Advice for Practicing the Kalachakra Path

The Kalachakra Path is the most extensive and comprehensive system for achieving direct and clear realisations of increasingly profound wisdom. Through these unique characteristics we are able to penetrate deeply through the layers of our obscurations and gradually reveal the non-dual nature of our most sacred truth. To help us get the most out of our spiritual practice, Khentrul Rinpoché has put together a number of guidelines for his students to follow when engaging with this extraordinary path.

In general, in order to prepare yourself for the higher practices, the emphasis must be placed on integrating the teachings into your mind in everyday life as much as possible. How successful we are in this process will depend on the approach that we take. This is not a question of how much practice we do, but instead how deeply the teachings pervade our attitude and behaviour. Always remember—quality over quantity. Since we all have different karmic conditions, different approaches will be effective for each of us:

  1. A superior practitioner will be dedicated to intensive formal meditation practice and study allowing her to experience every part of the traditional commentaries. Through her study, she will develop a detailed understanding of the teachings and will therefore learn how to apply the wisdom of the lineage into every part of her life in order to achieve significant personal transformation.
  2. An excellent practitioner will tend to focus more on informal practice with an emphasis on how to apply the teachings into daily life. Such a practitioner will make effort to read all of Khentrul Rinpoché’s books and will work to attain a very solid understanding of the meaning of the teachings and the essential purpose behind them. This knowledge will allow them to skilfully adapt their practice to whatever situation they find themselves.
  3. A good practitioner may not have much understanding of the teachings, but will have great faith in the Kalachakra Path. She will follow the traditional instructions for accumulating the preliminaries by completing various sets of 100,000 repetitions. Through great effort and determination, she will create oceans of merit that will allow her to achieve realisations in gradual manner.
  4. A basic practitioner will not necessarily understand what he is doing, but will make the effort to at least study what he is given and occasionally try the various practices. While this approach will not lead to much transformation, it will create the karmic connections for the practitioner to reconnect with the lineage in the future.

No matter which approach you take right now, remember that conditions can always change. While you may not be able to always practice perfectly, if you focus your efforts, you can definitely create the conditions for improving your practice.

The most important aspect of any action is the intention that motivates it; therefore, when considering the type of attitude that we should cultivate, we need to recognise that different attitudes will produce different results. How fast we progress along the path and how far we are able to go will all depend on the attitude we adopt. When it comes to practicing this path, we are seeking to establish an unwavering faith in the Kalachakra teachings, the lineage that upholds those teachings and the Guru who transmits those teachings to us in this life. The less doubt we have regarding these three, the more conviction we will generate and therefore, the more impact the teachings will have on our mind. On this basis we can speak of five attitudes that are conducive to developing realisations on the Kalachakra Path:

