«Explanation of the Kalachakra initiation. By Alexander Berzin at Maitreya Institute, Maasbommel, Netherlands on 26 - 28th of April 1985 Why ...»
I'll give you a different type of example. You have 12 months in the year. And you have 12 shifts of the breath in the course of a day. Those two are parallel. (Remember we were using this whole idea of things go through certain cycles. So we go through a cycle of let's say dying and being reborn; so we meditate in a manner that's similar to that, so that we actually use that as a technique for becoming enlightened.) So here we're doing the same thing, but in addition to that we're also using methods which are similar to the process that's going on externally and internally within our bodies. Externally things go through a process of 12 months, internally things go into a process of 12 shifts of the breath. So likewise in our practice you can go through a process of 12 levels of a highly realized mind. It's just going in a process that's similar to what we have to work with, dealing with a lot more things in our life. In Kalachakra you're not working with the illusory body. What you're working with instead is what's called the "devoid form". Sometimes it's called "void form" but actually it's better to use devoid, because it's devoid of atoms. Kalachakra has a great deal of discussion with atoms. So, this is a form that is devoid, of atoms. They say that this is something which is merely the reflection of the clear light mind.
I'll explain it. If they say that it's also possible to experience these just ordinarily when you are playing around and the examples are in terms of staring at the sun or staring at the shadow or something like that and then looking away. I think that the best example we can relate to from our own experience as Westerners is, when somebody is taking a picture of you with a flash camera. After they've taken the picture with the flash camera you see a blue dot. This blue dot is something that you see whether your eyes are open or closed. Now this blue dot is a form that's not made out of atoms. It's something which is a reflection of an impression that has been made on your consciousness. Here it's an even closer package than we had before, because before our one package of the body of a deity and the understanding of the voidness of the deity was based on one being from the energy and the other being from the mind. Here both of them are coming from the mind. One is the mind itself and one is the reflection on the mind. In Kalachakra we are dealing with devoid forms and devoid forms are devoid of atoms.
Here Kalachakra is the Clear Tantra, because it's making clear what actually appears in the other teachings. In the other teachings, even in sutra, it will say that the body of a Buddha is not made of atoms, it's not made of ordinary things like our bodies are made up of they are the results of collections of positive potential and deep awareness. You might have come across that and said what in the world does that mean. Well, here is the explaining what it means.
30 Explanation of the Kalachakra Initiation It's not something which is made out of gross atoms like what things ordinarily are, but it's just a reflection or appearance of the clear light mind. That's a difficult point, but that's really getting to the essence of what makes Kalachakra so special.
You have to get to the subtlest energy but you do not actually work with the subtlest energy, as in other highest yoga tantras.
Why I am talking about this and why we would want to know about these things. The main reason is, first of all, during the Initiation his Holiness is going to talk about these things. So if you hear "void form" and all these different type of things, if you've never heard of it before, it's going to be very difficult to just immediately pick up what's being talked about. On one level, what I am trying to do is to introduce you to some of the ideas and factors that go up to make this Kalachakra practice, so that at the actual teachings you'll be able to get a little bit more out of it. Second of all, you know the way that we gain an understanding of things is that first of all we have a rough idea of what it is. You shouldn't expect that at the beginning you're going to be able to really understand something clearly just from the first hearing about it. This is the general procedure that's always discussed in Buddhism about how you learn things. First you have to hear about it and then you have to chew it over in your mind and ponder it and then you have to actually reflect on it and try to see things in terms of it.
So likewise, although this is a lot of material that's coming here, basically if we can get out of it some rough idea of some of the things that are involved in tantra, then it will act as a foundation on which your understanding can grow.
Also another big reason for wanting to get some idea of what is involved here, is to have a little bit more of faith and interest in the actual process and in the actual meditation system that this is introducing you to. Because in fact it is something which is special and really very outstanding – this whole approach to how you become enlightened, and how you realize your fullest potentials. Because it's such a very profound method then rather than just basing your feeling for this, on just hearsay, because you heard that Kalachakra is so high, so special and so you go, if you're only going like that then it becomes quite difficult to really get into it. You put it onto some pedestal: "Kalachakra that's only what the Dalai Lama does and that's only what a few people in this world have any understanding for", then it's very difficult to relate to it. If you go with that type of attitude and feeling then although it's possible to get a lot from the initiation you won't get as much as you might be able to get if you have some feeling for what all of this is about. So although the ideas and concepts are a little bit complicated, nevertheless I think it's worthwhile to have some general idea and general feeling for what's involved.
That's why I'm going over this type of material and let's see if we can do it a little bit more clearly and a little bit more slowly so that we get some sort of feeling for what really is Kalachakra.
You know all these things in it about astronomy, Shambala and these type of things are very interesting and I will speak a little bit more about them later, but really the whole point of Kalachakra is that it is a system to become enlightened. It's a system of meditation and that's its real focal point. All these other things are secondary things which are very good and makes it very complete and gives you access to a much larger world of knowledge and experience. But we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that this is actually a system of practice, that it's actually something that we can do. And it's something that I'm not really explaining here how you do it. The explanation how to do it comes after the Initiation. What I'm trying to explain now is as a preparation to give you an idea of what is involved. How to do it is what you're getting the initiation for.
After that, then you learn how to do it, then you can actually go about trying to do it. But if you've an idea beforehand of what's involved, it becomes easier.
