The Recitation Commitment from the Kalachakra Initiation
The commitment regarding the Kalachakra six-session practice is to recite the entire text six times a day; however, that takes quite a lot of time. It’s not really necessary to recite it in its full form all six times. You can do it once a day in the extensive full way, in which you think very well about all the meanings, and then you can do an abbreviated version for the other times.
Begin with Refuge
As for how to practice, we begin by visualizing the central figure Kalachakra before us surrounded by the various Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and all the various objects of refuge. Don’t leave anything out. Also imagine a beautiful landscape surrounding them, filled with all the different types of beings, various creatures and so on, who are all experiencing the many different types of suffering. This would be the object of refuge that we’re focusing on. We think of all the suffering that everybody has and, in particular, the all-pervasive suffering of uncontrollably recurring samsara. We think about how all beings are stuck in this difficulty and how this all-pervasive suffering comes from their basic unawareness of reality, their ignorance. Compassion for them comes from thinking like this.
With compassion and strong confidence in the Three Jewels of Refuge, represented by the objects of refuge before us, and with the guru inseparable from the Buddha figure Kalachakra, we begin with the recitation:
From the Buddhas and masters from whom I've received the highest empowerments, the Dharma of inseparable method and wisdom they show, and both Sangha divisions abiding in it, I clearheadedly take safe direction.
From this moment on, till my purified state, I reaffirm my bodhichitta aim, heighten my pure resolve, and get rid of grasping for "me" and "myself, the possessor."
We recite both verses three times only for the first repetition.
The Four Immeasurables
The next section is meditation on the four immeasurable attitudes. With each of the four immeasurables, we imagine around us all the various types of sentient beings.
We think: “May they be endowed with happiness and the causes for happiness. May they be parted from suffering and the causes of suffering. May they achieve the everlasting happiness of liberation and enlightenment and may they have equanimity toward everyone as equal.”
What causes their unhappiness, their problems and their suffering? It is because they lack equanimity. People are attached to some and repulsed from and reject others. They don’t have this balanced state of mind that is equal toward everyone. Therefore, from the depths of our hearts, we wish that everybody be able to have that type of equanimity forever. We wish that this will happen automatically and that everyone will have that state of freedom from attachment and repulsion. Then, automatically, they would be parted from suffering and be endowed with happiness, and this would be everlasting. With the aim that all beings achieve these states, we recite with great sincerity and feeling from our hearts the four immeasurables:
I shall meditate now that all beings be endowed with happiness, parted from grief, have the joy of remaining always blissfully aware, and equanimity toward everyone as equal.
We recite this verse three times only for the first repetition.
The Pledged State of Aspiring Bodhichitta
It is very important to think about the next verse before we recite it, so that we’re in a proper state of mind in accord with what we recite. We think of all the suffering beings and we want to be able to free them from the suffering they experience. It’s the suffering of samsara in general, but also the complacency of just staying in nirvana as a shravaka or pratyekabuddha arhat. It’s being stuck in that situation. We reflect on the difficulties of all beings in many different types of situations, both samsaric and nirvanic.
Then we generate this very strong wish to achieve enlightenment for their sake. From the very depths of our hearts, we make this commitment and promise that we’re not going to ever give up this bodhichitta aim to attain enlightenment and benefit others. It definitely is what we are going to do. We hold on to this very definitive promise and commitment as strongly as we hold on to our life force. Effectively, it is our life force. We commit ourselves this way in the presence of the Kalachakra figure, all the deities of the Kalachakra mandala, and the Buddhas and bodhisattvas that we’ve been imagining before us. Then we recite this verse while making this very strong promise and commitment. This is a very essential point. It is important to think about it and to generate that feeling strongly before reciting the verse:
To free from the fears of samsara and complacent nirvana all wandering beings, I take hold of the mind that wishes to gain an enlightened state, and from this moment on, till becoming a Buddha, I shall never forsake it, though my life be at stake.
The verse that we just recited is for the promised or pledged state of aspiring bodhichitta. The next stage is engaged bodhichitta, with which we engage ourselves in the bodhisattva practices by taking the bodhisattva vows. We look to the objects of refuge before us: Kalachakra, the deities of the Kalachakra mandala, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Then we think: “How did you achieve this wonderful attainment to be able to help all sentient beings? You achieved this by following the bodhisattva path, by thinking with love and compassion for all beings with the exceptional resolve of taking full responsibility to help them as much as is possible.”
Then we developed a bodhichitta aim, this dedicated heart to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all. Therefore, we engage in the types of practices that include all the various aspects of method, as well as wisdom or discriminating awareness. We think: “You gained the understanding of voidness, practiced the six perfections and so on. Likewise, I shall do the same to achieve the same great attainment.”
Although we’ve taken the bodhisattva vows already during the Kalachakra initiation, we renew them once more with this verse. With these vows, we go beyond just a state of aspiring bodhichitta to the fully engaged state of bodhichitta. We commit ourselves to train through all the stages of bodhisattva conduct to overcome self-cherishing and to develop cherishing of others. We do this through the practice of the six far-reaching attitudes, the six perfections, based on love, compassion, exceptional resolve and bodhichitta. We recite:
Gurus, the Triumphant, and your spiritual offspring, please pay me heed: just as the Blissfully Gone Buddhas of the past reaffirmed their bodhichitta aim and lived by the stages of bodhisattva training, I too reaffirm my bodhichitta aim, to help those who wander, and shall train in the stages of bodhisattva training.
We recite this verse three times only for the first repetition.
Bodhichitta: The Essence of the Kalachakra Practice
We all lead very, very busy lives in the West. We have many responsibilities and it is difficult to find the time to do Kalachakra practice. But if we look at the most important feature of the entire practice, it’s this pledged state of aspiring bodhichitta and this engaged state of keeping the bodhisattva vows. No matter how busy we are, we should try to take a minute, at least, to really focus on this. This is the real essence of the path. What we really need to stress is this dedicated heart of bodhichitta and try to gain a correct understanding of voidness.
We think in terms of the difficulties that all beings have, we deeply reflect on the problems that they face. It’s not just the problems of pain and suffering we all undergo, but, we undergo suffering much more deeply than that. We all undergo the problem of uncontrollable recurring samsaric rebirth, which is the perpetuation of all-pervasive type of suffering.
