Amrita, Amrit or Amata is a word that literally means “immortality” and is often referred to in ancient Indian texts as nectar.

Amṛta” is etymologically related to the Greek ambrosia and carries the same meaning. Its first occurrence is in the Rigveda, where it is considered one of several synonyms for soma, the drink of the devas.

Amrit has varying significance in different Indian religions. The word Amrit is also a common first name for Sikhs and Hindus, while its feminine form is Amritā. The traditional masculine name is Amrith with the feminine name being Amritha.


The amṛta is repeatedly referred to as the drink of the devas, which grants them immortality. Despite this, the nectar does not actually offer true immortality: instead, by partaking it, the devas were able to attain a higher level of knowledge and power, which they had lost due to the curse of Sage Durvasa.

The amṛta features in the Samudra Manthana legend, which describes how the devas, because of a curse from the sage Durvasa, begin to lose their immortality.

Assisted by their rivals, the asuras, the devas begin to churn the ocean, releasing (among other extraordinary objects and beings) the amṛta.

Amṛta is sometimes said to miraculously form on, or flow from, statues of Hindu gods. The substance is consumed by worshippers and is alleged to be sweet-tasting and not at all similar to honey or sugar water.

Amṛta was the last of the fourteen treasures that emerged from the churning of the ocean and contained in a pot borne by Dhanvantari, the physician of the devas.

Theravada Buddhism

According to Thanissaro Bhikkhu, “the deathless” refers to the deathless dimension of the mind which is dwelled in permanently after Nibbana.

In the Amata Sutta, the Buddha advises monks to stay with the four Satipatthana:

“Monks, remain with your minds well-established in these four establishments of mindfulness. Don’t let the deathless be lost to you.”

In the questions for Nagasena, King Milinda asks for evidence that the Buddha once lived, wherein Nagasena describes evidence of the Dhamma in a simile:

“Revered Nagasena, what is the nectar shop of the Buddha, the Blessed One?”

“Nectar, sire, has been pointed out by the Blessed One. With this nectar the Blessed One sprinkles the world with the devas; when the devas and the humans have been sprinkled with this nectar, they are set free from birth, aging, disease, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. What is this nectar? It is mindfulness occupied with the body. And this too, sire, was said by the Blessed One: ‘Monks, they partake of nectar (the deathless) who partake of mindfulness that is occupied with the body.’ This sire is called the Blessed One’s nectar shop.” — Miln 335

Vajrayana Buddhism

Amṛta also plays a significant role in Vajrayana Buddhism as a sacramental drink which is consumed at the beginning of all important rituals such as the abhisheka, ganachakra, and homa.

In the Tibetan tradition, dütsi is made during drubchens – lengthy ceremonies involving many high lamas. It usually takes the form of small, dark-brown grains that are taken with water, or dissolved in very weak solutions of alcohol and is said to improve physical and spiritual well-being.

The foundational text of traditional Tibetan medicine, the Four Tantras, is also known by the name The Heart of Amrita.

The Immaculate Crystal Garland describes the origin of Amrita in a version of the Samudra Manthana legend retold in Buddhist terms. In this Vajrayana version, the monster Rahu steals the amrita and is blasted by Vajrapani’s thunderbolt.

As Rahu has already drunk the amrita he cannot die, but his blood, dripping onto the surface of this earth, causes all kinds of medicinal plants to grow.

At the behest of all the Buddhas, Vajrapani reassembles Rahu who eventually becomes a protector of Buddhism according to the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Inner Offering is the most symbolic Amrita offering assembly, and the Inner Offering Nectar Pill is a precious and secret medicine of Tibetan Buddhism, which is only used internally for higher ranking monks in Nyingma school.

Its ingredients including Five Amrita and Five Meat, which represents five Buddhas, and five elements respectively. According to Tantras of Chakravarti, and Tantras of Vajravārāhī, a ceremony needs to be held for melting and blessing the Inner Offering Nectar.

Five Nectar needs to be arranged in four directions: yellow excrement in the east, green bone marrow in the north, white semen in the west and red blood in the south, blue urine is placed in the center.

Four Nectar should come from wise monks and the ova should be collected from the first menstruation of a blessed woman.

The Five Meats are arranged similarly, the meat of black bull in the southeast, the meat of the blue dog in the southwest, the meat of the white elephant in the northwest, the meat of the green horse in the northeast, and the meat of a red human corpse in the center.

After the ceremony, these ingredients will transform into one taste elixir, which bestows bliss, vitality, immortality, and wisdom.

The actual modern practitioner will take a ‘synthesized essence‘ of the Nectar Pill and combined it with black tea or alcohol, but mostly the “Nectar Pill” are derived from plants.

Chinese Buddhism describes Amrita as blessed water, food, or other consumable objects often produced through merits of chanting mantras.


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