The Shadow of The Dalai Lama – Part One: Introduction by Victor & Victoria Trimondi

The Shadow of The Dalai Lama – Part One: Introduction by Victor & Victoria Trimondi:

The Shadow of the Dalai Lama – Introduction

© Victor & Victoria Trimondi


Light and Shadow

For centuries after Buddha had died, his shadow was still visible in a cave a dreadful, spine-chilling shadow. God is dead: but man being the way he is for centuries to come there will be caves in which his shadow is shown and we, we must also triumph over his shadow.
Friedrich Nietzsche

The practice and philosophy of Buddhism has spread so rapidly throughout the Western world in the past 30 years and has so often been a topic in the media that by now anybody who is interested in cultural affairs has formed some sort of concept of Buddhism. In the conventional “Western” notion of Buddhism, the teachings of Buddha Gautama are regarded as a positive Eastern countermodel to the decadent civilization and culture of the West: where the Western world has introduced war and exploitation into world history, Buddhism stands for peace and freedom; whilst Western rationalism is destructive of life and the environment, the Eastern teachings of wisdom preserve and safeguard them. The meditation, compassion, composure, understanding, nonviolence, modesty, and spirituality of Asia stand in contrast to the actionism, egomania, unrest, indoctrination, violence, arrogance, and materialism of Europe and North America. Ex oriente lux—“light comes from the East”; in occidente nox—“darkness prevails in the West”.

We regard this juxtaposition of the Eastern and Western hemispheres as not just the “business” of naive believers and zealous Tibetan lamas. On the contrary, this comparison of values has become distributed among Western intelligentsia as a popular philosophical speculation in which they flirt with their own demise.

But the cream of Hollywood also gladly and openly confess their allegiance to the teachings of Buddhism (or what they understand these to be), especially when these come from the mouths of Tibetan lamas. “Tibet is looming larger than ever on the show business map,” the Herald Tribune wrote in 1997. “Tibet is going to enter the Western popular culture as something can only when Hollywood does the entertainment injection into the world system. Let’s remember that Hollywood is the most powerful force in the world, besides the US military” (Herald Tribune, March 20, 1997, pp. 1, 6). Orville Schell, who is working on a book on Tibet and the West, sees the Dalai Lama’s “Hollywood connection” as a substitute for the non-existent diplomatic corps that could represent the interests of the exiled Tibetan hierarch: “Since he [the Dalai Lama] doesn’t have embassies, and he has no political power, he has to seek other kinds. Hollywood is a kind of country in his own, and he’s established a kind of embassy there.” (Newsweek, May 19, 1997, p. 24).

In Buddhism more and more show-business celebrities believe they have discovered a message of salvation that can at last bring the world peace and tranquility. In connection with his most recent film about the young Dalai Lama (Kundun), the director Martin Scorsese, more known for the violence of his films, emotionally declared: “Violence is not the answer, it doesn’t work any more. We are at the end of the worst century in which the greatest atrocities in the history of the world have occurred ... The nature of human beings must change. We must cultivate love and compassion” (Focus 46/1997, p. 168; retranslation). The karate hero Steven Segal, who believes himself to be the reincarnation of a Tibetan lama, tells us, “I have been a Buddhist for twenty years and since then have lived in harmony with myself and the world” (Bunte, November 6, 1997, p. 24; retranslation). For actor Richard Gere, one of the closest Western confidants of the Dalai Lama, the “fine irony of Buddhism, which signifies the only way to true happiness, is our own pleasure to offer to each and all” (Bunte, November 6, 1997, p. 25; retranslation). Helmut Thoma, former head of the private German television company RTL, is no less positive about this Eastern religion: “Buddhists treat each other in a friendly, well-meaning and compassionate way. They see no difference between their own suffering and that of others. I admire that” (Bunte, November 6, 1997, p. 24). Actress Christine Kaufmann has also enthused, “In Buddhism the maxim is: enjoy the phases of happiness for these are transitory” (Bunte, November 6, 1997, p. 21). Sharon Stone, Uma Thurman, Tina Turner, Patty Smith, Meg Ryan, Doris Dörrie, and Shirley MacLaine are just some of the film stars and singers who follow the teachings of Buddha Gautama.

The press is no less euphoric. The German magazine Bunte has praised the teachings from the East as the “ideal religion of our day”: Buddhism has no moral teachings, enjoins us to happiness, supports winners, has in contrast to other religions an unblemished past ("no skeletons in the closet”),worships nature as a cathedral, makes women beautiful, promotes sensuousness, promises eternal youth, creates paradise on earth, reduces stress and body weight (Bunte, November 6, 1997, pp. 20ff.).

What has already become the myth of the “Buddhization of the West” is the work of many. Monks, scholars, enthusiastic followers, generous sponsors, occultists, hippies, and all sorts of “Eastern trippers” have worked on it. But towering above them all, just as the Himalayas surpass all other peaks on the planet, is His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Timeless, gigantic, respectful, tolerant, patient, modest, simple, full of humor, warm, gentle, lithe, earthy, harmonious, transparent, pure, and always smiling and laughing — this is how the Kundun (the Tibetan word means “presence” or “living Buddha”) is now known to all. There is no positive human characteristic which has not at one time or another been applied to the Dalai Lama. For many of the planet’s inhabitants, even if they are non-Buddhists, he represents the most respectable living individual of our epoch.

Many believe they have discovered in the straightforward personality of this Buddhist monk all the rare qualities of a gracious and trustworthy character that we seek in vain among our Western politicians and church leaders. In a world full of evil, materialism, and corruption he represents goodwill, the realm of the spirit, and the lotus blossom of purity; amidst the maelstrom of trivialities and confusion he stands for meaning, calm, and stability; in the competitive struggle of modern capitalism and in an age where reports of catastrophes are constant he is the guarantor of justice and a clear and unshaken will; from the thick of the battle of cultures and peoples he emerges as the apostle of peace; amidst a global outbreak of religious fanaticism he preaches tolerance and nonviolence.

His followers worship him as a deity, a “living Buddha” (Kundun), and call him their “divine king”. Not even the Catholic popes or medieval emperors ever claimed such a high spiritual position — they continued to bow down before the “Lord of Lords” (God) as his supreme servants. The Dalai Lama, however –according to Tibetan doctrine at least — himself appears and acts as the “Highest”. In him is revealed the mystic figure of ADI BUDDHA (the Supreme Buddha); he is a religious ideal in flesh and blood. In some circles, enormous hopes are placed in the Kundun as the new Redeemer himself. Not just Tibetans and Mongolians, many Taiwan Chinese and Westerners also see him as a latterday Messiah. [1]

However human the monk from Dharamsala (India) may appear, his person is surrounded by the most occult speculations. Many who have met him believe they have encountered the supernatural. In the case of the “divine king” who has descended to mankind from the roof of the world, that which was denied Moses—namely, to glimpse the countenance of God (Yahweh)—has become possible for pious Buddhists; and unlike Yahweh this countenance shows no wrath, but smiles graciously and warmly instead.

The esoteric pathos in the characterization of the Dalai Lama has long since transcended the boundaries of Buddhist insider groups. It is the famous show business personalities and even articles in the “respectable” Western press who now express the mystic flair of the Kundun in weighty exclamations: “The fascination is the search for the third eye”, Melissa Mathison, scriptwriter for Martin Scorsese’s film, Kundun, writes in the Herald Tribune. “Americans are hoping for some sort of magical door into the mystical, thinking that there’s some mysterious reason for things, a cosmic explanation. Tibet offers the most extravagant expression of the mystical, and when people meet His Holiness, you can see on their faces that they’re hoping to get this hit that will transcend their lives, take them someplace else” (Herald Tribune, March 20, 1997).

Nevertheless — and this is another magical fairytale — the divine king’s omnipotent role combines well with the monastic modesty and simplicity he exhibits. It is precisely this fascinating combination of the supreme (“divine king”) and the almighty with the lowliest (“mendicant”) and weakest that makes the Dalai Lama so appealing for many — clear, understandable words, a gracious smile, a simple robe, plain sandals, and behind all this the omnipotence of the divine. With his constantly repeated statement — “I ... see myself first as a man and a Tibetan who has made the decision to become a Buddhist monk” — His Holiness has conquered the hearts of the West (Dalai Lama XIV, 1993a, p. 7). We can believe in such a person, we can find refuge in him, from him we learn about the wisdom of life and death. [2]

A similar reverse effect is found in another of the Kundun’s favorite sayings, that the institution of the Dalai Lama could become superfluous in the future. “Perhaps it would really be good if I were the last!” (Levenson, 1990, p. 366). Such admissions of his own superfluity bring tears to people’s eyes and are only surpassed by the prognosis of the “divine king” that in his next life he will probably be reincarnated as an insect in order to help this lower form of life as an “insect messiah”. In the wake of such heartrending prophecies no-one would wish for anything more than that the institution of the Dalai Lama might last for ever.

The political impotence of the country the hierarch had to flee has a similarly powerful and disturbing effect. The image of the innocent, peaceful, spiritual, defenseless, and tiny Tibet, suppressed and humiliated by the merciless, inhumane, and materialistic Chinese giant has elevated the “Land of Snows” and its monastic king to the status of a worldwide symbol of “pacifist resistance”. The more Tibet and its “ecclesiastical king” are threatened, the more his spiritual authority increases and the more the Kundun becomes an international moral authority. He has succeeded in the impossible task of drawing strength from his weakness.

The numerous speeches of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, his interviews, statements, writings, biographies, books, and his countless introductions and forewords to the texts of others deal almost exclusively with topics like compassion, kindness, sincerity, love, nonviolence, human rights, ecological visions, professions of democracy, religious tolerance, inner and outer spirituality, the blessings of science, world peace, and so on. It would take a true villain to not agree totally with what he has said and written. Training consciousness, achieving spiritual peace, cultivating inner contentment, fostering satisfaction, practicing awareness, eliminating egoism, helping others — what responsible person could fail to identify with this? Who doesn’t long for flawless love, clear intellect, generosity, and enlightenment?

Within Western civilization, the Dalai Lama appears as the purest light. He represents — according to former President Jimmy Carter — a new type of world leader, who has placed the principles of peace and compassion at the center of his politics, and who, with his kind and winning nature, has shown us all how the hardest blows of fate can be borne with perseverance and patience. By now he symbolizes human dignity and global responsibility for millions. Up until very recently hardly anyone, with the exception of his archenemies, the Chinese communists, has dared to criticize this impotent/omnipotent luminary. But then, out of the blue in 1996, dark clouds began to gather over the bright aura of the “living Buddha”.

Charges, accusations, suspicions and incriminations began to appear in the media. At first on the Internet, then in isolated press reports, and finally in television programs (see Panorama on ARD [Germany], November 20, 1997 and 10 vor 10 on SF1 [Switzerland], January 5-8, 1998). At the same time as the Hollywood stars were erecting a media altar for their Tibetan god, the public attacks on the Dalai Lama were becoming more frequent. Even for a mundane politician the catalogue of accusations would have been embarrassing, but for a divine king they were horrendous. And on this occasion the attacks came not from the Chinese camp but from within his own ranks.

The following serious charges are leveled in an open letter to the Kundun supposedly written by Tibetans in exile which criticizes the “despotism” of the hierarch: “The cause [of the despotism] is the invisible disease which is still there and which develops immediately if met with various conditions. And what is this disease? It is your clinging to your own power. It is a fact that even at that time if someone would have used democracy on you, you would not have been able to accept it. ... Your Holiness, you wish to be a great leader, but you do not know that in order to fulfill the wish, a ‘political Bodhisattva vow’ is required. So you entered instead the wrong ‘political path of accumulation’ (tsog lam) and that has lead you on a continuously wrong path. You believed that in order to be a greater leader you had to secure your own position first of all, and whenever any opposition against you arose you had to defend yourself, and this has become contagious. ... Moreover, to challenge lamas you have used religion for your own aim. To that purpose you had to develop the Tibetan people’s blind faith. ... For instance, you started the politics of public Kalachakra initiations. [3] Normally the Kalachakra initiation is not given in public. Then you started to use it continuously in a big way for your politics. The result is that now the Tibetan people have returned to exactly the same muddy and dirty mixing of politics and religion of lamas which you yourself had so precisely criticized in earlier times. ... You have made the Tibetans into donkeys. You can force them to go here and there as you like. In your words you always say that you want to be Ghandi but in your action you are like a religious fundamentalist who uses religious faith for political purposes. Your image is the Dalai Lama, your mouth is Mahatma Ghandi and your heart is like that of a religious dictator. You are a deceiver and it is very sad that on the top of the suffering that they already have the Tibetan people have a leader like you. Tibetans have become fanatics. They say that the Dalai Lama is more important than the principle of Tibet. ... Please, if you feel like being like Gandhi, do not turn the Tibetan situation in the church dominated style of 17th century Europe” (Sam, May 27, 1997 - Newsgroup 16).

The list of accusations goes on and on. Here we present some of the charges raised against the Kundun since 1997 which we treat in more detail in this study: association with the Japanese “poison gas guru” Shoko Asahara (the “Asahara affair”); violent suppression of the free expression of religion within his own ranks (the “Shugden affair”); the splitting of the other Buddhist sects (the “Karmapa affair”); frequent sexual abuse of women by Tibetan lamas (“Sogyal Rinpoche and June Campbell affairs”);intolerance towards homosexuals; involvement in a ritual murder (the events of February 4, 1997); links to National Socialism (the “Heinrich Harrer affair”); nepotism (the “Yabshi affair”); selling out his own country to the Chinese(renunciation of Tibetan sovereignty); political lies; rewriting history; and much more. Overnight the god has become a demon. [4]

And all of a sudden Westerners are beginning to ask themselves whether the king of light from the Himalayas might not have a monstrous shadow. What we mean by the Dalai Lama’s “shadow” is the possibility of a dark, murky, and “dirty” side to both his personality and politicoreligious office in contrast to the pure and brilliant figure he cuts as the “greatest living hero of peace in our century” in the captivated awareness of millions.

