The most important aspect of any action is the intention that motivates it, therefore when considering the type of attitude to cultivate, it is necessary to recognise that different attitudes produce different results.
The first step to setting out on any journey is to establish where you are and where you would like to go, and a spiritual journey is no exception. As we all come to the path at different stages of spiritual development, in the beginning it is important to conduct an evaluation of your present conditions. By answering the following questions, you can establish clarity regarding where to focus your time and energy.
What is your attitude towards practicing Kalachakra?
The most important aspect of any action is the intention that motivates it, therefore when considering the type of attitude to cultivate, it is necessary to recognise that different attitudes produce different results. How fast you progress along the path and how far you will go, all depends on the attitude you adopt.
When it comes to practicing the Kalachakra path, you should seek to establish an unwavering faith in the Kalachakra teachings, the lineage that upholds those teachings and the vajra master who transmits the teachings to you in this life. The less doubt you have regarding these three aspects, the more conviction you will generate and the greater the impact the teachings will have on your mind. On this basis we can speak of five attitudes conducive to the development of realizations on the Kalachakra path:
You have a general faith in innate purity of all sentient beings and a desire to familiarize yourself with a spiritual path, thereby establishing the necessary understanding and confidence to adopt one of the higher attitudes described below. This transformation will usually occur over the course of approximately 1000 or more hours of study and practice. During this time, the focus should be on strengthening your faith in the Kalachakra teachings and understanding its approach as best you can.
You have strong faith in the vajrayana path as presented by the various traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, demonstrated by your previous practice of the common preliminaries in accordance with one of these traditions. While you may currently feel a particular affinity towards Kalachakra, you view all systems as pretty much the same and do not really hold Kalachakra as the best for you. With this type of attitude, working with the preliminaries is necessary to increase your faith in the Kalachakra teachings, its lineage and a valid vajra master as your teacher. The time needed to do this will depend on how much work you have previously done. If you have already completed a full sequence of preliminaries in another system, 400 hours should be sufficient to establish this connection in your mindstream. Otherwise, you may need to dedicate anywhere from 500 – 800 hours.
You have no doubt in the vajra yoga path and a naturally arising faith in the authenticity of your vajra master. While you may still have some doubts as to whether your teacher is the most effective teacher to guide you on this path, you have enormous respect and devotion for him and you develop a strong determination to practice his teachings as well as helping him to manifest a golden age of peace and harmony in this world. On the basis of such an attitude, you will need to spend at least 400 – 600 hours on the preliminary practices.
You have unwavering faith in the Kalachakra lineage and no doubt in the qualities of your vajra master. This attitude is built on a very stable, naturally arising intuition that assures you of the authenticity of this path. Even though you may not feel you have the conditions to accomplish your goal in this life, you are willing to dedicate yourself to practice as much as possible, to the best of your abilities, in accordance with the lineage. With this attitude, you should dedicate at least 400 hours to the preliminaries.
You have a completely natural and unshakeable conviction to achieve buddhahood within this life or the next. On the basis of this, you have no doubt that the Kalachakra tantra is the most authentic, direct and complete path to achieving this goal. Consequently, you have no hesitation in making the practice of Kalachakra the main priority in your life. With incredible respect and devotion towards these teachings, you also have no doubt that your vajra master is the most effective Kalachakra teacher for you personally and therefore, holding him as your root teacher, you are completely dedicated to following his advice. Even with such a steadfast attitude, the dedication of at least 200 hours of formal study and meditation to the common and uncommon preliminaries of Kalachakra is needed in order to ripen the specific seeds necessary for the achievement of realizations on the path.
Remember that there is no single way of following the path and no situation is black and white where we must do the ultimate or nothing at all. We instead need to be realistic and try our best within the conditions we find ourselves, while always aspiring to improve our attitude as much as possible. The higher our attitude, the more benefit we can draw from these teachings, and the less time required to spend on the common and uncommon preliminaries.
What approach best suits your present lifestyle?
In order to prepare ourselves for higher practices, emphasis must be placed on attempting to integrate the teachings within our mind and into everyday life as much as possible.
How successful we are in this process depends on the approach we take. This is not a question of the amount of practice we do, but rather how deeply the teachings pervade our attitude and behaviour. Always remember—quality over quantity. Use the following list to identify a style of practice that best suits you:
Although you may not necessarily understand what you are doing, you make the effort to study what you receive and occasionally attempt the various practices. This approach will only lead to minimal transformation, but it will create the karmic connections for you to reconnect with the lineage in the future. It is suitable for householders whose primary focus is on worldly activities.
While you may have less understanding of the teachings, you have great faith in the Kalachakra path. For this reason, you engage in the gradual accumulation of preliminary practices such as prostrations and making offerings as a method to purify your mind and ripen your virtuous karma. This approach is suited for householders to whom devotion comes easily.
You tend to focus more on informal practice with an emphasis on applying the teachings into your daily life. You make it a priority to study, reflect and meditate—working hard to attain a very solid understanding of the meaning of the teachings and the essential purpose behind them. This knowledge allows you to skilfully adapt your practice to whatever situation you find yourself. This approach is suitable for those currently living in the engaged lifestyle of a householder.
