The Kalachakra initiation & preparatory steps

There are two sections to the  initiation, the preparatory procedures, and actual initiation.

The six preparatory steps

Step 1. Setting a proper motivation and bestowing the inner initiation

Setting the involves the disciples purifying themselves by taking a bath symbolized by sipping a handful of and prostration. The performs a ceremony of sending out a cake, which symbolizes dispelling any obstructions to the initiation.

The disciples then make a  offering holding flowers in their hands clasped at their and set their motivation, thinking,’ May I attain the state of a  for the sake of all sentient being,’ and forsake any wish to achieve , in order to achieve pleasure in this or future lives for their own benefit.

The manner of generating this wish is explained by the master’s citing a verse-’The secret  etc…,’ at which point the disciples should cultivate a proper motivation. The bestowal of the inner initiation concerns the masters visualizing himself in the form of  in union with his consort and then granting them initiation.

The purpose bestowing the inner initiation is to symbolize the  master’s appointing a spiritual heir amongst his followers just as a would appoint someone from his own family to be his regent.

Step 2. Making the request for admission

The disciples make a request to the Vajra master to admit them to the city of liberation all sentient begins from the ocean of and of birth, , sickness, and death.

The master recites a verse,’ The torrents of birth, aging, sickness, and death…’ whose lines the disciples must repeat thrice while reflecting on their meaning in accordance with the master’s explanation.

Then the master utters a verse,’ O child comes here…’ in which he says he will reveal the meaning of the secret mantra and that the disciples should pay attention. This is to stabilize the disciples’ faith in the doctrine of secret mantra.

Step 3. Receiving the vows and blessings

This concerns taking pledges to abide by the precepts in order to receive the esoteric initiation. The disciples must receive two sets of , firstly, the common  or   and secondly, the vows of the secret mantra vehicle.

While accepting the common Mahayana vows, the disciples seek refuge in the Three Jewels from the depth of their hearts placing all their faith and hope in them. Then, they confess all the negativity they have accumulated in their past lives and rejoice in the virtues of others.

Employing such powerful means, the disciples generate a strong intention to attain Buddhahood for the sake of other guests. They then contemplate the meaning of the verse, ‘I take refuge in the Three Jewels…’ while repeating it three . This completes receiving of vows of the common vehicle.

The vows of the secret mantra vehicle are received through Contemplating the meaning of the words, ‘All the Buddhas Aid the supreme secret vows… ‘The disciples request the master to bestow the secret mantra vows of the uncommon vehicle through repeating the lines, ‘All Buddhas and  please listen to me… ‘three times.

At this point the disciples take firm pledges to free all those not freed, to liberate all those unliberated and to establish them in the state of liberation by guiding them properly through all the pledges of the five buddhas families, collectively and individually, in this way, they receive the secret mantra vows.

Next the disciples visualise at their foreheads, HUM at their hearts, HAM at their crowns, HO at their navels and KSHA at their secret organs, thinking that these syllables have transformed into the female deities of the Buddha families in the entity of the three bodies and the method and aspects of the path. Holding the vajra in his hand the master touches it to the three points of the disciples thereby bestowing blessings upon them

Step 4. Giving water in the cupped palm to rinse the mouth

Scented water, through the power of  should be seen as of the nature of the wisdom of bliss and emptiness, although its form is simply water- The master then pours it into the disciples’ cupped left hand while he  .

The disciples should sip this water three times, thinking that having done so the water filled with wisdom completely flushed away all their negativities and conceptual propensities and that they are thoroughly purified.

Step 5. Distributing kusha grass and protection cords

The two pieces of kusha grass should be fresh. The long and short pieces of grass are of the nature of pristine awareness and on the conventional level represent clear dreams. The disciples should imagine the kusha grass as having the of producing undistorted .

The longer kusha grass is to be placed under the mattress and the shorter under the pillow. These two pieces of kusha grass should be received with folded hands.

Since kusha grass is a purifying substance, through the power of mantras and seed syllables said over it, it purifies inauspicious dreams, performs the activity of removing distorted conceptions, brings clarity to the of disciples and has the potential to induce clear dreams indicating whether or not someone has the propensity to receive the initiation.

Distributing protection cords

The protection cord is a string of three red colored threads measuring the horizontal and vertical span of a disciple’s and twisted together.

The cord has three knots representing the nature of Vajra body, speech and mind and is blessed by their mantras and meditation. Therefore, the cord has the power to protect disciples from obstacles. It should be tied around either of the disciples’ upper arms, while the master recites the mantra.