For most people who have come to know him personally or via the media, such nocturnal dimensions to His Holiness are unimaginable. The possibility would not even occur to them, since the Kundun has grasped how to effectively conceal the threatening and demonic aspects of Tibetan Buddhism and the many dark chapters in the history of Tibet. Up until 1996 he had succeeded –the poorly grounded Chinese critique aside — in playing the shining hero on the world stage.

Plato’s cave

The shadow is the “other side” of a person, his “hidden face”, the shadows are his “occult depths”. Psychoanalysis teaches us that there are four ways of dealing with our shadow: we can deny it, suppress it, project it onto other people, or integrate it.

But the topic of the shadow does not just have a psychological dimension; ever since Plato’s famous analogy of the cave it has become one of the favorite motifs of Western philosophy. In his Politeia (The State), Plato tells of an “unenlightened” people who inhabit a cave with their backs to the entrance. Outside shines the light of eternal and true reality, but as the people have turned their backs to it, all they see are the shadows of reality which flit sketchily across the walls of the cave before their eyes. Their human attentiveness is magically captivated by this shadowy world and they thus perceive only dreams and illusions, never higher reality itself. Should a cave dweller one day manage to escape this dusky dwelling, he would recognize that he had been living in a world of illusions.

This parable was adapted by Friedrich Nietzsche in Aphorism 108 of his Fröhliche Wissenschaft [The Gay Science] and — of interest here — linked to the figure of Buddha: “For centuries after Buddha had died,” Nietzsche wrote, “his shadow was still visible in a cave — a dreadful, spine-chilling shadow. God is dead: but man being the way he is, for centuries to come there will be caves in which his shadow is shown — and we — we must also triumph over his shadow”. [5]

This aphorism encourages us to speculate about the Dalai Lama. He is, after all, worshipped as “God” or as a “living Buddha” (Kundun), as a supreme enlightened being. But, we could argue with Nietzsche, the true Buddha (“God”) is dead. Does this make the figure of the Dalai Lama nothing but a shadow? Are pseudo-dogmas, pseudo-rituals, and pseudo-mysteries all that remain of the original Buddhism? Did the historical Buddha Shakyamuni leave us with his “dreadful shadow” (the Dalai Lama) and have we been challenged to liberate ourselves from him? However, we could also speculate as to whether people perceive only the Dalai Lama’s silhouette since they still live in the cave of an unenlightened consciousness. If they were to leave this world of illusion, they might experience the Kundun as the supreme luminary and Supreme Buddha (ADI BUDDHA).

In our study of the Dalai Lama we offer concrete answers to these and similar metaphysical questions. To do this, however, we must lead our readers into (Nietzsche’s) cave, where the “dreadful shadow” of the Kundun (a “living Buddha”) appears on the wall. Up until now this cave has been closed to the public and could not be entered by the uninitiated.

Incidentally, every Tibetan temple possesses such an eerie room of shadows. Beside the various sacred chambers in which smiling Buddha statues emit peace and composure there are secret rooms known as gokhangs which can only be entered by a chosen few. In the dim light of flickering, half-drowned butter lamps, surrounded by rusty weapons, stuffed animals, and mummified body parts, the Tibetan terror gods reside in the gokhang. Here, the inhabitants of a violent and monstrous realm of darkness are assembled. In a figurative sense the gokhang symbolizes the dark ritualism of Lamaism and Tibet’s hidden history of violence. In order to truly get to know the Dalai Lama (the “living Buddha”) we must first descend into the “cave” (the gokhang) and there conduct a speleology of his religion.

“Realpolitik” and the “Politics of Symbols”

Our study is divided into two parts. The first contain a depiction and critique of the religious foundations of Tibetan (“Tantric”) Buddhism and is entitled Ritual as Politics. The second part (Politics as Ritual) examines the power politics of the Kundun (Dalai Lama) and its historical preconditions. The relationship between political power and religion is thus central to our book.

In ancient societies (like that of Tibet), everything that happens in the everyday world — from acts of nature to major political events to quotidian occurrences — is the expression of transcendent powers and forces working behind the scenes. Mortals do not determine their own fates; rather they are instruments in the hands of “gods” and “demons”. If we wish to gain any understanding at all of the Dalai Lama’s “secular” politics, it must be derived from this atavistic perspective which permeates the traditional cultural legacy of Tibetan Buddhism. For the mysteries that he administers (in which the “gods” make their appearances) form the foundations of his political vision and decision making. State and religion, ritual and politics are inseparable for him.

What, however, distinguishes a “politics of symbols” from “realpolitik”? Both are concerned with power, but the methods for achieving and maintaining power differ. In realpolitik we are dealing with facts that are both caused and manipulated by people. Here the protagonists are politicians, generals, CEOs, leaders of opinion, cultural luminaries, etc. The methods through which power is exercised include force, war, revolution, legal systems, money, rhetoric, propaganda, public discussions, and bribery.

In the symbolic political world, however, we encounter “supernatural” energy fields, the “gods” and “demons”. The secular protagonists in events are still human beings such as ecclesiastical dignitaries, priests, magicians, gurus, yogis, and shamans. But they all see themselves as servants of some type of superior divine will, or, transcending their humanity they themselves become “gods”, as in the case of the Dalai Lama. His exercise of power thus not only involves worldly techniques but also the manipulation of symbols in rituals and magic. For him, symbolic images and ritual acts are not simply signs or aesthetic acts but rather instruments with which to activate the gods and to influence people’s awareness. His political reality is determined by a “metaphysical detour” via the mysteries. [6]

This interweaving of historical and symbolic events leads to the seemingly fantastic metapolitics of the Tibetans. Lamaism believes it can influence the course of history not just in Tibet but for the entire planet through its system of rituals and invocations, through magic practices and concentration exercises. The result is an atavistic mix of magic and politics. Rather than being determined by parliament and the Tibetan government in exile, political decisions are made by oracles and the supernatural beings acting through them. It is no longer parties with differing programs and leaders who face off in the political arena, but rather distinct and antagonistic oracle gods.

Above all it is in the individual of the Dalai Lama that the entire wordly and spiritual/magic potential of the Tibetan world view is concentrated. According to tradition he is a sacred king. All his deeds, however much they are perceived in terms of practical politics by his surroundings, are thus profoundly linked to the Tibetan mysteries.

The latter have always been shrouded in secrecy. The uninitiated have no right to participate or learn about them. Nevertheless, in recent years much information about the Tibetan cults (recorded in the so-called tantra texts and their commentaries) has been published and translated into European languages. The world that opens itself here to Western awareness appears equally fantastic and fascinating. This world is a combination of theatrical pomp, medieval magic, sacred sexuality, relentless asceticism, supreme deification and the basest abuse of women, murderous crimes, maximum ethical demands, the appearance of gods and demons, mystical ecstasy, and cold hard logic all in one powerful, paradoxical performance.

Note on the cited literature:

The original documents which we cite are without exception European-language translations from Sanskrit, Tibetan or Chinese, or are drawn from Western sources. By now, so many relevant texts have been translated that they provide an adequate scholarly basis for a culturally critical examination of Tibetan Buddhism without the need to refer to documents in the original language. For our study , the Kalachakra Tantra is central. This has not been translated in its entirety, aside from an extremely problematical handwritten manuscript by the German Tibetoligist, Albert Grünwedel, which can be found in the Bavarian State Library in Munich. Important parts of the Sri Kalachakra have been translated into English by John Roland Newman, along with a famous commentary on these parts by Pundarika known as the Vimalaphraba. (John Ronald Newman - The outer wheel of time: Vajrayana buddhist cosmology in the Kalacakra Tantra – Vimalaprabhā - nāmamūlatantrānusāriņī-dvādaśasāhasrikālagukālacakratantrarājaţīkā ) Madison 1987)

The Sri Kalachakra (Laghukalachakratantra) is supposed to be the abridgement of a far more comprehensive original text by the name of Sekoddesha. The complete text has been lost — but some important passages from it have been preserved and have been commented upon by the renowned scholar Naropa (10th century). An Italian translation of the commentary by Ranieri Gnoli and Giacomella Orofino is available. Further to this, we have studied every other work on the Kalachakra Tantra which we have been able to find in a Western language. We were thuis in a position to be able to adequately reconstruct the contents of the “Time Tantra” from the numerous translated commentaries and sources for a cultural historical (and not a philological) assessment of the tantra. This extensive literature is listed at the end of the book. In order to make the intentions and methods of this religious system comprehensible for a Western audience, a comparision with other tantras and with parallels in European culture is of greater importance than a meticulous linguistic knowledge of every line in the Sanskrit or Tibetan original.

In the interests of readability, we have transliterated Tibetan and Sanskrit names without diacritical marks and in this have primarily oriented ourselves to Anglo-Saxon usages.


[1] In the opinion of the Tibet researcher, Peter Bishop, the head of the Lamaist “church” satisfies a “reawakened appreciation of the Divine Father” for many people from the West (Bishop 1993, p. 130). For Bishop, His Holiness stands out as a fatherly savior figure against the insecurities and fears produced by modern society, against the criticisms levelled at monotheistic religions, and against the rubble of the decline of the European system of values.

[2] Through this contradictory effect the Dalai Lama is able to strengthen his superhuman stature with the most banal of words and deeds. Many of His Holiness’s Western visitors, for example, are amazed after an audience that a “god-king” constantly rubs his nose and scratches his head “like an ape”. Yet, writes the Tibet researcher Christiaan Klieger, “such expressions of the body natural do not detract from the status of the Dalai Lama – far from it, as it adds to his personal charisma. It maintains that incongruous image of a divine form in a human body” (Klieger 1991, p 79).

[3] The Kalachakra initiations are the most significant rituals which the Dalai Lama conducts, partly in public and in part in secret. By now the public events take place in the presence of hundreds of thousands. Analyses and interpretations of the Kalachakra initiations lie at the center of the current study.

[4] Up until 1996 the West needed to be divided into two factions — with the eloquent advocates of Tibetan Buddhism on the one hand, and those who were completely ignorant of the issue and remained silent on the other. In contrast, modern or “postmodern” cultural criticisms of the Buddhist teachings and critical examinations of the Tibetan clergy and the Tibetan state structure were extremely rare (completely the opposite of the case of the literature which addresses the Pope and the Catholic Church). Noncommitted and unfalsified analyses and interpretations of Buddhist or Tibetan history, in brief open and truth-seeking confrontations with the shady side of the “true faith” and its history, have to be sought out like needles in a haystack of ideological glorifications and deliberately constructed myths of history. For this reason those who attempted to discover and reveal the hidden background have had to battle to swim against a massive current of resistance based on pre-formed opinions and deliberate manipulation. This situation has changed in the period since 1996.

[5] The fact that Nietzsche’s aphorism about the shadow is number 108 offers numerolgists fertile grounds for occult speculation, as 108 is one of the most significant holy numbers in Tibetan Buddhism. Given the status of knowledge about Tibet at the time, it is hardly likely that Nietzsche chose this number deliberately.

[6] There is nonetheless an occult correlation between “symbolic and ritual politics” and real political events. Thus the Tibetan lamas believe they are justified in subsuming the pre-existing social reality (including that of the West) into their magical world view and subjecting it to their “irrational” methods. With a for a contemporary awareness audacious seeming thought construction, they see in the processes of world history not just the work of politicians, the military, and business leaders, but declare these to be the lackeys of divine or demonic powers.

The Shadow of the Dalai Lama – Part I – 1. Buddhism and misogyny – an historical overview

© Victor & Victoria Trimondi

Part I


Are you actually interested in the topic of sex?

(14th) Dalai Lama:
My goodness! You ask a 62-year-old monk

who has been celibate his entire life a thing like that.

I don’t have much to say about sex

— other than that it is completely okay

if two people love each other.

(The Fourteenth Dalai Lama in a Playboy

interview (German edition), March 1998)


A well-founded critique and — where planned — a deconstruction of the Western image of Buddhism currently establishing itself should concentrate entirely upon the particular school of Buddhism known as “Tantrism” (Tantrayana or Vajrayana) for two reasons. [1] The first is that the “tantric way” represents the most recent phase in the history of Buddhism and is with some justification viewed as the supreme and thus most comprehensive doctrine of the entire system. In a manner of speaking Tantrism has integrated all the foregoing Buddhist schools within itself, and further become a receptacle for Hindu, Iranian, Central Asian, and even Islamic cultural influences. Thus — as an oft-repeated Tantrayana statement puts it — one who has understood the “Tantric Way” has also understood all other paths to enlightenment.

The second reason for concentrating upon Tantrism lies in the fact that it represents the most widely distributed form of Buddhism in the West. It exerts an almost magical attraction upon many in America and Europe. With the Dalai Lama at its head and its clergy of exiled Tibetans, it possesses a powerful and flexible army of missionaries who advance the Buddhization of the West with psychological and diplomatic skill.

It is the goal of the present study to work out, interpret and evaluate the motives, practices and visions of Tantric Buddhism and its history. We have set out to make visible the archetypal fields and the “occult” powers which determine, or at least influence, the world politics of the Dalai Lama as the supreme representative of Tantrayana. For this reason we must familiarize our readers with the gods and demons who –not in our way of looking at things but from a tantric viewpoint — have shaped and continue to shape Tibet’s history. We will thus need to show that the Tibetans experience their history and contemporary politics as the worldly expression of a transcendental reality, and that they organize their lives according to laws which are not of this world. In summary, we wish to probe to the heart of the tantric mystery.

In light of the complexity of the topic, we have resolved to proceed deductively and to preface the entire book with the core statement of our research in the form of a hypothesis. Our readers will thus be set on their way with a statement whose truth or falsity only emerges from the investigations which follow. The formulation of this hypothesis is necessarily very abstract at the outset. Only in the course of our study does it fill out with blood and life, and unfortunately, with violence and death as well. Our core statement is as follows:

The mystery of Tantric Buddhism consists in the sacrifice

of the feminine principle and the manipulation of erotic love

in order to attain universal androcentric power

An endless chain of derived forms of sacrifice has developed out of this central sacrificial event and the associated power techniques: the sacrifice of life, body and soul to the spirit; of the individual to an Almighty God or a higher self; of the feelings to reason; love to omnipotence; the earth to heaven; and so forth. This pervasive sacrificial gnosis, which — as we shall see — ultimately lets the entire universe end in a sea of fire, and which reaches its full maturity in the doctrine of Tantrism, is already in place in the earlier phases of Buddhism, including the legend of Buddha. In order to demonstrate this, we think it sensible to also analyze the three Buddhist stages which precede Tantrayana with regard to the “female sacrifice”, the “manipulation of erotic love”, and the “development of androcentric power”.

