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The Inner Kālacakratantra - A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual: The Broader Theoretical Framework of the Kālacakratantra

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The Inner Kālacakratantra
A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual

A. Wallace

The Broader Theoretical Framework of the Kālacakratantra

The Kālackratantra belongs to the class of the unexcelled yoga-tantras (anuttarayoga- tantra); and together with its most authoritative Indian commentary, the Vimalaprabhā, it stands as the most comprehensive and informative tantra of its class. According to the Kālacakra tradition itself, the Kālacakratantra is the most explicit tantra, which imparts its teaching by revealing the actual meanings; whereas the other anuttara-yoga-tantras, which are regarded as secret, or concealed, tantras, convey their meanings in an implicit manner.

Accordingly, the Vimalaprabhā asserts that in every king of tantras (rāja-tantra)— specifically, in the method tantras such as the Guhyasamājatantra, and in the wisdom tantras such as the Cakrasaṃvaratantra—the Buddha taught the blissful state that arises from sexual union, but concealed it out of his great compassion for the sake of the spiritual maturation of simple-minded people. For those who seek understanding of other anuttara-yoga-tantras, the Kālacakratantra is of inestimable value for it explains the meanings in detail. [1] In the instances in which other systems of the anuttara- yoga-tantras offer only scant information, the Kālacakratantra system explicates in detail. For example, the Vimalaprabhā points out that unlike the other tantras of its class, which only suggest that the fourth initiation is like the third, the Kālacakra tradition reveals in full its content and implications. [2] The Kālacakra tradition also gives the most elaborate presentation of the human psycho-physiology and the individual's natural and social environments and their relevance to tantric practices.

With regard to the Kālacakratantra's explicit and elaborate manner of presenting its topics, the Vimalaprabhā, just like the Sekoddeśa, asserts that in the Ādibuddhatantra, the Buddha illuminated the vajra-word by means of general expositions (uddeśa), detailed descriptions (nirdeśa), and repeated references (pratinirdeśa). [3] In light of its explicitness, the Kālacakratantra claims superiority over all other tantras in the following manner:

In every king of tantras, the Vajrī concealed the vajra-word, and in the Ādibuddha, he taught it explicitly and in full for the sake of the liberation of living beings. Therefore, Sucandra, the splendid Ādibuddhatantra, a discourse of the supreme lord of Jinas, is the higher, more comprehensive and complete tantra than the mundane and supramundane (tantras). [4]

According to the Vimalaprabhā commentary on this verse, the Buddha Śākyamuni, who abides in the vajra of indivisible gnosis, the inconceivable mind-vajra, concealed the supreme, imperishable bliss (paramākṣsukha) in those yoginī and yoga tantras, because otherwise the conceited Buddhist paṇḍitas in the land of the Āryas, who did not wish to listen to the spiritual mentor (guru), would read the book and claim that they understood the vajra-word. Thus, they would not receive the initiation and would go to hell, due to their self-grasping (ahaṃ-kāra). In contrast, he taught it explicitly in the Ādibuddhatantra, in order to mature those who were born in the land of Sambhala and whose minds were free of self-grasping. On these grounds, the Vimalaprabhā affirms that the Ādibuddhatantra, which is the discourse of the innate Sahajakālya, is more comprehensive and higher than the kriyā and yoga tantras.

This is one way in which the Kālacakratantra system substantiates its self-designation as unexcelled (anuttara). Likewise, interpreting yoga as the union, or absorption, of bliss and emptiness, or of method and wisdom, this tantric tradition presents itself as a nondual (advaya) yoga-tantra, which is ultimately neither a wisdom tantra nor a method tantra. It views its nonduality of wisdom and method as an expression of nondual gnosis, without which Buddhahood could never occur. [5]

The Kālacakra tradition also affirms its unexcelled status by claiming that the Ādibuddhatantra does not come from a succession of transmissions of spiritual mentors, nor is it established by means of the spiritual mentor's authority (ājñā). [6] The Vimalaprabhā states that one cannot achieve omniscient Buddhahood and lordship over the three worlds by the mere blessing and authority of a spiritual mentor. [7] The Ādibuddhatantra asserts the same in this manner:

"The perishable mind, which is stained by attachment and other mental afflictions, is the cause of transmigratory existence. It is pure due to its separation from these (impurities). It is pure and stainless by nature.

"None (of the impurities) can be taken out nor thrown into (the mind) by the authority of a spiritual mentor. The sublime, imperishable, pure reality (tattva) cannot be given or taken away.

"A spiritual mentor is neither a giver nor a remover of the pure reality. In the case of those who are devoid of the accumulation of merit, the omniscient lord himself (cannot give or remove the pure reality). [8]

In light of this, the Vimalaprabhā disparages the Śaiva tantric tradition, which claims that its teaching regarding the supreme Īśvara who brings forth pleasure (bhukti) and liberation (mukti) is handed down by a succession of teachers and through the blessing of the spiritual mentor. It warns against the dangers of following teachings that come in this way by deprecating the Śaiva tantric teachers on the basis that they have trifling knowledge but have become the spiritual mentors of the childish due to showing a few limited siddhis. They require trust from their deluded followers, who, thinking that their spiritual mentor is liberated, do everything that he commands. They kill, speak falsehood, steal, drink liquor, and so on. In this way, they perform the deeds of Māras and do not obtain the bodily siddhis by the blessing and authority of the supreme Īśvara; At death, their bodies are either incinerated by fire or eaten by dogs and birds, and their consciousness does not become Śiva. [9] According to the Vimalaprabhā, one cannot teach the tantra without knowing first the list of the principles of the Buddha Dharma (dharma-saṃgraha) for one who does not know it teaches the evil path. One becomes a knower of the dharmasaṃgraha and a teacher of the three Vehicles—the Vehicles of the Srā;vakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Samyaksambuddhas—only by accomplishing these two: (1) gnosis (jñāna), which is the apprehending mind (grāhaka-citta) and wisdom (prajñā), and (2) space (ākāśa), or the empty form (sūnya-bimba), which is the apprehended object (grāhya) and method (upāya). [10]

The Vimalaprabhā entreats those who desire to enter the Vajrayāna to completely investigate a potential tantric teacher, and it points to the danger of practicing a distorted Dharma and going to hell due to honoring a spiritual mentor who lacks the necessary qualifications. [11] The Kālacakratantra provides a list of the qualifications of a vajrācārya, who must have tantric pledges (samaya). These qualifications, according to the Vimalaprabhā, are of two kinds—external and internal—and must be understood in terms of their definitive and provisional meanings. Likewise, the tantric teacher is expected to practice meditation on reality, and that meditation is also of two kinds—one which accomplishes mundane siddhis and the other which accomplishes full and perfect awakening (samyaksaṃbodhi). He must be free of greed, not grasping onto his sons, wife, his own body, or anything else. He must be devoid of all mental afflictions (kleśa). He is to be patient, not having any expectations, and he must follow the path of full and perfect awakening. The Kālacakratantra asserts that a spiritual mentor who has these qualifications is able to provide his disciples with the path and to remove their fear of death, because as a “celibate” (brahmacārin), meaning, as one who has attained supreme, imperishable bliss (paramākṣara-sukha), he is like a vajra-rod to the four classes of Māras. [12] In contrast to the qualified tantric teacher, a corrupt spiritual mentor is said to be full of conceit, which is of many kinds: conceit in one's own learning, in one's own wealth, seeing others as beneath oneself, and so on. His absence of humility is seen as an indication of his lack of compassion. Likewise, one is advised to shun a tantric teacher who is overcome by anger, who is devoid of tantric pledges, and who publicly practices the secret pledges that disgust the world. [13] Similarly, a vajrācārya who is greedy and attached to mundane pleasures, or who is an uneducated fool, ignorant of the true path and not initiated into the tantra, or who is fond of liquor or sex, is to be avoided, for he leads his disciples to hell. [14] In light of this, the Vimalaprabhā points out that the well-known saying that one should look for the ācārya's good qualities and never for his faults has been misunderstood in the past and will be in the future by foolish people who have lost the true path. It suggests that sayings like this should be understood in terms of both ultimate and conventional truths, that is to say, in terms of their definitive and provisional meanings. In terms of the ultimate truth, an ācārya refers to the Buddha Śākyamuni, to “the omnipresent and omniscient vajrācārya, who practices (ācarati) the vajra-word in order to benefit sentient beings within the three realms. ” Thus, the aforementioned saying is to be understood literally only when examined from this point of view. Supporting the Kālacakratantra's position that before honoring a spiritual mentor one should investigate his faults and his good qualities, the Vimalaprabhā cites the following verses from the Gurupañcāśikā, which support the Kālacakra tradition's stand on this issue.