You are dedicated to intensive formal meditation practice and study, allowing yourself to experience every part of the traditional commentaries. Through your study, you gain a detailed understanding of the teachings, giving you the ability to apply the wisdom of the lineage into every aspect of your life in order to achieve significant and rapid personal transformation. This approach is suitable for those capable of living a monastic or yogic lifestyle.
As we each have different karmic conditions, it is important to be honest with ourselves and select an approach that fits with our present lifestyle. Over time, as the Dharma becomes more established in our mind, we can re-evaluate our approach as our priorities shift. Avoid setting unrealistic expectations that only serve to discourage and limit the effectiveness of your practice. While our goal should be to take a superior approach, we shouldn’t feel bad if this is not the way we can presently practice. With hard work and determination, there is no reason why you cannot one day actualize your aspiration.
Where are you on the path?
Khentrul Rinpoche has undergone incredible effort to gather the teachings together into one place and to provide a clear and structured path for working through the material.
Khentrul Rinpoché has made an incredible effort to gather the teachings together into one place and to provide a clear and structured path for working through the material. By following the guidance presented in his Sacred Truth series, we have everything we need to achieve enlightenment in a single lifetime if we so choose. In addition to these core books, Rinpoché has also written various supplementary texts to expand key concepts and facilitate your practice. To gain the most benefit from this material, the following profiles can be used to identify your current stage of development and what practices you should focus on:
If you are completely new to spiritual practice or at a stage where you are unsure of which path to follow, your main focus should be on (1) stabilizing the mind through meditation practice; (2) developing renunciation towards samsara and establishing a clear determination to practice the Dharma; and (3) cultivating a Rimé Philosophy by studying a broad range of wisdom traditions.
The following books can assist you at this level:
Having investigated which spiritual path is right for you, if your choice leads you to a confidence in the Buddhist Path, your focus should shift to cultivating the virtuous qualities that will support your progress towards enlightenment. This work is primarily related to the foundational teachings as presented in the Sutras. Here, your main emphasis should be on (1) establishing a strong confidence in the outer, inner and secret forms of refuge; (2) cultivating an engaged form of bodhichitta that strives towards enlightenment; (3) familiarizing yourself with the trainings of a Bodhisattva; and (4) preparing your mind for tantric practice through purification practices and the accumulation of merit.
At this stage, these books will be most suitable for your study:
And practice using these traditional guidelines:
With a firm foundation of renunciation, bodhicitta and a clear understanding of emptiness, you will now be ready to engage with the practices of Buddhist Tantra. Entry to tantric practice is through the empowerment ceremony known as the “Seven Empowerments of a Growing Child”. If you have been practicing the common preliminaries for some time and would like to progress to the uncommon preliminaries of Kalachakra, you should seek an opportunity to receive these necessary empowerments.
Once you have done so, your energy should shift to focus on (1) cultivating a strong connection with Khentrul Rinpoché by upholding your samaya as purely as possible; (2) familiarising yourself with the Enlightened Mandala by meditating on the Kalachakra Generation Stage; and (3) cultivating the aspiration to practice the Completion Stage by familiarising yourself with the structure and purpose of the Six Vajra Yogas.
For study, emphasis should be on the following books:
- Unveiling Your Sacred Truth, Book Three: The Enlightened Reality
- Hidden Treasure of the Profound Path
And practice one of the following sadhanas:
Through the Kalachakra Generation Stage, you will purify the mind, subdue the inner winds and strengthen your capacity to achieve the realisation of your ultimate nature. However, due to the conceptual nature of that stage, eventually you will need to go beyond those methods through the practice of tantric yoga. In order to receive instructions in these profound practices, you must receive the Four Higher Empowerments. Due to the importance of a pure and unwavering connection with the Vajra Master, you should only receive these empowerments from a teacher in whose ability to guide you toward enlightenment, you have complete faith in.
At this stage, there can be no doubt regarding the Kalachakra Path as your primary path and Khentrul Rinpoché as your primary teacher. Failure to take this commitment seriously will cause major obstacles to arise in your path and will reduce Rinpoché’s capacity to help sentient beings. For this reason, practitioners must be sincere and aware of what they are doing.
At this level, your focus shifts to following the pith instructions received from your teacher. Beginning with the Three Isolations, as you attain accomplishments in this practice, Rinpoché will introduce the first of the Six Vajra Yogas. In this way, Rinpoché will slowly introduce each step, ensuring that you have established the desired realisations. While practice is primary, associated writings of the lineage masters can also be studied.
If you believe you are ready for this level of practice, you can apply to receive the Higher Empowerment.
In the beginning it is generally better to orient yourself to the path by emphasizing study over meditative practice. With clarity regarding what you need to do and why, you can slowly transition towards an emphasis on practice. That being said, it is always important to maintain a balance between the two. If you spend the majority of your time studying and reflecting, meditation should be used to sharpen your mind and develop greater mental stability. Likewise, if more of your time is spent in formal meditation, effort should be made to acquire new information in order to enrich your practice and help you penetrate to deeper insights.
As you work through Rinpoché’s books, you can stay informed about Khentrul Rinpoche’s scheduled activities by referring to this website or his Facebook page. It is highly recommended to pay particular attention to opportunities for receiving the Kalachakra empowerments. Even if you have taken them before with Rinpoche or another teacher, it is always worth receiving them repeatedly as this allows 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.