The history of Buddhism is normally divided into four phases, all of which found their full development in India. The first recounts the legendary life and teachings of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, who bore the name Siddharta Gautama (c.560 B.C.E.–480 B.C.E.). The second phase, which begins directly following his death, is known as Theravada Buddhism. It is somewhat disparagingly termed Hinayana or the “Low Vehicle” by later Buddhist schools. The third phase has developed since the second century B.C.E., Mahayana Buddhism, or the “Great Vehicle”. Tantrism, or Tantrayana, arose in the fourth century C.E. at the earliest. It is also known as Vajrayana, or the “Diamond Vehicle”.

Just as we have introduced the whole text with a core hypothesis, we would also like to preface the description of the four stages of historical Buddhism to which we devote the following pages with four corresponding variations upon our basic statement about the “female sacrifice”, the “manipulation of erotic love”, and the “development of androcentric power”:

1. The “sacrifice of the feminine principle” is from the outset a fundamental event in the teachings of Buddha . It corresponds to the Buddhist rejection of life, nature and the soul. In this original phase, the bearer of androcentric power is the historical Buddha himself.

2. In Hinayana Buddhism, the “Low Vehicle”, the “sacrifice of the feminine” is carried out with the help of meditation. The Hinayana monk fears and dreads women, and attempts to escape them. He also makes use of meditative exercises to destroy and transcend life, nature and the soul. In this phase the bearer of androcentric power is the is the ascetic holy man or Arhat.

3. In Mahayana, the “Great Vehicle”, flight from women is succeeded by compassion for them. The woman is to be freed from her physical body, and the Mahayana monk selflessly helps her to prepare for the necessary transformation, so that she can become a man in her next reincarnation. The feminine is thus still considered inferior and despicable, as that which must be sacrificed in order to be transformed into something purely masculine. In both founding philosophical schools of Mahayana Buddhism (Madhyamika and Yogachara), life, nature, the body and the soul are accordingly sacrificed to the absolute spirit (citta). The bearer of androcentric power in this phase is the “Savior” or Bodhisattva.

4. In Tantrism or Vajrayana, the tantric master (yogi) exchanges compassion with the woman for absolute control over the feminine. With sexual magic rites he elevates the woman to the status of a goddess in order to subsequently offer her up as a real or symbolic sacrifice. The beneficiary of this sacrifice is not some god, but the yogi himself, since he absorbs within himself the complete life energy of the sacrifice. This radical Vajrayana method ends in an apocalyptic firestorm which consumes the entire universe within its flames. In this phase the bearer of androcentric power is the “Grand Master” or Maha Siddha.

If, as the adherents of Buddhist Tantrism claim, a logic of development pertains between the various stages of Buddhism, then this begins with a passive origin (Hinayana), switches to an active/ethical intermediary stage (Mahayana), and ends in an aggressive/destructive final phase (Tantrayana). The relationship of the three schools to the feminine gender must be characterized as fugitive, supportive and destructive respectively.

Should our hypothesis be borne out by the presentation of persuasive evidence and conclusive argumentation, this would lead to the verdict that in Tantric Buddhism we are dealing with a misogynist, destructive, masculine philosophy and religion which is hostile to life — i.e., the precise opposite of that for which it is trustingly and magnanimously welcomed in the West, above all in the figure of the Dalai Lama.

The “sacrifice” of Maya: The Buddha legend

Even the story of the birth of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni exhibits the fundamentally negative attitude of early Buddhism towards the sexual sphere and toward woman. Maya, the mother of the Sublimity, did not conceive him through an admixture of masculine and feminine seed, as usual in Indian thought, nor did he enter the world via the natural birth channel. His conception was occasioned by a white elephant in a dream of Maya’s. The Buddha also miraculously left his mother’s womb through the side of her hip; the act of birth thus not being associated with any pain.

Why this unnatural birth? Because in Buddhism all the female qualities — menstrual blood, feminine sexuality, conception, pregnancy, the act of childbirth, indeed even a woman’s glance or smile — were from the outset considered not to be indicators of the joys of life; rather, in contrast, human life — in the words of Buddha — ultimately exhausts itself in sickness, age and death. It proves itself to be an existence without constancy, as an unenduring element. Life as such, with its constant change and variety, stands opposed in unbearable contrast to eternity and the unity of the spirit. With the abundance of being it tries to soil the “pure emptiness” of consciousness, to scatter the unity of the spirit with its diversity, or — in the words of the best-known contemporary Buddhist cultural theorist, the American Ken Wilber — the “biosphere” (the sphere of life) drags the “noosphere” (the sphere of the spirit) down to a lower evolutionary level. Human life in all its weakness is thus a lean period to be endured along the way to the infinite (“It were better I had never been born”), and woman, who brings forth this wretched existence, functions as the cause of suffering and death.

Maya dies shortly after the birth of the Sublimity. As the principle of natural life — her death can be symbolically interpreted this way — she stood in the way of the supernatural path of enlightenment of her son, who wished to free himself and humankind from the unending chain of reincarnation. Is she the ancient primeval mother who dies to make place for the triumphant progress of her sun/son? In Ken Wilber’s evolutionary theory, the slaying of the Great Mother is considered the symbolic event which, in both the developmental history of the individual (ontogenesis) and the cultural history of humanity (phylogenesis), must precede an emancipation of consciousness. The ego structure can only develop in a child after the maternal murder, since the infant is still an undifferentiated unity within the motherly source. According to Wilber, a corresponding process can be observed in human history. Here, following the destruction of the matriarchal, “typhonic” mother cult, cultural models have been able to develop patriarchal transcendence and male ego structures.

On the basis of this psychoanalytically influenced thesis, one could interpret Maya’s early death as the maternal murder which had to precede the evolution of the male Buddha consciousness. This interpretation receives a certain spark when we realize that the name Maya means ‘illusion’ in Sanskrit. For a contemporary raised within the Western rationalist tradition, such a naming may seem purely coincidental, but in the magic symbolic worldview of Buddhism, above all in Tantrism, it has a deep-reaching significance. Here, as in all ancient cultures, a name refers not just to a person, but also to those forces and gods it evokes.

Maya — the name of Buddha’s mother — is also the name of the most powerful Indian goddess Maya. The entire material universe is concentrated in Maya, she is the world-woman. In ceaseless motion she produces all appearances and consumes them again. She corresponds to the prima materia of European alchemy, the basic substance in which the seeds of all phenomena are symbolically hidden. The word maya is derived from the Sanskrit root ma-, which has also given us mother, material, and mass. The goddess represents all that is quantitative, all that is material. She is revered as the “Great Mother” who spins the threads of the world’s destiny. The fabric which is woven from this is life and nature. It consists of instincts and feelings, of the physical and the psyche, but not the spirit.

Out of her threads Maya has woven a veil and cast this over the transcendental reality behind all existence, a reality which for the Buddhist stands opposed to the world of appearances as the spiritual principle. Maya is the feminine motion which disturbs the meditative standstill of the man, she is the change which destroys his eternity. Maya casts out her net of “illusion” in order to bind the autonomous ego to her, just as a natural mother binds her child to herself and will not let it go so that it can develop its own personality. In her web she suffocates and keeps in the dark the male ego striving for freedom and light. Maya encapsulates the spirit, her arch-enemy, in a cocoon. She is the principle of birth and rebirth, the overcoming of which is a Buddhist’s highest goal. Eternal life beckons whoever has seen through her deceptions; whoever is taken in will be destroyed and reborn in unceasing activity like all living things.

The death of Maya, the great magician who produces the world of illusions, is the sine qua non for the appearance of “true spirit”. Thus, it was no ordinary woman who died with the passing of Shakyamuni’s mother. Her son had descended to earth because he wished to tear aside the veil of illusion and to teach of the true reality behind the network of the phenomenal, because he had experienced life and the spirit as forming an incompatible dualism and was convinced that this contradiction could only be healed through the omnipotence of the spirit and the destruction of life. Completely imprisoned within the mythical and philosophical traditions of his time, he sees life, deceptive and sumptuous and behind which Death lurks grinning, as a woman. For him too — as for the androcentric system of religion he found himself within — woman was the dark symbol of transience; from this it follows that he who aspires to eternity must at least symbolically “destroy” the world-woman. That the historical Buddha was spared the conscious execution of this “destructive act” by the natural death of his mother makes no change to the fundamental statement: only through the destruction of maya (illusion) can enlightenment be achieved!

Again and again, this overcoming of the feminine principle set off by the early passing of his mother accompanies the historical Buddha on his path to salvation. He experiences both marriage and its polar opposite, sexual dissolution, as two significant barriers blocking his spiritual development that he must surmount. Shakyamuni thus without scruple abandons his family, his wife Yasodhara and his son Rahula, and at the age of 29 becomes “homeless”. The final trigger for this radical decision to give up his royal life was an orgiastic night in the arms of his many concubines. When he sees the “decaying and revolting” faces of the still-sleeping women the next morning, he turns his back on his palace forever. But even once he has found enlightenment he does not return to his own or re-enter the pulsating flow of life. In contrast, he is able to convince Yasodhara and Rahula of the correctness of his ascetic teachings, which he himself describes as a middle way between abstinence and joie de vivre. Wife and son follow his example, leave house and home, and join the sangha, the Buddhist mendicant order.

The equation of the female with evil, familiar from all patriarchal cultures, was also an unavoidable fact for the historical Buddha. In a famous key dramatic scene, the “daughters of Mara” try to tempt him with all manner of ingenious fleshly lures. Woman and her erotic love — the anecdote would teach us — prevent spiritual fulfillment. Archetypally, Mara corresponds to the devil incarnate of Euro-Christian mythology, and his female offspring are lecherous witches. But Shakyamuni remained deaf to their obscene talk and was not impressed by their lascivious gestures. He pretended to see through the beauty of the devil’s daughters as flimsy appearance by roaring at them like a lion, “This [your] body is a swamp of garbage, an infectious heap of impurities. How can anybody take pleasure in such wandering latrines?” (quoted by Faure, 1994, p. 29).

During his lifetime, the historical Buddha was plagued by a chronic misogyny; of this, in the face of numerous documents, there can not be slightest doubt. His woman-scorning sayings are disrespectful, caustic and wounding. “One would sooner chat with demons and murderers with drawn swords, sooner touch poisonous snakes even when their bite is deadly, than chat with a woman alone” (quoted by Bellinger, 1993, p. 246), he preached to his disciples, or even more aggressively, “It were better, simpleton, that your sex enter the mouth of a poisonous snake than that it enter a woman. It were better, simpleton, that your sex enter an oven than that it enter a woman” (quoted by Faure, 1994, p. 72). Enlightenment and intimate contact with a woman were not compatible for the Buddha. “But the danger of the shark, ye monks, is a characteristic of woman”, he warned his followers (quoted by Hermann-Pfand, 1992, p. 51). At another point, with abhorrence he composed the following:

Those are not wise

Act like animals

Racing toward female forms

Like hogs toward mud


Because of their ignorance

They re bewildered by women, who

Like profit seekers in the marketplace

Deceive those who come near

(quoted by D. Paul, 1985, p. 9)

Buddha’s favorite disciple, Ananda, more than once tried to put to his Teacher the explicit desire by women for their own spiritual experience, but the Master’s answers were mostly negative. Ananda was much confused by this refractoriness, indeed it contradicted the stated view of his Master that all forms of life, even insects, could achieve Buddhahood. “Lord, how should we behave towards women?”, he asked the Sublimity — “Not look at them!” — “But what if we must look at them?” — “Not speak to them” — “But what if we must speak to them?” — “Keep wide awake!” (quoted by Stevens, 1990, p. 45)

This disparaging attitude toward everything female is all the more astounding in that the historical Buddha was helped by women at decisive moments along his spiritual journey: following an almost fatal ascetic exercise his life was saved by a girl with a saucer of milk, who taught him through this gesture that the middle way between abstinence and joie de vivre was the right path to enlightenment, not the dead end of asceticism as preached by the Indian yogis. And again it was women, rich lay women, who supported his religious order (sangha) with generous donations, thereby making possible the rapid spread of his teachings.

The meditative dismemberment of woman: Hinayana Buddhism

At the center of Theravada, or Hinayana, Buddhism — in which Shakyamuni’s teachings are preserved and only negligibly further developed following his death — stands the enlightenment of the individual, and, connected to this, his deliberate retreat from the real world. The religious hero of the Hinayana is the “holy man” or Arhat. Only he who has overcome his individual — and thus inferior — ego, and, after successfully traversing a initiation path rich in exercises, achieves Buddhahood, i.e., freedom from all illusion, may call himself an Arhat. He then enters a higher state of consciousness, which the Buddhists call nirvana (not-being). In order to reach this final stage, a Hinayana monk concerns himself exclusively with his inner spiritual perfection and seeks no contact to any kind of public.

The Hinayana believers’ general fear of contact is both confirmed and extended by their fear of and flight from the feminine. Completely in accord with the Master, for the followers of Hinayana the profane and illusionary world (samsara) was identical with the female universe and the network of Maya. In all her forms — from the virgin to the mother to the prostitute and the ugly crone — woman stood in the way of the spiritual development of the monk. Upon entering the sangha (Buddhist order) a novice had to abandon his wife and children, just as the founder of the order himself had once done. Marriage was seen as a constant threat to the necessary celibacy. It was feared as a powerful competitor which withheld men from the order, and which weakened it as a whole.

