PANCHATATTAVA, also called the +quot;Ritual of the Five Great Elements,+quot; or the +quot
PANCHATATTAVA, also called the "Ritual of the Five Great
Elements," or the "5-M Rite."
The Panchatattva is the highest form of Tantric ritual. It has
been acknowledged to some degree by the west, mainly in the "5-M
Rite" form (five stages make up the ritual, each of the stages
having a Sanskrt name beginning with the letter MM).
It is in Panchatattva, especially, that the three vital forms of
action must be kept in mind: literal, allegorical, and spiritual.
Ritual sexual intercourse was practiced in ancient Indian, as in
many cultures of both east and west, mainly as a fertility rite.
The Tantric texts were the first to really, fully elevate
ritualized sexual union to the highest spiritual realm; its proper
It's also worth nothing that in the Panchatattva, (hereinafter
referred to as Ritual of the Five), the second and third forms
(allegorical and spiritual) could be practiced alone, without the
literal (i.e., intercourse), but as the beauty and depth of Tantra
is its use of the body as vehicle toward liberation, and the
destruction of the body/mind/spirit compartmentalization, my
personal opinion is that the three taken together are most
In ancient times, and ideally, according to many modern Tantric
teachers, still today, when the Ritual was to be undertaken, the
Initiator/Initiatress of Official Recognized Status was to remain
present; whether as part of the Rite (direct Sexual Initiation),
or as Sexual Guru; to serve as a focusing point and assist the
couple to remember the spiritual nature of the physical act, thus
by Will and Intent elevating the mundane to the level of
At any rate, the role of Tantric teacher is to explain the
symbolism behind each of the five elements to the student before
the student partakes of the ritual, and to ensure that full
understanding has been achieved. The Ritual has been called "The
First, I'll give the literal meaning of the "five M's," their
Sanskrt names and English translations, then delve into the
symbolism more deeply. A most basic chart could be written thus:
INGREDIENT ENG. TRANSLATION ELEMENT
Mudra Grain Earth
Matsya Fish Water
Madya Wine Fire
Mamsa Animal flesh Air
Maithuna Sexual union Ether
The texts teach, in their simplest form, that the five elements
and the ingredients which represent them make up the phenomenal
universe. Grain, fish, and animal flesh evoke the living things
which grow from the earth, swim in the sea, and walk on the land.
Wine is given the representation of 'fire' rather than water, as
it stimulates the 'inner fire' and arouses the passions and
elevates the senses. The assignment of animal flesh to the air
element has been interpreted as obvious: that without air, all
animal life would cease to exist. Maithuna, or sexual union, when
undertaken for the purpose of enlightenment, leads one to Ether,
or Space, or Beyond the phenomenal world.
(The multiple meanings of the word "Mudra" should be mentioned
here as well: it can signify grain and the earth element; a mystic
hand gesture; or the woman herself during the ritual act of
The symbolic or allegorical meaning of the 5-M's is more complex;
and the "ingredients" are elevated to the "Five Great Sacraments;"
and the meanings to specific yogic activities to be mastered. A
simple chart might look like this:
SACRAMENT ELEMENT MASTERY OF:
Mudra Earth Detachment from worldly
concerns, things of 'this
Matsya Water Control of breath-Pranayama
Madya Fire Purification of mind and
Mamsa Air Control of sound-matrix;
Maithuna Ether Control of sexual energy;
proper direction of physical
lust to spiritual lust.
Again, at first glance, some of the masteries may seem a little
off, but upon closer examination, found to make perfect sense,
i.e., one might be tempted to place Pranayama with the element of
Air; but Water and Matsya (fish) would represent control of the
breath quite accurately. The 'inner' fire purifies the senses and
burns up the obstacles to spiritual progress; the air element
vibrates and resonates with the mantra and unmanifest sound.
The most highly refined spiritual table would look something like
SACRAMENT HIGHEST MEANING
Mudra Displaying the mystic gestures to the gods;
recognizing the non-duality between the Self
who makes the gesture and the Self which
Matsya Catching and cooking the 'fish' of deceit,
envy, and obstacles to progress
Madya Drinking the wine, or Elixer of the inner
moon, becoming inflamed with passion for
Mamsa Hunting and killing the 'animals' of delusion
the 'beasts' which hinder the Self
Maithuna Lustful, passionate union of Kundalini with
each chakra upon Mt. Meru, culminating with
Ananda as she embraces Lord Siva at the peak
of the Holy Mountain.
The Five-M Ritual is ordinarily the first Sexual Initiation, and
careful measures are prescribed before commencing therewith.
It is, of course, *vital* for the participants to truly see each
other as Siva and Sakthi personified. The ritual, practiced
without reverence and understanding of its inner meanings, is no
more than a highly ritualized form of mere physical release. It
may provide variety and stimulate through its *different* nature,
but will not be the sacrament of spiritual/sexual union; the goal
Each partner partaking in the rite should bathe beforehand--before
even commencing to prepare the various food and drink, the "5
M's." While bathing, the Tantrikas should focus on purifying not
only the body, but the mind and spirit as well.
Marijuana (Bhang), a more modern "M" was often used in the ancient
rite as well--sometimes brewed as tea, and used as a substitute
for the Wine; other times simply smoked apart from the five great
The assumption is made that both Yogi and Yogini have already
perfected the control of breath, body, and mind through the yogic
practices described above. The literal and allegorical meanings of
maithuna are the same: a return to non-duality, re-integration,
and reunion of the solar and lunar principles. However, for
celibate Tantrikas (yes, there are such things!), the sexual
union, on a symbolic level, refers to processes taking place
within the physical and Subtle bodies of the Yogi or Yogini. Sir
John Woodruffe, in _A Garland of Letters_ describes this process
in detail, using the 'two lips' of the Yogi/Yogini as
representations of Siva/Sakthi, and each of the elements springing
During physical consummation, the Hevajra Tantra teaches that the
Yogi symbolizes Prajna (wisdom), and the Yogini Upaya (Means).