As Tsongkhapa has written, “Just like me, everybody is in the same type of situation.” We’re all enshrouded in the darkness of our unawareness, with which we grasp to the true existence of persons. We grasp for the impossible existence of all phenomenon. We’re caught in the cage of grasping for the impossible existence of both persons and all phenomena. In this situation, we’re tied by the fetters of karma and thrown into the river in which we’re carried along by the currents of the most horrible things, filled with problems, with sickness, old age and death.
No matter who we are, without wanting to get sick, we get sick. Without wanting to grow old, we grow old. Without wanting to die, we all die. This is an awful situation and everybody is stuck in this terrible predicament. When we understand this, we develop a very warm affection and concern for others. On that basis of caring concern and love for others we think: “If I don’t do something about it, what is going to happen to them?” On that basis, we think very, very strongly in terms of this pledged, committed state of the aspiring bodhichitta: “I’m not going to ever give up this aim!” It is the same with this engaged state of bodhichitta, with which we take the bodhisattva vows to actually engage ourselves in the bodhisattva behavior that will benefit these suffering beings and bring us to enlightenment. No matter how busy we are, we should try to take time out from our busy lives for at least a minute, or a few minutes, to really focus on this. This is the most essential feature of this Kalachakra practice.
In short, the most important part of the entire practice are these two verses concerning the pledged state of aspiring bodhichitta and the engaged state of bodhichitta. If we do these really very well, with great sincerity and putting a great deal of effort into actually generating these states of mind, then the rest of the Kalachakra six-session practice is really not so important. It’s not so detrimental if we sort of rush through it. Even if the visualizations are unclear, that really doesn’t matter. Even with unclear, rushed visualization and practice of the rest of the text, the practice becomes a Buddhist practice. It becomes a Mahayana practice, a bodhisattva practice. This is what is most important and what has the greatest benefit and positive effect in our lives.
On the other hand, if we’re very sloppy and negligent with this part of the practice, then even if we’re able to do a very clear and perfect visualization of the Kalachakra figure, with all the arms and what their holding, the colors and things like that, this is no great accomplishment. Without the context of bodhichitta, it doesn’t become a Buddhist, or specifically, a bodhisattva type of practice. To be able to visualize complicated deities is something that we find in some of the non-Buddhist Indian traditions as well. That’s not going to get us terribly far.
Again, the main thing that we want to emphasis in the Kalachakra practice is these verses concerning bodhichitta. If we do that, then anything else that we practice during the actual session, no matter what the quality of that might be, will become a bodhisattva training and will be very helpful. Furthermore, it will be extremely beneficial during our daily lives and in our daily conduct. We will act in a very light, gentle, and kind way with others regardless of how others treat us. Even if they treat us very roughly, and speak very badly or harshly to us, we will not respond in an unpleasant way. We will be able to tolerate and deal with that in a compassionate and loving way. In this way, this practice in the morning will benefit us throughout the entire day. This is the crucial point, not the technical details of visualization, but feeling very sincerely, from the depths of our hearts, this bodhichitta commitment.
Rejoicing in the Opportunity to Develop Bodhichitta
The next verse is fairly straightforward and simple. We rejoice in the wonderful opportunity to develop bodhichitta and to practice the bodhisattva vows. As it says in the verse, our life becomes truly fruitful. We have awakened the Buddha-family nature, our Buddha-nature, with the bodhichitta of the bodhisattvas. We’ve actually awakened this family trait of bodhichitta.
This is the most wonderful thing that we could possibly do with our lives. In every action possible, we try to bring it back into our daily lives and always act in accordance with this Buddha-nature family trait of bodhichitta and the conduct of a bodhisattva. We never do anything that would in a sense taint that bodhichitta motivation and the features of bodhisattva conduct. In interacting with others, as much as possible, we will be kind and speak kindly, and always act in ways that will benefit others. We haven’t actually become bodhisattvas. Although it says now we’ve become Buddha’s spiritual child and will become a bodhisattva, we haven’t become actual authentic bodhisattvas yet. Nevertheless, we’re now very committed disciples or students of the Buddha’s Mahayana path and we’re striving in the tracks of bodhisattvas. In this sense, by taking this path, we’ve literally been born into the family of Buddhas.
Now my life has become fruitful, for having wonderfully attained a human existence, today I've awakened my Buddha-nature and now have become a Buddhas' spiritual child.
Now, in whatever way possible I shall undertake actions that accord with its traits, and never defile this impeccable nature that lacks any flaw.
This completes the first section of the practice.
In the second section of the practice, while we’re visualizing the guru inseparable from Kalachakra, we make the various offerings: the outer, inner, hidden and secret offerings. Then we offer a mandala and we also request and receive once more the Kalachakra empowerment. With this empowerment we can go through the seven empowerments of entering like a child and the four higher or highest empowerments. In this way, what we’re doing is further and further purifications so that we can achieve the four Buddha Bodies.
As previously explained, the main point of the empowerment is to awaken the potentials of the Buddha-nature faculties that we all have. For achieving the four Buddha Bodies, we activate them, awaken them, and stimulate them further and further. By taking these empowerments and by doing that again and again, it’s ensuring that the flame of inspiration and the active state of these Buddha-nature potentials doesn’t die down and become weak.
Each day, we refresh it and gain more inspiration and further activate those Buddha-nature potentials so that we can achieve enlightenment to benefit all. In conjunction with that, we also make requests for further inspiration from the guru inseparable from Kalachakra and so on. All of that is this part of the practice.
How to Begin by Meditating on Voidness
To start this section, we meditate on voidness. We meditate according to Nagarjuna’s excellent explanations. First, we think in terms of how we ourselves as persons dependently arise in terms of mental labeling alone.
What this means is the only thing that establishes our existence is what the mental labels – in other words, concepts – and names for us refer to. We ourselves, as persons, cannot be found. In other words, our existence cannot be established from our own sides, but can only be established dependently on what the names and concepts for us refer to. Just as we lack existence established by something findable on our own sides that establishes it by its own power, likewise it is the same with all phenomena.
