His Holiness the Dalai Lama from: 'The Kalachakra tantra,
rite of initiation':
Full Kalachakra sand mandala
(body, speech and mind)
"The Kalachakra system was one of the last and
most complex tantric systems to be brought to Tibet from India. In
recent years many Westerners have become acquainted with this tradition
as various lamas have given the Kalachakra Initiation to large groups
of people. I myself have given it several times in Western countries,
as well as in India and Tibet. Such initiation are given on the basis
of a mandala, the sacred residence with its residence deities, usually
depicted in graphic form . The tradition I follow employs a mandala
constructed of colored sand which is carefully assembled prior to
each initiation and dismantled once more at the end. Due to their
colorful and intricate nature, mandalas have attracted a great deal
of interest. Although some can be openly explained, most are related
to tantric doctrines that are normally supposed to be kept secret.
Consequently, many speculative and mistaken interpretations have circulated
among people who viewed them simply as works of art or had no access
to reliable explanations. Because the severe misunderstandings that
can arise are more harmful than a partial lifting of secrecy, I have
encouraged a greater openness in the display and accurate description
The best known form of the Kalachakra mandala is the
sand mandala, for which colored sand grains are painstakingly placed.
This sand drawing represents a 3-dimensional palace of which every single
detail has a symbolic meaning. A mandala is a symbolic representation
of many aspects of a specific tantra. In the Kalachakra tantra, all
elements of the mandala refer to the universe (outer Kalachakra), the
body and mind (inner Kalachakra) and the practice (initiation, generation
and completion stages).
Every detail of the mandala, from each deity to every adornments of
the building, refers to time and the universe (Outer Kalachakra), physical
and mental aspects of Kalachakra and ourselves (Inner Kalachakra), and
also to aspects of the practice (Alternative Kalachakra).
It should be noted that in the Kalachakra tradition, an unusual order
of directions is followed in the description of the mandala. As usual
(in Tibetan artwork), the Eastern direction (black) is directed to the
viewer, or at the bottom of an image, but when going around the mandala,
a somewhat complicated order is followed: clockwise from East to Southwest,
clockwise from North to Northeast, and finally clockwise from West to
This page describes the main layout of the mandala palace, other
pages in the area for Initiates describe more in detail the deities
which can be found at the various locations.
The Kalachakra Mandala is like a huge palace, with 5
distinct floor levels:
At the ground level is the Body Mandala, measuring
200 by 200 armspans, and it has 4 huge entrance ways in the main
Within the Body Mandala, on a platform of 100 armspans
high, comes the Speech Mandala with a floor surface of 100 by 100
armspans, which looks very similar to the Body Mandala.
At the center of the Speech mandala, on a platform
50 armspans in height, comes the Mind Mandala, with a floor surface
of 50 by 50 armspans, which looks again very similar to the Body
Mandala. The Mind Mandala has two more floor levels, the Exalted
Wisdom Mandala and the Great Bliss Mandala.
The Exalted Wisdom Mandala is raised 25 armspans
above the floor of the Mind Mandala and its floor measures 25 by
On a slightly raised platform is the central Great
Bliss Mandala, with a large green lotus on which the main Deity
Kalachakra with his consort Vishvamata resides, surrounded by the
The top of the roof of the Great Bliss Mandala is
at a height of 200 armspans.
THE CENTRAL MIND MANDALA
Kalachakra Mind Mandala
There are various traditions in depicting the mandala; in the type of
Mind Mandala below on the left, all the deities are depicted as dots of sand,
but in the thanka-painting of the Mind Mandala below, the most important deities
are depicted.In the last case, proportions of the mandala are somewhat distorted
in the center, otherwise the deities would not fit.In the Kalachakra tradition
blue and black are often interchanged, so for example, deities of black color
can be depicted as blue.The complete mandala of Kalachakra is built up in five
distinct floors. The ground floor is the Body Mandala, the first floor is the
Speech Mandala, and the highest three floors are part of the Mind Mandala.
To explain what happens in this complex construction, we
start from the center of the mandala, see the schematized image below
of the isolated Mind Mandala which holds some 70 deities.
The central area surrounded by the black frame (vajra wall) is the Great
Bliss Mandala, representing the experience of Emptiness and Great
Bliss. It is located on the highest, fifth floor of the complete body,
speech and mind mandala
In the center is a green lotus, with on its central (black Kalagni)
disc, Kalachakra and Vishvamata are represented as blue and yellow dots.
On the green lotus, each of the eight leaves is occupied by a Shakti.
Around the lotus, on the blue floor of the Great Bliss Mandala, are
four implements: white conch, red wooden gong, a black wish-granting
jewel and a yellow wish-granting tree which represent the Buddha's Body,
Speech, Mind and Exalted Wisdom respectively.
your mouse over below schematic Mind Mandala to see a pop-up explanation.
