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The Inner Kālacakratantra - A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual: The Gnostic Body

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The Inner Kālacakratantra
A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual

A. Wallace


The Gnostic Body

The Kālacakratantra as a Buddhist Gnostic System

The twentieth-century discoveries of the Nag Hammadi Codices (Upper Egypt, 1945), and the Manichean texts of Inner Asia (Taklamakan desert, 1902–1914) have given rise to the contemporary view of gnosticism as a world religion rather than a mere heretical formulation of Christianity. This new awareness of the temporal and geographical, as well as the theoretical and practical diversity of gnosticism, has aroused great interest in that tradition among contemporary scholars of religions. At present, there is a wide range of translations of gnostic texts and secondary literature on gnosticism. Fairly recent endeavors of Buddhist scholars in preparing new editions and definitive translations of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tantras are bringing to light diverse and intriguing aspects of tantric Buddhism. Some Buddhist tantras, especially the tantras of the anuttara-yoga class, show a strong affinity with the gnostic views of the individual and the universe and striking similarities with practices of various non-Indian gnostic groups. Likewise, due to their strong emphasis on the soteriological significance of realizing gnosis (jñāna), the unmediated knowledge of absolute reality, the anuttara-yoga-tantras can justifiably be considered as religious treatises of a Buddhist gnostic tradition in India. The interpretation of gnosis as intuitive knowledge, knowledge or a vision of oneself as a spiritual reality, and the view of the universe as the macrocosm of that reality are found equally in Jewish and Christian forms of gnosticism, in eastern Manicheism, and in the anuttara-yoga-tantras. Similarly, the view of gnosis as distinct from reflective knowledge, namely, wisdom that is acquired through study and investigation, is common to the aforementioned gnostic traditions. I will attempt to demonstrate here that the kālacakra tradition in India is an authentic gnostic tradition of Indian Buddhism and that gnosticism manifested itself in a greater variety of forms and localities than many scholars have originally thought.

While using the term “gnosticism” as a typological category, I am fully aware that this term is a modern construct that does not accurately define all of the traditions and sources regularly classified as “gnostic. ” The term “gnosticism” has often been used as an umbrella term for various systems of belief and multilayered traditions of thought that were held together by gnosis. One of the most renowned scholars of gnosticism, Hans Jonas, asserts that we can speak of gnostic schools, sects, and cults, of gnostic writings and teachings, of gnostic myths and speculations in the sense that they share the following common features: (1) the emphasis on gnosis as the means for attaining liberation or as the form of liberation itself, and (2) the claim to the possession of gnosis. 1 This broad typological definition of gnosticism can most certainly be applied to the branch of tantric Buddhism that is represented in the Kālacakratantra and other anuttara-yoga-tantras.

In the Kālacakratantra, gnosis (jñāna), which is considered the ultimate reality, is the most crucial concept. As in other gnostic traditions, the main focus of the Kālacakratantra is on gnosis as the source of the individual's aspiration for enlightenment, as the means leading to the fulfillment of that aspiration, and as the fulfillment of that aspiration. When this source of aspiration for spiritual awakening is brought forth, or made fully conscious, it liberates one from cyclic existence. But when it is not brought forth, or remains unconscious, it destroys the individual and keeps him in cyclic existence. Therefore, it is said that gnosis is the source of both cyclic existence and nirvāṇa. In this regard, the Kālacakratantra fully accords with the writings of other gnostic systems, which also see gnosis as the source of sublime power, the ground of all being, and the potential for liberation or destruction, existing in a latent state within the psyche of all people. The Gospel of Thomas expresses it in this way:

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. 2

Likewise, the Kālacakratantra's interpretation of gnosis as the ultimate support of the conceptual mind in which it expresses itself by means of thought resonates with the following passage from the Nag Hammadi text Trimorphic Protennoia:

I am perception and knowledge, uttering a Voice by means of Thought. [I] am the real Voice. I cry out in everyone, and they know that the seed dwells within. 3

Or in the poem that is included in the longer version of the Apochryphon of John, the Revealer says the following:

And I entered in the midst of their prison, that is, the prison of their body. And I said, “You who hear, wake up from the heavy sleep!” And he wept and poured forth heavy tears, and then wiped them away and said, “Who is it that is calling my name? And from where does this hope come, since I am in the chains of the prison?” 4

The Kālacakra tradition's interpretation of the presence of pure and transcendent gnosis within every sentient being and within all things as their nature, even when not being yet realized as such, also accords with interpretations of gnosis in other gnostic texts. For example, in the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says to his disciples who mistake salvation, or “Kingdom, ” for a future event, that the Kingdom is inside them and also outside of them. He says further: “What you look forward to has already come, but you do not recognize it. ” 5

Furthermore, in the same way that some Christian gnostic texts identify Jesus the teacher simply with “knowledge of the truth, ” 6 so the Kālacakra tradition identifies the Buddha Kālacakra with both knowledge (jñāna) and truth (tattva). For the Kālacakra tradition as well as all other gnostic traditions, knowledge of the truth can be actualized only by looking within, for one's own gnosis is ultimately one's own teacher. The Kālacakratantra expresses this in the following manner:

What mother or father, what precious sons or daughters of yours, what brother or sister, what wife, what master or group of friends, having abandoned the path of truth, can remove [your] fear of death? … 7

The Christian gnostic text the Testimony of Truth asserts that the gnostic is a disciple of his own mind, “the father of the truth. ” 8 Therefore, gnosis is nothing other than self-knowledge, insight into the depths of one's own being. As for all other gnostic traditions, so too for the Kālacakra tradition, the individual who lacks this knowledge is driven by impulses that he does not comprehend. One suffers due to ignorance regarding one's own divine nature. Therefore, ignorance of oneself is a form of selfdestruction. To know oneself, one must first understand the elements of one's own natural environment and of one's own body. For this very reason, the first two chapters of the Kālacakratantra focus on the exposition of the elemental nature of the cosmos and the individual and on the manner of their origination and destruction. In this respect, the Kālacakratantra also shows a great affinity with other gnostic writings. The following passage from the Christian gnostic text the Dialogue of the Savior perfectly accords with the Kālacakra tradition's way of understanding oneself and the world in which one lives in terms of conventional reality.

… If one does not [understand] how the fire came to be, he will burn in it, because he does not know his root. If one does not first understand the water, he does not know anything…. If one does not understand how the wind that blows came to be, he will run with it. If one does not understand how the body that he wears came to be, he will perish with it…. Whoever does not understand how he came will not understand how he will go…. 9

Just as in the context of Christian gnosticism, whoever achieves gnosis is no longer a Christian, but a Christ, so for the Kālacakra tradition, whoever actualizes gnosis is no longer a mere tantric Buddhist, but the Buddha Kālacakra. In other words, in these gnostic traditions, one becomes the transcendent reality that one perceives at the time of spiritual transformation. Having perceived oneself in this way, one perceives and knows all things in the same way. Likewise, just as in the Kālacakratantra, so too in some Christian gnostic systems, the realization of gnosis entails the transcendence of all differentiations, or dualities, for it is the final integration of the knower and the known. One reads in the Gospel of Thomas:

When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same … then you will enter [the Kingdom]. 10

The Kālacakratantra speaks of this nondual perception of the world in terms of seeing all things as being of the “same taste” (sama-rasa), the taste of gnosis.

There are many other “gnostic” features characterizing the Kālacakra tradition and other Buddhist tantric systems in India that are also characteristic of other ancient gnostic systems. Some of their common, gnostic characteristics are the following: (1) an affinity for the nonliteral significance of language and for the usage of symbolic language, (2) the assertion that the ultimate is essentially indescribable but can be imagined as androgynous, a dyad consisting of masculine and feminine elements, the Father and Mother, (3) the claim to the possession of esoteric teachings that are not intended for the general public but only for those who have proven themselves to be spiritually mature and qualified for receiving initiation, and (4) a subversive attitude with regard to the social hierarchy and the deconstruction of established, cultural norms, which can be escaped through ritual enactments. 11 A certain ambivalence with regard to the physical body is equally found in various Nag Hammadi texts, in the Kālacakratantra, and in other anuttara-yoga-tantras. On the one hand, these texts speak of the physical body as a “prison” and a source of suffering due to its weakness and impermanence; and on the other hand, they present the human body as a domain in which the convergence of the two realms—the utterly pure, transcendent realm and the impure, material realm—takes place. Just as the Kālacakratantra sees the human body as a microcosmic image of the external world and spiritual reality and the universe as the body of the Buddha Kālacakra, so some Jewish and Christian gnostic groups saw the human anatomy as a kind of a map of reality and the universe as a divine body. For example, according to Hippolytus, Nassenes interpreted the biblical description of the Garden of Eden and its four rivers as the brain and the four senses, whereas Simonians interpreted the Garden as the womb, Eden as the placenta, and the river that flows out of Eden as the navel, which is divided into four channels—two arteries and two veins. Similar allegorical interpretation of the human body and anatomical interpretation of the environment are characteristic of many Buddhist and non-Buddhist tantras. Likewise, for many gnostic systems, as for the Kālacakratantra tradition, a goal is not only to transform the mind but also to transform the body itself.

There are also some commonalities regarding the methods of achieving gnosis. Even though most of the gnostic texts discovered at Nag Hammadi do not explain methods for realizing gnosis, the few texts that describe the practice of meditation and tonal recitations as the means of accessing inner gnosis show correspondences with the Kālacakra tradition and all other tantric systems. The “Final Document” of the conference on gnosticism that was held in Messina, Italy, in 1966 proposes a working definition of gnosticism, according to which,

not every gnosis is Gnosticism, but only that which involves in this perspective the idea of the divine consubstantiality of the spark that is in need of being awakened and reintegrated. This gnosis of Gnosticism involves the divine identity of the knower (the Gnostic), the known (the divine substance of one's transcendent self), and the means by which one knows that gnosis as an implicit divine faculty is to be awakened and actualized. This gnosis is a revelation tradition of a different type from the Biblical and Islamic revelation tradition. 12

As the aforementioned parallels suggest, and as the rest of this chapter will demonstrate, the abovegiven definition of the gnosis of gnosticism can easily be apNowhere in the Kālacakra literature can one find explicit references to the tradition as a Buddhist gnosticism and to its adherents as gnostics, but this does not mean that this tantric tradition did not recognize its gnostic orientation. As the early Buddhist Pāli sources indicate, the earliest disciples of the Buddha never referred to themselves as Buddhists (bauddha) but as disciples (sāvaka), monks (bhikhu), novices (sāmaṇera), mendicants (paribā3jjaka), and so on. The absence of their selfdesignation as Buddhists by no means excludes their Buddhist self-identification. Moreover, one encounters in the Vimalaprabhā at least one implicit reference to the Kālacakratantra as a gnostic system. Defining the Kālacakra tradition as the Vajrayāna tradition that consists of the systems of mantras (mantra-naya) and of perfections (pāramitā-naya), the Vimalaprabhā interprets mantra as gnosis in the following manner: “Mantra is gnosis because it protects the mind. ” 13 In this way, the Vimalaprabhā implicitly defines the Kālacakratantra as a gnostic system (jñāna-naya).

The absence of the explicit self-designation “gnostic” is characteristic of most gnostic writings. Scholars of gnosticism point out that in all original gnostic writings of different gnostic traditions, the self-designation gnostikos nowhere appears. It is only in the works of the early Christian heresiologists, specifically, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Epiphanius, that we read reports of the self-designation gnostikos. The contemporary American scholar of gnosticism Michael A. Williams asserts: “to the extent that 'gnostic' was employed as a self-designation, it ordinarily, or perhaps always, denoted a quality rather than a sectarian or socio-traditional identity. ” 14 This also seems to be the manner in which the Kālacakra tradition in India understood its gnostic character.

Some scholars of gnosticism, seeing the obvious similarities between Buddhist and Judeo-Christian gnosticism, have considered the possibility of Buddhist influence on gnostic communities in Alexandria, where Buddhist missionaries had been proselytizing for generations at the time when trade routes between the Greco-Roman world and Asia were opening up and gnosticism flourished (8–200 CE). 15 Edward Conze also points to the possible influences of Buddhism on the Christian gnostic communities in South India, whose authoritative scripture was the Gospel of Thomas. 16 However, for the time being, the lack of conclusive evidence leaves us uncertain as to whether their commonalities are due to mutual influences or whether they are expressions of the same issues taking different forms at different times and in various regions.

Likewise, the Kālacakratantra's evident gnostic orientation and affinity with nonBuddhist gnostic traditions led some German scholars to suggest that Manicheism influenced the Kālacakra tradition in India and even tantric Buddhism as a whole. 17 Their suggestions are not sufficiently substantiated, however, and need further, thorough investigation of all the relevant sources and a judicious and balanced treatment of the difficult issues pertaining to the question of the origins and historical development of the Kālacakra tradition and Manicheism.

