‘Chakra’ literally means ‘wheel’, but can be understood as ‘cycle’ or ‘process’. This refers to how reality is in a constant process of change. It is reality, as it is.
‘Kala’ is ‘time’, which refers to how sentient beings perceive or interpret this process. This essentially refers to how we experience reality as individuals.
At the relative level, Kalachakra can be understood as ‘Cycles of Time’ which encompasses the entirety of reality and the way in which we experience it.
At an ultimate level, ‘chakra’ refers to the aspect of reality known as empty form. The ‘form’ refers to the appearances that are the basis of our experience. The ‘empty’ refers to the lack of limitation.
Essentially this points to the limitless potential of appearances to arise.
Likewise, ‘kala’ refers to the aspect of non-dualistic awareness known as immutable bliss. The bliss here, refers to the pure experience of empty form. It is a subjective aspect, pointing to a pure perception of reality.
The union of these two, empty form and immutable bliss, is known as compassion. It is the absolute freedom of expression, that is completely free from all suffering.
For more information please read: What is Kalachakra?
Other highest yoga tantras explain only some of the details and they do so using symbolic language. Kalachakra covers a wide variety of topics and is very detailed in its descriptions, making the material even more complete.
The more subtle practices are especially well defined in the Kalachakra teachings, providing very in-depth instruction and details for how to practice.
For these reasons, Kalachakra is known as the “King of Tantras”. For more information please read: Why is Kalachakra Important?
Our world is rife with violence, poverty and illness. It is at this time, when afflictions are so obviously manifest that we can make the most of a liberative system like Kalachakra. Kalachakra provides the specific methods to overcome these challenges.
It is only now ready that we are ready to recognise the value in developing global peace and harmony. We can see the accelerated degradation of our world in so many ways, thus leading us to actively search for ways to remedy our disfunction.
While the Kalachakra teachings have existed in this world for a few thousand years, it has been practiced and preserved by a small number of masters and practitioners in a very remote area of the world. Now, with the help of technology, there are finally the means for disseminating these practices throughout our world. In this way, Rimé Institute seeks to function as a bridge to connect the world with this ancient tradition.
Ultimately though, Shambhala is the absolute nature of our reality. Every sentient being is endowed with this nature but it is inaccessible to us. If we can connect with this nature, then we are able to transcend our ordinary perception of our world. In this way, it becomes possible to experience the conventional manifestation of Shambhala.
In this realm, even though our knowledge is incomplete and our experience limited, those who practice the Kalachakra teachings strengthen their connection with Shambhala. In the best circumstance, practitioners actualise Kalachakra enlightenment in this life. If this is not possible, then they may achieve enlightenment during the process of death, when their gross minds dissolve into the most subtle mind of clarity. Failing that, due to familiarisation with the Kalachakra teachings, they can be reborn into the pure realm of Shambhala, where they can continue their practice with ideal conditions.
Firstly, we must recognise that the Dharma Kings of Shambhala are all high-level bodhisattvas. As masters of the Kalachakra teaching, their actions can only be motivated by intense love and compassion for sentient beings. Therefore, we must consider this in how we evaluate the events described in the prophecies.
Secondly, if you look carefully in the root text, it describes how the war between the “barbarians” and the “armies of Shambhala” are manifestations that demonstrate the need to overcome our afflictive states of mind. The Dharma Kings manifest this display in order to guide us, not to destroy us.
Shambhala is an enlightened society. When compared to our current society, overwhelmed by greed, violence and dishonesty, appears much more barbaric. Because Kalachakra encompasses everything, then there is a place for everyone to develop an enlightened mind. It is not a matter of forced conversion. Instead, peace and harmony can arise naturally by our eventual realisation of this profound nature.
Global Peace and Harmony
To develop inner peace, we must learn how to train our minds. Of all the different types of mind training, the Kalachakra System provides the richest and most extensive selection of methods.
Why is this? Because at the ultimate level, Kalachakra is a state of absolute peace. When the mind is at peace, then harmony naturally arises. If there is no peace, then there can be no harmony.
At the gross level, the harmony we can achieve is to be able to have some degree of patience and tolerance towards those around us. But ultimately, harmony is the unification with our most profound nature. We are complete with nothing missing. Therefore at this deeper level, we have no need for patience or tolerance, everything is completely unified.
For the majority of people, they are drawn to the mysterious nature of the event. Even though they may not understand its significance, there is some recognition of its value. This appreciation may not even be obvious to the participants; functioning at a more subconscious level. They see it as a rare opportunity to participate in an ancient ritual. Unlike other high esoteric systems, the Kalachakra empowerment is open to all. And so, whether believers or nonbelievers, they come from all over the world to participate in this unique experience. In this way, thousands of people are able to create a meaningful connection with the Kalachakra teachings.
For those who are seriously pursuing the practice of Kalachakra, the empowerment is an absolutely necessary condition for their entering into and engaging with this path. While many people think of the empowerment as a very elaborate ritual, that is not actually correct. The actual empowerment is the effect that occurs in the mind of the practitioner. The ritual is merely a way of conditioning the experience in order to facilitate the effect on one’s mind.