An intelligent disciple should not make him who is devoid of compassion, who is

angry, cruel, stubborn, unrestrained, and self-aggrandizing his spiritual mentor.

(A qualified spiritual mentor) is steadfast, disciplined, intelligent, patient, sincere, honest, versed in the tantric practices of mantras, compassionate, a knower of the śāstras,
Fully acquainted with the ten principles, [15] a knower of the art of drawing maṇḍalas, an ācārya who explains mantras, who is propitious and has subdued his senses. [16]

With regard to the hierarchy of the vajrācāryas, the Kālacakra tradition distinguishes the vajrācārya who is an ordained monk as the highest type of a vajrācārya. [17] It states that ordained monks should only mentally revere the vajrācārya who is a householder in order that they may be free of sloth and pride; but when there is a vajra- holder who is an ordained monk, then neither the monks nor the king should honor a spiritual mentor who is a householder. The reason for this injunction is based on the association of the white garment, which is generally worn by householders, with the Barbarian Dharma. The Vimalaprabhā explicitly states that the Buddhist system (bauddha-darśana) is never associated with the white robe. It asserts that in the land of Mañjuśrī, when a monk or a wandering ascetic is expelled from a Buddhist monastery due to committing a sin of immediate retribution, he is allowed to leave the monastery only after he gives back his red robe and puts on a white robe. In light of this, the author of the Vimalaprabhā abhors the possibility of a householder who wears a white robe being a spiritual mentor to those who wear the red robe or of a householder dwelling in a Buddhist monastery. He sees it as an insult to the Buddhist monastic community and as a great defect in Buddhists' judgment. [18]

Likewise, it asserts that among men who are worthy of veneration, the vajrācārya who is endowed with extrasensory perceptions (abhijñā) and has attained at least the first bodhisattva-bhūmi is to be venerated for his knowledge. Such a man, be he an ordained monk or a householder, is said to be equal to ten respectable monks. In the absence of this kind of vajrācārya, a monk who is an elder should be venerated for his asceticism by the monks whose ordination was later than his; and he should be venerated by tantric householders, since his initiation was prior to theirs. The third kind of venerable man is said to be a learned paṇḍita who can illuminate the doctrine and tame the Māras who propound contrary doctrines. [19] In contrast, a householder who is devoid of extrasensory perception is not considered worthy of veneration. [20] Statements such as these reveal the strong monastic orientation of the Kālacakra tradition.

With regard to tantric disciples, the Kālacakra tradition distinguishes three kinds of tantric trainees—the superior, the middling, and the inferior. The superior disciple is one who has his mind set on the deep and profound Dharma that consists of wisdom and compassion, who delights in the ten virtues and has not violated the tantric precepts, who is free of attachment, who does not care about the mundane siddhis but desires a sādhana on the mahāmudrā-siddhi, and who does not associate with evil people such as ācāryas who are greedy householders and ascetics who live off the temples and monasteries. Such a disciple is considered to be qualified to receive the first seven and the other four higher initiations in order to meditate on the path of emptiness. The middling disciple is one who is endowed with mediocre qualities and who seeks a sādhana on the mundane siddhis, and he is qualified to receive only the first seven initiations in order to meditate on the maṇḍala, mantras, mudrās, and the like. Lastly, the disciple of inferior qualities who respects the spiritual mentor is said to be qualified to be a lay practitioner, and he may receive the five Buddhist precepts but not the initiations. [21]

In light of this, the Kālacakratantra classifies the Buddhist community at large into two groups—Śrāvakas and Anuttaras—each consisting of four types of Buddhist practitioners. The four categories of Śrāvakas are the Buddhist nuns (bhikśunī) and monks (bhikṣu) and the great female (mahopāsikā) and male (mahopāsaka) lay disciples. The group of Anuttaras includes the yoginīs and yogīs who delight in innate bliss—that is to say, those who have received the higher initiations and who practice the stage of completion—and the female (upāsikā) and male (upāsaka) lay tantric practitioners, who have received the first seven initiations and who practice the stage of generation. [22] The Kālacakratantra asserts the superior quality of the Anuttaras on the ground that there is no monk or celibate who can equal one who has taken the tantric vows and precepts and who is self-empowered by means of mantras. [23]

The theoretical principles of the Kālacakratantra are imbedded in the conceptual context of Vajrayāna as a whole. Therefore, in order to understand the conceptual framework of the Kālacakra tradition in India, one needs to examine its own interpretation of Vajrayāna. According to the Kālacakra tradition's explanation of the term Vajrayāna, the word vajra signifies liberation (mokṣa), or the indivisible omniscience that cannot be destroyed by conceptualization; [24] and the word yāna is understood as a vehicle that is of a dual nature. It is the means by which the tantric adept advances toward liberation and the aim toward which the tantric adept progresses. [25] The Vimalaprabhā also identifies Vajrayāna as Samyaksaṃbuddhayāna (the “Vehicle of a Fully Awakened One”), since it cannot be damaged by the vehicles of heterodox groups (tīrthika), Śrāvakas, or Pratyekabuddhas. [26]

The Kālacakra tradition also interprets Vajrayāna as the system of mantras (mantra-naya) and the system of perfections (pāramitā-naya). [27] As the system of mantras, it characterizes itself as the system that includes ideas pertaining to both mundane (laukika) and supramundane (lokottara) truths. Teachings pertaining to the mundane truth are said to be discussed from the conventional point of view, and teachings pertaining to the supramundane truth are said to be discussed from the ultimate point of view. Moreover, the ideas that are taught from the mundane, or conventional, point of view are said to have a provisional meaning (neyārtha); and the ideas that are taught from the ultimate point of view are said to have the definitive meaning (nītārtha). Likewise, the ideas that are discussed from the conventional point of view are regarded as ideations (kalpanā) of one's own mind, which lead to the attainment of mundane siddhis. They are said to be taught for mediocre Vajrayāna students who seek nothing more than the accomplishment of mundane siddhis. [28] The ideas that are imparted from the ultimate point of view are considered as clear manifestations, or reflections (pratibhāsa), of one's own mind, which are not of the nature of ideations. As such they are believed to lead to the achievement of the supramundane siddhi, called the mahāmudrā-siddhi, or the attainment of supreme and imperishable gnosis (paramākśara-jñāna-siddhi); and they are said to be taught for superior Vajrayāna students, who aspire to spiritual awakening.

Likewise, the Vimalaprabhā views Vajrayāna as a unified system that consists of both the cause and the result. Thus, the system of mantras is said to refer to compassion (karuṇā) and is characterized as the result. [29] In this tantric system, as in the related systems of the anuttara-yoga-tantras, in addition to the standard Mahāyāna practices of developing compassion, the cultivation of compassion also entails seminal nonemission. In this regard, compassion is here also referred to as the gnosis of sublime bliss (mahā-sukha-jñāna). The system of perfections, on the other hand, refers to the wisdom (prajñā) that cognizes the emptiness (śūnyatā) of inherent existence. This wisdom is viewed as the cause of the aforementioned result.