Taking Buddha’s Mara experience as their starting point, his successors were constantly challenged by the dark power and appeal of woman. The literature of this period is filled with countless tales of seductions in which the monks either bravely withstood sexual temptations or suffered terribly for their errant behavior, and the victory of chastity over sexuality became a permanent topic of religious discussion. “Meditational formulae for alleviating lustful thoughts were prescribed”, writes Diana Paul, the American religious scholar, “The cathartic release of meditative ecstasy rivaled that of an orgasm [...] The image of woman had gradually developed as the antithesis antithesis of religion and morality.” (D. Paul, 1985, p. 8) The Buddha had already said of the “archetypal” holy man of this period, the ascetic Arhat, that “sexual passion can no more cling to an Arhat than water to a lotus leaf” (quoted by Stevens, 1990, p. 46).

In early Buddhism, as in medieval Christian culture, the human body as such, but in particular the female body, was despised as a dirty and inferior thing, as something highly imperfect, that was only superficially beautiful and attractive. In order to meditate upon the transience of all being, the monks, in a widespread exercise, imagined a naked woman. This so-called “analytic meditation” began with a “perfect” and beautiful body, and transformed this step by step into an old, diseased, and dying one, to end the exercise by picturing a rotting and stinking corpse. The female body, as the absolute Other, was meditatively murdered and dismembered as a symbol of the despised world of the senses. Sexual fascination and the irritations of murderous violence are produced by such monastic practices. We return later to historical examples in which monks carried out the dismemberment of women’s bodies in reality.

There are startling examples in the literature which show how women self-destructively internalized this denigration of their own bodies. “The female novice should hate her impure body like a jail in which she is imprisoned, like a cesspool into which she has fallen”, demands an abbess of young nuns. (Faure, 1994, p. 29) Only in as far as they rendered their body and sexuality despicable, and openly professed their inferiority, could women gain a position within the early Buddhist community at all.

In the Vinaya Pitaka, the great book of rules of the order, which is valid for all the phases of Buddhism, we find eight special regulations for nuns. One of these prescribes that they have to bow before even the lowliest and youngest of monks. This applies even to the honorable and aged head of a respected convent. Only with the greatest difficulty could the Buddha be persuaded to ordinate women. He was convinced that this would cause his doctrine irreparable damage and that it would thus disappear from India 500 years earlier than planned. Only after the most urgent pleas from all sides, but primarily due to the flattering words of his favorite disciple, Ananda, did he finally concede.

But even after granting his approval the Buddha remained skeptical: “To go forth from home under the rule of the Dharma as announced by me is not suitable by women. There should be no ordination or nunhood. And why? I women go forth from the Household life, then the rule of Dharma will not be maintaned over a long period.” (quoted by D. Paul, 1985, p. 78). This reproach, that a nun would neglect her family life, appears downright absurd within the Buddhist value system, since for a man it was precisely his highest duty to leave his family, house and home for religious reasons.

Because of the countless religious and social prejudices, the orders of nuns were never able to fully flourish in Buddhist culture, remained few in number, and to the present day play a completely subordinate role within the power structures of the androcentric monastic orders (sangha) of all schools.

The transformation of women into men: Mahayana Buddhism

In the following phase of Mahayana Buddhism (from 200 B.C.E.), the “Great Vehicle”, the relation to the environment changes radically. In place of the passive, asocial and self-centered exercises of the Arhat, the compassionate activities of the Bodhisattva now emerge. Here we find a superhuman deliverer of salvation, who has renounced the highest fruits of final enlightenment, i.e., the entry into nirvana (not-being), in order to help other beings to also set out along the spiritual path and liberate themselves. The denial of the world of the Hinayana is replaced by compassion (karuna) for the world and its inhabitants. In contrast to the Arhat, who satisfies himself, the Bodhisattva, driven by “selfless love”, ideally wanders the land, teaching people the Buddhist truths, and is highly revered by them because of his self-sacrificing and “infinitely kind” acts. All Bodhisattvas have open hearts. Like Jesus Christ they voluntarily take on the suffering of others to free them from their troubles and motivate their believers through exemplary good deeds.

The “Great Vehicle” also integrated a large number of deities from other religions within its system and thus erected an impressive Buddhist pantheon. Among these are numerous goddesses, which would certainly have been experienced as a revolution by the anti-woman monks of early Buddhism. However, Mahayana at the same time, in several philosophical schools which all — even if with varying arguments — teach of the illusion of the world of appearances (samsara), questions this realm of the gods. In the final instance, even the heavenly are affected by the nothingness of all being, or are purely imaginary. “Everything is empty” (Madhyamika school) or “everything is consciousness” (Yogachara school) are the two basic maxims of cognitive theory as taught in Mahayana.

The Mahayana phase of Buddhism took over the Vinaya Pitaka (Rules of the Order) from Hinayana and thus little changed for the Buddhist nuns. Nonetheless, a redemptive theme more friendly to women took the place of the open misogyny. Although the fundamentally negative evaluation of the feminine was not thus overcome, the Bodhisattva, whose highest task is to help all suffering creatures, now open-handedly and selflessly supported women in freeing themselves from the pressing burden of their sex. If the thought of enlightenment awakens in a female being and she follows the Dharma (the Buddhist doctrine), then she can gather such great merit that she will be allowed to be reborn as a man in her next life. If she then, in male form, continues to lead an impeccable existence in the service of the “teachings”, then she will, after “her” second death, experience the joy of awakening in the paradise of Buddha, Amitabha, which is exclusively populated by men. Thus, albeit in a sublime and more “humane” form, the destruction of the feminine is a precondition for enlightenment in Mahayana Buddhism too. Achieving the advanced stages of spiritual development and being born a female are mutually exclusive.

Only at the lower grades (from a total of ten) was it possible in the “Great Vehicle” for a woman to act as a Bodhisattva. Even the famous author of the most popular Mahayana text of all, The Lion’s Roar of Queen Sri Mala (4th century C.E.), was not permitted to lay claim to all the Bodhisattva stages and therefore did not attain complete Buddhahood. Women were thus fundamentally and categorically denied the role of a “perfected” Buddha. For them, the “five cosmic positions” of Brahma (Creator of the World), Indra (King of the Gods), Great King, World Ruler (Chakravartin), and Bodhisattva of the two highest levels were taboo.

Indeed, even the lower Bodhisattva grades were opened to women by only a few texts, such as the Lotus Sutra (c. 100 C.E.) for example. This text stands in crass opposition to the traditional androcentric views which were far more widespread, and are summarized in a concise and unambiguous statement from the great scholar Asangha (4th century C.E.): “Completely perfected Buddhas are not women. And why? Precisely because a Bodhisattva .... has completely abandoned the state of womanhood. Ascending to the most excellent throne of enlightenment, he is never again reborn as a woman. All women are by nature full of defilement and of weak intelligence. And not by one who is by nature full of defilement and of weak intelligence, is completely perfected Buddhahood attained.” (Shaw, 1994, p. 27)

In Mahayana Buddhism, gender became a karmic category, whereby incarnation as a woman was equated with lower karma. The rebirth of a woman as a man implied that she had successfully worked off her bad karma. Correspondingly, men who had led a sinful life were reincarnated as “little women”.

As so many women nevertheless wished to follow the Way of the Buddha, a possible acceleration of the gender transformation was considered in several texts. In the Sutra of the Pure Land female Buddhists had to wait for their rebirth as men before they achieved enlightenment; in other sutras they “merely” needed to change their sex in their current lives and thus achieve liberation. Such sexual transmutations are of course miracles, but a female being who reached for the fruits of the highest Buddhahood must be capable of performing supernatural acts. “If women awaken to the thought of enlightenment,” says the Sutra on changing the Female Sex, “then they will have the great and good person’s state of mind, a man’s state of mind, a sage’s state of mind. […] If women awaken to the thought of enlightenment, then they will not be bound to the limitation of a woman’s state of mind. Because they will not be limited, they will forever separate from the females sex and become sons.” I.e. a male follower of Buddha. (quoted by D. Paul, 1985, p. 175/176).

Many radical theses of Mahayana Buddhism (for example, the dogma of the “emptiness of all being”) lead to unsolvable contradictions in the gender question. In principle, the Dharma (the teachings) say that a perfect being is free from every desire and therefore needs to be asexual. This requirement, with which the insignificance of gender at higher spiritual levels is meant to be emphasized, however, contradicts the other orthodox rule that only men have earned enlightenment. Such dissonant elements are then taken advantage of by women . There are several extremely clever dialogs in which female Buddhists conclusively annul their female inferiority with arguments which are included within the Buddhist doctrine itself. For example, in the presence of Buddha Shakyamuni the girl Candrottara explains that a sex change from female to male makes no sense from the standpoint of the “emptiness of all appearances” taught in the Mahayana and is therefore superfluous. Whether man or woman is also irrelevant for the path to enlightenment as it is described in the Diamond Sutra.

The asexuality of Mahayana Buddhism has further led to a religious glorification of the image of the mother. This is indeed a most astonishing development, and is not compatible with earlier fundamentals of the doctrine, since the mother is despised as the cause of rebirth just as much as the young woman as the cause of sexual seduction. An apotheosis of the motherly was therefore possible only after the monks had “liberated” the mother archetype from its “natural” attributes such as conception and birth. The “Great Mothers” of Mahayana Buddhism, like Prajnaparamita for instance, are transcendental beings who have never soiled themselves through contact with base nature (sexuality and childbearing).

The have only their warmth, their protective role, their unconditional readiness to help and their boundless love in common with earthly mothers. These transcendental mothers of the Mahayana are indeed powerful heavenly matrons, but the more powerful they are experienced to be, the more they dissolve into the purely allegorical. They represent “perfect wisdom”, the “mother of emptiness”, “transcendent love”. When, however, the genesis of these symbolic female figures is examined (as is done at length in our analysis of Vajrayana Buddhism), then they all prove to be the imaginary products of a superior male Buddha being.

In closing this chapter we would like to mention a phenomenon which occurred much more frequently than one would like to accept in Mahayana: “compassionate copulation”. Sexual intercourse between celibate monks and female beings was actually allowed in exceptional circumstances: if it was performed out of compassion for the woman to be slept with. There could even be a moral imperative to sleep with a woman: “If a woman falls violently in love with a Bodhisattva and is about to sacrifice her life for him, it is his duty to save her life by satisfying all her desires” (Stevens, 1990, p. 56). At least some monks probably took much pleasure in complying with this commandment.

In Western centers of modern Buddhism too, irrespective of whether Zen or Lamaist exercises are practiced, it is not uncommon for the masters to sleep with their female pupils in order to “spiritually” assist them (Boucher, 1985, p. 239). But it is mostly a more intimate affair than in the case of the present-day Asian guru who boasted to an American interviewer, “I have slept with a thousand women. One of them had a hump. I gave her my love, and she has become a happy person. ... I am a ‘Buddhist scouring pad’. A scouring pad is something which gets itself dirty but at the same time cleans everything it touches” (Faure, 1994, p. 92).


[1] The Sanskrit word tantra, just like its Tibetan equivalent rguyd, has many meanings, all of which, however, are originally grouped around terms like ‘thread’, ‘weave’, ‘web’, and ‘network’. From these, ‘system’ and ‘textbook’ finally emerged. The individuals who follow the Tantric Way are called Tantrika or Siddha. A distinction is drawn between Hindu and Buddhist systems of teaching. The latter more specifically involves a definite number of codified texts and their commentaries.


The fourth and final phase of Buddhism entered the world stage in the third century C.E. at the earliest. It is known as Tantrayana, Vajrayana or Mantrayana: the “Tantra Vehicle”, the “Diamond Path” or the “Way of the Magic Formulas”. The teachings of Vajrayana are recorded in the holy writings, known as tantras. These are secret occult doctrines, which — according to legend — had already been composed by Buddha Shakyamuni, but the time was not deemed ripe for them to be revealed to the believers until a thousand years after his death.

It is true that Vajrayana basically adheres to the ideas of Mahayana Buddhism, in particular the doctrine of the emptiness of all appearances and the precept of compassion for all suffering beings, but the tantric temporarily countermands the high moral demands of the “Great Vehicle” with a radical “amoral” behavioral inversion. To achieve enlightenment in this lifetime he seizes upon methods which invert the classic Buddhist values into their direct opposites.

Tantrism designates itself the highest level of the entire edifice of Buddhist teachings and establishes a hierarchical relation to both previous phases of Buddhism, whereby the lowest level is occupied by Hinayana and the middle level by Mahayana. The holy men of the various schools are ranked accordingly. At the base rules the Arhat, then comes the Bodhisattva, and all are reigned over by the Maha Siddha, the tantric Grand Master. All three stages of Buddhism currently exist alongside one another as autonomous religious systems.

In the eighth century C.E., with the support of the Tibetan dynasty of the time, Indian monks introduced Vajrayana into Tibet, and since then it has defined the religion of the “Land of Snows”. Although many elements of the indigenous culture were integrated into the religious milieu of Tantric Buddhism, this was never the case with the basic texts. All of these originated in India. They can be found, together with commentaries upon them, in two canonical collections, the Kanjur (a thirteenth-century translation of the words of Buddha) and the Tanjur (a translation of the doctrinal texts from the fourteenth century). Ritual writings first recorded in Tibet are not considered part of the official canon. (This, however, does not mean that they were not put to practical use.)

The explosion of sexuality: Vajrayana Buddhism

All tantras are structurally similar; they all include the transformation of erotic love into spiritual and worldly power. [1] The essence of the entire doctrine is, however, encapsulated in the so-called Kalachakra Tantra, or “Time Tantra”, the analysis of which is our central objective. It differs from the remaining tantra teachings in both its power-political intentions and its eschatological visions. It is — we would like to hypothesize in advance — the instrument of a complicated metapolitics which attempts to influence world events via the use of symbols and rites rather than the tools of realpolitik. The “Time Tantra” is the particular secret doctrine which primarily determines the ritual existence of the living Fourteenth Dalai Lama, and the “god-king’s” spiritual world politics can be understood through a knowledge of it alone.

The Kalachakra Tantra marks the close of the creative phase of Vajrayana’s history in the tenth century. No further fundamental tantra texts have been conceived since, whilst countless commentaries upon the existing texts have been written, up until the present day. We must thus regard the “Time Tantra” as the culmination of and finale to Buddhist Tantrism. The other tantric texts which we cite in this study (especially the Guhyasamaya Tantra, the Hevajra Tantra and the Candamaharosana Tantra), are primarily drawn upon in order to decipher the Kalachakra Tantra.

