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Taking the Kalachakra Initiation 
The shortest moment contains infinite time.
The smallest grain of dust contains infinite space.

Thich Nhat Hanh


Kalachakra initiations are unusual in the sense that everyone can attend them, unlike other initiations which are only given to small groups of selected disciples. As long as one tries to keep a positive mind state, it can be considered a blessing or inspiration towards the future possibility of practicing in the Kalachakra tantric tradition. If nothing else, it is likely to be a unique experience of an elaborate spiritual ritual.

This rest of this page is mainly intended to give some basic information for people who wish to seriously practice the Kalachakra tantra.

In order to practice, one needs to understand the basics of Buddhism and commitment to it (taking refuge). Furthermore, one must be ready to take the Bodhisattva Vows (part of Mahayana Buddhism), Tantric Vows and having received the Kalachakra Initiation from a qualified Tantric Master. These subjects are briefly explained below.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama (currently the most prominent Kalachakra Master), often emphasizes the importance of these preliminaries, for example during the Kalachakra initiation in Bloomington USA in 1999:

"I would like to congratulate those who are attending here only for the preliminary teachings and not the Kalachakra. Because in actual fact the topics I am covering in the preliminary teachings are the more important elements of the practice. So I would like to express my appreciation for those who are just attending the preliminary teachings.

Those who do the opposite, not attend the preliminary teachings but rather come just for the Kalachakra Empowerment Ceremony, I must admit that these people are more clever than I am. When I announce a Kalachakra Empowerment, because Kalachakra is so popular it attracts people, but what I really intend is to spend time during the preliminary teachings and speak more about the general aspects of the path of the Dharma. So these people have in fact managed to fool me but of course if among those people who are just attending the Kalachakra teaching if they have a firm grounding in the common paths, the general practices of the Dharma then of course it is fine. But if people simply come for the empowerment with no real grounding in the preliminary practices then simply attending the Kalachakra ceremony alone, I do not know what benefit that can have."

His Holiness the Dalai Lama in meditationOr, if possible even more direct, Holiness said the following during the Manjusri Initiation in New York City in 1998:

"If one can engage on the Vajrayana path on the basis of a clear understanding of the tantric path, then it can be truly profound and effective. Some Tibetan masters of the past have emphasized many of the significancies of the Vajrayana teachings by the representation of the vajra and bell. The Tibetans say that if one utilizes these implements with a full awareness of their significance and a full understanding of the Vajrayana path, then when one rings the bell it will have a profound symbolism and meaning. But the simple act of playing a bell doesn't really have any profundity. One can see that even cows have bells around their necks and make loud noises.

The reason I point this out is that unfortunately sometimes people in their rush to attain Vajrayana teachings because of the way in which it is promoted as the best, highest and quickest, people hastily rush to receiving initiations without full realization of what it involves and what is its true significance. There is a real danger that one's ringing a bell is like the cow's. This is very true even of the Tibetan Buddhists as well. When they hear there is an initiation everyone rushes to it with great enthusiasm. But if someone hears there is a series of lectures taking place on Buddhism then they say, "Oh yes, well….." Sometimes I exploit this weakness and use it to my advantage. I announce there is a Kalachakra initiation and everybody rushes to it. I do the Kalachakra ceremony last and very fast but I spend much more time explaining the key elements and a general overview of the Buddhist path. That way they have to sit and listen to them. This is my skillful means! Although I thought I was rather smart but some of the students are even smarter. They make sure they arrive only exactly on the Kalachakra initiation day."

The 'Dharma Wheel', symbolising the Buddhist teachingsBUDDHISM IN A NUTSHELL

Buddhism is a religious practice started by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni some 2,500 years ago. It can be considered a philosophy and even a type of psychology, but more than anything, it describes a practice to eliminate suffering.

The basis of Buddhist teachings is condensed in the Four Noble Truths:

1. In life, we are confronted with suffering (dukkha in Sanskrit).
2. Suffering is caused by desire/craving and the results of our actions (karma).
3. It is possible to end all suffering and achieve Liberation (nirvana).
4. At the basis of the practice lies the Eight-fold Noble Path, which describes: correct thought/attitude, correct speech, correct actions, correct livelihood, correct understanding, correct effort, correct mindfulness, and correct concentration.

Furthermore, some important aspects of Buddhism are:

- Karma; the fact that our actions have consequences.
- Rebirth; we are all reborn after we die, until we end the 'cycle of death and rebirth' (samsara)
- Renunciation; wishing to be free from suffering and not being attached to the pleasures in the cycle of death and rebirth.
- Meditation; in order to develop ourselves, we need to develop our mind with meditation, so as to limit our negative habits and develop positive qualities.
- Wisdom; conventional wisdom is about taking the right decisions in this world. Ultimate wisdom is to realize that do not possess a permanent self or soul; rather, we are results of causes and conditions, impermanent and nothing exists independently.

As the Buddha said to the villagers of Kalama:

"If it agrees with your experience and reason, and when it is conducive to the good and gain of oneself and all others, then one should accept the teachings, and live up to them."


