Friday, February 15, 2008

Lesson 55 - Kalachakra

I am trying to get as many blog postings done as I can for you but this one will do it until I return on Feb 28th. Hope you are enjoying the posts so far and learning new insights about the wonderful buddha dharma. I will leave you with something that I received on e-mail : What is Kalachakra?

Kalachakra is a Tantric practice in the Vajarayana tradition of tibetan buddhism. It must be given by a Varja master.

The Kalachakra Initiation is generally given over 12 days. First, there are eight days of preparation rituals, during which the monks make the mandala. Then the students are initiated, after which they are allowed to see the completed sand mandala. The ceremony ends when the monks release the positive energy of the mandala into the everyday world through a final ritual.

The Tibetan word for initiation is wong-khor, which literally means giving permission, or granting the authority to practice the Tantra. The person conferring the initiation is known as the ritual master or Vajra Master, because the vajra (shown at top of this blog entry) is the ritual implement that cuts through illusion and represents the indestructible mind. Since the tantra itself lives through direct transmission by the Vajra Master, the initiation fulfils the Vajra Master's pledge to pass on the tantra without diminishing it in any way, always for the benefit of all sentient beings.

During the initiation, the student makes a pledge to respect and uphold the teachings. In this way the student enters into the lineage. Students may choose to take on different levels of commitment. One who maintains the commitment to a conscientious daily practice will achieve greater results, and the lineage will be strengthened. Many beautiful objects are used in the Kalachakra rituals. The thekpu is the special house where the mandala is built. There is a brocade throne where the Vajra Master, sits to give the initiation and the altar to the Kalachakra deity contains elaborate offerings and ritual objects. Large silk tapestries of the Buddha, Kalachakra, and various protector deities are hung around the thekpu, the throne, and the altar. The first few days of the Kalachakra process is about constructing the sand mandala, there are many elaborate rituals involved in this process. Those who construct the mandala take years to learn how to do this process.When the mandala is finally completed sacred vases are placed around it. The sides of the thekpu are covered with curtains so that the mandala will not be seen before the proper time. The Vajra Master thanks the spirits and deities for their cooperation by making offerings to them. The monks play sacred music with bells, gongs, drums, and huge twelve foot horns. They also do a dance of celebration that lasts an hour and a half.

On the ninth day, after the Vajra Master and the monks finish their morning prayers and meditation, the students arrive for the first time. Those who wish to be initiated into the practice of the Kalachakra teachings take a vow to have compassion toward all living things, to work for the benefit of others, and never to reveal the secrets of the mandala.

The students are each given two stalks of kusha grass, because the Buddha was sitting on kusha grass under the Bodhi tree when he became enlightened. The students are told to put the long stalks of kusha grass under their mattresses and the short stalk under their pillows. This will help the students to remember and study their dreams that night.

The next day after some preliminaries, the actual initiation begins. After the students have made pledges of good behaviour, the Vajra Master asks Kalachakra to open their eyes. Each student has received a red blindfold to place over his or her forehead as a symbol, since the students are not yet spiritually ready to see the sand mandala, and they now remove their blindfolds, symbolically removing the darkness of ignorance. They are now prepared to 'see' the mandala.

Next, the Vajra Master gives the students what are called the Seven Childhood Initiations. These initiations will help students to be reborn during the ceremony as ideal persons fit to enter the perfect world of the mandala. Each initiation corresponds to a significant event in the life of a child. The seven initiations represent a child's receiving a name, having a first bath, getting a first haircut, first experiencing the five senses, getting pierced ears, saying a first word, and learning to read.

After the students have been 'reborn' by completing the childhood initiations, they may enter the ideal world of the Wheel of Time - the universe of enlightenment, ruled by the deity Kalachakra. They can now view the mandala. The Kalachakra sand mandala shows the 722 gods and goddesses as well as the palace in which they dwell. The four faces of the deity named Kalachakra are also pictured. To represent his faces in the mandala four wedge-shaped areas of colour are used, within the circle. A blue-black wedge, or face, at the bottom of the picture looks east. The red face looks south. The white face looks north. The orange or yellow face at the top looks west.

