Panchamakara or Panchatattva, also known as the Five Ms, is the Tantric term for the five transgressive substances used in a Tantric practice. These are madya (alcohol), māṃsa (meat), matsya (fish), mudrā (pound grain), and maithuna (sexual intercourse).
Taboo-breaking elements are only practiced literally by "left-hand path" tantrics (vāmācārins), whereas "right-hand path" tantrics (dakṣiṇācārins) oppose these.
In the introduction of his translation of the Mahanirvana Tantra, Sir John Woodroffe, under the pseudonym Arthur Avalon, describes the Panchamakara thus:
There are, as already stated, three classes of men: Pashu, Vira and Divya. The operation of the Guna which produce these types affect, on the gross material plane, the animal tendencies; manifesting in the three chief physical functions: eating and drinking, whereby the Annamayakosha is maintained; and sexual intercourse, by which it is reproduced. These functions are the subject of the Panchatattva or Panchamakara ("five Ms"), as they are vulgarly called--viz.: Madya (wine), Mamsa (meat), Matsya (fish), Mudra (parched grain), and Maithuna. In ordinary parlance, Mudra means ritual gestures or positions of the body in worship and Hatha Yoga but as one of the five elements it is parched cereal and is defined as 'Bhrishta-danya dikang yadyad chavya-niyam prachaks-hate, sa mudra kathita devi sarvves-hang naganam-dini'. The Tantras speak of the five elements as Panchatattva, Kuladravya, Kulatattva and certain of the elements have esoteric names, such as Karanavari or Tirtha-vari, for wine, the fifth element being usually called Lata-sadhana (Sadhana with woman or Shakti). The five elements, moreover have various meanings, according as they form part of the Tamasika (Pashvachara), Rajasika (Virachara) or Divya or Sattvika sadhanas respectively.
In the right-handed path, the Dakshinachara (Dakṣiṇācāra), as described for example by the spiritual leader Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, the five M's have dual meanings, one crude (left-handed, Vamachara) and one subtle (right-handed, Dakshinachara).
|The five M's||Crude meaning
|Madya||Wine||Amrita, divine nectar that drips from the glands in brain onto the tip of tongue and can be trapped using Khechari Mudra|
|Mamsa||Meat||Control of speech. It symbolizes the Khechari Mudra in which the tongue is swallowed back simulating eating meat.|
|Matsya||Fish||Ida and Pingala Nadis, controlled through pranayama. They are visualised as figure-of-8-shaped structures intertwining like two fish.|
|Mudra||Dry grain||Spiritual company, satsang; gestures the hands and body take when the Kundalini is activated and pass up through the central channel, the Sushumna Nadi.|
|Maithuna||Sexual intercourse, or female sexual discharge||Raising kundalini to the Sahasrara chakra.|
According to Sarkar, the purpose of the Five M's is dual: for people to practice yoga sadhana (meditation) while in the "midst of crude enjoyments" and then gradually reduce the consumption of wine, meat, fish, etc. and not to overindulge in sexual activities; and after learning to resist the allure of these activities, to engage in the subtle practices of Tantra meditation.