Structure of the “Kalachakra Six-Session Guru-Yoga”

The Kalachakra Six-Session Guru-Yoga: it’s basically a six-session yoga. It’s not a sadhana. It has a lot of things from the sadhana put into it, but it is not a full sadhana in terms of having all the full defining characteristics of a sadhana – but it has most of them, so it’s pretty okay in terms of a very good practice that is more extensive than just the generic six-session practice – and it follows from the six-session practice.

The six-session practice is basically a way of keeping the nineteen closely bonding practices (dam-tshig) of the five Buddha-families (sangs-rgyas-kyi rigs). What are Buddha-families? Buddha-families – that word is referring to different aspects of Buddha-nature. That’s what the word means, the family traits. Within Buddha-nature factors, we have five basic ones that are discussed in anuttarayoga – although in Kalachakra, there are six – five in general with these nineteen.

  • The five can be explained in terms of body, speech, mind, good qualities, and enlightening influence (’phrin-las) – or Buddha-activity, as it’s sometimes translated – like you get in Uttaratantra (rGyud bla-maThe Furthest Everlasting Stream), Maitreya’s text, a sutra text.
  • Or you can speak just in terms of each of them having five. The one that’s most usual is in terms of the mind, so you have the five types of deep awareness (ye-shes lnga), the so-called Buddha-wisdoms – the mirror-like, equalizing, individualizing, accomplishing, and the sphere of reality, those five.

So we have these five families. And what you want to practice in terms of these five types of family traits can be taken on many different levels, so there are different types of practices that you can do that will make a… the Tibetan word is damtsig (dam-tshig, Skt. samaya). I translate it as a close bond. People sometimes translate it as a commitment, but I think that loses the meaning. It’s making a close bond with something so that you could actualize it more easily.

For instance, with equalizing awareness (mnyam-nyid ye-shes), you see everybody is equal. But when that gets overlaid with grasping for true existence, you don’t see everybody’s equal. You want to keep what you have for me, not share it with you, and you don’t see that everybody wants it as well – so you get miserliness or arrogance (“I’m better than everybody else”). You don’t see the equality. So to get rid of that miserliness, you practice the four types of generosity. By practicing the four types of generosity – and this is represented by Ratnasambhava – that helps you to purify away this miserliness so that you can eventually see the equality of everybody. This type of thing.

So you have these nineteen. That’s basically what the six-session practice is all about, it is to maintain that close bond by being mindful of these nineteen practices six times a day (usually three times in the morning and three times at night, but it doesn’t matter when you do it actually; the Tibetans do it usually three in the morning, three at night).

And also it has various things from the Fifty Stanzas on the Guru to keep in terms of tantra (like offering a mandala, this type of thing). So it fulfills them as well. And it fulfills some of the tantric and bodhisattva vows (having to meditate on voidness every day, and this type of stuff). And you review the vows, which is very important (otherwise you forget them). So to remain mindful of them, it’s pretty good to actually recite what all the vows are.

Now, what it throws into it on top of that are certain aspects from the sadhana. A sadhana (sgrub-thabs) is a way to actualize… the word means “a method to actualize yourself as a Buddha-figure.” That’s what sadhana means. You want to aim for that goal with tantra. So you practice now as if you have achieved that goal already, and that has to be based on understanding the validity of mentally labeling that you are a Buddha now (based on Buddha-nature) with the conviction that… This is what bodhichitta is all about. What you’re aimed at is not Buddhahood in general. It’s not the Buddhahood of Shakyamuni. Those aren’t things that you can attain. You’re aiming at the enlightenment that has not yet happened but which can happen further down the line of your own mental continuum. That’s what you’re aiming at. It’s not yet happened though, and it’s not that it’s happening somewhere else. But it can happen, based on the fact we have Buddha-nature, if you put in all the conditions – the two networks (positive force and deep awareness), bodhichitta, and all this sort of stuff. That’s what you’re aiming for. So you’re aiming for that, and then you imagine that you’re that way now.

The Kalachakra Six-Session Yoga adds into the basic six-session practice, then, a lot of preliminaries – so much more stuff for building up positive force – and then you go through the ten far-reaching attitudes (the ten perfections), the four ways of helping others, and all this sort of stuff. So you remind yourself of all this stuff to build up positive force.

And there’s also getting inspiration (byin-gyis rlabs) – what you usually call blessing – getting inspiration from the teacher (His Holiness.) Having this as part of the practice makes it not just a six-session yoga, but also a guru-yoga. The guru-yoga aspect is amplified with taking the empowerment from Kalachakra. Well, what’s that all about? Basically that’s all about activating Buddha-nature. I mean, that’s what an empowerment is all about. You have these Buddha-nature factors and you want to activate them, so the empowerment activates them. And that’s also what you want inspiration for, because that activates them and gives a little bit more force to them for then actualizing what you’re aiming for. So you add that into it.

And you add much more detail about building up the network of deep awareness, of focusing on voidness. In the six-session practice… The generic one is basically Guhyasamaja. In Guhyasamaja, the form of the central figure in different parts of the sadhana is called either Vajradhara or Vajrasattva. So that’s what they’re called in that version, and they’re visualized in this simple form as in Guhyasamaja. Well, in some commentaries – did some tape recorder just end? – it says, “Well, you can add anything. It can be done in the context of any practice. It doesn’t have to be done generic Guhyasamaja.” So you can do Yamantaka, you could do a Chakrasamvara – you can do anybody, according to what is the daily practice that you’re doing it as part of. So here we do it in terms of Kalachakra. So then the question is, how do you do the voidness meditation when you arise (i.e. how to be mindful of voidness)? And there are two commentarial traditions to it:

  • One just says, “Instantaneous arisal.” You think of voidness and then an instantaneous arisal.
  • The commentary that comes from Pabongka is that “You can do it like in a sadhana and go through the dissolution, the withdrawal of the consciousness from the gross elements and from the different levels of appearance-making of true existence” – that’s usually translated as the white, red, and black appearances, which has to do with the level of subtlety of the appearance of true existence that your mind is projecting – “and get down to the clear-light level.” So you can do the voidness meditation in terms of that.

Here, in the Kalachakra six-session practice, you do as in the sadhana. You do that type of going down to voidness and then generation as the deity. Then rather than just as the simple Kalachakra couple, you have the first row of figures around as well – the shaktis, these powerful ladies (which have many, many levels of what they represent) – and you do the mantraand that sort of stuff. And then you go back to the six session, the regular, generic six session, and you add at the end of it – although it’s totally optional – the long prayer from the end of the Kalachakra sadhana, which reviews all the steps of the generation and complete stage of the Kalachakra practice.