The Manichean texts do inform us that after engaging in missionary activities in the Persian kingdom of the Sassanians, in 240 or 241, Mani visited India and the adjacent regions, known today as Beluchistan, where he converted a Buddhist king, the Tūrān Shāh. In the Kephalaia, 184. 12, Mani claims that during his visit to the Indus valley, he “moved the whole land of India. ” 18 However, there is no evidence that Manichean communities lasted in India for a long period of time or that Manicheism exerted a noticeable influence on Buddhism. On the contrary, Manichean texts, such as the Cologne Mani Codex, indicate that already in its earliest phase in the Parthian East Iran, where Buddhism was well established, Mani's disciples made an attempt to adopt Mahāyāna Buddhist ideas. Hans Klimkeit points out that as one looks first at the Parthian and then at the Sogdian and Turkish literature of Manicheism, one can observe the increasing adaptation of Eastern Manicheism to Buddhism. In different areas of the world, Manicheism freely adopted different symbols, myths, and languages of the coexisting traditions in those areas. For example, the Chinese Manichean source the Hymnscroll frequently speaks of the divine spark in man, or gnosis, as the “Buddha nature. ” As Mani claimed that the knowledge that he received from God embraces all wisdom contained in earlier religious traditions, the Manichean church was allowed to embrace all earlier religious communities. Mani and his missionaries thought that it was necessary to appropriate symbols and ideas from other religious traditions in order to ensure the proliferation of Manicheism in the world. Consequently, the Manichean syncretism systematically integrated itself into new cultural domains. Like the Kālacakra tradition, it was self-consciously absorbent and did not resort to just disorganized and scattered cultural borrowings and reinterpretations. There is a striking similarity between Manicheism and the Kālacakra tradition with regard to their use of syncretism as a form of proselytism. In this regard, both traditions claimed their own universality and supremacy over other religious systems, on the grounds that other systems are parochially tied to particular places and cultures. Likewise, these two gnostic systems equally see the present state of the individual as characterized by a mixture of good and evil, of gnosis and matter, which are in constant opposition to each other, with the individual as their battlefield. The second chapter of the Kālacakratantra depicts the individual as a battlefield, in which the war that will be waged between the Cakrī and the Barbarians in the land of Mecca is already taking place within the body of the individual. In that internal battlefield, Kalkī, who is the individual's correct knowledge (samyag-jñāna), with his army's four divisions 19 —the four Immeasurables—wages battle with the vicious king of the Barbarians, K amati, who is the evil within ṛṇ one's own body, the path of nonvirtue (akuśala-patha). Kṛṇamati's fourfold army, which consists of the four classes of Māras in the body, is led by the general Aśvatthāma, who is one's own spiritual ignorance (avidyā). Kalkī's victory in this battle is the attainment of the path of liberation (mokṣa-mārga), and within the body the destruction of Aśvatthāma is the eradication of the fear of cyclic existence. The established lineages of Kalkī's sons Brahmā and Sureśa are the pure Buddhas, who have become the nature of one's psycho-physical aggregates, elements, and sense-bases. 20 Similarly, the Kephalaia warns that there are many powers in the body, who are its magnates that creep and walk in the body, wounding and destroying each other; however, the Mind of Light in the body acts like a soldier, releasing the body from sins and generating a new body and a new sense of self. 21 Just like the gnosis of the Kālacakratantra, the Manichean Mind of Light functions as the protector of the body and mind. The Kephalaia expresses it in this way:

Look, then, at how much the strength and diligence of the Mind of Light is upon all the watchtowers of the body. He stands before his camp. He shuts all the reasonings of the body from the attractions of sin. He limits them, scatters them, removes them by his will. 22

Thus, in the Kālacakra tradition and in Manicheism, the soteriological struggles in the external world are constantly being enacted in exact mimesis within one's own body. The powers in the world and within the individual are interrelated and analogous. The analogy between the microcosm and macrocosm plays an important role in both traditions. Similarly, the liberation of the mind involves its freedom from their matter, which fetters the mind to sin. Therefore, the holders of both traditions were equally concerned with their bodies as with their minds.

These and other similarities between the Kālacakratantra and eastern Manicheism do not constitute sufficient evidence for determining that the two traditions directly influenced each other. Rather, they suggest that their commonalities could have resulted from their independent reinterpretations of earlier Mahāyāna Buddhist concepts, which Manicheism liberally appropriated.

To determine the specific, gnostic orientation of the Kālacakra tradition, we must first understand the ways in which this tantric system interprets gnosis and its functions and delineates the practices for actualizing it.

The Individual, Gnosis, and the Individual as Gnosis

As in the case of other anuttara-yoga-tantras, the Kālacakra tradition's interpretation of gnosis has an earlier precedent in the Mahāyāna's interpretation of the perfection of wisdom—specifically, in the literature of the Prajñāpāramitā corpus. The internal evidence, however, indicates that its closest precedent is the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti's presentation of the omniscient and innately pure gnosis (jñāna). The Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti and the Kālacakratantra are intimately related in terms of their expositions of the Jñānakāya. The Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti was traditionally included in the literary corpus of the Kālacakra tradition. Its close connection to the Kālacakra tradition is indicated by the Vimalaprabhā itself, which states that the Kālacakratantra “is embraced by the Nāmasaṃgīti, which clarifies the Jñānakāya, Vajradhara. ” 23 It asserts that the Tathāgata, having extracted the essence of the Bhagavān Vajradhara from all three Vehicles, illuminates the sublime, imperishable gnosis in the Nāmasaṃgīti. In this way, the Vimalaprabhā suggests that the essence of the Vajrayāna teachings lies at the heart of all Buddhist teachings. It also states that the Jñānakāya, which “is described by one hundred and sixty-two verses in the Nāmasaṃgīti, ” is “called the vajra-word in every king of tantras (tantra-rāja)” 24 —specifically, in the Māyājāla and in the Samājā, which it oddly classifies as the kriyā and yoga-tantras. 25 The Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti itself also hints at its affiliation with the Māyājālatantra. 26

The Vimalaprabhā frequently cites such verses from the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti in order to support and elucidate the Kālacakratantra's theory of gnosis and the Jñānakāya. As the following analysis of the Kālacakra tradition's discussion of gnosis will demonstrate, the Kālacakra tradition's explanations of gnosis in terms of ultimate reality coincide at almost every point with the Majñuśrīnāmasaṃgīti's presentation of gnosis as the gnostic being (jñāna-sattva), Vajrasattva, who is endowed with sublime bliss (mahā-sukha); as Vajradhara, who is self-arisen from space and therefore similar to space, eternal and nondual, who is thusness (tathatā), the completely auspicious (samantabhadra), great mind of the Buddhas, reality (tattva); and as the Ādibuddha, who is without beginning or end, the sublime breath (mahā-śvāsa), established within the minds of all sentient beings, and so on. Likewise, both the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti and the Ādibuddhatantra make almost identical references to the Jñānkāya as “the beginningless and endless Buddha, Ādibuddha, ” as “the five-syllable great emptiness (mahāśūnya) and the six-syllable drop-emptiness (binduśūnya), ” 27 and the like.

Gnosis as the All-Pervading Mind and as the Four Bodies of the Buddha

There are many ways in which gnosis is referred to and explained in the Indian sources of the Kālacakratantra tradition. It is primarily interpreted as the mind (citta) that brings forth immutable bliss as the desired result, and as the mind that is the result itself, namely, the mind of immutable bliss. 28 Thus, gnosis is seen as the unity (ekatva) of two aspects of the mind, which are the cause and result of spiritual awakening. From that vantage point, gnosis is also referred to as the supreme and indestructible vajra-yoga consisting of wisdom (prajñā) and method (upāya), or emptiness (śūnyatā) and compassion (karunā). Emptiness, which is its reflection, or form (bimba), is the cause; and compassion, which is indestructible bliss, is the result. Gnosis is the nondual yoga of these two. As such, it is identified as the unified mind that is free of momentariness and any causal relation (niranvaya), and lacks an inherent existence (svabhāva). 29 It is free of momentariness in the sense that for gnosis there is no origination, duration, or cessation of any phenomenon, although by its efficacy all worlds and everything in them arise and cease. 30 It is free of causal relations in the sense that it transcends all conceptual classifications. The Ā dibuddhatantra describes it in the following way:

It has passed beyond [the designations:] “It exists” and “It does not exist. ” It is the cessation of existence and non-existence. It is nondual. It is the vajra-yoga that is nondifferentiated from emptiness and compassion. It is the supreme bliss.
It has transcended the reality of atoms. It is devoid of empty dharmas. It is free of eternity and annihilation. It is the vajra-yoga that is without causal relations. 31

In the Kālacakra literature, gnosis of the indivisible, supreme, and imperishable (akṣara) bliss is given different names in accordance with its qualities and functions. Thus, it is called the “vajra, ” and one who has it is refered to as a vajrī (“one who has a vajra”). Vajra is characterized as indestructible (akṣara) since it is imperishable and does not go anywhere. Therefore, in the literary corpus of the Kālacakratantra, the word “imperishable” always designates supreme, imperishable bliss and gnosis of that bliss.

Gnosis is also called a mantra due to its function of protecting the mind. Likewise, it is called “spiritual knowledge” (vidyā) of the individual and the “perfection of wisdom” (prajñā-pāramitā). It is termed the “the great seal” (mahā-mudrā), for it is believed that there is nothing beyond it. Similarly, it is referred to as the dharmadhātu, the Sahajakāya (“The Innate Body”), the Jñānakāya (“Gnosis-body”), or the Viśuddhakāya (“Pure Body”). It is identified as the couple, Vajrasattva and Mātā, which evades the dependently arisen sense-faculties because it has transcended the reality of atoms (paramāṇu-dharmatā) and because it is like a dream or an image in a prognostic mirror. It is of the nature of the aggregates (skandha) and sense-bases (āyatana), which are free of obscurations (āvaraṇa) and have become of the same taste (samarasa). On that ground, they are called “supreme and indestructible” (paramāksạra). The supreme, indestructible is designated as the letter a, the Samyaksaṃbuddha, Vajrasattva, the androgynous state, the Bhagavān Kālacakra. 32

Gnosis is the mind, radiant by nature and devoid of the impurities of habitual propensities (vāsanā) of transmigratory existence. This pure mind is not characterized by any form, for it is devoid of atomic particles, nor is it characterized by formlessness, for its “form” is emptiness. 33 Thus, being devoid of both form and formlessness, it is like a reflection in a prognostic mirror.

Gnosis transcends the duality of subject and object, for it is simultaneously both knowledge (jñāna) and the object of knowledge (jñeya). As the subject and the object of knowledge, it is free of conceptualizations (vikalpa) and atomic matter (paramāṇu-dravya). Although gnosis is free of conceptualizations, it is not devoid of mentation (cintanā) because unlike the state of deep sleep, it is self-aware (svasaṃvedya). 34 But its self-awareness does not preclude the fact that gnosis is the knowledge of the absence of the inherent existence of all phenomena. Moreover, it is precisely the self-awareness and natural luminosity of the Tathāgata's gnosis that enable the Tathāgata to teach Dharma in accordance with the mental dispositions of sentient beings. This self-awareness of the Tathāgata is not affected by the sensefaculties, so it is partless, all-pervasive, free of obscurations, and aware of the nature of all dharmas, which are themselves unconscious due to lacking selfawareness. The independence of self-awareness from the sense-faculties implies that one does not requre a physical body in order to remove mental obscurations and experience the selfawareness of the gnosis of sublime, imperishable bliss due to the unification of one's own mind with the appearances (pratibhāsa) of that mind. According to this tantric system, gnosis can become selfaware through the mind alone, due to the efficacy of the adventitious (āgantuka), habitual propensities of the mind (citta-vāsanā). The adventitious, habitual propensities of the mind are the so-called psycho-physical aggregates, elements, and sense-bases. Under their influence, feelings of happiness and suffering enter the mind. Experiences in the dreaming state attest to the fact that the mind can become self-aware in the absence of a physical body in the dream. In the dreaming state, a dream body, which consists of the habitual propensities of the mind and is devoid of agglomerations of atoms, suffers injury or experiences great pleasure, and consequently, feelings of suffering or pleasure enter the mind of the dreamer, and self-awareness as knowledge of one's own suffering or happiness takes place. But this all occurs without the dreamer's actual body experiencing injury or pleasure. The Vimalaprabhā refers to this ability of the mind as a “great miracle, ” which even the learned cannot fathom. It comments that if this limited knowledge is difficult to grasp for the learned, then how much more difficult it is for foolish people to understand “the completely auspicious (samantabhadra) gnosis of sublime, imperishable bliss, the yogī's selfawareness, which arises from the habitual propensities that are free of obscurations and which transcends the habitual propensities of transmigratory existence. ” To those who may assert that the mind's ability for self-awareness entails the presence of a physical body, claiming that dreaming, waking, and deep sleep arise in dependence upon the inhalations and exhalations in the body, the Vimalaprabhā poses the following questions and arguments:

If the dreaming state does not arise in the mind without inhalations and exhalations, then how is it possible that without inhalations and exhalations, the appearance of the mind occurs up to one watch of the day in the unconscious state of death? How is it possible that the body, which is being led to the city of Yama by the messengers of Yama, in accordance with the injunction of king Yama, comes into existence? How is it that king Yama also appears in the city of Yama; and how is it that Yama examines the sins and virtues of the body that has been brought? Upon examining [the sins and virtues), he says: “Because the life of this one has not yet been exhausted, swiftly take this person to the world of mortals so that his body may not perish! This is the task of Yama's messengers. In accordance with their task, the messengers of Yama throw that body into the world of mortals. Once it is thrown there, then due to the power of the habitual propensities of the mind, the inhalations and exhalations of that body reoccur. Afterwards, due to the efficacy of a different habitual propensity, the waking state occurs. After the mind's awakening into the waking state, that (person) informs his relatives about king Yama. Therefore, without the body and without the inhalations and exhalations, the adventitious, habitual propensities of the mind arise due to the power of rebirths, and they are not inherent to sentient beings…. Thus, due to the power of the habitual propensities of the mind and not due to acquiring a body of atoms, the gnosis of wisdom (prajñā-jñāna) becomes self-awareness. 35

As the last line of this passage indicates, in this tantric tradition, the Buddha's self-awareness is also understood as the gnosis (jñāna), or awareness, of his own wisdom (prajñā) that perceives the empty nature of all phenomena.

