Daniel Cozort

Daniel Cozort is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion at Dickinson College, where he teaches the religions of India.

Daniel Cozort

Daniel Cozort is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion at Dickinson College, where he teaches the religions of India.

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Kalachakra Tantra Reader’s Guide


What Is Kalachakra Tantra?

The Kalachakra, or “Wheel of Time,” tantra and cycles of teachings and practices are, on the surface, well known among practitioners and those interested in Tibetan Buddhism. Yet it is considered one of the highest teachings of tantra—a highly complex one where initiates take many years accomplishing the practice. The visualization for an advanced practitioner involves 722 figures in the mandala.

One of the reasons for its notoriety is that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has bestowed the initiation—which takes several days to complete—dozens of times in over ten countries to literally millions of people. For most in attendance it is considered a great blessing and not a springboard into the practice itself. As the Dalai Lama has said:

“The higher meditations of the Kalachakra tradition can be practiced only by a select few. But because of past and future events, and in order to establish a strong karmic relationship with Kalachakra in the minds of the people, there is now a tradition of giving the initiation to large public gatherings.”

Kalachakra Tantra as a Main Practice

There are many practitioners in the four main Tibetan schools, as well as in the lesser known Jonang tradition, for whom Kalachakra is their main practice, not just a source of connection and blessings. The Gelug and Sakya traditions were heavily influenced by Buton Rinchen Drub. Some of this is detailed in Buton's History of Buddhism in India and Its Spread to Tibet. The Kagyu and Nyingma traditions draw heavily from the Jonang. Some of the more contemporary masters include Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö (whose biography was published in early 2017 by Shambhala), Penor Rinpoche, and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Some of the stories about Khyentse Rinpoche’s connection with the Kalachakra—in particular, the teaching he gave to a large group including His Holiness the Dalai Lama—form a very moving section of his biography, Brilliant Moon. When asked to give a formal elaborate teaching at a Long Life ceremony for the Dalai Lama attended by the heads of all the schools and many other lamas, Tenga Rinpoche relates the following story of Khyentse Rinpoche:

“The next morning when the time came to speak in front of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the whole assembly of lamas from the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, speaking for over an hour in an unimpeded flow like a river, Khyentse Rinpoche gave a most detailed and profound explanation of the universe according to the Kalachakra Tantra, in which he mentioned an immense number of quotes, which he obviously seemed to know by heart. At the end of the discourse, he finally approached the throne of His Holiness and offered the mandala plate into His Holiness’s hands. Then he offered the eight auspicious substances, and when offering the conch, a loud thunder crash resounded. This was considered to be a most auspicious event.

Everyone was amazed at Khyentse Rinpoche’s erudition and spoke about his speech for years to come. Afterward I asked him, ‘Did you study the Kalachakra a lot in the past?’ He answered, ‘I didn’t study it much; I read the Kalachakra commentary by Mipham Rinpoche maybe once or twice; that’s all.’”

Recalling Chogyam Trungpa

$24.95 - Paperback

By: Fabrice Midal & Chogyam Trungpa

Coming to the West

The practice’s fame in the West, in particular, is also attributable to the Shambhala teachings introduced widely by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The Shambhala teachings have a strong connection with the Kalachakra tantra as many of the works below detail. In Recalling Chögyam Trungpa, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche explains it in this way:

“You find the teachings on Shambhala in the Outer Kalachakra; it is a branch or section of the Outer Kalachakra. The Outer Kalachakra is also concerned with predicting what good things are going to happen and what bad things are going to happen through an examination of the planets, the lunar mansions, and so on. It includes a description of the physical nature of the world and how the world was formed, and also discusses how the dharma will prosper in the future. So the connection between the Shambhala teachings and the Vajrayana teachings is found in the Outer Kalachakra. There, the text describes how there were the seven dharmarajas, the dharma kings.”

Below you will find a guide to the many works related to Kalachakra that Shambhala and Snow Lion publish.

The Realm of Shambhala

$18.95 - Paperback

By: Shar Khentrul Jamphel Lodrö

A Traditional Account of Shambhala for Modern Times

With the release of The Realm of Shambhala,  we finally have a complete explanation of Shambhala that is at once traditional—from the Kalachakra or Wheel of Time tantra–but completely applicable to all of us today.  Presenting Shambhala as both a place and, especially, as a state of mind accessible to everyone, Khentrul Rinpoche joins practical teachings with a vision of overcoming the challenges of humans and humanity and achieving perfect peace individually and as a society.

Highest Yoga Tantra

$27.95 - Paperback

By: Daniel Cozort

Highest Yoga Tantra: An Introduction to the Esoteric Buddhism of Tibet

In the New Translation schools, it is classified in the Highest Yoga Tantra section of tantra. A comprehensive look at this classification, and one in which the Kalachakra system is compared to the Guhyasamaja, is Daniel Cozort's Highest Yoga Tantra: An Introduction to the Esoteric Buddhism of Tibet. This is a good starting point because most of the extant literature is from the New Translation tradition, in particular the Gelug, which is logical given His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s activity.