Nothing has something on its own side that establishes its existence. The existence of everything can only be established merely in terms of what names and labels refer to. This refers to all appearances of phenomenon of both samsara and nirvana – in other words, all pure and impure phenomena, ourselves included. Nothing has true findable existence established from its own side, being established by its own power, independently of being merely what the mental labels for it refer to.
We think very deeply and carefully about how this true findably established existence is totally impossible. There’s no such thing and that is what we focus on in terms of the understanding of voidness. It’s a total absence: there’s no such thing. It is then, within that state of that understanding and that absence of impossible ways of existing that the appearance arises of the guru inseparable from Kalachakra.
The form we visualize is the simple one-face, two-armed, two-legged Kalachakra figure with the motherly consort. Kalachakra has a white left leg and a red right leg, as is explained in the text. They are standing on top of a throne supported by lions, on a lotus and stacked moon disc, sun disc, Rahu disc and, on top of that, a Kalagni planet disc. The guru inseparable from the couple Kalachakra stands on that in the simple form.
The rest of that visualization is quite clear from just reading and reciting the remainder of the text in this part.
Within a state of fantasy-free clear light mahamudra, on the broad path before me of the immortal divines, like a glittering multicolored display of rainbows, in the center of a billowing ocean of clouds of Samantabhadra offerings, on a throne of jewels held aloft by eight breath-taking lions, on the face of an opened thousand-petal lotus delighting the mind, on top of symbolic discs of a moon, a sun, and Rahu and Kalagni planets, as a total amalgam into one of as many infinite masses of sources of safe direction as there are, inseparable from my kind guru, stands the magnificent vanquishing master Kalachakra, imbued with the lustrous hue of a sapphire, blazing with brilliance, with one face and two arms, holding vajra and bell.
To symbolize the uncommon path of method and wisdom as a unified pair, your manner is that of a union with Vishva-mata, saffron in color, holding a cleaver and skull cup. With your right leg red and outstretched, your left one white and bent, dancing on top of a Mara and Rudra, you are elegant with hundreds of artistic tones. Your body, adorned with jewelry inspiring awe, like the vault of the heavens beautifully studded with clusters of stars, stands amidst an effulgence of five-colored stainless light, exuding joy, with three bodily points in the nature of three vajra-deities taking the form of letters begotten of light.
Explanation of Seed Syllables
This may need a little bit of explanation regarding “the three bodily points in the nature of three vajra-deities.” The three spots of the guru Kalachakra are marked with the three seed syllables, which are in the nature of the vajra-deities, the Buddha figures.
The vajra-body deities are represented by a white syllable OM at the forehead. The vajra-speech deities are represented by a red A at the throat. The vajra-mind deities are represented by a blue or black HUM at the heart. Then, from our own hearts, from the seed syllable at our own hearts, we emanate Vajra-vega that goes to the various infinite pure land abodes, the Buddha lands. Vajra-vega brings in the sources of direction or refuge in the form of the deep awareness beings, the so-called “wisdom beings.”
Emanated from the seed-syllable at the heart, Vajra-vega, holding a bevy of fearsome weapons, hooks in firmly a host of sources of direction, living in infinite pure-land abodes, to become of an equal taste with you who are here to bond me closely. You now assume the grand nature of being an amalgam of every safe source of direction.
Close Bonding or Commitment Figure
The Kalachakra figure, guru Kalachakra, that we’re visualizing before us is known as the close bonding figure, or “commitment figure” as it is sometimes translated. It is a figure with which we make a close bond to the practice. Although the figure before us is the actual guru Kalachakra and there’s no need to bring in anything further to make it more actual or “real”; nevertheless, our own ordinary minds are rather gross and rough. We might think that all this is just some imagined visualization and nothing more. To help us gain more conviction in the purity of the visualization, we imagine that, from the Buddha-fields, the deep awareness or “wisdom” being Kalachakra, the guru inseparable from Kalachakra, comes, brought in by Vajravega. It dissolves into the close bonding figure, guru Kalachakra, before us and, in this way, it incorporates every source of refuge, every source of safe direction.
The Seven-Limb Practice
Then, we offer the seven-part practice, starting with the prostration. The prostration verse is as it is here in the text. From this point, we go on to making offerings, and so on. We can imagine making prostration of our body, our speech and mind. There’re many details of prostration that could be added here in the commentary, but we don’t really have the time.
Although it’s not indicated here in the original text, but the way that Namgyal Monastery practices this is that they recite this verse for prostration three times. So this is something new you’ve learned.
Let’s recite it three times:
Respectfully I prostrate to you, my guru with a trio of inseparable bodies: a Dharmakaya of greatly blissful awareness, primordially fantasy-free; a Sambhogakaya possessing five, the reflexive appearance of your deep awareness; and a Nirmanakaya of enlightening dancers, emanated throughout the ocean of the wanderers' sphere.
Another difference is that the Namgyal Monastery doesn’t recite the two sets of eight verses of praise. They’re often included in mother tantra practices, but the Namgyal Monastery doesn’t recite them. There are various reasons. Rinpoche has his own theory that perhaps the reason for this could be that if we’re reciting the regular six-session guru yoga practice, it’s recited there. There’s no need to recite it more than once a day. Also, if we’re practicing Luipa Chakrasamvara, then we recite this as part of the daily practice and so there’s no need to repeat it again.
For this reason, Namgyal Monastery doesn’t recite it. They go directly after the prostration verse to the verse of offerings, in which one makes the outer, inner, hidden or enigmatic and suchness offerings.
Four Types of Offerings
Of the seven-limb practice, the seven part prayer, we’ve done the prostration, the first limb. The second of those seven is the making of offerings. We make four types of offering.
The outer offerings are the offerings of objects that are not connected to our mental continuums. We think in terms of the actual offering substances of flowers, incense and so on. We can also mentally emanate various outer offerings, imagining the twelve offering goddesses from Kalachakra making the types of outer offerings of flowers, fruits and so on. These are the outer offerings and they are in association with the vase empowerment.
We also make an inner offering. The inner offering is the offering of various aspects connected with our own mental continuums. This is presented specifically in terms of the five types of flesh or meat and the five substances. These are offered in a special fourfold manner: first we chase away interferences or impurities, then we purify them into voidness. We then transform them into nectar and finally increase them, so that they never run out. This is represented with the seed syllables OM, A, HUM and HOH with associated ritual. We present all these various substances that are connected with our mental continuums.
