Eat rotten meat, get high

Or don’t. Preferably don’t. But that’s what a bunch of folks in the increasingly-bizarre world of paleo/manism/wellness are doing.

I hope those people don’t read the next part. Because it seems as if this practice might have ancient roots.

I’ve been reading Roberto Calasso’s incredible Ardor, and he brings forward a strange passage in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (4.1.3) where the essence of King Soma is said to have been infused into the rotting carcasses of animals. When the serpent Vṛtra was killed with a thunderbolt, his body became swollen with soma. The gods wanted to plunder the body for soma, but it had a putrid smell. So they asked Vayu to blow the smell away, and he wafted it into the smell of rotting animal corpses.

Calasso doesn’t make the connection explicit, but surely the implication is clear. When the soma disappeared—apparently when the Indo-Europeans left their homeland—they sought a substitute in the rotting bodies of animals. Eating high meat at sacrifices gave them a semblance of the kick that they used to get from soma. It was not as good, of course, but it was the only trace of soma left in the world.

I have proposed that the Buddha’s last meal, the controversial sūkaramaddava, was “pork on the turn”.

Also, see the commentarial explanations here:

I would also add Neumann’s discussion here. I came across this via TW Rhys Davids, who refers to it. Basically Neumann adduces a range of foods in Sanskrit that begin with sūkara or other animal names, but which refer to various plants. This certainly is a possible reading; and looking at Neumann’s examples I am wavering in my choice …

Leaving all that aside, however, if we assume for the sake of the argument that my (admittedly tenuous) suggestion of “pork on the turn” has merit, the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa would seem to explain the rather oddly divine nature of this food. After all, if we think of heavenly foods, rotten pig is not likely to spring to mind.

But the passage itself hints at the divine, or at least extraordinary, nature of the food by saying no-one other than the Buddha could eat it, so that it must be buried in a pit. This is made explicit in the Milindapanha (mil5.3.6:7.2, mil5.5.9:18.1) which says that the deities infused the food with divine nutritious essence (ojā). And this is precisely what the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa has already said, that rotting or “high” carcasses are infused with the divine essence or potency of soma.

Of course this doesn’t prove that sūkaramaddava is high pork, but it does give a ritual context that explains its supposed divine potency. Doubtless other foods could also have a similar divine nature, and I would not be surprised if mushrooms were among them.


I haven’t been this grossed out since I found out about the aśvamedha, thank you for sharing this Bhante.


Ha ha, I live to serve.

But i mean, there’s something beautiful in the idea that divine power is to be found even in a rotting carcass, is there not?


… And if there is Belief, can Practice be far behind… :thinking:

Graphic- not for the tender hearted!

Chilling Rituals & Beliefs of the Cannibal Aghori Monks Of India | by Esh | Exploring History | Medium

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After eating rotten meat, one will likely get fever, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.

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It is possible to ferment meat safely, but if it goes wrong, then yes all this is likely. Which is, perhaps, what happened to the Buddha.