Although the Kālacakra tradition acknowledges the Mādhyamika view of emptiness as its primary theoretical foundation, it has its own unique interpretation of emptiness, not only as a mere negation of inherent existence (svabhāva), but also as the absence of material constituents of the individual's body and mind. Hence, this emptiness, which is also called the “aspect of emptiness” (śūnyatākāra), or the “form of emptiness” (śūnyatā-bimba), is a form that is empty of both inherent existence and physical particles. It is a form that is endowed with all the signs and symbols of the Buddha. That form of emptiness, also known as the “empty form, ” is also regarded as the “animate emptiness” (ajaḍā-śūnyatā). Due to being animate, this emptiness is the cause of supreme and immutable bliss (paramācala-sukha). The nonduality of the cause and effect is the essential teaching of this tantra.

From that unique view of emptiness stem the Kālacakratantra's unique goal and path to that goal. The Kālacakratantra's most significant goal is the transformation of one's own gross physical body into a luminous form devoid of both gross matter and the subtle body of prāṇas. The transformation of one's own mind into the enlightened mind of immutable bliss occurs in direct dependence upon that material transformation. The actualization of that transformation is believed to be perfect and full Buddhahood in the form of Kālacakra, the Supreme Primordial Buddha (paramādibuddha), who is the omniscient, innate Lord of the Jinas, [30] the true nature of one's own mind and body. Thus, according to this tantric system, the supreme Ādibuddha refers not only to the Buddha Śākyamuni, who is said to be the first to attain perfect awakening by means of the supreme, imperishable bliss, [31] but also to the innate nature of the mind of every sentient being.

This points to another unique feature of the Kālacakratantra's theory, namely, the assertion that all sentient beings are Buddhas, which will be discussed in greater detail in chapter 7 on the “Gnostic Body”. The Kālacakratantra's view of the ultimate nature of sentient beings and their environment as blissful is reflected in the Kālacakratantra's explicit usage of sexual tantric practices on the spiritual path. The generation of sexual bliss without emission of regenerative fluids is regarded in this tantra as the most direct method of generating the mental bliss that refines the mind by diminishing conceptualizations and thus makes it fit for the realization of the empty nature of phenomena. One who practices the generation of sexual bliss without emission, which is referred to as sublime, imperishable bliss, is considered to be like a young virgin. Such bliss is believed to empower one's mind, just as the mind of a young virgin, who has not experienced sexual bliss with emission, can be empowered by deities and mantras that enable her to see appearances in a prognostic mirror. Thus, it is thought that the empowerment of the tantric adept's mind, which enables him to perceive the three worlds as mere appearances in space, does not come from some external source such as the blessing or permission of a spiritual mentor, just as a young virgin's ability to see appearances in a prognostic mirror does not come from the blessing or permission of a spiritual mentor.

To those adherents of the Brāhmanic tradition who claim that many noncelibates who do not practice sexual bliss with nonemission demonstrate isolatory knowledge (kaivalya-jñāna) and predict the future, the Kālacakra tradition responds that their isolatory knowledge is nothing but a branch of astrology, which is common to all people and which enables one to predict the future events by means of calculations.[32]

Likewise, it is believed in this tantric tradition that the five extrasensory perceptions (abhijñā) cannot arise without the practice of seminal nonemission. It is said that those Bodhisattvas who have the five extrasensory perceptions despite the fact that they occasionally practiced sexual bliss with seminal emission, should be considered celibate, because their seminal emission is an intentional emission, characterized by the motivation to reenter transmigratory existence for the sake of helping others. According to the Vimalaprabhā, there are two types of seminal emission—one that is due to the power of wholesome and unwholesome karma, and one that is due to the power of controlling the mind. Of these two types of emission, the first one, which is characteristic of ordinary human beings, is for the sake of wandering in transmigratory existence, and the other one, which is characteristic of Bodhisattvas, is for the sake of showing the path to those who are driven by karma in the cycle of transmigration. [33]

The Classification of the Families in the Kālacakra Tradition

The Kālacakra tradition, like the other tantric traditions of the anuttara-yoga class, categorizes the family of its principal deity into three, four, five, and six families (kula). The Kālacakra tradition's classification and interpretation of the Kālacakra family can be summarized in the following manner.

In terms of the individual, the classification into three families corresponds to the classification of the body, speech, and mind, or the left, right, and central nādīs and in terms of the universe, the three families are the three realms—the realms of desire, form, and formlessness. With regard to ultimate reality, however, the three families are the three bodies of the Buddha—the NirmāṇSaṃbhogakāya, and Dharmakāya. [34]

In terms of the individual, the classification into four families corresponds to the classification of uterine blood, semen, mind, and gnosis, or to the classification of the body, speech, mind, and gnosis, which accords with the classification of the four drops (bindu) and with the four states of the mind—namely, waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and the fourth state. In terms of the universe, the four families are the families of the sun, moon, Rāhu, and Agni (Ketu), and in terms of society, they are the four castes.

With regard to ultimate reality, the four families are the four bodies of the Buddha— the aforementioned three bodies and the Jñānakāya.

With regard to the individual, the five families are the five psycho-physical aggregates (skandha), and in terms of society, they are the four castes and the outcastes. With regard to ultimate reality, they are the five types of the Buddha's gnosis manifesting as the five Buddhas—Ak obhya, Vairocana, ṣ Ratnasambhava, Amitābha, and Amoghasiddhi. [35]

In terms of the individual, the six families are the five psycho-physical aggregates and their emptiness; and in terms of society, they are the four castes and the classes of ḍombas and Caṇḍālas. With regard to ultimate reality, the six families are the five aforementioned Buddhas and the Svābhāvikakāya. [36]

The Mādhyamika Critique of Other Philosophical Systems in the Kālacakratantra

Although it has many unique features, as will be demonstrated in the subsequent chapters of this book, the Kālacakra tradition shares some of its fundamental ideas with other Buddhist systems. The Kālacakratantra summarizes its fundamental philosophical views in this single verse:

Identitylessness, the maturation of karma, the three realms, the six states of existence, the origination due to the twelve-limbed dependence, the Four Truths, the eighteen unique qualities of the Buddha, the five psycho-physical aggregates, the three bodies and the Sahajakāya, and animate emptiness. The (system) in which these (tenets) are taught is the clear and definite instruction of the Vajrī. [37]

Positioning itself in the above-mentioned philosophical views, it criticizes all other philosophical systems, including the Buddhist schools other than Madhayamaka. Although the Kālacakra tradition's refutation of the non-Buddhist philosophical systems is based on the standard Mādhyamika arguments, at times it uses some new and interesting examples in its logical analysis of other systems. It regards its critique of certain tenets of other philosophical systems as a means of leading individuals of different mental dispositions to some understanding of emptiness, which would be the foundation of their attainment of mundane siddhis. The following brief summary of the Kālacakra tradition's rebuttal of the dogmas that in one way or another contradict the view of the absence of inherent existence best demonstrates the degree to which the Kālacakra tradition follows the Mādhyamika mode of investigation.