  1. A superior attitude is to have a completely natural, unshakeable conviction to achieve Buddhahood within this life or the next. On the basis of this mind, you have no doubt that the Kalachakra Tantra is the most authentic, direct and complete path to achieve that goal and therefore you have no problem to make practicing Kalachakra the main priority in your life. In addition to the enormous respect and devotion you have towards these teachings, you should have no doubt that Khentrul Rinpoche is the most effective Kalachakra teacher for you and therefore you hold him as your root teacher, dedicating yourself completely to following the advice that he gives you. If you have this attitude, you should dedicate at least 200 hours of formal study and meditation to the Kalachakra common and uncommon preliminaries before moving on to the next level of practice.
  2. An excellent attitude is to have unwavering faith in the Jonang Lineage and no doubt in the qualities of Khentrul Rinpoche as your spiritual master. This attitude is built on a very stable naturally arising intuition that assures you of the authenticity of this path. While you may not feel you have the conditions to accomplish your goal in this life, you are willing to dedicate yourself as much as possible to practicing to the best of your abilities and in accordance with the lineage. This attitude is very similar to the superior attitude with the only difference being you have some doubt in your own capacity to achieve the result. If you naturally have this attitude, then you should dedicate at least 300 hours to the preliminaries.
  3. A very good attitude is to have no doubt in the Kalachakra Path and a naturally arising faith in the authenticity of Khentrul Rinpoche as a Kalachakra master. While you may have some doubt regarding whether he is the most effective teacher for your mind, you have an enormous respect for the fact that he is dedicating his life to organising and communicating the Kalachakra Teachings so that practitioners from all over the world can make strong connections to the wisdom of Shambhala. You recognise the importance of this work and you naturally develop a strong determination to not only practice his teachings but to help him in realising his goals. On the basis of such an attitude, you should spend at least 400 hours on the preliminary practices.
  4. A good attitude is to have strong faith in the Vajrayana Path as presented by the various traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and demonstrated by having practiced the common preliminaries in accordance with one of those traditions. While you may now feel a particular affinity towards Kalachakra, you still see all systems as pretty much the same and do not hold Kalachakra to be the best for you. With such an attitude, you will need to work with the preliminaries in order to increase your faith in the Kalachakra teachings, its lineage and Khentrul Rinpoche as your teacher. However, the time you will need to spend on doing this will change depending on how much work you have previously done. If you have already completed a full sequence of preliminaries in another system, then 400 hours should be sufficient to establish this connection in your mindstream. Otherwise, you may need to dedicate anywhere from 500 – 800 hours.
  5. A basic attitude is to have a general faith in Buddhism and a desire to familiarise yourself with the foundational teachings, thereby establishing the necessary understanding and confidence to adopt one of the higher attitudes described above. This transformation will usually occur over the course of approximately 800 or more hours of study and practice. During this time, the focus should be on strengthening your faith in the Kalachakra Path and understanding its approach as best you can.

Again, there is no single way to do things. It is not a black and white situation in which you must do the best or nothing at all. Instead, we must be realistic and try our best with the conditions that we have, while always aspiring to improve our attitude as much as possible. The higher we can make our attitude, the more benefit we will be able to draw from these teachings and the less time that we will need to spend preparing ourselves for the higher practices.

In order to authentically engage in the higher practices of Kalachakra Tantra, it is very important to receive the necessary empowerments that create the conditions needed to achieve realisations on this path. There are essentially two sets of empowerments that should be received at different moments on your spiritual journey:

  1. The Seven Empowerments of a Growing Child: These empowerments are primarily designed to introduce you to the Enlightened Mandala of Kalachakra and bestow permission to practice the skilful methods of the Kalachakra Generation Stage. There are two types of people who should receive these empowerments whenever they get the chance. Firstly, if you have a sincere desire to connect with your ultimate truth and wish to create the karmic causes to do so, then you should definitely seek out and receive these empowerments. Even if you are not ready to actually practice Kalachakra Tantra, you will be creating powerful propensities in your mind to do so in the future. Secondly, if you have been practicing the common preliminaries and you now wish to practice the uncommon preliminaries of the Kalachakra Generation Stage, you definitely must receive these empowerments before doing so. Without the foundation of the Tantric Vows given during this ceremony, progress along the tantric path is impossible.
  2. The Four Higher Empowerments: These empowerments provide the essential pointing-out instructions for entering into the Kalachakra Completion Stage. They are traditionally given to students prior to receiving the meditation instructions for the practice known as The Three Isolations. This is the final preliminary practice before engaging in the Six Vajra Yogas. In order to be qualified to receive these empowerments, you must have established one of the first four attitudes described above: (1) a deep conviction that strives to practice Kalachakra to achieve Buddhahood in this life or the next with Khentrul Rinpoche as your Root Guru; (2) an unwavering faith in the Jonang Lineage and Khentrul Rinpoche as your teacher; (3) a strong faith in the Kalachakra Path and deep respect for Rinpoche as a lineage holder; or (4) a strong desire to practice Kalachakra as your primary path after previously engaging in at least 400-800 hours of preliminary study and practice.
The extremely profound pith instructions of the Six Vajra Yogas are only given to practitioners who have demonstrated a strong and unwavering commitment to developing realisations through the Kalachakra Path. Again, it is not a black and white situation here, but more a question of how much benefit the practitioner will receive from the instructions. If they have not prepared themselves sufficiently through the common and uncommon preliminaries, then the benefit will be significantly reduced and the progress will be limited. Khentrul Rinpoche therefore reserves the teachings of the Six Yogas for those who accomplish one of the following conditions:

