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Kalacakra, aka: Kālacakra; 6 Definition(s)


Kalacakra means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit. 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.

In Hinduism

Dhanurveda (science of warfare)

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: DhanurvedaDhanurveda 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.


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 IndexPurāṇa book cover
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The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

General definition (in Hinduism)

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

Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayāna)

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 BuddhismTibetan 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.

General definition (in Buddhism)

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

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