Panchatattva - Karan

"The pleasure of partaking Kula-dravyas from those in the Kaula system is in reality emancipation...This is the Truth."
- Kularnava Tantra

"That which produces bliss should be used in worship since it ravishes the heart"
- Tantraloka

The Panchatattva (five elements/principles) ritual is sometimes called Panchamarkara because the elements used in the puja all begin with the letter "M" (in sanskrit). Some suggest that this teaching is only for symbolic purposes, and ONLY represents an inner Yogic function. In this theory, there should not be any literal partaking of the various substances (which translate to English as: wine/liquor, meat, fish, dry grain, and sexual union), and doing so is some kind of perversion of the Tantras intent. This view fails to realize certain aspects of the Tantric path, most notably that the sadhak makes the symbolic literal by assuming the mudra of the Ishta. Therefore, any distinction between the "divine" aspects of "inner" Being and the "mundane" aspects of ones embodied expression are destroyed. So the Tantric becomes the living breathing "Yoga" as a whole Being, rather than just some "internal" process of such.

Those whose argument is that aspects represented in the Panchatattva offerings are only symbolic for the Yoga of working with the five elements internally have a historical problem as well. The offering grouped as five is a relatively recent phenomenon with early Tantras having three aspects of the ritual as prominent (namely liquor, meat, and union). So either our forefathers were only composed of three elements, or there are other aspects to the ritual. My view is that there are certainly other aspects, and like most tantric practices, there are levels and layers of meaning.

The ground of the practice is the fructified mantra and pitha that is made not only to exist within the subtle body, but as previously stated, is the life expression itself. For the offering to have the intended purpose, the sadhak, the Ishta, and the Guru, must be realized and assimilated as One. "In complete unity with Guru, Deva, and Mantra; the Kaula should keep on drinking until exhilaration". (KT) When this is the case, all considerations of inner and outer and personal "self" and divine "self" fade; leaving only the offering which is the inherent magnanimous nature that simply IS. When this understanding is tacitly apparent, the the lines that divide are transcended and any action on the "external" environment is in accord with That. Taking the Karan (liquor) from this perspective belongs to the work of Heros (Viras). "One who keeps concentrated even after drinking strong spirits is called a Kaulika". (KT)

The liquor is offered as amrita, and according to tradition, the curses of Brahma, Shukra, and Krishna are removed. The curses were placed on liquor for the same reasons that people have cursed it. Someone got overflowed with Skakti and acted out and created some mischief. But one thing is certain, liquor is filled with Shakti (and it stimulates ones own Shakti), and the sadhak of awareness can harness and use this energy for higher purposes. Then one becomes like Shiva-Bhairava and cannot be moved by various energetic manifestation. "Madya is a form of Bhairava-deva; Madya is called Shakti; one who drinks Madya attracts the Devatas". (KT) This Kaula knows how to approach Sudhadevi, and that is why liquor is called "Tara in liquid form". So the view is both of an offering (as amrita) to the Ishta as Self, as well as an imbibing of Shakti in liquid form, and the better the sadhak, the more multifaceted ones view of the offering becomes (without conflict). "One who drinks the kula-dravyas by mantra and offered to Guru and Devata, for that one there is no rebirth". (KT)

The offering can also be seen as an inner Homa ritual. The Karan (name that Tantrics use for liquor) generates Shakti which generates heat. The nervous system of the sadhak gets used to the increase of energy and then reaches the point where the energy "intake" can be handled (without feeling overly heated). Never the less, the Karan can be seen in the light of a homa in two ways. It is offered into the "fire" of Truth within the sadhak, and it also increases the fire within, so that the edible aspects of the puja are offered into that "fire" as well. The offering is also a Tarpana, an Abhishek, and a ritual feeding. For those who know the process of purushcharana, which fructifies the works of the sadhak, you will understand the profound implications of what this all means.

There are various kinds of Karan which can be used, and some Tantras go into detail about different types (and some Tantras even give recipes). In actual practice, anything will usually do. "However it is produced, and from whoever it is bought, when purified, it gives the Kaula all Siddhi." (MT) At least one edible should be present when taking the Karan, the best of which is meat. The meat most commonly used in India is goat, but other meats can be substituted. Meat offering will also serve the view of the Bali offering, which represents the life flow. When the sadhak performs the prana pratishtha, the life of the Ishta is established within, and the meat offering is the offering of prana to the Devi. Moreover, the offering of a Pusha is the laying down of the animal traits before one's Divine nature (which the Ishta represents). The best kind of patra for offering the Karan is Kapala, otherwise a patra of Gold, Silver, or Copper can be used. (Copper tends to bleed though). "Lifting the patra, the sadhak should remember the mula mantra and the Gurus paduka". (KT)

One who moves using these means (or wishes to) should be aware of several things. The sadhak has to be very solid and not easily moved, as this path is filled with certain dangers. By its very nature, this work is a forceful kriya, and the subtle realm gets irritated with (subtle) forceful actions, so the sadhak should be prepared to face obstructions. If the sadhak is of unbending intention and pure sincerity, then this is the ultimate kavach for these obstruction, and there is no problem. Once this path is started though, it must be seen through. Because in this path one moves quickly, one must be prepared for an intensification of all aspects (both "good" and "bad"), so one cannot be swayed be emotions, experiences, or act out. The work is not only an offering to the Ishta, but will also establish that energy more and more. It is of extreme importance that the sadhak not let the ego take the throne or assume some "alter" ego as Ishta. This is a subtle point but an important one. Ishta takes form from ego, not ego takes on Ishta. When moving quickly (like using these means), one's vigilance on this matter must be even sharper, and one must cut off the head of ego when it arises (and don't like it hide in or as Ishta).

One who takes on the work with the use of Karan is done with any and all "casual" drinking. So if one is attached to these works because they like drinking, sex etc., and want some "spiritual" cover for these activities, then this type is out of luck. This work is great and profound and works on so many levels, and I've just scratched the surface. The common Wikipedia answers surrounding the Panchatattva simply do not measure up, nor does just saying "kundalini" over and over again. This ritual has nothing to do with notions of "breaking taboos and transgressing norms", and is an offering of great purity. This work absolutely must be received from tradition and from Guru, or the person will fall on their face. Most likely one will just become more of a pashu if these works are "dabbled" with, and they are meant for very serious sadhaks of a certain quality. For those who reach the pinnacle of these works and are fully initiated, there is no limit to the depths. "The pleasure derived by Kaulas by Divya-drinking in not even had by Kings."

"The perception/experience obtained by means of the particular object is not essentially different from that perception/experience which is obtained by its undifferentiated forms. Thus truly enjoyed, those who have taken the hero's vow are involved in the great ritual procedure." Tantraloka

Jai Ma!

KT= Kararnava Tantra
MT= Mahanirvana Tantra