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The Means for Progressing Along the Path of Kalacakra

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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It is of very great importance to cultivate a proper motivation for receiving these teachings. Not just any motivation will do. Since the Kalacakra Tantra is a means of attaining full enlighten· ment of Buddhahood within one short lifetime, the motivation to be cultiv~t~d is to listen to the teachings with the intent of reaching enlightenment ever so swiftly for the great benefit of all sentient beings. Rather than listening to the teachings as mere words.

check your own mind and actually cultivate this motivation. As we receive these teachings we should imagine ourselves not simply being in an ordinary house made of brick and mortar. but rather generate ourselves inside the palace of Kalacakra. that is. a splendid palace of jewels and of light. Likewise, with regard to

the Master who is giving the teachings, we should cast aside ordinary appearance. In fact, in the stage of generation on the path of iantra the chief points of refutation are the ordinary appearance and ordinary grasping (ordinary conceptualization). Applying this to the present situation, abandon the ordinary

appearance ofthe Teacher and generate him, or look upon him, as the natural manifestation of Kalacakra. In the same way, those of us who are receiving the teachings should also abandon our ordinary appear· ance and concept of our own selves and generate ourselves in the simple form of Kalacakra with two hands and fully adorned with the ornaments.

In the progression of the practice, first of all there is the motivation, the attitude. In the words of the great master, Dragpa Gyeltsen, "If one clings to this life, one is not a spiritual person."1 One should draw one's clinging away from the affairs of this life and look rather to the life beyond. Secondly, from the same master, "If one grasps at the bounties and pleasures of the cycle of existence, including those of humans and gods, there is no renunciation, the emergent mind." It is important to recognize that whatever pleasures or. bounties arise in the entire cycle of existence are without essence and they are by [their] nature unstable. One needs to turn one's mind away from pleasures and fortunes and, in this way,

generate renunciation. Thirdly, "If one clings to personal well-being there is no awakening mind (Skt. bodhicitta; Ttb. byang. chub. kyi. sems)." The point here is that one must turn the mind away from concern for one's own welfare to that of others. This is something that should really be put into practice.

Fourthly, "If there occurs grasping, there is not the view (Skt.dmi; Tib. Ita. ba)" 'Grasping' here refers to the conceptualization of true existence. Although we conceive of things as existing inherently since they do appear [to us] or seem to exist from their own side, in fact, there is no such thing as

true existence. Phenomena do not really exist in this way (from their own side inherently), but rather as mere conceptual imputations. As long as one is still conceiving of phenomena as being truly existent, one does not have the 'v.iew,' that is, the realistic view, the view of the middle way. These verses

summarize what is called the common training. It is called 'common' because it exists in both the sutra and the tantra paths. Within these verses are presented the emergent mind or renunciation, the awakening mind of bodhicitta, and the realistic view. These three are what is necessary in order to fully

enter the tantric path. If they are missing the tantric path does not bear fruit. Particularly, the awakening mind is essential. If it is lacking, no matter how much one practices tantra it will not lead to full enlightenment; it will not even lead to the Mahayana path of accumulation which is the first

of the five Mahayana paths. There are two paths for attaining full enlightenment: the causal path of the Sutrayana and the resultant path of the Vajrayana. Of these two, Vajrayana is superior. Among the great pa1_1~itas of

ancient India, the very profound path of tantra was as renowned as the sun and the moon. Within the Vajrayana there are four general tantric paths: 1. The Action Tantra (Skt. kriya-tantra; Tib. bya. rgyud). 2. The Performance Tantra (Skt. carya-tantra; Tib. spyod. rgyud). 3. Yoga Tantra (Skt. yoga-tantra;

