History of Kalachakra
with Namgyal Monastery
Historically, Kalachakra is closely associated with the Dalai Lamas and with Namgyal Monastery. The Seventh Dalai Lama began providing Kalachakra Initiations to large communities of ordained and lay practitioners in Tibet during the 18th century. Since then, subsequent Dalai Lamas have continued this tradition. The current Dalai Lama, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, has bestowed over thirty Kalachakra Initiations throughout the world. The monks now residing at Namgyal Ithaca have assisted with Kalachakra Initiations since 1989.
As the home monastery of the Dalai Lamas, Namgyal Monastery has come to specialize in training monks in the teachings, practice and ritual ceremony of Kalachakra. Following their basic training in the great texts and treatises of Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy, Namgyal monks receive teachings and training in tantric practice. As within all Geluk schools of Tibetan Buddhism, they are trained in the tantric practices of Yamantaka, Chakrasamvara and Guhyasamaja. In addition, the Namgyal monks receive extensive teachings and training in all aspects of the Kalachakra tantric practices. This includes construction of the Kalachakra sand mandala and performing the rituals and dances of the Kalachakra Ceremony that precede the Kalachakra Initiation. A minimum of fifteen monks is required to perform a full Kalachakra Ritual Ceremony.
Kalachakra means "The Wheel of Time".
The root text, the Kalachakra Tantra, includes three levels of teachings:
1) External Kalachakra.
The External Kalachakra teachings describe the physical environment, in particular, the outer movements of planets within our world system, and the process by which world systems, including ours, have come into existence.
2) Internal Kalachakra.
The Internal Kalachakra teachings describe the subtle body of an individual human being, including the inner channels, the elements and the movements of wind energy. The External and Internal Kalachakra systems are interrelated in that an individual and his environment, both social and physical aspects, are seen as intimately interrelated and interdependent.
3) Alternative Kalachakra.
The Alternative Kalachakra teachings describe the Kalachakra Initiation and the the generation and completion stages of the tantric practice.
Practitioners are able to cultivate deeper, vaster capacities for love, compassion and peace and, thus, transform not only themselves, but, also, their environment.
As with any highest yoga tantra, the Kalachakra teachings and practices are based on the practitioner’s thorough understanding of the core sutra teachings and practices of Buddhism. These fundamental teachings and practices include refuge, bodhicitta, ethical discipline, concentration and the wisdom realizing emptiness.
Prior to bestowing a Kalachakra Initiation, His Holiness the Dalai Lama always provides extensive teachings on key sutra level texts of Mahayana Buddhism that cover these fundamental topics. He shows in this way that the first stage of cultivating inner peace is through developing an understanding of these teachings and putting them into practice. When practitioners begin to develop inner peace of mind, they then are able to bring this quality to their interactions with their family, work colleagues and community.
The practice of the Kalachakra Six Session Guru Yoga as well as the generation and completion stages of the Kalachakra tantric practice help to quicken one’s development of inner peace by cultivating peace of mind at deeper, more subtle levels of mind. This is achieved through developing an understanding of the teachings of the External and Internal Kalachakra as well as engaging in the practices of the Alternative Kalachakra.
In addition, one of the unique features of Kalachakra is that initiation is provided openly to large communities of ordained and lay Buddhists. For example, in 2012 over 200,000 people attending the Kalachakra Initiation in Bodhgaya. In 2011, 8,000 people attended the Kalachakra Initiation given in Washington DC. Hence, as larger numbers of people in a community cultivate inner peace together, the possibility of world peace is greatly increased.
This year the Namgyal monks of India and Ithaca will perform the full Kalachakra Ritual Ceremony in Ithaca. Observing the Kalachakra Ritual Ceremony serves as a symbolic means to help connect students in a deeper and subtler way to the different levels of the Kalachakra teachings and practices. During the first week the monks will perform the Earth Ritual Prayers and construct the Kalachakra Sand Mandala. In the afternoons, students who have had the Kalachakra Initiation and who register for the event can attend Kalachakra teachings and participate in the Six Session Guru Yoga practice sessions. For details on cost and registration go to (event link). Kalachakra students who choose not to register as well as the general public may attend and observe the Earth Ritual Prayers and Six Session Guru Yoga practice sessions.