The Kālacakratantra critiques Viṣṇuism for its view of the Veda as being selfexistent, eternal, and similar to space. It refutes the notion of the Veda as self-existent and eternal on the basis that the wordVedasignifies a referent that is produced by the activity of the throat, palate, and the like. It further argues that the Veda is also not identical with the referent, since a word and its referent cannot be identical. If there were such an identity, then when one utters the wordfire, ” it would burn one's mouth. Likewise, it repudiates the notion that the Veda is similar to space on the grounds that it is local in usage and recited by the mouth. It also objects to the notion that the Veda is a standard for learned and knowledgeable men, since low castes such as Śūdras read and write. [38]

Furthermore, the Kālacakratantra critiques the Śaiva notion of Īśvara as the creator. The Kālacakratantra argues that if one asserts Īśvara; as the creator, one implies that Īśvara; is one who experiences karma, since it is never the case that one person eats a salty cake and another person experiences the result and dies from thirst. An agent is never established without karma. And if he is not an agent of karma, as Śaivas claim, then it implies that he is dependent on another agent, who is his instigator. This, it says, contradicts the very term “Īśvara;” which implies independence. Thus, according to the Kālacakratantra, Īśvara; has never been the creator who bestows the results of virtue and sin, disregarding the karma of living beings. Likewise, if the creator is devoid of the atoms of the elements, then in the absence of matter, he does not create anything; and if he is devoid of the sense-objects, as Śaivas say, then that creator has neither perceptual nor inferential means of valid knowledge. [39]

In light of its view of dependent origination, the Kālacakratantra asserts that the efficacy of phenomena is not caused by anyone in the triple world but that the origination of all phenomena takes place due to the conjunction of things. Thus, due to the conjunction of a moon-stone with moon-rays, water appears from the moonstone, and due to the conjunction of an iron-stick with a lode-stone, the iron stick is set in motion, and so on. By means of these and other examples, it tries to demonstrate that things never occur by the will of the creator. [40]

From the vantage point of identitylessness, the Kālacakratantra critiques the notion of the Self (ātman) as being omnipresent and permanent. It argues that the Self cannot be omnipresent, since it experiences suffering due to separation from relatives. If it were omnipresent, it would exist as one and would not suffer due to being separated from loved ones. Likewise, if the Self were omnipresent, then one sentient being would experience the suffering of all sentient beings. Moreover, it argues that one cannot say that there are many Selves, because that would imply that there is no omnipresence of many Selves. It refutes the notion of the permanent Self, pointing to its susceptibility to change, as in the case of falling in love. [41]

In light of its refutation of the Self, the Kālacakratantra asserts that there is no one who departs to liberation—there is only a collection of phenomena in cessation— and yet there is a departure to liberation. Likewise, there is bondage for originated phenomena, but there is no one who is bound. The state of the Buddha is identical with existence and nonexistence, and it is without inherent existence, devoid of conceptualizations and matter, and free of momentariness. Therefore, the teachings of the Buddha, which are free of the demons of conceptualizations, cannot be destroyed by the words of gods and nāgas, which are accompanied by demons, just like a wrestler who is free of demons cannot be killed by a wrestler who is possessed by demons. [42]

The Kālacakratantra refutes the teachings of Rahman, or the Dharma of Tājikas, on the basis of their assertion that in this life the individual experiences the result of actions that he performed earlier in this lifetime, and that a person who dies experiences pleasure or suffering in heaven or hell through another human form. It argues that if it is as the Tājikas teach, then one could not annihilate one's own karma from one birth to another, and consequently, one could not escape transmigratory existence or enter liberation even in the course of an immeasurable number of lives. [43]

It critiques the doctrine of the Materialists (Cārvāka), which denies the existence of god and the maturation of karma and claims that one experiences only the amassment of atoms, arguing that this Materialist doctrine destroys the path of liberation for people. The Kālacakratantra argues that if, just like the power of intoxicating drink, the witnessing mind arises due to configurations of the elements, then trees would also have consciousness due to the agglomeration of the elements. But if inanimate things lack the efficacy of living beings, then the agglomeration of the elements is inadequate for producing consciousness. [44]

The Kālacakra tradition also repudiates the Jaina doctrine, specifically, the Jaina assertion of a permanent soul (jīva) that has the size of the body, and the Jaina view of the permanence of atoms. The Kālacakratantra argues that if the soul would have the size of the body, it would perish after the removal of the arms and legs. Likewise, it argues that atoms are not permanent, since they are liable to change, as are gross and subtle bodies.

The Vimalaprabhā critiques the Jaina argument that the substance of the soul is permanent, as gold is permanent, whereas its modes are impermanent, just as the modes of gold such as earrings are impermanent. The Vimalaprabhā rejects this argument as invalid, on the basis that if the substance and its mode were identical, then there would be no difference between the two; and if they were different, there could be no mode without the substance; nor can one say that they are both identical and different, because of their mutual exclusion. Likewise, it refutes the Jaina notion that the three worlds are permanent on the basis that whatever is made of atoms never remains permanent. It also critiques the Jaina view that one soul acquires one body, such that plants and grains are also living beings. It argues against this view, stating that if a single soul is in a single body, then when one breaks the stem of a sugar cane into pieces, there would not be many pieces. But since there are many pieces, then the soul must have entered one of those pieces due to its karma. That does not stand up to logical analysis, because a sprout arises from each of the pieces of sugar cane that are replanted in the earth. [45]

The Kālacakra tradition also critiques the Vaibhāṣikas, Sautrāntikas, and Yogācārins as simple-minded Buddhist tīrthikas who, grasping onto their own dogmatic positions (pakṣa), grasp onto the dogmatic positions of others and see the similarity or the contrariety with this or that dogmatic position of others. The Kālacakratantra refutes the Vaibhāṣikas' assertion of the reality of the person (pudgala) endowed with a body at birth as the implication of the inherent existence of the pudgala. It argues that the pudgala cannot be one's inherent nature, because if the pudgala were of the nature of cognition, then it would be impermanent, for the nature of cognition is impermanent; and if the pudgala were of the nature of noncognition, then it would be unaware of its happiness and suffering.

It critiques the Sautrāntikas for asserting objects by means of conventional truth and claims that for this reason they consider the unknown ultimate truth that has the Jñānakāya (“Gnosis-body”) as nonexistent, like the son of a barren woman. Explaining the basis for the Kālacakratantra's critique of Sautrāntikas, the Vimalaprabhā cites the following verse from Āryadeva's Jñānasārasamuccaya:

Sautrāntikas know this: mental factors (saṃskāras) are not inanimate (jaḍa), there is nothing that proceeds through the three times, and an unimpeded (apratigha) form does not exist. [46]

The Vimalaprabhā argues on the part of the Kālacakratantra that if the unimpeded form, that is, the Dharmakāya, does not exist, then the omniscient one would not exist either. It asserts that nirvāṇa is not the same as the extinction of a lamp, that is to say, it is not the same as the cessation of all awareness. In the absence of the four bodies, there would not be Buddhahood with a localized body. Without the unimpeded body, there would be no displays of the extraordinary powers of all the forms of the Buddha.

The Kālacakratantra refutes the Yogācāra's assertion of the inherent reality of consciousness and its classification of consciousness. In light of this rejection, the Vimalaprabhā asks the following: If there is no form of an external object other than consciousness, then why does the external form of visual consciousness as the apprehender manifest itself as being of the nature of the apprehended? It cannot be due to the power of the habitual propensities of spiritual ignorance, as the Yogācārins say, because spiritual ignorance has the characteristic of the three realms, and the three realms are mere consciousness. Thus, mere consciousness is of the nature of spiritual ignorance, therefore, spiritual ignorance is not the disappearance of consciousness; but if the three realms are not mere consciousness, then the Yogācārins' position has failed. The Vimalaprabhā also refutes the Yogācāra's assertion that self-knowing awareness arises and ceases in an instant, resorting to the standard Mādhyamika argument that the origination, cessation, and duration of phenomena do not occur simultaneously, for if they were to exist in a single moment, then due to the fact that time is a moment, birth, old age, and death would be identical. Moreover, if consciousness were to arise from a consciousness that has ceased, then it would be like the origination of a flame from a flame that has ceased, and this makes no sense. But if another consciousness were to arise from a consciousness that has not ceased, then it would be like the origination of a flame from a flame that has not ceased, which means that from origination to origination there would be a series of consciousness, like a series of flames. In this case, one cannot say that after the cessation of an earlier consciousness there is an origination of another consciousness, nor can one say that there is an origination of another consciousness from the earlier unceased consciousness, nor from the combination of the aforementioned two manners of origination, because of their mutual contradiction. [47]

However, the Kālacakratantra indicates that the Mādhyamika's negation of the inherent existence of consciousness, which inspired some to say that the Buddha's wisdom is not located anywhere, is a danger for those who, devoid of the self-aware gnosis of imperishable bliss, will grasp onto that emptiness and will thus fall into the trap of a doctrinal view and attain nothing. [48]