Tib. mal. 'byor. rgyud). 4. The Highest Yoga or Supreme Yoga Tantra (Skt. annuttara yoga-tantra; Tib. mal. 'byor. bla. med). Among these four, the Supreme Yoga Tantra is extremely profound. It provides the means to attain full enlightenment with one body in one lifetime. In the Supreme Yoga Tantra, there are

the male tantras and the female tantras. The Kalacakra Tantra is a female tantra. What is the general distinction between the male and female tantras? The female tantras particularly emphasize wisdom, that is, the emptiness aspect. Translating into tantric terms, this refers to the 'clear light.' The male

tantras emphasize the method aspect, which refers specifically to the 'illusory body.' Individuals who have not yet entered the path toward enlightenment, and those who are fundamentally capable of attaining full enlightenment in one life with one body, must be born from a womb and be endowed with six factors

(Tib. khams. drug). In essence, this means that one must be a human being of this realm (Skt. jambudvipa). There are different ways of describing the six factors. According to one, the blood, flesh and skin are received from the mother, and the bones, marrow and white bodhicitta from the father. Another

presentation is that of the four elements (earth, water, fire and air), plus the channels of energy (Skt. nadi; Tib. rtsa) and the 'drops' (Skt. bindu; Tib. thig. le). . A lot of information is being given here and we hear a lot of words. But it is insufficient to simply leave it at that and say, "Here,

now I have this information." The point is that this teaching should be meditated upon. One needs to engage in the practice not only for some days, but for weeks and months. The mind is gradually transformed in this way. Likewise, the emergent mind (renunciation), the awakening mind (bodhicitta), and the realistic view (the view of the middle way) should be cultivated.

We have minds which are fit for the cultivation of all of them. They, as well as our own minds, are impermanent phenomena. Given the proper causes and conditions, these three aspects can arise in one's own continuum. So, it is very important to put these teachings into practice. The people who are

receiving these instructions are not simply here to gather some intellectual knowledge but, having received the empowerment, have come here to receive the teachings in order to put them into practice. It is very important that we really apply what we hear. There are twc;> very different ways of receiving the

teachings. One is the worldly way, simply gathering information to gain greater knowledge and also greater reputation and position, and so forth. In tantra, this type of attitude or motivation is totally unsuitable. The point here is to receive the teachings in order to transform one's own mental continuum. In order to practice the Kalacakra, first of all, it is absolutely essential to receive the empowerment. Furthermore, the master from whom one receives the empowerment should be a fully qualified tantric master who bears the 20 qualities signifying such a master. These 20 include ten outer

qualities and ten ·inner qualities. Furthermore, for the empowerment one needs to have a ci>mpletely accurate ma1_1~ala made exactly the right way. 2 What is required of the practitioners? The disciples must be well trained in the common path (which has already been presented), and have both a very firm faith and enthusiasm for tantra.


For the Kalacakra there are seven empowerments which are like a child growing up. These seven are called 'Empowerments of Entering Like a C~ild.' One needs to receive all of the seven empowerments [in order to be able and allowed] to meditate on the stage of generation.


1. The First Empowerment- The Water Empowerment Just as mother having given birth immediately washes the child

with water. in like fashion. the master first gives the water empowerment for cleansing the three doors. that is. the body. speech and mind of the initiates.

2. The Second Empowerment- The Empowerment of the Headdress

The analogy here is that the hair on the child·~ head is simply left. This empowerment acts as a cause for the eventual attainment of the u[ (the crown protrusion of a Buddha) when oneself becomes a Buddha. It is very fortunate to be able to receive such an empowerment.

3. The Third Empowerment- The Empowerment of the Crown Banner

This represents the five Buddha Families and is likened to putting ornaments on the child. such as earrings.

4. The Fourth Empowerment - The Empowerment of the Vajra and Bell

Of special importance in this analogy is the bell which corresponds to the child laughing. The vajra and bell in this empowerment are especially related to the Buddha-Mind and the Buddha-Speech. Receiving this empowerment places imprints upon one•s own continuum for giving such a result.

==5. The Fifth Empowerment- The Empowerment of the Vajra This is analogous to putting an ornament on the chiLd's

6. The Sixth Empowerment- The Empowerment of the Name

This is analogous to naming the infant.

