The oldest religion on earth for which we have the complete texts, that of the Vedas with texts composed in North India in the 2nd millenium B.C., was based on ritual ingestion of a psychotropic drug, a plant hallucinogen made into a sacred beverage called Soma, the 'nectar of immortality' ('amrita'). Although the Vedas do not specifically identify Soma, the landmark study by Wasson and O'Flaherty ('Divine mushroom of immortality,' 1971) has argued that it was probably 'Amanita muscaria', the fly agaric mushroom. The mounting evidence that Soma was hallucinogenic is of great importance, according to the author (curator of the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library, San Francisco), for it means that the fountainhead from which sprang the Indo-European religions may have had as an essential element the ritual use of drugs, which in turn must alter our concept of the origins of the human religious spirit, particularly in India. Tantric Cannabis use in India arose in about the 7th century A.D. in an explosive mingling of the doctrines and practices of Shaivite Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. The most important Hindu Tantric text available in English, the 'Mahanirvana ('greatest liberation') Tantra ('that which is woven together'), was composed about the 11th century A.D. There are 3 strands of Indian tradition, derived from the Vedic Soma cult, interwoven in the Tantras. The 1st is the magical or ceremonial use of marijuana, which can be traced back to the Atharva and is almost as old as the use of Soma. While Soma was the official sacrament, 'bhang' (Cannabis) was a special plant of the Atharvan magicians and shamans. As in so many other shamanistic traditions of ancient Asia, the earliest use of cannabis in India was both medical and religious. As time wore on, bhang became a mainstay of folk medicine, first prescribed by Hindu physicians as an antiphlegmatic agent and used by Buddhist monks as a remedy for rheumatism. Thereafter, it appears regularly in medical and religious texts. A 2nd strand of Hindu tradition is the concept of poison-drinking as a divine act, whose origins go back to the late Vedic period when the Aryan migrations deeper into the Indo-Gangetic plains cut them off from their supply of Soma in the mountains. In the search for substitute sacred intoxicants, some plants were called 'poison' because of their powerful effects; these became identified in the Tantric rituals, with the use of 'poisonous', dangerous, or forbidden elements in the pursuit of salvation or enlightenment. The 3rd strand of Indian tradition is much more familiar, the practice of yoga. What distinguishes Tantric practice is the profound emphasis on experimenting with physical and mental exercises to produce altered states of consciousness, 'experimenting with one's own mind'. Regardless of the preachings of contemporary orthodox swamis who urge their followers not to use drugs, the tradition of drug yoga is an ancient and honorable one in India, developed to its fullest extent in Tantric practice. Sex yoga developed concurrently with drug yoga in the late Vedic period. The Tantras transform Hindu sexual practices into a means of meditational yoga. Marijuans fits into sex yoga as well, for in Hindu folk medicine it is the aphrodisiac par excellence. Tantric practice brings together these 3 elements-- the ceremonial use of marijuana; the conscious employment of 'poisonous' or dangerous substances; and the practices of drug and sex yoga-- into a fully developed system for achieving 'mahanirvana'. A detailed description of the advanced Tantric rite is given. The marijuana drink ('vijaya', the victory drink) is sometimes only a little round green ball of moistened bhang in milk or water, or more often a delicious marijuana milkshake flavored with almonds, pepper, cardamon, poppy seeds, and other spices. The time that elapses between the drinking of the 'vijaya' in the first half of the rite and the climax of the ceremony in the second half is about 1 1/2 hrs, 'just long enough to get really 'high' on the drug'. From the moment of first awakening, the initiate's every action is intentionally made sacred and intensified. As he starts to feel higher and higher, going through carefully selected rituals for consecrating the 5 M's, the 'vijaya' functions as a sense-heightener, a euphoric booster of awareness. In this heightening of feelings and awareness, rather than as a mere disinhibiting agent, 'vijaya' is essential to the ceremony. Large oral doses of marijuana are truly hallucinogenic. Suggestibility is increased, and time and space become distorted. In such conditions the marijuans high augments the practice of yoga and vice versa. It seems an ideal way to attain a sense of one's own divinity through euphoric experimentation with the powers of one's mind. The role of cannabis in Tantric ceremony is thus to enable the worshippers to feel the divinity within and without themselves.