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A Guide to the Kalachakra Empowerment

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There are a number of lineages of the Kalachakra system in Tibet and each lineage will have its preferred empowerment text. The guide to the empowerment

here is a summation here of the empowerment text written by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye in the mid-19th century in Eastern Tibet. The lineages that this text represents can be seen in the next chapter. Kagyus these days prefer the Kalachakra lineage that came through the Jonangs, who were the unparalleled

masters of the practice. That lineage forms the backbone of the transmission passed on by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and presented here. Kalachakra is a deity of Highest Yogatantra. Highest Yogatantra has three divisions: mother, father, and non-dual tantra. Each division has its own

particular emphasis and, correspondingly, its own ways. The emphasis of mother tantra is bliss, luminosity, and passion. The emphasis of father tantra is emptiness and anger. Non-dual tantra does not emphasize one side or another but uses the most direct approach to reality possible in the system. In it,

nonduality is emphasized. Although there are several mother and father tantra deities in Highest Yoga tantra, in non-dual tantra there is only deity, Kalachakra. Kalachakra is regarded as the pinnacle of Highest Yoga Tantra deities.

One of the features of Kalachakra is the empowerment. Whereas mother and father tantra empowerments usually take two days, the Kalachakra empowerment takes five days in all. The main reason for this is that Kalachakra has two complete sets of empowerments: the “Entering as a child” set of empowerments

and the “Supreme” set of empowerments. These sets of empowerments do not exist in the mother and father tantras and the “supreme” empowerments are regarded as very special.

The guide was compiled in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on the 4th of November, 2002 prior to the granting of the Kālachakra empowerment there by H.E. Beru Khyentse Rinpoche. H.E. Beru Khyentse, as an emanation of Khyentse the Great, has a very special connection with Jamgon Kongtrul. H.E. Beru Khyentse is a

Kagyu and will transmit the lineages of Kalachakra favoured by the Kagyus but on top of that, he gives the empowerment of Kalachakra through the lineage of

Jamgon Kongtrul because of his close connection to it. All in all, this guide not only represents the pure system of Kalachakra but especially represents

the lineages and ways of it as it came down to Jamgon Kongtrul.

The guide was compiled originally to assist H.E. Beru Khyentse’s disciples. However, I have how difficult this empowerment can be for those who are not

intimately familiar with it because of the sheer complexity involved. Therefore, I decided to make this publicly available for anyone who might be about to take the empowerment.


After the Buddha Bhagavat had turned the wheel of the vast and profound dharma three times, on the fifteenth day of the third month at the great stupa called Shri Dhanyakataka, innumerable buddhas, bodhisatvas, dakas, dakinis, gods, nagas, and yaksas assembled. As requested by Dharmaraja Suchandra, an

emanation of Vajrapani, the Buddha taught the long form, the 12,000 stanza root tantra, of Shri Kalachakra and gave empowerment. Later, Kulika Pundarika (Tib. Rigden Padma Karpo) composed the currently most famous exposition on the tantra, commonly called The Great Commentary on the Kalachakra Tantra, The Stainless Light. This commentary passed from the land of Shambhala to India, the Aryan Land. In the future, Rudra Chakri (Tib.

Drakpo Chagkhorchen) and his two sons, Tsangpa and Lhawang, will cause this tantra to flourish throughout our world. The lineage of Kalachakra was propagated in India, and in particular, Kalachakrapada, and others caused it to be spread extensively there. Innumerable siddhas practiced Kalachakra and their many different


traditions were brought to Tibet. Of them, the three tradition called Ra, Dro, and Tsami became the principal traditions.