The Vimalaprabhā also criticizes those who argue that because during the experience of sexual bliss in a dream, it is the dreamer's physical body that emits semen and not the dream body, the self-awareness of the mind arises due to the capacity of the physical body and not due to the capacity of the mind. It rebuts their argument by asserting that even formless beings, whose bodies are composed of the spaceelement alone, also emit semen (which consists of the space-element) under the influence of the habitual propensities of their minds. It argues that if the emission of semen could not occur without a physical body, then formless beings would not emit semen, and thus would not be subject to the cycle of transmigration. Since formless beings are subject to the cycle of transmigration, they must experience the gnosis of bliss and seminal emission, and thus, seminal emission must arise due to the capacity of the mind and not the physical body. 36

For this tantric system, gnosis is Buddhahood, the ultimate reality (paramārtha) of the Buddhas, thusness (tathatā), which is directly perceived 37 and whose nature is supreme, immutable bliss. That reality is a life-principle, or a sublime prāṇa (mahāprāna), which pervades the entire universe, manifesting itself in different forms. As such, it is said to be present within the heart of every sentient being. 38 As a sublime prāṇa, it is recognized as the source of all utterances, even though it is unutterable itself. As the pervader of everything, gnosis is recognized as the sixth element, the element of gnosis (jñānadhātu), or dharma-dhātu, which exists in the other five elements—earth, water, fire, wind, and space— and is also their beginning (ādi). The Kālacakra tradition views the gnosis-element as the birthplace (yoni) of all phenomena on the ground that it is primordially unoriginated. This view has its precedent in the Mahāyāna view of the dharma-dhātu, as presented in the Mahāyānābhidharmasūtra, which reads:

The beginningless dhātu is the common basis of all phenomena. Because it exists, there is every state of existence and the attainment of nirvāṇa as well. 39

The aforementioned explanation of the gnosis-element in the Kālacakra tradition indicates that the word dhātu in the compounds jñāna-dhātu and dharma-dhātu is understood in three ways—as the ingredient, as the cause, and as the locus; whereas, in the Mahāyānābhidharmasūtra, the word dhātu seems to be understood in just two ways—as the locus and as the cause. The gnosis-element as the component of phenomenal existence has two aspects: atemporal and temporal. Although the gnosiselement as the beginningless source of phenomenal existence is atemporal, it appears as temporal when it arises in the impermanent body of the individual. In its temporal appearance, the gnosis-element, like the other five elements, originates in the body from one of the six flavors—specifically from the sour flavor, provided by the embryo's nourishment through the mother's food and drink. 40 From that temporal gnosis-element within the body arise sexual bliss, which is a phenomenal aspect of gnosis, the individual's mental faculty (mano-indriya), and sound (ṣabda). These three are identified with the gnosis-element from which they originate. As the mental faculty, the gnosis-element apprehends the dharma-dhātu, which arises from the space-element (ākāśa-dhātu); and as sound, it is apprehended by the auditory sensefaculty, which also arises from the space-element. 41 In light of this, one may infer that within the body of the individual, the gnosis-element, being the apprehending subject (grāhaka) of the space-element and the apprehended object (grāhya) of the space-element, bears the characteristics of the space-element. Thus, being like the space-element, gnosis is indestructible and eternal. However, one does not experience one's own gnosis-element as such until one's own “gnosis merges with the form of emptiness (ṣūnyatā-bimba), ” meaning, until the mind as the apprehending subject (grāhaka) merges into the appearance of the mind as the apprehended object (grāhya) and “becomes of the same taste (sama-rasa)—imperishable and eternal. ” 42 The merging of gnosis into space, which is an empty dharma from which all phenomena arise just as a sprout arises from a seed, 43 is understood here as emptiness. This awareness of the ultimate absence of the origination and cessation of all phenomena is the appearance of one's own mind. It is gnosis, the indestructible bliss. Thus, when one's own gnosis merges into its own appearance, which is nothing other than the absence of the origination and cessation of all phenomena, it becomes of the same taste, due not to a causal, or generative, relation with regard to its own reflection, but due to being unified in the appearance of one's own mind. 44

The Vimalaprabhā interprets the Kālacakratantra's characterization of gnosis as eternal (śāśvata) in terms of its freedom from obscurations (nirāvaraṇa). 45 In this way, it points to the lack of contradiction of this characterization of gnosis with the earlier quoted statement from the Ādibuddhatantra, which defines gnosis as “free of eternity (śāśvata) and annihilation (uccheda)” in terms of eluding any categorization.

Gnosis also transcends all classifications with regard to its grounding, for it does not abide in nirvāṇa or saṃsāra. A closer look at the Kālacakratantra's interpretation of gnosis reveals that for this tantric tradition, gnosis is not grounded in either one of these two because in its empty aspect, it is devoid of nirvāṇa and in its blissful aspect, it transcends saṃsāra. This interpetation of the manner in which gnosis abides neither in nirvāṇa nor in saṃsāra is also expressed by the following verse from the Sekoddeśa, which states:

Its form (bimba) is devoid of nirvāṇa, and indestructible [ bliss ] transcends saṃsāra. The union of these two, which is devoid of eternalism (śāśvata) and nihilism (uccheda), is nondual and without parallel. 46

The same text explains further that this interpretation does not imply that the form of emptiness (śūnyatā-bimba) enters saṃsāra and indestructible bliss enters nirvāṇa. Instead, these two aspects of gnosis are “mutually embraced and peaceful, the supreme state of androgyny. ” 47 Although gnosis itself is not grounded in saṃsāra or nirvāṇa, it is called saṃsāra when it manifests as the universe with its atoms, stars, planets, mountains, rivers, sentient beings, and so forth; and it is called nirvāṇa when it appears as complete knowledge (parijñāna) of cyclic existence. The complete knowledge of cyclic existence is the perception of the three realms—the desire, form, and formless realms—as they are within the three times: past, present, and future. 48 This view of gnosis as the omnipresent mind of the Buddha, which simultaneously transcends the cycle of transmigration and is immanent within it, is similar to panentheism, the view that the finite universe lies within God, who is unbounded and infinite. However, the Kālacakra tradition goes beyond panentheism by interpreting gnosis not only as being immanent within the inanimate universe and within every sentient being, but also as manifested in the form of the phenomenal existence. It asserts that the three realms of cyclic existence are the form (rūpa) of Vajrasattva because gnosis dwells with great bliss within the nature of all things. 49 Likewise, the Vimalaprabhā asserts that “conventional reality has the form of emptiness and emptiness has the form of conventional reality, ” 50 since gnosis is free of atoms and yet it is found in emptiness. This conviction that the entire cosmos is a manifestation of gnosis underlies the Kālacakratantra's theory of the cosmos as the macrocosmic aspect of the individual and its presence within the body of the individual.

One may ask here: If gnosis is the source and ontological reality of everything, what are the implications for Buddhist claims about identitylessness (nairātmya) and emptiness (śūnyatā)? The Kālacakratantra indirectly addresses this question in a number of ways, which will be indicated later. Primarily, though, it addresses this question by identifying gnosis with the blissful aspect of the mind, which is nondual from the emptiness of inherent existence of that mind, and it thereby evades reification. It asserts that there is neither a Buddha nor enlightenment, since “the entire universe is empty, devoid of reality and of the nature of the appearances of things. ” 51 In this way, the Kālacakratantra's theory of gnosis as the reality that transcends all conceptual constructs, including those of existence and nonexistence, in no way contradicts the Madhyamaka themes of identitylessness and emptiness. The Vimalaprabhā explicitly states that gnosis lacks inherent existence since gnosis is endowed with all aspects (sarvākāra), just as it lacks shape and yet it gives rise to all manners of shapes. 52 Likewise, as in the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti, so in this tantric system, gnosis is interpreted as the awareness that transcends the reality of consciousness (vijñānadharmatā), which is ascertained by the Yogācāra school. 53

According to this tantric system, gnosis is not only the ontological reality of everything there is, but it is also “the supreme goal” (mahārtha) to be realized by the tantric adept. It is the Buddha Kālacakra, 54 who is seen as both “the self (ātman) of one's own body, speech, mind, and passion” 55 and as “the supreme, immutable bliss characterized by perfect awakening in a single moment” (ekakṣaṇābhisambodhi). 56 Perfect awakening in a single moment is interpreted here as the mind that is free of momentary phenomena (ksaṇa-dharma) and is designated as “the lack of inherent existence” (nihsvabhāva). 57 It is gnosis called “reality” (tattva) that is devoid of one or many moments. 58 As supreme, immutable bliss, gnosis is also the means by which the tantric adept realizes that goal. The tantric adept attains perfect awakening in a single moment by bringing forth 21,600 moments of supreme, immutable bliss. For this reason, the Kālacakra literature also defines gnosis as “the path of the Jina” 59 and as “the path of liberation, which, embraced by wisdom, or emptiness, is one's own mind that has entered innate bliss. ” 60

Furthermore, the Kālacakra tradition presents gnosis not only as the goal to be attained and as the path to that goal, but also as the discourse of the Kālacakratantra and as its original teacher. Such an interpretation of gnosis reminds one of Dignāga's explanation of the perfection of wisdom (prajñāpāramitā), given in the Prajñāpāramitāpiṇḍārtha. According to Dignāga, the perfection of wisdom is nondual knowledge, the Tathāgata, the text of the Prajñāpāramitāsūtras, and the path toward that nondual knowledge. 61 The Kālacakra tradition's identification of gnosis with the perfection of wisdom indicates that its presentation of gnosis as the enlightened teacher and teaching is most intimately related to the aforementioned Mahāyāna's interpretation of the perfection of wisdom. In this tantric system, gnosis is described not only in terms of the mind but also in terms of the body. The Vimalaprabhā asserts that apart from the body, there is no other Buddha who is the pervader (vyāpaka) and the bestower of liberation. The elements of the body that are free of obscurations (nirāvaraṇa) are the bestowers of Buddhahood and liberation. 62

For this and other related tantric systems, due to the mental dispositions of sentient beings, gnosis, the bliss of ultimate reality, manifests in sentient beings born from a womb as the four types of bliss— namely, bliss (ānanda), supreme bliss (paramānanda), extraordinary bliss (viramānanda), and innate bliss (sahajānanda). 63 Each of these four types of bliss has four aspects: a bodily, verbal, mental, and gnostic aspect. For this reason, gnosis manifests with sixteen aspects of bliss altogether. These sixteen aspects of gnosis are none other than the body, speech, mind, and gnosis of the four bodies of the Buddha: namely, the Sahajakāya, Dharmakāya, Saṃbhogakāya, and Nirmāṇakāya. The sixteen aspects of bliss are said to appear in these four bodies according to the superior aspirations (adhimukti) of sentient beings. Thus, the aspect in which this unified and indivisible reality, named gnosis, will appear to the individual is determined by the individual's own dispositions and degree of spiritual maturation. Although the four bodies of the Buddha manifest and function in different ways, they are of the same nature and are mutually pervasive.

The sixteen facets of the four bodies of the Buddha (listed in the second column of the following table) arise when the sixteen types of bliss that characterize the body of the individual cease. Thus, the sixteen types of bliss of the individual are the impure, or perishable, aspects of the sixteen facets of the sublime, imperishable bliss (mahākṣara-sukha) of the Sahajakāya. They become purified due to the cessation of bodily semen having sixteen parts, which are the internal sixteen digits of the moon. Due to the purification of semen, one becomes the Buddha Kālacakra, whom the Vimalaprabhā characterizes in this respect as “the stainless light of the vajra-moon, ” using the words of the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti's eulogy of the gnostic being, Mañjuśrī. 64 The Vimalaprabhā indicates that this classification of the gnostic vajra of the Buddha, which has sixteen types of bliss, has its precedent in the Nāmasaṃgīti's characterization of Mañjuśrī as one who “knows the reality with sixteen aspects. ” 65 However, as indicated in the introductory chapter, the Nāmasaṃgītivṛtti (182. 5. 2) interprets these sixteen aspects of reality not in terms of bliss but in terms of emptiness.

With regard to the spiritually awakened ones, the sixteen facets of the four bodies of the Buddha are seen as the four types of unions (yoga), due to the classification of the four bodies of the Buddha. In terms of ordinary human beings, the aforementioned sixteen types of bliss are also characterized as the four yogas—the yogas of the body, speech, mind, and gnosis—in accordance with the classification of the waking, dreaming, sleeping, and the fourth state of the mind. 66

In order to understand the Kālacakra tradition's concept of gnosis in terms of ultimate reality, one needs to look first at its most unmediated aspects and functions as expressed in the four bodies of the Buddha. Emphasizing the indestructibility of the four bodies of the Buddha, the Kālacakra tradition often depicts them as the four vajras—specifically, as the gnosis-vajra, the mind-vajra, speech-vajra, and the bodyvajra. The Kālacakratantra demarcates the four vajras in the following way:

The body-vajra of the Jina, which has all aspects, is inconceivable in terms of senseobjects and sense-faculties. The speech-vajra accomplishes Dharma by means of utterances in the hearts of all sentient beings. The mind-vajra of the Vajrī, which is the nature of the minds of sentient beings, is present throughout the entire earth. That which, like a pure gem, apprehends phenomena is the gnosis-vajra. 67

On the premise that gnosis is constantly present in every sentient being born from the womb, the Kālacakratantra asserts that those four vajras are perpetually present in all such sentient beings, but not in a fully manifested form. Their presence in every individual is attested by one's capacities of the body, speech, mind, and gnosis, in the four states of the mind—waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and the fourth state, the state of sexual bliss—and in the classification of the four limbs of the individual. Within the ordinary human being, the four vajras are located within the four respective cakras in the navel, heart, throat, and forehead. The four vajras are the seats of the twelve links of dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda). Thus, spiritual ignorance (avidyā), karmic formations (saṃskāra), and consciousness (vijñāna) are in the gnosis-vajra. The mind-and-body (nāma-rūpa), six sense-bases (ṣaḍ-āyatana), and sensory contacts (sparśa) are in the body-vajra. Feeling (vedanā), craving (tṛṣnā), and grasping onto existence (upādāna) are in the speech-vajra. Becoming (bhava), birth (jāti), aging (jarā), and death (maraṇa) are in the mind-vajra. In this way, the twelve links of dependent origination are the twelve impure aspects of the four vajras. When the twelve links of dependent origination, the bodily prāṇas, and uterine blood cease, that is to say, when they become the twelve facets of perfect awakening, the four vajras of the individual manifest as the four purified vajras, or the four bodies, of the Buddha Kālacakra. In this regard, the Vimalaprabhā resorts again to the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti's description of Majñuśrī, by characterizing the Buddha Kālacakra as “the vajra-sun, the supreme light. ” 68 These twelve aspects of the individual's and the Buddha's four vajras are considered to be the twelve conventional aspects of the supreme, indestructible bliss of sentient beings and Buddhas. 69

On the basis of the belief that the gnostic vajra generates sexual bliss, it is considered as the “progenitor” of the twelve links of dependent origination. This view of the gnosis-vajra as the fundamental cause of the twelve links of dependent origination indicates that all other vajras of the individual's body are simply different manifestations of a single gnosis-vajra, which has the twelve links of dependent origination as its twelve phenomenal aspects. 70 This fourfold classification of the gnosis-vajra corresponds to the Kālacakra tradition's identification of the Jñānakāya with the other three bodies of the Buddha.

