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An Exposition of the Kalachakra Tantra
by Khedrup Norsang Gyatso 

Published by Wisdom, 672pp Translation: Gavin Kilty and Thubten Jinpa

Available from Snow Lion

Snowlion: The inaugural volume of Thupten Jinpa's LIBRARY OF TIBETAN CLASSICS, released to coincide with the Dalai Lama's conferral of the initiation rite of Kalachakra in Toronto in April 2004. The text develops the highly complex theory of correlation beween the internal elements within a living human body and the elements of the external world, and gives a detailed account of Tibetan astronomy.

Review by Andy Wistreich from Mandala Magazine:
Overall Rating:

His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself selected Ornament of Stainless Light by Khedrup Norsang Gyatso (d.1613) for Geshe Dr Thubten Jinpa's new 'Library of Tibetan Classics' series. Gavin Kilty's translation of this commentary on the Vimalaprabha is scholarly and practical, his lucid introduction demonstrating his excellent grasp of the subject matter. Gavin consulted Kirti Tsenshap Rinpoche, Jhado Rinpoche (Abbot of Namgyal Monastery), and Edward Henning, a western expert on the Kalacakra calendar and cosmology. This commentary gives ready access to Vimalaprabha, itself a commentary on the abbreviated tantra. So through this one book we can learn all the important points of the Kalacakratantra.

In Kalacakra Sadhana and Social Responsibility, David Reigle shows how the Kalacakratantra performed an influential role at critical moments in the spiritual evolution of the world. The first was the initial revelation, when Buddha gave it to Suchandra, King of Shambhala. After 600 years, Manjushri Yashas (a later king of Shambhala) initiated the Brahmin sages into the Kalacakra mandala, to sustain the spiritual integrity of Shambhala when non-Indic forces threatened it. Later, the Kalacakra surfaced in India in the early eleventh century, appropriately being lifted to Tibet just before the suppression of Indian Buddhism. Thus, this most scientific of Buddhist systems underlay the entire Tibetan Buddhist culture of the second millennium C.E.

Today, one thousand years later, at a new turning point in the spiritual history of the world, Kalacakra wisdom re-emerges as a power for good. The Buddhist Middle Way view of reality lights a way beyond post-structuralist thought and post-modern culture. The Kalacakratantra understanding that empty particles underpin all matter, and that karmic winds are the medium of connectivity between the individual and the cosmos, supplements contemporary knowledge both of particle physics and of the origins of the universe. The socially inclusive, anti-elitist social philosophy of the Vimalaprabha offers a spiritual framework for contemporary multi-culturalism and urban internationalisation.

Stimulated by the frequency of Kalacakra Initiations by masters such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Kirti Tsenshap Rinpoche, the Kalacakra is enjoying a worldwide revival. Kalacakra practice groups are forming in several countries, linked by the International Kalacakra Network (IKN), which provides information, email groups and materials in many languages to initiates. New translations of Vimalaprabha from Sanskrit, such as those by Vesna Wallace and Sofia Stril-Rever, root contemporary Kalacakra studies in original sources. The IKN has recently commissioned Gavin to continue his work on Kalacakra by translating the long sadhana, and a commentary on the generation process, to support an oral commentary by Jhado Rinpoche, planned for 2005 in Europe. Gavin's translation of Ornament of Stainless Light has an immediate style that will appeal to this audience.

In the first two of the five parts of Norsang Gyatso;s book (The External World and The Inner World of Sentient Beings) we engage with history, science and philosophy - the nature and origins of the universe, the place of sentient beings in it, the processes of the individual, and the common basis of person and cosmos.

For example, relate this passage on the formation of the universe, to the latest scientific understanding:

'During this time of emptiness the subtle particles of these five elements exist as isolated fragments and are not in any conventional sense objects of the sensory powers of the eye and so forth. They are known as empty particles and remain isolated in empty space. When the potential of the collective karma of sentient beings is ripened, the subtle air particles come together to form air whose nature is light and moving.'

Descriptions of Kalacakra practices for personal transformation appear in the latter three parts (Initiations, Sadhana: Methods of Accomplishment and Gnosis: A Presentation of the Completion Stage). Most readers will find some sections challenging. For example, those on the movement of the planets, and other scientific subjects are hard going. However, those who practice tantra can use these topics to help them recognise the intimate connection between inner and outer worlds, on which enlightened transformation is based.

Whether you are a Kalacakra practitioner, a student of Tibetan Buddhism or interested in science from a new angle, this book is worthy of study.


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