7. The Seventh Empowerment - Initiation

The Tibetan word for this empowerment is 'je. nang• (rjes.gnang), which translates as 'initiation• or 'permission! This is analogous to the father or the mother teaching the child. The essential significance is that by receiving the seven empowerments. one

is empowered to practice the stage of generation. The first seven empowerments of 'entering like a child' also empower or cause one to gain the first seven Bodhisattva grounds as follow:

a. The water empowerment leads and gives rise to the first ground, the Very Joyful (Skt. pramudita; Tib. rab.tu.dga, .ba).

b. The headdress empowerment gives rise to the second ground, the Stainless (Skt. vimala; Tib.

c. The crown banner empowerment gives rise to the third ground, the Luminous (Skt. prabhakari; Tib. '

d. The vajra and bell empowerment gives rise to the fourth ground, the Radiant (Skt. arci~mati; Tib. 'od. '

e. The thumb-vajra empowerment gives rise to the fifth ground, Difficult to Conquer (Skt. sudurjaya; Tib. sbyang.dka' .ba).

f. The name empowerment gives rise to the sixth ground, the Manifesting One (Skt. abhimukhi; Tib.

g. The empowerment of permission or initiation gives rise to the seventh ground, the Far Gone One (Skt. diiramgama; Tib.


1. [The First Empowerment- The Empowerment of the Vase]]

The point of this empowerment is to ripen the mind of the trainee. First, one imagines offering a girl, between the ages of 12 and 20, to the vajra master. Together with this, one offers the ma1_1~ala and prayers to the vajra master and requests the empowerment. The vase empowerment is actually given when the

imagined girl comes back to the trainee who then enjoys her presence through laughing and fondling her breasts. As one touches the girl's breasts there arises the 'bliss' (Skt. sukha; Tib. which should be experienced as indivisible from

emptiness. It is with this experience of indivisible emptiness and bliss that one actually receives the vase empowerment. There is not actually any vase or any pot that is used for this empowerment. What is referred to as 'the pot' are the breasts of the girl, which are called the 'vase that holds the white'3

(Tib. dkar. ']). Because one touches the breasts of the girl and the breasts are likened to the vase, this is called the empowerment of the vase.

The vase empowerment leads one to the attainment of the eighth Bodhisattva ground called the Immovable (Skt. acala; Tib. The ninth Bodhisattva ground is ·called the Good Intelligence (Skt. sadhumati; Tib.'i.blo.gros). The tenth Bodhisattva ground, called the Cloud of Dharma (Skt. dharma-

megha; Tib. chos. kyi.sprin), is the highest of the Bodhisattva grounds. There is no place to go from there except Buddhahood. By the time you get there you are in a very fine place indeed.

2. The Second Empowerment- The Secret Empowerment

The second of these four higher empowerments is the secret empowerment. During the empowerment, one imagines that the secret vajra of the vajra master is placed in the mouth of the trainee and one tastes the white bodhicitta of the vajra master. This

white bodhicitta goes down to the heart-cakra of the devotee and there arises 'great bliss' (Tib.bde.chen.po). This bliss is experienced with the realization of emptiness, which is essential. With this unified experience .of bliss and emptiness one receives the secret empowerment. It should be re-

emphasized that, because of the nature of the empowerment and the nature of the practice, it is absolutely vital for trainees to have full faith in the tantra. This is called the secret empowerment because the secret substance of the vajra master is experienced.

3. The Third Empowerment- The Wisdom Empowerment

The third of the higher empowerments is called the wisdom empowerment. It is received in the following way: a visualized consort, or ~akini-consort, is given to the trainee and they enter sexual union. From this union the white bodhicitta descends from the

crown of one's head. When it arrives at the throat-cakra there arises 'joy' (Skt. ananda; Tib.dga'.ba). When it descends to the heart-cakra there ari~.;:s 'supreme joy' (Skt. parama-ananda; Tib. mchog.dga'). When it descends to the navel-cakra there arises 'extraordinary joy' (Skt. virama-ananda; Tib.