After refuting the preceding tenets of the Indian systems of thought in the above-demonstrated ways, in order to assure one of the pure motivation behind its criticisms, the Kālacakratantra states that its assertion of the absence of inherent existence is free from mundane concerns and intended to be of service to others. [49] Likewise, in order to establish one's confidence in the supremacy of the source of its teaching and to bring one to final conversion, the Kālacakratantra ends its critique of other philosophical systems with these words of the Buddha to the king Sucandra:

I am Indra, the spiritual mentor of thirty-three men in heaven, the universal monarch (cakravartin) on the earth, the king of nāgas in the underworld, revered by serpents. I am the highest, gnosis, the Buddha, the lord of sages, the imperishable, supreme sovereign, the yogī's vajra-yoga, the Veda, self-awareness, and the purifier (pavitra). O king, take refuge in me with all your being. [50]

With regard to the criticism of one's own or other Buddhist tantric systems, the Kālacakra tradition views this as the major cause of committing the sixth of the fourteen root downfalls (mūlāpatti), which is specified in the Kālacakratantra (Ch. 3, v. 102) and the Vimalaprabhā as reviling the siddhāntas of the system of perfections within the mantra-system. The Vimalaprabhā indicates that criticism of one's own or other Buddhist tantric systems is often an expression of one's own ignorance with regard to the relation between the subject and predicate in Buddhist tantras, and as such, it leads the faultfinder to hell. [51]

The Concept of the Ādibuddha in the Kālacakra Tantric System

One of the most important concepts in the Kālacakra system is that of the Ādibuddha. Even though the concept of the Ādibuddha is not unique to the Ka¯lacakratantra, it is most emphasized and discussed in the K¯alacakra literature. To the best of our knowledge, the earliest reference to the Ādibuddha is found in the >Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra (Ch.9, v.77), which refuses the notion of the Primordial Buddha on the grounds that there is no Buddhahood without the accumulations of merit (puṇnya) and knowledge (jñāna). Later references to the Ādibuddha are found in the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti (v.100), in the commentarial literature of the Guhyasam¯aja corpus, and in the yoginī-tantras. The Kālacakra tradition's interpretation of the Adibuddha is primarily based on the Nāsaṃg¯iti's exposition of Vajrasattva, who is Vajradhara.

According to the Kālacakra tradition, the Ādibuddha is called the Primordial Buddha because he was the first to obtain Buddhahood by means of the imperishable bliss characterized by perfect awakening in a single moment. [52] In connection with this interpretation, the Vimalaprabhā asserts that according to the words of the Buddha in the Nāmasaṃgīti (v. 85), which praises Vajradhara as one who is free of mental obscurations, a person who is devoid of merit and knowledge does not in any way become a Buddha. [53] Such an interpretation does not seem to contradict the Mahāyānābhisamayālaṃkāra's assertion that there is no Buddha who has been enlightened since beginningless time. On the other hand, the Vimalaprabhā interprets the word ādi (“primordial”) as meaning “without beginning or end, ” meaning, without the origination and cessation. [54] This interpretation of the word ādi with regard to the Buddha is reiterated by Naḍapāda in his Sekoddes´ạṭīkā, which further interprets the Ādibuddha's freedom from origination and cessation as omniscience. [55] The Kālacakra tradition's interpretation of the word is based on the Nāmasaṃgīti, v. 100, which begins with: “Without beginning or end, he is the Buddha, Ādibuddha …” [56] This interpretation of the word ādi appears to contradict the aforementioned interpretation of the Primordial Buddha. However, analysis of the Kālacakra literature reveals that when the Kālacakra tradition speaks of the Ādibuddha in the sense of a beginningless and endless Buddha, it is referring to the innate gnosis that pervades the minds of all sentient beings and stands as the basis of both saṃsāra and nirvāna. Whereas, when it speaks of the Ādibuddha as the one who first attained perfect enlightenment by means of imperishable bliss, and when it asserts the necessity of acquiring merit and knowledge in order to attain perfect Buddhahood, it is referring to the actual realization of one's own innate gnosis. Thus, one could say that in the Kālacakra tradition, Ādibuddha refers to the ultimate nature of one's own mind and to the one who has realized the innate nature of one's own mind by means of purificatory practices.

The Kālacakratantra and the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti

The Kālacakra tradition views its essential topic, which is the Jñānakāya, or Vajrasattva, as indivisible from that of the Nāmasaṃgīti, which, according to the Vimalaprabhā, makes the Jñānakāya of Vajradhara evident. The Vimalaprabhā remarks that in every king of tantras, the Buddha described the vajra-word as the imperishable bliss of yogīs;; and in them he designated that vajra-word as the Jñānakāya, which is described by the Nāmasaṃgīti. [57] Accordingly, the Kālacakratantra teaches that one should meditate every day on Kālacakra, the progenitor of all the Buddhas, only after one “has taken apart, ” or investigated, this vajra-word. [58]

The Vimalaprabhā comments that the path of purification that brings forth the mahāmudrā-siddhi was written explicitly in the Paramādibuddhatantra only after the Buddha made the Nāmasaṃgīti an authoritative scripture. Knowing that in the future sentient beings will be free of doubts, the Buddha taught Vajrapāṇi the definitive meaning of all the tantric systems, in accordance with the Nāmasaṃgīti. In light of this, it affirms that in order to know the Nāmasaṃgīti, one must know the Ādibud dhatantra. If one does not know the Nāmasaṃgīti, one will be ignorant of the Jñānakāya of Vajradhara, and not knowing the Jñānakāya of Vajradhara, one will not know the Mantrayāna. Being ignorant of the Mantrayāna, one will be devoid of the path of Vajradhara and remain in transmigratory existence. [59]

In verses 12–13, the Nāmasaṃgīti asserts its durability, claiming that the Buddhas of the past, present, and future have taught and recited the Nāmasaṃgīti and that innumerable Buddhas have praised it. On the basis of these verses, the Vimalaprabhā affirms that it is due to Vajrapāṇ requesting the Buddha to teach the Nāmasaṃgīti that all the Tathāgatas taught the Mantra Vehicle. [60] This statement may clarify just why it is that most Buddhist tantric traditions mention Vajrapāṇi as one who both requests the teachings and compiles the tantras such as the Guhyasamāja and the Ādibuddha tantras.

Similarly, according to the Vimalaprabhā, the yoga that is the imperishable bliss, the sublime goal (mahārtha) of the Kālacakratantra, has already been declared in the Nāmasaṃgīti by fourteen verses (28–36) in praise of the maṇḍala of the vajra-dhātu. The Vimalaprabhā remarks that the fully awakened one, who is described by those fourteen verses, is taught in all the tantras, in accordance with the superior, middling, and inferior dispositions of sentient beings. [61]

In light of its view of the inseparability of the Kālacakratantra and the Nāmasaṃgīti, throughout its five chapters, the Vimalaprabhā altogether cites sixty-five verses from the Nāmasaṃgīti in order to explain or substantiate the Kālacakratantra's views of Buddhahood and the path of actualizing it. Thus, the Kālacakra tradition's view of the omniscient Buddha, who stands at the extreme limit of transmigratory existence and is superior to the Hindu gods such as Hari and Hara, who are born in the realm of gods within cyclic existence, is based on the Nāmasaṃgīti's statement in verse 54, which reads:

Standing at the far limit of transmigratory existence, having his task accomplished, he rests on the shore. Having rejected isolatory knowledge, he is a cleaving sword of wisdom. [62]

Likewise, the Kālacakratantra's interpretation of the Jñānakāya as the fully awakened one who is imbued with nirvāṇa without remainder (nirupadhi) and transcends the reality of consciousness (vijñāna-dharmatā) is in full accord with that of the Nāmasaṃgīti (vs. 87, 99), according to which, the fully awakened one, being free of all remainders, dwells in the path of space, and transcending the reality of consciousness, is a spontaneous nondual gnosis that is free of conceptualization.