Inner offerings in Connection with Devoid Forms on the Complete Stage
On a much more advanced level, we are working with devoid forms on the complete stage. What we want to do is to be able to dissolve the grosser levels of the body, specifically the grosser levels of energy-wind, into the central channel, so that within the manifestation of the clear light level of mind, at the complete dissolution of the rough energy-winds of the body, we can generate the pure body of a Buddha figure devoid form. This is represented by having the aspects of our ordinary body represented by the five meats and the five types of nectar. Likewise, their rough appearances dissolve into voidness and then, as in generating a pure devoid form body from the clear light state, we generate them as nectar and offer them. That’s the inner offering in connection with the complete stage practices of devoid form.
Hidden or Secret Offerings
Then, in terms of the hidden or enigmatic or sometimes translated as “secret” offerings, we imagine ourselves as a simple Kalachakra couple in union, as is the guru Kalachakra couple. In this aspect, we imagine our white and red bodhichitta vital energies melting and, passing through the sequence of the four joys and the four voids, we come to the clear light level of mind.
This is the clear light level of mind generated as a blissful awareness having a deep awareness of voidness. This state is a clear light mind inseparable from a blissful awareness and from a discriminating awareness of voidness. It is a blissful, discriminating awareness of voidness with the clear light mind. This inseparable state is what we offer with the hidden offering, with the understanding of the four joys of the four progressive voids.
The secret or enigmatic offerings are in association with the discriminating deep awareness or wisdom empowerment. What we want is to build up the positive force and causes for the complete stage practices for the mind of a Buddha. These practices are done in terms of getting down to the clear light level of mind through the process of the four joys and the four voids, as was mentioned previously, and generating that clear light mind in the nature of a blissful awareness that has an understanding of voidness. These two being inseparable, the blissful awareness is a discriminating awareness of voidness and that will act as the main cause or obtaining cause for achieving a mind of a Buddha.
Offering of Suchness
With the fourth offering, the offering of suchness, we think in terms of how we offer what will ripen into success in the final stages of the complete stage. This final attainment is to have a body and mind inseparable as a Buddha. The mind and body are not separate, but are one in essential nature. In our ordinary forms, it seems as though the body is established at one side and the mind in another, but this is not the case with a Buddha.
With suchness, we offer the understanding that body and mind are inseparable. This is in terms of the inseparable blissful awareness, inseparable from the discriminating or deep awareness of voidness with that clear light mind, and that state itself having the appearance aspect of a body of a Buddha. This inseparable body and mind is the offering of suchness in conjunction with the word initiation.
These two, body and mind, have the same essential nature: they’re referring to the same thing just in two different aspects. For example, if we know someone whose name is Tashi Puntsog, from one side the name is Tashi and from the other side the name is Puntsog. But both names are referring to the same person. Likewise, the body and mind are referring to the same thing. That’s what it means to say, “they have the same essential nature.” That’s sometimes translated as “they’re one by nature.” They are referring to the same thing.
To repeat, the offering of “suchness” is the offering of inseparability. On the wisdom side, there is the inseparable blissful awareness of voidness with a clear light mind. The offering is the inseparability of the appearance aspects of this blissful, void clear light mind with the appearance as a Buddha figure. We offer the understanding of that, in conjunction with the fourth initiation, the word initiation.
It’s important to think about these four types of offering, their significance and so on, before making the offerings, and then we offer them. With some understanding and thought, then we recite as follows:
O my bountiful field, my kind sublime guru, that I might please you, I offer to you, with a mind unattached, undaunted, and clear about the three circles involved: billowing masses of clouds of outer offerings – both actually arrayed and created from the play of absorbed concentration – as well as of inner and hidden offerings, and six pair of slender-bodied, delightful bestowers of bliss with lotus-hands stunningly beautiful with gifts worthy to offer – such common and uncommon presents as these, as well as my body, whatever I enjoy, and the network of my constructive acts, anything physical, verbal, or mental that I or others enjoy, and the network of my constructive acts throughout the three times, a splendid jeweled mandala, with a host of Samantabhadra offerings – taking these to mind, I present them to you, my guru, my yidam, my Three Supreme Gems. Accept them, please, by the power of compassion. I humbly request you for inspiration.
Building Up Positive Force and Purification of Grasping to True Findable Existence
In making the four offerings, it’s very important and beneficial to think on a much deeper level of what is involved with these four different offerings. What’s involved is that they will help us to build up a positive force for achieving the different parts of the generation and the complete stage, the two stages of the Kalachakra practice.
If we look at the generation stage, the main thing that we’re doing there is purifying our clinging to ordinary appearance, which means ordinary appearance-making and clinging or grasping to their true findable existence. To purify ourselves of that, we have the pure visualizations. We imagine that we aren’t just offering ordinary flowers or ordinary incense or anything like that, but that these are purified into voidness and are within the state of a total absence of impossible ways of existing. In other words, they are without any appearance of true findable existence and without any grasping for true findable existence.
We generate a pure appearance of the outer offering substances, flowers and incense, to help us to stop making, clinging to and believing in these impure appearances. This is the purpose of the generation stage. We offer this to the guru Kalachakra, who enjoys the offerings not with the ordinary tainted type of enjoyment. Tainted enjoyment is mixed with appearances of true findable existence and grasping for that. The guru Kalachakra enjoys them with untainted happiness, or what is sometimes called “uncontaminated happiness.”
Then, in terms of the inner offerings, we’re working to build up the positive force or potential for accomplishing the complete stage. The practices on the complete stage are in fact working to accomplish and become a body of a Buddha. We’re not working here on the Kalachakra system with the illusory body that we would use in other tantra systems.
Offering a Mandala
Then we have the verse of offering the mandala. Mandalas can be offered in many forms. Here the offering is made in terms of the presentation of the universe that we find in the Kalachakra system. This is with Mount Meru, the four continents and, arranged around Mount Meru, Rahu, the sun and the moon, and Kalagni. The reason for these four is that with black Rahu in the east, the red sun in the south, the white moon in the north, and the yellow Kalagni in the west, these present the same colors and directions as in the Kalachakra mandala. This represents offering the Kalachakra mandala and explains why we offer it in this form.