  1. A superior accomplishment is to have directly experienced all ten empty-form signs as a result of practicing the Three Isolations. This realisation generates an enormous confidence in your mind and an unshakeable devotion towards Kalachakra as  inseparable from the Guru.
  2. An excellent accomplishment is to have achieved the single-pointed concentration of Shamatha, while not necessarily having experienced empty-forms. This achievement may arise as a result of Deity Yoga or the Three Isolations. Again, this realisation should not give rise to a sense of pride or self-cherishing, but instead to an incredible degree of love and devotion towards the ultimate truth of Guru Kalachakra.
  3. A good accomplishment is due to at least 400 hours of meditation on the Three Isolations, to give rise to an unwavering faith with no doubt that your Kalachakra Master, Khentrul Rinpoche is inseparable from Kalachakra, your Root Guru. When this devotion arises naturally, you should feel that this is the only path that you need and are able to make its practice the number one priority in your life.
  4. A basic accomplishment is to have developed a strong stability of mind through engaging in approximately 800 hours of meditation on the Three Isolations. While this will not guarantee you to achieve subsequent realisations, it will at least provide you with the mental concentration needed to perform the initial yogic practices and then on that basis you can actualise the above accomplishments.

The instructions for the Six Vajra Yogas are delivered in a gradual manner based on the experiential development of the student. The student starts with the first yoga and is only given the second yoga once the master is satisfied that they have established at least the minimum requirements for the next phase. In this way, the student progresses towards the sixth yoga. Once all of the instructions for the six yogas have been received, then the student must focus on refining their experience and mastering each phase in turn. This is traditionally done through an extensive solitary retreat.

The first step along any path is to determine where you are on that path and where you want to go. To do this, you can reflect on the above approaches and attitudes and determine which are most suitable for you. Then you can begin to develop familiarity with the path by reading Khentrul Rinpoche’s book Unveiling Your Sacred Truth through the Kalachakra Path. Ideally you should read all three volumes at least once to establish a complete picture of the key concepts and practices that you will be using. For those who already have a strong foundation in Buddhist philosophy and practice, focusing on the second and third volumes is sufficient.

In the beginning, it is generally better to orient yourself to the path by emphasising study over meditative practice. Once you have some clarity regarding what you need to do and why you are doing it, then you can slowly transition towards an emphasis on practice. That being said, it is always important to maintain a balance between the two. So even if you spend most of your time studying and reflecting, you should still use meditation to sharpen your mind and develop greater mental stability. Likewise, if you spend most of your time in formal meditation, you should still make effort to acquire new information to enrich your practice and help you penetrate to deeper insights.

Khentrul Rinpoche has made enormous effort to gather all of the teachings into one place and provide you with a clear and structured path for working through the material. By following the guidance presented in the Sacred Truth series, you have everything you need to achieve enlightenment in a single lifetime if you so choose. In addition to this core text, Rinpoche has also written various supplementary texts to help you expand on key concepts and facilitate your practice.

While you work through the teachings in Sacred Truth, you can stay informed about Khentrul Rinpoche’s scheduled activities by referring to this website or to his Facebook page. In particular, pay attention to any opportunities that arise for receiving the Kalachakra empowerments. Even if you have taken them before with Rinpoche or with another teacher, it is always worth taking advantage of these events as they allow you to renew your vows and to strengthen your connection with the teachings. These events are also wonderful opportunities to ask questions and to clarify your understanding from a truly qualified and authentic lineage master.

If no events are scheduled in your region, then you should take the initiative to organise teaching events for Rinpoche. By contacting us through this website, you can request for Rinpoche to give teachings or empowerments in your city or town. By attending these teachings, you can meet other people who are interested in practicing Kalachakra and together you can form a practice group. In this way, a community is developed, providing you with the spiritual support you need to progress along the path.