The 33. Kalachakra Empowerment in Ladakh, North India with His Holiness the 14. Dalai Lama.
Some of you knew, some of you might have guessed it: I went to the Kalachakra Initiation in Leh. Short notice my husband booked our flights (Delhi – Leh) and off we went. What can I say? It was awesome. And No, I did not convert to Buddhism. I simply followed my heart’s impulse and soul’s thirst to experience this empowerment. As far as I’m concerned, the religious denomination is just the packaging. I’m interested in what’s inside the wrapping, the actual forces at work, which are universal and cosmic.
After days of ritual preparations, offerings, purifications and teachings by the Dalai Lama, the actual initiation took place on the 12. and 13. July 2014. Location: Leh in Ladakh, Northern India on 3400m above sea level. Somewhere I read that there are two ways of attending an initiation, either as an active participant or as an interested observer and there is a great opportunity for both to gain much from the experience. I’d probably see ourselves somewhere in between.
Some background information: Kalachakra is a meditation system from the highest level of Buddhist Tantra, Anuttarayoga, and the initiation is an empowerment which confers the power and ability to engage in certain meditative practices for achieving enlightenment (and thus “becoming a Buddha”) in order to benefit others as fully as possible.
Kalachakra tantra is one of the most detailed and encompassing systems of theory and practice within Tibetan Buddhism and the empowerment plants the seeds enabling to reach enlightenment and helps to purify some of the grosser internal obstacles that would prevent its attainment. Buddhism holds that the universe is infinite, everything is caused by karma and that this influences our perception of the world, both individually and collectively. His Holiness remarked Christians and others take refuge in their God, non-theists such as Buddhists trust in causality. They seek higher rebirth and ultimately enlightenment. Even in this life there is an effort to make life meaningful. Buddhists are taught how to reach the highest liberation of the state of omniscience. (…)
The Kalachakra Tantra describes how every part of our universe and every part of ourselves, from the tiniest cell in our bodies to the farthest reaches of the universe, is interconnected and is symbolised by some aspect of the Kalachakra mandala, which represents the profound relationship between the human body – inner Kalachakra – and the universe – outer Kalachakra. (Extract from Unveiling Your Sacred Truth through the Buddhist Kalachakra Path by Shar Khentrul Rinpoche). The Kalachakra symbol:
Attending the event was unique and “seriously intense” – already the outer circumstances: amount of people (more than 150.000, with ca. 6000 foreigners), the heat, the dust, the drive to the actual Kalachakra ground outside the city… And in terms of energies, it was powerful, yet peaceful. I melted into the mantras and rituals, although overall there was a lot of talking and explaining involved, which made it challenging to maintain a meditative mode.
The initiation started with purification rituals of body, mind and speech. His Holiness said: “Now, we’ll begin the empowerment. I won’t be able to explain everything verse by verse and when we come to the empowerments we’ll go like a rocket.”
During the initation process, we were introduced to the 11 different stages or „grounds“ involved – 7 according to the „pattern of childhood“ and 4 higher empowerments. (You might check the explanation of the 11 Kalachakra initiations in Introduction to the Kalachakra on dalailama.com)
The Dalai Lama explained Mahamudra, the empty body, which was achieved on the 10th ground. Arising into the Mahamudra means empty form, which means empty of matter (every matter is a stage and Maya), where we bring down the vital forces into the cleared body and emit it out, radiating forth, like a flute bringing the universal aspect down.
Then we moved on to the final level. In conclusion he stated: “We have completed the eleven empowerments of Kalachakra and it’s just 3pm, which is not bad! (…) The main focus of tantric practice is the completion stage, but what we really have to concentrate on is the developing the awakening mind of bodhichitta and our understanding of emptiness. To realise the higher stages, we have to build a firm basis.” In other words: „One persists in the meditation until the mind spontaneously arises in the empty body form. This causes lights to emanate forth from one’s pores.“ (from The Practice of Kalachakra by Glenn H. Mullin). Or even simpler: Keep on meditating!
Although mahamudra practice may seem simple – “Just settle into the natural state of the mind” – it is, in fact, extremely difficult to do properly. If it were so simple, there would be no need for preliminary practices to weaken mental blocks and build up positive force. However, even with a minimal amount of preliminary practice, we can begin our practice on an initial level as explained, for example, in Mahamudra Eliminating the Darkness of Ignorance, by the Ninth Karmapa. (from The Gelug-Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra by Alexander Berzin)
Both days we were graced with space nearby the main stage, and we also had an easy and fast way to view the intricate Kalachakra sand mandala.
Outstanding experiences we had in one of the two Buddha rooms at the Shanti Stupa and at a couple of monasteries. Deep meditations, deep peace and stillness, space of total potentiality.
And some surprises: in the ancient chapel of Leh Palace I sat down for meditation and tears welled up. Tears of happiness as I felt as if a part of my beingness got added or repaired.
And in the old meditation hall of Hemis Monastery (unfortunately we were not allowed to photograph this room) I had a similar experience of completion with quiet tears and past life flashbacks. A part of me came home. Wonderful.
Well, and then we enjoyed the biggest chapel and palace of Ladakh: its beautiful and breathtaking nature. A region so still, stark, pristine and pure, it sometimes seemed like the end of the world (or the beginning).
Much has been written, discussed and debated about Buddhism or in fact every religion or spiritual way of life that reached larger groups of people. Having tapped into christianity (catholic and protestant streams), hinduism and buddhism, I am surely no specialist on religious formats, but I can say and recommend this: what counts is your own inner experience and that you rely on your own connection to source, god, highest consciousness or whatever you want to call it, and not on book knowledge, not other people’s experiences and stories.
As indicated at the beginning of this post I am not interested in following a particular religious tradition. I’m interested in expanding consciousness (frequencies) and draw from a variety of sources (which all have the same origin anyway) and especially from experiences generated out of my own self. Own experience is undebatable, true and lets you really evolve. And it is good to remember, that the mind will always tend to discuss or doubt a spiritual experience. So once one gains insight, it is important to acknowledge and integrate it in every aspect and day of life.
The essence I can get out of different spiritual teachings, whether the yogic, buddhist or mystic christian paths: contemplate, meditate, be willing to give up negative personality traits and strive to become a better human being. Clear and heal limiting imprints and baggage from yourself, move on and create from the purity of your heart.
But, there is no fast track or short cut, you have to gain merit (worthiness of spiritual reward acquired by righteous acts – meditation, seva etc) and walk your path yourself. Though you might search and get support on the journey…
With deep gratitude and in admiration for the Dalia Lama and his capacity as a spiritual and political leader to foster interreligious harmony and to promote values in the interest of human happiness and a balanced life on this planet, I prostrate myself before him and say:
Jullay! (the all purpose word for Hello, Goodbye and Thank you in the Ladakhi language).
Om Ham Ksha Ma La Va Ra Ya So Ha.
References: + Dalai Lama at Kalachakra event 2014 + Unveiling Your Sacred Truth through the Buddhist Kalachakra Path by Shar Khentrul Rinpoche + The Practice of Kalachakra by Glenn H. Mullin + Taking the Kalachakra Initiation by Alexander Berzin