Treasures of the Sakya Lineage

Before diving into the works dedicated to this cycle of teachings, there is an excellent overview of the divisions of the tantra in Lama Migmar Tseten’s Treasures of the Sakya Lineage, which is helpful when exploring the works below:

“Kalachakra itself is divided into four types of tantra, giving us an elaborate framework to understand its specifics. First, there is the outer Kalachakra. In large part, these sections are concerned with visualizing and meditating on the Buddha in the form of the meditational deity Kalachakra and chanting his mantra. Second comes the inner Kalachakra, which addresses applying the profound internal meditations on the subtle channels, vital winds, elements, and essential drops that make up the subtle (psychic) body. Third, the secret Kalachakra involves meditating on and within the ultimate meaning of the truth of emptiness. Fourth is “other,” or “alternative,” Kalachakra, which relates to the study of and meditation on the outer cosmos of our realm of existence. Alternative Kalachakra teaches us how all the physical appearances of this world are the manifestation of our collective karma; it teaches us the causes that bring about this universe. It describes the outer universe and how it directly corresponds with and reflects the inner propensities and karmic vision of all the beings within this universe. Thus, the Kalachakra tantra contains the deepest meanings of four types of tantras all within a single tradition.”

The Wheel of Time

An excellent starting point for diving in is The Wheel of Time: Kalachakra in Context. Here His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Geshe Sopa, and scholars Roger Jackson and John Newman explore the history, initiation, and practices within this tantric system.

Another overview is The Wheel of Time Sand Mandala: Visual Scripture of Tibetan Buddhism. This volume comes packed with illustrations that give a helpful sense of how the mandala support for this practice is created.

Introduction to the Kalachakra Initiation

For the initiation of the deity Kalachakra, Alexander Berzin’s Introduction to the Kalachakra Initiation is an excellent starting point. Dr. Berzin has researched and written extensively on the subject and this encapsulates his work. It begins with an introduction to tantra generally, the Kalachakra specifically, and then dives deeper and details the initiation itself, what is happening each day. A brief summary of the purpose of the practice is included:

“Properly empowered, we engage in generation and then complete stage meditational practice in the form of the Buddha-figure called Kalachakra. Through these two stages, we access and utilize the subtlest level of our mind to see reality. Remaining continually focused on reality with it eliminates forever confusion and its instincts, thus bringing liberation from the external and internal cycles of time. This is possible because our basis tantra, our individual clear light mind, underlies each moment of experience and, like time, it has no end. Once our subtlest mind is freed from the deepest cause giving rise to the impulses of energy that perpetuate cycles of time and bondage to them, it gives rise, instead, to the bodies of a Buddha, in the form of Kalachakra.”

It includes an explanation of the understanding of the universe and how it differs from the more familiar Buddhist view of the universe. An excerpt appeared in the Snow Lion newsletter, and you can find it here. This work also includes other aspects of the text such as why it is so closely related with the line of Dalai Lamas, its connection with Shambhala, and more.

Dr. Berzin also published the short Kalachakra and Other Six-Session Yoga Texts, which currently available as an eBook.

The Practice of Kalachakra

Another topical work on the tantra is Glenn Mullin’s The Practice of Kalachakra. The first half serves as a comprehensive overview of the tantra and the Kalachakra. The second half includes a set of translations of teachings and practices related to this cycle from the First, Fifth, Thirteenth, and present Fourteenth Dalai Lamas. It also includes works from Buton, the First Panchen Lama, and Lobzang Thubten Chokyi Nyima.

Some of these are also included in From the Heart of Chenrezig: The Dalai Lamas on Tantra.

As Long as Space Endures: Essays on the Kalachakra Tantra in Honor of H.H. the Dalai Lama

A very important work in English on the Kalachakra system is the anthology As Long as Space Endures: Essays on the Kalachakra Tantra in Honor of H.H. the Dalai Lama. With two dozen translations and essays, this contains pieces by Robert Thurman, Thupten Jinpa, Alexander Berzin, Vesna Wallace, and many other scholars and lamas known for their work with these teachings.

There are several other works that include teachings, stories, and other helpful and fascinating information on the Kalachakra and its history and impact in India and Tibet..

A Gem of Many Colors & The Treasury of Knowledge

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye taught extensively on the subject.  He talks about this repeatedly throughout his autobiography, A Gem of Many Colors.

He also wrote about it extensively in his Treasuries. There will be a Kalachakra volume in the Treasury of Precious Instructions, the massive multivolume work from Shambhala Publications.

In his The Treasury of Knowledge, published in English in ten volumes, there are two volumes specifically that contain a lot of detail about the Kalachakra system. The first is in the volume Systems of Buddhist Tantra: The Indestructible Way of Secret Mantra (6.4) and the other is in The Elements of Tantric Practice (8.3).

The Buddha from Dolpo

$39.95 - Hardcover

By: Cyrus Stearns

The Buddha from Dolpo & Mountain Doctrine

The Kalachakra is very central to the Jonang tradition, and a figure who is obviously very prominent in the teachings and propagation of the Kalachakra system was Dolpopa.

