Kālacakra (Sanskrit: कालचक्र) is a Sanskrit term used in Tantric Buddhism that means “time-wheel”, “time-cycles”, “wheel of time”. The Kalachakra system is clearly related to the ancient Vedic tradition in India which existed long before Buddhism appeared.
“The Kalachakra refers to many different traditions, for example the Hindu; Saivite, Samkya, Vaishnava, the Vedas, Upanisads and Puranas traditions, but also Jainism. For example, the Kalachakra mandala includes deities which are equally accepted by Hindus, Jainas and Buddhists.”
An Account of the Kalachakra, or Wheel of Time Kalachakra Initiations and the texts are taught by the Dalai Lama
“The entire meaning of the subject matter of the Kalachakra tantra is included within the three Kalachakras, or Wheels of Time: The Outer Wheel of Time, the Inner Wheel of Time, and the Other Wheel of Time. The Outer Wheel of Time is the external world of the environment, and it is also called “The procession of the external solar and lunar days.” The Inner Wheel of Time is the human body, that is an inner Jambudvipa, or earth-surface. Likewise, the inner channels, elements, and movements of the winds are set forth as the Inner Wheels of Time. The Other Wheel of Time is the initiations and paths of Shri Kalachakra, together with their results. It is “other” than the preceding two Wheels of Time. The guru ripens the disciple’s psycho-physical continuum with the initiations, and the disciple meditates on the path that consists of the generation process and the completion process. In this way the yogi actualizes the resuly the buddha body that is the divine image of emptiness. This is the Other Wheel of Time.”
According to the Kalachakra Tantra, King Suchandra (Tib. Dawa Sangpo) of the Kingdom of Shambhala requested teaching from the Buddha that would allow him to practice the Dharma without renouncing his worldly enjoyments and responsibilities.
In response to his request, the Buddha taught the first Kālachakra root tantra in Dhanyakataka (Palden Drepung in Tibetan, near present day Amaravati), a small town in Andhra Pradesh in southeastern India, supposedly bilocating (appearing in two places at once) at the same time as he was also delivering the Prajnaparamita sutras at Vulture Peak Mountain in Bihar. Along with King Suchandra, ninety-six minor kings and emissaries from Shambhala were also said to have received the teachings. The Kalachakra thus passed directly to Shambhala, where it was held exclusively for hundreds of years. Later Shambhalian kings, Manjushrikirti and Pundarika, are said to have condensed and simplified the teachings into the “Sri Kalachakra” or “Laghutantra” and its main commentary the “Vimalaprabha”, which remain extant today as the heart of the Kalachakra literature.
Manjushrí Kírti (Tib. Rigdan Tagpa) is said to have been born in 159 BCE and ruled over Shambhala which had 300,510 followers of the Mlechha (Yavana or “western”) religion living in it, some of whom worshiped the sun. He is said to have expelled all the heretics from his dominions but later, after hearing their petitions, allowed them to return. For their benefit, and the benefit of all living beings, he explained the Kalachakra teachings. In 59 BCE he abdicated his throne to his son, Puṇdaŕika, and died soon afterwards, entering the Sambhoga-káya of Buddhahood.
There are presently two main traditions of Kalachakra, the Ra lineage (Tib. Rva-lugs) and the Dro lineage (Tib.’Bro-lugs). Although there were many translations of the Kalachakra texts from Sanskrit into Tibetan, the Ra and Dro translations are considered to be the most reliable (more about the two lineages below). The two lineages offer slightly differing accounts of how the Kalachakra teachings returned to India from Shambhala.
In both traditions, the Kalachakra and its related commentaries (sometimes referred to as the Bodhisattvas Corpus) were returned to India in 966CE by an Indian pandit. In the Ra tradition this figure is known as Chilupa, and in the Dro tradition as Kalachakrapada the Greater. Scholars such as Helmut Hoffman have suggested they are the same person. The first masters of the tradition disguised themselves with pseudonyms, so the Indian oral traditions recorded by the Tibetans contain a mass of contradictions.
Chilupa/Kalachakrapada is said to have set out to receive the Kalachakra teachings in Shambhala, along the journey to which he encountered the Kulika (Shambhala) king Durjaya manifesting as Manjushri, who conferred the Kalachakra initiation on him, based on his pure motivation.
Upon returning to India, Chilupa/Kalachakrapada is said to have defeated in debate Nadapada (Tib. Naropa), the abbot of Nalanda University, a great center of Buddhist thought at that time. Chilupa/Kalachakrapada then initiated Nadapada (who became known as Kalachakrapada the Lesser) into the Kalachakra, and the tradition thereafter in India and Tibet stems from these two. Nadapada established the teachings as legitimate in the eyes of the Nalanda community, and initiated into the Kālachakra such masters as Atisha (who, in turn, initiated the Kālachakra master Pindo Acharya (Tib. Pitopa)).
A Tibetan history, the Pag Sam Jon Zang, as well as architectural evidence, indicates that the Ratnagiri mahavihara in Orissa was an important center for the dissemination of the Kalachakratantra in India.
The Kalachakra tradition, along with all Vajrayana Buddhism, vanished from India in the wake of the Muslim invasions, surviving only in Nepal.