Kalacakra, aka: Kālacakra, Kala-cakra; 14 Definition(s)


Kalacakra means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, the history of ancient India, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

Alternative spellings of this word include Kalachakra.

In Hinduism

Dhanurveda (science of warfare)

[Kalacakra in Dhanurveda glossaries]

Kālacakra (कालचक्र) refers to a weapon (“wheel of time”, “cycle”). It is a Sanskrit word defined in the Dhanurveda-saṃhitā, which contains a list of no less than 117 weapons. The Dhanurveda-saṃhitā is said to have been composed by the sage Vasiṣṭha, who in turn transmitted it trough a tradition of sages, which can eventually be traced to Śiva and Brahmā.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Dhanurveda
Dhanurveda book cover
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Dhanurveda (धनुर्वेद) refers to the “knowledge of warfare” and, as an upaveda, is associated with the Ṛgveda. It contains instructions on warfare, archery and ancient Indian martial arts, dating back to the 2nd-3rd millennium BCE.

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[Kalacakra in Purana glossaries]

1a) Kālacakra (कालचक्र).—A chief Vānara.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 7. 235.

1b) Is the solar system: relativity of its movement is illustrated by the Potter's wheel. The sun stands in relation to kālacakra, midway between the Earth and Heaven. Placed on the right side of Meru, the twentyeight nakṣatras including abhijit are fixed on this cakra.1 The seat of mahākāla.2

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa V. 22. 2-11; 23. 3; Matsya-purāṇa 162, 1, 19; Viṣṇu-purāṇa II. 8. 4.
  • 2) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 32. 7. 18-20.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Katha (narrative stories)

[Kalacakra in Katha glossaries]

Kālacakra (कालचक्र) was a leader of warriors and transcendent warriors (rathātiratha) in Sunītha and Sūryaprabha’s army, according to the Kathāsaritsāgara, chapter 47. Accordingly, as the Asura Maya explained the arrangement of warriors in Sunītha’s army: “... and [Kālacakra], are leaders of warriors and transcendent warriors”.

The story of Kālacakra was narrated by the Vidyādhara king Vajraprabha to prince Naravāhanadatta in order to relate how “Sūryaprabha, being a man, obtain of old time the sovereignty over the Vidyādharas”.

The Kathāsaritsāgara (‘ocean of streams of story’), mentioning Kālacakra, is a famous Sanskrit epic story revolving around prince Naravāhanadatta and his quest to become the emperor of the vidyādharas (celestial beings). The work is said to have been an adaptation of Guṇāḍhya’s Bṛhatkathā consisting of 100,000 verses, which in turn is part of a larger work containing 700,000 verses.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Kathāsaritsāgara
Katha book cover
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Katha (कथा, kathā) refers to narrative Sanskrit literature often inspired from epic legendry (itihasa) and poetry (mahākāvya). Some Kathas reflect socio-political instructions for the King while others remind the reader of important historical event and exploits of the Gods, Heroes and Sages.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

[Kalacakra in Hinduism glossaries]

According to Sekoddeśa-tīkā, a commentary on Kāla-cakra-tantra’s Sekoddeśa, the deity Kālacakra is the same as Vajra-Sattva, the godhead of the Vajra-yāna. Kāla is here defined as immutable and unchanging and is itself the realization of this transcendental principle. Thus, the Kālacakra is the emblem of the unity of Prajñā and Upāya.

Further, it is said that all the letters and syllables of Kālacakra imply certain mystic meanings; ka is the bīja-mantra of effect Brahma (kārya Brahma). Thus Kālacakra stands for the merger of unit consciousness into the original cause-potency, which is Śūnyatā, i.e. the Pure Consciousness, the Supreme Subjectivity. Like the Vajra-yāna, Kālacakrayāna aims at the attainment of spiritual salvation, for the individual as well as the mankind. Thus, it is a cult of collective welfare like Hindu Tantra which can be summarized in one sentence: Ātma mokṣārtaṃ jagathitāyaca.

(Source): Google Books: Tantra, Its Mystic and Scientific Basis

In Buddhism

(Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism)

[Kalacakra in Tibetan Buddhism glossaries]

Kālacakra (कालचक्र).—The principal deity Kālacakra (of the Kālacakramaṇḍala) besides having his numerous companions has three circles of deities one after another. They are called the Kāyamaṇḍala, Vāṅmaṇḍala and Cittamaṇḍala. It is in the Vāṅmaṇḍala and the Kāyamaṇḍala that Hindu deities are placed.

(Source): Google Books: India antiqua (tibetan buddhism)

The Kalachakra is a term used in Vajrayana Buddhism that means wheel of time or "time-cycles". The word Kālacakra is usually used to refer to a very complex teaching and practice in Tibetan Buddhism. Although the teaching is very advanced and esoteric, there is a tradition of offering it to large public audiences.

The Kālacakra tradition revolves around the concept of time (kāla) and cycles (chakra): from the cycles of the planets, to the cycles of human breathing, it teaches the practice of working with the most subtle energies within one's body on the path to enlightenment.

The Kālacakra deity represents a buddhahood and thus omniscience. Since Kālacakra is time and everything is under the influence of time, Kālacakra knows all. Kālacakri, his spiritual consort and complement, is aware of everything that is timeless, not time-bound or out of the realm of time.

(Source): WikiPedia: Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism book cover
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Tibetan Buddhism includes schools such as Nyingma, Kadampa, Kagyu and Gelug. Their primary canon of literature is divided in two broad categories: The Kangyur, which consists of Buddha’s words, and the Tengyur, which includes commentaries from various sources. Esotericism and tantra techniques (vajrayāna) are collected indepently.

