Sunday, February 06, 2005

Kalacakra II

So when Buddhism spread into Southeast Asia it absorbed previous layers of Hinduism, mostly Siva worship mixed with local beliefs centered around sun and goddess worship particularly.

These syncretic Siva-Buddhist elements from Southeast Asia together with those from Mahacina or East Asia helped in formulating the Tantric doctrine known as Vajrayana. From the Vajrayana milieu we see the first evidence of the Kalacakra springing up associated with insular Southeast Asia.

Using the traditions and the process of elimination, it's fairly easy to deduce where the semi-legendary land of Shambhala was located. It was from there that the Kalacakra came into India at about 966 AD, and thus we have only to locate those areas where this doctrine existed before that time. In fact, the only evidence would point toward Southeast Asia. While the Kalacakra later became established in Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan, Nepal and Burma, all this was after the introduction into India.

Again, there is even the tradition of the Shambhala king Sripala from the "Southern Ocean" bringing the Kalacakra practice to India. All the traditions agree that it was first carried to the coastal eastern states of Orissa and Bengal which had documented close relations with Suvarnadvipa at the time including religious exchanges.

The Kalacakra was preserved to the present day mainly by peoples of Tibetan, Mongolian and Nepalese origin. It is from their texts that we have rather abundant information on the kingdom of Shambhala. The Kalacakratantra and its commentaries are among the most important of these texts.

They relate that the Kalacakra was taught by the Buddha himself to the first king of Shambhala named Sucandra. This early dynasty of Shambhala kings were known as Dharmarajas and were said to have been of the same Sakya clan as the Buddha. This may be a legendary device to trace back the lineage to the founder of Buddhism.

Possibly the more historical dynasty linked with the Kalacakra arises 600 years after the death of the Buddha and is known as the Kulika or Rigden dynasty. The names "Kulika" and "Rigden" identify the king as the holder of the clan or lineage.

This lineage was founded by the king Ma├▒jushrikiirti who was said to have folded the four Hindu castes into a single clan (kula) and to have abolished related dining and marriage discrimination.

Interestingly this anti-caste attitude also appears in Hindu literature related to the priests of Sakadvipa.

The traditions vary as to whom was the Shambhala king when the Kalacakra was brought to India. The Dro tradition says it was the 18th Rigden Sripala (Senge) while the competing claim is that this happened during the reign of the 12th Rigden Surya (Nyima). The texts also prophesy the names of future kings of Shambhala indicating that these names were more descriptive or titulary than anything else. According to the Dro tradition we are currently in the reign of Rigden Raudracakrin (Drakpo) while in the competing view the current king is Rigden Aniruddha (Magakpa).

The Kalacakra texts have much to say about the invasions of "barbarians" known collectively as the Lalo. These texts show considerable knowledge of the expansionist wars of Muslims and Christians. They refer particularly to aberrant forms of astrology used by the Lalos.

Many of these texts originate starting only in the 10th century at a time when Muslim invasions were threatening Buddhism in India. By 1194 the great university of Nalanda in eastern India had been destroyed.

The Kalacakra Tantra contains material on who to defend against enemy invaders including instructions on how to build fortresses and various types of weapons. This may relay the importance that the Shambhala kings had placed on stopping the advance of the Lalos.

We read of different types of war machines: stone-catapults, "Naga" swords, chariots, "show-houses," circle cannons, "throwers" and 12 types of "water-leading" devices.

After giving instructions on how to build one type of catapult, the following instructions are given:

Having strong human power those who pull it, pull the ropes and, as it shoots, suddenly they will go quickly into space, and having gone they will accurately and suddenly fall on houses, roads etc., and having struck all those things the rocks ill go below the ground, like a suddenly descending thunderbolt.

One defensive weapon consisted of a wind or water-driven wheel of hooked swords:

"...placed on the lower wheel spokes are sharp swords are put which whirl swiftly. They will cut the bodies of enemies. That machine by which it is made so that the machine's lower wheel's base turns by means of water or wind."

After describing a windmill type of device to protect fortresses, an armored machine to destroy stone walls, and a defensive system of ground-mounted crossbows with iron-piercing arrows, the text tells of a hydraulic device apparently meant to provide water for gardens during times of siege.

The detailed instructions on military weapons in the prime Kalacakra text gives us some idea of the political situation that existed at this time.

Paul Kekai Manansala


Mipham, Mi-pham on the K─ülacakra tantra : a reproduction of the two volumes from the collected works of Jam-mgon Ju Mi-pham-rgya-mtsho dealing with the cycle of the Wheel of Time. Publisher Gangtok : Sonam Topgay Kazi, 1971-1972.

Newman, John Ronald, Jackson, Roder; and Sopa, Lhundup, The Wheel of Time: The Kalacakra in Context, Madison 1985.