This effect can take many forms. It is not limited to just one result that one could identify as “the empowerment”. For some it may be an increase in devotion, for others it could be a feeling of compassion or an experience of non-dualistic awareness. Whatever quality arises, it is an internal experience that arises in the mind of the practitioner, supported by the conditions generated by the guru.
The empowerment ritual is a method for gathering the necessary conditions to facilitate spiritual development. Just like building a house, you need to bring together all of the required conditions. If you are missing an important component, you cannot complete the building. Likewise, the empowerment, provide the opportunity to develop key qualities that are necessary in order for realisations to arise.
Can I practice the Six Vajra Yogas if I have received the Kalachakra initiation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama?
For more information please refer to the book Unveiling Your Sacred Truth
This process can be divided into two types of practice: preliminary practices and main practices. The preliminary practices provide the opportunity to develop the pre-requisite qualities that are necessary to actualise the main practice. They can be broken into three distinct stages.
The first stage is known as the Outer Preliminaries. At this point, the focus is on cultivating a strong orientation for engaging in spiritual practice. This is done through a series of analytical contemplations which investigate the nature of present conditions, identifying opportunities and evaluating priorities. This motivation is further strengthened by the inspiration that comes from making a connection with the lineage of authentic masters who have practiced this path for thousands of years.
The next stage is known as the Inner Preliminaries. Here, the focus shifts to developing key qualities which are indispensable for actualising this path. Practitioners work with strengthening their motivation, developing confidence in the teachings and expanding their perspective to integrate a much vaster understanding of reality. The remaining practices work with the practitioner’s habitual tendencies, dissolving destructive habits and cultivating constructive ones.
The final stage of preliminaries are known as the Unique Preliminaries. These practices provide practitioners with methods for developing a pure perception of their experience, free from misconceptions. In this process the practitioner learns to identify with the pure reality of Kalachakra.
Having completed the preliminaries, the practitioner then engages in the main practice known as the Six Vajra Yogas. This series of practices are specifically designed to help a practitioner to manifest the experience of ultimate reality. The first two yogas train the practitioner to generate and stabilise their minds on a particular type of appearance known as ‘empty forms’. The third and fourth yogas provide methods for controlling the subtle energies of the practitioner’s subtle body. Then in the final two stages, the practitioner uses these skills to generate an extremely powerful mind that is capable of completely eradicating all impure mental structures.
For more information please read: How to Practice Kalachakra
If you would like to engage in the study and practice of the Kalachakra Path, we suggest that you contact us so that we can recommend teachers and materials suited to your specific needs and current situation.
The Six Session Guru Yoga is designed to maintain and purify the Kalachakra tantric vows. This practice functions as a skillful means to plant the seeds for future practice. It is generally recommended in traditions that do not carry the complete Kalachakra system.
The Six Vajra Yogas are an advanced set of yogic techniques that can only be practiced after completing a multiple levels of preliminaries. Through these yogas, the practitioner can directly experience the empty form of buddha nature in progressively subtler and more profound ways until complete enlightenment.
For more information refer to Why is Kalachakra Important?
I always suggest that my students practice the traditional text, unless they experience direct benefits from practicing my text due to their particular connections.
If I have completed the preliminaries in another tradition, do I have to do them again for Kalachakra?
The Jonang are known for their extreme dedication to practice and their many realised masters. By avoiding involvement in political power struggles they have been able to maintain the purity and authenticity of their tradition for hundreds of years.
In the 13th century, Khuphang Thukje Tsondru founded Jonang Monastery in Jomonang valley. At that time he combined 17 Kalachakra lineages creating a single practice system which has been passed on from generation to generation to this day.
In the 14th century, Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen became the throne holder of Jonang Monastery. Known far and wide as the Omniscient One, he fulfilled many prophecies made by the Buddha in multiple sutras. He built the Jonang Tongdrol Chenmo Stupa and was responsible for combining the Zhentong sutra lineage with the Kalachakra tantric lineage.
In the 17th century, Jetsun Taranatha became an incredible scholar respected by every tradition. He used his vast knowledge to clarify and support Dolpopa’s view. Thus adding great clarity and strength to the Jonang’s Zhentong view.
After Taranatha, the Jonang entered a period of political persecution and were forced to flee from their monasteries in U-Tsang and take refuge in the remote mountains of Eastern Tibet. At this time, the monasteries began to focus primarily on practice.
Then in 19th century, Bamda Thubten Gelek reintroduced an academic emphasis. Today all major monasteries in the Jonang Tradition have a strong balance between study and practice.
For more information, please read: Introduction to the Jonang Tradition
The Jonang place a heavy emphasis on meditation and have therefore developed extremely effective and powerful methods for achieving realisations. They also place a lot of importance on the teacher and student relationship, with students working very closely with their teachers.