To promote the study and practice of Kalacakra
"All beings arise in time, Time continually
consumes them all,
|Volume 1, Number 3, 1999|
Kalacakra Sadhanas and Commentaries
By Martin Kerrigan
Due to the wide range of materials available it can be difficult, particularly for people who have recently taken the initiatiation, to know where to begin with their personal Kalacakra practice. Here are some sadhanas commonly used by people in the Kalacakra Practice Group:
People who take the initiation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama or Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche (i.e. within the Gelugpa lineage) commit themselves to reciting the Guru Yoga six times a day. Many of us find this very short version useful as it is always possible to keep the commitment regardless of how busy your life is. You can do this practice according to Kalacakra by inserting Kalacakra and Vishvamata for the deities in the text. You can also incorporate elements from the longer sadhanas if you wish, such as mantra recitation.
This is a longer version of the Six Session Guru Yoga incorporating the Kalacakra Bliss Mandala. This sadhana was used by the group until recently for recitation at monthly meetings and was the basis for Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche’s teachings at Jamyang this year. The text includes helpful explanatory notes, a review of the tantric vows, and a prayer which presents an overview of the Kalacakra path.
A commentary by Alex Berzin is also available.
In Gen Lamrimpa’s recent book, "Transcending Time" is an explanation of this Kalacakra Six –Session Guru Yoga. There are also other translations of this sadhana by Hermes Brandt, B.Alan Wallace – in "Transcending Time" – and Alex Berzin.
The group currently uses this relatively short generation stage sadhana for recitation at monthly meetings. Another translation, entitled "The Best of Jewels", is presented at the back of "The Practice of Kalacakra" by Glen Mullin.
This is a longer generation stage sadhana incorporating the Mind Mandala, which is currently being studied in detail by the group. Ed Henning is giving presentations on this at the next 2 meetings. There are also an excellent commentaries by Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, Alex Berzin, and another compiled by Rudy Harderwijk.
5."The Long Kalacakra Sadhana", by H.H. Kalsang Gyamtsho, The Seventh Dalai Lama, in an English translation by Robert Thurman, which includes the full Body, Speech and Mind Mandalas is also available.
All the above sadhanas and commentaries are available from the group archive.
Six-Session Guru Yogas and the pledges to the five Buddha groups
For the Six Session Guru Yoga to be complete it must contain the pledges to the five Buddha groups. These are :-
1. To go for refuge to the Buddha.
2. To go for refuge to the Dharma.
3. To go for refuge to the Sangha.
4. To refrain from non-virtue.
5. To practice virtue.
6. To benefit others.
1. To keep a vajra to remind one of Great Bliss.
2. To keep a bell to remind one of emptiness.
3. To generate oneself as the deity.
5. To give material help.
6. To give Dharma.
7. To give fearlessness (protection).
8. To give love.
1. To rely on the teachings of sutra.
2. To rely on the teachings of the two lower classes of tantra.
3. To rely on the teachings of the two higher classes of the tantra.
1. To make offerings to one’s spiritual guide.
2. To strive to maintain all the vows we have taken.
There are nineteen pledges in all that are made to the five Buddha groupings in a Six-Session Guru Yoga.
Group meeting study schedule
So, this provisionally is what the current schedule for the forthcoming 1999-2000 year looks like.
There may be some changes. For example, Geshi Tashi may be able to offer us teachings on the Manjusri-namasamgiti. If, by Geshi-la’s kindness, this is possible, we will re-schedule the programme to accommodate his teaching.
If any changes to the proposed schedule occur, we will let you know as soon as we can. We would still very much like to hear ideas and suggestions from all members of the group about future topics for study and presentation.
We currently meet at the Jamyang Buddhist Centre, The Old Courthouse, 43, Renfrew Road, London SE11 4NA.
Unless otherwise stated, our meetings, all usually on the second Saturday of each month, start at 2.00pm and finish at around 5.00pm.
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.
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 are free and those without funds should not feel that they are expected to pay, for those that are able to afford it the standard donation is £4 or £2 for a concessionary rate.
This money covers the rent we pay to Jamyang and any surplus goes into the KPG funds. We have a designated bank account for the purpose.
We have also been collecting donations for regular production and mailing of the newsletter. Currently, there is a suggested donation of £5 per year. If you are unsure when you made your last donation, we have a record, so please check with Martin or Roy.
Short Solitary Retreat
by Andy Wistreich
I’d like to recommend everyone to do solitary retreat to enhance their Kalacakra practice. As often as possible. Most of us have jobs so we can’t get away for very long. However, I don’t think this should be a deterrent. I have found that even three nights (two full days) is extremely worthwhile. Four or five nights is very effective indeed.
Everyone is different, and the more you do these short solitary retreats, the more easily you find a structure and regime that suits your personality and need. It’s good to get the right balance between relaxation and high structure. Unlike an approximation retreat where one is working with a traditional structure towards a mantra count for example, it is not essential to do four sessions per day, with the first before dawn.
