The Glorious Kaalchakra!
The 32nd Kaalchakra is to be held in Bodhgaya, Bihar, from December 31-January 10, 2012
"May I be inspired to accomplish the meditations Of the supreme Yoga's of the profound tantric path Of Kalachakra, the king of tantric traditions, And thus purify and dissolve all physical materiality, Giving rise to the dance of the empty body In union with the great unchanging bliss That in turn induces highest enlightenment, The state of the primordial Buddha Kalachakra." From Prayer of the Kalachakra Path, by the Sixth Panchen Lama
According to Geshe Lhakdor, Head of the Tibetan Library and Archives at Dharamshala, Kaalchakra teachings are considered to be the ‘highest tantric teachings of the Lord Buddha.’ Geshe Lhakdor, who has also been the Dalai Lama’s interpreter for 30 years, adds that “The Kaalchakra or the Wheel of Time ritual is regarded as an essential part of Vajrayana Buddhism. It is believed to have been first preached some 25 centuries ago by the Buddha himself. It is regarded as the most secret of the Tantra Yanas - discipline - of Vajryana Buddhism.”
At its simplest, this is a ritual of initiation, purification and benediction. One of the pillars of Buddhism is that it seeks not only personal salvation, but also the liberation of all humanity from the painful cycle of birth and rebirth. Reincarnation is sought as a deliberate choice to help others escape this cycle. And to be able to achieve this, one has to reach the level of a Bodhisattva, an enlightened person, who returns to earth to help others. To reach the level of a Bodhisattva, one has to go through various stages within one's lifetime - like the Dharmakaya (the Stage of Wisdom), and the Sambhogakaya (the Stage of Unity). It is only when stages are crossed that the living being truly sees the impermanence of the world around him. The role of a Guru, or guide in this process is essential and here, in the Kaalchakra Tantra, this role is played by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
"Kala" is Sanskrit for Time and "Chakra" (or Cakra) is Wheel in Sanskrit. It is also translated as Time-Cycles. Much in this tradition revolves around the concept of time and cycles; from the cycles of the planets, to the cycles of our breath and the practice of controlling the most subtle energies within one's body on the path to enlightenment. The Kalachakra deity represents omniscience as everything is under the influence of time; he is time and therefore knows all. Similarly, the Wheel is without a beginning and without an end.
The Kaalchakra Mandala, the large circular design drawn by the Dalai Lama himself, is central to this ritual. Often called the 'Palace of Deities', the diagram is a representation of the cosmos and chambers in which various deities reside. This is used by the lay monk as an aid to meditation and to 'connect' to his personal deity. This is the only part of the ritual that is done in public. The ceremony is regarded to assist in peace and harmony throughout the world. The practice is supposed to control subtle energies within one’s body and lead one forward on the path of enlightenment.
Kaalchakra is of three types, the External Kalachakra, Internal Kalachakra and Alternative Kalachakra. External Kalachakra deals with external world systems such as the movement of the Sun, Moon and other constellations. Internal Kalachakra refers to the internal structure of a human being such as the channels, energies and regenerative fluids. The Alternative Kalachakra refers to the generation and completion stages of the spiritual path of Kalachakra that purify the objects to be purified, which in this context are the external and internal Kalachakra.
As a result of such purification one actualizes the personal deity, the Glorious Kalachakra, with four faces and twenty-four arms and seven-featured state of union. Kalachakra was first taught in India on the 15th of the 3rd month, in the year following Buddha Shakyamuni's enlightenment. It is said that the Buddha was simultaneously also teaching the Perfection of Wisdom on Vulture's Peak near Rajgir. In Tibet, this teaching was first spread by the translator, Gyi-jo Lotsawa Dawa O-ser 1171 years after the Buddha's passing away, which was the Fire-Rabbit Year of the Tibetan Calendar or 1027 CE.
The 32nd Kaalchakra is to be held in Bodhgaya, Bihar, from December 31-January 10, 2012 the place where Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. This particular ceremony to be held at Bodhgaya was requested and is largely sponsored by late Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, who died in a tragic helicopter crash on April 30 this year. The ceremony is being held in Bodhgaya again after a gap of nine years.
Lakhs of devotees are expected to attend the ceremony from across the world, including Tibet, Mongolia, China, Nepal, Bhutan and other Himalayan regions. Nawang Norbu, chairman of the organizing committee said that a direct bus service from Dharamshala to Bodhgaya has been started to facilitate the movement of those wishing to attend the teachings.
Massive arrangements have made for accommodation for such a large turnout of people – tents, guest houses, hotels and even local residents’ houses have been enlisted as a part of the arrangements. Tenzin Tsudue, a prominent activist has enrolled as a volunteer with the core committee. “From providing safe drinking water and food to conducting registrations and issuing passes, the volunteers will help with everything. An event of mammoth proportions such as the Kaalchakra can do with all the help it can get as far as the organizing aspect of the event is concerned.”, he says enthusiastically.