At first glance the sexual roles seem to have changed completely in Tantric Buddhism (Vajrayana). The contempt for the world of the senses and degradation of women in Hinayana, the asexuality and compassion for women in Mahayana, appear to have been turned into their opposites here. It all but amounts to an explosion of sexuality, and the idea that sexual love harbors the secret of the universe becomes a spectacular dogma. The erotic encounter between man and woman is granted a mystical aura, an authority and power completely denied it in the preceding Buddhist eras.

With neither timidity nor dread Buddhist monks now speak about “venerating women”, “praising women”, or “service to the female partner”. In Vajrayana, every female being experiences exaltation rather than humiliation; instead of contempt she enjoys, at first glance, respect and high esteem. In the Candamaharosana Tantra the glorification of the feminine knows no bounds: “Women are heaven; women are Dharma; ... women are Buddha; women are the sangha; women are the perfection of wisdom”(George, 1974, p. 82).

The spectrum of erotic relations between the sexes ranges from the most sublime professions of courtly love to the coarsest pornography. Starting from the highest rung of this ladder, the monks worship the feminine as “perfected wisdom” (prajnaparamita), “wisdom consort” (prajna), or “woman of knowledge” (vidya). This spiritualization of the woman corresponds, with some variation, to the Christian cults of Mary and Sophia. Just as Christ revered the “Mother of God”, the Tantric Buddhist bows down before the woman as the “Mother of all Buddhas”, the “Mother of the Universe”, the “Genetrix”, the “Sister”, and as the “Female Teacher”(Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, pp. 62, 60, 76).

As far as sensual relationships with women are concerned, these are divided into four categories: “laughing, regarding, embracing, and union”. These four types of erotic communication form the pattern for a corresponding classification of tantric exercises. The texts of the Kriya Tantra address the category of laughter, those of the Carya Tantra that of the look, the Yoga Tantra considers the embrace, and in the writings of the Anuttara Tantra (the Highest Tantra) sexual union is addressed. These practices stand in a hierarchical relation to one another, with laughter at the lowest level and the tantric act of love at the highest.

In Vajrayana the latter becomes a religious concern of the highest order, the sine qua non of enlightenment. Although homosexuality was not uncommon in Buddhist monasteries and was occasionally even regarded as a virtue, the “great bliss of liberation” was fundamentally conceived of as the union of man and woman and accordingly portrayed in cultic images.

However, both tantric partners encounter one another not as two natural people, but rather as two deities. “The man (sees) the woman as a goddess, the woman (sees) the man as a god. By joining the diamond scepter [phallus] and lotus [vagina], they should make offerings to each other” we read in a quote from a tantra (Shaw, 1994, p. 153). The sexual relationship is fundamentally ritualized: every look, every caress, every form of contact is given a symbolic meaning. But even the woman’s age, her appearance, and the shape of her sexual organs play a significant role in the sexual ceremony.

The tantras describe erotic performances without the slightest timidity or shame. Technical instructions in the dry style of sex manuals can be found in them, but also ecstatic prayers and poems in which the tantric master celebrates the erotic love of man and woman. Sometimes this tantric literature displays an innocent joie de vivre. The instructions which the tantric Anangavajra offers for the performance of sacred love practices are direct and poetic: “Soon after he has embraced his partner and introduced his member into her vulva, he drinks from her lips which are dripping with milk, brings her to coo tenderly, enjoys rich pleasure and lets her thighs tremble.” (Bharati, 1977, p. 172)

In Vajrayana sexuality is the event upon which all is based. Here, the encounter between the two sexes is worked up to the pitch of a true obsession, not — as we shall see — for its own sake, but rather in order to achieve something else, something higher in the tantric scheme of things. In a manner of speaking, sex is considered to be the prima materia, the raw primal substance with which the sex partners experiment, in order to distill “pure spirit” from it, just as high-grade alcohol can be extracted from fermented grape must. For this reason the tantric master is convinced that sexuality harbors not just the secrets of humanity, but also furnishes the medium upon which gods may be grown. Here he finds the great life force, albeit in untamed and unbridled form.

It is thus impossible to avoid the impression that the “hotter” the sex gets the more effective the tantric ritual becomes. Even the most spicy obscenities are not omitted from these sacred activities. In the Candamaharosana Tantra for example, the lover swallows with joyous lust the washwater which drips from the vagina and anus of the beloved and relishes without nausea her excrement, her nasal mucus and the remains of her food which she has vomited onto the floor. The complete spectrum of sexual deviance is present, even if in the form of the rite. In one text the initiand calls out masochistically: “I am your slave in all ways, keenly active in devotion to you. O Mother”, and the “goddess” — often simulated by a prostitute — answers, “I am called your mistress!” (George, 1974, pp. 67-68).

The erotic burlesque and the sexual joke have also long been a popular topic among the Vajrayana monks and have, up until this century, produced a saucy and shocking literature of the picaresque. Great peals of laughter are still heard in the Tibetan lamaseries at the ribald pranks of Uncle Dönba, who (in the 18th century) dressed himself up as a nun and then spent several months as a “hot” lover boy in a convent. (Chöpel, 1992, p. 43)

But alongside such ribaldry we also find a cultivated, sensual refinement. An example of this is furnished by the astonishingly up-to-date handbook of erotic practices, the Treatise on Passion, from the pen of the Tibetan Lama Gedün Chöpel (1895–1951), in which the “modern” tantric discusses the “64 arts of love”. This Eastern Ars Erotica dates from the 1930s. The reader is offered much useful knowledge about various, in part fantastic sexual positions, and receives instruction on how to produce arousing sounds before and during the sexual act. Further, the author provides a briefing on the various rhythms of coitus, on special masturbation techniques for the stimulation of the penis and the clitoris, even the use of dildos is discussed. The Tibetan, Chöpel, does not in any way wish to be original, he explicitly makes reference to the world’s most famous sex manual, the Kama Sutra, from which he has drawn most of his ideas.

Such permissive “books of love” from the tantric milieu are no longer — in our enlightened era, where (at least in the West) all prudery has been superseded — a spectacle which could cause great surprise or even protest. Nonetheless, these texts have a higher provocative potential than corresponding “profane” works, in which descriptions of the same sexual techniques are otherwise to be found. For they were written by monks for monks, and read and practiced by monks, who in most cases had to have taken a strict oath of celibacy.

For this reason the tantric Ars Erotica even today awake a great curiosity and throw up numerous questions. Are the ascetic basic rules of Buddhism really suspended in Vajrayana? Is the traditional disrespect for women finally surmounted thanks to such texts? Does the eternal misogyny and the denial of the world make way for an Epicurean regard for sensuality and an affirmation of the world? Are the followers of the “Diamond Path” really concerned with sensual love and mystical partnership or does erotic love serve the pursuit of a goal external to it? And what is this goal? What happens to the women after the ritual sexual act?

In the pages which follow we will attempt to answer all of these questions. Whatever the answers may be, we must in any case assume that in Tantric Buddhism the sexual encounter between man and woman symbolizes a sacred event in which the two primal forces of the universe unite.

Mystic sexual love and cosmogonic erotic love

In the views of Vajrayana all phenomena of the universe are linked to one another by the threads of erotic love. Erotic love is the great life force, the prana which flows through the cosmos, the cosmic libido. By erotic here we mean heterosexual love as an endeavor independent of its natural procreative purpose for the provision of children. Tantric Buddhism does not mean this qualification to say that erotic connections can only develop between men and women, or between gods and goddesses. erotic love is all-embracing for a tantric as well. But every Vajrayana practitioner is convinced that the erotic relationship between a feminine and a masculine principle (yin–yang) lies at the origin of all other expressions of erotic love and that this origin may be experienced afresh and repeated microcosmically in the union of a sexual couple. We refer to an erotic encounter between man and woman, in which both experience themselves as the core of all being, as “mystic gendered love”. In Tantrism, this operates as the primal source of cosmogonic erotic love and not the other way around; cosmic erotic love is not the prime cause of a mystical communion of the sexes. Nonetheless, as we shall see, the Vajrayana practices culminate in a spectacular destruction of the entire male-female cosmology.

Suspension of opposites

But let us first return to the apparently healthy continent of tantric eroticism. “It is through love and in view of love that the world unfolds, through love it rediscovers its original unity and its eternal non-separation”, a tantric text teaches us (Faure, 1994, p. 56). Here too, the union of the male and female principles is a constant topic. Our phenomenal world is considered to be the field of action of these two basic forces. They are manifest as polarities in nature just as in the spheres of the spirit. Each alone appears as just one half of the truth. Only in their fusion can they perform the transformation of all contradictions into harmony. When a human couple remember their metaphysical unity they can become one spirit and one flesh. Only through an act of love can man and woman return to their divine origin in the continuity of all being. The tantric refers to this mystic event as yuganaddha, which literally means ‘united as a couple’.

Both the bodies of the lovers and the opposing metaphysical principles are united. Thus, in Tantrism there is no contradiction between erotic and religious love, or sexuality and mysticism. Because it repeats the love-play between a masculine and a feminine pole, the whole universe dances. Yin and yang, or yab and yum in Tibetan, stand at the beginning of an endless chain of polarities, which proves to be just as colorful and complex as life itself.

The divine couple in Tantric Buddhism:

Samantabhadra and Samantabhadri

The “sexual” is thus in no way limited to the sexual act, but rather embraces all forms of love up to and including agape. In Tantrism there is a polar eroticism of the body, a polar eroticism of the heart, and sometimes — although not always — a polar eroticism of the spirit. Such an omnipresence of the sexes is something very specific, since in other cultures “spiritual love” (agape), for example, is described as an occurrence beyond the realm of yin and yang. But in contrast Vajrayana shows us how heterosexual erotic love can refine itself to lie within the most sublime spheres of mysticism without having to surrender the principle of polarity. That it is nonetheless renounced in the end is another matter entirely.

The “holy marriage” suspends the duality of the world and transforms it into a “work of art” of the creative polarity. The resources of our discursive language are insufficient to let us express in words the mystical fusion of the two sexes. Thus the “nameless” rapture can only be described in words which say what it is not: in the yuganaddha, “there is neither affirmation nor denial, neither existence nor non-existence, neither non-remembering nor remembering, neither affection nor non-affection, neither the cause nor the effect, neither the production nor the produced, neither purity nor impurity, neither anything with form, nor anything without form; it is but the synthesis of all dualities” (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 114).

Once the dualism has been overcome, the distinction between self and other becomes irrelevant. Thus, when man and woman encounter one another as primal forces, “egoness [is] lost, and the two polar opposites fuse into a state of intimate and blissful oneness” (Walker, 1982, p. 67). The tantric Adyayavajra described this process of the overcoming of the self as the “highest spontaneous common feature” (Gäng, 1988, p. 85).

The co-operation of the poles now takes the place of the battle of opposites (or sexes). Body and spirit, erotic love and transcendence, emotion and intellect, being (samsara) and not-being (nirvana) become married. All wars and disputes between good and evil, heaven and hell, day and night, dream and reality, joy and suffering, praise and contempt are pacified and suspended in the yuganaddha. Miranda Shaw, a religious scholar of the younger generation, describes “a Buddha couple, or male and female Buddha in union ... [as] an image of unity and blissful concord between the sexes, a state of equilibrium and interdependence. This symbol powerfully evokes a state of primordial wholeness an completeness of being.” (Shaw, 1994, p. 200)

But is this state identical to the unconscious ecstasy we know from orgasm? Does the suspension of opposites occur with both partners in a trance? No — in Tantrism god and goddess definitely do not dissolve themselves in an ocean of unconsciousness. In contrast, they gain access to the non-dual knowledge and thus discern the eternal truth behind the veil of illusions. Their deep awareness of the polarity of all being gives them the strength to leave the “sea of birth and death” behind them.

Divine erotic love thus leads to enlightenment and salvation. But it is not just the two partners who experience redemption, rather, as the tantras tell us, all of humanity is liberated through mystical sexual love. In the Hevajra-Tantra, when the goddess Nairatmya, deeply moved by the misery of all living creatures, asks her heavenly spouse to reveal the secret of how human suffering can be put to an end, the latter is very touched by her request. He kisses her, caresses her, and, whilst in union with her, he instructs her about the sexual magic yoga practices through which all suffering creatures can be liberated (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 118). This “redemption via erotic love” is a distinctive characteristic of Tantrism and only very seldom to be found in other religions.

Cultic worship of the sexual organs

What symbols are used to express this creative polarity in Vajrayana? Like many other cultures Tantric Buddhism makes use of the hexagram, a combination of two triangles. The masculine triangle, which points upward, represents the phallus, and the downward-pointing, feminine triangle the vagina. Both of these sexual organs are highly revered in the rituals and meditations of Tantrism.

Another highly significant symbol for the masculine force and the phallus is a symmetrical ritual object called the vajra. As the divine virility is pure and unshakable, the vajra is described as a “diamond” or “jewel”. As a “thunderbolt” it is one of the lightning symbols. Everything masculine is termed vajra. It is thus no surprise that the male seed is also known as vajra. The Tibetan translation of the Sanskrit word is dorje, which also has additional meanings, all of which are naturally associated with the masculine half of the universe. The Tibetans term the translucent colors of the sky and firmament dorje. Even in pre-Buddhist times the peoples of the Himalayas worshipped the vault of the heavens as their divine Father.

Vajra and Gantha (bell)

The female counterpart to the vajra is the lotus blossom (padma) or the bell (gantha). Accordingly, both padma and gantha represent the vagina (yoni). It may come as a surprise to most Europeans how much reverence the yoni is accorded in Tantrism. It is glorified as the “seat of great pleasure” (Bhattacharyya, 1982, p. 228). In “the lap of the diamond woman” the yogi finds a “location of security, of peace and calm and, at the same time, of the greatest happiness” (Gäng, 1988, p. 89). “Buddhahood resides in the female sex organs”, we are instructed by another text (Stevens, 1990, p. 65). Gedün Chöpel has given us an enthusiastic hymn to the pudenda: “It is raised up like the back of a turtle and has a mouth-door closed in by flesh. ... See this smiling thing with the brilliance of the fluids of passion. It is not a flower with a thousand petals nor a hundred; it is a mound endowed with the sweetness of the fluid of passion. The refined essence of the juices of the meeting of the play of the white and red [fluids of male and female], the taste of self-arisen honey is in it.” (Chöpel, 1992, p. 62). No wonder, with such hymns of praise, that a regular sacred service in honor of the vagina emerged. This accorded the goddess great material and spiritual advantages. “Aho!”, we hear her call in the Cakrasamvara Tantra, “I will bestow supreme success on one who ritually worships my lotus [vagina], bearer of all bliss” (Shaw, 1994, p. 155).