khyad.par.gyi.dga'.ba). And when it descends to the genital-cakra there arises the 'spontaneous joy' (Tib. lhan.skyes.kyi.dga'.ba), which is the highest of these four. One experiences this fourth type of Joy while

ascertaining its empty nature. With that unified experience of both the bliss and the realization of emptiness, one receives the wisdom empowerment. It is so called because the ~akini, the consort herself, being of the nature of wisdom is called prajfia or. wisdom. When one speaks of the white and red

bodhicitta it should be pointed out that it is not only males that have the white bodhicitta, or only females who have the red - both sexes have both. It is simply a matter of dominance. Even while receiving this emJ>Pwerment where one goes into union with a consort, if one is a woman, one is still

generating oneself in the form of Kalacakra and is receiving the initiation in that state. There is no contradiction in that sense. Likewise, to take just another example of Vajrayogini (Tib. rdo.rje.rnal. ', if one is a man, one receives this empowerment and engages in the practice while generating oneself in the feminine aspect of Vajrayogini.

4. The Fourth Empowerment- The Empowerment of the Word

Without allowing the white bodhicitta to come out, but retaining it, one experiences the 'supreme immutable bliss' (Tib. mchog.tu.mi. '' With the experience of this bliss one receives the word empowerment. To allow the white bodhicitta

to come out is actually a root downfall in this tantra. It is something to be absolutely avoided.


Finally, there are four higher, higher empowerments. These have the same names as the preceding four in the same order: the vase, the secret, the wisdom and the word. The distinction between the four higher and the four higher, higher empowerments is in what is actually occurring. One distinction between

the two is that the higher empowerments are given in terms of the conventional truth (Skt. samvrtisatya; Tib. The four higher, higher em"powerments are given in terms of the actual meaning (Tib. nges.don) and the supramundane (Tib. ', that is, the actual supramundane aspect or approach. The four higher, higher empowerments are the ultimate

empowerments in this cycle. These four higher. higher empowerments empower or allow one to perform the activities of the vajradirya or vajra master, involving both giving empowerment as well as explaining the tantra.

1. The First Empowerment- The Vase Empowerment During the vase empowerment, the white bodhicitta descends from the crown-cakra to the point between the eyebrows (Tib. smin.mtshams) in the central channel and one experiences 'joy' (Skt. ananda; Tib. dga'.ba). It is with the experience of this joy that one actually receives the vase initiation.

2. The Second Empowerment- The Secret Empowerment The secret empowerment is the empowerment in which the trainee goes into union with the consort or ~akini. When the white bodhicitta descends [from the point between the eyebrows) down to the heart-chakra, one experiences the 'supreme joy' (Skt. parama-fmanda; Tib. mchog.dga'). That experience is the receiving of the secret empowerment.

3. The Third Empowerment- The Wisdom Empowerment During the empowerment of wisdom, with the trainee and consort in union, the white bodhicitta descends [from the heart-chakra] to the genital-cakra at which point one experiences the 'special' or 'extraordinary joy' (Skt. virama-ananda; Tib.

khyad.dga'). The actual receiving of the empowerment of wisdom occurs with the experience of 'spontaneous joy' (Skt. sahaja-ananda; Tih. lhan.skyes.kyi.dga'.ba) when the white bodhicitta reaches the very tip of the genital organ. For very highly realized beings. the white bodhicitta is not ejected at all but is retained by the force of the 'wind' or 'energy' (Skt. prana; Tib. rlung).

4. The Fourth Empowerment- The Empowerment of the Word , The gradual cultivation of the stage of generation (Skt. utpatti-krama; Tib. l>skyed.rim) and completion (Skt. saf!lpannakrama; Tib. rdzogs.rim), which are developed by repeatedly engaging in the practice of meditation, eventually culminates in the actual state of full enlightenment. At that point one achieves

the Body (Tib. rlung.sems) of Kalacakra. This is not an ordinary, gross body made of flesh and bones like our present body. but is created simply from energy (Tib. rlung) and consciousness (Tib. sems). This is the culmination of the tantric path. The empowerment of the word is received when one