In July, the then Kalon Tripa of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, Samdhong Rinpoche launched a website (www.kalachakra2012.org) giving information about the event to devotees. Considered to be the biggest religious ceremonies in the Buddhist community worldwide it is sparingly conducted over the years since His .Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama gave the first Kaalchakra teachings at the Norbulingka Monastery in May 1954 in Lhasa. The 31st teaching was held from July 6 this year in Washington DC. The Dalai Lama distributed tiny amounts of sand from the Mandala to all devotees to carry back home, as the sand is said to have imbibed the ethereal, pure and benevolent vibrations of the chants recited during the performance of the ceremony.
On the last day of this ceremony, i.e. on the 10th of January, A "World peace prayer'' and a "Lifelong prayer offering to Dalai Lama'' will be conducted. It is likely to attract many well-known personalities. Come the last date of 2011, it seems that all roads will lead to Bodhgaya for an event of enormous spiritual magnitude, conducted by the universally respected, Nobel Peace Prize winner His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be taking place at this historic site!
The Healing Power of Compassion
Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi – Co-Director Tibet Science Initiative and Co-Principal Investigator at Emory Scientists. He is also the Founder and the Director of Drepung Loseling Monastery, Inc, in Atlanta, GA, US He was in Delhi recently to give a talk on the Healing Power of Compassion. Vinita Agrawal met and spoke to him about the outcome of his scientific research on meditation, stress and compassion.
Geshe La, Scientific research is now focussing on the relationship between meditation and stress. What exactly is stress?
Stress is a basic defence mechanism for protection against dangers of living. It helps in the evolution of the human species as it produces energy to fight against threats. That is the useful part of stress (grins). Stress is not a bad thing by itself. But when stress becomes chronic it spells trouble for us.
In today’s world, dangers include a lot of imaginary enemies like co-workers and neighbours. These are the enemy ‘tigers’ of urban living. So the source of stress is psychological. But our body is conditioned to react in the same way whether the danger is physical or psychological. It releases a high level of the hormone Cortisol in a sympathetic nervous response as well as the IL6, a cell indicating high stress levels in the body. Constant stress has a negative impact on our body and mind and causes wear and tear of the very body it is supposed to protect.
A major clinical research project funded by the NIH is studying the effects of compassion meditation on the experience of depression. Could you tell us how meditation helps to reduce stress levels?
Many diseases like Alzheimer, Dementia, Diabetes, Hypertension, Cancer, etc are a fall out of stress. On the mental side also, Depression is a wide spread phenomena caused by stress. In the US alone, an estimated 30,000 suicides occur every year due to depression.(NIMH – National Institute of Mental Health). Scientific research has proved that Meditation can bring down the levels of Cortisol and IL6 in the human body, thereby deflecting the ill-effects of stress. This was observed when a study was carried out on a group of college students at the Emory University’s Department of Religion. This was part of the Emory-Tibet Partnership, a multi-dimensional initiative founded in 1998.The students were segregated into two groups – one group was taught to meditate on compassion and the other group led their normal routine. The group which meditated on compassion showed a marked in stress indicators when their blood samples were examined – over a period of six-weeks. Meditation is an important intervention to fight the stress of living in society. And compassion is the tool with which one can establish greater connectedness and inter-personal liking amongst members of our society. Inter-personal relations are a huge source of stress in today’s lives
So what is the basic impact that compassion has on our lives? Can compassion be cultivated like a habit by ordinary people?
Compassion is the basis of all positive emotions. Buddhism rates compassion as foremost in the process of evolving as a bodhisattva. It is a basic human value, and it need not be practised in the context of any particular religion. Compassion is enormously helpful in establishing social connectivity between people. It helps us create healthy long-lasting bonds with fellow human beings. Our quality of life is based on how we behave and how we behave depends on our perspectives. Our perspectives in turn, depend on our attitudes. Our attitudes are moulded by compassionate we are! In fact I would like to quote the Dalai Lama here when he says that “compassion and love are essential to the survival of our species. They are not mere luxuries.”
So how does one meditate on compassion?
Broadly speaking, there are two ways to meditate – one is the Analytical meditation, i.e. Vipassana – where one concentrates on breathing. The second form of meditation is called Stabilising meditation – where on concentrates on mindfulness and introspective vigilance. Compassion can be cultivated as a quality through the Stabilising meditation. During the process of awakening compassion within oneself, the individual is taught Self Compassion, Impartiality, affection, Love, Sympathy. The person is basically made aware of dependent origination – that everything exists because other things exist and nothing has an absolute reality of its own. If one can realise the interdependent nature of reality, one will feel much friendlier towards everyone. This will lead us to a happier state of mind. So meditating on compassion basically helps us to tune in to the suffering of others.
Could you elaborate more on the scientific findings of the mind-healing experiments done at your university?
Contemplative researchers at Emory have done several studies examining the effects of cognitively Based Compassion Training (CBCT) on a host of biological, psychological and behavioural outcomes which have yielded compelling results. The outcomes and the data that have emerged from these experiments support the view held by Indo-Tibetan Buddhist traditions for centuries which recognises the role of compassion for our well being and also for the survival of the species. If I were to summarize the findings I would say that the research has shown a distinct drop in the stress levels of its subjects. Having said that, I must however, point out that meditating on compassion is not easy. There are several stages to it. One should not expect results overnight. Becoming truly compassionate may even take many years. The important thing is to practise it constantly, if one wants to reap its rewards!
First published in thesevensisterspost from the North East.