Panchamakara, sometimes written panca-makara, and also known as “the five Ms” or “the five substances,” is a Tantric ritual notably associated with Tantric Sex that involves performing five taboo-breaking activities.
The five activities are known as Madya (drinking wine, that is, alcohol), Mamsa (eating meat), Matsya (eating fish), Mudra (eating battered grains), and Maithuna (having sexual intercourse). You can observe that each term starts with the letter “M,” which is the reason why Panchamakara is nicknamed as “the five Ms.”
Common Interpretation of Panchamakara
From out a spiritual perspective, it’s generally thought that carrying out Panchamakara has as its goal the awakening (arousal), circulation, and cultivation of Kundalini Energy (sexual Shakti Energy) to make it rise from the root Chakra to the crown Chakra in order to attain liberation of earthly bondage and subsequently spiritual enlightenment.
However, a more down-to-earth, mundane interpretation claims that doing Panchamakara was simply a means of achieving increased sexual pleasure, being devoid of any divine spiritual meaning. Of course, indulging in sexual pleasure is seen as a legit part of Neo-Tantric practices, and as such it’s not a contradiction per se.
In fact, the five activities also include five substances (mind that Maithuna produces sexual fluids), and there were indeed Tantric sects that mixed these five substances and afterwards ritually consumed them. Some think that mixing these substances was done to create a powerful aphrodisiac.
Vamachara and Dakshinachara
Panchamakara is sometimes also seen as consisting of two layers: an exoteric layer (the physical, tangible, and explicit) and an esoteric layer (the spiritual, intangible, and implicit), associated with Vamachara (Vamacara), that is, Left-Hand Tantra and Dakshinachara (Daksinacara), that is, Right-Hand Tantra.
Vamachara (Left Hand Tantra) typically includes taboo-breaking ritual practices that conflict with conservative Hinduism, such as explicit sexual activities, and the consumption of meat, drugs, alcohol and other intoxicants. In Vamachara, there’s no discrepancy between pure and impure, everything is sacred. Left-Hand Tantra could be compared with what today in Neo-Tantra is called Red Tantra.
Dakshinachara (Right Hand Tantra) is the counterpart of Vamachara and includes traditional Hindu spiritual practices, such as asceticism, Yoga and meditation, the use of Mantras, Mudras, Mandalas, and such. Right-Hand Tantra could be equated with Neo-Tantric White Tantra.
In Dakshinachara, Panchamakara is rather interpreted figuratively, and not as activities that actually need to be done. Here, Madya is about immortality; Masma is about control of speech; Matsya about practicing Pranayama to control the Ida and Pingala Nadi Energy channels; Mudra about gestures that are associated with awakened Kundalini Energy that flows through the Sushumna Nadi Energy Channel; and Maithuna is about finally raising the Kundalini Energy to the Sahasrara Crown Chakra.