Logo International Kalachakra Network
   Kalachakra Network

Kalachakra History  
'I call out to all lineage Masters past and present,
Especially the original seven Shambala Masters,
And the twenty-five Kalkins of Shambala.
Especially I call to Suchandra, who first received this king of tantras,
And to Pundarika, who wrote the extensive commentary.
By the power of the auspicious qualities of these Masters,
May all of our hindrances and imperfections fade away
And goodness and joy increase like the waxing moon,
Giving rise to a festival of wonder and glory.

From 'An aspiration to fulfil the stages of the glorious Kalachakra path'
by the first Panchen Lama, translation Glenn Mullin


The Kalachakra system is clearly related to the ancient Vedic tradition in India which existed long before Buddhism appeared.

The Kalachakra refers to many different traditions, for example the Hindu; Saivite, Samkya, Vaishnava, the Vedas, Upanisads and Puranas traditions, but also Jainism. For example, the Kalachakra mandala includes deities which are equally accepted by Hindus, Jainas and Buddhists.

Vesna Wallace writes [10], "The Kalacakratantra contends that there is no distinction between the Buddhist and heterodox groups with regard to the manner in which conventional reality appears. ... Thus within the Kalacakra system, all the aspects of the natural world become legitimate fields of Buddhists' scientific investigation, and knowledge of the various scientific fields becomes a significant component of the Buddhist Dharma as the body of verifyable truths. ... provisional scientific knowledge is seen as an integral part of ultimate scientific knowledge."
David Reigle suggests [1], "Among the many traditional ideas which must be mastered to understand Kalachakra are several which are not found within Buddhism.... These include .... the Sankya system .... the Mandukya Upanisad .... and even the Jaina tradition."
However, as Vesna Wallace indicates in [10], "in many instances the Kalachakra tantra uses terminology from other systems, but actually attributes them with new meaning to incorporate them into the unique Kalachakra model of conventional reality". So, although terminology of other systems is often used, many concepts are not simply copied, but various expressions from other traditions are used to indicate different concepts in the Kalachakra.

The Kalachakra tantra puts the life of Shakyamuni Buddha in the 9th. Century BCE, instead of the more commonly accepted 6th. Century BCE. There is also some discussion on when Shakyamuni Buddha taught the Kalachakra during his life time. Because of specific time indications in the teachings, it could have been one year after he attained enlightenment, but others say it was one year before he passed away. According to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, logic indicates that it must have been at the end of his life, because the Kalachakra tantra reflects so many of his lifelong accomplishments.

It should be remembered here that 'the historical facts' are often hard to establish. For example, according to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Shambhala is "not a physical place that we can actually find" and "pure land in the human realm". So below can be considered a mix of some historic facts with the historic data in the Kalachakra Tantra itself.

At the request of King Suchandra of Shambhala (the first king of Shambala of any importance), Shakyamuni Buddha took on the form of the Kalachakra deity and gave these advanced teachings to a great assembly of sages in southern India, at the Stupa of Dhanyakataka (current-day Amaravati). 
While teaching the tantra, Shakyamuni manifested the entire Kalachakra mandala in its full 3D form. Furthermore, a second mandala called the Glorious Constellation Mandala appeared on the ceiling which represented the cosmos with planets and comets. Interestingly (possibly to symbolise the relativity of time), the entire initiation took place within a finger-snap, whereas nowadays it takes three full days to complete.

Pundarika, composer of the Vimalaprabha
Raudra Chakrin

King Suchandra came from Shambhala (some say north of Kashmir) to request and receive the Kalachakra teachings from Shakyamuni Buddha. After the teachings, he wrote them down and composed the 'Mula' or 'Root Text' of the Kalachakra tantra, comprising 12,000 verses. However, this text has never reached us. On the request of Shakyamuni Buddha, he built a huge 3-dimensional Kalachakra mandala in the centre of the kingdom. Suchandra (see image on the right) was the first of a line of seven religious kings who taught the Kalachakra to the inhabitants of Shambhala. 2 Years after receiving the Kalachakra teachings he died and was followed by 6 Kings, each reigning 100 years over Shambala. These first 7 kings are called the 7 Dharma-Kings.

The following kings of Shambhala are known as the Kalki kings or "Rigden"-kings; meaning "Holder of the Castes" or the Shambala's Knowledge Holders.

The first Kalki king, Manjushrikirti put the Kalachakra teachings in a condensed and simplified form, called the "Sri Kalachakra" or "Laghutantra". He also converted a group of non-Buddhist Brahman priests of Shambala to Buddhism and gave them the Kalachakra initiation to unite all inhabitants into one "vajra family" - or family of tantric practitioners.
The second Kalki king, Pundarika wrote a commentary called "Vimalaprabha" (Skt.) or "Stainless Light". The Sri Kalachakra and the Vimalaprabha together comprise all the source texts of the Kalachakra system in our world today. All other available texts are commentaries to these root texts.