Dolpopa’s biography, The Buddha from Dolpo by Cyrus Stearns, contains an immense amount of information on Dolpopa's connection with the Kalachakra practice.


$24.95 - Paperback

By: Jamgon Mipham

Tibetan Astrology

$34.95 - Paperback

By: Philippe Cornu

Astrological & Divination in Tibet

The Kalachakra system also forms a large part of the astrological and divination techniques in Tibet. A few important sources on this include Mipham Rinpoche's Mo: Tibetan Divination System, and Phillipe Cornu's classic Tibetan Astrology.

The Art of Buddhism

$34.95 - Paperback

By: Denise Patry Leidy

The Art of Buddhism

Finally, The Art of Buddhism contains a short section on the Kalachakra mandala and the image above is from that work.

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Buddhist Philosophy

The following article is from the Autumn, 2003 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.


What are the most important points of difference between the major schools of Buddhist philosophy? This rich, medium-length survey offers a lively answer. The introduction, aimed at those new to Buddhist thought, sets up a dialogue between the schools on the most controversial topics in Buddhist philosophy.

Jamyang Shayba was the greatest Tibetan writer on philosophical tenets. Losang Gonchok's Clear Crystal Mirror, a concise commentary on Jamyang Shayba's root text, represents a distillation of many centuries of Indian and Tibetan scholarship. Buddhist Philosophy skims the cream of Jamyang Shayba's intellect, providing a rare opportunity to sharpen our intellect and expand our view of Buddhist thought. Daniel Cozort is associate professor and chair of the Department of Religion at Dickinson College where he teaches the religions of India. He is the author of Highest Yoga Tantra. Craig Preston studied at the University of Virginia and has taught Classical Tibetan at Namgyal Institute. He is author of How to Read Classical Tibetan, Vol. 1: A Summary of the General Path and currently teaches Tibetan and Buddhist philosophy privately in Ithaca, New York.

The following is an excerpt from Buddhist Philosophy.

Nirvana With and Without Remainder

Nirvana is neither a place nor a mental state. It is a fact about us. A nirvana is the absence of afflictions in someone whose cultivation of wisdom has resulted in the destruction of ignorance, desire, hatred, etc. That mere absence is the nirvana.

On that, all Buddhist schools agree. However, they disagree over the use of the term remainder used in conjunction with nirvana. Other than Prasangika, it is said that after a person attains nirvana, he or she subsequently can be said to have a nirvana with remainder, the remainder being the body and mind. Death cuts the remainder. However, the nirvana without remainder is a single moment, occurring just at the time of death but not after. After death there is no person to whom the nirvana can belong!

Hinayana schools do not recognize any existence after death for an Arhat. The Mahayana schools do, and all except Asanga's say that Arhats manifest in different forms, no longer helplessly reborn according to karma, and continue to cultivate wisdom and merit until they have become Buddhas. Because Asanga and his followers say that there are Arhats who do not go on to Buddhahood, they must explain that those Arhats are born in the pure lands of Buddhas and abide there forever in meditative absorption.

The Prasangika school uses the term remainder in a completely different manner. For them, remainder has to do with whether or not to an Arhat things still appear to have true existence. To explain this, we have to recall what was said previously about the obstructions to liberation and obstructions to omniscience. What prevents our liberation is our conceptions of inherent existence. Things appear to us as though they exist from their own side, independently, and we assent to this appearance by conceiving of them in this way. Meditation that analyzes the way things exist will destroy this false conception, and we can be liberated from it and from the samsara it causes.


...when does a nirvana without remainder occur? It occurs only when that person is meditating on emptiness because at that time only emptiness appears to the mind.

However, because of the way we have been conditioned, which in Buddhism is a process without beginning, things still appear to exist inherently. The liberated person is someone who no longer assents to this appearance, who is always doubtful of the evidence of the senses and resists conceiving of them in the wrong way. He or she is like someone who wears sunglasses, well aware that the green tint pervading all visible objects is just the effect of the lenses. It takes a very long time for the appearance of inherent existence itself to fade. Those taints of appearances are the obstructions to omniscience.

From this perspective, then, an Arhat experiences a nirvana with remainder most of the time, since most of the time things appear falsely. But then, when does a nirvana without remainder occur? It occurs only when that person is meditating on emptiness because at that time only emptiness appears to the mind. For nonBuddhas, it is impossible for both emptiness and other tilings to appear to the mind simultaneously. (Another way of putting this is to say that the two truths cannot appear simultaneously to a non-Buddha's mind.)

So, both Prasangikas and others could identify an Arhat's usual state, the time when he or she is not absorbed in meditation on emptiness, as a nirvana with remainder, but they would mean very different things by it. Prasangikas would mean that things falsely appear to the mind; others would mean that the Arhat is alive. Similarly, both Prasangikas and others would identify the nirvana of an Arhat at the time of death as being a nirvana without remainder but they would mean something different by it. Prasangikas would mean that at that time there is no false appearance to the mind (because, for a short time, only a vacuity appears to the mind), whereas others would mean that the body and mind are abandoned.