Furthermore, the Kālacakratantra's interpretation of enlightened awareness as the mind that, though free of the habitual propensities of karma (karma-vāsanā), supports transmigratory happiness and suffering and terminates them, is based on the Nāamasaṃgīti's (v. 96) description of the discriminating gnosis (pratyavekṣana-jñāna) of the Buddha as the mind that ends happiness and suffering. Likewise, the Vimalaprabhā suggests that the Kālacakratantra's interpretation of the self-awareness that knows the nature of all things has its basis in the Nāmasaṃgīti's (v. 98) characterization of the Buddha's gnosis as omniscient, fully awake, and wide awake to itself. [63]

The Kālacakra tradition also substantiates its exposition of Jñānakāya as devoid of form (rūpa) on the basis of the Nāmasaṃgīti's (v. 73) description of Vajrasattva as one whose hundred eyes and hair are blazing like a vajra; and it asserts that it is not the Rūpakāya of the Buddha that is the subject of investigation in the Nāmasaṃgīti but the Vajradharakāya of Vajrapāni [64] Likewise, it bases its argument that the Buddha's body is not a localized (prādeśika) body on verses 61–63 of the Nāmasaṃgīiti, which speak of the Buddha as a torch of gnosis that arises instantly in space, and so on. [65]

At times, the Kālacakra tradition offers an interpretation of certain passages from the Nāmasaṃgīti that radically differs from those found in the commentarial literature on the Nāmasaṃgīti. For example, it interprets the Nāasaṃg¯iti's (v. 45) depiction of the Buddha as having ten aspects (daśākāra) in terms of the Vajrakāya that is the existence of ten kinds of phenomena—namely, the body, gnosis, space, wind, fire, water, earth, the inanimate, the animate, and the invisible deities of the formless realm. [66] Whereas, Mañjuśrīmitra's Nāmasaṃgītivṛtti (176. 1. 7) specifies the ten aspects as ten truths— provisional truth, conventional truth, and so on—whose words and meanings the Buddha intends to teach; [67] and Vilāsavajra's Nāmasaṃgītiṭikā (196. 5. 5) interprets the ten aspects as the ten types of grasping onto the Self, [68] on the grounds that the Buddha himself should be understood as undesirable mental factors and as their antidotes. This cryptic interpretation makes sense when examined in the light of the Kālacakra tradition's view of enlightened awareness as the support of both saṃsāra and nirvāṇa.

Similarly, the Kālacakra tradition gives its own interpretation of the Nāmasaṃgīti's (v. 133) description of the Buddha as the referent of the truth that has twelve aspects, and as one who knows the sixteen aspects of reality and is fully awakened with twenty aspects. According to the Vimalaprabhā, he is the referent of the truth with twelve aspects, because he has attained the twelve bodhisattva-bhūmis due to the cessation of the twelve zodiacs; [69] and according to the Nāmasaṃgītivṛitti (182. 5. 1), he is the referent of the truth with twelve aspects, because he has the twelve sense-bases (āyatana), which are his aspects in terms of conventional truth. Although the Kālacakra tradition and the Nāmasaṃgītivṛitti agree that the sixteen aspects of reality refer to the sixteen types of emptiness—to be discussed in chapter 7 on the “Gnostic Body”—the Kālacakra tradition offers its own reason for the manifestation of the sixteen aspects: the cessation of the sixteen digits of the moon. With regard to the full awakening with twenty aspects, the Kālacakra tradition also departs from the interpretation given in the Nāmasaṃgītivṛtti (182. 5. 2). According to the Vimalaprabhā, the Buddha has spiritual awakening with twenty aspects because he fully knows the five purified psycho-physical aggregates, the five sense-faculties, the five sense-objects, and the five types of consciousness, since they were purified in the central nāḍī by means of the six-phased yoga. According to the Nāmasaṃgītivṛtti (182. 5. 3), on the other hand, the twenty aspects are the earlier mentioned sixteen aspects and the four types of the Buddha's gnosis.

The Kālacakra tradition also considers its exposition of Kālacakra as consisting of the four families— specifically, the four bodies of the Buddha—to accord completely with the Nāmasaṃgīti's (v. 108) description of the Buddha as the sublime mind (mahā-citta) of all the Buddhas, as the desire of the mind (mano-gati), as the sublime body (mahā-kāya) of all the Buddhas, and as the speech (sarasvatī) of the Buddhas. [70] Thus, it interprets the sublime mind of all the Buddhas as the Vis´uddhakāya, the desire of the mind as the Dharmakāya, the sublime body of all the Buddhas as the Nirmāṇakāya, and the speech of all the Buddhas as the Dharmakāya. Likewise, the Vimalaprabhā suggests that the Nāmasaṃgīti's (v. 93) characterization of the Buddha as one who has five faces and five hair-knots is most relevant to the Kālacakra tradition's presentation of the Buddha as one who, due to the classification of the five psycho-physical aggregates and elements, consists of the five families. [71] Finally, it asserts that the Nāmasaṃgīti's (v. 35) description of the Buddha Vajradhara as one who bears the sublime illusions is taught there in terms of the Kālacakra tradition's classifications of the six families and the hundred families. [72]

The Nāmasaṃgīti's presentation of Vajrasattva has also influenced certain forms of Kālacakratantra practice, whose goal is the actualization of Vajrasattva as he is described in the Nāmasaṃgīti. For example, verse 111 from the Nāmasaṃgīti, which states that the sublime Vajradhara of the Buddha bears all illusions, is considered to be a theoretical basis for the Kālacakratantra practice of the stage of generation, more specifically, for the practice of meditation on the universal form (vis´va-rūpa) of the empty and blissful Buddha that has many arms, legs, colors, and shapes. [73] Similarly, the Nāmasaṃgīti's (vs. 61–62) description of the self-arisen Vajrasattva as the sublime fire of wisdom and gnosis that has arisen from space and its (v. 56) characterization of the Buddha as one who has abandoned all thoughts and is free of ideation are pointed out as reasons why the Kālacakratantra practice of the stage of completion is to be practiced in the form of meditation that is free of ideation. [74] Moreover, the Vimalaprabhā indicates that the Nāmasaṃgīti's (v. 53) assertion that the Buddha is free of the sense of “I” and “mine” is the reason why at the stage of completion practice one should not practice self-identification with Vajrasattva but should resort to ultimate truth. [75]

The recitation of certain verses from the Nāmasaṃgīti also forms an integral part of Kālacakratantra practice. Thus, at the end of the stage of generation practice, after the tantric adept has meditated on the kālacakra-maṇḍala and on the enlightened activities of the deities in the maṇḍala, and after he has practiced sādhanas on the yoga of drops (bindu-yoga) and the subtle yoga sūkṣma-yoga), he recites verse 158 from the Nāmasaṃgīti, with which he expresses his reverence for the enlightenment of the Buddha, whose essence is emptiness. By reciting this verse, he establishes the appropriate attitude with which he is able to purify his four drops within the four cakras by emanating the principal deities within those cakras.

With regard to the Kālacakratantra initiation, the Kālacakra tradition's interpretation of the Kālacakratantra's four higher initiations as a symbolical passage from being a lay Buddhist practitioner to being a wandering ascetic, a monk, and a Buddha is justified in the light of the Nāmasaṃgīti (vs. 81, 51–52, 94–95), which describes the Buddha as being a youth, an elder (sthavira), and an old man, as a leader of the Pratyekabuddhas, an Arhat, a monk, and the progenitor (prajāpati), and as one who has the great vow, great austerity, and so on. Likewise, the receiving of diadem (paṭta) and crown (mauli) during the four higher initiations is explained in terms of the Nāmasaṃgīti' (v. 93) description of the Buddha as an ascetic with a crest of hair and diadem. [76]

A Brief Analysis of the Inner Kālacakratantra

The entire Kālacakratantra is divided into five main chapters—the chapters on the world system (lokadhātu), the individual (adhyātma), initiation (abhiṣeka), sādhana, and gnosis (jñāna). The subjects of these five chapters delineate the Kālacakra tradition's vision of the gradual transformation from the macrocosmic and microcosmic aspects of provisional reality to ultimate reality, culminating in gnosis. They also represent a unitary reality that manifests as the universe, the individual, the path of purification, and its result.

