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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A gamacakra (Sanskrit: !"#$ gamacakra "gathering circle"; Standard Tibetan: !"#$%&'%()*+%,*- tshogs kyi 'khor lo) is also
known as tsog, gafapuja, cakrapuja or gamacakrapuja. It is a generic term for various tantric assemblies or feasts,
in which practitioners meet to chant mantra, enact mudra, make votive offerings and practice various tantric rituals
as part of a sadhana, or spiritual practice. The ganachakra often comprises a sacramental meal and festivities such as
dancing; the feast generally consisting of materials that were considered forbidden or taboo in medieval India,
where the tantric movement arose. As a tantric practice, forms of ga!acakra are practiced today in Hinduism, Bn
and Vajrayana Buddhism.
Professor Gm summarises the experience of a ga!acakra:
The feast is an esoteric ritual that unfolds in many stages. The sacred space for the ceremony is
demarcated by geometric designs drawn on the ground with powdered pigments, and an elaborate
array of offerings and foods are laid out. The participants don special insignia like bone ornaments and
crowns and use musical instruments of archaic design... for inducing heightened awareness.
Practitioners sit in a circle and partake of sacramental (dry) meat and wine (often liquor) served in
skull-cups.The feasts also provide an occasion for the exchange of ritual lore, the ritual worship of
women (sripuja), and the performance of sexual yogas. The feast culminates in the performance of
tantric dances and music that must never be disclosed to outsiders. The revelers may also improvise
"songs of realization" (caryagiti) to express their heightened clarity and blissful raptures in spontaneous
Samual (1998: p. 126) holds that:
...serious Tantric practice is generally seen as appropriate for a small minority only. The ancient Indian
ga!acakra, the circle ritual...discussed earlier, is far in the past. In Tibetan practice it has long been
replaced by the ga!apuja (Tibetan: tshogs), a considerably tamer affair, still involving a sacramental
meal but normally performed indoors and without possession or dancing.
1 Origins
2 Sacred space
3 In Hindu tantra
4 In Buddhist tantra
4.1 Ganachakra and the Mahasiddhas
4.2 In Tibetan Buddhism
4.3 Alcohol in Vajrayana
4.4 Meat in Vajrayana
5 See also
6 Notes
7 References
8 External links
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Sir John Woodroffe, writing as Arthur Avalon (1918) affirms that the Five Nectars of Tantra, Hindu and Buddhist
traditions are directly related to the Mah"bh#ta or Five Elements and that the Panchamakara is actually a vulgar
term for the Panchatattva:
Worship with the Pacatattva generally takes place in a Cakra or circle composed of men and women,
Sadhakas and Sadhikas, Bhairavas and Bhairavis sitting in a circle, the Shakti being on the Sadhaka's
left. Hence it is called Cakrapuja. A Lord of the Cakra (Cakreshvara) presides sitting with his Shakti in
the center. During the Cakra, there is no distinction of caste, but Pashus of any caste are excluded.
There are various kinds of Cakra -- productive, it is said, of differing fruits for the participator therein.
As amongst Tantrik Sadhakas we come across the high, the low, and mere pretenders, so the Cakras
vary in their characteristics from say the Tattva-cakra for the Brahma-kaulas, and the Bhairavi-cakra (as
described in Mahanirvana, VII. 153) in which, in lieu of wine, the householder fakes milk, sugar and
honey (Madhura-traya), and in lieu of sexual union does meditation upon the Lotus Feet of the Divine
Mother with Mantra, to Cakras the ritual of which will not be approved such as Cudacakra,
Anandabhuvana-yoga and others referred to later.
Sacred space
The ganachakra, or 'tantric feast', can be seen as a mandala of sacred space. Pettit emphasises the importance of the
gathered "group" (gana) or sangha to Vajrayana sadhana and the creation of sacred space such as the Ganachakra:
The power of sacred bonding in a temporary or virtual sacred space is an intrinsic, if normally
invisible, component of a Vajrayana community experience. The community is that experience, and
ceases to exist without it. To dwell in that sacredness requires not only that one perceive it, but to
maintain that perception requires discipline, faith and a profound sense of love and respect for
members of the mandala - that is, all living beings.
Pettit links the importance of the group or gana to the manifestation of the ganachakra and the sacred space or the
mandala (in this sense cognate with chakra) with the liturgical tools of mantra, visualisation and sacred architecture:
The potential for sacred space to manifest spontaneously is nowhere higher than in Vajrayana
Buddhist practice, which employs the use of mantra and visualization to create an experience of
sacredness. Through liturgical performances, or amidst the activities of everyday life, a yogi is to
experience, imaginately imaginatively or better yet spontaneously, the presence of divinity -
Buddhahood embodied - in his or her own person, companions and environment. These constitute a
mandala or sacred architecture which expresses the omnipresence of enlightenment, that is the ground
of both "secular" and "sacred" experiences and activities that are never perceived apart from its all-
encompassing confines. The invocation of divine presence of mandala is especially effective when
undertaken by several people in a ritual context, and it is incumbent for practitioners to do so
periodically with a feast-offering known as tsok or, in Sanskrit, ganapuja.
