Thursday, February 03, 2005

The development of Kalacakra

In eastern Asia and various parts of India, particularly in the East and the South, Buddhism and Hinduism began to fuse through the vehicle of Tantra. The texts make clear that the flow of culture was in both directions.

From Tibet, Burma and China, probably known collectively as Mahacina we hear of substantial Tantric influence. The yab-yum philosophy of the Tibetan Bon religion and the related yin-yang doctrine of Taoism are quite evident in Tantric literature including the Mahacinatantra.

The goddess Tara, who was of utmost importance in both Buddhist and Hindu tantrism, shared many similarities to eastern Asian sea goddesses. She was herself the patron deity of seafarers in Tantric tradition.

In Southeast Asia, we see the rise of important Buddhist learning centers. When I Ching visited Foshi in the seventh century, he stated that "the level of the sciences has reached such a state, that one can say all the knowledge of the world flows from this island."

The great Tantric Buddhist teacher Atisha traveled to insular Southeast Asia to study under the master guru Suvarnadvipi.

Tantric forms of Buddhism like Vajrayana and Kalacakra became strongly identified with this region known as Suvarnadvipa "the Golden Isles." This region was part of what what we have described before as Sakadvipa "the Isles of the Saka (Teak) Tree."

These islands form part of the eastern quarter of the world known as Bhadrasva in the Puranic literature. The Sita River was the great river of Bhadrasva and was said also to be one of the rivers of Sakadvipa. The kingdom of Shambhala was said to lie on the north side of this river.

The region was famed as fragrant with the scent of cloves and rich in gold and other precious metals. The The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea a first century Greek work on Indian Ocean trade mentions the commerce between the markets at the mouth of the Ganges and Chryse "the Gold Isle" the very farthest land to the East.

Among the products from Chryse was said to be the finest tortoise shell in all the Indian Ocean trade. Reports of near-by gold mines are also mentioned. The Chryse merchants apparently used "very large" ships known in the text as colandia.

The Tantric doctrine of Kalacakra will play an important role in the history of this area beginning in about the 8th or 9th century. The Kalacakra like all Tantras has strong dualistic elements combined with the predominant doctrine of cyclic time. The supreme Kalacakra Deity is, in fact, a sort of personification of time, particularly time as a destroying and hence rejuvenating factor.

In the Kalacakra doctrine we see a very strong emphasis on messianism and end-times prophecy linked specifically with the kingdom of Shambhala. This was at a time when the Dragon and Bird Clan was maybe at its highest height but also preparing to face its greatest challenge.

A Tibetan representation of the kingdom of Shambhala

Paul Kekai Manansala