By offering this outer mandala, an inner mandala and so on, we’re building up a positive force for achieving the body and mind of Kalachakra. It’s with this understanding that we make the mandala offering that all the positive force or merit from ourselves and others, take the form of this world system in Kalachakra, representing in parallel or similar to the Kalachakra mandala itself with its four colors. We offer this to achieve the body and mind of Kalachakra for the benefit of all. This is also represented by the four colors, the four sides of the mandala, and the four planets around it. They represent building up the causes for achieving vajra mind, vajra speech, vajra body and vajra deep awareness.
With this understanding, we then recite the verse of the mandala offering:
…a splendid jeweled mandala, with a host of Samantabhadra offerings – taking these to mind, I present them to you, my guru, my yidam, my Three Supreme Gems. Accept them, please, by the power of compassion. I humbly request you for inspiration.
IDAM GURU RATNA MANDALAKAM NIRYATA-YAMI
Open Admission of Our Mistakes or Confession
The next verse of the seven-limb practice is the open admission of our previous mistakes. This verse is sometimes called “confession.” We can think of openly admitting the negative acts and tainted constructive acts that we’ve done in general, and also in terms of our going against our vows. We can also think specifically about the twenty-five types of tainted behavior specific to Kalachakra, and any transgressions of the root tantric vows and those vows that are also specific to Kalachakra. We openly admit them.
What is extremely important is to include the four opponent forces. Without the four opponent forces, the open admission is not complete. It does not fully constitute this open admission and purification. Of these four opponent forces, the most important is regret. From the depths of our hearts, we think about these various transgressions that we’ve made. We think with a deep regret that these were really mistakes. Each was a fault, a mistake, and we regret it deeply. If we have that force of deep regret, then the other forces will follow naturally from that as a side development. When we regret something very much, we will naturally not want to repeat it. We rely on and reaffirm our basis of refuge or safe direction, bodhichitta, and the figure that we’re visualizing in the object of safe direction before us. This is what we’re relying upon in the practices.
Every negative act and downfall I've made or caused others to commit from beginningless time, due to the untamed stallion of my mind being drunk with the spirits of the reckless three emotions of poison, and especially my actions breaking my bonds with the general and specific traits of the five Buddha-families – such as disturbing my guru's mind or breaching his words – also my not safeguarding correctly the twenty-five types of tamed behavior and so forth, whatever disgraceful actions I've done, I openly admit, with a strong mind of regret and the promise to restrain from doing them again.
The Remainder of the Seven-Limb Practice
We have discussed the first limbs of prostration, offerings and confession. Following the open admission limb from the seven-part practice, we have the limb of rejoicing in our own and other’s good deeds and then requesting the Buddhas to turn the wheel of Dharma or to teach. We then request the Buddhas and the great masters not to pass away or go away and, lastly, we have the dedication.
I rejoice in the ocean of my own and others' well-done deeds producing a bounteous foam of delightful results.
I request you to let a monsoonal rain fall of three vehicles of Dharma, suiting the thoughts and tempers of modest, middling, and supreme disciples needing to be tamed.
With a body of coarse forms that can appear to the face of those who look from this side of omniscience, please remain here without dissipation, unchanging and stable for hundreds of eons.
I dedicate my network of constructive acts such as this as a cause for quickly attaining the enlightening state of a Kalachakra unified pair.
Review of the Stages of the Path
The next section of the practice is a review of the stages of the path, including aspects of the advanced scope, the Mahayana scope. The recitation reminds us of the practices of bodhichitta, the six far-reaching attitudes, and so forth. It includes the practices of the four ways of being a positive influence on others and gathering disciples. These are different aspects of bodhisattva behavior involved in the path of someone of advanced scope of motivation.
In terms of the intermediate or middling scope of motivation, we speak about the faults of samsara that we want to get rid of. This includes the confusion of the sensory desires and compulsive existence and what ripens from these forms of confusion. What ripens is the cause of samsaric existence and continuing uncontrollable rebirth. In association with the intermediate scope or middling scope of motivation, we aim to rid ourselves of disturbing emotions and these types of obstacles.
In terms of the initial scope of motivation, we have the verse that is concerned with ridding ourselves of the ten types of destructive behaviour. That is the focus in association with the initial scope.
Method and Wisdom
The verses cover the path of the three scopes of motivation in a reversed order from that presented in the lam-rim graded path. Regardless, we can see how it covers the entire path from the point of view of method and wisdom. It encompasses the extensive teachings on the method side and the profound teachings on the discriminating awareness of voidness side – the wisdom side.
From the method side, the extensive path, it presents the practices of bodhichitta, the far-reaching attitudes, four ways of gathering disciples, benefitting disciples, restraining from the disturbing emotions, and purifying ourselves of the various obstacles and forms of confusion. On the side of wisdom, the final verse in this section is the meditation on the four gateways to liberation. This includes a total absence, lack of sign, lack of hope, and lack of an action to affect things ahead. This is dealing with the profound side of the practice concerning voidness, emptiness.
In these different ways, these verses cover the entire path.
From this moment on, till my purified state, I reaffirm my bodhichitta aim, heighten my pure resolve, and rid myself of conceiving of "me" and "myself, the possessor."
For the sake of the three networks bringing enlightenment, I shall actualize the far-reaching attitudes of giving, ethical discipline, patience, perseverance, stability of mind, discriminating awareness, skill in means, aspiration, strength, and deep awareness.
I shall meditate now that all beings be endowed with happiness, parted from grief, have the joy of remaining always blissfully aware, and equanimity toward everyone as equal.
I shall hail them with a wave of giving and, having spoken with pleasing words, cheer them with meaningful behavior and implant them with eminent advice by acting accordingly.
I shall rid myself of the ten destructive acts: three physical actions, four kinds of speech, and three ways of thinking.
I shall remove the five obstacles: regret, foggy-mindedness, sleepiness, flightiness of mind, and indecisive wavering – they hinder my three higher trainings.
I shall rid myself of attachment, hostility, naivety, and pride: the four disturbing emotions that anchor the root of my compulsive existence.
I shall remove my taints regarding sensory desires, compulsive existence, lack of awareness, and outlook on life: four taints that cause my uncontrollably recurring existence.