This high esteem for the female sexual organs is especially surprising in Buddhism, where the vagina is after all the gateway to reincarnation, which the tantric strives with every means to close. For this reason, for all the early Buddhists, irrespective of school, the human birth channel counted as one of the most ominous features of our world of appearances. But precisely because the yoni thrusts the ordinary human into the realm of suffering and illusion it has — as we shall see — become a “threshold to enlightenment” (Shaw, 1994, p. 59) for the tantric. Healed by the mystic sexual act, it is also accorded a higher, transcendental procreative function. From it emerges the powerful host of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. We read in the relevant texts “that the Buddha resides in the womb of the goddess and the way of enlightenment [is experienced] as a pregnancy” (Faure, 1994, p. 189).

This central worship of the yoni has led to a situation in which nearly all tantra texts begin with the fundamental sentence, “I have heard it so: once upon a time the Highest Lord lingered in the vaginas of the diamond women, which represent the body, the language and the consciousness of all Buddhas”. Just as the opening letters of the Bible are believed in a tenet of the Hebraic Kabbala to contain the concentrated essence of the entire Holy Book, so too the first four letters of this tantric introductory sentence — evam (‘I have heard it so’) — encapsulate the entire secret of the Diamond Path. “It has often been said that he who has understood evam has understood everything” (Banerjee, 1959, p. 7).

The word (evam) is already to be found in the early Gupta scriptures (c. 300 C.E.) and is represented there in the form of a hexagram, i.e., the symbol of mystic sexual love. The syllable e stands for the downward-pointing triangle, the syllable vam is portrayed as a upright triangle. Thus e represents the yoni (vagina) and vam the lingam (phallus). E is the lotus, the source, the location of all the secrets which the holy doctrine of the tantras teaches; the citadel of happiness, the throne, the Mother. E further stands for “emptiness and wisdom”. Masculine vam on the other hand lays claims to reverence as “vajra, diamond, master of joys, method, great compassion, as the Father”. E and vam together form “the seal of the doctrine, the fruit, the world of appearances, the way to perfection, father (yab) and mother (yum)” (see, among others, Farrow and Menon, 1992, pp. xii ff.). The syllables e-vam are considered so powerful that the divine couple can summon the entire host of male and female Buddhas with them.

The origin of the gods and goddesses

From the primordial tantric couple emanate pairs of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, gods and demons. Before all come the five male and five female Tathagatas (Buddhas of meditation), the five Herukas (wrathful Buddhas) in union with their partners, the eight Bodhisattvas with their consorts. We also meet gods of time who symbolize the years, months and days, and the “seven shining planetary couples”. The five elements (space, air, fire, water and earth) are represented in pairs in divine form — these too find their origin in mystic sexual love. As it says in the Hevajra Tantra: “By uniting the male and female sexual organs the holder of the Vow performs the erotic union. From contact in the erotic union, as the quality of hardness, Earth arises; Water arises from the fluidity of semen; Fire arises from the friction of pounding; Air is famed to be the movement and the Space is the erotic pleasure” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 134).

It is not just the “pure” elements which come from the erotic communion, so do mixtures of them. Through the continuous union of the masculine with the feminine the procreative powers flow into the world from all of their body parts. In a commentary by the famous Tibetan scholar Tsongkhapa, we read how the legendary Mount Meru, the continents, mountain ranges and all earthly landscapes emerge from the essence of the hairs of the head, the bones, gall bladder, liver, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, ribs, excrement, filth (!), and pus (!). The springs, waterfalls, ponds, rivers and oceans form themselves out of the tears, blood, menses, seed, lymph fluid and urine. The inner fire centers of the head, heart, navel, abdomen and limbs correspond in the external world to fire which is sparked by striking stones or using a lens, a fireplace or a forest fire. Likewise all external wind phenomena echo the breath which moves through the bodies of the primeval couple (Wayman, 1977, pp. 234, 236).

In the same manner, the five “aggregate states” (consciousness, intellect, emotions, perception, bodiliness) originate in the primordial couple. The “twelve senses” (sense of hearing, other phenomena, sense of smell, tangible things, sense of sight, taste, sense of taste, sense of shape, sense of touch, smells, sense of spirit, sounds) are also emanations of mystic sexual love. Further, each of the twelve “abilities to act” is assigned to a goddess or a god — (the ability to urinate, ejaculation, oral ability, defecation, control of the arm, walking, leg control, taking, the ability to defecate, speaking, the “highest ability” (?), urination).

Alongside the gods of the “domain of the body” we find those of the “domain of speech”. The divine couple count as the origin of language. All the vowels (ali) are assigned to the goddess; the god is the father of the consonants (kali). When ali and kali (which can also appear as personified divinities) unite, the syllables are formed. Hidden within these as if in a magic egg are the verbal seeds (bija) from which the linguistic universe grows. The syllables join with one another to build sound units (mantras). Both often have no literal meaning, but are very rich in emotional, erotic, magical and mystical intentions. Even if there are many similarities between them, the divine language of the tantras is still held to be more powerful than the poetry of the West, as gods can be commanded through the ritual singing of the germinal syllables. In Vajrayana each god and every divine event obeys a specific mantra.

As erotic love leaves nothing aside, the entire spectrum of the gods’ emotions (as long as these belong to the domain of desire) is to originally be found in the mystical relationship of the sexes. There is no emotion, no mood which does not originate here. The texts speak of “erotic, wonderful, humorous, compassionate, tranquil, heroic, disgusting, furious” feelings (Wayman, 1977, p. 328).

The origin of time and emptiness

In the Kalachakra Tantra (“Time Tantra”) the masculine pole is the time god Kalachakra, the feminine the time goddess Vishvamata. The chief symbols of the masculine divinity are the diamond scepter (vajra) and the lingam (phallus). The goddess holds a lotus blossom or a bell, both symbols of the yoni (vagina). He rules as “Lord of the Day”, she as “Queen of the Night”.

The mystery of time reveals itself in the love of this divine couple. All temporal expressions of the universe are included in the “Wheel of Time” (kala means ‘time’ and chakra ‘wheel’). When the time goddess Vishvamata and the time god Kalachakra unite, they experience their communion as “elevated time”, as a “mystical marriage”, as Hieros Gamos. The circle or wheel (chakra) indicates “cyclical time” and the law of “eternal recurrence”. The four great epochs of the world (mahakalpa) are also hidden within the mystery of the tantric primal couple, as are the many chronological modalities. The texts describe the shortest unit of time as one sixty-fourth of a finger snap. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years, the entire complex tantric calendrical calculations, all emerge from the mystic sexual love between Kalachakra and Vishvamata. The four heads of the time god correspond to the four seasons. Including the “third eye”, his total of 12 eyes may be apportioned to the 12 months of the year. Counting three joints per finger, in Kalachakra’s 24 arms there are 360 bones, which correspond to the 360 days of the year in the Tibetan calendar.

Kalachakra and Vishvamata

Time manifests itself as motion, eternity as standstill. These two elements are also addressed in the Kalachakra Tantra. Neither cyclical nor chronological time have any influence upon the state of motionlessness during the Hieros Gamos. The river of time now runs dry, and the fruit of eternity can be enjoyed. Such an experience frees the divine couple from both past and future, which prove to be illusory, and gives them the timeless present.

What is the situation with the paired opposites of space and time? In European philosophy and theoretical physics, this relationship has given rise to countless discussions. Speculation about the space-time phenomenon are, however, far less popular in Tantrism. The texts prefer the term shunyata (emptiness) when speaking of “space”, and point out the secret properties of “emptiness”, especially its paradoxical power to bring forth all things. Space is emptiness, “but space, as understood in Buddhist meditation, is not passive (in the western sense). ... Space is the absolutely indispensable vibrant matrix for everything that is” (Gross, 1993, p. 203).

We can see shunyata (emptiness) as the most central term of the entire Buddhist philosophy. It is the second ventricle of Mahayana Buddhism. (The first is karuna, compassion for all living beings.) “Absolute emptiness” dissolves into nothingness all the phenomena of being up to and including the sphere of the Highest Self. We are unable to talk about emptiness, since the reality of shunyata is independent of any conceptual construction. It transcends thought and we are not even able to claim that the phenomenal world does not exist. This radical negativism has rightly been described as the “doctrine of the emptiness of emptiness”.

In the light of this fundamental inexpressibility and featurelessness of shunyata, one is left wondering why it is unfailingly regarded as a “feminine” principle in Vajrayana Buddhism. But it is! As its masculine polar opposite the tantras nominate consciousness (citta) or compassion (karuna). “The Mind is the Lord and the Vacuity is the Lady; they should always be kept united in Sahaja [the highest state of enlightenment]”, as one text proclaims (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 101). Time and emptiness also complement one another in a polar manner.

Thus, the Kalachakra divinity (the time god) cries emphatically that, “through the power of time air, fire, water, earth, islands, hills, oceans, constellations, moon, sun, stars, planets, the wise, gods, ghosts/spirits, nagas (snake demons), the fourfold animal origin, humans and infernal beings have been created in the emptiness” (Banerjee, 1959, p. 16). Once she has been impregnated by “masculine” time, the “feminine” emptiness gives birth to everything. The observation that the vagina is empty before it emits life is likely to have played a role in the development of this concept. For this reason, shunyata may never be understood as pure negativity in Tantrism, but rather counts as the “shapeless” origin of all being.

The clear light

The ultimate goal of all mystic doctrines in the widest variety of cultures is the ability to experience the highest clear light. Light phenomena play such a significant role in Tantric Buddhism that the Italian Tibetologist, Giuseppe Tucci, speaks of a downright “photism” (doctrine of light). Light, from which everything stems, is considered the “symbol of the highest intrinsicness” (Brauen, 1992, p. 65).

In describing supernatural light phenomena, the tantric texts in no sense limit themselves to tracing these back to a mystical primal light, but rather have assembled a complete catalog of “photisms” which maybe experienced. These include sparks, lamps, candles, balls of light, rainbows, pillars of fire, heavenly lights, and so forth which flash up during meditation. Each of these appearances presages a particular level of consciousness, ranked hierarchically. Thus one must traverse various light stages in order to finally bathe in the “highest clear light”.

The truly unique feature of Tantrism is that this “highest clear light” streams out of the yuganaddha, the Hieros Gamos. It is in this sense that we must understand the following poetic sentence from the Kalachakra Tantra: “In a world purged of darkness, at the end of darkness awaits a couple” (Banerjee, 1959, p. 24).

Summarizing, we can say that Tantrism has made erotic love between the sexes its central religious theme. When the divine couple unite in bliss, then “by the force of their joy the members of the retinue also fuse”, i.e., the other gods and goddesses, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas with their wisdom consorts (Wayman, 1968, p. 291). The divine couple is all-knowing, as it knows and indeed itself represents the germinal syllables which produce the cosmos. With their breath the time god (Kalachakra) and time goddess (Vishvamata) control the motions of the heavens. Astronomy along with every other science has its origin in them. They are initiated into every level of meditation, have mastery over the secret doctrines and every form of subtle yoga. The clear light shines out of them. They know the laws of karma and how they may be suspended. Compassionately, the god and goddess care for humankind as if we were their children and devote themselves to the concerns of the world. As master and mistress of all forms of time they determine the rhythm of history. Being and not-being fuse within them. In brief, the creative polarity of the divine couple produces the universe.

Yet this image of complete beauty between the sexes does not stand on the highest altar of Tantric Buddhism. But what could be higher than the polar principle of the universe and infinity?

Wisdom (prajna) and method (upaya)

Before answering this, we want to quickly view a further pair of opposites which are married in yuganaddha. Up to now we have not yet considered the most often cited polarity in the tantras, “wisdom” (prajna) and “method” (upaya). There is no original tantric text, no Indian or Tibetan commentary and no Western interpreter of Tantrism which does not treat the “union of upaya and prajna” in depth.

“Wisdom” and “method” are held to be the outright mother and father of all other tantric opposites. Every polar constellation is derived from these two terms. To summarize, upaya stands for the masculine principle, the phallus, motion, activity, the god, enlightenment, and so forth; prajna represents the feminine principle, the vagina, calm, passivity, the goddess, the cosmic law. All women naturally count as prajna, all men as upaya. “The commingling of this Prajna and Upaya [are] like the mixture of water and milk in a state of non-duality” (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 93). There is also the stated view that upaya becomes a fetter when it is not joined with prajna; only both together grant deliverance and Buddhahood (Bharati, 1977, p. 171).

Prajna and Upaya

This almost limitless extension of the two principles has led to a situation in which they are only rarely critically examined. Do they stand in a truly polar relation to one another? Why — we ask — does “wisdom” need “method”? Somehow this pair of opposites do not fit together — can there even be an unmethodical, chaotic “wisdom”? Isn’t prajna (wisdom) enough on its own; does it not include “method” as a partial aspect of itself? What is an “unmethodical” wisdom? Even if we translate upaya — as is often done — as ‘technique’, we still do not have a convincing polar correspondence to prajna. This combination also seems far-fetched — why should “technique” and “wisdom” meet in a mystic wedding? The opposition becomes even more absurd and profane if we translate upaya (as it is clearly intended) as “cunning means” or even “trick” or “ruse” (Wilber, 1987, p. 310). [2] Whereas with “wisdom” one has some idea of what is meant, comprehending the technoid term upaya presents major difficulties. We must thus examine it in more detail.