The first chapter of the Kālacakratantra begins with the words of King Sucandra requesting the teaching on the yoga of the Kālacakratantra from the Buddha Śākyamuni for the sake of the liberation of human beings who live in the kali-yuga; and the last chapter concludes with Sucandra's homage to Kālacakra, who is the tantra, the presiding deity Vajrasattva, the union of wisdom and method (prajñopaya-yoga), and the reality (tattva) with sixteen aspects. Each of the other four chapters also begins with Sucandra's request for teachings on the main topic of the chapter, and the remaining verses of each chapter contain the Buddha's response to Sucandra's request.

The inner Kālacakratantra, or the “Chapter on the Individual, ” begins with Sucandra's question to the Buddha: “How can the entire three worlds be within the body?” It continues with the Buddha's summary of how all phenomena in the world are the three modes of the Buddha's existence that are present in the human body, all of which should be known by means of the classifications of emptiness. This is followed by a further exposition on the origination of the individual's body, speech, and mind by means of the agglomeration of atoms and the power of time. The detailed description of the conception and development of the fetus in the womb indicates the author's familiarity with embryology, as taught in the earlier Buddhist writings such as the Abhidammatasaṃgaha, Āhārasutta, and the Āyuṣmannandagarbhāvakr¯ntinirdeśasūtra, in tantric works such as the Vajragarbhaṭīkā, and in the Buddhist medical treatises. For example, the Kālacakratantra's description of the conditions necessary for conception, the characteristics of the fetus, and its growth correspond to that in the Āyuṣmannandagarbhāvakrāntinirdes´asūtra. [77] The view of the six tastes as arising from the six elements is common to the Kālacakratantra and the Vajragarbhaṭīkā [78] Likewise, the Kālacakratantra's statement that the marrow, bones, and ligaments of the fetus arise from the father's semen, and the skin, blood, and flesh arise from the mother's uterine blood corresponds to a great degree with the Amṛtahṛdayāṣṭāṇgaguhyopadeśatantra's assertion that the bones, brain, and spinal cord of the fetus arise from the father's sperm, and the muscles, blood, and viscera arise from the mother's uterine blood. [79] Similarly, the Kālacakratantra's classification of the human life into ten stages corresponds to that given in earlier works such as the Āyuṣparyantasūtra [80] and the Nandagarbhāvasthā [81]

Explaining the functions of each of the elements in the formation of the human being and of the conditions in the mother's womb, the author tries to demonstrate the manner in which the principles of dependent origination (pratītya-samutpāada) apply to the origination of the human psycho-physiology.

This first section of the inner Kālacakratantra continues with an exposition of the preciousness of human birth and continues with an explanation of the ways in which the four bodies of the Buddha are present in the body of the individual. It represents the individual in the specific stages of life within and outside the womb, as the provisional manifestations of each of the four bodies of the Buddha. It identifies the individual with the four bodies of the Buddha in accordance with the degree of development of the individual's bodily, verbal, mental, and sexual capacities. It shows further the manner in which the elements, the psycho-physical aggregates, the prāṇas and the mind support each other in the body of the individual; and it explains the relation among the sense-faculties and their corresponding sense-objects in terms of one type of element apprehending a different type of element. For example, the olfactory sense-faculty, which arises from the water-element, apprehends taste as its sense-object, which arises from the fire-element. Explaining their relation in this way, the author tries to demonstrate that all the constituents of the individual and all his experiences arise due to the union of opposites, often referred to in this tantric system as the “different families. ” He specifies the elements from which each of the psycho-physical aggregates, the prāṇas, and the cakras arise in order to demonstrate the material nature of the transmigratory body.

The second section of the inner Kālacakratantra (vs. 27–47) specifies the locations of the four bodies of the Buddha and of the six families within the individual's four cakras. It describes the manner in which mental states enter the body and the body enters mental states, and thus they become of the same taste. Likewise, it discusses the elements of the bodily constituents in terms of wisdom and method, and it suggests that everything pertaining to the body and the mind of the individual comes into existence due to the union of these two. In this way, it provides the reader with a description of the kālacakra-maṇḍala in terms of the human being. It further depicts the ways in which the presence of time and the universe is to be recognized in one's own body and shows the correspondences between the passage of time in the world and the passage of prāṇas within the body. In this regard, this section also discusses the different functions and locations of the diverse types of the prāṇas in the body.

The third section of the inner Kālacakratantra (vs. 48–60) begins with a description of the current battle between the universal monarch (cakravartin) and the lord of the Barbarians (mleccha) within the body of the individual, which will take place in the land of Mecca and be between the external manifestations of good and evil. It also discusses the ways in which the yogani and yoginī tantras, such as the Māyājāla and the Guhyasamāja, and the tantric families of their deities are present within the individual and included in the kālacakra-maṇḍala. In this regard, it further describes the location of the male and female deities of the kālacakra-maṇḍala within The fourth section of the “Chapter on the Individual” (vs. 61–81) gives a detailed description of the characteristics of the unfavorable signs of death, beginning with descriptions of the ways in which one can determine the number of the remaining days of life by examining the flow of the prāṇas in the nāḍīs. For example, if the prāṇa uninterruptedly flows in the left nāḍī for a day and a night, then one has one more year to live, and so on. It associates the unfavorable signs of untimely death with the gradual ceasing of the prāṇas' flow in the individual nāḍīs of the navel-cakra. It also describes the characteristics of timely death, which begins with the disintegration of the nāḍīs in the navel-cakra and progresses throughout the body through the severance of the nāḍīs within all the other cakras and bodily joints. It compares the process of death to the moon and the sun leaving their lunar and solar mansions. The gradual severance of the nāḍīs is said to manifest for six days in the acidity of urine and in the prāṇas' departure from the sense-faculties. During the other six days, it is said to manifest in the following symptoms: one perceives the tip of one's own nose as dangling down, one perceives the sun as being black and the full moon as being yellow, and the planets as the sparks of fire, and a black line appears below one's tongue, and so on.

The fifth section of the inner Kālacakratantra (vs. 82–106) discusses the kālacakrī, or the moment of seminal emission, in terms of conventional reality, as an agent of the creation and annihilation of the individual. It also points to the individual's conceptualizations and karma that is contained in the guṇas of prakṛti as causes of transmigratory suffering and happiness. It classifies the karma of human beings into three kinds: gross, subtle, and subtlest, in accordance with the classification of the body, speech, and mind. It also distinguishes a karma with regard to the individual's grasping onto the agent of action. When one thinks, “I am the agent, ” this is a distinct karma; when one thinks, “The supreme Iśvara is the agent, ” this is a karma; but when one thinks, “Neither I nor someone else devoid of prakṛ is the agent, ” this is not a karma. It further asserts that it is the mind of the deluded person that creates his own suffering and happiness and not the Bhagavān Kālacakra, who is devoid of the guṇas and conceptualizations. In light of this, it affirms that the mental state that characterizes the individual's mind at the time of death determines the state of his next rebirth.

The sixth section of the “Chapter on the Individual” (vs. 107–160) is dedicated to the discussion of the ways of guarding the body from illness and untimely death. It first depicts various tantric yogic practices and practices of prāṇāyāma as methods of eliminating malignant illnesses and preventing untimely death. In addition to these practices, it also prescribes herbal medication, elixirs, and dietary regulations. It also gives guidance on storing medicinal herbs and spices and preparing their combinations, and on preparing and storing rolls of incenses, unguents, and fragrances. Additionally, it discusses ritual tantric methods of protecting pregnant women and infants from diseases caused by malevolent spirits, and it describes the symptoms of such diseases.

