«Explanation of the Kalachakra initiation. By Alexander Berzin at Maitreya Institute, Maasbommel, Netherlands on 26 - 28th of April 1985 Why ...»
There are a lot of different systems and teachings that he is the master of. He has also to deal with all the problems and all 17 Explanation of the Kalachakra Initiation the issues in terms of the rehabilitation of the refugees in India; to deal with all the problems of the monasteries and the administration of the monasteries and choosing the people that run them and the problems that come up. He is the Head of State of the government in exile; he has to handle all the reports from all the ministries, all these different issues in the settlements in India. He is also a Head of State, so likewise he has to meet with the Prime Minister of India, various political leaders from around the world and keep on top of all the political developments. He is also very interested in western science, western thought and likewise has to keep up to date on all these things so that he can have a meaningful dialogue with all the people in the west. He has also travelled to many many countries in both the East and the West and likewise to keep some awareness of the different cultures that he deals with. So you can imagine this enormous complexity of life His Holiness leads. Yet he is completely in balance, completely integrated in terms of all that. This is really, when you think about it, very much this Kalachakra type of feeling.
Kalachakra is dealing with cycles of time – this huge complexity of all the different cycles that we can go through.
There is that huge mandala or palace, with all these different deities and yet Kalachakra is able to be an integrated whole of this entire thing. Now let's talk in terms of our own life. As western people we have a professional or business life – the whole aspect of our aspect of our office and the work that we do. There is also a whole aspect of our lives in terms of our wives, husbands, our partners, our children etc. ; taking care of our home, being concerned with having a nice home etc.
There is also the whole aspect of our lives that deals with our own parents whether they are alive or passed away, our aunts, uncles, relatives. Then there is the aspect of all our different friends, the personal life that we lead with our different friends There is our personal interest: we might be interested in studying Buddhism or we might have different hobbies and things that we're involved with, different sports that we play – there is that whole aspect of our life. Then there is another aspect of our life in terms of our own childhood, our memories of our childhood and the things that happened to us and our own education etc. There is all the travel that we might be doing and all the different experiences that we've had and for a lot of us it's very hard to integrate that into a whole. We feel that our life is very fragmented; that what I studied when I was a child and what I'm doing now really doesn't fit together; my office life and my home life doesn't fit together; my personal religious practices and dealing with the neighbours around me doesn't fit together and we're very fragmented.
Whereas to cultivate this self-image of Kalachakra is something which is extremely helpful for that, because we feel as Kalachakra that in fact we're able to handle the entirely complexity of life.
When some new situation comes up we can think: "Oh it's only another group of 20 deities in that corner of the mandala building" When something else comes up: "That's another group of 12 deities in that other corner". By getting this feeling of being able to handle a large complexity of things, it's very helpful for dealing with the complexity of our lives in the West. So when you get into a situation in which your life becomes just too much, too complicated and you really can't handle everything -instead of having that negative self-image that "I can't handle things, it's too much for me", if you cultivate a self-image that "I can handle it, of course. It doesn't matter how complicated things are. I can handle complicated things", it is very helpful. A matter of self-confidence, your self-image. Even if as western people we lead a very busy life, these are things we can integrate in our lives at any time. Because, really, our self-image is something we have to deal with, no matter how busy we are. If we're working 8-12 hours a day or we have 6 children, who are demanding all our time and attention, still, automatically we're going to deal with some sort of self-image and so if we're going to be involved with a negative self-image as we doing that, well, this is what I was saying about mental judo: you flip that. If you are going to be projecting out of your imagination a self-image anyway, you might as well project a positive self-image that's going to help you to deal with the situation.
This is really what tantra is starting to deal with: changing your self-image as represented by all these various deities. It's useful to have a lot of different deities and self-images that you can call on. Because during the course of the day different situations are going to call for different things. There might be a time during the day when you're very tired, but your child or your mother or friend has a problem and needs you. Even though you're tired, it's very important to be able to get the strength and the compassion to say: "It doesn't matter how tired I am, this person needs me and I have to be there, with this person. So it's good to have a self-image of compassion, a self-image of energy etc. that you can call on in that situation. Or at another time of the day you feel very dull and somebody is talking to you and says: "You have to do this and this in your business" and all you want to do is go back to sleep and again if you can call on this image of being very clear that is going to help you to listen to the other person and understand what they are saying. So it's very helpful to have all these selfimages and these are what these deities are dealing with, on one level.
Another level is, you know, we want to become omniscient, we want to be able to understand and see everything clearly, all at once. In order to do that, it's sort of like our mind is the lens of a camera and we want to open that lens wider and wider so that we can be aware of more and more things at the same time. And this is what the deities are very useful for in terms of having all the faces and all the arms and all the legs. It's not that we're practicing to be a spider or a centipede with many 18 Explanation of the Kalachakra Initiation many different legs, that's not the point. The point is that each of the arms and each of the faces and legs and things that they are holding, is symbolic. And it stands for the 4 of this or the 12 of that or whatever. Like Kalachakra for example has 4 faces and the 4 faces can be thought of on many different levels.
On one level it's like the 4 seasons of the year. Just as during the course of the year it goes through the 4 seasons and that's just the natural way that things go and we are able to handle the spring and the summer and the winter etc. likewise, by thinking that we have 4 faces, keeps us more aware of that we have to deal with 4 different types of situations. Same thing in terms of an internal level of 4 basic types of shifts of energy within the body. So these systems of all these hands, arms etc. are helpful for acting as a focus, because if you just think of 4 things in an
way, it's hard to get a handle on it.