“At all events”, writes David Snellgrove, a renowned expert on Tantrism, “it must be emphasized that here Means remains a doctrinal concept, serving as means to an end, and in no sense can this concept be construed as an end in itself, as is certainly the case with perfection of wisdom [prajna]” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 283). “Method” is thus an instrument which is to be combined with a content, “wisdom”. “Wisdom”, Snellgrove adds, “can be seen as representing the evolving universe” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 244). Due to the distribution of both principles along gender lines this has a feminine quality.

The instrumental “method”, which is assigned to the masculine sphere, thus proves itself — as we shall explain in more detail — to be a sacred technique for controlling the feminine “wisdom”. Upaya is nothing more than an instrument of manipulation, without any unique content or substance of its own. Method is at best the means to an end (i.e., wisdom). Analytical reserve and technical precision are two of its fundamental properties. Since wisdom — as we can infer from the quotation from Snellgrove — represents the entire universe, upaya is the method with which the universe can be manipulated; and since prajna represents the feminine principle and upaya the masculine, their union implies a manipulation of the feminine by the masculine.

To illustrate this process, we should take a quick look at a Greek myth which recounts how Zeus acquired wisdom (Metis). One day the father of the gods swallowed the female Titan Metis. (In Greek, metis means “wisdom”.) “Wisdom” survived in his belly and gave him advice from there. According to this story then, Zeus’s sole contribution toward the development of “his” wisdom was a cunning swallow. With this coarse but effective method (upaya) he could now present himself as the fount of all wisdom. He even became, through the birth of Athena, the masculine “bearer” of feminine prajna. Metis, the mother of Athena, actually gives birth to her daughter in the stomach of the father of the gods, but it is he who brings her willy-nilly into the world. In full armor, Athene, herself a symbol of wisdom, bursts from the top of Zeus’s skull. She is the “head birth” of her father, the product of his ideas.

Here, the swallowing of the feminine and its imaginary (re)production (head birth) are the two techniques (upaya) with which Zeus manipulates wisdom (prajna, Metis, Athene) to his own ends. We shall later see how vividly this myth illustrates the process of the tantric mystery.

At any rate, we would like to hypothesize that the relation between the two tantric principles of “wisdom” and “method” is neither one of complementarity, nor polarity, nor even antinomy, but rather one of androcentric hegemony. The translation of upaya as ‘trick’ is thoroughly justified. We can thus in no sense speak of a “mystic marriage” of prajna and upaya, and unfortunately we must soon demonstrate that very little of the widely distributed (in the West) conception of Tantrism as a sublime art of love and a spiritual refinement of the partnership remains.

The worship of “wisdom” (prajna) as a embracing cosmic energy already had a significant role to play in Mahayana Buddhism. There we find an extensive literature devoted to it, the Prajnaparamita texts, and it is still cultivated throughout all of Asia. In the famous Sutra of Perfected Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses (c. 100 B.C.E.) for example, the glorification of prajnaparamita (“highest transcendental wisdom”) and the description of the Bodhisattva way are central. “If a Bodhisattva wishes to become a Buddha, […] he must always be energetic and always pay respect to the Perfection of Wisdom [prajnaparamita]”, we read there (D. Paul, 1985, p. 135). There are also instances in Mahayana iconography where the “highest wisdom” is depicted in the form of a female being, but nowhere here is there talk of manipulation or control of the “goddess”. Devotion, fervent prayer, hymn, liturgical song, ecstatic excitement, overflowing emotion and joy are the forms of expression with which the believer worships prajnaparamita.

The guru as manipulator of the divine

In view of the previously suggested dissonance between prajna and upaya, we must ask ourselves who this authority is, who via the “method” makes use of the wisdom-energy for his own purposes. This question is all the more pertinent, since in the visible reality of the tantric religions — in the culture of Tibetan Lamaism for instance — Vajrayana is never represented as a pair of equals, but almost exclusively as single men, in very rare cases as single women. The two partners meet only to perform the ritual sexual act and then separate.

It follows conclusively from what has already been described that it must be the masculine principle which effects the manipulation of the feminine wisdom. It appears in the figure of the “tantric master”. His knowledge of the sacred techniques makes him a “yogi”. Whenever he assumes the role of teacher he is known as a guru (Sanskrit) or a lama (Tibetan).

How does the tantric master’s exceptional position of power arise? Every Vajrayana follower practices the so-called “Deity yoga”, in which the self is imagined as a divinity. The believer distinguishes between two levels. Firstly he meditates upon the “emptiness” of all being, in order to overcome his bodily, mental, and spiritual impurities and “blocks” and create an empty space. The core of this meditative process of dissolution is the surrender of the individual ego. Following this, the living image (yiddam) of the particular divine being who should appear in the appropriate ritual is formed in the yogi’s imaginative consciousness. His or her body, color, posture, clothing, facial expression and moods are described in detail in the holy texts and must be recreated exactly in the mind. We are thus not dealing with an exercise of spontaneous and creative free imagination, but rather with an accurate reproduction of a codified archetype.

The practitioner may externalize or project the yiddam, so that it appears before him. But this is just the first step; in those which following he imagines himself as the deity. Thus he swaps his own personal ego with that of a supernatural being. The yogi has now surmounted his human existence and constitutes “to the very last atom” a unity with the god (Glasenapp, 1940, p. 101).

But he must never lose sight of the fact that the deity he has imagined possesses no autonomous existence. It exists purely and exclusively as an emanation of his imagination and can thus be created, maintained and destroyed at will. But who actually is this tantric master, this manipulator of the divine? His consciousness has nothing in common with that of a ordinary person, it must belong to a sphere higher than that of the gods. The texts and commentaries describe this “highest authority” as the “higher self” or as the primeval Buddha (ADI BUDDHA), as the primordial one, the origin of all being, with whom the yogi identifies himself.

Thus, when we speak of a “guru” in Vajrayana, then according to the doctrine we are no longer dealing with an individual, but with an archetypal and transcendental being, who has as it were borrowed a human body in order to appear in the world. Events are not in the control of the person (from the Latin persona ‘mask’), but rather the god acting through him. This in turn is the emanation of an arch-god, an epiphany of the most high ADI BUDDHA. Followed to its logical conclusion this means that the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (the most senior tantric master of Tibetan Buddhism) determines the politics of the Tibetans in exile not as a person, but as the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, whose emanation he is. Thus, if we wish to pass judgment on his politics, we must come to terms with the motives and visions of Avalokiteshvara.

The tantric master’s enormous power does not have its origin in a Vajrayana doctrine, but in the two main philosophical directions of Mahayana Buddhism (Madhyamika and Yogachara). The Madhyamika school of Nagarjuna (fifth century C.E.) discusses the principle of emptiness (shunyata) which forms a basis for all being. Radically, this also applies to the gods. They are purely illusory and for a yogi are worth neither more nor less than a tool which he employs in setting his goals and then puts aside.

Paradoxically, this radical Buddhist perceptual theory led to the admission of an immense multitude of gods, most of whom stemmed from the Hindu cultural sphere. From now on these could populate the Buddhist heaven, something which was taboo in Hinayana. As they were in the final instance illusory, there was no longer any need to fear them or regard them as competition; since they could be “negated”, they could be “integrated”.

For the Yogachara school (fourth century C.E.), everything — the self, the world and the gods — consists of “consciousness” or “pure spirit”. This extreme idealism also makes it possible for the yogi to manipulate the universe according to his wishes and plans. Because the heavens and their inhabitants are nothing more than play figures of his spirit, they can be produced, destroyed and exchanged at whim.

But what, in an assessment of the Vajrayana system, should give grounds for reflection is the fact, already mentioned, that the Buddhist pantheon presented on the tantric stage is codified in great detail. Neither in the choreography nor the costumes have there been any essential changes since the twelfth century C.E., if one is prepared to overlook the inclusion of several minor protective spirits, of which the youngest (Dorje Shugden for example) date from the seventeenth century. In current “Deity yoga”, practiced by an adept today (even one from the West), a preordained heaven with its old gods is conjured up. The adept calls upon primeval images which were developed in Indian/Tibetan, perhaps even Mongolian, cultural circles, and which of course — as we will demonstrate in detail in the second part of our study — represent the interests and political desires of these cultures. [3]

Since the Master resides on a level higher than that of a god, and is, in the final instance, the ADI BUDDHA, his pupils are obliged to worship him as an omnipotent super-being, who commands the gods and goddesses, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The following apotheosis of a tantric teacher, which the semi-mythical founder of Buddhism in Tibet, Padmasambhava, laid down for an initiand, is symptomatic of countless similar prayers in the liturgy of Tantrism: “You should know that one’s master is more important than even the thousand buddhas of this aeon. Why is that? It is because all the buddhas of this aeon appeared after having followed a master. ... The master is the buddha [enlightenment], the master is the dharma [cosmic law], in the same way the master is also the sangha [monastic order]” (Binder-Schmidt, 1994, p. 35). In the Guhyasamaja Tantra we can read how all enlightened beings bow down before the teacher: “All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout the past, present and future worship the Teacher .... [and] make this pronouncing of vajra words: ‘He is the father of all us Buddhas, the mother of all us Buddhas, in that he is the teacher of all us Buddhas’” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 177).

A bizarre anecdote from the early stages of Tantrism makes this deification of the gurus even more apparent. One day, the famous vajra master, Naropa, asked his pupil, Marpa, “If I and the god Hevajra appeared before you at the same time, before whom would you kneel first?”. Marpa thought, “I see my guru every day, but if Hevajra reveals himself to me then that is indeed a quite extraordinary event, and it would certainly be better to show respect to him first!”. When he told his master this, Naropa clicked two fingers and in that moment Hevajra appeared with his entire retinue. But before Marpa could prostrate himself in the dust before the apparition, with a second click of the fingers it vanished into Naropa’s heart. “You made a mistake!” cried the master (Dhargyey, 1985, p. 123).

In another story, the protagonists are this same Naropa and his instructor, the Kalachakra Master Tilopa. Tilopa spoke to his pupil, saying, “If you want teaching, then construct a mandala!”. Naropa was unable to find any seeds, so he made the mandala out of sand. But he sought without success for water to cement the sand. Tilopa asked him, “Do you have blood?” Naropa slit his veins and the blood flowed out. But then, despite searching everywhere, he could find no flowers. “Do you not have limbs?” asked Tilopa. “Cut off your head and place it in the center of the mandala. Take your arms and legs and arrange them around it!” Naropa did so and dedicated the mandala to his guru, then he collapsed from blood loss. When he regained consciousness, Tilopa asked him, “Are you content?” and Naropa answered, “It is the greatest happiness to be able to dedicate this mandala, made of my own flesh and blood, to my guru”.

The power of the gurus — this is what these stories should teach us — is boundless, whilst the god is, finally, just an illusion which the guru can produce and dismiss at will. He is the arch-lord, who reigns over life and death, heaven and hell. Through him speaks the ABSOLUTE SPIRIT, which tolerates nothing aside from itself.

The pupil must completely surrender his individual ego and transform it into a subject of the SPIRIT which dwells in his teacher. “I and my teacher are one” means then, that the same SPIRIT lives in both.

The appropriation of gynergy and androcentric power strategies

Only in extremely rare cases is the omnipotence and divinity of a yogi acquired at birth. It is usually the result of a graded and complicated spiritual progression. Clearly, to be able to realize his omnipotence, which should transcend even the sexual polarity of all which exists, a male tantric master requires a substance, which we term “gynergy” (female energy), and which we intend to examine in more detail in the following. As he cannot, at the outset of his path to power, find this “elixir” within himself, he must seek it there where in accordance with the laws of nature it may be found in abundance, in women.

Vajrayana is therefore — according to the assessments of no small number of Western researchers of both sexes — a male sexual magic technique designed to “rob” women of their particularly female form of energy and to render it useful for the man. Following the “theft”, it flows for the tantric adept as the spring which powers his experiences of spiritual enlightenment. All the potencies which, from a Tibetan point of view, are to be sought and found in the feminine sphere are truly astonishing: knowledge, matter, sensuality, language, light — indeed, according to the tantric texts, the yogi perceives the whole universe as feminine. For him, the feminine force (shakti) and feminine wisdom (prajna) constantly give birth to reality; even transcendental truths such as “emptiness” (shunyata) are feminine. Without “gynergy”, in the tantric view of things none of the higher levels along the path to enlightenment can be reached, and hence in no circumstances a state of perfection.

In order to be able to acquire the primeval feminine force of the universe, a yogi must have mastered the appropriate spiritual methods (upaya), which we examine in detail later in this study. The well-known investigator of Tibetan culture, David Snellgrove, describes their chief function as the transmutation of the feminine form into the masculine with the intention of accumulating power. It is for this and no other reason that the tantric seeks contact with a female. Usually, “power flows from the woman to the man, especially when she is more powerful than he”, the Indologist Doniger O’Flaherty (O’Flaherty, 1982, p. 263) informs us. Hence, since the powerful feminine creates the world, the “uncreative” masculine yogi can only become a creator if he appropriates the creative powers of the goddess. “May I be born from birth to birth”, he thus cries in the Hevajra Tantra, “concentrating in myself the essence of woman” (Snellgrove, 1959, p. 116). He is the sorcerer who believes that all power is feminine, and that he knows the secret of how to manipulate it.

The key to his dreams of omnipotence lies in how he is able to transform himself into a “supernatural” being, an androgyne who has access to the potentials of both sexes. The two sexual energies now lose their equality and are brought into a hierarchical relation with each other in which the masculine part exercises absolute control over the feminine.

When, in the reverse situation, the feminine principle appropriates the masculine and attempts to dominate it, we have a case of gynandry. Gynandric rites are known from the Hindu tantras. But in contrast, in androcentric Buddhism we are dealing exclusively with the production of a “perfect” androgynous state, i.e., in social terms with the power of men over women or, in brief, the establishment of a patriarchal monastic regime.

Since the “bisexuality” of the yogi represents a precondition for the development of his power, it forms a central topic of discussion in every highest tantra. It is known simply as the “two-in-one” principle, which suspends all oppositions, such as wisdom and method, subject and object, emptiness and compassion, but above all masculine and feminine (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 285). Other phrases include “bipolarity” or the realization of “bisexual divinity within one’s own body” (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 314).