The Dro Tradition The siddha Nadapada (also known as Naropa) taught Kalachakra to Khacho Dawa, who in turn, went to Tibet three times and taught it to Dro Lotsawa Sherab Drak, who translated the Kalachakra Tantra into Tibetan. He in turn gave the tantra’s reading transmission and oral instructions to Lhaje Gompa Konchok Sung. The lineage was later transmitted through the Jonang mahasiddhas such as Yulmowa Mikyö Dorje, All-knowing Dolpopa, Jetsun Tararatha, and others. Later, this lineage was passed down to the vidyadhara Tsewang Norbu and the 8th Tai Situ Rinpoche, All-knowing Situ Chökyi Jungne . Later, the

14th Karmapa Thekchok Dorje received it and taught it to Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye the Great. At that point the lineage of the supreme empowerment portion of the Kalachakra empowerment became different because Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye received that from the 9th Tai Situ, Padma Nyinche Wangpo.

The Tsami Tradition This lineage stemmed from Tsami Sangye Drakpa and passed down through siddha Ugyenpa, the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, and others. It was transmitted through the Kagyü school, the lineage of ultimate realization, down to Situ Chökyi Jungne and Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye.

The Ra Tradition This lineage stemmed from mahasiddha Samantashri who was also a student of Nadapada, and passed to the Tibetan Ra Lotsawa Dorje Drakpa, Ra Yeshe Senge, and others. It was passed down through the Sakya School by various masters including Buton Rinchen Drub. Eventually it was transmitted to Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo who passed it to Jamgön Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. There was also another tradition, which passed from Chen Ngapa Chökyi Drakpa to the mahasiddha Sangye Nyenpa down through the Kagyü School, the lineage of

ultimate realization, to Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye. The lineage of Jamgön Rinpoche passed to the guru Norbu Thondrub, who passed it onto the late Kalu Rinpoche, a great master and disciple of the previous Beru Khyentse Rinpoche. Kalu Rinpoche was also one of the main gurus of current Beru Khyentse Rinpoche.

The Dynasty of Shambhala The table below shows the names of the successive rulers of Shambhala. The first eight are called Dharmarajas or Dharma Kings and the remainder are known as Kulikas or Bearers of the Lineage (Tib. rigden). In the future, during the life of 33rd Kulika Rudra Chakri (Rigden Drakpo

Chagkhorchen), all of Jambudvipa will be divided into twenty four sections and will be ruled by him. After that, his two sons, Brahma and Devendra (Tib. Tsangpa and Lhawang), will each rule over twelve of those sections and will propagate Kalachakra thoughout both halves of Jambudvipa. After them will come Kashyapa (Tib. Od-Sung) and other kings who will rule the many sections of Jambudvipa and gradually bring about the flourishing of Kalachakra.

Table 1. Names of the Shambhala Rulers Sanskrit Name Tibetan Name Emanation of which one of the eight great bodhisatvas or wrathful king (wk) Dharmaraja (Dharma King) 1 Suryaprabha Nyima Ö Vighnashakta (wk) 2 Suchandra Dawa Sangpo Vajrapani 3 Sureshvara Lhawang Kshitigarbha 4 Teji Ziji Chen Yamantaka (wk) 5

Somadatta Dawe Chin Sarvanivaranavishkambhi 6 Sureshvara Lhayi Wangchuk Jambhaka (wk) 7 Vishvamurtti Natsok Zuk Manaka (wk) 8 Sureshana Lhayi Wangden Khagarbha Kulika (Rigden) 9 Yashas Jampal Drakpa Manjughosha (Manjushri) 10 Pundarika Padma Karpo Lokanathav (Avalokiteshvara) 11 Bhadra Sangpo Yamantaka (wk) 12 Vijaya Namgyal Kshitigarbha 13 Sumitra Shenyen Sangpo Jambhaka (wk) 14 Ratnapani Chakna Rinchen Sarvanivarana

vishkambhi 15 Vishnugupta Khyabjuk Bepa Manaka (wk) 16 Arkakirtti Nyima Drak Khagarbha 17 Subhadra Shintu Sangpo Vighnashakta (wk) 18 Samudravijaya Gyatso Namgyal Vajrapani 19 Aja Gyalka Yamantaka (wk) 20 Surya Nyima Ksitigarbha 21 Vishvarupa Natsok Zuk Jambhaka (wk) 22 Shashiprabha Da Ö

