To promote the study and practice of Kalacakra
"All beings arise in time, Time continually
consumes them all,
|Volume 1, Number 9, April 2002|
Late last year we elected not to have any further official meetings of the group until sufficient members were back in the UK from India and elsewhere and free of various other commitments.
In the meantime, those few who have been around have got together informally to practice the sadhana, offer prayers and share their thoughts.
On Saturday, March 9, the session was back up to about seven strong.
The next official meeting of the group at Jamyang will be on Saturday, April 13. From then on until July we hope to be back in the routine of meeting regularly on the second Saturday afternoon of the month. We can discuss the future programme after practice at the next meeting. For the time being, the intention is to meet, practice the sadhana, offer prayers and have an informal discussion following the practice session.
For new readers, we are a trans-sectarian group dedicated to Kalacakra practice.
We are open to anyone who has taken the Kalacakra initiation from a qualified
lama and seriously wishes to practise accordingly. We use 'The Jewelled Heart'
- A Sadhana focusing on Glorious Kalacakra by Buton Rinchen Druppa (1290-1364)
for group practice at these meetings
Unless otherwise stated, our meetings, all usually on the second Saturday of each month, start at 2.00pm and finish at around 5.00pm.
When the group meets at Jamyang Buddhist Centre the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) guidelines attached to FPMT centres should be respected regarding guest teachers and practice materials.
Although teachings, study and practice meetings are free and those without funds should not feel that they are expected to pay, for those that are able to afford it the recommended standard donation is £4 or £2 for a concessionary rate.
This money covers the rent we pay to Jamyang and although we only seek to meet our costs and remain solvent, any surplus goes into the KPG funds for running expenses, future events, visiting teachers etc. We have a designated bank account for the purpose. The accounts are available for inspection on request for anyone who has an interest.
We have also been collecting donations for regular production and mailing of the newsletter. Currently, there is a suggested donation of £5 per year. Many of your donations are coming up for renewal. Would you please contact Roy if you wish to make a further donation.
In the run up to the expected Kalacakra Initiation in Bodh Gaya in January there emerged some concern about the health of His Holiness following his pilgrimage to Nalanda and the Vulture's Peak. His Holiness thought he became ill there because he was exposed to extreme temperatures and experienced subsequent extreme stomach pain.
On January 24, His Holiness requested a morning session at the teaching ground. He told everyone that he had not been able to conduct the preliminary teachings as a result of his ill health. Further, because of the prolonged prayers and many hours of preparation required for the conduct of the Kalacakra teachings, he thought that in his state of health it would be foolish on his part to persist in what was going to be a very exhausting set of teachings.
His Holiness urged everyone there, both those who had come from the close-by settlements and monasteries as well as those who came from great distances with great dedication and commitment, overcoming great difficulties, not to be disappointed by the postponement.
His Holiness said: " I would like to state that you should not be disappointed by the postponement of the Kalacakra teachings. This is because the reason why you are here in Bodh Gaya is because of your great motivation to spiritually benefit from being in such a sacred place and because of this you will have accumulated merit for every step you have taken."
He said that he had decided to hold the Kalacakra teachings and empowerment again in Bodh Gaya between the eleventh and twelfth months of the Tibetan calendar next year. Exact dates of next year's Kalacakra teachings in Bodh Gaya will be announced shortly by the Cabinet (Kashag) of the Government of Tibet in Exile. (It will be worth keeping an eye on the teachings section of the www.tibet.com website.)
There was a mass prayer for the long life of His Holiness on January 30. He subsequently went into the Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai with a bowel infection. After a recovery following a few days' treatment and rest, he was discharged on February 2. His Holiness returned to Dharamsala from Mumbai on February 10, where senior representatives of the five schools of Tibetan Buddhism began a special 10-day prayer session at Namgyal Monastery for his continued good health and long life. His Holiness held his first public meeting following his illness at his palace in McLeodganj on February 12. Further long life offerings and prayers by senior figures from various monasteries. Special offerings were made at Namgyal and special prayers held at Kirti monastery.
Teachings in Bodh Gaya went ahead in the absence of His Holiness. Denma Locho
Rinpoche taught on the 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas; the Ganden Tripa on the
Three Principal Aspects of the path, and Rizong Rinpoche on Kamilashila's Middle Stages of Meditation.
Many other teachers sought to respond to people's needs, offering teachings and empowerments at evening meetings. For example, Jahdo Rinpoche, Abbot of Namgyal Monastery, responded positively to a request to answer questions on the Kalacakra Six-Session Guru Yoga at the Root Institute. The London Group has a tape of the session and will be looking to make a transcript from the tape. There were also three very good introductory sessions for prospective initiates held at the Burmese Vihara in Bodh Gaya. An American teacher who had first taken the Kalcakra initiation from Kalu Rinpoche some years ago gave the sessions.
Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche was unable to give the Kalacakra initiation in Barcelona owing to visa problems. He was scheduled to do so in March. We have expressed an interest on behalf of the London group and asked to be emailed with the details as soon as they become available. The site to watch and when the new arrangements are known is http://www.geocities.com/vajrayoguini/kalachakraeng.html.