Visualizing the six syllables and invoking

Here, the disciples visualise the six syllables OM AH HUM HOH HAM KSHA at their forehead, throat, heart, navel, crown AND the secret organ, while the respective mantras are recited at each stage- Vajrasattva is invoked, the disciples receive the triple blessings of body, speech and mind and the supreme feat is bestowed upon them.

Step 6. Cultivating the interest in receiving the initiation and examination of the dreams

Thinking, Just as an Udumbara flower is extremely difficult to find, so is it for a Buddha to manifest and yet rarer still to meet with his ’, generate a great sense of thinking, ‘Having met with the secret teachings, I have become a fit vessel for achieving ultimate unsurpassable bliss.’

The meaning of this is revealed by the line, ‘If I stay in the womb… and the Buddhas in the world.., and so forth.’ The master explains the meaning accordingly and the disciples are instructed to generate great joy.

Examining dreams

Dividing the night into four parts, disciples should examine their dreams in the last part before dawn. After the master has instructed the disciples to be mindful of whatever dreams they have at this time, they offer a Mandala and the session is concluded.

The disciples place the longer piece of kusha grass under their mattress and the shorter one under their pillow before they go to bed- They lie down in the lion’s posture on their right side with the palm of their right hand under their right cheek, the left arm resting upon the left thigh.

Then before actually falling asleep, the disciples should strongly remind themselves that they have to examine their dreams. And they should not forget to recite the mantras or generate wholesome thoughts in accordance with the master’s instructions. This is how they should go to sleep.

Should a disciple dream, between the onset of dawn and sunrise, of , celestial , umbrellas, women attired in fine clothes, or of crossing seas and oceans, or the pronouncement of auspicious and soothing words from the sky, they are considered to be good dreams, whereas signs contrary to the above are considered to be bad.

Should a bad omen occur in a disciple’s dreams, then he or she should try to mitigate it through meditation on selflessness.

The Kalachakra Initiation

On the tenth day of the whole ritual ceremony, the first day of the actual initiation begins. The master and his ritual assistants begin their prayerssadhanas, the of the vase, generation in front, , ritual cake offerings and self-generation practices.

Bestowal of the seven-fold initiation of entering the Mandala-like a child begins in the afternoon. It has two sections: entering the Mandala and actual granting the initiations. The first section has two parts: entering the Mandala blindfolded and entering the Mandala openly.

Entering the Mandala wearing a blindfold can be either from outside the curtain or from inside the curtain. With regard to the first, just as ordinary people bathe and put on their best clothes for a mundane celebration, so to enter the Mandala and receive initiation, which is a transcendental activity, incomparable to any mundane celebration, it is unnecessary to mention the need to bathe and dress well.

Step 1. Removing the Obstacles

First, the master performs a rite to dispel obstacles. Then the disciples offer a Mandala, visualizing the entire the Kalachakra Mandala and the of deities surrounding the principal deity, Kalachakra, as being inseparable from the master, and themselves standing at the eastern gate.

Then, with their hands folded and joyful minds they request the Ones Gone Thus, ‘May the two-fold blessings of the great bliss of the supreme and common attainments be bestowed upon me’.

They visualize themselves entering the Mandala while repeating the lines after the master and single-pointedly contemplating their meaning at each stage in accordance with his Because the disciples are to visualize themselves in the form of deities, in order to help generate divine pride at each stage!

They (visualize themselves) attired with divine consumes- Just as a Bhikshu’s robes remind him that he is a , so, during initiation (some representative) disciples put on celestial costumes to enhance the sense of divine pride and to dispel ordinary appearances.

They put on garments of different colors, a yellow upper robe, a red top knot, and a blindfold and so forth at different stages of the initiation with the master’s permission and according to his instruction.

The disciples should think that although these divine costumes have the conventional appearance, they do not ultimately exist in that way. Since the secrets of the great Mandala are not to be disclosed to the disciples immediately, they have to temporarily put on a blindfold.

Step 2. Distributing Flowers

Just as we cannot go to meet a king empty-handed, the disciples should visualize the flowers distributed to them as to be offered to the deities when they enter the Mandala. In order to examine what kind of attainments they are likely to obtain after actually entering the Mandala, the disciples throw the tooth stick. 

Blessed water is poured into their cupped palms, is sipped thrice in order to symbolize of the obstacles of body, speech, and mind.

Next, the disciples visualize themselves as the Kalachakra deity, blue in color, holding a Vajra and , embracing a blue consort, who hold a skull cup and an axe. He stands with his right leg extended and is adorned with a white OM, red AH and black HUM at his forehead, throat, and heart respectively.