Other than the purpose of again pressing home their contention about the empty nature of things, why do Prasanigikas change this terminology? Jamyang Shayba here gives two arguments. First, it makes no sense to say that there is any person who experiences a nirvana without remainder if that means that the aggregates are abandoned. There is no person once the aggregates are destroyed. Second, the language that suggests that Arhats "extinguish" their aggregates really just refers to their emptiness. Like all things, our bodies and minds are "primordially extinguished" into emptiness because they are, and always have been, empty of inherent existence.

Buddhist Philosophy

$34.95 - Paperback

By: Daniel Cozort & Craig Preston & Jamyang Shayba

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Changing Minds

The following article is from the Spring, 2001 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

Contributions to the Study of Buddhism and Tibet In Honor of Jeffrey Hopkins

edited by Guy Newland 352 pages, 6x9,1-55939-160-X, #CHMIND, cloth June

This is a book offered in tribute to Jeffrey Hopkins by colleagues and former students. Jeffrey Hopkins has, in his sixty years, made profound and diverse contributions to the understanding of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism in the West. In his collaborations with the Dalai Lama, such as Kindness, Clarity, and Insight, and in books like Tibetan Arts of Love and Emptiness Yoga, Hopkins has reached out to the general reader, making the wisdom of Tibet accessible to every one. Yet there is never anything superficial about his work; his recent Emptiness in the Mind-Only School is a magisterial display of painstaking scholarly work.

Changing Minds contains essays that reflect the breadth and influence of Hopkins.

The following is an excerpt from the Editor's Introduction.

Twenty-five years ago I first met Jeffrey Hopkins as my instructor in a popular undergraduate course on Buddhist meditation at the University of Virginia. 1 liked the course and studied with him for almost thirteen yearsbecause of the way Hopkins presented Buddhist ideas. He did not posture as the authoritative curator of a mummified body of knowledge. He did not mystify the tradition and he certainly did not act as a missionary for it. On the other hand, he did not attempt to account for Buddhism in terms of any extrinsic academic ideology. Instead, Hopkins was interested in encountering Buddhist worldviews as living systems of human meaning; his classes were invitations to participate in that encoimter. They were based on his own meticulous translations of primary-source Tibetan or Sanskrit texts, sometimes produced in collaboration with Tibetan colleagues. The message that I got, from his teaching and his books, was: There are and long have been real people, whole communities and civilizations, for whom the ideas and texts we are now studying are profoundly important. We should show them the respect of taking their ideas seriously. That means finding out how far we can go in understanding how others make sense of the worldand seeing how our minds change in the process.

Hopkins presented Tibetan Buddhism as a living system of meaning in part by bringing to campus distinguished Tibetan scholars from the refugee communities of India. At that time, in the middle of the 1970s, this was something quite rare; most of my fellow undergraduates had heard the term Dalai Lama only as a Johnny Carson punch-line. Sometimes a monk would accompany Hopkins to class and speak to us in Tibetan, with Hopkins translating. Hopkins taught many undergraduate and graduate courses in this way while I was at the University of Virginia. There is no doubt that the presence of visiting Tibetan scholars on campus greatly enriched my education in the graduate Buddhist Studies program. Instead of having only Hopkins representing and mediating Tibetan Buddhism to us, we had continuing opportunities to work with scholars whose credentials to speak from within and on behalf of the tradition were unimpeachable. Some graduate students in the program likely developed, outside of class, spiritual connections with these lamas that were deeper and more important to them than their academic relationship with Hopkins.

That was not my experience; I was not drawn into the program mainly by the Tibetan scholars. After all, they could not speak English and only Hopkins and the more advanced graduate students could really question them directly. For me, the heart of the program was Hopkins. He had no superficial flash as a public speaker, but he had intellectual substance and passion. He conveyed his prodigious learning with an intensity that John Buescher conjures from the past in the opening article of this volume. Buescher gives us Hopkins at workguiding students through the complexities of Sanskrit syntax, teaching them how to pull from the tangle something that would change their minds:

It's the self of persons and of things

that we're looking for, Jeffrey said, as he pointed to Nagarj una's text in front of him. The tiling that seems to cover over them and make them a whole, single entity, assembling things out of their parts. We've got to take them apart to see it. Parsing the words of the text, then translating them, the operation became unexpectedly exacting. Sweat rolled down in tight, little streams under my shirt. We were unprepared for this drill, this scalpel. Jeffrey, however, proceeded on, laying bare our ignorance, peremptorily rejecting any uncertain or wrong answer. As he thundered his demand for the right answer, we searched for it. We desperately wished we could find it, some seat of the soul, some little treasure amid the remains of the words that now lay in pieces all about us.