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General definition (in Buddhism)

[Kalacakra in Buddhism glossaries]

Kālacakra is an ideo-realistic monism. Bodhicitta is a transcendental reality but its true being remains concealed by impurities and defilements. Kālacakra is a supreme godhead. He is the supreme subjectivity and hence, he cannot be the object of thought. He stands supreme. All the deities of Buddhis tāntric pantheon are merely of the nature of Bodhicitta dependent on Kālacakra to carry out their dispositions. He alone is the source from which the cosmos is vitalized throughout the course of creation, preservation and involution.

According to Kālacakra a practitioner enters into maṇḍala (mystic diagram) after getting proper initiation (abhiṣeka) and offers worship to the Kālacakra deity. he considers himself as individual part of the deity. He identifies his body with Bīja-mantra assigning each part of his body to the corresponding Bīja-mantra, according to acoustic arrangement of mantra.

The objective of the Kālacakra Tantra is to remove the accidental defilements and with the removal of the adventitious impurities sentient being experienced buddhahood at once spontaneously. The purpose of Tāntric practice is to rid sentient being from adventitious defilements, which arise from the wrong view of existence.

(Source): Google Books: Buddhist Tantra: A Philosophical Reflection and Religious Investigation

Kalachakra means Time-Wheel, as "Kāla" is Sanskrit for Time and "Chakra" (or Cakra) is Wheel in Sanskrit (In Tibetan his name is dus.'khor). It is also translated as Time-Cycles. Much in this tradition revolves around the concept of time and cycles: from the cycles of the planets, to the cycles of our breath and the practice of controlling the most subtle energies within one's body on the path to enlightenment. The Kalachakra deity represents omniscience, as everything is under the influence of time, he is time and therefore knows all. Similarly, the wheel is beginningless and endless.

Among the five main Tibetan schools, the Kalachakra practice appears most prominent in the Jonang tradition, although the practice is found in all five schools. The Jonang tradition is not well known due to historic reasons, but very significant for Kalachakra practice. They established Kalachakra as their main system for practice and have preserved a unique lineage of the Kalachakra practice. The Dalai Lamas have had specific interest in the Kalachakra practice, specifically the First, Second, Seventh, Eighth, and the current Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

In Tibet, the Kalachakra astrological system forms one of the main building blocks to compose astrological calendars. The astrology in the Kalachakra is not unlike the Western system, where for example, complicated calculations are required to determine e.g. the exact location of the planets.

(Source): China Buddhism Encyclopedia: Buddhism

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

[Kalacakra in Jainism glossaries]

According to Jain cosmology, Kalacakra i.e. “the wheel of time” is divided into two half rotations, Utsarpini and Avasarpini.

Utsarpini is divided into six equal parts i.e.

  1. Dushama-dushama,
  2. Dushama,
  3. Dushama-sushama,
  4. Sushama-dushama,
  5. Sushama,
  6. Sushama-sushama.

Avasarpini is also divided into six equal parts i.e.

  1. Sushama-sushama,
  2. Sushama,
  3. Sushama-dushama,
  4. Dushama-sushama,
  5. Dushama,
  6. Dushama-dushama.

Later Jain texts allocate innumerous trillions of years for Utsarpini and Avasarpini.

(Source): academia.edu: The epoch of the Mahavira-nirvana

Kālacakra (कालचक्र, “cycle of time”).—One day Lord Mahāvīra’s first Gaṇdhara Indrabhūti Gautama expressed curiosity about kālacakra. The Lord said –“Time cycle” (kālacakra) has two main parts, avasarpiṇī (regressive half-cycle) and utsarpiṇī (progressive half-cycle). Consistently regressive half cycle is avasarpiṇī and consistently progressing half cycle is utsarpiṇī. Every cycle is of ten koḍākoḍī-sāgaras. Thus, one kālacakra is of 20 koḍākoḍī-sāgaras.

(Source): HereNow4u: Lord Śrī Mahāvīra
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Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

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India history and geogprahy

[Kalacakra in India history glossaries]

Kalacakra or Kalachakra school of Vajrayana and Tibetan Calendar (367 CE).—Kashmiri scholar Pandita Somanatha introduced Kalachakra school of Vajrayana in Tibet around 367 CE. At the same time, an Indian Buddhist Chandranath introduced lunisolar calendar and Indian cycle of 60 years in Tibet around 367 CE. Tibet and China borrowed the 60-year cycle from India.

(Source): academia.edu: The Chronological History of Tibetan Buddhism
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The history of India traces the identification of countries, villages, towns and other regions of India, as well as royal dynasties, rulers, tribes, local festivities and traditions and regional languages. Ancient India enjoyed religious freedom and encourages the path of Dharma, a concept common to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.

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Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

[Kalacakra in Marathi glossaries]

kālacakra (कालचक्र).—n (S) The revolutions of Time and the influence attributed; the wheel of Fortune; the vicissitudes of life. v phira, badala, ulaṭa. 2 A defined revolution, a cycle. 3 A period.

(Source): DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

kālacakra (कालचक्र).—n The wheel of fortune. A cycle. A period.

--- OR ---

kālacakra (कालचक्र).—n The course of Fate.

(Source): DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
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Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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Sanskrit-English dictionary

[Kalacakra in Sanskrit glossaries]

Kālacakra (कालचक्र).—

1) the wheel of time (time being represented as a wheel always moving).

2) a cycle.

3) (hence fig.) the wheel of fortune, the vicissitudes of life.

-kraḥ an epithet of the sun.

Derivable forms: kālacakram (कालचक्रम्).

Kālacakra is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms kāla and cakra (चक्र).

(Source): DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
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Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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