During the second week the monks will perform the Ritual Dance Offerings and the Actual Ritual Ceremony. These activities will only be available to Kalachakra students who have registered and who have also participated in the first week of activities, teachings and practices. Students may attend only the first week; however those wishing to attend the second week are required to also attend the first week. During this part of the Ritual Ceremony a translator will provide an explanation of the different aspects of the ceremony and their meaning in relation to the Kalachakra Tantra teachings and practices. This is a rare and unique opportunity for Kalachakra students to receive teachings on the Kalachakra Tantra, to begin to develop an understanding of the Ritual Ceremony and to practice together as a community along with Namgyal monks from India and Ithaca.
- 2006 Geshe Drakpa Gelek – Kalachakra Six Session Guru Yoga for one week.
- 2007 Khensur Geshe Dawa
- 2008 Khensur Rinpoche Jhado – August 22 – 24, 2008
-2009 Gangkar Tulku Rinpoche
- 2010 Khensur Rinpoche Lobsagn Tsephel
- 2011 Gyume Khansur Rinpoche Lobsang Jampa July 31 to August 7, 2011
- 2012 Geshe Lobsang Dhargye August 12 to 19, 2012
- 2013 Geshe Lobsang Dakpa July 28 to August 2013 Two Weeks Start
First Kalachakra Ritual Ceremony at Du Khor Choe LingNamgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies hosted its first Kalachakra Ritual Ceremony over the course of 14 days from September 1st to the 14th at the newly opened facility on Tibet Drive in the South Hill neighborhood of Ithaca, NY. Overall, 42 students attended the teachings and many more guests witnessed the ritual ceremonies at Du Khor Choe Ling.
Presiding over the two week event was the Abbot and Lobon of our parent institution, Namgyal Monastery in Dharamsala, India, accompanied by 15 additional monks from India and assisted by the 4 monks currently in residence at Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies in Ithaca, NY. A highlight of the two week event was the construction of a Kalachakra Sand Mandala in the Shrine Room of the new facility. The Sand Mandala will remain until this coming summer, June, 2015, when the ritual ceremony of its dissolution will occur.
- 2015 Geshe Tsering Chophel Schedule from June 24 to July 7
- 2016 – Geshe Drakpa Gelek – July 10 to July 23, 2016
- 2017 Geshe Jamyang Nyima – Schedule from June 25 to July 9, 2017
History of the Kalachakra Tantra
According to traditional, sacred history, on the fifteenth day of the third month, a year after his enlightenment, Shakyamuni Buddha appeared at Vulture Peak in the attire of a monk, setting forth the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra in One Hundred Thousand Stanzas, and simultaneously he appeared at Dhanyakataka in South Indian as Kalachakra, setting forth the Kalachakra Tantra. The tantra was preached inside a huge, many leveled monument (mchod rten, chaitya); the location, Dhanyakataka, is identified by George Roerich as Amaravati in the Sattenpalle Taluka of Guntur District, Madras South India.
The tantra was expounded at the request of King Suchandra, an emanation of Vajrapani, who thereupon compiled the tantra in its long form, said to be twelve thousand stanzas. King Suchandra was from Shambhala, which G. Tucci says “tradition place near the river Sita (viz. Tarim),” East Turkestan. After hearing the tantra, the King returned to Shambhala, wrote a long exposition of it, and propagated Kalachakra Buddhism as the state religion.
The next six kings of Shambhala maintained the tradition, and the eighth king, Manjushrikirti (‘jam dpal graps pa) initiated so may persons (reportedly thirty-five million seers) into the Kalachakra mandala that he, and subsequent kings, were called kulika (rigs Idan), “one who bears the lineage”. Based on the long root tantra, Kulika Manjushrikirti composed a shorter tantra of five chapters, which has one thousand forty-seven stanzas. Named the Condensed Kalachakra Tantra (bsdus rgyud, laghutantra), it is what is currently called the Kalachakra Tantra, the longer version not being extant.
