«Explanation of the Kalachakra initiation. By Alexander Berzin at Maitreya Institute, Maasbommel, Netherlands on 26 - 28th of April 1985 Why ...»
The initiation is given from that Mandala and I'll explain later what that actually means. That's not so obvious what that means, A permission is usually given from a torma (cakes which are sculptured out of barley flower (tsampa) and usually have some butter sculpture and things on them). In India they use this tsampa; in England they use marzipan for example in a lot of places and in other places they use different types of cake or whatever. It really doesn't matter what's it's made out of.
So you have a cake and the cake is generated into the form of the deity and the initiation is given in terms of this deity generated in front. You can tell that it is a permission because they are going to actually have a picture on top of it, like you have in this room, that's held up and various things are done with that during the ceremony.
Then for the gathering of the Mantra, the 'way that that's done is very interesting. There's a whole problem with the Sanskrit letters of the alphabet and what actually are the syllables of the MANTRA. Very often there's going to be some mistakes along the line in history of copying out the Mantra, specially when you're dealing with people for whom Sanskrit is not their native language. So you have this special ceremony which is to ensure that all the letters – the consonants and vowels of the Mantra – are correct. What you have is usually a mirror and this mirror is usually a polished metal disc and on that with red powder you usually will draw the different letters of the Sanskrit alphabet and they'll be in a certain geometric design. This geometric design will be different for each deity and this geometric design sometimes will be in a triangle going around – a sort of spiralling in – or other times will be in all sorts of other different configurations.
And then what you do in the ceremony is that the person will transfer the mantra from this design in which the letters are laid out into actually writing out the Mantra with powder and that will be done in terms of saying: the vowel is the 4th one from the right and the consonant is the 5th one down in the 2nd column. They do it like that so that there's no room for any mistake because you have laid out the geometric pattern the way that it should be, and then it becomes very specific, then
So we have these 3 different types of ceremonies that plant seeds.
In terms of the Anuttarayoga Tantra, which is what Kalachakra is, we have basically four types of initiations within the Initiation. Now we'll get into the structure of what's going to be happening. Let's first talk about it in general.
In Anuttarayoga Tantra you have first of all the "Preliminaries Ceremony" and then you have the actual initiation. So the first day when we're there of the initiation will actually be the preliminaries will be in terms of passing out all sorts of things that we'll use during the initiation, like they'll pass out different pieces of long grass etc. that we'll put under our mattress or our pillow for examining our dreams. There will be all sorts of things that will go on in this Preliminary Ceremony. It will be explained at that time.
The 2nd day will be the actual initiation. An Actual Initiation in Anuttarayoga Tantra has 4 different initiations in it, in
general. These initiations are:
A. Vase Initiation or empowerment.
B. Secret Initiation or empowerment.
C. Wisdom Initiation or empowerment.
D. Fourth Initiation or empowerment. (Sometimes it's called the Word initiation or empowerment).
The vase Initiation (A) In general Anuttarayoga Tantra consists of the Common Initiations for the Disciple (there are 5 of them) and the Vajra Master Initiation (1)
That's the basic structure of the Vase Initiation.
To give you an idea of what class of Tantra you're receiving an initiation into: Each of the 4 classes of Tantra is going to have a different number of these initiations. So if you're receiving an Initiation and you're not told or you haven't really caught what class of Tantra this is you can tell very easily by the number of initiations that are given. So now we have 5+1 for the Vase initiation.
The bodhisattva vows are something which you have in all 4 classes of tantra. The bodhisattva vows are basically dealing with you know, there are the 2 levels of bodhicitta. You just wish to be able to help everybody; you actually involve yourself in doing it. This is what the bodhisattva vows are about. These are basically very practical guidelines of how you're going to be most effective for helping other people. So for example one of the vows starts off with "I'm" not going to always praise myself and put down other people. "Let's think about it. If a person is trying to help other people, would you go to a person for help, who's always saying: "I’m the greatest, these other people are no good". You would be quite 36 Explanation of the Kalachakra Initiation suspicious about this person. So these are giving very practical guidelines if you really want to be best help to everybody then you shouldn't always put yourself up and belittle everybody else. So like that there are all these different guidelines.
Basically there are 18 root vows and 46 secondary ones. You can read about these.
Any initiation has them. In any initiation in any of the 4 classes there's the taking of the bodhisattva vows. That's the actual dividing line of whether or no you're going to receive the initiation. This is something that His Holiness makes very clear.
He says: "Now comes the time for the bodhisattva vows and here is where we actually make the decision".
If you really want to get into the practice and you feel that you can accept these guidelines then here is where you actually do that. Then you can go on and do the visualizations, and things – the process of the initiation. If you feel that you're not ready to accept these guidelines, that's fine, there's no problem, but you at this point then become an observer, a neutral observer and these are the actual words His Holiness uses in English. Just be a neutral observer and watch and if you have respect for what's going on and you have some understanding, that makes it even better. But at that point you, would stop actually participating and doing all the different visualizations and things that are being described. So, taking the bodhisattva vows is the dividing line, where you actually going to step in to it or just stay outside and be an observer.
III. Then, in addition, there are the Tantric Vows.
Remember, we had this structure tin the Vase Initiation there are the 5 disciple initiations and the 1 Vajra Master initiation.