However, I do find that to start before dawn each morning is very helpful, as the mind gets subtler around dawn, so you get the benefit of what His Holiness has called the connection between internal and external enlightenment.
I find it best to do the preparation of the retreat place, like getting the food in and the altar set up, in the afternoon, and then after tea, to start the retreat. Once started I think it’s best to make a personal commitment not to get into conversations etc with anyone, and not to get into any activities which don’t support the retreat. So, for example, it’s helpful to go for a walk to stretch your legs and freshen your energy, but I don’t think it is helpful to go out to look at the countryside or whatever. It’s a personal commitment to focus inwards for a few days – quite a rare experience for most of us!
I think you need to have planned well in advance which practices you are going to focus on, and then use the retreat for familiarisation with the practices. In the Kalacakra group we have been introduced to a number of different practices, and I think we all like to do the sadhana in a group, because there is strength in being with others. However, unless we familiarise ourselves with the practices, and get some sort of autonomy to the practice, I don’t think we can progress very far. In the long term we should all aspire to do the full retreats of the generation stage and the completion stage, and reach the final goal. After all, it is said to be possible in one lifetime! In order to set out towards that goal we need to get to know the practices. This just requires effort and repetition. The ideal situation for this is in retreat, without TV, telephone, friends, work and home hassles of all kinds. The mind just has to get more towards its natural state!
Personally I find it helpful on the first evening to do some strong motivational practice, like going through the whole Lam Rim, or focussing on bodhicitta practices. This sets you up for the whole retreat. If at any time as it goes on you feel you’ve lost the purpose, you can go over this again. Then at the end – and I tend to like to finish before lunch on the last day – I think it is good to do a strong dedicatory practice, such as reciting the tenth chapter of the Bodhicaryavatara. Then each of the other days needs a rough pattern, and this is where one needs to get the right degree of strict or loose timetabling. Because my work is very time-bound, I rebel on retreat, and don’t look much at my watch – just go by the feel. However, others may find that the start and finish times being decided in advance helps to keep them focused. It’s all about knowing yourself.
I should have mentioned that I think that self-catering is the best. It gives you complete involvement. When I do solitary retreat with someone else cooking, I always wonder what they’re cooking and form critical judgements of the cooking. When I cook for myself I can get the balance between blandness and flavour right for what I need. Again it is all about autonomy – self-reliance.
I’d like to recommend a retreat centre in Herefordshire where they have a good retreat hut in the garden with an adjoining toilet/washroom. In the hut there is a two-ring gas stove, a bed/meditation-shelf, and a table and chair for eating or reading. What’s more it has an almost total blackout at night, which is useful for the six-branched yoga. It costs £5 per night, but it’s free if you can’t afford it. Phone and speak to Elaine or Paul, or email them. The address is:
Shen Pen Thubten Choling
Tel: (01981) 550 247
If anyone is interested in doing a short solitary retreat, and would like to talk over their plans for it in advance, please feel welcome to give me a ring on (01460) 241339.
The International Kalacakra Network website
The International Kalacakra Network (IKN) website has moved and has appeared in a re-designed and evolving format at www.kalacakra.org.
The front page is clear, explains the International Kalcakra Network and its interest in supporting the development of Kalacakra Practice Groups around the world. Hot keys to the left of the page at the moment give you access to the IKN proposal; basic information about Kalacakra and the seed syllable. Ed has also posted a Kalacakra calendar there for practitioners to work with.
The first short article has appeared on the site. It is entitled "The Sphere of Wisdom" by Geshe Namgyal Wangchen. It is from a teaching by Geshe Wangchen on enlightened activity as explained in "The Uttaratantra" on 3 May, 1985, at Manjushri London Centre and is edited by Andy Wistreich
Ed is now actively seeking for more ideas, help with design, practitioners to write materials, graphic materials etc. You can contact him on: Ed_Henning@zd.com with any offers of help, ideas or materials for the site.
More materials please!
Roy and Martin would really like to see more material for the newsletter coming in from members for future editions. Especially from those who have not yet put anything our way!
Articles about practice, personal experience, scripture, commentary, literature, language, art, translations, book reviews, graphic materials- including good cartoons-, poetry, poetic translations of passages of Kalacakra texts etc., and much more, would be very welcome:
"All beings arise in time,
Time continually consumes them all,
Time is the Lord who possesses the vajra,
Whose nature is that of day and night."
Any thoughts on why Gen Lamrimpa decided not to give a presentation of the attributes of the Five Tathgatas in accord with the Kalacakra Tantra in a book about the Kalacakra Six-Session Guru Yoga? ("Transcending Time", p176.) Does anyone know where to find a good presentation in English translation that does accord with the Kalacakra Tantra? Another way to use the newsletter! Any questions? Any answers?!
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