Did these teaching methods leave room for students to challenge the tradition itself, to form their own critical evaluation of it? In my undergraduate courses with Hopkins, he seemed to regard it as satisfactory if a student could think through some of the complexities of Tibetan Buddhist doctrine. He certainly did not forbid etic analysis or independent critique, but he did little to encourage it. This might not seem ideal, but it did not strike me as so different from many other courses that I had taken, in Russian literature, Greek tragedy, or experimental psychology, for example. In each case, the premise was that there is a very complicated, very unfamiliar story to be told. The novice must expect to spend time on the ground of the storyteller, learning the story well and getting the details straight, before launching an idiosyncratic metanar- rative on what the story (in this case someone else's religion) is really about.

As a graduate student, my experience was that Hopkins wanted even demandedwork that was not only intimately grounded in the details of the tradition, but also had something to say, something useful or insightful. As I gained mastery of a research topic (and not before), he clearly expected more of me than a re-transmission of what learned lamas had said. For example, he told me that my seminar paper on the Abhisamayalamkara was boring because it simply reorganized information from the tradition. On another occasion, Hopkins asked me to present a paper in an interdepartmental colloquium series, assigning me a topic from the work of the Sa skya scholar sTag tshang. I decided on my own that I would instead give a psychoanalytic treatment of Tsong kha pa on the three principal aspects of the path. When he heard my talk, rather than being upset that I had presumed to offer an independent analysis, he was clearly pleased. The same was true when I submitted my dissertation; when I used various Western theories to give an independent account of the religiosity of dGe lugs scholasticism, Hopkins's criticisms were aimed only at strengthening my argument.

Hopkins's scholarship likewise evidences concern to avoid arrogant pseudo-objectivity on the one hand and naive adulation on the other. Hopkins has taken special pains to avoid the first of these extremes and has been more careful in that regard than some. By being open in his appreciation for some aspects of the traditions he studies, Hopkins has at times chosen to risk appearing to some as an academic front-man for religious dogma. In books such as Meditation on Emptiness and The Tantric Distinction, Buddhist thought-systems are not specimens to be dissected at arm's length. Instead, Hopkins recreates his encounter with another world of meaning, a very particular and intricate Asian Buddhist world which can never again be imagined as completely separate from our world. Describing his version of a methodological middle way, Hopkins writes that his aim is to evince a respect for the directions, goals, and horizons of the culture itself without swallowing an Asian tradition as if it had all the answers or...pretending to have a privileged position.

* * *

Don Lopez and Joe Wilson conceived that this book should come into being to honor Jeffrey Hopkins in his sixtieth year. At their suggestion and with the encouragement of Anne Klein, I undertook the project, soliciting contributions only from a close circle of Hopkins's friends, admirers, and former students. Then, with some assistance from Snow Lion and outside readers, I selected the articles in this volume for publication. As Paul Hackett shows in the closing article of this volume, Hopkins's research has covered a wide range of concerns, centering on dGe lugs scholarship but ranging far beyond it in several directions. A thin cross-section of that diversity is reflected in the scholarship here.


Describing his version I of a methodological middle way, Hopkins writes that his aim is to evince a respect for the directions, goals, and horizons of the culture itself without t swallowing an Asian tradition as if it had all the answers or... pretending to have a privileged position.

John Buescher opens our volume with an atmospheric and evocative real-life detective story. Caught in the act of teaching Madhyamika Buddhism, Hopkins appears as a philosophical sleuth on the trail of truth. Buescher then weaves into this portrait its unexpected resonances, years later, in a baffling international news-eventthe sudden appearance of a previously unknown dental relic of the Buddha.

The Madhyamika theme continues through the next two articles, by Guy Newland and Donald Lopez. My article is inspired in part by the efforts of Hopkins to describe the Madhyamika view for a general readership. I summarize some of the philosophical claims Tsong kha makes in Lam rim chen mo, reflecting in particular on the notion of conventional reality. Lopez's piece distills a careful synopsis of Tsong kha pa's treatment of the object of negation (dgag bya) in Madhyamika analysis. Then, based on his own new translations, he treats us to a riveting critique of this position by the brilliant twentieth-century iconoclast, dGe dun Chos phel.

Contributions by Dan Cozort and Elizabeth Napper keep the focus on Tsong kha pa and his Lam rim chen mo, but move away from Madhyamika Cozort provides a useful, clear, and detailed analysis of Tsong kha pa on the special dangers of anger, which is said to cut the roots of virtue. What, exactly, does this mean? How deep is the damage of anger? Cozort finds Tsong kha pa working with mixed success to explicate this doctrine and integrate it into his system. Like Cozort, Napper scrutinizes Lam rim chen mo in her contribution, Ethics as the Basis of a Tantric Tradition: Tsong kha pa and the Founding of the dGe lugs Order in Tibet. She lays out exactly how Tsong kha pa used his sources, subtly and skillfully reshaping grammar, nuance, and context in order to build a new and unique system of religious meaning. She concludes with some frank observations about the impact that the distinctive features of this system (such as its emphasis on monastic ethics) have had on the later tradition. Nap- per's impeccable work, synthesizing insights from many years of work with Lam rim chen mo and its sources, merits the appreciation of everyone who studies the dGe lugs order.