Pettit states that sacred space is created spontaneously wherever the Triple Jewel (cognate with the Gankyil) is
manifest and that this sacred architecture or mandala is not dependent upon the built environment of monolithic
...Sacred Space is created spontaneously wherever the Three Jewels - the Buddha or teacher, the
Dharma teaching or its texts, and the Sangha community of practitioners - are found. A place that
elicits reverence should be sacred, and wherever the Jewels are found, the pieties of lay and ordained
Buddhists are bound to be expressed.
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In Hindu tantra
In Hindu tantra, a ganachakra typically consists of five elements known as panchamakara or the "five Ms": madya
(wine), mamsa (meat), matsya (fish), mudra (rice or grain), and maithuna (Sanskrit for "union" and coition or yab-
yum) a form of tantra.
In Buddhist tantra
Apperception (Wylie: rang rig pa)
Ganachakra and the Mahasiddhas
Samual (1998: p. 124) defines the ganachakra succinctly:
"Vajray"na or Tantric Buddhism had its origin in India, where it seems to have been practised, at any
rate in its earlier period, say the fourth to eighth centuries CE, by small initiatory cult groups. The
central ritual of these groups was the ga!acakra, a night-time sacramental circle, usually outdoors, often
in a cremation ground or similarly spooky and 'powerful' location, with distinctly antinomian
elements. These included the ritual use of sexuality, although it is not clear how far this was performed
literally and how far symbolically. The ga!acakra involved possession, dancing and singing, and also
magical procedures. It was seen as an occasion to enter a non-ordinary state of consciousness."
Vajranatha (2007)
associates the Ganachakra with the "higher tantras" or mysteries , the anuttarayogatantra, and
associates a non-monastic origin and tributary of this Mystery Rite to the Mahasiddha tradition which has roots in a
complex and coterie of esoteric traditions of numerous Siddha, Yogi, Sadhu and holy peoples of Buddhist, Hindu
and non-sectarian practices and views:
The Higher Tantras could not be a congregational practice of monks because Tantric sadhana, as well
as celebrations of the High Tantric feast or Ganachakrapuja, required partaking of meat, wine, and
sexual intercourse. At the very least the latter two would force a monk to break his vows. And so what
came about in the eleventh century was a change in the external style of practice; the Anuttara Tantras,
many of them freshly brought from India and newly translated into Tibetan, came to be practiced in
the style of the lower Yoga Tantras. Although there is a great deal of ritual in the Yoga Tantras, there is
nothing there that would require a monk to violate his monastic vows. The presence of a woman or
Dakini is required at High Tantric initiation and also at the Tantric feast of the Ganachakrapuja, but in
the eleventh century reform the actual Dakini physically present was replaced by a mind-consort (yid
kyi rig-ma), a visualization of the Dakini. One did the sexual practice only in visualization, not in
actuality. In this way the practices of the Higher Tantras could be taken into the monasteries and
incorporated into the congregations practice and liturgy of the monks known as puja.
In Tibetan Buddhism
In Vajrayana and Dzogchen, it is traditional to offer a ga!acakra to Padmasambhava or other deities, usually gurus,
on the tenth lunar day, and to a form of dakini such as Yeshe Tsogyal, Mandarava or Vajrayogini on the twenty-fifth
lunar day. Generally, participants are required by their samaya "vow" to partake of meat and alcohol, and the rite
tends to have elements symbolic of coitus. Traditions of the Ganachakra liturgy and rite extends remains of food
and other compassionate offerings to alleviate the insatiable hunger of the hungry ghosts, genius loci and other
David Snellgrove (1987) holds that there is a tendency oft-promoted by Tibetan lamas who disseminate teachings in
the Western world, to treat references to sexual union and to sadhana that engages with the "five impure substances"
(usually referred to as the "five nectars") as symbolic.
In the Twilight Language of correspondences and
substitutions there is no inconsistency. Although, when modern tantric apologists and scholars employ the term
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"symbolic" as though no external practices were engaged in literally, they mislead and perpetuate an untruth.