gains an understanding that this is how the tantric path culminates. In other words, one understands that the culmination of the tantric path is [of] the nature of the 'great union' (Tib. zung.' jug). It is pointed out that if one is a monk (Skt. bhiksu; Tib; dge.slong) or a lay practitioner with

vows of celibacy then. in receiving these empowerments, one does not have an actual consort and does not receive the empowerments in the way just described. Not only a fully ordained monk, but anyone who has the vows of going forth (Tib. rab.', which include the vow of celibacy, will not receive this

empowerment with an actual consort. In such a case, the trainee visualizes both the consort and the entire process during the initiation. Furthermore. the empowerment utilizing an actual consort is not given to elderly people who no longer have the red and white bodhicitta but rather by means of

visualization. However, if one is very highly realized, then it is possible to take the empowerment with the consort as has just been described. But, one needs to be very highly realized and not just an ordinary monk. This indicates that there are two types of consort: 'Action Mudra' (Skt. karma-mudra; Tib.

las.kyi.phyag.rgya). An action mudra is an actual consort, a real person. It is stressed once again that it is not with this type of consort that an ordinary monk receives such an empowerment. 'Wisdom Mudra' (skt. jiiana-mudra; Tib. ye.shes.kyi.phyag. rgya). This is a visualized consort. It is with this

latter type that an ordinary monk 01 other persons with vows of celibacy would receive this . empowerment.


These four types of joy, one by one, correspondingly give rise to the four Bodies (Skt. kaya; Tib. sku) of a Buddha.

1. The first, called joy (Skt. ananda; Tib. dga'ba), leads to the attainment of the Emanation Body (Skt. nirmanakaya; Tib. sprul.sku).

2. The second, supreme joy (Skt. parama-ananda; Tib. mchog.dga') leads to the attainment of the Enjoyment Body (Skt. sambhogakaya; Tib. longs.sku).

3. The third, extraordinary joy (Skt. virama-ananda; Tib. khyad.dga'), gives rise to the Wisdom Truth Body of the Buddha (Skt. jfiana-dharma-kaya; Tib. ye.shes.chos.sku).

4. The fourth, spontaneous joy (Skt. sahaja-ananda; Tib. [lhan.skyes.kyi.dga'ba]]), gives rise to the Nature Truth Body of the Buddha (Skt.

Svabhavikakaya; Tib. A verse from Milarepa praises his guru, Marpa the Great, in the following way, "I prostrate at Marpa's feet who has arisen from the great lineage of tantra (mantra) and who embodies the four types of joy." Upon receiving this empowerment, it is indispensable to keep the

pledges and the vows. Quoting a scripture, "Even if one does ·not engage in the meditation ·of tantra but keeps the pledges and the vows without the occurrence of a root downfall, one certainly attains full enlightenment within 16 lifetimes." The great translator Ralo Dorje Drak said, "If one does not

keep the pledges and the precepts of tantra, the Buddha has not stated that one will then attain. supreme enlightenment. Not only will one not reach supreme enlightenment, but one will not even attain siddhis (powers or boons) from the practice." The practice is not effective without keeping the pledges

and precepts. · In this large city of Seattle there are many, many people. 'Among them the numller who actually go to receive Dharma 'teachings is very small. Even in a family where the parents take the children to the temple and show them how to make prostrations and offerings, if the child does not have

the merit or imprints, it is very difficult and faith may not arise. So, keep the pledges and precepts (as difficult as it may seem) and recognize the good 'fortune to be able to receive them in the first place. To be able to receive these teachings, one already has a great store of merit. ·Furthermore, to have faith in the Buddha-Dharma is also indicative of already having a great store of merit from previous

lifetimes. If this merit were missing. faith simply would not arise. One should reflect upon one•s good fortune in having the opportunity to receive the empowerment and being able to follow this practice. We should feel encouraged to engage in the practice of the Kalacakra. We do not need to do so in a very

complicated or elaborate way. Rather we should generate ourselves in the simple form of Kalacakra. blue in color with one face and two arms. In Kalacakra•s right hand is a vajra and in his left a bell. Kalacakra is in union with th~ consort who holds in her right hand a cleaver and in her left hand a skull-

