In preparation for the upcoming Kālachakra retreat, I thought to revisit some of the central themes on Jonang Kālachakra practice that have inspired many of my conversations with friends and inquirers on the subject. Though much of this can be found in my outline of the practice curriculum, it may be helpful to discuss this again here.
To begin, its important to distinguish what are “ngöndro” (sngon ‘gro) or the preliminary practices in the Jonang Kalachakra practice tradition, and what are “ngözhi” (dngos gzhi) or the primary practices. Although this is a division that is found among the Tibetan tantric traditions in general, it takes on a slightly different structure here.
The ngöndro practices are twofold: (a) the common preliminaries, and (b) the uncommon preliminaries. The common preliminaries are:
- Invocation of Lineage Masters, Refuge and Prostration
- Generating the Mind of Awakening (bodhicitta)
- Vajrasattva Visualization and Recitation
- Maṇḍala Offerings
- Guru Yoga
As is found in all of the Tibetan tantric traditions, these are performed 100,000 times each in order to prepare the practitioner for the more advanced meditations.
Next are the uncommon preliminaries. This again is twofold: (a) the generation stage (bskyed rim), and (b) the three isolations (dben pa gsum). This is often confusing for those who have been trained in other Tibetan traditions, as the Jonang structure the Kālachakra practice slightly different. In other systems, the generation stage practice is not considered a “ngöndro” or preliminary practice, but an actual main practice, “ngözhi.” However, the Jonangpa consider these practices as being the preparation for the main yogic techniques found within the completion stage (rdzogs rim) process.
The generation stage is the deity yoga process, imagining oneself as the sublime form of the Kālachakra in enlightened embrace. The three isolations are of (a) body, (b) speech, and (c) mind. While the generation process is considered a support for the completion stage in general, the three isolations are thought to be the special preparations for this profound path of vajrayoga as found within the Kālachakra trantric system.
It may be helpful to note here that these three isolations are done in a dark room setting, as an intensive meditation. Having said that, these practices are not to be confused with the main practices of the dark room that are associated with the 1st yoga.
After one has completed these preliminaries, signs of accomplishment are said to arise naturally and without hindrance. These signal the extent to which one’s habitual propensities have been modified, and to what extent one’s perceptions and expressions are ready for the subtle contemplative techniques of vajrayoga.
A practitioner then proceeds onto the first 2 of the 6-fold vajrayoga (sbyor drug, “six yogas”): (1) Yoga of Withdrawal (so sor sdud pa); (2) Yoga of Meditative Concentration (bsam gtan).
1.Sheehy, Michael R. Kalachakra Practice Outline. In Jonang Foundation’s Digital Library, www.jonangfoundation.org/kalachakra-practice-outline.