Sarvanivaranavishkambhi 23 Ananta Thaye Manaka (wk) 24 Mahipala Sakyong Khagarbha 25 Shripala Palkyong Vighnashakta (wk) 26 Hari Senge Vajrapani 27 Vikrama Nampar Nön Yamantaka (wk) 28 Mahapala Toppoche Ksitigarbha 29 Aniruddha Magakpa Jambhaka (wk) 30 Narasimha Miyi Senge Sarvanivaranavishkambhi 31 Maheshvara Wangchuk Chenpo Khagarbha 32 Anantavijaya Thaye Namgyal Vajrapani 33 Rudra Chakri Drakpo Chagkhor chen Manjughosha (Manjushri)


The entire empowerment is conferred in the following steps:

1. Preparations:

i. Preparation of the environment

ii. Preparation of the master and disciples

2. Main Part:

i. The entering- as-a-child empowerments

ii. The supreme empowerments

iii. The permission-blessing of development stage

3. Conclusion: i. Feast offering

These steps are set out briefly following this for the sake of disciples who would request the empowerment.


i. Preparation of the Environment: First Day The first day is set aside for preparing the environment. The activities of this day make the physical space suitable for the conferral of the empowerment. These activities include setting up the shrine and offering tormas, and putting the sacred objects needed for the empowerment in place. Sacred dances are performed by the lamas involved in order to clear away evil forces which would hinder the empowerment. Traditionally, the disciples are not allowed to participate or even observe the events of this day.

ii. Preparation of the Master and Disciples: Second Day

On the second day, the master together together with his assistants begin by supplicating the gurus of the lineage in front of the maṇḍala.

Then, they offer torma and request the local deities to allow the place to be used as a site for the ceremony of the empowerment. The master appoints the sixty protectors of the community, country, and city and various other virtuous deities as the protectors of the environment of the empowerment and offers them torma.

Then, the master empowers himself into the mandala of Kalachakra. To do this he does the practice of the complete sadhana of Kalachakra: the section called self visualization in which he visualizes himself as the deity, the section called vase visualization in which he visualizes the deities of the vase, and the section called front visualization in which he visualizes the deity before him.


All of the above are done as without the disciples. When the above preludes are complete, the disciples are allowed to enter the shrine room, in order to begin their entrance into the empowerment.

After the master has prepared himself, the disciples are brought into the shrine room. At the door, rinse your mouth with the purifying water provided. Then enter the door of the shrine room. With great respect of body, speech, and mind, offer three prostrations in the direction of the guru, who is Kalachakra and his entire maṇḍala. Then take a seat in the rows.

To begin with, the master will explain the history of the Kalachakra tantra and the significance of the empowerment. Next, the disciples offer a maṇḍala to request entrance into the Kalachakra maṇḍala. The maṇḍala offering will be done many times during the course of the empowerment so it is provided in the next chapter:

Next, the disciples accept the vows of the three levels of restraint in the Buddhist system. The three levels of restraint are the disciplines of individual emancipation, of the bodhisatva, and of the secret mantra vehicle. To accept the vows, visualize yourself as glorious Kalachakra in union with his consort and repeat the verses after the master. Now you have accepted the ordinary vows of the lesser and greater vehicles and the extraordinary vows of the secret mantra vehicle.

Next, the master sets up the six seed syllables of the body in the six places of the disciples by sprinkling saffron water on them. This sets up protection of the body of the disciple.

Next, the tooth stick is distributed. The shrine master and his assistants will bring a mandala of the five buddha families around

to the disciples, one by one. Each disciple will be given a tooth stick. Grasp it with your fingertips and cast it onto the mandala in front of you while reciting the mantra. The place where the tooth stick falls is a sign of how your accomplishment of Kalachakra will occur. Next, in order to cleanse the impurities of body, speech, and mind, the disciples will be given saffron water.

Next, in order to look for signs concerning the empowerment in the coming night’s dreams, each disciple will be given two blades of kusha grass. The master will give you instructions on how to use the kusha grass.