A total absence, lack of a sign, lack of a hope, and lack of an action to affect things ahead: through these four gateways to full liberation, I shall actualize total enlightenment.
Requesting Inspiration and Strength from the Spiritual Master
Whether we look in terms of Mahayana, in terms of general sutra, or in terms of tantra, regardless of which aspect we are emphasizing in our practice, receiving inspiration from the spiritual master, from the guru, is extremely essential. This is particularly vital in the practice of tantra.
In the next section of the practice, we request this inspiration, inspiring strength, from the spiritual master. Here, it is His Holiness the Dalai Lama, inseparable from the Buddha-figure Kalachakra.
O kind guru, amalgam of the three safe sources of direction, when I rely on you with my entire heart, in a healthy manner, you're a wish-granting spring spouting the milk of everything constructive and good in compulsive existence and the peace beyond. I request you bestow on my mind-stream inspiring strength.
Having made the request, we repeat His Holiness’s name mantra as many times as possible and as we wish. While doing so, we imagine that we receive lights and nectars to purify us of various obscurations or obstacles that are associated with the path and we gain inspiration.
While we are reciting the name mantra, on the initial scope, we can think in terms of purifying the obstacles and obscurations that prevent our pure practice in terms of committing negative or destructive actions. Additionally, we can think in terms of the obscurations that prevent us from generating pure renunciation, pure bodhichitta or a correct understanding of voidness. At different times during the recitation, we can think of the purification of each of these various obscurations or obstacles that prevent us from really developing them purely, and we imagine we are filled with inspiration. This recitation of the request for inspiration and the visualizations of receiving that purification and inspiration from the guru Kalachakra that are done here are very important.
There are various versions of His Holiness’s name mantra. The form here is the full name mantra of His Holiness as it’s recited by Namgyal Monastery.
OM AH GURU VAJRA-DHARA, BHATARAKA MANJUSHRI VAGINDRA SUMATI JNANA, SHASANA DHARA, SAMUDRA SHRI BHADRA, SARVA SIDDHI HUM HUM.
After the request for inspiration and strength comes the request for the empowerment. We recite this request three times:
I request you, O Guru Kalachakra, confer on me fully all the empowerments, inspire me please to cleanse away obscuration from my four family-traits and thus to achieve a Buddha's four bodies.
We imagine that we receive first seven empowerments of entering like a child. These are in association with the purifications for vajra mind, vajra speech, vajra body and for vajra deep awareness, the fourth occasion. On top of that, we also imagine receiving the two sets of higher and highest four empowerments, also the empowerments of vajra master. In this way, we receive the full empowerment starting with each of these one at a time: the water, crown, ear tassel, vajra and bell, tamed behavior, name and subsequent permission empowerments. That constitutes the seven and then the higher and highest and vajra master empowerments.
For this, we recite:
Empowering deities emanated from your heart, together with the male and female Buddhas and their surrounding figures from your mandala palace, confer the water, crown, ear tassel, vajra and bell, tamed behavior, name, and subsequent permission empowerments, and then supremely confer the two sets of higher and highest four empowerments and the empowerments of a vajra master.
We might ask what is the necessity or purpose for the empowerments? It’s to energize and lay further potentials for being able to practice the generation and complete stages.
On the generation stage, we work with these complex visualizations and, on the basis of the purifications, this builds up the necessary force, the necessary requirements for being able to go on to practice the complete stage. On the complete stage, we work with the subtle energy system. We work with the winds, channels, drops and so forth to be able to gain the clear light awareness of voidness here.
When we speak about the stacking of the drops, we’re speaking of twelve sets of 18,000 each that we are stacking. With each of these, we pass through the successive stages of the uninterrupted path and the liberated path of the path of seeing and twelve bhumi levels along the path of Kalachakra. There’s a whole list of them, each purifying various aspects concerning the body, speech, mind, deep awareness and so forth. In this way, eventually we achieve enlightenment.
By means of these, the energy-channels and winds of my body become flexible and fit. Empowered to meditate on both stages of practice, I gain the good fortune to fully deplete the twenty-one thousand six hundred winds of my karma, plus every bit of my body's corporeal matter, and thus to manifest in this very lifetime a magnificent Kalachakra enlightenment endowed sevenfold.
Having made the request for inspiration, recited the name mantra, requested and received the empowerment, and have had our seeds of potentials energized through the empowerments, we then make a final special request for inspiration. This inspiration is to activate even more these potentials that were activated with the empowerment. For this, we have the final verse of this section, the verse of special request, which we recite three times:
Having made my requests with respect from my heart to you, my guru, O great Vajradhara, master amalgamating infinite sources of safe direction, I request you bestow on my mind-stream inspiring strength.
When we repeat the recitation of the verses from this first section for the second or the third times, because we have gone through it extensively, we can become a bit tired. We modify by doing the verses “From the Buddhas and masters …” up to “…and never defile this impeccable nature that lacks any flaw,” repeating each only one time.
We stop here. Because the guru Kalachakra is already visualized before us, there’s no need to generate the visualization again. We go directly to the prostration verse: “Respectfully I prostrate to you… emanated throughout the ocean of the wanderers' sphere.”
Then the verse of offering and mandala: “O my bountiful field, my kind sublime guru…IDAM GURU RATNA MANDALAKAM NIRYATA-YAMI.”
Then we go to the very end of this session, the special request: “Having made my requests with respect from my heart …bestow on my mind-stream inspiring strength.”
Is that clear to everybody what we do in the second repetition?
The repetition of the third time is the same as that of the second time. If we don’t have very much time during the day, we can do all six repetitions altogether in the morning and then the fourth, fifth and six repetitions would be the same as the second. But if we follow the Tibetan customs, then we do in the morning three times and in the evening three times.
In the morning, we would do the first repetition and that would be the extensive way that was explained, and the second and third would be the abbreviated version. In the evening, we would do the same, the first would be the longer version and then the second two would be the shorter.
Whether we do six altogether or we do three and three twice a day, we should use the way of abbreviating it as it has been explained. The short repetition is always the same.
The Later Section
The six-session practice can be divided into two sections, the earlier or the beginning section and the later section. We’ve already described the earlier or beginning section. The rest of it is the later section and we will describe this in brief.