A lot of people talk about bringing Buddhism to the West and what is going to be the factors that are going to make western Buddhism. Because Buddhism did go from one civilization and country to another in Asia and it changed quite a lot, it's whole feeling aspects and approach to it. Let's say Tibetan Buddhism or Chinese Buddhism or Buddhism in Thailand or Sri Lanka, these are all quite distinctive. So if you ask what really will be the distinctive factors of western Buddhism. I mean of all us can just give our opinion on that, but one of my opinions – and it's really an opinion – is that, you see I don't think that we have to change things like the forms of the deities and these things. As I was saying before if you if you understand what's involved with it, it's just a symbol and nothing more. And so whether the eyes of the deities are slanted or they aren't slanted..... you know, big deal, it doesn't make so much of a difference.
But, one of the things I think is helpful in terms of dealing with a western mentality and how we approach Buddhism is things like what I'm trying to do now for example If you were dealing with a Tibetan audience it really wouldn't be necessary to give some sort of introductory talk. This is something they've grown up with, it's part of their culture and also the whole way of approaching it is..... They have so much respect and faith for the great lamas that they would just go along
with that. It doesn't matter really what is involved in the teaching or the practice. They see the examples of these lamas:
this is clearly what I want to become like these lamas whether in this lifetime or future lifetimes and so, of course, I'm interested in learning this system of practice.
But for Westerners - not everybody but a lot of westerners -they like to know beforehand what they're getting into. And they like to know beforehand some sort of basic idea of what's involved. Because we have a whole tradition of thinking about things and really evaluating and taking what we do very serious. This I think is a very good great point, a great asset 31 Explanation of the Kalachakra Initiation of western civilization in general and so one of the things is helpful I think in terms of western Buddhism is explaining things a little bit more clearly in the beginning so that we have some idea. And you shouldn't expect from the initial explanation:" That's it, that's the complete explanation", it's not. And it's not a complete idea of how to do it and all these other things. But it gives us a general outline of what's going on. I think this is one of the reasons why His Holiness has allowed texts like the graded stages of the tantric path written by Tsong Khapa and that Jeffrey Hopkins has been translating to be published. Some chapters appear in: Tantra in Tibet, "and The Yoga of Tibet", these type of volumes.
Here again there's difference between explaining an actual practice, which he doesn't do, or explaining the theory the principle behind. His Holiness feels that it's good to explain the theory behind tantra and the theory behind these advanced methods, so the people have some idea of what it is. Because we're not really willing – as western people – to jump into something blind.
So with what I've been explaining, I think that's sort of the general idea of what I'm trying to do: to give us some idea of what's involved in Tantra, what's involved in the highest class of Tantra and what's involved in Kalachakra. So that we have some better idea of why in the world we really want to get involved with it. Also, by – seeing what's involved with it, it gives us a better feeling that it actually is something that we can do. You know, you look at these different practices and these different things and you could say:" This really doesn't have any relevance to my life".
You know, you're talking about subtle consciousness and subtle energy and all these things and really what does that mean?
What's the relevance of it? I think the relevance of it is even if we don't actually have the opportunity to really practice and pursue this type of method fully ourselves. I was talking about having a certain direction and having a certain goal in life we're aiming for. If the goal that we're aiming for is to reach our fullest potentials as a human being and to become the best type of person that's person that's possible, well that's a very nice ideal and that can sustain you to a certain extent. But if you don't have confidence that it's actually something that you can do and that's possible then again it becomes just a nice dream. So here when we're talking about the different methods for "Well, how do you actually do it? How do you actually get the body of a Buddha? How do you actually get the mind of a Buddha? How do you get rid of all your shortcomings?
How do you evolve to much higher states of being? If you have some confidence that in fact, "Well, there is a method; it is all laid out and in fact it's an incredible method and the method is getting more and more sophisticated" then it gives you more hope I think for what you want to do, what direction you want to go in your lifetime.
You see that it is possible, that there is a method that is very clear and is very profound, really the type of method that's being used. To think in that direction, just thinking in that direction itself and knowing that that exist and knowing that there is a whole system of how to actually work with our subtlest mind, subtlest energy and how you actually do it. Gives us the feeling that it's possible. If you know it's possible, that gives you a great more meaning in your life, much more hope.
That again is some of the relevance of what I’m explaining. You shouldn't just think of it as, "This is an intellectual scheme and big deal". But it can have some practical meaning in terms of knowing, just knowing that this exists. And in-fact it's possible to have some feeling for what it is, because it really isn't so complicated that it's beyond us. That is this whole idea of putting a black line around it and saying: "Oh, it's up there, I can't possibly understand it”. Things can be understood.
Let's get the body and mind more and more close together in one package. If it's just in our imagination then, although it's one package, it's a little bit distant from each other. If we deal with the subtlest awareness, the subtlest consciousness that has a subtle energy that is associated with it, that acts as its force, of how it moves. So if you generate the body out of the energy arid the mind out of the consciousness – it's in one package but coming closer together. If you have a coin, a coin has 2 sides. If you make the 2 things in one package one of them out of one side and one of them out of the other side of the coin, they are going to be close together, because the 2 sides of the coin come close together – they always come in the same package.
What's Kalachakra doing? It's making them both out of the same side of the coin. Rather than having them out of the 2 sides of the coin, which of course do come together in on package, they're going to be even closer together if they’re both out of the same side of the coin. So Kalachakra you're using the subtlest consciousness for the mind and the reflection of that consciousness as the body. So it's even closer together in one package. The subtlest energy is still there, but you're not working with it. That's the general idea of what's going on.