Next, in order to ensure that the disciples have significant dreams, you will receive a red protection cord that has a vajra knot tied into it. Men should tie the cord around their upper right arm and women should tie it around their upper left arm.


i. The Entering-as-a-child Empowerments: Third Day Preludes First, the master empowers himself. As on the previous day, he performs the entire sadhana without the disciples in the room. By doing this, the preparations concerning the local deity, the principal deity, the vase, and the rest are completed.

Next, the disciples enter the environment of the mandala. As on the first day, they rinse their mouths with purifying water, enter the room, make prostrations, and take their seats.

Bodhicitta On the previous day, the disciples aroused bodhicitta as the intention for taking the empowerment. Today, the disciples begin by renewing their intention for taking the empowerment as bodhicitta. Therefore, first, arouse bodhicitta again by thinking, “I will definitely attain the precious state of

omniscience, the unsurpassable, complete enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. In order to do that, I will now request and receive this profound empowerment of glorious Kalachakra.”

Next, the master will further explain the history and significance of the empowerment.

Next, offer a mandala to the guru and deities of the mandala in order to receive the first of the empowerments. (You will repeat this step prior to each of the several empowerments that will be given.)

Next the master says aloud the verses for arousing bodhicitta and accepting the vows of bodhicitta and you repeat them after him. After the verses are repeated you perform a visualization and say a mantra, and the master places a vajra on top of your head. This stabilizes the intention of bodhicitta that you have just aroused, making it firm until enlightenment is attained.

Entrance into the mandala of Kalachakra Now that bodhicitta has been aroused, the disciples can be introduced to the mandala of Kalachakra. First, visualize that the master emanates the vajra assistant Yama from his heart center who then leads you inside the mandala. When you first arrive inside the

mandala, the master places a vajra in your hand. The master says a mantra aloud and the disciples repeat that mantra after him while visualizing that they are circumam-bulating the mandala (with sincerity and faith in the assembly of deities of the mandala, of course). Next, visualize each disciple visualizes that they go to the

eastern gate of the mandala where they repeat the mantra and offer prostrations, touching all four limbs and head to the ground. Then, in the same way, each disciple goes to each of the southern, western, and northern gates in that order and offers a prostration at each one. Thus the disciples have entered the mandala of Kalachakra.

Since the disciples have been introduced to a mandala of secret mantra, it is necessary for them to accept the samaya commitments that go with it. Think, “I will keep properly the samayas that are to be kept”. The master will give you the samaya oath water from a conch. The master reads this verse aloud

warning you of the dangers of not keeping samaya and the advantages of doing so. You repeat it after him. “This is the water of hell for me, If I transgress samaya, it burns; If I keep samaya, there is siddhi So I will drink the water of vajra amrita.”

Next, there is a bringing down of blessings. For this, keep your posture erect. Not letting your mind wander, visualize as follows: the disciples are Vajrabala, lord of wrathful ones, at whose heart center is a yellow square earth mandala adorned with a vajra. The master brings down blessings onto the disciples with the essence mantra.

Next, in order to establish the assembly of deities firmly so that they do not degenerate, the master sprinkles flowers on top of the disciples’ heads while reciting the mantra.

Next, the disciples are given the twenty-five yogic disciplines of Vajrasatva. The disciples are explained these samayas and accept them.

Next, the disciples will be provided with a red strip of cloth. They tie it over the place of the wisdom-eye on the forehead as a blindfold. It represents the obscuration of ignorance.

Next, the disciples will be given a flower or some rice. This is cast onto a mandala of the five Buddha families which the assistants bring around. Think that, with the help of the power of the mantra, it lands on your allotted deity. Visualize that your allotted Buddhafamily deity from the mandala then

takes the flower, blesses it as a mantra garland, and places it on top of your head. To confirm this, the master places the flowers on top of the disciples’ heads.

Next, the blindfold is removed. When the master signals, the disciples take off the blindfold. As they remove the blindfold, they think that all obscurations—which are the nature of ignorance—are dispelled and the eye of insight-wisdom is obtained.