Kulika Manjushrikirti was followed by Kulika Pundarika who componsed the currently most famous exposition of the tantra, commonly called the Great Commentary on the “Kalachakra Tantar”, the Stainless Light (‘grel chen dri med ‘od, vimalaprabha). It is still extant and most likely served as the basis for the subsequent literature.
Another eight hundred years after Kulika Pundarika, a Moslem invasion weakened the kingdom, this being in 624 A.D. Nevertheless, the lineage of Kulika Kings continued such that the Indian master Chilupa from Orissa travelled to Shambhala and become an expert in the tantra and in Kulika Pundarika’s Great Commentary. He returned to India in 966 A.D., and disseminated the teaching, bringing it to prominence there. The author of The Blue Annals, the Translator form Go, Shon-nu-bel (‘gos lo tso ba bzhon nu dpal, 1392-1481) argues cogently that the Kalachakra Tantra had reappeared in India long before that time, since, among other reason, Chilupa: …had read (it) in the vihara of Ratnagiri (Rinchen ri-bo) which had been left undamaged by the Turuskhas, and was of the opionion that, in general, for the (attainment) of Enlightenment the Mahayana Guhyamantra (gsan-snags) was necessary, and that the text had to be studied with the help of the commentary by the Bodhisattvas. Accordingly he proceeded in search of the Kalachakra (so the Kalachakra must have been in existence at that time). Thus it has to be admitted that the system of Kalachakra seems to have reached Aryadesa [India]at an early date and that (the system) become known to many people in the time of Kalachakrapada, father and son.
It is likely that Kalachakrapada the greater (“Kalachakrapada, father” in the above reference) is Chilupa himself. Helmut Hoffman reports that Chilupa defeated in debate “Pandi Nadapada, called Na-ro-pa by the Tibetans” who was then abbot of Nalands, “which was, together with Vikramashila the most important centre of Buddhism in those days/” Lesser Kalachakrapada. Hoffman concludes.
It would seem that the whole further tradition of Kalachakra derived these two, not only in India but, also, in Tibet.
Nadapada, in turn, initiated Atisha into the into the Kalachakra system, and among Atisha’s students was the famous Kalachakra master Pi-to-pa, also called Pindo Acharya.
In the histories, there is agreement that the Kalachakra Tantra came to widely known in India from 966 A.D. with Chilupa’s return and “became effective in India under King Mahipala of Bengla (c.974-1026.)”
The Kalachakra is one of the last Sanskrit works to have been written in a Central Asian land whence it is said to have travelled into India.
With Chilupa’s efforts, the system was developed in India, spawning numerous compositions on various aspects of the tantra; beyond Kulika Pundarika’s Great Commentary, Lokesh Chandra lists forty-seven works by twenty-two authors (including six anonymous works). Sixty years Chilupa’s return, the Kalachakra Tantra was introduced into Tibet, this being in 1026, and quickly gave rise to a flourishing tradition.
The first translation was by Gyi-jo, who studied under Bhadrabodhi, a pupil of Chilupa, but “he had only four pupils, and even they did not maintain the tradition after him.” A student of Nadapada, the Kashmiri Somanatha went to Tibet and, after Ye-shay-chok (ye shes mchog) of Nyo (gngyos) did not live up to promise to present him with one hundred ounces of gold, travelled to a region just north of Hla-sa, called Pen-bo (‘phan po) where with the Translator of Dro, Shay-rap-drak (‘bro tsa b ashes rab grags) he completed a translation of Kulika Pundarika’s Great Commentary or the “Kalachakra Tantra”, the Stainless Lights, and a transmission known as the school of Dro was begun.