The surrounding area within the green line contains black pillars
(in this image they are projected onto the floor) which carry the
roof. This is the Exalted Wisdom Mandala, which represents
the Subtle Mind and is on the fourth floor of the mandala.
Between the pillars are the 8 pairs of Tathagatas, seated on lotus
seats, and vases.
The following area is divided in 4 quarts of different colors,
showing the floor of the Mind Mandala, which is on the third floor.
This outer area represents the Coarse Mind, located on the second floor, and it
is surrounded by a three-coloured wall. On the white ledge (lhanam) just within
the wall, 12 couples of Bodhisattvas are seated. In the entrance gates, wrathful
protecting deities are located, as couples. In the four main directions,
the porticos or entrance gates are depicted; in fact, they stand upright in the
full 3D mandala, but are "flattened" for imaging in 2D. Outside
the mandala wall is also a white ledge, on which offering goddesses are located.
move your mouse over below thanka painting of the Mind Mandala to see a pop-up
explanation of the deities and objects in the mandala palace.
Below image is a
3D-view of the Mind Mandala. Not all dimensions have been officially verified,
but it should give a good overall impression. All ornamentation is left out to
create a clearer image, but note that even the ornaments do have profound symbolic
meaning. The deities are represented as cylinders in the correct color. Deity
pairs are represented as two half-cylinders.
Slowly move your mouse over below swchematic Mind
Mandala image to see a pop-up explanation.
FULL BODY, SPEECH AND MIND MANDALA
The image below represents a simplified
2D version of the complete mandala, as in the sand mandala, but not containing
any deities or ornaments. In the center is the Mind Mandala, which is surrounded
by the Speech and Body Mandala, which are similarly shaped.
the central Mind Mandala is the Speech Mandala which represents the Enjoyment
Body of the Buddha (Sambhogakaya). This mandala houses 116 deities and lies on
the second floor of the mandala. On the white ledge (lhanam) are 80 deities, the
Yoginis of the Speech Mandala, they represent for example the 80 minor marks of
The Body Mandala represents the Form Body of the Buddha
(Rupakaya) and it surrounds the Speech Mandala. The Body Mandala is placed on
the first floor at ground level. Including the deities in the surrounding cemetery
grounds (depicted as wheels), it contains 536 deities. On the white ledge (lhanam)
just inside the outer walls, are 12 animals (visible on the sand mandala, not
here), depicting the 12 months of the year. Each carries a lotus with 28 petals
on which a deity is placed, and a deity pair in the center which represents new
moon and full moon; together these represent the 30 lunar days in a month. The
number 360 also refers to the sets of 360 breaths we take in 60 cycles every day
(adding up to 21,600 breaths per day).
full Body, Speech and Mind Mandala Slowly move your mouse over below image
to view some explanation.
The Body Mandala is surrounded by crescent-shaped
areas, which are the offering grounds. Next follow circles which represent the
elements: earth (yellow), water (white), fire (pink/red), wind (gray/black) and
space (green). The outermost circle is the "Great Protective Circle",
"Mountain of Flames" or "Circle of Wisdom" which represents
the wisdom element. The differently colored areas represent the five Wisdoms of
the Buddha in the form of a rainbow.
The pink and gray Dharma Wheels are also
known as the "Cemetery Grounds". The cemeteries are represented as eight-spoked
wheels. Between these wheels, 88 Sanskrit syllables are placed (not depicted here).
It should be noted that there is a profound relationship between the Kalachakra
tantra and the Sanskrit alphabet. Click to look at a large image (165kB) of
the sand mandala.
In the practice of Kalachakra, one strives at visualizing the
complete mandala, including its hundreds of deities in perfect
detail of the size of a small drop during the Generation Stage
of the practice, to achieve a very high level of concentration.
Next, during the Completion Stage practices one gradually develops
one's body and mind into that of an enlightened Buddha by controlling
all energies of body and mind. This should give an idea of the
level of concentration required for transforming oneself into
Do have a look at our Interactive
Mandala to see where all deities are located in the full
Body, Speech and Mind Mandala.
Images of computer models of the Kalachakra mandala can also
be found at Kalacakra.org
Bala's project, also if you Google for 'Kalachakra mandala
video', several animations of 3D mandalas can be found.
Very detailed images of the Kalachakra mandala
and all the 722 deities as they are depicted in the Kalachakra Temple in Dharamsala,
India can be found in the beautiful book 'Kalachakra',
published by Tibet Domani, Italy 1996. Good descriptions are also found in
'The Mandala' by Martin Brauen and 'The
Wheel of Time Sand Mandala' by Barry Bryant. Quite a number of the Mind
Mandala deities are depicted on this page of the Tibet