Furthermore, it is also believed that the efficacy of the four drops (bindu) generates the twelve links of dependent origination. The four drops are physical composites of the size of a small seed, which consist of red and white drops of the semen and uterine blood. They are pervaded by very subtle prāṇas and located within the four earlier-mentioned cakras. Each of the four bindus has its own specific capacities that may manifest differently, depending on whether or not they are affected by the habitual propensities of spiritual ignorance (avidyā-vāsanā). For example, the drop in the lalāṭa has the capacity to bring forth appearances to the mind. When this drop is affected by the habitual propensities of spiritual ignorance, it brings forth impure appearances of phenomena to the mind, and it produces the waking state when most of the prāṇas converge in the lalāṭa. When this drop becomes purified, it manifests as nonconceptual gnosis. The drop at the throat-cakra has the capacity to bring forth verbal expression. When this drop is affected by the habitual propensities of spiritual ignorance, it brings forth improper speech, and it produces the dreaming state when most of the prāṇas converge in the throatcakra. When this drop becomes purified, it brings forth the Buddha's all-faceted speech. Similarly, the drop at the heart-cakra has a dual capacity. In its impure form, this drop induces confusion, and it produces the state of deep sleep when most of the prāṇas converge in the heart-cakra. When purified, it manifests as the nonconceptual mind. Finally, the drop at the navel-cakra has the capacity to bring forth innate bliss. In its impure aspect, this drop brings forth the experience of sexual bliss when most of the prāṇas converge in the navel-cakra. When this drop is purified, it induces the supreme, immutable bliss of nirvāṇa.

The four bodies of the Buddha, which are latently present within the individual, are located within the six cakras of the individual's body due to the gunas of those cakras. Thus, the Sahajakāya, which is free of ideation and is similar to a prognostic mirror, is in the secret cakra, in the uṣṇīṣa, and in the navel-cakra, which arise from the elements of gnosis, space, and earth, respectively. The Dharmakāya is located in the heart-cakra, which arises from the wind-element. The Saṃbhogakāya is in the throat-cakra, which arises from the fire-element. The Nirmāṇakāya is in the lalāṭa, which arises from the water-element. 71 Table 7.2. illustrates the manner in which the Kālacakra tradition delineates the four bodies of the Buddha with regard to the body of the individual.

The four vajras that are present within the bodily cakras manifest as the four bodies of the Buddha only at the attainment of full and perfect awakening (samyaksambodhi). When the individual reaches full and perfect enlightenment, the individual's gnosis-vajra that has been purified by the liberation through emptiness (śūnyatā-vimokṣa) becomes the Sahajakāya. The individual's mind-vajra that has been purified by the liberation through signlessness (animitta-vimokṣa) manifests as the Dharmakāya. The individual's speech-vajra that has been purified by the liberation through desirelessness (apraṇihitavimokṣa) appears as the Saṃbhogakāya. The individual's body-vajra that has been purified by liberation through non-compositeness (anabhisaṃskāra-vimokṣa) manifests as the Nirmāṇakāya. 72

It is interesting to note the Kālacakra tradition's interpretation of the phrase “liberation through noncompositeness. ” A textual study of the literature of the Kālacakra tradition in India reveals that in the context of this tantric system, the term “non-compositeness” refers to both freedom from the accumulation of karma and to freedom from atomic matter. In all other anuttara-yoga-tantras, however, it is explained chiefly in terms of the Buddha's freedom from the accumulation of karma. For the Kālacakra tradition, the eradication of the fine atomic particles that constitute the transmigratory mind and body—which are the material repositories of afflictive and cognitive obscurations and the internal objects of one's actions—includes the eradication of all karma.

The Kālacakra tradition's interpretation of the four bodies of the Buddha as the four purified vajras has a direct bearing on its classification of the four gates of liberation (vimoksa-mukha) as opposed to the more common classification of the three gates of liberation, which is characteristic of Mahāyāna literature in general. In terms of the four gates of liberation, the Kālacakratantra views the four bodies of the Buddha as the four immediate manifestations of the Buddha's fourfold perfect awakening: namely (1) perfect awakening in a single moment (ekakṣaṇābhisaṃbodhi), (2) perfect awakening with five aspects (pañcākārābhisaṃbodhi), (3) perfect awakening with twenty aspects (viṃśatyākārābhisaṃbodhi), and (4) perfect awakening with the net of illusions (māyājālābhisaṃbodhi).

1. Perfect awakening in a single moment refers here to enlightenment attained in a single moment of supreme, immutable bliss. It is the spiritual awakening that arises from bliss and that, in turn, generates immutable bliss. Thus, it is “of the nature of bliss and not of some other karma. ” 73 The moment of supreme, immutable bliss is the moment after which there is no origination, duration, or cessation of any phenomena. The moment of perfect awakening in a single moment of bliss (sukhakṣaṇa) signifies an absence of all moments, and that moment of bliss is the means by which the ten powers (daśa-bala) of enlightened awareness descend to earth from space. The purified aggregates that are produced by that moment of bliss, in turn, generate that bliss. Thus, from the Sahajakāya, which is the gnosis of innate bliss, arises the Dharmakāya; from the Dharmakāya arises the Saṃbhogakāya; from the Saṃbhogakāya arises the Nirmāṇakāya; and from the Nirmāṇakāya arises the Sahajakāya. 74 This innate bliss, or gnosis, is like a seed from which first arise the roots, then the branches and flowers, and lastly the fruits, which, in turn, produce the seed. This interpretation of the arising of the four bodies of the Buddha in dependence upon each other implies that even the four bodies of the Buddha, like everything else in the world, do not arise of their own nature. Their mutually dependent arising further implies their absence of inherent existence.

The Sekoddeśaṭīkā's interpretation of perfect awakening in a single moment suggests that the perfect awakening in a single moment is analogous to the experience of the single moment of bliss characterizing the consciousness that desires a birth and that has become of the same taste (sama-rasa) as the mother's and father's drops that are in the mother's secret cakra. It also indicates that in terms of the body belonging to the consciousness that is in the mother's womb, the perfect awakening in a single moment is analogous to the body that, like a red fish, has only one aspect, meaning, one body without limbs. In terms of enlightened awareness, the Sekoddeśaṭīkā describes the perfect awakening in a single moment as a nonemitted (acyuta) drop that is of the nature of the pure gnosis and consciousness (śuddha-jñāna-vijñāna), a vajrayoga of the gnosis of the Svabhāvikakāya, and as Vajrasattva, who perceives all things due to being enlightened in a single moment due to the cessation of the ordinary sense-faculties and arising of the divine sense-faculties, which result from the eradication of the circulation of breaths and from establishing the mind in sublime prāṇa (mahā-prāṇa). 75

2. Perfect awakening with five aspects refers to enlightenment that is characterized by the five types of gnosis of the Buddha: namely, the mirror-like gnosis (ādarśa-jñāna), the gnosis of equality (samatājñāna), the discriminating gnosis (pratyavekṣanā-jñāna), the accomplishing gnosis (kṛtyānusthānajñāna), and the gnosis of the sphere of reality (dharmadhātu-jñāna). These five types of gnosis are understood here as one's purified psycho-physical aggregates, sense objects and sense-fac- ulties, Māras, and five types of spiritual ignorance. They are the mutually indivisible vajras that have all the aspects.

According to the Sekoddeśaṭīkā, the perfect awakening with the five aspects is analogous to the five types of knowledge that are of the nature of the habitual propensities (vāsanā) of the form and other aggregates (skandha), which the fetus acquires, having the indication of the five limbs, like a tortoise. With regard to the enlightened awareness, it interprets the perfect awakening with five aspects as the Dharmakāya, the vajra-yoga of the mind, a sublime being (mahā-sattva) that has the supreme, imperishable bliss due to being enlightened with five aspects. The characteristics of the five types of gnosis are of the nature of the wisdom and method of the elements and psycho-physical aggregates due to the cessation of the five maṇḍalas. 76

The Kālacakra tradition defines these five types of gnosis in a number of ways. In its eulogy to gnosis with five aspects, the Ādibuddhatantra describes each aspect in terms of supramundane truth with the following five verses. With regard to the mirror-like gnosis, or the purified form-aggregate, it says:

This collection of phenomena in space, which is devoid of the form of ideation (kalpanā), is seen like a prognostic image (pratisenā) in the mirror of a young maiden.

With regard to the gnosis of equality, or the purified aggregate of feeling, it states:

Having become identical to all phenomena, it abides as a single, indestructible phenomenon. Arisen from the imperishable gnosis, it is neither nihilism nor eternalism.

With regard to the discriminating gnosis, or the purified aggregate of discernment, it says:

Letters, having all designations, have their origin in the family of the letter a. Having reached the sublime, imperishable state, they are neither the designation nor the designated.

As for the accomplishing gnosis, or the purified aggregate of mental formations, it states:

Among non-originated dharmas, which are devoid of mental formations (saṃskāra), there is neither spiritual awakening nor Buddhahood, neither a sentient being nor life.

Lastly, with regard to the gnosis of the dharma-dhātu, or the purified aggregate of consciousness, it says:

The dharmas that have transcended the reality of consciousness, that are purified in gnosis, transparent and luminous by nature, are present on the path of the dharmadhātu. 77

In terms of the relation of the five types of gnosis to cyclic existence, the Kālacakratantra characterizes them in the following manner:

That in which the form of birth reaches its culmination is called the sublime form. That in which the suffering of transmigratory existence reaches its culmination is called the sublime feeling. That in which a discernment of transmigratory existence reaches its culmination is the sublime, vajra discernment. That in which the expansion of transmigratory existence reaches its culmination is called the vajra mental formation. That in which waking and other states reach their culmination is called consciousness. That in which the existence of spiritual ignorance reaches its culmination is the Sage's gnosis. … 78

According to this tantric tradition, these five aspects of gnosis, entering the earth and other elements, become the Nirmāṇakāyas, by means of which the single Buddha Kālacakra displays his supernatural power (ṛddhi) among the humans, asuras, and gods that live within the desire realm. Even though the Buddha is free of obscurations (āvaraṇa) and mental afflictions (kleśa), he enters the human realm by descending into a woman's womb and taking on the five psycho-physical aggregates and birth for the sake of bringing ordinary people (prākṛta-jana) to spiritual maturation. He leads those who have acquired nonvirtue and are devoid of precepts to the realization of the impermanence of all composite phenomena. By taking birth, he demonstrates that even the Nirmāṇakāyas of the Buddhas, which are essentially the Vajrakāya, are of an impermanent nature. In this way, he seeks to liberate ordinary people from constant concern for their own bodies, which are, in comparison to the Vajrakāya, like the pith of a plantain tree. The Kālacakratantra asserts that the illusion (māyā) of the Buddha's emanations, which has immeasurable qualities, is inconceivable even to the Buddhas themselves. That illusion, seeing itself within the three worlds, divided in accordance with the diverse mental states of sentient beings, enters the individual minds of the Buddhas, gods, and men. It takes on their originated nature. However, it does not truly arise in the mass of atoms due to the absence of a previous body, and therefore it is not truly subject to origination and cessation. Its origination gives a false impression, like the reflection of the sky in water. 79 The Buddha is an appearance of the minds of virtuous beings, since in reality, he neither originates nor ceases. His body and speech that appear to sentient beings are like the body and speech that appear in a dream. The Vimalaprabhā likens the appearance of the Buddha to the dream experience of a student who, asking his teacher about some dubious subject, receives clarification from the teacher, while in reality there is no actual teacher in the dream, but merely an appearance of the habitual propensities of the student's mind. 80 Thus, when the Nirmāṇakāya appears to the individual, in reality, it has neither arisen from somewhere other than one's own mind nor will it cease in some place other than one's own mind.