The other important tradition was the school of the Translator of Ra, Dor-jay-drak-ba (rva lo tso ba rdo grags pa) who studied the Kalachakra Tantra for almost six years in Kashmir with Samantashri, another former student of Nadapada. He persuaded his teacher to return with him to Tibet, three hundred ounces of gold being the offering, and the Ra school thereupon become particularly important in the Sa-gya order of Tibetan Buddhism. Through Sa-gya Pandita (1182-1251) and the Pak-ba (‘phags pa) the Ra tradition came to have important influence in the period of heavy Mongolian involvement in Tibet. Bu-don Rin-chen-drup (bus ton rin chen grub, 1290-1361) of the Sa-gya order who are called “the two great expounders of the Kalachakra in the Land of Snows”, received teachings from transmissions.
Bu-don Rin-chen-drup, in particular, wrote prolifically on the Kalachakra Tantra; the first five volumes of his Collected works are devoted solely to these expositions, ranging from an annotated version of the tantra called Easily Understandable Annotation For the Condensed Glorious Kalachakra Tantra, Great King of Tantras Arisen from the Supreme Original Buddha (mchog gi dang pa’ i sangs rgyas las phyungs ba rgyud kyi rgyal po chen po dpal dus kyi ‘khor lo’ i bsdus pa’ i rgyud kyi go sla’ i mchan), to Annotation to (Kulika Pundarika’s) “Stainless Light” (dri med ‘od kyi mchan), to numerous texts on topics ranging from the six-branched yoga to astrology initiation, and so forth.
Bu-don’s disciple, Cho-gyi-bel (chos kyi dpal), conferred the Kalachakra initiation of Dzong-ka-ba (tsong kha pa, 1375-1419), the founder of the Ge-luk-ba order to Tibetan Buddhism, who himself wrote several short works on aspects of the tantra. Dzong-ka-ba’s disciple, Kay-drup-ge-lek-bel-sang (mkhas grub dge legs dpal dzang, 1385-1438) composed a gigantic work of four volumes in commentary on the Condensed Kalachakra Tantra and Kulika Pundarika’s Stainless Light, some of it attributed to his students but included in his Collected Works. Kay-drup also composed shorter works on many translated in this book, the Mandala Rite of the Glorious Kalachakra: Illumination of the Thought (dpal dus kyi ‘khor lo’ i dkyil chog dgongs pa rab gsal).
Dzong-ka-ba’s other main disciple, Gyel-tsap-dra-ma-rin-chen (rgyal tshad dar ma rin chen, 1364-1432) wrote a highly cogent and readable exposition of the stage of generation and stage of completion called How To Practice the Two Stage of the Path of the Glorious Kalachakra: Quick Entry to the Path of Great Bliss (dpal dus kyi ‘khor lo’ i lam rim pa gnyis ji ltar nyams su len pa’ i tshul bde ba chen po’ i lam rim pa gnyis ji ltra nyams su len pa’ i tshul bde chen po’ i lam du myur du ‘jug pa). The First Panchen Lama, Lo-sang-cho-gyi-gyel-tsen (blo bzang chos kyirgyal mtshan, 157?-1662) wrote a condensation (one hundred eighty-four-folios) of Kay-drup’s huge work, and many Geluk-ba lamas have written on various aspect of the tantra.
Thus, in the Ge-luk-ba order the Kalachakra Tantra has received considerable attention despite its not being their central tantra. In the Ge-luk-ba order, the focal Highest Yoga Tantra is the Guhyasamaja Tantra, the tantric colleges of upper and lower Hla-sa having as their foremost purpose its exposition and practice. In Ge-luk-ba, Highest Yoga Tantra is studied mainly in the context of the Guhyasamaja system, which is considered the “general system” of Highest Yoga Tantra through which most other tantras of that class are understood. The Kalachakra Tantra is an exception, as it presents a somewhat parallel but interestingly different system for transforming mind and body into purity.