The Kalachakra Tantra text made its first appearance during the 10th century. There appeared several different lineages of the transmission of the Kalachakra lineage over the centuries, which show minor differences.


Several of the prophecies in the Kalachakra tradition are already in the past, for example, king Manjushrikirti (living in the second century BCE) predicted the coming of the "barbarian Dharma" after 800 years (about 600 CE).
The prophecy further says that during the reign of the 21st. king, Aniruddha (1927-2027), Buddhism and the Kalachakra will have nearly come to an end in Tibet, Mongolia, China and much of Asia. This could certainly be said to be accurate! For example, after the Chinese invasion in Tibet in 1959 and the destruction of nearly all monasteries afterwards, the master Ven. Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche was the only remaining Tibetan master holding a specific lineage of the Vimalaprabha (the 'Stainless Light' commentary); which is one of the only two main Kalachakra texts.

This trend of degeneration is said to continue until the incarnation of Manjushri (and of the Panchen Lama), Raudra Chakrin, comes to the throne in 2327 (or 2424 [5]).

"The cakravartin shall come out at the end of the age, from the city the gods fashioned on mount Kailasha. He shall smite the barbarians in battle with his own four-division army, on the entire surface of the earth. ... Raudra Kalki shall smite Krinmati .... then they shall go to the city the gods fashioned on Mount Kailasha where Cakri lives. At that time, all the families of men on the earth shall be fulfilled with dharma, pleasure and wealth. Grain shall grow in the wild and the trees shall bow with fruit - these things will occur. "[8]

In this way, a golden age throughout the world at the end of the current 'Time of Strife' will be established. 

The texts describe that Raudra Chakrin will come with 'flying ships' (obvious in our age, but certainly not when these prophecies were written) to help us out of spiritual darkness, and afterwards the teachings of the Buddha will survive for another 1,800 [4] or 1,000 [7] years.

More detailed information can be found in the website of Alex Berzin, to quote him (from [6]):

'In the Kalachakra teachings you find a whole discussion of history, in which you have at various periods invasions. There are various, what are described as "savage hoards", who come and try to destroy civilization and all opportunities for people to follow spiritual paths. Some examples are the invasions from central Asia to India, wiping out the possibilities for practicing Hinduism and Buddhism; the Mongols and the Muslims etc. There is a prediction in the Kalachakra that there will be likewise a great invasion and a great war in the future. This war will take place in 2424. This is not the type of war that will destroy the planet, but it will probably be a pretty bad war. But at that time, the King of Shambhala will come as the good guy; the bad guys lose and the so called Golden Age is established.
Now one of the very interesting things in the Kalachakra teachings is a great deal of social comment about what to do at the time of the invasion; how to prevent it and what are the causes. For example: we should look at our customs and also at the customs of those who want to destroy our civilization If they act very similar, then our children will see little difference between the parents and the invaders, and they will accept their ways easily. If our first reaction to a threat is war and violence, the invaders will do the same. Also the Kalachakra warns for what happens if the astronomy is very much in the hands of "experts" and nobody else understands it anymore: then the invaders can change the tables etc., and nobody would notice it. This can also be very relevant to our own time of computers. The younger generation depends so much on calculators and computers, they don't even know how to multiply and divide...'

In order to be reborn in Shambhala, many Tibetans make prayers, like the one by the 6th. Panchen Lama, which can be found here on the web (look under Shambhala).


[1]: Kalacakra Sadhana and Social Responsibility, David Reigle, Spirit of the Sun Publications 1996.
[2]: An Introduction to the Kalachakra, Geshe Wangdrak (losang Tenzin) Part of paper printed for the 1994 Kalachakra initiation by HHDL in Lahaul, Spiti.
[3]: Kalachakra Initiation, Madison 1981
[4]: The Way to Shambala by Eric Bernbaum
[5]: Path of the Bodhisattva Warrior by Glenn H. Mullin
[6]: Introduction to Kalachakra, commentary by Dr. Alex Berzin June 28 - 30, 1985 at Institut Vajrayogini, France
[7]: The Wheel of Time Sand Mandala, by Barry Bryant, Harper Collins 1995, ISBN 0-06-250088-0
[8]: The Outer Wheel of Time; Vajrayana Buddhist cosmology in the Kalacakra tantra, by John Ronald Newman, Univ. of Wisconsin 1987 (order number 8723348)
[9]: Kalachakra, by Namgyal Monastery, Tibet Domani, Italy1996
[10]: The Inner Kalacakratantra, A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual, by Vesna A. Wallace (Oxford University press, 2001)
[11]: A Summary of How the Abhisheka and Practice of Shri Kalachakra Was Propagated in India and brought to Tibet. From a booklet distributed during the Kalachakra initiation by His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche in August 1990, Toronto.
[12]: The Practice of Kalachakra by Glen H. Mullin (Snow Lion 1991)


Archives of Alex Berzin
Okar Research site (mostly unedited notes).