MonksAfter someone has decided that the Buddha, his teachings (Dharma) and the spiritual community (Sangha) are worthwhile to practice with confidence, one can commit oneself to Buddhism and its practices by 'taking Refuge'. This is basically a short ceremony with a Master in which one vows to respect and follow the guidelines of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. It means that one chooses a direction in life.

For more information, see this page on Refuge.


There are various schools and lineages in Buddhism, but a major distinction is made between the so-called Northern and Southern schools, mostly Theravada and Mahayana.

In brief, the Theravada school emphasizes practice to achieve nirvana and liberate oneself from the suffering cycle of rebirth as an Arhant.
In the Mahayana schools, the end-goal is to lead all living (sentient) beings away from suffering; in order to do that, one strives to achieve Buddhahood (the ultimately highest evolved state).
Although the philosophical differences between these two schools are not very large, the difference in end-goal (liberation of an Arhant or Buddhahood) creates significant differences in the practice. The Mahayana schools put much emphasis on love and compassion in the practices; and the ideal practitioner is a Bodhisattva; someone who is altruistically intent on liberating all sentient beings.

In all schools, one can take refuge at the beginning of the path, and one can choose ordination to become a novice or fully ordained monk or nun. When one wishes to commit oneself to the Mahayana school, one can also take the Aspiring Bodhicitta Vows and later also the actual Bodhisattva Vows, which is independent of the monks' or nuns' ordination, but can only be based on taking refuge first.

More information can be found in this page on Compassion.


Tantra is a special type of Buddhist practice, which can lead to rapid development of a disciple towards Buddhahood, so it is a part of the Mahayana tradition. Buddhist tantra was developed in India, but is currently mainly preserved in the Tibetan schools of Buddhism.

Tantra is a 'secret' practice; not because practitioners wish to be special people with privileges, but because the practices require great care, commitment and guidance by a qualified teacher. The techniques used are quite powerful, and if not applied correctly can lead to serious harm for the practitioner and others. Just like driving a car requires several precautions like learning traffic rules and getting acquainted with the car before driving can be reasonably safe, so does tantra require 'preliminaries' before practice can be carried out safely.

The main preliminaries to tantric practice are:

1. Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma (teachings) and Sangha (Buddhist community): having become a Buddhist.
2. Renunciation: a realization is best, but a proper understanding is essential.
3. Bodhicitta: a realization is best, but a proper understanding is essential. For most initiations, it is required to take the aspiring Bodhisattva vows and/or the Bodhisattva vows. The Kalachakra initiation requires both.
4. Wisdom of Emptiness: a direct realization is best, but a proper understanding is essential.
5. Faith/confidence: solid confidence both in the teacher and the teachings is essential to avoid serious karmic problems when doubts arise.
6. Reliance on a spiritual teacher: proper confidence in a teacher and verifying his/her qualifications is essential.
7. Preliminary Practices: depending on the teacher/disciple relationship, a teacher can ask a disciple to carry out a series of specific practices, like recitation of mantras, doing prostrations etc..
8. Empowerment or initiation: without this ceremonial permission to practice by a qualified teacher, tantric practice is improper.
9. Tantric vows (available in restricted area only): for the higher tantric classes, one needs to take tantric vows. These vows are secret to the uninitiated, so students need to take 'a leap of faith' and trust the teacher and the practice before taking them. The Kalachakra tradition also has its own set of Tantric vows to be adhered to.

For much more detailed information, see the Kalachakra section of Alex Berzin's website.

Obviously, it is not easy to describe a whole religion in one page. You could for example have a look at the web-site A View of Buddhism for a more extensive introduction and many links to excellent web-sites.


To prepare for visiting the actual initiation, and also during the actual initiation, the following texts are more than useful to try to follow what is happening. Of course, the more you are aware of all the steps and visualisations etc., the stronger the imprint of the initiation will be. Also, the structure of the Kalachakra initiation is quite a bit more complex than the other tantric initiations, so proper preparation is really in place if you like to get seriously involved in this practice.

A very good booklet, which also includes a good introduction to the initiation is Taking the Kalachakra Initiation by Alexander Berzin.

On this website: an excellent introduction to Kalachakra and to the taking the initiation is this Explanation of the Kalachakra Initiation by Alexander Berzin.

In our English Resources section, you can find a Study-document; the Detailed Outline of the Kalachakra Empowerment, which describes all the essential steps during the initiation ceremony. This should be very suitable to have with you during an initiation.

An elaborate book  with an extensive introduction to tantra, and a transcript of a Kalachakra initiation given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama is found in The Kalachakra Tantra, Rite of Initiation, by Tenzin Gyatso the Dalai Lama and Jeffrey Hopkins. However, as the book gives the initiation procedure as  well as His Holiness' advice at the time, it can be hard to follow the initiation procedure itself when trying to listen to the teachings and read the book at the same time.

Other transcripts of Kalachakra initiations can be found in the English Resource Page.

You can find an extended personal impression of a Kalachakra initiation by Erica Hagen.


If you have received a Kalachakra initiation, do sign up as Initiate and have a look at the page 'Starting with Kalachakra practice'.


For general Buddhism, tantra and specifically Kalachakra: Alexander Berzin's website contains much information
General Buddhism: check out A View of Buddhism