With respect to other Tibetan works on Kalachakra, the Sa-gya author, the Translator Dak-tsang-shay-rap-rin-chen (stag tshang lo tsa ba shes rab rin chen,bron 1405) wrote a famous commentary on the Kalachakra Tantra Called The General Meaning of Kalachakra: Ocean of the Teaching (dus ‘khor spyi don bstan pa’ i rgya mtsho), and the later eighteenth and early nineteenth Nying-ma scholoar Mi-pam-gya-tso (mi pham rgya mtsho, 1846-1912) wrote a two volume work, including an edition of the tantra itself and a commentary on the entire text called Clarifying the Meaning of the Words of the Glorious Kalachakra Tantra, Illumination of the Vajra Sun (dpal dus kyi ‘khor lo’i rgyud kyi tshing don rab tu gsal byed rdo nyi ma’ i snang ba). A select bibliography of a hundred works on the Kalachakra is offered by A-ku Shay-rap-gya-tso (a khu shes rab rgya mtsho 1803-1875).
This huge number of indigenous Tibetan works indicates the importance that the Kalachakra Tantra assumed in Tibetan and its cultural region, which includes the Himalayan regions of Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan as well as the Mongolain areas – Outer Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, the Kalmuck lands and areas of Siberia. Aside from these areas, however, it appears not to have spread of China, Korea Japan, or Southeast Asia, and thus the only practitioners today with a full transmission of initiation are in the Tibetan cultural region. Within that, due to communist takeovers, the only lamas giving initiation are among the Tibetan refugees or in Bhutan and Sikkim.
The tantra has become particularly associated with the Dalai Lamas, some of whom have given the initiation to huge messes of peoples. The present Dalai Lama has given the initiation eleven times in large public gatherings. For many Tibetans, receiving the Kalachakra initiation from the Dalai Lama or anther lama is a major event in their lives. The present Dalai Lama gave the Kalachakra initiation twice in Tibet at his summer place, the Nor-bu-ling-ga, in 1954 and 1956, each time to approximately one hundred thousand persons. He has given it seven times in India – at Thekchen Choeling, Dharamsala, in 1970, to thirty thousand; in Bylakuppe, Karantaka State, in 1971 to ten thousand; in Bodh Gaya, Bihar State, in 1974 to one hundred thousand; in Leh Ladakh, in 1976 to forty thousand; in Derang, Bomdila, Arunachal Pradesh, in 1983 to ten thousand; and again in Bodh Gaya, Bihar State, in 1985 to two hundred thousand person. The Dalai Lama also gave the Kalachakra initiation twice in the west, near Madison Wisconsin, in 1981 to fifteen hundred persons; and in Rikon, Switzerland in 1985 to three thousand. The commentary that accompanies the translation of the initiation ritual in this work is largely taken from the event in Madison. It indispensably serves to bring the initiation to life so that the audience can visualize, feel, and reflect on the principles of the process.
The current, twenty-first, Kulika is said to have ascended to the throne in 1972, and the reign of the twenty-fifth and last Kulika, called “Rudra Width A Wheel”, will being in 2327 – the reign of each Kulika being one hundred years. In the ninety-eighth year of his rule, the year 2425, which according to the Kalachakra calendar is 3304 years after Shakyamuni Buddha’s passing away, a great war will be waged from Shambhala during which the barbarians will be defeated. After that, Buddhism will again flourish for eighteen hundred years; thus, in the 5104th year after Shakyamuni Buddha’s passing away period of his teaching will finish, the length of time being 104 years longer than in the Sutra system.
Although Chilupa travelled to Shambhala, it is sometimes described as like a pure land, a place beyond the reach of ordinary travel, a land that appears-wishes person can be reborn in Shambhala whereby they can enjoy the Kulikas’ continual preaching of doctrine. Also, initiation is said to establish predispositions for rebirth in Shambhala not only for the sake in Shambhala not only for the sake of maintaining practice of the Kalachakra system but also for being under the care and protection of the Kulika Rudra With A Wheel when the great war comes. Thus, Shambhala is a beacon of hope in a world of tragedy for many Tibetans, Mongolians, Bhutanese, Sikkimese, Nepalese, and Ladakhis.
The word Kalachakra means “Cycle of Time”. The Kalachakra Tantra is a profound Buddhist system of teaching and practice which encompasses three aspects:
1) Outer Kalachakra: the external environment, the universe and its cycles of arising and disintegrating.