Preparations for the Kalacakra Initiation in Graz in October are going forward at some pace. At the She Drup Ling Buddhist Centre, Geshe Tenzin Dhargye, is giving teachings on a text by Gyaltsab-Je on 'The Two Stages of the Kalacakra' (Dus khor rin nyi de chen lam tug) in March and April over a series of three weekends. His Holiness sent Geshe Dharghye from Namgyal Monastery following a request for a spiritual guide to accompany the organisers and the She Drup Ling centre in their preparations for the initiation.
The first took place on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of 22,23, &24 March. The second takes place on 19,20 & 21 April and the last weekend is the 26,27 & 28 April. For each weekend, Friday sessions run from 6.00pm to 9.00pm; Saturdays from 09.30am to 12.30pm; and Sundays from 2.30pm to 5.30pm. There is currently no English translators for these sessions If anyone either could help or knows someone who could; they should contact Beate Zweytick on email@example.com or phone on +43-316-717297-0. The London group will be trying to get a transcript in Tibetan or German for translation into English following the teachings.
The organisers are urging people to book accommodation by the end of March. Those going from the London group and Jamyang still do not have anything organised on a group basis so it looks like people may be better off doing their own thing, either alone or in smaller groups of friends. Car-sharing, coaches or Ryan Air, now they fly direct to Graz, are all possible ways of getting there but coaches and planes should obviously be booked soon.
Other practitioner groups are now starting to spring up internationally and Graz may provide a good opportunity for people from groups in different countries to come together and exchange ideas and experiences.
The Kalachakra Kalapa Centre, an international meditation centre in Western Styria, Austria, dedicated primarily to the practice and study of the Kalacakra Tantra, will be finished and open by October. There may be a retreat organised there after the initiation. For more details see the Kalapa website at www.kalapa.at.
A meeting for Kalacakra translators and teachers is also being mooted at a time and place yet to be decided during the period of the Graz initiation and teachings.
Dave Midgeley will be asking Alan Wallace if he might be able to engage in some introductory Kalacakra instruction prior to the Graz initiation while he is teaching in the UK this summer. If possible, the London Kalacakra Practice Group may also be able to offer one or two open sessions before Graz for the benefit of those seeking initiation for the first time. Please let us know if you know of anyone who may be interested.
An interim review by Andy Wistreich:
I am writing this review after reading only around one-third of the book, as I am reading it very slowly, and Roy asked if I could write something based on what I have read so far. Roy and Rudy have both got this book and agree that it is very special. (Andy and Barbara also have a copy each so if anyone can't get access to a copy of their own, for whatever reason, we should have enough to lend out to other members of the London group. Ed.)
Sometimes we say something is head and shoulders above the rest to try and show how far ahead it is of anything else. This book is a very long way ahead of anything else that I know of in English on Kalacakra.
Not only is it meticulously attentive to its main sources, the Kalacakratantra and the Vimalaprabha, as well as other commentaries and historical sources, but also, it has a clarity of style that makes it a wonderful support to practice.
Vesna's PhD dissertation, which includes a translation from Sanskrit of Chapter Two of the Vimalaprabha, already shined out among the various translations, and at least equalled John Newman's work on Chapter One, as a resource for practitioners. However, the new book is far more than the reworking of the dissertation that I had anticipated. Although it is called The Inner Kalacakratantra, it is actually a commentary on all five chapters, and works across all three of the outer, inner and secret Kalacakras. The references to Chapter Five for example are numerous. The dissertation on Chapter Five by James Hartzell, whilst effective in whetting the appetite for this most difficult and profound of the Kalacakra materials we have yet seen translated, often leaves one wondering whether the author understands the material, as the meaning is so often unclear in the translations and commentary. Vesna, however, makes everything she writes about accessible, impressive when one considers how challenging is the source material. Now that I have read translations of Chapters One (most of), Two, Three and most of Five in dissertation translations, I have to admit that most of what one reads does not really make sense, because the commentaries of say Buton, which are often cited in footnotes, still do not make things clear, but sometimes just add more confusion. As a result, apart from some excellent passages, especially in Newman's and Wallace's dissertations, it has to be admitted that reading these materials is at best inspiring, but does not effectively support the integration of one's meditation practice and one's world view.
The chapters I have covered so far in Vesna's book are on the broadest theoretical framework of the Kalacakratantra, a history of Sadangayoga and its relationship to other traditions of India, the nature of syncretism in the Kalacakratantra, the concept of science in the Kalacakra tradition and now I am in the middle of the chapter of the Cosmic Body. Vesna demonstrates a highly integrated understanding of Kalacakra, and an ability to present this in a 21st century context without any sense of archaism. She is writing within a Western academic tradition that does not take for granted that everything took place as it was presented in the tradition. For example, she does not assume that the tantra was first written at the time of the Buddha, but nor does she deny this possibility. This accords well with the emerging tradition of western practitioner academics (such as Alex Berzin) and modern Tibetan yogi-scholars, such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama to not pretend that either scientific or historical empirical evidence is either flawed or absolutely proven, but rather to enable the wisdom of the Buddhist tradition to shine through the lens of legitimate contemporary knowledge. Moreover, post-modern hermeneutic methodology allows for multiple readings of the canon without recourse to an absolute text.