The next pair of articles shift our attention to the contemplative traditions of rDzogs chen and Mahamudra. Anne Klein takes us into the realm of Bon rDzogs chen poetry. Her original translations gracefully depict a natural, open awarenessunrecognized by ordinary personsin which reality is experienced as spontaneous and unbounded wholeness. She carefully explains who reads such poetry, to what end, and she compares the handling of contradiction and nonduality in Buddhist Madhyamika with that in Bon rDzogs chen. Roger Jackson then gives us an outstanding treatment of a little- known topic, the tradition of dGe lugs Mahamudra (phyag rgya chen po). As he notes, Mahamudra is more usually associated with meditative practices central to the bKa' brgyud tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Questions about the role of and basis for a dGe lugs form of Mahamudra lead Jackson to broader insights about inter-sectarian connections.

As Hopkins suggests, our understanding of early dGe lugs has been much aided by recent advances in our grasp on the teachings of Shes rab rgyal mtshan and the Jo nang other emptiness doctrine. Here we offer two articles which touch on this issue, demonstrating how the self-empty vs. other-empty controversy set the stage for otherwise disparate debates. Displaying his formidable knowledge of Tibetan Perfection of Wisdom literature, Gareth Sparham shows how debates about the authorship and authority of key commentaries evolved within the context of controversy between dGe lugs and Jo nang views. Then, Joe Wilson gives us a generous and cogent explication of how and why the concept of a basis-of-all (alay- avijnana, kun gzhi rnam par shes pa) is subject to radically different constructions in the Jo nang and dGe lugs traditions.

While cross-cultural and comparative themes are touched upon in other contributions, Jose Cabezon and Harvey Aronson bring them into focus. Cabezon analyzes the structure and content of Tibetan colophons, looking for evidence of an implicit theory of authorship and literary production. Simplistic notions of authorship are quickly problema- tized by the multiple layers of productivity through which a book is generated. Cabezon has given us a unique and nuanced study, full of allusions to and connections with the conversations of Western literary theory. Such cross-cultural comparison arises from historical contact; in the case of Tibetan Buddhism, that contact includes the unprecedented phenomenon of large numbers of Westerners taking up Buddhist practices and striving to embody Buddhist virtues. Using object-relations theory and his own experience as a clinician, Harvey Aronson warns of the pathological pitfalls that may afflict the self-sacrificing American bodhisattva, but argues for a model of healthy altruism.

Our volume concludes with Paul Hackett's comprehensive survey of the published works of Jeffrey Hopkins. We are grateful to Hackett for an ambitious essay charting the range and depth of Hopkins's oeuvre. Inasmuch as Hopkins's recently published Emptiness in the Mind-Only School has been hailed by many as his best work ever, and inasmuch as it is the first of a tliree-volume series, Hackett's work will perhaps but serve as a starting point for future bibliographic analysis.

In sum, this volume is presented as a tribute to the work of Jeffrey Hopkins as a teacher and as a scholar. Paul Hackett has written eloquently of Hopkins's impact:

Most people who have pursued knowledge and learning would be hard pressed not to remember at least one teacher sometime, somewhere, who first inspired them and instilled in them a sense of value in learning. This ability, the capacity not only to convey meaning, but also to motivate remains an art which stands apart from mere erudition. For some, it comes naturally; for others it requires effort; though in each person who manages to master it, there is always evident an idiosyncratic artistry by which their knowledge and experience is conveyed. So it is with Jeffrey Hopkins, who has repeatedly demonstrated not only his depth of knowledge, but also his skill as a teacher and writer.

As we see in this volume, he has inspired and enlivened us in many different ways. So now we say: Thank you!

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Highest Yoga Tantra

The following article is from the Winter, 1995 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

by Daniel Cozort

To give you a feel for Highest Yoga Tantra, the have included the following excerpt from Part 3, The Six Levels of the Stage of Completion.

The Four Joys

The four Joys are bliss consciousnesses generated because of the melting of the drop and its movement in the central channel. In order of least to greatest, they are called joy, supreme joy, special joy, and innate joy. There are various other ways of distinguishing the joys. For instance, in the context of physical isolation, the joys generated by the descent of the drop from the top of the head are distinguished from those generated by the ascent of the drop from the secret lace at the base of the spine. The joys generated from the ascent of the drop are much more powerful than those generated from the descent of the drop; all of the joys from the ascent of the drop are considered innate joys, the type with the greatest intensity.

Thus, although there are said to be four joys from above and four joys from below, the joys from above and from below are not necessarily the fourjoy, supreme joy, special joy, and innate joysince the four from below are all innate joys. Rather, the four joys above and below are posited not according to the intensity of bliss, but according to the movement of the drops in the central channel. The four joys from above are generated respectively when the white drop flows down from the crown to the throat, from there to the heart, from there to the navel, and from there to the base of the spine. The four joys from below are generated respectively when the red drop rises from the base of the spine to the navel, from there to the heart, from there to the throat, and from there to the crown.