Actual conferral of the entering-as-a-child empowerments There are seven empowerments in this section. In order to receive them, offer a mandala and supplicate. 1. The first empowerment is the vase empowerment. It contains the five empowerments of vase, crown, vajra, ghanta, and secret name which are

given in sequence, one after the other. To give each empowerment, the master introduces the assembly of the deities of the mandala. He shows the five scepters of the five Buddha families, the wheel and rest as the various empowerments are given. 2. Then, following that, as special items, he gives the

wheel, conch, book, and bell. 3. Then the master gives the transmission of the mantras of the deities of the mandala. At this time, visualize the principal yidam deity, glorious Kalachakra, in union with his consort, and with the three hundred and sixty retinue deities. The name mantras come forth from the mouths of each of

the deities, who are inseparable with the master, enter into your mouth, and dissolve into your heart center. Repeat these mantras after the master. Then toss the flower or rice toward the master and supplicate by saying, “As the bhagavat has been granted me…” three times. Then the mantra garland appears as a flower and you receive this on top of the head. Now you have received the complete empowerment of the secret mantra, the speech of glorious Kalachakra.

4. Moreover, visualize that the syllable PHRAM—representing obscuration which is the nature of ignorance—is removed from your eyes. The master signals you to do so by waving a golden stick. Remove the blindfold and think, “All my obscurations have been removed.” 5. The permission-blessing of the mirror.

While the master is showing the mirror, he points out its significance with a verse from the main text. 6. The bow and arrow empowerment. Granting this empowerment produces great benefit to others with affectionate love for all sentient beings. The bow and arrow represent the unity of upaya and prajna. 7.

The concluding empowerment. The vajra empowerment is given. The master shows that the bhagavat vajra being is the supreme, primordial being. Having been given the ghanta, think, “All the victorious ones have said, the melody of prajna is the best of enlightenment.” The bell is rung.

Then the master, having given the entering-as-a-child empowerments to the disciples, explains the samayas and vows that go with them so that the disciples can keep them.

Then the master, in order to offer the disciples to the mandala, holds an umbrella above the disciples. Then the disciples circumambulate the mandala and place themselves at the eastern gate.

Finally, the master joins his palms together and supplicates. At this time the disciples once again vow to keep the samayas and offer a mandala in thanks. Then, all dedicate the merit. Thus the enteringas-a-child empowerments are completed.

ii. The Precious, Supreme Empowerments: Fourth Day

Preludes First, the master empowers himself. As on the previous day, he performs the entire sadhana without the disciples in the room. By doing this, the preparations concerning the earth deity, the principal deity, the vase, and the rest are completed.

Next, the disciples enter the environment of the mandala. As on the first day, they rinse their mouths with purifying water, enter the room, make prostrations, and take their seats.

Next, the disciples renew the intention of bodhichitta and again offer a mandala.

Actual conferral of the supreme empowerments The supreme empowerments consist of four empowerments–the vase, secret, prajna-jnana, and word empowerments.

1. First, the disciples offer a mandala and supplicate to receive the empowerment of the vase. 2. Next, the disciples offer a mandala and supplicate to

receive the secret empowerment. They tie on the blindfold. They do the visualization as will be explained. A skull cup containing amrita is placed at each disciple’s throat. Then each one, while repeating the mantra, takes some amrita from the skull-cup and drinks it. Then, each disciple removes the blindfold.

3. Next, the disciples offer a mandala and supplicate to receive the prajna-jnana empowerment. They repeat the supplication after the master. Within this empowerment there is the empowerment of the knowledge-consort, who is the nature of prajna and jnana. In order to confer this, the master bestows the

appropriate picture card. As he bestows it, hold the pride of the deity. Keep the samayas against the fourteen root downfalls as they are taught. 4. Next, the disciples offer a mandala and supplicate to receive the fourth empowerment—the precious word empowerment. The disciples repeat the supplication after the master. Then, each disciple sits in full lotus posture (if you can, do not force it) and keeps the body erect. With gaze unwavering, rest in

the state of the dharmata, the isness of all phenomena, the actuality of all phenomena. 5. Next, there is the vajra-master empowerment. The master says, “Insubstantial…” By receiving this section, think that you attain the state of great Vajradhara. Hold the pride of the deity. Repeat the mantra. Now that the master has conferred the ordinary and extraordinary empowerments on you, respectfully offer him homage with your three doors (body, speech, and

mind). Repeat after the master the vow of training in the yogic disciplines.

iii. Permission-Blessing of the Development Stage: Fourth Day

Preludes As before, the disciples purify with water before entering. On entering they make prostrations then take their seats. After entering, they arouse and renew the intention of bodhicitta as before.