Vesna's scholarship, along with that of others such as Alex Berzin (see http://www.berzinarchives.com/) for example, is helping to create a contemporary Kalacakra tradition which, so long as it is underpinned by people actually practising purely and sincerely, could have far- reaching implications for the survival of the practice and its potential to contribute positively to events in the world.
To give just one small example of the riches to be found in the book, in the chapter on the Cosmic Body, the book clearly explains how the great pilgrimage sites of the Kalacakra world correlate with the parts of the bodies of the practitioner and consort, the environment and deity of the mandala, and why such correlation is relevant to practice and to our entire existence. It is hard to choose one quotation to illustrate how it does this, but how about this:
"According to the Kalacakratantra, cyclic existence consists of the immeasurable Buddha-fields, which have limitless qualities, and of the five elements. It is characterised by their origination, duration and destruction. This entire cosmos is said to arise and dissolve because sentient beings are experiencing the results of their wholesome and unwholesome actions. The collective karma of sentient beings produces karmic winds, which mould and dissolve the cosmos by amassing and disintegrating the atomic particles that constitute the cosmos. Thus, the external karmic winds accord with the characteristic qualities of sentient beings' consciousness.
"The karmic wind that produces the cosmos of a Buddha-field is considered to be of a dual nature, because it produces two types of cosmos: inanimate and animate. Like the heavenly constellations, the inanimate cosmos of a Buddha-field is stationary; whereas the animate cosmos is in motion, just as the circle of astrological house moves in space. At the time of the dissolution of the inanimate cosmos, the bodies of all humans and other living beings composed of atoms also disintegrate. In this way, the destiny of the inanimate cosmos, which is due to the actions of sentient beings, is also the destiny of the sentient beings that inhabit the cosmos.' (p57)
Lots of food for thought here, in the light of contemporary understanding of the universe, but there is also the need for Buddhist practitioners to understand where the Buddhas inhabit, and the interrelationship of their lands with ours. Moreover, connecting the worlds of our meditative practices and of our everyday lives is a challenge we practitioners face all the time.
Gradually the chapter builds its case and lucidly establishes the linkage between the phenomena of the inner and outer worlds that earlier books such as Brauen's The Mandala and Reigle's Kalacakra Sadhana and Social Responsibility have already pointed at. Indeed, if someone who is trying to practise the Kalacakra through one or more of its sadhanas seeks supporting commentary on the Kalacakra world-view, I think this one by Vesna Wallace could be the best book for them.
Following the terrible events that unfolded on September 11, 2001, and continuing fatal and horrific, brutal clashes between peoples of different faiths in the Middle East and in India both Glenn H. Mullin and Alex Berzin have written articles for the latest edition of 'Mandala' looking at what the tradition an its history have to say to us about the present violent situations that we face. Alex's piece specifically looks at 'Holy Wars in Buddhism and Islam: The Myth of Shambhala'. Buddhism is not usually viewed as having anything similar to the Christian notion of 'crusade' or the Islamic concept of 'jihad' but Alex interestingly shows that a careful examination of the Buddhist texts, however, particularly the Kalacakratantra literature, reveal both internal and external levels of battle that could easily be called "holy wars." He concludes that without denying or dwelling on the abuses of both Buddhist and Islamic calls for an external battle when destructive forces threaten religious practice, one can gain inspiration by focusing on the benefits of waging an inner holy war in either creed.
Both the articles by Glenn and Alex are in their own ways quietly provocative and urge us not to be "rosy-eyed" about Buddhism, thinking that it has been immune to the phenomena of extreme violence and holy war. They are both well worth a read and provide highlights of a traditional, mythic and historical backdrop which stimulates some hard thinking about the interpretation and response to some unbelievable recent events from the perspective of contemporary Buddhist ethics. Alex's article is a shorter version of a longer article available at www.berzinarchives.org.
"The website has now been dormant for over a year. Ed did a great job in setting it up for us but no one has so far been able to devote time to get a good deal more useful material posted on it or act as a webmaster for the site. It could become a really useful interactive tool.
The newsletter is still not available on the site and we have still not put up the Kalacakra thangka image we have on the site.
It would be good if the website could become what we all wanted it to become
- the home for an international network of Kalacakra Practice Groups."
So went the call in the last edition of the newsletter. Rudy kindly took up the challenge, put in a lot of hard work and has created a fully interactive site for the International Kalacakra Network. It is available at www.kalachakranet.org. Rudy is currently the 'webmaster' for the site and is eager for us all to use the site and feedback our thoughts for improvement and future development to him as soon as we can.
Roy would really like to see more material for the newsletter
coming in for future editions.
Especially from those who have not yet put anything our way!
Roy Sutherwood on e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mailing address: Kalacakra Practice Group,
International Kalacakra Network websites
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