Step 3. lineage and Motivation

When the  asks the disciples who they are, he is enquiring about their lineage. And when he asks what they like, he is-enquiring about their motivation. When the principal deity and lama ask these , the disciples answer, ‘We are fortunate ones belonging to the Mahayana lineage; our motive is to engage in the path of great bliss!’ Repeat these answer after the principal deity/lama.

Step 4. Supplication – Motivation

Supplication and cultivating the motivation. First the disciples recite, ‘As the only one who can protect us from the fear of cyclic existence is the  Kalachakra and no other; in order to protect all mother sentient beings and myself, we offer our body speech and mind to you, we touch our heads to your feet in homage.’

Then cultivating a strong sense of taking supreme refuge they recite the words, ‘Sole liberator from the fears of cyclic existence… etc.’

Step 5. Taking Vows

Visualizing the deities, and  protectors in the above the lama Kalachakra, the disciples generate great by thinking of other beings’ and wishing to liberate them from them. Recalling the extraordinary qualities of the Three Jewels, they place their hopes in them and rely on them.

The disciples then purify the negative circumstances which influenced them to engaged in unwholesome deeds, at the beginning, less past and rejoice in the positive circumstances that influenced them to engage in such wholesome deeds as generating a strong aspiration to train themselves in the practice of Bodhisattvas for the sake of all sentient beings.

They repeat the words T go for refuge to the Three Jewels…’three times and at the end of the third repetition think that they have received the , which are the common Mahayana vows.

The uncommon vows are taken by generating a strong supplication, thinking, ‘Please be my lama and give me the exclusive vow, which is the foundation for all the attainments of all the Buddhas, in order to fulfill the wishes of sentient beings.’

The actual supplication is made by reciting the verse, ‘Bestowing on me the excellent… etc.’ three times asking for the mantra vows to be bestowed.

The disciples imagine all the Mandala deities and the Mandala itself witnessing they’re receiving the vows. Each individual pays his or her own name making a firm commitment, thinking, ‘I will follow the examples of all the previous Buddhas, in keeping the root and secondary vows, liberating sentient beings from suffering and bringing relief to those breathless in bad rebirths.

In brief, generating an aspiration to take these vows in order to place all sentient being in the state of Buddhahood the disciples recite, ‘Buddhas, Bodhisattvas please take heed of me…,’ three times and receive the vows.

Step 6. Giving the twenty-five modes of conduct

These concern the five abandonment’s, five misdeeds, five murders, five types of and five .

The five abandonment’s are-killing other beings, telling lies to deceive others, sexual misconduct, stealing others’ belongings, and the root of all infraction drinking alcohol.

The five misdeeds concern betting on games, wrongly acquired food, gossiping and reading meaningless writings, making sacrifices for ancestors, making bloody sacrifices and performing barbaric practices such as burning five on your body.

The five murders concern, killing cattle, children, women men, destroying  and bases of the exalted body speech and mind.

The five types of anger concern malicious thoughts toward; Vajra friends, the Vajra master, the Buddha, an assembly of four fully ordained , and the abbots and disciples who have faith in you,

The five are too visible , sound, odors, tastes and tangible objects.

Having generated a strong intention to observe these modes of conduct until they attain the disciples repeat the verse, ‘Sole liberator…’

Step 7. Generating the all-encompassing yoga

The disciples generate the exclusive mind, thinking, ‘I will attain the state of Kalachakra for the benefit of all beings and visualize that very mind transformed into a full moon disc in their hearts.

Then reflect that the mind and all other phenomena are free of inherent existence, they visual use that mind transformed into a white Vajra standing upright on the moon disc resolve, ‘I will never be separated from these minds until I myself attain enlightenment.’

Then to stabilize that resolve, from similar moon disc and Vajra at the heart of the lama emerge duplicates which dissolve into the Vajra and moon at the hearts of the disciples, who imagine that they have been thereby blessed and these minds stabilized. While the Vajra master touches his Vajra and flower to their hearts, the disciples repeat a mantra after him.

Step 8. Exhortation to maintain the secrets

The Vajra master says that from now on the disciples will be blessed by all the Buddhas, but just as when someone becomes a high ranking minister in the kingdom he has to strictly keep its secrets, so the lama tells the disciples that having entered the Mandala they should not reveal it to those who have no faith.

Of the two main sections, waiting outside the Mandala and entering it, this completes the former. In fact, the disciples are sitting outside the curtain; they imagine that they are sitting outside the eastern gate of the Mandala.

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About sadiksha

Namaste! I am a Nepali Art Dealer specialized in Mandala and Thangka paintings. I love to write articles about the monastic culture of the Himalayas.

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