The Vimalaprabhā contests the view of those who assert that the Nirmāṇakāya of the Buddha is his Rūpakāya, in the sense of a material body, and argue that if the Buddha does not become embodied (rūpin), then none of his activities on earth would come into existence nor would his bodily constituents arise, which are worshipped as relics by the inhabitants of the three worlds. It refutes this view of the Buddha as becoming truly embodied with the following arguments:

Furthermore, if the Bhagavān became embodied here, then due to being a Rūpakāya, while dwelling in one place, he would be unable to perform activities that benefit sentient beings as numerous as the dust of the immeasurable mountain ranges within the [limitless] world systems and as the [grains of] sand of the river Ganges. The words of the simple-minded people are: “Upon going to a single world system by means of his Rūpakāya and performing actions that benefit sentient beings dwelling there, he goes to another world system, and after that, he goes elsewhere. ” This does not stand logically. Why? Because world systems do not have a measure with regard to the division of directions. Repeatedly going by means of the Rūpakāya [in the form of] limitless sentient beings to world systems that are located in the ten directions, he would not be able to benefit sentient beings even in the course of limitless eons. 81

Likewise, the Vimalaprabhā rejects the belief that the Buddha attracts sentient beings who dwell in the world systems of innumerable Buddha-fields by the power of his meditation and mantra, places them in front of himself and teaches them Dharma, establishes them on the Buddhist path, and sends them back to their world systems. It rebuts this notion on the basis that the Buddha cannot simultaneously abide with a body of atoms in the presence of limitless sentient beings who dwell in the numerous world systems that are present throughout space. It asserts:

According to the words of simple-minded people, by means of his Rūpakāya, he engages in activities that benefit sentient beings dwelling in the triple chiliocosm within a single Buddha-field. When this statement is investigated logically and in terms of ultimate truth, it is [found to be] meaningless, just like the words of Īśvara, which are established by means of authority (ājñā) and are devoid of verifying cognition (pramāṇa) and logic. According to the received Āgamas, Īśvara is a partless creator of all. Not taking into consideration the effect, he creates and destroys the world for the sake of play, as it pleases him. In the same way, because of this heterodoxy, the Bhagavān Rūpakāya, who brings about the benefit of all sentient beings, is established by means of authority. Thus, due to the absence of wisdom among Buddhist heterodox groups (tīrthika), there is nothing special even about their paṇḍitas. Therefore, these words that are uncritical (parīkṣa) are not the words of the Bhagavān…. According to the Bhagavān's words, the Buddha who is investigated in the Nāmasaṃgīti is not the Rūpakāya. Why? Since he has arisen in space, he is selfarisen (svayaṃbhū), has all aspects (sarvākāra) and is without aspects (nirākāra), holds the four bindus, transcends the state of having parts and is partless, holds the tens of millions [moments] of the fourth bliss, is detachment and supreme attachment, is free of possessiveness (mamatva) and self-grasping (ahaṃ-kāratva), generates the meanings of all mantras, is the supreme bindu, indestructible, the sublime emptiness (mahā-śūnyatā) of the five indestructibles, 82 is the indestructibility of the space bindu, and is similar to space. Thus, the Bhagavān Buddha explained the Vajradharakāya of Vajrapāṇi in terms of both truths by means of one hundred and sixtytwo verses of the Nāmasaṃgīti, beginning with: “Now, the glorious Vajradhara” and ending with: “Homage to you, the Jñānakāya. ” … Thus, according to the Bhagavān's words, the Bhagavān is not the Rūpakāya, because he is the assembly (samāja) of all the Buddhas. If the Rūpakāyas were the Buddhas, then the [Rūpakāyas] would not come together in the form of atoms. Even after hearing the Bhagavān's words in this manner and investigating the deep and profound Dharma that was taught by the Bhagavān, sentient beings do not understand it. Not testing a spiritual mentor for the sake of Buddhahood, they do not honor him. Great fools, overcome by greed, think: “In this life, our putrid bodies are the bodies of the Buddha. ” 83

Thus, for the sake of eradicating the self-grasping (ahaṃ-kāra) of the Śrāvakas in heaven, and for the sake of helping them understand that the state of a god is one of great suffering, the physically nonembodied Tathāgata displays his supernatural power among them by means of his Saṃbhogakāyas. By means of his Dharmakāyas, he reveals his supernatural power among the Bodhisattvas, Subhūti, Maitreya, and others who abide in the realization of emptiness, for the sake of establishing them in the highest, perfect awakening by teaching them about the four bodies of the Buddha. 84

3. Perfect awakening with twenty aspects is not explicitly described in the Kālacakratantra or the Vimalaprabhā. Nevertheless, Mañjuśrīmitra's Nāmasaṃgītivṛtti, 85 commenting on v. 133 of the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti, that is cited in the Vimalaprabhā, enumerates the twenty aspects of the Buddha's mind. 86 According to the Nāmasaṃgītivṛtti, the twenty aspects of perfect awakening include the sixteenfold knowledge of the sixteen types of emptiness and the first four of the aforementioned five types of the Buddha's gnosis. According to the Sekoddeśaṭīkā, the perfect awakening with twenty aspects should be known as being due to the cessation of the five sense-faculties, the five sense-objects, the five faculties of action (karmendriya), and the activities of the five faculties of action that are with obscurations. The same text also indicates that the perfect awakening with twenty aspects is analogous to the classification of the habitual propensities of the four elements, earth and the like, and to the body of the fetus that has twenty fingers. In terms of enlightened awareness, it explains the perfect awakening with twenty aspects as the vajra-yoga of speech of the Saṃbhogakāya and as a Bodhisattva who assists other Bodhisattvas and teaches Dharma by means of the utterances of all sentient beings due to being enlightened with twenty aspects. 87 4. According to the Vimalaprabhā, perfect awakening with the net of illusions refers to the Buddha's Nirmāṇakāya, which manifests in innumerable forms, like an endless net of illusions, and knows the reality that has sixteen aspects. 88 The Sekoddeśaṭīkā describes it in a similar fashion but adds that the perfect awakening with the net of illusions is the bodily vajra-yoga, a pledge being (samaya-sattva) who is the foremost assistant to sentient beings due to his knowledge of the reality with sixteen aspects. For Nadapāda, this type of awakening is due to the cessation of the drops of the sixteen types of bodily bliss (kāyānanda). He also sees it as analogous to the knowledge of the limitless phenomena that are like a net of illusions, which is acquired by being born from the womb. 89 Just as the Buddha's mind is characterized by the four types of spiritual awakening, so are the four bodies of the Buddha characterized by the four different types of knowledge and their functions. The Sahajakāya is characterized by omniscience (sarvajñatā) on the ground that it sees everything. The Dharmakāya is characterized by knowledge of the aspects of the path (mārgākāra-jñatā), because it is saturated by supreme, immutable bliss. The Saṃbhogakāya is characterized by knowledge of the path (mārga-jñatā), for it simultaneously teaches the mundane (laukika) and supramundane (lokottara) Dharmas, using the different modes of expression of countless sentient beings. Finally, the Nirmāṇakāya is characterized by knowledge of all aspects (sarvākāra-jñatā), since it simultaneously spreads its powers and manifestations by means of limitless Nirmāṇakāyas. 90

Each of these four bodies of the Buddha represents a particular type of union (yoga). For example, the Sahajakāya represents the union of purity and gnosis; therefore, it is also called the pure yoga (śuddhayoga). The Dharmakāya is the union of the Dharma and the mind; hence, it is also referred to as the dharma-yoga. The Saṃbhogakāya is the union of speech and enjoyment, for that reason, it is also identified as the mantra-yoga; and the Nirmāṇakāya is the union of the body and its emanation, therefore, it is also designated as the form-yoga (saṃsthāna-yoga). 91 This perspective on the four bodies of the Buddha as the four types of yogas explicates the Kālacakra tradition's definition of gnosis as the vajra-yoga. As alluded earlier, these four types of yogas, which purify Kālacakra, are the four gates of liberation (mokṣa): a liberation through emptiness (śūnyatā-vimokṣa), a liberation through signlessness (animitta-vimokṣa), a liberation through wishlessness (apraṇihita-vimokṣa), and a liberation through non-compositeness (anabhisaṃskāra-vimokṣa). According to the Sekoddeśaṭīkā, a liberation through emptiness is the gnosis that is characterized by its condition of being empty and by apprehending that the past and future are empty. Due to that gnosis, the purified, imperishable, sublime bliss (mahā-sukha) arises form the eradication of the fourth state of the mind (turyā). This liberation through emptiness is nothing else than the vajra-yoga consisting of compassion, the Shajakāya, or the purified yoga. A liberation through signlessness is the gnosis that is without a sign (nimitta), or a cause (hetu), which is a mind with conceptualizations such as the “Buddha, ” “enlightenment, ” and so on. Due to this absence of a cause, the mind of the deep sleep vanishes and the mind-vajra that consists of loving kindness (maitrī), which is the Dharmakāya, arises. Since its nature is Dharma, it is also called the dharma-yoga. A liberation through wishlessness is a freedom from reasoning (tarka) that manifests in thinking: “I am the fully awakened one, ” and so on. The absence of such reasoning results from the absence of the earlier mentioned sign, or cause. In liberation through wishlessness, the sleeping state is destroyed, and on account of that, arises the indestructible voice that is characterized by mantras and sympathetic joy (muditā). That voice is the speech-vajra, the Saṃbhogakāya. It is a mantra because it protects (trāṇa) and gladdens (modana) the minds with the expressions of all sentient beings. Therefore, it also called the mantra-yoga. A liberation through noncompositeness, which results from the absence of wish (praṇidhāna) is the form-yoga. It is the body-vajra that consists of equanimity (upekṣā) and that manifests with all forms: ferocius, passionate, peaceful, and so on, leading others to the path of opposition to mental afflictions by means of limitless Nirmāṇakāyas. This liberation is said to be pure due to the destruction of the waking state. 92 Just as there is one gnosis that manifests as various types of cognition, so too there is one Sahajakāya, which becomes of four kinds. According to the Kālacakra tradition's interpretation of the four bodies of the Buddha as the four facets of enlightened awareness, which are the purified aspects of the four states of the individual's mind, the Sahajakāya is also of four kinds. First of all, the Sahajakāya is the facet of the Buddha's mind that is devoid of the fourth state of the mind (turya), and thereby it is not affected by the sense-faculties nor is it polluted by attachment. For that reason, it is seen as the attainment of one's own well-being. The Sahajakāya is said to be neither wisdom nor compassion, nor of the nature of both. Due to the eradication of the state of deep sleep, it becomes the Dharmakāya for the sake of others' well-being. Due to freedom from the state of deep sleep, the Dharmakāya is never saturated by darkness. It is of the nature of both wisdom and compassion due to the distinction between gnosis (jñāna) and consciousness (vijñāna). Gnosis is understood in this context as the apprehending mind (grāhaka-citta), the mind that is the subject; and consciousness is taken to mean the apprehended (grāhya) knowledge of others' minds, minds that are objects of knowledge (jñeya). Gnosis, or the apprehending mind, is wisdom (prajñā) because it is devoid of ideation (kalpanā); and the apprehended mind—namely, enlightened awareness as it manifests as the world—is method (upāya), which is conceptually fabricated (parikalpita) and has the characteristic of compassion. Likewise, the Saṃbhogakāya is the mind that is free of the dreaming state, which is invariably produced by prāṇas. It is also of the nature of wisdom and compassion. By means of the divine eye (divya-cakṣu), its divine consciousness (divya-vijñāna) perceives past and future forms like transparent reflections in a mirror; and by means of the divine ear, it apprehends sounds that arise in those transparent forms as echoes. It knows past and future times, as well as certain events that have happened or will happen. The Saṃbhogakāya becomes the Nirmāṇakāya for spiritually mature sentient beings. The Nirmāṇakāya is the mind that is free of the waking state, and therefore it is not characterized by false notions arising from conceptualization. It also consists of wisdom and compassion. Even though it is one, it becomes many, because sentient beings see its various emanations. Ultimately, the unity of one and many Nirmāṇakāyas is the unity of wisdom and compassion, even though conventionally there is an obvious contradiction in the concept of one and many Nirmāṇakāyas. The illusion of the Buddha's emanations, which have immeasurable qualities, is said to be inconceivable even to the Buddhas themselves. 93

As was indicated earlier, these four bodies of the Buddha collectively and individually are understood to be nothing other than the four different manifestations of the Jñānakāya (“Gnosis-body”). The Kālacakra tradition's characterization of the Jñānakāya is based on the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti's characterization of Mañjuśrī, who is identified there with the Jñānakāya. Likewise, as the main topic of the Kālacakratantra's discourse, the Jñānakāya is referred to as the “vajra-word” that is also taught in other “kings of tantras”—specifically, in the method-tantras such as the Guhyasamāja, and in the wisdom-tantras such as the Cakrasaṃvara. 94 Thus, in this tantric system, the Jñānakāya is the unity of the speaker, who is the Ādibuddha, and his teaching, the vajra-word.

In the Kālacakratantra, the Jñānakāya is discussed in terms of both conventional and ultimate realities. In terms of ultimate reality, it is taught in the above way as the four bodies of the Buddha, or as the clear light of the mind (citta-pratibhāsa), appearing in space and being directly perceived through the yogic practices of unifying the left and right nāḍīs in the madhyamā. In terms of conventional reality, it is presented as the body that is mentally fabricated by the yogī's own mind as being endowed with form, various colors, and other attributes.

With regard to the impure manifestations of the four bodies of the Buddha within the individual, the Kālacakra tradition correlates the four bodies of the Buddha with the four stages of development of a fetus in the womb and with the four phases of one's life outside the womb. Thus, at the moment of conception, consciousness, gnosis, semen, and uterine blood constitute the impure, or obscured, phenomenal aspect of the Sahajakāya. The fetus consisting of the psycho-physical aggregates and elements corresponds to the Dharmakāya. The fetus at the stage of developing the sense-bases (āyatana) corresponds to the Saṃbhogakāya; and the fetus that at the time of birth is completely endowed with arms, legs, hair, and the other bodily parts corresponds to the Nirmāṇakāya. 95

With regard to the individual who is outside the womb, a newborn infant, whose prāṇas first begin to flow from the navel-cakra, corresponds to the Sahajakāya. The newborn child, though, corresponds to the Sahajakāya only for the period of sixty breaths during which the infant's prāṇas flow in the central nāḍī. The child, in the phase of life in which its limbs begin to move due to the circulation of prāṇas, in which its first teeth begin to grow and its indistinct speech arises, corresponds to the Dharmakāya. From the time that the child's first teeth fall out until the age of eight, when its new teeth grow and its speech becomes clear, the child corresponds to the Saṃbhogakāya. Lastly, in the phase of life from the growth of new teeth until death, the individual represents the impure aspect of the Nirmāṇakāya. 96 This categorization of the four bodies of the Buddha as the individual in the four phases of life is based on the Kālacakra tradition's view of the manner in which the individual's prāṇas, speech, and mind interact.