cup. This is an especially good practice because it simultaneously fulfills two functions. On the one hand. it is a tantric practice leading to the culmination of the tantric stage of generation, on the other. it is also cultivating and leading to the attainment of 'clear stillness.· By practicing in

this way it is not necessary to cultivate dear stillness (Skt. Samatha; Tib. zhi.gnas) as a separate practice. One attains it naturally through the culmination of the stage of generation. You generate yourself as the Kalacakra deity with the consort - not in the space before you. but you are actually

generating yourself in that form. At this time. you cultivate the appearance of the deity and the pride of being this deity. What is the rationale behind this? It is not as if simply some mundane deity. like isvara. were to think he was a Buddha. If Isvara goes around thinking he is a Buddha. it"does not

make him a Buddha. The sense here is that one is taking the Buddha one will become. identifying with and establishing the pride in that Buddha. and cultivating this in the present. When we are told to "have the pride of being a Buddha. the Buddha that you will become. in the form of the Kalacakra. ··

what is being stated is that Kalacakra is. in actual fact. a manifestation of the Buddha. I low does this relate to the origin of the Kalacakra teachings? While the Buddha was on Vulture·s Peak teaching the Pranjiiiipiiramitii (the Perfection of Wisdom). he was simultaneously emanating himself in a place in

the south of India wher.!. in the form of Kalacakra. he was giving the Kalacakra teachings. The illustration at the beginning of the book. Kalachakra Initiation. Madison 1981. is of Dawa Zangpo (lit. 'good moon·) who was a king of Shambhala. It was he who requested the Buddha to teach Kalacakra and who

was the chief patron. The Buddha then manifested as Kalacakra and the teachings were given. Engaging in the practice of Kalacakra leads to one's own rebirth in Shambhala where the tantras have greatly flourished and are very widespread. By putting these teachings into practice, the path is open for our

own full enlightenment. Kangsar Dorje Chang was a very great recent Tibetan lama who was one of the Root-gurus of both the tutors of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Kyabje Ling Dorje Chang and Kybje Trijang Dorje Chang. It was from him that Kyabje Ling Dorje Chang, the Senior Tutor to His Holiness, received the

lineage that we are receiving here. Kangsar Dorje Chang linked Shambhala to Lhasa in that it is an actual place with villages and towns; it is just truly a delightful place. One can attain full enlightenment there. To reiterate, while practicing the stage of generation, the main objective is to dispel the ordinary appearance and ordinary conceptions (grasping). One way of doing this while looking at any kind of form, even when looking upon a snow mountain,

is to see the object (of visual perception) as being the body of Kalacakra. And for any sound that is heard, comprehend this as being the speech of Kalacakra. And whenever thoughts arise in one's own mind, be they good or bad, imagine them to be the mind of Kalacakra. This is something to be practiced

all the time, even as you are driving down the freeway. It becomes a very practical way of dispelling ordinary appearances and conceptions. It is very important to recognize the distinction of the special forms of tantra. What is its distinctiveness? With Cakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja and so forth, it is

important to recognize the individual distinguishing factors of these different meditational deities and thereby understand how they differ from ordinary deities like isvara. Recognizing in this way the profundity of tantra, there arises faith in it. In the process of practicing tantra one learns the means for dispelling attachment by means of attachment. It is like the insect that is born from wood, comes out of a tree and then turns around and eats the wood of the tree.


1The English rendering of quotations from books and verbal statements from former masters should be considered as paraphrases and not as strict translations. ~From the base of the mandala in some other tantras there are successive ma~"alas of three elements: the wind or energy-ma~"ala. the water-

ma~"ala the earth-ma~"ala. The fire-ma~!Jala is not explicity present; its existence is implied because it occurs by the combination of the wind, the water and the earth. In the Kalacakra. on the other hand, from the base of the mandala there are the wind, the fire, the water and the earth ma~"alas. Thus, the fire is explicitly there. This is one among many distinctions found in this particular tantric system. 3'White' refers to milk in this context