On the path, when the four joys are produced as a result of the entry and dissolution of winds in the central channel, they are also often called the four empties. Many scholars follow the explanation that the four joys simply are the four empties. Their assumption probably is that the-emptiessubtle consciousnesses that occur when the winds are with drawnand the joyssubtle bliss consciousnesses that occur when the winds are withdrawnare in fact the same consciousnesses described from different perspectives. Nga-wang-bel-den disagrees, citing Dzong-ka-ba's refusal to equate the four empties and the four joys, as well as Dzong-ka-ba's approval of the explanation by Tup-ba-bel (thub pa dpal) that the four empties are also generated during the white drop's traversal of the sexual organ. Moreover, the four empties could not be identical to the four joys simply because at the time of death there is no experience of the joys whereas there is experience of the empties.

Meditation on Emptiness with Bliss

In the first phase of meditation on the level of physical isolation, one visualized the subtle drop filled with the array of visualized deities and the divine mansion; this caused the winds to enter, remain, and dissolve in the central channel, the Fierce Woman to be ignited, the drops to flow, and great bliss to be engendered. Now, once that has occurred, one is to associate the four joys and emptiness as subject and object in meditative equipoise. In other words, one is to use the blissful consciousness that has been created to realize emptiness. At this point in the meditation, one begins to practice the aspects of physical isolation called mental bliss, bliss of pliancy, and the one-pointed meditative stabilization, three different aspects of one consciousness meditating on emptiness within the force of great bliss. (These aspects are not distinguished with precision in Nga-wang-bel-den's text.) Deities do not appear to this bliss consciousness, but because it is generated due to much previous visualization of deities, its three aspects of bliss, pliancy, and meditative stabilization are still considered instances of deity yoga. For the same reason, even though those three aspects would not fit the etymology of physical isolation because they do not involve isolation from ordinary appearances by substituting ideal appearances, they are still considered physical isolations.

Viewing Appearances As Bliss and Emptiness

After having used the bliss consciousness to realize emptiness, it is said that one should remember bliss and emptiness, restraining all other mental activities so that whatever appears seems to be a manifestation of bliss and emptiness. As Dzong-ka-ba says:

An internal objecta special physical tangible objectis produced through melting the mind of enlightenment by means of a method of penetrative focusing on important places on and in the body. That serves as the observed-object condition whereby a special blissful feeling of the body con sciousness is generated. That [special blissful feel ing] acts as an immediately preceding condition whereby the mental consciousness is generated as an entity of marvelous bliss. At that time, through remembering the meaning of suchness that has already been ascertained, emptiness and bliss are associated.

The dripping of the white drop in the central channel produces an extraordinarily blissful body consciousness, which in turn produces a blissful mental consciousness. Then, with the recollection of emptiness, bliss and empti ness are associated.

The restraint of other mental activities so that everything will appear to be a manifestation of bliss and emptiness is the practice of withdrawal, probably so-called because manifestations of bliss and emptiness appear to the sixth consciousness, the mental consciousness, dominating the sense consciousnesses and causing them to withdraw. Through withdrawal, one's mind is so permeated with a feeling of bliss that all appearances are strongly affected. Concurrently, recollection of meditation on emptiness makes phenomena appear to be light, ephemeral, and like illusions. Everything appears to be sealed with bliss and emptiness.

This type of imagination is a similitude of a Buddha's actual mode of perceiving phenomena at all times. To Buddhas, phenomena are always sealed with bliss and emptiness. This means that there is a sense in which a conscious ness viewing the world as sealed with bliss and emptiness is not faulty, not contradicted by valid cognition.

The practice of withdrawal is essentially a matter of continuing a visualization begun on the stage of generation, when one imagined the world to be a manifestation of bliss and emptiness. However, the same practice on the stage of completion is much more powerful due to the force of one's experience, the immense infusion of bliss that one has experienced as a result of wind and heat yogas.

There are two, more difficult, variations on the practice of withdrawal, one called individual investigation and the other called analysis. In individual investigation, one mentally divides all of the phenomena of the world into the twenty types of gross objects, and then sees them all not only as manifestations of bliss and emptiness, but as taking on either the specific form of a single deity, Vajradhara, or the forms of five deities. It is called investigation because it investigates the entity of the deity inasmuch as it sees that the deity is an expression of bliss and emptiness. One pretends that the mind realizing emptiness appears as the twenty types of gross objects, which in turn appear as either Vajradhara or as five deities.

Analysis is similar to individual investigation but is much more demanding. In analysis, one mentally divides the twenty gross objects into one hundred objects and then visualizes them as twenty deities each of which have five lineages (of the Buddhas Vairochana, Akshobhya, Amoghasiddhi, Amitabha, and Ratnasambhava). The practice is called analysis because it analyzes in detail the specific features of the deities.

Deities. The deities which are vividly visualized in tantric meditation are the imagined forms of various Buddhas who appear either as Buddhas or as Bodhisattvas of high rank. Bodhisattvas are beings who have generated the altruistic aspiration to attain Buddhahood for the welfare of others. Those of high rank are well advanced on the Bodhisattva grounds, which is to say that they have acquired many of the abilities of Buddhas though not in the full measure of Buddhas. Since it is recognized that both Buddhas and high rank Bodhisattvas have the ability to emanate to sentient beings in any manner that will be helpful, even as ordinary objects that people unthinkingly pass over in their daily routines, it is permissible to imagine these enlightened beings in any conceivable form.