Even though the Kālacakra tradition often speaks of gnosis as the ultimate nature of all sentient beings and of the four bodies of the Buddha as present in the body of every individual, the Vimalaprabhā emphasizes that this does not imply that all sentient beings are already Nirmāṇakāyas of the Buddha. It criticizes those who mistakenly conclude that the bodies of sentient beings are the Buddha's Nirmāṇakāyas simply because all the kings of tantras (tantra-rāja) identify the five psycho-physical aggregates with the five Buddhas, the bodily elements with the consorts of the five Buddhas, and so on. It argues that if sentient beings within the three realms of cyclic existence are already Nirmāṇakāyas of the Buddha, then this implies that they have previously become Samyaksaṃbuddhas. However, the fact that sentient beings lack the powers and qualities of the Buddha and are still subject to the origination, cessation, and all the other sufferings of transmigratory existence indicates that they are not perfectly awakened but deeply entrenched in saṃsāra. It also argues that if sentient beings have already attained Buddhahood, then the practices of generosity, meditation, reflection, listening to Dharma teachings and the like would be useless. This, it says, “has not been seen, heard, inferred, or predicted by the Tathāgata. ” 97 Likewise, it claims that the Kālacakratantra's identification of the bodily components—specifically, the male and female sexual organs, feces, urine, uterine blood, and semen—with the five Buddhas does not imply that these impure bodily constituents are actually the five Buddhas. Such identification, it says, is to be understood in terms of the language of tantric pledges (samaya-bhāṣā) and not in terms of definitive language, which employs words that explicitly designate their referents. It also argues that a localized (prādeśika) body of the individual cannot be taken as the all-pervasive body of the Buddha.

The Kālacakratantra's fourfold categorization of the Buddha's body has its precedent in the earlier Mahāyāna classification of the Buddha's body into the Svābhāvikakāya (“Essential Body”), Dharmakāya, Sa ṃbhogakāya, and Nirmāṇakāya. The Kālacakratantra itself never mentions the Svabhāvikakāya; it mentions only the Sahajakāya, the Viśuddhakāya (“Pure Body”), and the Jñānakāya as synonymous. However, the Vimalaprabhā comments that in the system of perfections, which has the characteristic of the cause, the mind of gnosis (jñāna-citta) is designated as the “Svabhāvikakāya of the perfection of wisdom (Prajñāpāramitā), ” or as the “Prajñāpāramitākāya” (“Body of the Perfection of Wisdom”). 98 Whereas in the system of mantras, which has the characteristic of the result, it is called “innate bliss” (sahajānanda), or the “Sahajakāya. ” 99 For this reason, the terms “Svābhāvikakāya” and “Sahajakāya” are sometimes used interchangeably in the commentarial literature of the Kālacakra tradition. 100

The Vimalaprabhā, cites the Abhisamayālaṃkāra (Ch. 1, v. 18), to support this view of the close relation between the Svābhāvikakāya and the Sahajakāya; and it suggests that its classification of the four bodies of the Buddha has precedents in the interpretations of some Mahāyāna authors. The cited verse from the Abhisamayālaṃkāra reads:

The Dharmakāya, which is with activity, is said to be of four kinds: the Svābhāvikakāya, together with the Saṃbhogakāya, and the Nirmāṇakāya. 101

The Kālacakra tradition interprets the Sahajakāya similarly to some Indian Mahāyāna authors' interpretation of the Abhisamayālaṃkāra's reading of the Svābhāvikakāya. 102 Just as in the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, the Svābhāvikakāya is just another way of characterizing the essential nature (svabhāva, prakṛti) of undefiled Buddha dharmas, so in the Kālacakratantra, the Sahajakāya is the defining essence of Buddhahood, which is indivisible from the Dharmakāya. Furthermore, just as in the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, the Svābhāvikakāya designates the emptiness of the Buddha's nonconceptual mind, characterized by the freedom from defilements (nirāsrava) and the purity of all aspects (sarvākārā viśuddhi), 103 so according to the Kālacakra tradition,

the mind that is devoid of the habitual propensities of transmigratory existence is called Buddhahood. Likewise, the Bhagavān stated in the Prajñāpāramitā, “That mind, which is the mind, is not the mind. ” That very mind that is devoid of the habitual propensities of transmigratory existence is luminous by nature (prakṛtiprabhāsvara). Therefore, Māra is the mind that has impurities (mala), and the Buddha is the mind that is without impurities (amala). 104

In another place, the Vimalaprabhā asserts:

That which is taught in terms of ultimate reality for the sake of attaining the supramundane mahāmudrā-siddhi, which is endowed with the best of all forms, is the luminosity (pratibhāsa) of the yogīs' own mind, which can be directly perceived, which is devoid of the characteristics of the ideation of one's own mind, which shines in the sky and is similar to the reflection in a young maiden's mirror. 105

Thus, with respect to the essential purity of the Buddha's mind, the Abhisamayālaṃkāra's interpretations of the Svābhāvikakāya accord with the Kālacakra tradition's interpretation of the Sahajakāya. There are also other points of agreement between the Mādhyamika interpretation of the Abhisamayālaṃkāra's presentation of the Svābhāvikakāya and the Kālacakra tradition's interpretation of the Sahajakāya. For example, references to the Svābhāvikakāya and the Sahajakāya as the mirrorlike gnosis (ādarśa-jñāna) are found in both Buddhajñānapāda's (eighth century) Saṃcayagāthāpañjikā commentary on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra and in the Vimalaprabhā. 106 Likewise, identifications of the Svābhāvikakāya and the Sahajakāya with a Samantabhadra, pure luminosity, the dharma-dhātu, which is ultimately the sole body of the Buddha, are encountered in both Dharmamitra's Praspuṭapadā (late eighth—early ninth century) and in the Kālacakratantra and the Vimalaprabhā. 107

Furthermore, the Vimalaprabhā defines the Dharmakāya and the Svābhāvikakāya in the following way:

[The body) that is neither impermanent nor permanent, neither single nor has the characteristic of many, neither substance (dravya) nor non-substance (adravya), is the Dharmakāya, which is without basis (nirāśraya).
[The body) that is indivisible from emptiness and compassion, free of attachment and nonattachment, that is neither wisdom nor method, is the additional Svābhāvikakāya. 108

This description of the Dharmakāya and the Svābhāvikakāya suggests that the Dharmakāya characterizes here enlightened awareness, which transcends the reality of atoms and yet exists in terms of emptiness, and which lacks a basis for superimpositions such as permanence and impermanence, existence and non-existence. Whereas the Svābhāvikakāya represents the empty nature of the enlightened awareness, which ultimately is neither the apprehending mind nor the apprehended mind. Thus, the Svābhāvikakāya does not designate here some independent component of Buddhahood, but the essential nature of all the aspects of the enlightened mind. In this respect, the Kālacakra tradition's interpretation of the fourth body accords with the Mādhyamika interpretation of the Svābhāvikakāya. On the basis of textual evidence, one could infer that in the Kālacakratantra tradition, which claims to consist of both the system of perfections and the system of mantras, the Prajñāpāramitākāya, or the Sahajakāya, represents the unity of the two aspects of the Buddha's mind—namely, the empty nature of the Buddha's mind, which is the cause, and the blissful aspect of the Buddha's mind, which is the result. On the grounds that the empty and blissful natures of the Buddha's mind are essentially nondual, the Kālacakra tradition attends to them as a single fact, as a form (bimba) of emptiness and compassion. More than the literature of Mahāyāna, the Kālacakra tradition, in addition to emptiness, strongly emphasizes the blissful aspect of Buddhahood, which is seen as ultimately nondual from emptiness. One reads in the Ādibuddhatantra: “this Vajrasattva is the foundation of the bliss of all Buddhas due to the union of the body, speech, and mind. ” 109 It is in this regard that the Kālacakra tradition's interpetation of the blissful aspect of Buddhahood and the ways of achieving it diverge from the Mahāyāna's interpretation of the Svābhāvikakāya and consequently from Mahāyāna forms of practice. Thus, in the Kālacakra tradition, the Sahajakāya designates the two aspects of the essential nature of the Buddha's mind: emptiness and bliss. Considering that for this tantric system, those two aspects are nondual from each other and indivisible from all other bodies of the Buddha, one may further infer that ultimately there is only one body of the Buddha, the Gnostic Body.

The primary purpose of the Kālacakratantra's classification of the four bodies of the Buddha is to provide a model for Kālacakratantra practice that will accord with its goal. In this tantric system, the fourfold classification of the Buddha's body outlines the essential components of spiritual awakening, which are meticulously correlated to the contemplative's psycho-physical constituents and their functions. Thus, the Sahajakāya is a representation of both the basis of purification, which is the individual's psycho-physical constituents and their functions, and the result of purification, which is the components of Buddhahood and their activities.

This concept of the Sahajakāya is common to all anuttara-yoga-tantras. The Vimalaprabhā denies that the realization of the Sahajakāya, or Jñānakāya, is ever found among Śrāvakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Vijñānavādins, for the Sahajakāya is free from all residues (upadhi) and transcends the reality of consciousness (vijñāna-dharmatā). 110 This claim not only supports the Kālacakratantra's openly stated affiliation with the philosophical views of the Mādhyamikas, 111 but it also indirectly expresses the Kālacakra tradition's interpretation of other anuttara-yoga-tantras as being based on the Mādhyamika philosophy.

=Gnosis and Mental Afflictions

The Kālacakra tradition's theory of the Jñānakāya is most intimately connected with the Kālacakratantra's view that “sentient beings are Buddhas and that there is not some other great Buddha in the universe apart from sentient beings. ” 112 It is by means of sentient beings' prayers and their elimination of conceptualizations (vikalpa) that cyclic existence ceases. 113 As indicated earlier, this view of gnosis as innately present in all sentient beings was already expressed in the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti, which affirms it in the following manner:

Present within the minds of all beings, he attained equality with their minds. Gladdening the minds of all sentient beings, he is the joy of the minds of all sentient beings. 114

This view of sentient beings is not unique to the Kālacakratantra, as it is also found in the earlier anuttara-yoga-tantras. For example, one reads in the Hevajratantra that the Buddha cannot be found elsewhere in some other world-system (loka-dhātu), for the mind itself is the perfect Buddha. It asserts that all species of sentient beings, from gods to worms, are innately endowed with a blissful nature. 115 Likewise, in the root tantra of the Saṃvara literary corpus, the Lakṣābhidhāna, it is stated that Vajrasattva, the sublime bliss, is within the self of sentient beings. 116 Similarly, in the root tantra of the Yamāntaka literature, the Yogānuviddhatantra, cited in the Vimalaprabhā, states that a unique, principal deity abides in the self of the three worlds with the nature of innate bliss. 117

The view that the Buddha's mind is present in all sentient beings has its earliest precursor in the early Buddhist notion of the innate luminosity, or purity, of the mind. The Aṅguttara Nikāya, I. 10, expresses this view in the following manner: “Monks, the mind is luminous (prabhassara), but it is contaminated by adventitious defilements. ” Its later precursors can be traced to the Mādhyamika view of the mind and the tathāgata-garbha theory. One reads in the Bodhicaryāvatāra (Ch. 9, v. 103) that sentient beings are by nature liberated. The Pañjikā commentary interpets this statement in light of the Madhyamaka view of the absence of inherent existence of the transmigratory mind and of nirvāṇa. It asserts that natural nirvāṇa (prākṛtanirvāṇa), which is characterized by the absence of inherent existence, is always present in the streams of consciousness of all sentient beings. 118 According to the Tathāgatagarbhasūtra, which identifies all sentient beings with the embryo (garbha) of the Tathāgata, the Buddha sees with his divine eye that all sentient beings are endowed with the Buddha's knowledge (buddha-jñāna), Buddha's eyes (buddha-caḳsu), and Buddha's body (buddha-kāya). 119 Likewise, the “ a vimatsāhasra-sarvadharma-ṣ ṭ samuccaya” chapter of the Saddharmalaṅkāvatārasūtra asserts that the tathāgata-garbha, which is inherently pure clear light and primordial purity itself, is present within the bodies of all sentient beings, covered over by the psycho-physical aggregates, elements, and sense-bases. 120 Statements similar to these can also be found throughout the Ratnagotravibhāga and other writings of the tathāgata-garbha tradition. This identification of all sentient beings with the essence of the Buddha is also characteristic of some other Mahāyāna texts. For example, the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra states that all embodied beings are the embryos of Tathāgatahood. 121 Likewise, according to the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, the essence of the Buddha (buddha-dhātu) is found within all sentient beings. 122

This view of all sentient beings as being endowed with the embryo of the Tathāgata has lent itself to two different interpretations. One is that the Tathāgatagarbha refers only to sentient beings' potential for spiritual awakening; and the other is that the presence of the tathāgata-garbha in every sentient being implies that all sentient beings are fundamentally enlightened but need to recognize it. As in the case of other anuttara-yoga-tantras, 123 the Kālacakratantra's view of sentient beings as Buddhas largely accords with the second interpretation. The Kālacakratantra explains that enlightened awareness is innately present within an ordinary individual's body in the following way:

Just as space does not disappear [from a jar] when water is poured into the jar, in the same way, the sky-vajrī, who is the pervader of the universe and devoid of sense-objects, is within the body. 124

Even though enlightened awareness is innate to each individual, it is not actualized as long as one does not ascertain one's innate gnosis as such. However, the ascertainment of one's own gnosis as enlightened awareness entails the absence of afflictive and cognitive obscurations, which impede one's self-recognition. Their absence is conditioned by the path of purification that aims at manifesting this selfawareness of gnosis. The Kālacakratantra asserts that due to the power of unwholesome actions, a sinful person does not see that the wish-fulfilling gem is present in his own mind; but when purification takes place, that person becomes the Lord of Jinas (jinendra) and has no use for some other Jina. 125 Thus, even though sentient beings are innately Buddhas, they are not manifestly Buddhas, and their spiritual awakening needs to manifest as a nondual gnosis that is directly aware of its own blissful and empty nature. That nondual gnosis is the mind that is essentially pure and unfettered by the obscurations of mental afflictions (kleśāvaraṇa), even if it is veiled by them. Therefore, that nondual gnosis is effective in the elimination of mental afflictions. The mind of a sentient being that supports the habitual propensities of karma (karma-vāsanā) and brings about suffering and happiness is the omnipresent mind that transcends transmigratory suffering and happiness and that cannot be destroyed by conceptualizations (vikalpa).