If you envision what the mandala looks like from the deity's point of view, inside the mandala at its center, the deity's black face looks forward, his red face looks to his right, his white face looks to his left, and his yellow face looks backward. There are representations in the mandala of 721 additional deities, as well as animals, flowers, and jewels. The palace of Kalachakra, where the gods and goddesses live, is the largest square within the circle. This building has five levels, and each level consists of a square with four walls. In the middle of each wall is an entrance. In order to reach the most secret central chambers of the palace, initiates must travel through the maze of squares. Each square represents a different aspect of an enlightened being.

The mandala appears to be flat, but you can use your imagination to picture it rising up three-dimensionally toward its lotus-flower center. To trace the path of enlightenment, you enter the black eastern doorway from the outside of the building. You will find yourself on the first level of the palace. This level is called the mandala of the enlightened body. Halfway inside the body mandala is another set of four walls and an entrance. When you proceed through the entrance, you have reached the enlightened speech mandala. Halfway inside, there is another set of walls and entrances where you will discover an even higher level called the enlightened mind mandala. Halfway inside the mind mandala is a square platform that represents the enlightened wisdom mandala.

Once in the wisdom mandala, you will find another square platform. This is the highest level of the palace, the enlightened great bliss mandala. Within it is the eight-petalled lotus, at the centre of which stands the deity Kalachakra embracing his female counterpart, Vishvamata, the All-Mother. Together they symbolise full enlightenment, the union of wisdom and compassion.

Throughout the mandala there are many other identifiable symbols. Twelve animals, located on the lowest level of the palace, are associated with the twelve months of the year. Each animal supports a lotus flower where thirty deities are represented, symbolising the thirty days of the month. And around the entire palace lie circular bands representing the ancient elements: yellow for earth, a white band with waves representing water, salmon red for fire, gray for wind, and finally the outermost band, representing space and consciousness. With the Vajra Master guiding their minds and inner eyes, the students become authorised to enter into this perfect palace. But to become enlightened, the students will first have to work hard to perfect their techniques of meditation and their compassion toward all living beings.

In the last part of the ceremony, the Varjra Master says prayers, thanking the 722 deities for their participation and requesting them to leave the mandala and return to their sacred homes. He removes the sand that symbolically represents the deities, then cuts through the mandala along its original wheel-shaped lines with a ritual implement. The sand is brushed toward the centre of the platform and then the monks put it into urns and transport it to a nearby body of water. With chanting and more prayers, a ritual assistant empties the sand into the water, and the perfect peace of Kalachakra flows with it into the everyday world. The mandala, now gone from view, remains forever in the memory of all who entered its perfect realm.

Though the philosophy of the Kalachakra is at the highest level of Buddhism anyone can use it at any time. This philosophy urges us to reach a splendid, pure inner world while still living in our imperfect, earthly one, using Kalachakra as a model. For example, a pure body comes from healthy eating and not smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs. Pure speech means not gossiping or saying unkind things about others. A pure mind is trained away from angry, hateful and selfish thoughts. Once each of us purifies our body, speech and mind, we can find inner peace. When we have inner peace, at last it is possible to experience the state of bliss, or perfect happiness.

Side note: The highest ranking kalachakra varja master is the Dalia Lama.

Here is a very inspiring video of Kalachakra I think it does an excellent job of conveying the feeling of Kalachakra. This video can be downloaded on to your I-pod by going to the I-tunes music store and typing in Kalachakra in the search. It is free. I always have this on my I-pod, as many of you who know me personally know I have flight anxiety so when I fly I always watch this during take off and landing. It just gives me such a feeling of calm. Thought I would share that with you in case you want to use that little trick. ; )

Until I return, the buddha in me bows to the buddha in you! May you have good health and happiness and live in the full expression of the dharma. Namaste!

Inspirational Kalachakra Video

Kalachakra Mandala Dismantling by Dalia Lama
This video shows a little more of what you have read above about the dismantling process and shows the thekpu.

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