If we are reciting three times in the morning, then after the third repetition, we recite the first verse of the next section:
By the force of request, through my strong plaintive yearning, my root guru, great Kalachakra, alights on the crown of my head.
We then think of how we ourselves lack true findable existence and how guru Kalachakra likewise is perfectly devoid of true findably existence. In this sense, he merges into us and we focus on the full understanding of voidness.
Gladly merging with me, we become of one taste. All phenomena – causes, effects, natures, and actions – like an illusion or dream, are, from the start, utterly devoid of solid reality.
Visualization and Recitation Details of the First Recitation of Later Section
Within this state of understanding of the absence of true findable existence of ourselves and guru Kalachakra, we ourselves arise as is mentioned in the text.
Very briefly, as there’s no time to go into details, we are on an eight-petaled lotus, which is green, and on top of the lotus are the symbolic discs as in the text, moon, sun, Rahu and Kalagni. The process of the five approximations is a way of generating ourselves to a state representing full enlightenment. Through this process with the moon and the sun and the syllables HUM, HI and HAM, we arise as the full Kalachakra figure, in the center of the lotus on the four discs with a Vishvamati motherly consort, surrounded by the eight powerful ladies, one each on the eight green petals of the green lotus.
This visualization is a special way of keeping the close bonding practices of Akshobya; that of the body in the form of the Kalachakra figure. This is the close bonding practice of holding the vajra and bell – the mudra of having a vajra and bell, representing inseparable method and wisdom.
We recite as follows:
Within a state of this absence, like a surfacing bubble, comes a water-born lotus with petals outspread. On its corolla are stacked symbolic discs of a moon, a sun, Rahu, and Kalagni.
On top of them, in the nature of my white and red sources, are a moon and a sun, their perimeters embellished with garlands of vowels and consonants in the nature of the major and minor marks of a Buddha, and their center embedded with syllables HUM and HI, symbolizing my energy-wind and mind.
These mix into one in the form of a syllable HAM, from which I transform and arise, Kalachakra, imbued with the lustrous hue of a sapphire, blazing with brilliance, having four faces and twenty-four arms.
To symbolize the vajra of supreme, unchanging blissful awareness and the actual state devoid of impossible ways of existing, my first two hands hold a vajra and bell, while embracing my motherly partner.
My remaining lotus-hands on the right and the left are arrayed with insignia such as cleaver and shield. My right leg is red and outstretched, my left one white and bent: dancing on top of a Mara and Rudra, I am elegant with hundreds of artistic tones.
My body, adorned with copious jewelry, like the vault of the heavens beautifully studded with clusters of stars, stands amidst an effulgence of five-colored stainless light.
Facing me, the Vanquishing Master Surpassing All, is Vishvamata, saffron in color, four faces, eight arms, holding a variety of insignia such as cleaver and skull-cup, with her left leg outstretched, and embracing me, the vanquishing master surpassing all.
We are encircled, in the cardinal and intermediate directions, by eight shakti maidens on petals the number of the auspicious signs.
Standing magnificently like this, as the principal figure, I emanate from my heart a Vajravega, holding a bevy of fearsome weapons with which he hooks in firmly a host of sources of safe direction, living in infinite pure-land abodes, to become of an equal taste with those I visualize to bond me closely.
Empowering deities confer the empowerments. As the principal one, along with my circle, we all become sealed with the ruling figures of our Buddha-families.
The perimeters around the seed-syllables at the hearts of myself, the principal figure, along with my circle, are ringed with a garland of each of our mantras. From these, emanate a host of mandala deities who fulfill the aims of wandering beings and then gather back, dissolving into the seed-syllables at our hearts.
Having gone through this visualization section, we recite the mantras of Kalachakra, Vishvamata and the ten powerful ladies.
We recite as many times as possible:
OM AH HUM HO HKSHMLVRYAM HUM PHAT
This is pronounced in Tibetan: OM AH HUM HO HANKYA-MALA-WARAYA HUM PAY.
Then we recite the mantra of the motherly consort Vishvamata as many times as possible:
OM PHREM VISHVAMATA HUM HUM.
Then we recite the mantras of the ten powerful ladies. It’s sufficient to recite each of them three times:
OM DANA PARAMITA HUM HUM PHAT
OM SHILA PARAMITA HUM HUM PHAT
OM KSHANTI PARAMITA HUM HUM PHAT
OM VIRYA PARAMITA HUM HUM PHAT
OM DHYANA PARAMITA HUM HUM PHAT
OM PRAJNA PARAMITA HUM HUM PHAT
OM UPAYA PARAMITA HUM HUM PHAT
OM PRANIDHANA PARAMITA HUM HUM PHAT
OM BALA PARAMITA HUM HUM PHAT
OM JNANA PARAMITA HUM HUM PHAT
Then to purify any mistakes in the recitation, we recite the 100-syllable Vajrasattva mantra once:
OM VAJRA-SATTVA SAMAYA MANU-PALAYA, VAJRA-SATTVA TVENO-PATISHTA, DRIDHO ME BHAVA, SU TOSHYO ME BHAVA, SU POSHYO ME BHAVA, ANU RAKTO ME BHAVA, SARVA SIDDHIM ME PRAYACHCHHA, SARVA KARMA SUCHHA ME, CHITTAM SHRIYAM KURU HUM, HA HA HA HA HOH BHAGAVAN, SARVA TATHAGATA VAJRA, MA ME MUNCHA, VAJRI BHAVA, MAHA SAMAYA SATTVA, AH HUM PHAT.