Like the texts of the tathāgata-garbha tradition, the Kālacakra tradition offers explicit reasons why one's innate gnosis, although underlying mental afflictions, remains untainted by them. However, its explanations differ from those of the tathāgata-garbha tradition in several ways. According to the Ratnagotravibhāga, the innately pure mind remains untainted by mental afflictions because mental afflictions that obscure the mind are adventitious (āgantuka) and are not connected with the mind, whereas the purifying elements present in the mind are innate to the mind and are indivisible from it. 126 Likewise, according to another text of the tathāgata-garbha tradition, the Śrīmālādevī, the momentary mind (kṣaṇika-citta), whether it is wholesome (kuśala) or unwholesome (akuśala), remains unaffected by mental afflictions because those afflictions neither touch the mind nor are touched by the mind. 127

In contrast, a text of the Kālacakra corpus, the Sekoddeśa, explains the relationship between the mental afflictions and the mind in the following way:

An adventitious stain is not in the mind nor is it prior to the mind. It does not arise without the mind nor does it stay immutable in the mind.
If it were only adventitious, then the mind would be formerly stainless. If it is prior to the mind, then from where has it originated?
If it is arisen without the mind, then it is like a sky-flower. If it is always present in the mind, then it could never vanish.
Just as the impurity of copper disappears due to the prepared mixtures, its natural property, which remains in the stainless state, does not vanish.
So a stain of the mind disappears due to the yoga of emptiness, but its state of gnosis, which remains in the stainless state, does not vanish. 128

Even though the Sekoddeśa agrees that human beings are already endowed with the immutable bliss that characterizes Buddhahood, it stresses the necessity for mental purification in this way:

Just as one must completely refine iron that is melted by intense fire, even though a precious substance is already present in one part of the iron, in the same way, one must completely refine the mind that is heated by the fire of desire, even though immutable bliss is already present in one part [of the mind ] . 129

The Vimalaprabhā asserts that habitual propensities of the mind arise and cease due to the same cause, the power of the individual's rebirths. If the habitual propensities were inherent to the mind, then sentient beings could never reach Buddhahood, because Buddhahood comes about due to the eradication of the habitual propensities of transmigratory existence. If one examines transmigratory existence in various ways, one finds that saṃsāra is nothing other than the degree of one's own habitual propensities of the mind. A habitual propensity of saṃsāra is the moment (kṣaṇa) of bliss that is characterized by the emission of semen, and so it is perishable. A habitual propensity of nirvāṇa is the moment of bliss that is characterized by nonemission of semen, and therefore it is imperishable. 130 The perfection of wisdom is the inconceivable gnosis of the Buddha because it consists of both attachment (rāga) and aversion (virāga). When sentient beings start thinking, attachment to desirable things and aversion to disagreeable things begin to arise. These two, attachment and aversion, are the mental causes of transmigratory existence. However, when gnosis, which is free of thinking, becomes actualized, there is no longer any attachment to desirable things or aversion to undesirable things. The absence of both results in freedom from transmigratory existence, and freedom from transmigratory existence results in full and perfect awakening. 131

The Kālacakratantra itself offers only an implicit explanation. Its repeated assertion that the nature of gnosis is free of the elements of earth, water, fire, wind, and semen and their modifications implies that gnosis is free of mental afflictions, which arise from those elements. Moreover, the Kālacakratantra's fundamental idea that mental afflictions, lacking inherent existence, are ultimately unreal implies that mental afflictions exist only from the perspective of the dualistic mind in which they arise. However, they neither exist nor not exist in relation to innately pure gnosis, which is beyond every perspective. This seems to be supported by the Vimalaprabhā, which maintains that “the nirvāṇic mind, which has transcended saṃsāra and is present in every body, is neither bound nor liberated by anything. ” 132 It further asserts that “the vajrī, the purified mind, is the [ mind ] that does not have the two— eternal existence and non-existence, or annihilation. ” 133

Furthermore, according to the Tathāgata-garbha tradition and other Indian Mahāyāna schools, mental afflictions arise from the habitual propensities of spiritual ignorance (avidyā-vāsanā), which manifests as erroneous views. Thus, these traditions see spiritual ignorance as the primary cause of mental afflictions, and they see the erroneous views that arise from that ignorance as the indirect cause of mental afflictions. 134 For example, for Vijñānavādins, the direct cause of mental afflictions is the view of objectification (viṣaya-dṛṣṭi), and for Mādhyamikas, it is any view that stands as a dogmatic position (pakṣa). The Kālacakra tradition, however, does not explicitly speak of any particular view as the immediate cause of mental afflictions. Although the Kālacakratantra often implies that applying any view contrary to that of identitylessness (nairātmya) or emptiness (śūnyatā) is detrimental to one's liberation, it clearly stresses the nature and function of prāṇas as the immediate cause of mental afflictions and their elimination. 135 In the Kālacakratantra system, mental afflictions are also referred to as impurities (kaluṣa) and are described as the perturbations or deformations (vikāra) of the mind, which are most intimately connected with the psycho-physiological constitution and processes of the individual. 136 According to the Kālacakratantra, the prāṇas are closely related to the mental states of an individual and are thus at the basis of both saṃsāra and nirvāṇa. prāṇas give rise to mental afflictions by conveying the six elements through the nāḍīs in the body. However, it is due to the efficacy of the six elements that constitute the prāṇas—namely, gnosis, air, wind, fire, water, and earth —that avarice (mātsarya), hatred (dveṣa), jealousy (īrṣyā), attachment (rāga), pride (māna), and confusion (moha) respectively arise. 137 Thus, the same gnosis-element, which is identified as the cause of the Sahajakāya, which is present in the individual's secret cakra, also functions as the direct cause of the three kinds of the apāna wind, which give rise to avarice.

According to the Kālacakratantra, as long as a sentient being remains in the mother's womb, the prāṇas stay motionless in the navel-cakra, and mental afflictions do not arise. With the first breath at the time of birth, the prāṇas begin to move, carrying the five elements and thereby mental afflictions along with them. The first breath, which begins in the central nāḍī, is said to be devoid of the three guṇas; whereas the second breath takes place either in the left or or the right nāḍī that carries the ten maṇḍalas, due to the power of the sattva-guna; the third breath takes place due to the power of rajas, the fourth breath due to the power of tamas, and so on. Each of these breaths that are of the nature of sattva, rajas, and tamas become the five kinds due to the classification of the gunas of the five senseobjects. Then, due to the threefold classification of the body, speech, and mind, they become forty-five. Then, due to the further classification of the two feet and and two arms, they become one hundred and eighty breaths; and afterward, due to the nature of wisdom and method, they, multiplied by two, become three hundred and sixty breaths. 138

In this way, the prāṇas sustain mental afflictions and consequently perpetuate the cycle of rebirth. When the prāṇas are purified, that is, when the six elements constituting the prāṇas are transformed into pure gnosis, they obliterate all causes of mental afflictions and secure the bliss of liberation. Likewise, when all the bodily constituents—consisting of the elements and manifesting with the natures of sattva, rajas, and tamas—become purified from the afflictive and cognitive obscurations, they manifest as the ten bodhisattva-bhūmis and bring about Buddhahood. Thus, the bodily hair and the hair of the head become the first bodhisattva-bhūmi, Pramuditā, the skin and flesh become Vimalā, the two types of blood manifest as Prabhākarī, sweat and urine as Arcismatī, the bones and marrow as Sudurjayā, the nāḍīs and prāṇas as Abhimukhī, the gnosis-vajra and the element of passion (rāga-dhātu) as Dūraṅgamā, the mind-vajra as Acalā, the uterine blood as Sādhumatī, and semen as Dharmameghā. In light of this view, the Vimalaprabhā asserts that apart from the body, there is no other Buddha who is the pervader (vyāpaka) and bestower of liberation.139

Being the direct causes of mental afflictions and the immediate causes of their elimination, the bodily prāṇas are said to be supported by volition (cetanā). 140 Volition is understood here as the mind (citta), which under the influence of sattva, rajas, and tamas, has the waking, dreaming, and sleeping states. That mind is comprised of the five elements (dhātu), the mental faculty (manas), intellect (buddhi), and selfgrasping (ahaṃkāra). Hence, in this tantric system, volition, being the transmigratory mind, is both a mental and a physical phenomenon. This transmigratory mind is further supported by innate gnosis, which is free of the five elements and thereby free of conceptualizations and mental afflictions. Being free of conceptualizations and mental afflictions, gnosis is beyond happiness and suffering, and yet it is active in bringing about the eradication of happiness and suffering. 141 This is yet another way in which the Kālacakra tradition attempts to explain why omnipresent gnosis cannot be defiled by mental afflictions despite being covered by them. One may infer here that innately pure gnosis, being the ultimate and indirect support of prāṇas, also functions as the ultimate factor in sustaining and eliminating mental afflictions. This understanding of the relationship between the innately pure gnosis and mental afflictions underpins the kālacakratantra's view of gnosis as the primary basis of both saṃsāra and nirvāṇa. Furthermore, spiritual ignorance (avidyā) is explained in the Kālacakra tradition simply as a modification (pratyaya) of the elements, which are contained in the mother's blood and the father's semen and are grasped by consciousness at the moment of conception. 142 The very idea that spiritual ignorance never arises in the absence of the elements precludes the role of spiritual ignorance as the direct cause of mental afflictions. But the Vimalaprabhā does, on the other hand, define spiritual ignorance as a mental affliction, which consists of attachment, hatred, and delusion, and it presents it as a primary cause of these mental afflictions. It describes it as a habitual propensity of beginningless attachment, but because attachment is perishable, it gives rise to aversion (virāga), or hatred (dveṣa), which is of the nature of confusion (mūrcchā), or delusion (moha).

The Vimalaprabhā defines these and other mental obscurations as mental stains, which are nothing other than the mind of Māra. 143 On the ground that both the innately pure gnosis and afflictive and cognitive obscurations are present in the body of the individual, the Kālacakratantra asserts that both minds—the mind of Māras, which causes fear and agitation, and the blissful mind of the Buddhas—are present in the hearts of sentient beings. 144 Whereas gnosis aspires and incites one to venture for liberation from cyclic existence, the mind of Māra is said to be forever devoid of such aspiration and venturing. 145 Thus, it is due to the presence of both minds in the hearts of sentient beings that the three realms of cyclic existence endlessly revolve by the power of the Buddha within. Likewise, when the Buddha crushes the four Māras, it is one's own innately pure gnosis that crushes the internal Māras, who are the habitual propensities of one's own body, speech, mind, and spiritual ignorance and who are not some external entities. 146 The mind of Māra and the mind of the Buddha do not exist simultaneously in the body of the individual. The moment in which the mind of Māra arises is the moment that is devoid of Buddhahood, because the mind is obscured; and the moment in which Buddhahood arises is the moment that is devoid of Māra because of the absence of obscurations. It is on this ground that the Vimalaprabhā asserts that Buddhahood does not precede the Buddha's destruction of Māras nor does the eradication of Māras precede Buddhahood. 147 If Buddhahood were to precede the destruction of Māras as external entities, then the Buddha's assault on Māras would imply his lack of freedom from obscurations. But if the destruction of Māras were to precede Buddhahood, then it would be unclear why ordinary sentient beings were unable to destroy Māras at any time.

According to this tantric system, the spiritual ignorance of those who delight in mundane pleasures arises due to the words of the internal Devaputra Māra. When one refuses to conform to the words of Devaputra Māra by not manifesting spiritual ignorance, the habitual propensities of one's own mind become Vajrasattva. Therefore, like Māras, Vajrasattva, who is the mind, is one's own self-imposed (sva-kṛta) experience. The form of Vajrasattva is a mantra because it is by means of mantras that one guards one's own mind from Māras.

That which begets all of the internal Māras is said to be a moment of perishable bliss, which is called here “Cupid” (kāma-deva). Eliminating one's inner Cupid by actualizing the moment of supreme, imperishable bliss, one destroys Māras, which have the form of one's own afflictive and cognitive obscurations. 148 However, it is said that out of compassion for others, one intentionally does not destroy all of one's afflictive obscurations, but retains just a trace of them “that are of the nature of the activities (kriyā) for the benefit of sentient beings, ” in order to show that path of liberation to others. 149

Gnosis and Karma

Even though the Kālacakra tradition's philosophical explanation of karma is akin to the Mādhyamika view of karma, as being caused by mental afflictions and thereby being of the nature of mental afflictions, 150 its explanation of karma in terms of human physiology takes on another slant. According to the Kālacakra tradition, karma originates from the same elements from which mental afflictions arise. Thus, one can say here that karma is of the nature of mental afflictions, because they both originate from a common source. Since karma originates from the six elements, it is characterized by origination and cessation and therefore by conceptualization. In this way, karma induces and perpetuates the dualistic mind in relation to which mental afflictions arise. For the elimination of both mental afflictions and karma, purification takes place by melting away the fine atomic particles of the bodily prāṇas, which induce a dualistic vision of reality and carry the habitual propensities of karma. It is due to the dissolution of the atomic structure of one's body and mind that the tantric adept realizes the emptiness of all phenomena, which transcends the materiality of atoms, and thereby becomes free of karma.