The master will give a further explanation of the history and significance of the empowerment. Permission-blessing of body, speech, and mind The disciples offer a mandala in order to receive the permissionblessing of development stage practice. With a flower in joined palms, they repeat the supplication after the master. They visualize themselves as the deity. 1. First, there is the permission-

blessing of body. The disciples visualize that, from the heart center of the master (who is inseparable from the assembly of deities in the mandala) innumerable glorious Kalachakras of various sizes appear and descend like rain. They enter into all of the hair pores on the body and dissolve inseparably

into the three doors (body, speech, and mind). 2. Second, there is the permission-blessing of speech. Light rays consisting of all the wisdom, compassion,

and power of the buddhas of the ten directions, together with mantra garlands appear. The disciples visualize that these enter their mouths and dissolve into the seed syllable in their heart centres. The disciples repeat the mantra three times after the master. The first repetition blesses the disciples

with the mantra. The second cause the mantra to mingle with the disciples. The third causes the mantra to be established firmly in the disciples. 3. Third, there is the permission-blessing of mind. With longing devotion, each disciple visualizes the deity before themselves and supplicates the deity. From the heart center of the deity come innumerable ghantas. They dissolve into the heart centre and mix inseparably with each disciple. Thus your being is blessed.

The permission blessing of co-emergent Kalachakra is now completed. The disciples promise to keep the samaya by repeating three times after the master, “Whatever the leader commands, All that I will do.” and then offer a mandala to the master as thanksgiving for his kindness. In addition offer your body and possessions.


i. Feast Offering:

Fifth Day The completion of the empowerment is celebrated with a secretmantra style feast (Skt. Ganachakra meaning “feast-circle”). Concerning this tradition, Lord Marpa said: “When one performs the four empowerments, the path that ripens, A ganachakra is necessary. When one performs a consecration, A ganachakra is necessary. When one requests the blessings of the dakinis, A ganchakra is necessary. When there is teaching of and listening

to the tantras, A ganachakra is necessary. When one requests profound oral instructions, A ganachakra is necessary.” A feast is a special part of secret mantra. As Lord Marpa said, it is used to celebrate any special occasion connected with the giving, receiving, and

practicing of vajrayana teachings. A proper ganachakra has two main aspects: it starts with a series of offerings to the higher beings–the guru, yidam, and protectors—with devotion

and thanksgiving for the teachings and blessings that a disciple has received. It continues with a feast of the enjoyable things of the five senses. In this section, in the company of your vajra master and vajra brothers and sisters, you can enjoy the pleasure of good food and drink, music, and any things

of the five senses. However, the special feature is that you do it free from the grasping of fixation on the enjoyable things or yourself as real. Finally, the offering is completed by making a series of offerings the lower beings who were originally invited to the feast.


Tibetan transliteration:


English Translation:

OṂ VAJRA BHŪMI ĀḤ HŪṂ On top of the completely pure base, the powerful golden ground, OṂ VAJRA REKHE ĀḤ HUM There is an outer ring of iron mountains and in the middle HŪṂ here is the king of the mountains, Sumeru. In the east, Purvavideha, in the south, Jambudvīpa, in the west, Aparagodānīya, in the north, Uttarakuru; Rahula, the sun, the moon, Time Fire;


And in the middle all the wealth of gods and men without exception; This is offered as a token of our request to the master of the assembly. Please accept it through your compassionate activity for the benefit of migrators. Having accepted it, please grant your blessings.