We then make the offerings to ourselves, the self-generated offerings, and recite:
Divine offering maidens emanated from my heart present us the offerings:
OM SHRI KALACHAKRA SAPARI-VARA ARGHAM PRATICHCHHA NAMAH
OM SHRI KALACHAKRA SAPARI-VARA PADYAM PRATICHCHHA NAMAH
OM SHRI KALACHAKRA SAPARI-VARA PROKSHANAM PRATICHCHHA NAMAH
OM SHRI KALACHAKRA SAPARI-VARA ANCHAMANAM PRATICHCHHA NAMAH
OM SHRI KALACHAKRA SAPARI-VARA PUSHPE PRATICHCHHA NAMAH
OM SHRI KALACHAKRA SAPARI-VARA DHUPE PRATICHCHHA NAMAH
OM SHRI KALACHAKRA SAPARI-VARA ALOKE PRATICHCHHA NAMAH
OM SHRI KALACHAKRA SAPARI-VARA GANDHE PRATICHCHHA NAMAH
OM SHRI KALACHAKRA SAPARI-VARA NAIVIDYA PRATICHCHHA NAMAH
OM SHRI KALACHAKRA SAPARI-VARA SHABDA PRATICHCHHA NAMAH
After this, we offer the praises made with the prostration. With the first verse, we offer praise first from the point of view of the inseparable bliss of voidness and compassion, then from the point of view of having neither a truly existent arising nor ceasing or perishing away, and then from the point of view of the inseparability of the two truths.
I prostrate to you, O glorious Kalachakra. With a nature of voidness and compassion, you neither take birth in the three planes of existence, nor perish away. Your enlightening bodies, as a way of knowing and what are known, possess the same source.
The praises continue:
I bow to you, Kalachakra. Having rid yourself of unions of vowels with consonants, and those with the syllables HUM and PHAT, you've an enlightening body born from what is unchanging.
I bow to you, O Lady Mahamudra. You possess the supreme of all aspects having the nature of a magic-mirror image, beyond an actual nature of atoms.
I prostrate to you, Vishvamata, lady giving birth to all the Buddhas. Having rid yourself of arising and passing, you possess the behavior of Samantabhadra.
After this, we have the dissolution of the visualization. The shakti maidens, the powerful ladies, dissolve into Vishvamata, the motherly consort, and she melts into ourselves, into the main figure Kalachakra. The Kalachakra likewise dissolves from the top and the bottom into voidness. Within the state of the understanding of voidness, we arise once more as Kalachakra, the simple Kalachakra with one face and two arms.
The shakti maidens, as well as our seats, melt into light and dissolve into me. I, as well, melt into light. Within a non-objectified state of voidness, I arise once more as a Kalachakra, with one face and two arms.
Then the dedication:
My body and likewise my wealth, and as massive a network of constructive acts as I have built up throughout the three times, I give, from now on, without sense of a loss, to help limited beings, who have all been my mothers.
Recitation of Vows
After this dedication from the practice that came before, done with the various types of generosity, we have the recitation of the vows. If we are lay persons, we recite the lay vows that we’ve taken. If we are monastics, we recite the summary of the monastic vows. We can include the recitation of the bodhisattva vows, the tantric vows. It is very important to remind ourselves of them and to think very strongly of keeping these vows.
It isn’t essential however to go through the long list of all of them. Reciting all of these vows is optional.
We then continue with:
I shall not transgress, even in my dreams, the most minor training concerning the prohibitions that keep my pratimoksha, bodhisattva, and tantric vows pure. I shall practice in accord with the Triumphant Ones' words. I shall fully uphold all the verbal and realized hallowed Dharma, without exception, as gathered in the three sutra vehicles and four tantra sets, in exact accord with the meanings that the Triumphant intended. I shall totally liberate wandering beings by means that suit each.
Recitation for the Second and Third Repetitions
At this point in the first repetition of this later section, we stop here in our recitation. That’s as far as we do for the extensive first repetition. Then we go back for the second and third repetitions of this second half of the practice in the shorter versions.
We start, “Within a state of this absence, like a surfacing bubble …” and continue up to “…my first two hands hold a vajra and bell, while embracing my motherly partner.”
Next we go to, “I, as well, melt into light.” There’s no need to dissolve the shakti maidens because they were not generated in this version. Then, we start with: “Within a non-objectified state of voidness, I arise once more as a Kalachakra, with one face and two arms” and continue with the dedication verse “My body and likewise my wealth…” and continue with: “I shall not transgress, even in my dreams… I shall totally liberate wandering beings by means that suit each.”
If we are reciting this three times in the morning and three times in the evening, then at the end of the third repetition, what follows is the concluding section. If we recite six times altogether, then at the end of the sixth repetition we go to this section.
Just as those in the sage caste of rishis, including Surya, attained deep discriminating awareness from this, so may all beings throughout the three planes of existence likewise evolve through Kalachakra's kindness.
Just as the vajra of my enlightening mind shall remain in infinite lands to liberate all beings, so may these beings themselves, through the force of Kalachakra, do likewise and remain throughout the three realms.
May those persons who, through demonic friends, continually stray in the darkness of untruth and fall from the way, attain this spiritual path of the mind and, in not too long, arrive at the house of vajra-gems.
Through the lustrous positive force deriving from this, may I never transgress, throughout all my lives, the bounds prescribed by Vajradhara's authority. May I complete the stages of the twofold path.
In short, by however much I have built up a network of lustrous positive force by steps such as these, may I quickly be born in Shambhala, the storehouse of gems, and complete there the stages of the peerless path.
May I never be parted from perfect gurus in all my lives; may I joyfully experience the glories of Dharma; may I gain in full the qualities of the paths and stages, and thus attain quickly a Vajradhara state.
This is followed by the verse for auspiciousness:
May the bodhisattvas dwelling above in directions totaling the number of demonic mara forces, utterly terrifying the asuras who would be divine; and the wrathful kings and queens dwelling either in or parted from the main directions in the human world; and the hooded naga lords beneath the earth, binding up, at their appropriate time, hordes of evil spirits and anything destructive, each deal with whatever is unpropitious at their specific times during the day and night, and provide the world with complete protection.
If we recite the abbreviated version for the second and third repetitions, this doesn’t take very much time. It’s extremely abbreviated.
I’ve explained this, having previously been asked how to recite the Kalachakra six-session, and that completes the explanation.
When we look in terms of the name Kalachakra, time is referring to immutable great bliss. This is the great immutable blissful awareness that has the understanding of voidness. When we look in terms of cycles, this is referring to what we need in addition to this awareness. It is that which will bring us to the enlightening state of a Buddha. What we’ll have in the enlightening state of a Buddha, from one point of view is the body of a Buddha and, from another point of view, we can speak of it as bodhichitta. No matter how we look at it, the essence is as is indicated by the name and the correct understanding of voidness and bodhichitta.