Moreover, in terms of conventional reality, the agent (kartṛ) of karma is identified here as consciousness, or innate bliss, which appropriates the elements in the mother's womb. Eventually, when the body is formed, the six sense-faculties and the faculties of action become its means of action. However, that very consciousness is also recognized here as the agent of the elimination of karma, which at the time of death gradually leaves the five elements within the navel, heart, throat, forehead, and crown-cakra. 151 In terms of ultimate reality, the agent of karma is not an agent but a “a skypervader, a vajrī in the sky, free of sense-objects, ” the Sahajakāya without physical constituents. 152 Thus, in terms of conventional reality, gnosis is the source, originator, and destroyer of karma; and in terms of ultimate reality, it is none of the above, since the mind of gnosis is neither a derivative of the five elements nor does it perceive itself or anything else as an agent. 153

Gnosis and Sexual Bliss

In the Kālacakra tradition supreme imperishable bliss is defined as tranquillity (śānta), which pervades the elements of every sentient being's mind and body and of the entire inanimate world. Thus, the body of every sentient being is the abode of immutable bliss 154 and contains the four bodies of the Buddha. In beings who are bound to transmigratory existence, the blissful nature of the Buddha's mind manifests in the form of sexual bliss, in which the mind, for a brief time, becomes nondual and free of conceptualization. However, since the experience of sexual bliss is mutable, it creates habitual propensities of mutable sexual desire (kāma-vāsanā) and induces the further emergence of that desire. In this way, it reinforces mental afflictions by binding the experiencer to sensual pleasures. For that very reason, mutable bliss is viewed in the Kālacakra tradition as being characterized by transmigratory existence.

Nevertheless, the Kālacakra tradition stresses the importance of not avoiding sensual bliss but implementing it on the path as a condition that generates mental joy, which in turn brings forth the subtle mind that counteracts conceptualizations and directly perceives the empty nature of phenomena. Thus, by refining the mind, innate bliss secures freedom from cyclic existence. The Sekoddeśa affirms the refining power of bliss in the following manner:

Just as copper, refined by chemical solutions, does not become copper again, so the mind, refined by bliss, does not enter suffering again. 155

Due to the purifying power of bliss, the experience of innate bliss is regarded as an indispensable condition for attaining Buddhahood. The Kālacakratantra speaks of its soteriological significance in this way:

For one who abandons that [moment of bliss ]—which is the cause of the Buddhas, by means of which the Lords of Jinas have originated and come out of the womb by the efficacy of days, and by means of which Siddhas, not emitting semen, have pulsation (spanda) and non-pulsation (niḥspanda)—and who meditates on another empty Buddhahood devoid of immutable bliss, he will not experience innate bliss for tens of millions of eons. 156

Likewise, with regard to the soteriological efficacy of sexual bliss, one reads in the Vimalaprabhā:

Bliss that is produced by two sexual organs is the reality (tattva) that brings forth the result of Buddhahood. Men are the aspects of Vajradhara, and women are the vajrawomen. 157

Since sexual bliss cannot arise without passion (rāga), the inducement and nurturing of passion are viewed as central components of the Kālacakratantra path to spiritual awakening. One reads in the Vimalaprabhā:

Sin is due to the elimination of passion, on account of which, hatred toward the most loved one arises. Due to hatred there is delusion; and on account of this, the mind always becomes stupified due to the descent of one's own vajra. 158

The Sekoddeśa also speaks of the absence of passion as sin. It states:

There is no greater sin than dispassion (virāga), and there is no greater virtue than bliss. Therefore, o king, the mind should always dwell in imperishable bliss. 159

Passion here means sexual desire (kāma). As indicated in chapter 5 on the “Cosmic Body, ” the Kālacakratantra identifies sexual desire with gnosis and its fire with the fire of gnosis. 160 The fire of sexual desire incinerates the impurities of the mind. Therefore, in this tantric system, to eliminate passion means to prevent virtue from arising. The tantric adept retains passion by retaining semen during sexual union, whereas the emission of semen results in dispassion, or aversion, and subsequent mental afflictions. It impedes the emergence of imperishable bliss and creates a condition for the further emergence of repeated desire for transitory bliss and all its unfavorable consequences.

The Sekoddeśa cautions against the deadly power of seminal emission in these words:

It has been known that emission arouses dispassion, and dispassion arouses suffering. Due to suffering the men's elements are destroyed, and due to that destruction there is death.
Due to death there is rebirth, and due to rebirth there are repeated deaths and seminal emissions. Thus, the rebirth of sentient beings is due to the arising of dispassion and not due to anything else. 161

Whether seminal emission occurs occasionally or frequently, the consequences of seminal emission are equally detrimental with regard to one's liberation from cyclic existence. The Vimalaprabhā expresses it in these words:

A lion, who feeds on deer, occasionally engages in the pleasure of sexual union at the end of the year. A pigeon, who feeds on gravel, constantly engages in the pleasure of sexual union.
But just as neither one [of them] has supreme bliss, due to emitting semen either once or at all times, so too an ascetic and a lustful man do not have it because of emission in sleep and in the waking state.
Just as a sleeping man who is bitten by a snake does not live, so too an ascetic is ruined by the vulva of a base woman, due to not retaining his semen. 162

The Kālacakratantra also asserts the adverse affects of the habitual propensities of seminal emission on one's ability to actualize imperishable bliss, for perishable bliss is as antithetical to imperishable bliss as poison is to ambrosia. It asserts that imperishable bliss does not arise from the mind that is not purified from the perishable bliss of seminal emission, just as grapes do not come from the nimba tree and lotus flowers do not blossom from the udumbara tree. 163 Whereas the passion that is characterized by seminal emission brings destruction, or death, the passion that is characterized by nonemission becomes the supreme and imperishable moment of bliss, by means of which sentient beings are liberated. In this regard, it is said that the Buddhas guard the bliss, present in their hearts, which sentient beings release. 164 For this reason, the tantric yogī must learn to retain his semen for the sake of the sādhana on imperishable bliss, which is taught as a meditation on bliss through sexual union without seminal emission. It is by means of such a sādhana that one is able to eliminate the habitual propensities of the perishable bliss of seminal emission. One's habitual propensity for seminal emission (cyuti-vāsanā) is said to be an adventitious stain (āgantuka-mala), which has characterized the minds of sentient beings since beginningless time, 165 and it is said to be a cause of transmigratory existence. However, just as sexual union creates a condition for the arising of the habitual propensity of seminal emission, so too does it create a condition for the arising of the habitual propensity of seminal retention. 166 In light of this, the Kālacakratantra likens the transformative power of sexual union with regard to semen to the power of fire with regard to mercury. It states:

Fire is an enemy of mercury. The cohesiveness (bandha) of mercury never occurs without fire. When it is not cohesive, it does not produce gold. Without gold, it does not give pleasure to alchemists. Likewise, the cohesiveness of men's semen (bodhicitta) never occurs without union with a woman. If it is not cohesive, it does not transmute the body; and the non-transmuted body does not give supreme bliss. 167

Thus, just as mercury, which escapes due to its contact with fire, can also be made cohesive by that fire, so too semen, which escapes due to sexual contact, can be made cohesive by that contact. Likewise, just as cohesive mercury is exceptionally potent in purifying ordinary metal and transforming it into gold, so too cohesive semen has the power to purify one's psycho-physical aggregates from obscurations. Therefore, in this tantric tradition, meditation on a deity during sexual union, including the union with an actual consort (karma-mudrā), in which the yogī's semen becomes motionless, is considered to be analogous to the processes of calcination (jāraṇa) and trituration (svedana) of mercury. Just as the process of making mercury cohesive is of two kinds—one involving the trituration and the other involving calcination—so too the process of making one's own semen cohesive and motionless has two aspects—dispassion (virāga) for a consort and passion (rāga) for a consort. It consists of passion and dispassion, because the yogī focuses his mind on a deity and on the personal identitylessness of himself and his consort, which induces dispassion, while engaged in sexual union with a consort, which induces passion. Likewise, just as the twofold process of making mercury cohesive and thermostable induces the different states of mercury, from vaporous to motionless, 168 due to its different powers of consuming metals, so too, the habitual practice of this twofold process of making one's own semen cohesive induces different states of semen, from soft, moderate, excessive, to the most excessive, due to meditation on the impermanence of the individual, different kṛtsnas, and due to the destruction of the inanimate (jaḍa) aggregates, elements, and sense-bases. 169

Although the Kālacakratantra identifies sexual bliss with the blissful nature of gnosis, the experience of sexual bliss is seen only as a facsimile of the manifestation of self-aware gnosis, because, while experiencing that bliss in sexual union, one is unable to ascertain it as gnosis. Similarly, although the nonconceptual state of the mind that is induced by sexual bliss is identical to the direct realization of emptiness, the experience of that state is only a facsimile of the realization of emptiness, because, while being in that state of nonconceptuality, one is unable to ascertain it as such. Nevertheless, the experience of the facsimiles of the manifestation of gnosis and of the realization of emptiness can facilitate the actual manifestation of gnosis and the realization of emptiness. When the experience of the facsimiles of immutable bliss and emptiness is utilized as the essence out of which a tantric adept mentally creates maṇḍalas and their deities in the stage of generation, it diminishes the habitual propensities that impel one to grasp onto ordinary experiences as truly existent. When the experience of mutable bliss is implemented in this way, it induces one's mental perception of the world as a mere illusion, and consequently, diminishes one's attachment to the world.

Thus, in the Kālacakra tradition, the transformation of mutable bliss into immutable bliss is contingent upon one's motivation and one's mode of engaging in sexual practices. Those who engage in sexual practices merely for the pleasure of mutable bliss or while grasping onto such concepts as the Self (ātman) and creator are said to be incapable of actualizing imperishable bliss.

Thus, one may conclude that it is not the nature of gnosis itself that sustains and eliminates one's mental obscurations but one's mode of experiencing it. As long as one's experience of gnosis as innate bliss is mutable, the cycle of transmigration is perpetuated. When one's experience of innate bliss becomes immutable, Buddhahood is realized. The mode of one's experience of innate bliss directly depends upon the presence or absence of mental obscurations, and the presence of those obscurations proceeds from the fusion of consciousness and matter. The Kālacakratantra's view that one's gross, physical body is a mere hindrance to Buddhahood is supported by the earlier-mentioned theory that mental afflictions and karma arise from the elements that form the human body.

From the premise that one's psycho-physical factors are the source of one's mental obscurations arises the necessity of transforming the ordinary physical nature of one's body and mind. The Kālacakratantra considers that transformation as the most direct means leading to the state in which one's own body, speech, and the mind of immutable bliss become mutually pervasive and unified. The result of that transformation is none other than the actualization of the four bodies of the Buddha, the four aspects of gnosis and bliss.

Within the context of Kālacakratantra soteriology, to actualize the four bodies of the Buddha means to bring one's own gnosis into conscious experience. One reason for this is that the presence of the gnosis of imperishable bliss in sentient beings does not imply that it is fully manifest in their experience. When nondual gnosis becomes fully manifest, an ordinary sentient being becomes the Bhagavān Kālacakra, who, according to the Vimalaprabhā, “is praised by the Jinas in all the tantras as Vajrasattva, the word evaṃ. ” 170 The Kālacakra tradition's interpretation of Vajrasattva, which is based on the definition given in the Ādibuddhatantra, is almost identical to that of the Hevajratantra. It states:

"Gnosis that is entirely indivisible (abhedya) is called the “vajra. ” A being (sattva) who is the unity of the three worlds is called “Vajrasattva. ” 171

Likewise, according to the Vimalaprabhā, the word evaṃ designates Vajrasattva in this way: the letter e denotes the space-element, which is the vajra throne occupied by syllable vaṃ, which denotes the body, speech, mind, and gnosis. 172 In light of these interpretations of Buddhahood, one may say in conclusion that in this tantric system, the actualization of the innate gnosis of imperishable bliss involves the realization of the unitary nature of all forms of existence, which manifests in the four aspects that are, like space, all-pervading and empty of inherent existence.

Footnotes

prajñāpāramitājñānaṃ advayam sa tathāgataḥ sādhyatādārthyayogena
tācchabdyaṃ granthamārgayoḥ.

The Sanskrit version of the verse is taken from Th. Stcherbatsky and E. Obermiller, eds., Abhisamayālaṃkāra-Prajñāpāramitā-Upadeśa-Śāstra: The Work of Bodhisattva Maitreya, Bibliotheca Indo-Buddhica Series, vol. 99, 1992: vi.

sattvā buddhā na buddhas tv apara iha mahān vidyate lokadhātau.
sarvasattvamano'ntasthas taccittasamatāṃ gataḥ
sarvasattvamanohlādī sarvasattvamanoratiḥ.
rahasye sarvadūtīnāṃ sarvasattvātmani sthitaḥ sarvadūtīmayaḥ
sattvo vajrasattvo mahāsukhaḥ.
Fire and mercury are always enemies. Without fire there is no cohesiveness of mercury. Because it is noncohesive, it does not transmute metals. Because metals are not transmuted, they do not become gold. Because they have not become gold, a substance is not improved. Due to the low quality of a substance, there is a lack of enjoyment in it…. ”
Vajra is said to be
indivisible (abhedya),
and a being (sattva) is
the unity (ekatā) of the
three worlds. By means
of this wisdom, it is
known as Vajrasattva.

The Yogaratnamālā, commenting on this verse, identifies the vajra with emptiness, and it interprets a being (sattva) as a phenomenon consisting of the five psycho-physical aggregates.


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