The Kālachakra initiation involves taking refuge and vows and receiving empowerment – imagining ourselves transforming into a series of special forms and entering the mandala and experiencing in it a sequence of purifications and awakening and enhancing of potentials for future success in the practice. His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, like the first, second, seventh, eight Dalai Lama, have a great interest in the Kālachakra practice and has given over thirty Kālachakra initiations all over the world. He is the most prominent Kālachakra lineage holder alive today. Here’s a report by Eswar, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Kālachakra is a term in Vajrayana Buddhism which denotes ‘Wheel of Time’. The 34th Kālachakra initiation was completed recently in Bodh Gaya, spanning 12 days. The first eight days was preparation rituals during which Tibetan Buddhist monks made the Mandala. The next phase is to initiate students and allowing them to see the completed Mandala and then the ceremony ends with the monks releasing the positive energy of the mandala to the outside world using a special ritual. The advent of technology led to the 2017 initiation streamed live online, enabling millions to watch the 12 days ritual live.
Kālachakra1 revolves around the concept of Time (Kala) and cycles (chakra): from the cycles of the planet to the cycles of human breathing, it teaches the practice of working with the most subtle energies within one’s body on the path to enlightenment.
Time2 is defined as a measurement of change. Example – a month is a measurement of change externally in the moon circling the earth, or internally in a woman going from one menstruation cycle to the next. The patterns repeat, but events of each cycle are not necessarily identical. Just as the universe expands, contracts, disappear and then takes form again, individual beings pass through different births with repeated conception, growth, old age and death. We take birth without any control over its process or circumstance, each time we need to relearn everything we knew before. Our compulsive3 attachment and confusion about who we are and how we exist, we take birth again.
The Kālachakra system presents these three cycles – external, internal, and alternative – gaining liberation from external and internal cycles.
The Kālachakra initiation involves taking refuge and vows and receiving empowerment – imagining ourselves transforming into a series of special forms and entering the mandala and experiencing in it a sequence of purifications and awakening and enhancing of potentials for future success in the practice.
It’s believed that the Kālachakra Tantra was first revealed by Buddha to King Suchandra of Shambhala. This was based on the request of the King to help him practice Dharma without renouncing worldly responsibility. The first Kālachakra was taught in Dharanikota (near modern Amaravathi, Andhra Pradesh) in the 5th Century BC. At the same time, Buddha appeared and initiated Kālachakra teachings at Griddhraj Parvat in Bihar.
In 1027, Pandit Somanatha and Samantashri, disciples of Nalandapa travelled to Tibet and established the lineages of Kālachakra in Tibet. The Kālachakra initiation is practised in all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism – Gelugpa, Kagyu, Nyingma and Sakya, and Jonang4, the 5th school of Tibetan Buddhism now officially recognised by Tibetan Government in exile. His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, like the first, second, seventh, eight Dalai Lama, have a great interest in the Kālachakra practice and has given over thirty Kālachakra initiations all over the world. He is the most prominent Kālachakra lineage holder alive today. The first two initiations were given in Tibet.
Kālachakra Initiations given by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama5
1. Norbu Lingka, Lhasa, Tibet, in May 1954
2. Norbu Lingka, Lhasa, Tibet, in April 1956
3. Dharamsala, India, in March 1970
4. Bylakuppe, South India, in May 1971
5. Bodh Gaya, India, in January 1974
6. Leh, Ladakh, India, in September 1976
7. Deer Park Buddhist Center, Madison, Wisconsin, USA, in July 1981
8. Dirang, Arunachal Pradesh, India, in April 1983
9. Lahaul & Spiti, India, in August 1983
10. Rikon, Switzerland, in July 1985
11. Bodh Gaya, India, in December 1985
12. Zanskar, Ladakh, India, in July 1988
13. Los Angeles, USA, in July 1989
14. Sarnath, India, in December 1990
15. New York, USA, in October 1991
16. Kalpa, Himachal Pradesh, India, in August 1992
17. Gangtok, Sikkim, India, in April 1993
18. Jispa, HP, India, in August 1994
19. Barcelona, Spain, in December 1994
20. Mundgod, South India, in January 1995
21. Ulanbaator, Mongolia, in August 1995
22. Tabo, HP, India, in June 1996
23. Sydney, Australia, in September 1996
24. Salugara, West Bengal, India, in December 1996.
25. Bloomington, Indiana, USA, in August 1999.
26. Key Monastery, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India, in August 2000.
27. Graz, Austria, in October 2002.
28. Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India, in January 2003.
29. Toronto, Canada, in April 2004.
30. Amaravathi, India in January 2006.
31. Washington, DC, USA, in July 2011.
32. Bodh Gaya, India, in January 2012.
33. Leh Ladakh, India July 2014
34. Bodh Gaya, Bihar India January 2017
2 http://studybuddhism.com/en/advanced-studies/vajrayana/Kālacakra- advanced/overview-of- Kālacakra
3 http://Kālacakra2017.net/overview-of- Kālacakra/
4 The Jonang school was closed down in the 17th Century by the 5th Dalai Lama
Photos by the author.
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