But if you think in terms of: "I have 4 faces so I can handle the 4 different seasons, it's a little bit easier to relate to.
Let's try a little exercise: because again very often we feel: "How can I possible imagine that I have 4 faces?” So, let's think for example about what my own face looks like on my head with "me" sort of having feeling of being from the inside.
That's quite difficult to do. We usually aren't so aware of what we look like. Now try to imagine with you on the inside, your face on the outside in front of your head. Have some sort of awareness of your face. Now try to be aware also of the back of your head (you can be aware of the back of your head, can't you), as well as the front of your head at the same time.
Now try to be aware of the 2 sides of your heads where your ears are. You can get a feeling for all 4 sides of your head.
Now imagine that just as you have a face in front, imagine a face on all these four sides. So like that it's quite possible to get a feeling that you have 4 faces.
Let's try the arms: Kalachakra has 24 arms. Now, 24 arms go around like a fan, they are all level, not vertical, but horizontal. If you've ever seen those time-exposure pictures where the first picture is taken with your hands in front of you, the next is taken with the hands slightly to the side and then slightly to the side etc. so that in fact at the end of the exposure you have all these arms going around. Imagine that you are like that. You can imagine that it's not so difficult. You can see that the white arms are in the back, the red ones in the middle and the blue ones in front. The partner who is embracing has 8 yellow arms, which are also horizontal, above Kalachakra's arms. If you want to be aware of what the 24 arms stand for in the course of the year: you have 12 months; each month has 2 parts: waxing moon, the moon grows full and waning moon, the moon gets smaller and smaller. In fact there are 24 periods of the moon, during the course of a year, in which various things happen that we need to deal with. So likewise we have 24 arms. So it's just to keep you aware of being able to handle the complexity of the year.
As we have 24 periods of the moon during the course of the year, likewise our breath goes through shifts during the course of the day. You might have noticed or maybe not, but during the course of a day your breath shifts; sometimes it is going primarily through one of your nostrils, and sometimes primarily through the other one of your nostrils and occasionally, as it shifts between them, for a brief time it will evenly go through the two. Also you can start to become very subtle and within the movement in one nostril sometimes it will be predominantly to the top of that nostril or through the right or the left or the bottom. You get a very sophisticated analyses of how the breath shifts. So during the course of the day and the night it actually goes through 12 shifts – back and forth – between predominantly in one nostril or another and it builds up and goes back down, the same way as the moon is going through its phases during the course of the 12 months.
So likewise the 24 arms is to be aware not only on the external level – we have external cycles of time of the phases of the moon during the year, but also on an internal level – of our internal cycles of time – the phases of the breath as it goes through the nostrils and the body. Because that affects our energy and our energy affects our moods and our way of feeling and thinking. So these arms stand for that and it keeps us aware of being an integrated whole throughout the entire process.
This is what's going on with all these arms and faces; it's not something which is so strange and alien that we can't relate to, but in fact it's a method of symbolism to 1 give us a positive self-image and 2 allow us to open our minds and become aware of many more things at the same time.
If I feel that a figure with 4 faces and 24 arms is something so strange, well, why do I feel like that? The reason I feel like that is because I don't really understand why it has 4 faces and 24 arms. If I knew what was going on, it wouldn't be so strange. It's very simple. These deities are dealing with certain self-images and they are in a concrete form like that, because it's much easier to deal with something specific to focus on, rather then just abstract ideas. So, if we want to be aware of the 24 phases of the moon or the 360 days or whatever, if we have a system that has all these different parts that have the same numbers, then it just acts as a focal point for being aware of all these different levels.
If a deity is holding a lotus, well the lotus stands for something it's not that he's just holding a silly flower, but the lotus stands for the fact that, it grows out of the mud and yet it is very beautiful and pure. Likewise our own situation is something that may seems to be very muddy and difficult but likewise something can grow out of that and be pure.
19 Explanation of the Kalachakra Initiation Symbols are useful, because they are concrete; we can actually focus on them. They are not so strange.
Mantras What are all these mantras that we recite? As I was saying a bit earlier, "mantras" means something to protect the mind.
Just as if we have a self-image of ourselves and, by the way, when we talk about visualizing a self-image, visualization is a limited word; it gives the idea of only being visual, but it's not like that: it should be with all your senses. It is using your whole imagination to imagine what you look like, what you feel like, how you hear things, taste things – it is the whole thing, not just side. Just as doing a type of mental judo, to flip the energy of our imagination in terms of our self-image, likewise we have an awful lot of verbal energy. Most of us, the way that our minds work, is that we're constantly talking in our heads, either, we're making a commentary that goes around, like on a radio: we go outside and say "Look at the tree over there, isn't that nice; what a big truck is coming and how noisy it is". You just comment the entire day about what is going on. Or a lot of us sing songs in our heads all day long. It becomes even more absurd when you find yourself singing television-commercials and advertising jingles. You feel very much like a cricket – one of these little insects that has no control over itself, but just automatically is making all this noise all day long. Can you imagine how terrible it must be to be a cricket?
So if your mind is going already in this direction of always having this verbal energy, well, instead of having your mind sing TV jingles, it's much better to use this energy and flip it and have it instead say certain type of syllables, mantras.