2) Inner Kalachakra: the sentient beings living in the universe, and the cycles of death and birth and internal flows of breath and energy;
3) Alternative Kalachakra: The practice of purification undertaken by an individual so that ordinary death, birth, and manifestation on both an individual and universal level, which are usually uncontrollably subject to the passage of time, become purified into the fully Enlightened state of complete Buddhahood.
The Kalachakra Tantra has particular relevance for our world system. The Tantra was taught by the Buddha in India two and half thousand years ago at the request of the King of Shambala, a place variously viewed as is having been an actual historical kingdom which existed beyond the Himalaya, or as a pure land existing on another planet not generally accessible but none-the-less strongly connected to our world. Predictions concerning Shambala have particular relevance to world events of today, being especially concerned with peace on this planet, and can also be compared with the predictive literature of other religions.
All Buddhist teachings are based on the Four Noble Truths:
- The recognition that every sentient being experiences suffering; the understanding of the causes of this suffering;
- The recognition that if the causes are removed there will be an end to the suffering; and
- The practical methods by which to achieve Liberation from suffering, or full Enlightenment or Buddhahood.
Within the Buddhist Tantras, the practice of Highest Yoga Tantra leads to perfect Buddhahood; the Kalachakra Tantra is a Highest Yoga Tantra, and such can be said to epitomize the apex of Buddhist Teachings. Only in Tibet were the Highest Yoga Tantras preserved and practiced as a living tradition after the decline of Buddhism in its native land of India.
Then Mandala, as represented here in particles of colored sand, is the residence of the Kalachakra deity and the retinue of deities surrounding him, all of which represent the components of a single individual person in purified form-a fully enlightened being.
Although depicted here on a flat surface, the mandala is actually three dimensional, being a five storied divine mansion, at the center of which stand the Kalachakra deity, the manifest state of Enlightenment.
The sand mandala can be thought of as a plan of Kalachakraís residence or pure environment. It represents a large building or palace, standing on a raised foundation, with four walls with a door in the centre of each; there is a roof over the whole building. The five stories of the palace represent the five levels of body, speech, mind, pristine consciousness, and great bliss. The colors of the four directions correspond with the colors of the four faces of Kalachakra; black in front, red to the right, white to his left and yellow at the back. The palace is surrounded bye various articles of offerings, and is resting on yellow, white, red and grey-blue discs which represent the four elements of earth, water, fire and wind. There are eight great cemeteries represented as wheels between the fire and wind perimeters; the other two wheels depict cemeteries above and below. There is a setting sun and a rising moon on the earth perimeter. The whole is surrounded by a protective fence of Vajras, and outside it is blazing light.
One can imagine entering the mandala through one of the outer doors at the first level, which of the body mandala, walking in through the outer walls, which are transparent and in five layers and colored, from outside to inside, yellow, white, red, black and green. You walk further in and climb up the each steps to the second level, the speech of Mandala, also surrounded by five transparent colored walls; up another set of steps to the third level, the mind mandala, surrounded by three transparent colored walls. You can see inside the mind mandala a square platform, the fourth level, the pristine consciousness mandala. On this platform is another platform, the fifth level, the great bliss mandala where the main Kalachakra deity stands on eight petal lotus.
A representation of this mandala is used by a practitioner of the Kalachakra Tantra for the purpose of visualizing in meditation. The every aspect of the Mandala has meaning, nothing is superfluous or arbitrary. As part of his or her training, a practitioner develops the power of meditative concentration to be able to visualize not only every details of the mandala, but also of the deities present within it.
Just to glimpse this sand mandala, however is thought establish a positive connection with this profound Buddhist Tantra, and to sow positive seeds upon the mind stream of the observer which will ripen beneficially in the future as the events of our world system manifest as predicted in the Kalachakra teachings.
The Kalachakra Ritual Dance
The Kalachakra Ritual Offerings Dance, Ghar in Tibetan, is performed in the course of the preparation ritual for Kalachakra Initiation.The dancers visualize themselves as the offering goddesses of the four cardinal directions and the center of the Kalachakra Mandala, the divine environment of the Buddha in the form of Kalachakra, which literally means, “Wheel of Time”.