The last section of the inner Kālacakratantra (vs. 161–180) discusses the Kālacakratantra's philosophical views and those of other Indian Buddhist and non-Buddhist systems of thought. After briey expounding the fundamentals of its own philosophical tenets, the author presents the tenets of other systems, without offering any comment on them. Upon giving an overview of the other systems, he engages in a critique of those tenets that he finds contrary to the Kālacakratantra's philosophical orientation.


  1. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 4, v. 234, and 1986, Ch. 1, p. 19.
  2. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, 1986, Ch. 1, p. 19.
  3. Ibid. Sekoddeśa, 1994, vs. 3–6.
  4. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 5, v. 243.
  5. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, 1986, Ch. 1, p. 18.
  6. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, 1986, Ch. 1, p. 19.
  7. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 5, v. 127.
  8. The Ādibuddhatantra, cited in the Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 5, v. 127.
  9. Ibid.
  10. See the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 5, vs. 238–240, and the Vimalaprabhā.
  11. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 3, v. 2.
  12. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 3, v. 2.
  13. Aśvaghoṣa's Gurupañcāśikā and the ḍākārṇavayoginītantra give similar characterizations of a bad spiritual mentor.
  14. See the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 3, v. 3, and the Vimalaprabhā.
  15. A list of the ten principles, which is given in the last chapter of the Vajrahṛdayālaṃkāratantra, includes the ten inner and ten outer principles. The ten inner principles are: two rituals of warding off danger, the secret and wisdom empowerments, the ritual of separating the enemies form their protectors, the offering cake (bali) and vajrarecitation, the ritual of wrathful accomplishment, blessing the images, and establishing maṇḍalas. The ten outer principles are: the maṇḍalas, meditative concentration (samādhi), mudrā, standing posture, sitting posture, recitation, fire ritual, applying activities, and conclusion. For the explanation of the ten outer principles, see Praśāntamitra's Māyājālatantrapañjikā.
  16. The Gurupañcāśikā, also known as the Gurusevādharmapañcāṣaḍgāthā, traditionally ascribed to Aśvaghoṣa, vs. 7–9, cited in the Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 3, v. 3. The Sanskrit version of the Gurupañcāśikā was published in the Journal Asiatique, Paris, 1929, vol. 215: 255–263.
  17. The Ācāryaparīkṣā, cited in the Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 3, v. 3: :Due to his complete knowledge (parijñāna) of the ten truths (daśa-tattva), among the three, a fully ordained monk (bhikṣu) is superior (uttama). A wondering ascetic (śrāmaṇera) is said to be middling (madhyama); and a householder (gṛhastha) is inferior (adhama) to the two.

    Cf. the Gurupañcāśikā, vs. 4–5.
  18. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 3, v. 3.
  19. Cf. the Vajramālā-guhyasamāja-vyākhyā-tantra, which also distinguishes three types of vajrācāryas, asserting that the best vajrācārya is a fully ordained monk, the middling vajrācārya is a Buddhist novice, and the lowest one is a householder who took tantric vows.
  20. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 1, v. 4.
  21. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 3, v. 4, and the Vimalaprabhā.
  22. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 4, v. 214. See also Bu ston's annotations (201).
  23. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 4, v. 216.
  24. See the Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 3, v. 2, and Ch. 2. v. 13.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid.
  27. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch, 2. v. 13.
  28. See the Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 3, v. 4.
  29. See the Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, 1986, Ch. 1, p. 43.
  30. See the Kālacakratantra, 1986, Ch. 1, v. 4, and the Vimalaprabhā commentary.
  31. See the Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, 1986, Ch. 1, p. 18.
  32. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 5, v. 127.
  33. Ibid.
  34. Cf. the Hevajratantra, part 2, Ch. 4, vs. 97–99, and the Guhyasamājatantra, Ch. 18, v. 36.
  35. Cf. the Hevajratantra, part 1, Ch. 5, vs. 2–7, and part 2, Ch. 11, vs. 5–7.
  36. For the sixfold classification in the Hevajratantra, see Snellgrove, Hevajra Tantra: A Critical Study, 1976, p. 38.
  37. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 2, v. 1.
  38. See the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 2, vs. 166–167, and the Vimalaprabhā commentary.
  39. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 2, vs. 168–169, and the Vimalaprabhā commentary.
  40. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 2, v. 170.
  41. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 2, v. 171.
  42. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 2, v. 172.
  43. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 2, v. 174, and the Vimalaprabhā commentary.
  44. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 2, v. 175.
  45. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 3, v. 176, and the Vimalaprabhā commentary.
  46. The Jñānasārasamuccaya, cited in the Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 2, v. 173.
  47. See the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 2, v. 173, and the Vimalaprabhā commentary.
  48. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 4, v. 200.
  49. See the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 2, v. 178.
  50. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 2, v. 179.
  51. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 1, v. 1.
  52. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, 1986, Ch. 1, p. 18.
  53. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 5, v. 127.
  54. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, 1986, Ch. 1, p. 18.
  55. Sekoddeśaṭīkā of Naḍapāda, 1941, p. 7, states: “The wordādi” means without beginning or end (ādi-śabdo 'nādinidhānārthaḥ). The Buddha means one who perceives all true phenomena (aviparītān sarva-dharmān buddhavān iti buddhaḥ); and this Buddha is promordial, the Primordial Buddha. He is devoid of origination and cessation, meaning, he is omniscient (utpādāvyaya-rahitaḥ savajña ity arthaḥ). ”
  56. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, 1986, Ch. 1, p. 18 and the Sekoddeśaṭīkā, 1941, p. 7, cite this line from the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti in order to substantiate their interpretation of the Ādibuddha.
  57. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 4, v. 234.
  58. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 4, v. 234.
  59. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 1, v. 2.
  60. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, 1986, Ch. 1, p. 19.
  61. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 1, v. 1.
  62. The Nāmasaṃgīti, v. 54: :saṃsārapārakoṭisthaḥ kṛtakṛtyaḥ sthale sthitaḥ kaivalyajñānaniṣṭhyūtah prajñāśastro vidāranaḥ.
  63. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 5, v. 127.
  64. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 1, v. 1, and Ch. 5, v. 127.
  65. See the Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 5, v. 127.
  66. See the Kālacakratantra, Ch, 1. v. 5, and the Vimalaprabhā commentary.
  67. The Nāmasaṃgītivṛtti, 176. 1. 7, 176. 2. 8, Taishō, 2532, from the Peking Tibetan Tripiṭaka, vol. 74, pp. 171. 1. 1–184. 4. 8. For the complete list of the ten truths, see Ronald Davidson, 1981, p. 24, fn. 69.
  68. The Ārya-nāmasaṃgīti-ṭīkā-mantrārthāvalokinī-nāma, 196. 5. 5., 197. 2. 1, Taishō 2533, from the Peking Tibetan Tripiṭaka, vol. 47, pp. 184. 4. 8–226. 2. 1.
  69. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 5, v. 114.
  70. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 1, v. 1.
  71. Ibid.
  72. Ibid.
  73. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 4, v. 133
  74. See the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 4, v. 51, Ch. 5. v. 127, and the Vimalaprabhā commentary.
  75. The Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 5, v. 127.
  76. See the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 3, v. 105, and the Vimalaprabhā commentary.
  77. The Kālacakratantra, Ch, 2, v. 5; the Āyuṣmannandagarbhāvakrāntinirdeśanāmamatrāyānasūtra, Peking ed. of the Tibetan Tripiṭaka, vol. 23, #760.
  78. See Bu ston's annotation (315) on the Kālacakratantra, Ch, 2. v. 8.
  79. The Kālacakratantra, Ch. 2, v. 8. For the Amṛtahṛdayāṣṭaṅgaguhyopadeśatantra's assertion, see the Encyclopaedia of Tibetan Medicine, vol. 2, 1994, p. 17.
  80. The Āyuṣparyantasūtra, Peking ed. of the Tibetan Tripiṭaka, vol. 39, #973.
  81. The Nandagarbhāvasthā (Tib. dga' bo mngal gnas), cited in Bu ston's annotation (313) on the Kālacakratantra, Ch. 2, v. 4.

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