If, there is a Vajra Master Initiation then there's the taking of, the Tantric Vows., which means that out of the 4 classes of
Tantra you only have the Tantric vows in the top 2 classes:
• Yoga Tantra; and
• Anuttarayoga Tantra, because The other thing that's involved very much in any initiation is the various vows that we take. There are vows which are vowed restraints in certain guidelines that we follow for our behaviour and there's also the close bonds that we' might have to the practice. In terms of vows, what's discussed, if you want to see reality then for seeing reality you need wisdom. And the wisdom is like having a sharp axe, to actually cut through and see reality. But if you don't have good aim then even if you have a sharp axe, you're not going to be able to actually hit the point. So they say that concentration is like having the good aim, you can always use the axe and cut the tree. But even if you have a sharp axe and you have a good aim, if you don't have the strength to be able to chop, then that's not going to be of any help. So the strength is what comes from ethical self-control, or discipline. And if you aren't able to control your external behaviour than it's going to have some control over the mind itself. So we have these various different types of vows and they always say that success in Tantra comes from being able to follow these guidelines. This is something which is very very true. It's an extremely important point.
You have 3 different types of vows:
Vows for individual liberation (Sanskr. :PRATIMOKSHA) These can be either as a lay-person, which would be like the vows that we follow when we stay here: of not killing and lying etc. On a more advanced level you can become a novice (a monk or nun) or become a fully ordained monk or nun.
These vows called individual liberation. They are not seen as a punishment something that will liberate and help free us.
This is in terms of how basically we follow cause arid effect. If we have various problems and difficulties they come as a result of having acted in a destructive manner. Because we acted, destructively and did something negative then as a result we get various problems. If you act in a constructive (positive) way then it brings about happiness. So if you want to be free from your problems then the best way to do that is to stop acting destructively. This is what the vows are about, because they give us certain guidelines to follow that will prevent us from being problems on ourselves.
It's also liberating in another sense: you know if you're trying to stop smoking, if you just say: "Well I'm going to not smoke". And you don't make something definite about that, then the problem comes up that each time you feel like having a cigarette or each time that people around you are having a cigarette, you have to make the decision over and again: "Will I take that cigarette or not?" So in fact, if you try to stop smoking in that way, it's going to be quite difficult because you always have to make the decision over and over again and it's really very nerve-racking and difficult. But if you take a vow and you say: "That's it" And you do it in front of someone that you respect like your spiritual master or whatever, then that frees you from the indecisiveness of every single time having to make the decision whether or not to take that cigarette, because it's decided already, finished: "I'm not going to smoke".
So also to actually take a vow rather than just stopping, let's say lying or killing, is going to save us from that indecision of always having to make the decision so in that sense as well, it's very liberating. In order actually to get into a Tantra, according to Tsong Khapa, it's necessary to have some sort of level of this general sort of vows for individual liberation, 37 Explanation of the Kalachakra Initiation which could be simply on the level that "I'm going to restrain myself from acting in a gross destruction manner. Like they talk about the 10 non-virtues and this type of business. Just on a general level it could be that. It doesn't have to be that you're actually a monk or a nun. They have a Vajra Master Initiation.
So if you're thinking in terms of what initiation have I received and what vows have I taken (because you might not even be aware of what you did):if it was any initiation whatsoever it had the bodhisattva vows and it was any of the 2 higher classes of initiation: Yoga or Anuttarayoga, it had the Tantric vows in addition. These Tantric Vows are again guidelines of how you're going to be most successful in the practices. These will be things like you shouldn't belittle your teacher, because the teacher is the one who's actually going to, show you how to do all the practices. So if you start to put your teacher down, then you're going to doubt what he says and if you doubt what he says then you are never going to be able to really get into following his instructions. So, it's a very practical type of advice.
For this there are 14 root vows and 8 secondary ones. You can read about these as well.
After that there are some close bonds to the practice, which are also part of the Tantric Vows. This will get us into the whole subject of the Six Session Yoga, which is "a particular practice for helping us keep the vows.
We were talking about the vows, because are 2 things that they always emphasize that are very very important in any initiation and in any tantric practice: one is the spiritual master and that having a very special and close relation to the spiritual master is what really is going to be the foundation for your success in that practice and likewise keeping the vows.
Concerning the Spiritual Master, you can look at this in several different ways. They always say that you should see the Lama as being the actual deity or a Buddha. That's very true in terms of linking yourself to the whole lineage and to the whole line of the practice. There's a big difference between just imagining that you're Napoleon or Donald Duck or something like that which you just sort of make up in your head, and actually going to an event which is done very seriously and here you have a spiritual master and he can give you. The names of all the masters going all the way back to the Buddha that this practice has been done and it has been done successfully and so you get this whole feeling that you're tying in to a whole line that goes all the way back so that when you're doing this it gives you confidence that other people have done this, other people have been able to have success with this and so now I'm doing something which is very valid, which is a very safe type of path. This gives al lot of strength to your practice and confidence in what you're doing. Because, sometimes, later on you might think: "Oh, what I'm doing is crazy and why I'm doing this?" But if you think back to this event that you went to, you'll remember His Holiness, and you'll remember the whole tradition that you were becoming part of, then it gives you a little bit more having your feet on the ground.
Now, the Guru, is inseparable from the deity in the sense that he has actually realized this system and whole practice and is bringing you into his world system. (There's a book by Steve Batchelor "Alone with others" in which he points out the other side of this, which I think is a very good insight. He says in this book that not only is the point that you see the master as the deity, but also to see the deity as The master. To see the deity as the Master the whole point of that is to make this thing human. Sometimes if we think of all these deities then it's just something really far-fetched, you know all these holy beings walking around and it's very hard to relate to these deities).