However, in practice, tantric manuals prescribe a certain number of deities (for instance, thirty-two in Guhyasamaja) and describe them in varying degrees of detail. The purpose of those descriptions is to assist the meditator, who must attempt to construct a mental picture of the mandala for visualization practice, although such a person will probably also be assisted by a painting (such as the Tibetan tangga [thang ka]) which has been drawn and colored to match the description.

A tantra is usually named after its principal deity. The tantra that is the basis for Nga-wang-bel-den's text, the Guhyasamaja Tantra, has Guhyasamaja, one of the many emanated forms of the Buddha Akshobhya, as its principal deity. Although there are thirty-two deities in the mandala, they are all, in fact, held to be emanations of Guhyasamaja. In a detailed manual for the practice of a particular tantraits means of achievementthere would be a precise depiction of the position, posture, color, ornaments, and so forth, of Guhyasamaja, his consort, and the other deities in the Guhyasamaja mandala, as well as all the features of their environment.

The manual also sometimes contains a lengthy discussion of the symbolic significance of all the details mentioned in the description, aimed at enhancing one's development of divine pride, the sense that one actually is the deity one imagines. For instance, in the water initiation portion of the Kalachakra initiations for the stage of generation, the manual correlates the five seed syllables of the mantra to the five symbols into which they are transformed, five deities with their consorts, the deities that appear on their crowns, and the elements, such as space, wind, and fire, that are cleansed.

Some deities are depicted as being peaceful whereas others are shown to be fierce, hi both cases, the tantric iconography symbolizes a union of bliss and emptiness. For example, the fierce deity Chakrasamvara holds a skull filled with blood, but the skull symbolizes bliss (because bliss is experienced when the white drop at the crown of the head is melted) and the blood symbolizes the mind realizing emptiness.

The deities imagined in meditation are, in one sense, recognized to be products of the imagination; hence, yogis engaged in deity yoga do not have wrong consciousnesses, i.e., awarenesses, such as an eye consciousness mistaking a distant pillar for a man, that are incorrect with regard to their main object. Even though yogis cultivate divine pride, a sense of actually being the deity, theirs are not considered wrong consciousnesses because divine pride is developed deliberately with a high intention.

On the other hand, the deities imagined in meditation are definitely held to exist in fact, for the actual deity is invited to enter the imagined deity. There is a seeming paradox in the fact that one is training to become a deity that already has a separate existence, but in fact, the paradox does not exist if it is understood that all Buddhas can take any form, that no form is exclusive. Although one cannot have the same mental continuum as someone who has already become a Buddha, there is no limit to the number of beings who, upon becoming Buddhas, can manifest the form of that Buddha. Thus, according to the Ge-luk-ba presentation, at least one prominent Buddhist scholar is clearly mistaken when he claims that the images of deities have no reality whatsoever and are abandoned by becoming aware of one's bodhiessence.

Deities are visualized in a mandala, a symbolic representation of a divine mansion and its immediate environment in which the principal deity and his consort are at the center. As mentioned above, each tantra has its own particular mandala which is often represented in paintings or carvings in two dimensions, as seen from above, with the tops of its walls and porticos pointing out to the sides.

Returning to Meditation on Emptiness

In the previous three phases of meditationmeditation on a subtle drop; meditation on emptiness with bliss; and meditation viewing appearances as bliss and emptinessone meditated on a subtle drop at the lower opening of the central channel, used the resulting bliss consciousness to meditate on emptiness, and emerged from meditative equipoise, seeing all phenomena as a manifestation of bliss and emptiness. In the fourth phase of meditation, one is drawn back into meditative equipoise because bliss has caused the winds of the sense powers to withdraw inside. This in turn increases bliss because the winds ignite the Fierce Woman, which melts the drops, causing them to flow in the central channel, producing great bliss.

The way in which meditation leads to bliss and bliss draws one back into meditative equipoise illustrates one of the great differences between the paths of tantra and the paths of sutra. Once one has gained facility in the very formidable visualization practices of tantra and has had success in meditation on emptiness, the tantric path gets easier rather than more difficult; bliss and meditation on emptiness become mutually supportive. One meditates on emptiness with a mind empowered with bliss; then, subse quent to meditative equipoise, one sees everything as bliss, which causes the sense powers to withdraw, the Fierce Woman to ignite, the drops to flow, and bliss to increase, drawing one back into meditative equipoise on emptiness. This cycle occurs again and again. Moreover, just seeing phenomena as manifestations of bliss helps one to realize their lack of inherent existence, their emptiness. As the Dalai Lama has said, when phenomena appear to be the sport or manifestation of the mind of clear light one can understand aD the better that they are empty and just nominally designated.

Highest Yoga Tantra

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By: Daniel Cozort

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