These are but other terms for Siva (pure consciousness) and Sakthi
After bathing, the Yogini traditionally prepares small amounts of
grains, fish, and animal flesh, and pours wine or Bhang-tea into
brass goblets. The best time for the beginning of the actual
ritual is traditionally dictated as midnight, the dark of the
moon, the time between one and the other. An open fire of some
sort should be prepared: modern Tantrikas would have no reason not
to use grills, Hibachi's, etc.
With Yogi and Yogini nude, the Sakthi principle is given homage,
both within the Yogini as Sakthi personified, and as the 'inner
woman' or Kundalini within the Yogi himself. The couple, from this
point on, lose their respective identities, and literally and
allegorically BECOME Siva/Sakthi. They must endeavor to hold this
truth in mind throughout. The presence of Initiator/Initiatress
can be vitally important here, as long as everyone is adult enough
to forego any sense of voyeurism, or shame or embarrassment in the
presence of a non-participating observer.
Solar-lunar synchronized breathing and mantra are employed before
the commencement of the ritual, about which more later.
The Yogi should gaze into the fire, then look upon the Yogini's
body. He should apply perfumed oil (musk, sandalwood, patchouli
and jasmine being preferred) to the Yogini's pubic area, navel,
heart region, throat, forehead and the crown of her head, while
stating an ancient aphorism: "Woman *is* fire. Sexual energy is
the fuel, her Yoni the flame, her pubic mound the smoke,
penetration the sacrifice, lust the sparks. In this Fire, Lord
Siva takes his pleasure and releases his seed. From this offering,
every Being comes into Existence."
Maintaining constant focus, the Yogi then traditionally places a
garland of red, or red and white, flowers about the Yogini's neck
and flowers in her hair.
The Yogini then applies sandalwood paste to the body of the Yogi,
honoring him as Siva personified, culminating by anointing his
Lingam with fragrant oil, honoring it as the original Siva Lingam,
symbol of the Supreme Yogi.
Traditionally, the rite begins with the Yogini seated to the
Yogi's right side--just prior to lovemaking (maithuna) she moves
to his left, reversing her role as passive/initiated (right side)
to active/initiatress (left side); or from Parvati to Kali.
Once the consecration of each partner and recognition of
Siva/Sakthi has been performed and fixed, Yogi and Yogini should
'consecrate' the food and drink by encircling the altar or table
upon which the first four 'elements' are set with flaming sticks
of sweet incense, 'empowering' it. After that, Yogi and Yogini
each take a small portion, first of the grain, and offer it to the
fire, reciting the seed-mantra SWAHA (*the realm of Eternity*).
This assists in fixing the solemnity and holiness of the moment in
their minds. Then the rest of the grain should be consumed, each
feeding it to the other.
The consumption of all the foodstuffs and drinking of the wine is
to be done in a certain manner, specified later herein.
Next, the fish is offered to the fire, again repeating SWAHA as it
is done; the rest consumed; and then the procedure repeated again
with the meat, the animal flesh.
Traditional Hindu music is recommended for the initial Sexual
Ritual, not simply for sake of tradition, but because *all* sacred
Hindu music is designed specifically with a frequency of seven to
eight cycles per second--identical to the resonance of the earth,
the frequency at which the aroused Kundalini vibrates, and the
human brain wave patterns during REM sleep. During Maithuna, it is
said that the entire bodies of the couple will vibrate at this
frequency. Sitar, tabla, and vina are the traditional Hindu
instruments utilized in sacred music, or Bhajans.
After the Agni-puja, or offering of the foodstuffs to the fire,
the couple should acknowledge and meditate upon the elements
contained within, while feeding each other. First, the grain is
consumed, while Yogi and Yogini honor the vegetable kingdom, upon
which most life is dependent to one degree or another, and the
earth element from which the grains are produced.
When the fish is shared, the water element is honored, for without
water, all life would perish; the control of breath is meditated
upon, and homage given to the creatures of the sea.
The couple, while eating meat, should meditate upon the animal
world, recognizing the animal nature inherent within all,
including humans, and upon the element of air, without which all
animals would immediately die.
After that, the wine is shared, for the delight and stimulation of
body and mind. The wine should be thought of as Elixer, the wine
of the divine, and the fire element meditated upon, as the
primordial from which all life emerged and to which all existence
will ultimately return. It has been recommended that the Yogi sip
from his glass, and kiss the Yogini deeply, transferring the
Sacred Elixer to her mouth in this manner; and she to him thusly
Thereafter, Maithuna is practiced. However, Maithuna as first
Sexual Initiation is so complex and ritualized, that it requires a
text file itself, as it involves the four joys, four moments, and
many explanations of symbolic imagery. This file will be
forthcoming very soon. For now, I leave you with a quote:
"A Tantrika enjoys wine, fish, flesh, grains, and women. In
the Goddess seekest I refuse! To the line of Gurus am I devoted! I
am Siva! The terrific! The transcendental! She is Sakthi! The
sensual! The liberator!"
--RUDRA YAMALA TANTRA
D. Yogini Padma Ushas Suryananda, other sources as cited.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank