Study notes

The Wheel of Time – Inner Kalachakra and the liberation of sight

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This is a two-part essay:

Part 1:

The Wheel of Time – Inner Kalachakra and the liberation of sight

Today’s popularity of Kalachakra in the West can be attributed to Werner Herzog, who reached a wide target audience with his films, which can help to overcome the language and cultural barriers as well as the inner differences with such a set of teachings.[1]

The exploration of the Outer Kalachakra can provide an endless foundation of correspondences. The Inner Kalachakra can provide infinite perspectives as well and allows the intellect to transcend the limitations.

This is practiced with the help of an abstract Mandala, whose “essence is to get beyond the essence”. In that sense, the abstraction provides an unbound invitation to avoid the limitations of a doctrine, which can be created by a specific lineage within its time. In the exploration of the Outer Kalachakra we can see influences from other regions and spiritual practices. The Inner Kalachakra incorporates these as well but maintains its original constitution to the inside.

The commonality of the Outer and Inner Kalachakra is found in the initiation rites:

“All phenomena-causes, effects, entities,
And activities are empty of inherent existence
From the very start, like a magician’s illusions and dreams.”[2]

The generation-stage practices of corresponding enlightened phenomena to ordinary phenomena with a view to transformation indicates a system in which mind developed to its full potential takes precedence over objectively viewed “real” phenomena.[3]

The aspect of inherent existence refers to habituated perceptions of existence, that are limited by the ordinary discriminating mind. Such a mind can be tricked by mere illusions and mistake phenomena that are empty of inherent existence as the ultimate reality.

Seeing – liberated from the ordinary perceptions – means seeing Cosmos as a sacrifice and Time as the recycling (or recycler) of Karma. The Wheel of Time turns to fragment the individual and the cosmos, back to Kalachakra; back to Zurvan Akarana - to eternal time. Inside and outside within the Inner- and Outer-Kalachakra.

An exploration of time with colours and sand

The thirteenth Dalai Lama had a vision that a temple of Kalachakra should be built[4] as a yellow temple at the foot of the Dalai Lama’s winter residence. The Mandala contains the vision of an abstract temple with gates of body, speech, and mind (thee Vajras) that are guarded by protectors and deities. In the middle of the temple is the precious Ocean of all the Rigdzins (enlightened beings of the universe).
The center is the Great Bliss sub-Mandala, also called Rigdzin Gyatso (using the term Mandala in a different sense).
In several traditions, it is not an ocean, but a Great Mirror, that provides Sight beyond Time to someone who can enter (initiatory, Longsal cycle of teachings).

In the Inner Kalachakra we can find squares, that resemble labyrinths. These contain the 12 animal zodiacs again, or the elemental deities. There are also façade walls, that remind of the structure of a temple, that is envisioned as a place.

Kalachakra Mandala from the Jonang traditions, created with colored sand

From the outside to the inside the rings of the Inner Kalachakra Mandala are

  • the wisdom ring
  • space ring and
  • the elementary rings (earth, water, fire, air).

Some versions show other wheels in these rings, which can depict cemeteries. Other versions may show golden flames around the space ring, that protect against ignorance.

As above – so below: self-realizing within and without

The Wheel of Time, the great spiral of the cosmos since the Big Bang, is turning ceaselessly. Inside and outside. A key to this Tibetan Tantra lies in the alchemic principle known as “ as it is above, so it is below ”. The Tibetan culture exercised this non-dualistically; without limitations.

There is no direct distinction between the spiritual Astronomy, Healing Arts and Yoga in the vast teachings. Time moves – as above in the cosmos, so below in the body. The Wheel turns. It is ultimately the same for everyone and everything: continuously.

Based on the thought of a continuum, Kalachakra does not define enlightenment as unattainable per se. Associated initiatory practices are created to teach the awareness, often by inviting deities to permeate the mind in order to overcome the habituated conditions continuously. Such deities can be the highest bliss deities (Kalachakra and Vishvamata), which are associated with the center of the Mandala. They can have many forms and appearances, that require different initiatory practices.

The Devas take flight in all the Fires
The power of all fires in the earthly terrain is bequeathed to me
And all that comes to rule you is mine by design
I am Kali, I am Durga, the Herukas before the Throne
I am the dancing Fire, born to consume all you have known.[5]

An important aspect of the practice is Candali Yoga, which is sometimes misunderstood as a sports practice to cultivate Inner Heat (Tummo) against the cold.

“Practitioners at all levels of recollection practice rely on the caṇḍālī fire as well as on wisdom and activity mudrā consorts to induce great bliss, which is then applied to emptiness.”[6]

The original Yantra of the Kālacakra tantra tradition was also subsequently expanded by teachers of this tantric cycle such as Putön (1290-1364) and Tāranātha (1575-1634). In more recent times, especially as a result of the work of Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche (1813-1899), the Yantra of Kālacakra called Jordrug18 has spread considerably. In other Tibetan schools various types of Yantras are also found. The Kagyüpa School primarily uses the practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa as taught in the Cakrasamvara tradition. In the Nyingmapa School, one of the Yantra systems that has spread in recent times is linked to the Longchen Nyingthig cycle of Jigmed Lingpa (1730-1798). As all of these tantric cycles had been kept secret from noninitiates, the Yantras connected with them, intended primarily for the development of the practice of Tummo related to the completion stage or Dzogrim, were also kept secret.[7]

In the context of this Wiki’s approach towards Kundalini Vidya Kalachakra may be understood as multiple traditions.

The consorts are not limited to the bliss deities. With the Mandala and related practices, familiarity can be gained of various deities, such as the Tathagatas (couples that can act as intermediates) or the 360 Yogins which have specific days of the year[8]. The exact details are cultivated by scholars, referencing the lunar calendars and mansions and the conjunctions with Vedic and Tibetan astrology as a homonymous system.

Candali and Kundalini – the Inner Kalachakra

CCandali Yoga practices may not entirely unrelated to Kula Kundalini Vidya.

Contemporarily in the West Kundalini is also taught to beginners based on Sir John Woodroffe’s translations from 1918 (Serpent Power). This gave rise to a Western system based on Purnananda’s Tattva-cintamani (16th century).

Candali Yoga are reserved for initiates at a later level. Therefore the granularity by which a “Chakra” (wheel) is being referenced differs.
To varying degrees, a student of Kundalini is introduced to a finer perception of the energies. Candali Yoga practice can place the emphasis upon the energy winds rather than on the Chakras as centers.
The canalization is attempted via the breath (pranayama) and Kriyas, that require a sensitive application. One goal of the application of the Candali Yoga is to be able to dissolve a deity aspect into a thig le (luminous sphere) to receive the empowering permeance; or habitual imprint. This can be cultivated with Mudras or other forms of attitudinal posture. – These practices are oral instructions only and associated here for the sake of clarity (and without any details).

Kundalini and Candali applications emphasize the continuous awareness of breath to gain more awareness over body, speech and mind.
One key difference is how one works with the Navel-Chakra (Svadhishthana). Within Tsonghapa’s comments on the Inner Fire[9] and Kalachakra he points out that in an awake state Svadhishthana and Ajna are connected. And in a dream state the Muladhara and the Vishuddi Chakra. Candali starts at the Navel Chakra.

Name Wheel-layer Candali-Mantra
Brow-Chakra Wheel of Wind “Ham”
Crown Chakra Wheel of Great Bliss “Am”
Throat Charka Wheel of Enjoyment “Om”, red
Heart Chakra Wheel of Phenomena “Hum”, blue
Navel Chakra Wheel of Emanation “A” thung, red
Sexual Chakra Wheel of Guarding the Bliss -

The Wheels are turned by the energy winds, that work in the order of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. They pulsate through this wind system of channels like “mounts of consciousnesses” and enable mental and physical processes.

It’s important to note that Kalachakra initiations are common, but they have different stages. One later stage of initiation may focus upon the insertion of the risen energy winds, into the heart of the deity Kalachakra and through the Vajra jewel into the womb of the consort. In that sense, the Yoga has got a divine sexual dimension. However, on that level, there is no ordinary gross-body dimension because the consciousness is in an elevated state[10].

Often beginners wonder what parts of the abstract Mandala have a direct connection with Candali. One connection is found in the center, where this divine union is placed (often symbolized by the disks[11], which typically represent the planes). One goal is to archive a state of consciousness that is permeated by a directed union of wisdom and method. The primordial (Kundalini) energies are a connection and a “transferal route” is used with the specific visualizations: with the right moments in time and the right timing in the application of practices of body, speech, and mind.

Winds of Inner Time

In Kalachakra, there are 10 main energy winds, which are related to the elements and directions:

Wind Name Direction Element
vitalizing / life sustaining above navel space
downward voiding below navel bliss
fire-accompanying /
equally abiding E wind
upward moving S fire
pervasive N water
serpent / naga W earth
turtle SE wind
chameleon NE fire
devadatta ; gods gift NE water
dhamnajaya ; wealth victor NW earth

In different Tantra teachings, there are many Chakra models of five, six or seven or 18 chakras that serve the goal of the visualization (of the energy winds) to gain the necessary concentration.

The Winds circulate the elements so that each Chakra-centre has a different color-hue and perplexity. Contrary to some Kundalini Tantra scriptures Candali defines the centers by the hue saturation within the visualization.
Western Kundalini approaches can have a static way of localizing the Chakras, which is not compatible with the application of Candali (not in all cases at least).

A more detailed discussion about the Yogas can be sought after within the practicing community.

For wisdom and the method - the tale of the Swan and the Peacock

While the highest realization of Kalachakra practice (the union of Kalachakra and Vishvamata) is a goal, it is aspirational. Both deities have a fundamental dimension, which is wisdom (Kalachakra) and method (Vishvamata).


As for the fundamental nature of these channels at the genital chakra the channels are like a tree whose branches extend (upwards). At the navel chakra they are like ropes being pulled horizontally. At the heart chakra they are like a ball of yarn. At the throat Chakra they are like a coiled snake. At the head chakra they resemble an inverted umbrella[12]

What is wisdom, and what is method? - Sometimes this is a source of great debate. There is no easy way to comprehend the differences from a mundane perspective.

Human life is short,
Objects of knowledge are many.
Be like a swan,
Which can separate milk from water. (Atisha)

A swan[13] will drink milk and spit out water. This is wisdom. A peacock will devour Wolfsbane and transmute it into the iridescent blue of the feathers. This is method. A union of wisdom and method is said to be a Great Bliss (maha-sukha).

Kalachakra Tantra aims to unite wisdom and method. The deity Kalachakra (male or female) symbolizes method, bodhicitta, bliss, and the consort Vishvamata represents the wisdom of emptiness, ultimate truth. They embrace each other to show the ultimate combination of method and wisdom, or Great Bliss and emptiness.
Vishvamata also symbolizes the wrathful aspect of Kalachakra. They do not overcome each other, they do not possess each other, and that defines the equilibrium said to be a great perfection of the personal self, that is ready to transcend. In that sense, this Great Perfection (Dzogchen) is one act of rebellion against Samsara.

Many practices can be understood under the umbrella of Kalachakra and within the self-realizing current of Time, which is able to transcend obstacles on the path.

In oral traditions of Buddhism, the Lamp is a reference to a field, that is concentrated so that it can be “lightened” to shine. The various channels and energies are nourishing the light of the lamp on the Path:

They [the channels] project to the gateways through which consciousness perceives forms: “From the cavity of that channel, awareness’ own light shines forth, appearing like the concentric spots of the peacock. Based on this, the gateway for seeing of awareness is opened.[14]

Many Yoga practitioners describe a concentric (nirvanic) stare, that is perceived as a vision during Candali (or Kundalini) meditations. The vision can also resemble a peacock’s feather.

In the symbolic initiations of Kalachakra, a crystal rock and a peacock feather can be used. The crystal rock symbolizes purity from the beginning – emptiness. The peacock feather symbolizes (infinite) primordial potentiality.
It is also described as a thig le vision of five colors. One connection can be made between the symbolic dimension, the rite, and the astrology via the Kalachakra calendar. In April it has Kaumari as the deity, which rides a peacock.

Many more of such multi-dimensional connections occur during the practices, characteristically within unifying dimensions of wisdom and method that incorporate cultural similarities and meditation experiences. In this way, it’s a self-realizing current, that finds its inner expression as well.

The Great Bliss and the drops of Amritha – an Endless Light of Amitabha and Mitra

Referencing the Wiki paragraph “Iranian and Babylonian influences” it’s possible to argument for an etymological relationship between Shenrab (as a Bon influence) and Mithra (as a Zoroastrian influence) with the translation “crown of the head”.

Furthermore, in the ritualistic context of the Inner Kalachakra practices, the argument of proto-Iranian influences can be strengthened with Amitabha’s[15] role[16]: as Buddha Amitabha he prevents the Kundalini energies from escaping the tip of the head (Crown Chakra) prematurely during a Phowa meditation. He is visualized holding a vase into which the thig le of the unified Bliss Deities is dropped. This is Amritha:

Enclosing it [Amrita] in the vase of his […] throat, he arranged it on the faculty of his tongue […]. He proclaimed these [topics] in words that illuminated the adamantine lamps[17]

The Candali (“gnostic fire”, referencing “Winds of Inner Time”) will saturate the hue of the “Continuum Body”; or turn the wheels (Chakras).
With profound methods of Yoga this can release a thing le , that drips down the Central Channel (Sushmuna). With the application of visualization techniques Amrita (or amṛtavarta in the scriptures) can be cultivated.

Kalagni and Rahu – dragons and moon nodes

Samudra manthan is a Vedic epic from the Puranas that contains tales about a battle between Devas and Asuras about Amrita. Neither group wanted to share the precious nectar of immortality with the other.

During the battle, Garuda[18] (a hawk-like Deva) grabbed it and flew away. And the Asuras lost. But there was one trickster Asura named Rahu(ketu) who stole some Amrita from the Devas. When this was discovered the Sun deity Chandra cut it in two. Later these two parts became Rahu and Ketu (which is a comet in the spiritual astronomy of Kalachakra).

In some traditions of Kalachakra Rahu is the head of one dragon causing lunar eclipses, and Kalagni the tail which causes solar eclipses. In Western astronomy, Rahu and Kalagni are the north and south nodes of the moon.

From a certain perspective, Rahu still opposes Chandra. The Inner Kalachakra connects this to the body as well: from above the navel the three channels start:

  • “The “Sun channel” - Pingala / Rasana / path of the sun: terms used to denote the right channel.
  • The “Moon channel”, Ida / Igasa / Lalana / path of the moon: names given to the left channel.
  • The “Rahu channel”, Sushumma / supreme channel, and so forth are names of the central channel.
  • The left and right channels below the navel are known as the excrement and urine channels.
  • The central channel below the navel is known as Sankhini or Kalagni channel. It is associated with the practice of Khechari Mudra, which is supposed to aid the consumption of Amrita from the throat. The tongue is associated with Venus.

The Kalachakra yogic practice is like a form of inner sacrifice, in which regenerative fluids (“soma”) are an inner offering to the deities, that also reside within one’s body. These deities are found within the abstract Mandala, the energy bodies and the channels.

The reason why Kalachakra also is an initiatory teaching is found within an advanced transpersonal perspective on the cosmos:

The cosmos in a universal sacrifice in which the negative karma of all sentient beings inhabiting the universe is offered to the purifying Kalagni; the fire that incinerates the universe at the end of time ”. “ These sacrifices lead the fragmentation of the individual and universe, respectively back to Kalachakra.[19]

Summary - Base, Path, Fruit

The two parts of the essay provide an initial set of ideas to motivate an outer and inner dialogue that can be of help to explore profound methods of any spiritual path.

For us today it’s important to realize that we can reach teachers from all over the world. – That we can easily get access to books, scriptures, writings and even records of instructions that in other times people in the West here had no chance to obtain.

But merely collecting these instructions can cause obstacles on the path, if we don’t find a way to open the way for a fruitful practice. Such a way may need a Base, that is as pluralistic as Kalachakra, and provide space for an inner evolution as well. Commonly the saying “practice makes perfect” is true, if we find a correct way (Vision in Tantra) to practice, that remains as undisturbed as the Kalachakra practices.

Kalachakra itself is not one doctrine, and it’s non-sectarian by nature. Researching the proto-Iranian, Zurvanist, Bön or Buddhist connections can help us to reflect the essence and to renew perspectives.

The Yogic teachings, given that Kalachakra belongs to the highest level of the Tantras, cannot easily be compared. To the inside, they are unique, profound and can lead to realizations of enlightened states. To the outside, they appear to have historical, scholarly and astronomical connections, that few other cultures are able able to provide in our time.

With the expanding openness and growing interest on these topics, it’s important to mind the foundations of the Path and to avoid disturbing the practices that are held sacred (and sometimes secret) for good reasons.

  1. Specific section of Werner Herzog’s Wheel of Time – 2003 – ritualistic practice at a river ↩︎

  2. The Kalachakra Tantra – Rite of Initiation for the Generation Stage – Tenzin Gyatso, translated by Jeffrey Hopkins – 1985 ↩︎

  3. Gyatso, Khedrup Norsang. Ornament of Stainless Light: An Exposition of the Kalachakra Tantra (Library of Tibetan Classics Book 14) (p. 6). Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition. ↩︎

  4. Trungpa, Chogyam. Crazy Wisdom (Dharma Ocean). Shambhala. Kindle Edition. ↩︎

  5. Treatise on Mind – The constitution of Shambhala, Volume 7 ↩︎

  6. Gyatso, Khedrup Norsang. Ornament of Stainless Light: An Exposition of the Kalachakra Tantra ↩︎

  7. Norbu, Chogyal Namkhai. Yantra Yoga (Kindle Locations 327-332). Shambhala. Kindle Edition. ↩︎

  8. The Kālacakra Calendar (website) ↩︎

  9. Thubten Yeshe – “Inneres Feuer” – 1999 German edition ↩︎

  10. A description of the Phowa Yoga is omitted here but can be referenced by translations of Glenn H. Mullin (The practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa). Thogal may also be relevant. ↩︎

  11. The disks belong to mediation practices, have different colors (hues) and are shown in the 10-Fold Powerful One ↩︎

  12. Secret Map of the Body, Gyalwa Yangönpa ↩︎

  13. Gayatri ↩︎

  14. Lamp Illuminating Emptyness – Yumo Mikyo ↩︎

  15. One meaning of Amitabha is “Endless Light”. An idiomatically similar name is given to “Anagran” (the Avestian Anaghra Raocha). The Avestan word for Amritha is Amertat. ↩︎

  16. Zen Buddhism and Persian culture – Tojo Masato - 2010 ↩︎

  17. Christopher Hatchell, Naked Seeing, The Great Perfection, the Wheel of Time, and Visionary Buddhism in Renaissance ↩︎

  18. Garuda and the concept of thig le share connections (Ref: “The Flight of Garuda”) ↩︎

  19. Vesna Wallace, The Inner Kalachakra, A Buddhist Tantric View on the Individual – 2001, p. 211 ↩︎