Snellgrove (1987) provides an amended translation of his earlier translation of the Hevajra Tantra (II. vii.5-13):
Placing the linga in the bhaga and kissing her again and again, so producing the experience of Great
Bliss, the Adamantine One talked about feasting. Now listen, Goddess of wide open eyes, to the matter
of feasting in the company-circle, where having feasted, there is such fulfillment (siddhi) which fulfills
the substance of all one's desires. One should set about this feasting in a cemetery or a mountain cave,
in a resort of nonhuman beings or in a deserted place. One should arrange seats there, reckoned as
nine, in the form of corpses or tiger skins or shrouds from a cemetery. The one who embodies Hevajra
should be placed in the center of the yoginis, whose places are known, as taught before, in the main
directions and intermediate points. Then seated upon one's tiger skin, one should eat the "spiced food"
of the sacrament, enjoying it, and one should eat with eagerness the "kingly rice." When one has eaten
and eaten again, one should honor the mother-goddesses there and they may be mother or sister or
niece or mother-in-law. One should honor them to a high degree and gain fulfillment in their company.
The chief lady should offer to the master an unmarred sacred skull filled with liquor, and having made
obeisance to him, she should drink it herself. She should hold it in her hands in a lotus-gesture, and
present it with the same gesture. Again and again they make obeisance, those winners of fulfillment.
In the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Chd, a variation of the ga!acakra has the practitioner visualizing offering their
own body as a feast for the gods/demons invited to the feast.
Alcohol in Vajrayana
Crowley (1996) states:
"Undoubtedly, the striking parallels between "The legend about Chakdor" and the Hindu legend of the
origin of soma show that the Buddhist amrita and the Hindu soma were at one time understood to be
identical. Moreover, the principal property of amrita is, to this day, perceived by Buddhists as being a
species of inebriation, however symbolically this inebriation may be interpreted. Why else would beer
(Tibetan chhang, "barley beer") be used by yogins as a symbolic substitute for amrita [Ardussi]?
Conversely, why else would the term bDud.rTsi be used as a poetic synonym for beer?"
Meat in Vajrayana
See Vegetarianism in Buddhism#Vajrayana.
See also
Proto-Indo-Iranian religion
1. ^ Shaw, Miranda (1995). Passionate Enlightenment::Women in Tantric Buddhism. Princeton University Press.
p. 81. ISBN 0-691-01090-0.
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2. ^ Woodroffe, Sir John (1918). "Chapter Twenty-Seven:The Pacatattva (The Secret Ritual)"
( Shakti and Shkta. Retrieved 2008-07-20.
3. ^


Pettit, John W. (2002). "Tibetan Buddhism in Diaspora: Individuals, Comminities (sic) and Sacred
Space" ( Retrieved 2008-07-20.
4. ^ The Mahasiddha Tradition in Tibet
( Monday July 9, 2007)
5. ^

Snellgrove, David (1987). Indo-Tibetan Buddhism: Indian Buddhists and Their Tibetan Successors. Volume
One: p.160. Boston, USA: Shambhala Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-87773-311-2 (v.1).
6. ^ Snellgrove, David (1987). Indo-Tibetan Buddhism: Indian Buddhists and Their Tibetan Successors. Volume One:
p.160-161. Boston, USA: Shambhala Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-87773-311-2 (v.1).
Free Encyclopedia of Thelema ( (2006). Ganachakra
( Retrieved June 1, 2006.
RangjungYesheWiki ( (2006). Ganachakra
( Retrieved June 2, 2006.
Crowley, Mike (1996). When the Gods Drank Urine: A Tibetan myth may help solve the riddle of soma, sacred drug of
ancient India. Fortean Studies, vol. III, 1996. Source: (accessed: Tuesday, 5 March 2013)
Pettit, John W. (2002).Tibetan Buddhism in Diaspora: Individuals, Comminities [sic] and Sacred Space. Source: [1]
( (accessed: Monday July 9, 2007)
Vajranatha (2007). The Mahasiddha Tradition in Tibet. Source:
{] (accessed: Monday July 9, 2007)
Avalon, Arthur (Sir John Woodroffe) (1918). Shakti and Shkta. Full text available online: [2]
( (accessed: Monday July 9, 2007)
Sparham, Gareth (?). Tantric Ethics: An Explanation of the Precepts for Buddhist Vajrayana Practice. An extensive
extract is available from Google Books [3] (
(accessed: Monday July 9, 2007)
Snellgrove, David (1987). Indo-Tibetan Buddhism: Indian Buddhists & Their Tibetan Successors (2 volumes).
Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Shambhala Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-87773-311-2 (v. 1) & ISBN 0-87773-379-1 (v.
Samuel, Geoffrey (1998). Paganism and Tibetan Buddhism: Contemporary Western Religions and the Question of
Nature; in Pearson, Joanne et al. (1998). "Nature Religion Today: Paganism in the Modern World." ISBN 0-
External links
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