show you any bliss. However if you give your best effort and are a virtuous person with good actions, the Daime can show you undless unbelievable beauties which you could never have before imagined.

Padrinho Alex Polari authored a book called “The Religion of Ayahuasca” that details his experience and the history of the development of the line of Padrinho Sebastião, with whom he worked with extensively. Padrinho Alex Polari is essentially the dedicated spokesperson of the Mapiá line, and he does a very good job of it. While his work does not give any type of “academic” or “analytical” approach, that is not what Daime needs the world to see right now.

The world needs to see that Santo Daime is something serious. Those who practice Santo Daime study endlessly to learn hundreds of hymns, learn to play musical instruments, organize events on at least a bi-weekly basis. For many, being a Daimista is like a second job. It requires a lot of effort and you are rewarded for it. We are not immoral pleasure seekers looking to get high. The Daime will absolutely punish you if you have that bad attitude (which drugs like LSD or others absolutely let you get away with) and you will be driven away by the drink itself.

Daime, the drink, encourages you and loves you and shows you to always give your 100% best effort with good intentions at all times. That is so beautiful. That is what the world needs to know about the Daime.

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