However, the “two-in-one” principle is not directed at a state beyond sexuality and erotic love, as modern interpreters often misunderstand it to be. The tantric master deliberately utilizes the masculine/feminine sexual energies to obtain and exercise power and does not destroy them, even if they are only present within his own identity after the initiation. They continue to function there as the two polar primeval forces, but now within the androgynous yogi.

Thus, in Tantrism we are in any case dealing with an erotic cult, one which recognizes cosmic erotic love as the defining force of the universe, even if it is manipulated in the interests of power. This is in stark contrast to the asexual concepts of Mahayana Buddhism. “The state of bisexuality, defined as the possession of both masculine and feminine sexual powers, was considered unfortunate, that is, not conducive to spiritual growth. Because of the excessive sexual power of both masculinity and femininity, the bisexual individual had weakness of will or inattention to moral precepts”, reports Diana Paul in reference to the “Great Vehicle” (D. Paul, 1985, pp. 172–173).

But Vajrayana does not let itself be intimidated by such proclamations, but instead worships the androgyne as a radiant diamond being, who feels in his heart “the blissful kiss of the inner male and female forces” (Mullin, 1991, p. 243). The tantric androgyne is supposed to actually partake of the lusts and joys of both sexes, but just as much of their concentrated power. Although in his earthly form he appears before us as a man, the yogi nonetheless rules as both man and woman, as god and goddess, as father and mother at once. The initiand is instructed to “visualize the lama as Kalachakra in Father and Mother aspect, that is to say, in union with his consort” (Dalai Lama XIV, 1985, p. 174), and must then declare to his guru, “You are the mother, you are the father, you are the teacher of the world!”(Grünwedel, Kalacakra II, p. 180).

The vaginal Buddha

The goal of androgyny is the acquisition of absolute power, as, according to tantric doctrine, the entire cosmos must be seen as the play and product of both sexes. Now united in the mystic body of the yogi, the latter thereby believes he has the secret birth-force at his disposal — that natural ability of woman which he as man principally lacks and which he therefore desires so strongly.

This desire finds expression in, among other things, the royal title Bhagavan (ruler or regent), which he acquires after the tantric initiation. The Sanskrit word bhaga originally designated the female pudendum, womb, vagina or vulva. But bhaga also means happiness, bliss, wealth, sometimes emptiness. This metaphor indicates that the multiplicity of the world emerges from the womb of woman. The yogi thus lets himself be revered in the Kalachakra Tantra as Bhagavat or Bhagavan, as a bearer of the female birth-force or alternatively as a “bringer of happiness”. “The Buddha is called Bhagavat, because he possesses the Bhaga, this characterizes the quality of his rule” (Naropa, 1994, p. 136), we can read in Naropa’s commentary from the eleventh century, and the famous tantric continues, “The Bhaga is according to tradition the horn of plenty in possession of the six boons in their perfected form: sovereignty, beauty, good name/reputation, abundance, insight, and the appropriate force to be able to achieve the goals set” (Naropa, 1994, p. 136). In their introduction to the Hevajra Tantra the contemporary authors, G. W. Farrow and I. Menon, write, “In the tantric view the Bhagavan is defined as the one who possesses Bhaga, the womb, which is the source” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. xxiii).

Although this male usurpation of the Bhaga first reaches its full extent and depth of symbolism in Tantrism, it is presaged by a peculiar bodily motif from an earlier phase of Buddhism. In accordance with a broadly accepted canon, an historical Buddha must identify himself through 32 distinguishing features. These take the form of unusual markings on his physical body, like, for example, sun-wheel images on the soles of his feet. The tenth sign, known to Western medicine as cryptorchidism, is that the penis is covered by a thick fold of skin, “the concealment of the lower organs in a sheath”; this text goes on to add, “Buddha’s private parts are hidden like those of a horse [i.e., stallion]” (Gross, 1993, p. 62).

Even if cryptorchidism as an indicator of the Enlightened One in Mahayana Buddhism is meant to show his “asexuality”, in our opinion in Vajrayana it can only signal the appropriation of feminine sexual energies without the Buddha thus needing to renounce his masculine potency. Instead, in drawing the comparison to a stallion which has a penis which naturally rests in a “sheath”, it is possible to tap into one of the most powerful mythical sexual metaphors of the Indian cultural region. Since the Vedas the stallion has been seen as the supreme animal symbol for male potency. In Tibetan folklore, the Dalai Lamas also possess the ability to “retract” their sexual organs (Stevens, 1993, p. 180).

The Buddha as mother and the yogi as goddess

The “ability to give birth” acquired through the “theft” of gynergy transforms the guru into a “mother”, a super-mother who can herself produce gods. Every Tibetan lama thus values highly the fact that he can lay claim to the powerful symbols of motherhood, and a popular epithet for tantric yogis is “Mother of all Buddhas” (Gross, 1993, p. 232). The maternal role logically presupposes a symbolic pregnancy. Consequently, being “pregnant” is a common metaphor used to describe a tantric master’s productive capability (Wayman, 1977, p. 57).

But despite all of his motherly qualities, in the final instance the yogi represents the male arch-god, the ADI BUDDHA, who produced the mother goddess out of himself as an archetype: “It is to be noted that the primordial goddess had emanated from the Lord”, notes an important tantra interpreter, “The Lord is the beginningless eternal One; while the Goddess, emanating from the body of the Lord, is the produced one” (Dasgupta, 1946, p. 384). Eve was created from Adam’s rib, as Genesis already informs us. Since, according to the tantric initiation, the feminine should only exist as a manipulable element of the masculine, the tantras talk of the “together born female” (Wayman, 1977, p. 291).

Once the emanation of the mother goddess from the masculine god has been formally incorporated in the canon, there is no further obstacle to a self-imagining and self-production of the lama as goddess. “Then behold yourself as divine woman in empty form” (Evans-Wentz, 1937, p. 177), instructs a guide to meditation for a pupil. In another, the latter declaims, “I myself instantaneously become the Holy Lady” (quoted by Beyer, 1978, p. 378).


Steven Segal (Hollywood actor): The Dalai Lama “is the great mother of everything nuturing and loving. He accepts all who come without judgement.” (Schell, 2000, p. 69)


Once kitted out with the force of the feminine, the tantric master even has the ability to produce whole hosts of female figures out of himself or to fill the whole universe with a single female figure: “To begin with, imagine the image (of the goddess Vajrayogini) of roughly the size of your own body, then in that of a house, then a hill, and finally in the scale of outer space” (Evans-Wentz, 1937, p. 136). Or he imagines the cosmos as an endlessly huge palace of supernatural couples: “All male divinities dance within me. And all female divinities channel their sacred vajra songs through me”, the Second Dalai Lama writes lyrically in a tantric song (Mullin, 1991, p. 67). But “then, he [the yogi] can resolve these couples in his meditation. Little by little he realizes that their objective existence is illusory and that they are but a function. ... He transcends them and comes to see them as images reflected in a mirror, as a mirage and so on” (Carelli, 1941, p. 18).

However, outside of the rites and meditation sessions, that is, in the real world, the double-gendered super-being appears almost exclusively in the body of a man and only very rarely as a woman, even if he exclaims in the Guhyasamaja Tantra, “I am without doubt any figure. I am woman and I am man, I am the figure of the androgyne” (Gäng, 1998, p. 66).

What happens to the woman?

Once the yogi has “stolen” her gynergy using sexual magic techniques, the woman vanishes from the tantric scenario. “The feminine partner”, writes David Snellgrove, “known as the Wisdom-Maiden [prajna] and supposedly embodying this great perfection of wisdom, is in effect used as a means to an end, which is experienced by the yogi himself. Moreover, once he has mastered the requisite yoga techniques he has no need of a feminine partner, for the whole process is re-enacted within his own body. Thus despite the eulogies of women in these tantras and her high symbolic status , the whole theory and practice is given for the benefit of males” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 287).

Equivalent quotations from many other Western interpreters of Tantrism can be found: “In ... Tantrism ... woman is means, an alien object, without possibility of mutuality or real communication” (quoted by Shaw, 1994, p. 7). The woman “is to be used as a ritual object and then cast aside” (also quoted by Shaw, 1994, p. 7). Or, at another point: the yogis had “sex without sensuality ... There is no relationship of intimacy with an individual — the woman ... involved is an object, a representation of power ... women are merely spiritual batteries” (quoted by Shaw, 1994, n. 128, pp. 254–255). The woman functions as a “salvation tool”, as an “aid on the path to enlightenment”. The goal of Vajrayana is even “to destroy the female” (quoted by Shaw, 1994, p. 7).

Incidentally, this functionalization of the sexual partner is addressed — as we still have to show — without deliberation or shame in the original Vajrayana texts. Modern Western authors with views compatible to those of Buddhism, on the contrary, tend toward the opinion that the tantric androgyne harmonizes both sexual roles equally within itself, so that the androgynous pattern is valid for both men and women. But this is not the case. Even at an etymological level, androgyny (from Ancient Greek anér ‘man’ and gyné ‘woman’) cannot be applied to both sexes. The term denotes — when taken literally — the male-feminine forces possessed by a man, whilst for a woman the respective phenomenon would have to be termed “gynandry” (female-masculine forces possessed by a woman).

Androgyny vs. gynandry

Since androgyny and gynandry are used in reference to the organization of sex-specific energies and not a description of physical sexual characteristics, it could be felt that we are being overly pedantic here. That would be true if it were not that Tantrism involved an extreme cult of the male body, psyche and spirit. With extremely few exceptions all Vajrayana gurus are men. What is true of the world of appearances is also true at the highest transcendental level. The ADI BUDDHA is primarily depicted in the form of a man.

Following our discussion of the “mystic” physiology of the yogi, we shall further be able to see that this describes the construction of a masculine body of energy. But any doubts about whether androgyny represents a virile usurpation of feminine energies ought to vanish once we have aired the secrets of the tantric seed (semen) gnosis. Here the male yogi uses a woman’s menstrual blood to construct his bisexual body.

Consequently, the attempt to create an androgynous being out of a woman means that her own feminine essence becomes subordinated to a masculine principle (the principle of anér). Even when she exhibits the outward sexual characteristics of a woman (breasts and vagina), she mutates, as we know already from Mahayana Buddhism, in terms of energy into a man. In contrast, a truly female counterpart to an androgynous guru would be a gynandric mistress. The question, however, is whether the techniques taught in the Buddhist tantras are at all suitable for instituting a process transforming a woman in the direction of gynandry, or whether they have been written by and for men alone. Only after a detailed description of the tantric rituals will we be able to answer this question.

The absolute power of the “Grand Sorcerer” (Maha Siddha)

The goal of tantric androgyny is the concentration of absolute power in the tantric master, which in his view constitutes the unrestricted control over both cosmic primal forces, the god and the goddess. If one assumes that he has, through constant meditative effort, destroyed his individual ego, then it is no longer a person who has concentrated this power within himself. In place of the human ego is the superego of a god with far-reaching powers. This superhuman subject knows no bounds when it proclaims in the Hevajra Tantra, “I am the revealer, I am the revealed doctrine and I am the disciple endowed with good qualities. I am the goal, I am the master of the world and I am the world as well as the worldly things” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 167). In the tantras there is a distinction between two types of power:

Supernatural power, that is, ultimately, enlightened consciousness and Buddhahood.
Worldly power such as wealth, health, regency, victory over an enemy, and so forth.

But a classification of the tantras into a lower category, concerned with only worldly matters, and a higher, in which the truly religious goals are taught, is not possible. All of the writings concern both the “sacred” and the “profane”.

Supernatural power gives the tantric master control over the whole universe. He can dissolve it and re-establish it. It grants him control over space and time in all of their forms of expression. As “time god” (Kalachakra) he becomes “lord of history”. As ADI BUDDHA he determines the course of evolution.

Worldly power means, above all, being successfully able to command others. In the universalism of Vajrayana those commanded are not just people, but also beings from other transhuman spheres — spirits, gods and demons. These can not be ruled with the means of this world alone, but only through the art of supernatural magic. Fundamentally, then, the power of a guru increases in proportion to the number and effectiveness of his “magical forces” (siddhis). Power and the knowledge of the magic arts are synonymous for a tantric master.

Such a pervasive presence of magic is somewhat fantastic for our Western consciousness. We must therefore try to transpose ourselves back to ancient India, the fairytale land of miracles and secrets and imagine the occult ambience out of which Tantric Buddhism emerged. The Indologist Heinrich Zimmer has sketched the atmosphere of this time as follows: “Here magic is something very real. A magic word, correctly pronounced penetrates the other person without resistance, transforms, bewitches them. Then under the spell of involuntary participation the other is porous to the fluid of the magic-making will, it electrically conducts the current which connects with him” (Zimmer, 1973, p. 79). In the Tibet of the past, things were no different until sometime this century. All the phenomena of the world are magically interconnected, and “secret threads [link] every word, every act, even every thought to the eternal grounding of the world” (Zimmer, 1973, p. 18). As the “bearers of magical power” or as “sorcerer kings” the tantric yogis cast out nets woven from such threads. For this reason they are known as Maha Siddhas, “Grand Sorcerers”.

Lamaist “sorcerer” (a Ngak’phang gÇodpa)

When we pause to examine what the tantras say about the magical objects with which a Maha Siddha is kitted out, we are reminded of the wondrous objects which only fairytale heroes possess: a magical sword which brings victory and power over all possible enemies; an eye ointment with which one can discover hidden treasure; a pair of “seven-league boots” that allow the adept to reach any place on earth in no time at all, traveling both on the ground and through the air; there is an elixir which alchemically transforms base metals into pure gold; a magic potion which grants eternal youth and a wonder cure to protect from sickness and death; pills which give him the ability to assume any shape or form; a magic hood that makes the sorcerer invisible. He can assume the appearance of several different individuals at the same time, can suspend gravity and can read people’s thoughts. He is aware of his earlier incarnations, has mastered all meditation techniques; he can shrink to the size of an atom and expand his body outward to the stars. He possesses the “divine eye” and “divine ear”. In brief, he has the power to determine everything according to his will.

The Maha Siddhas control the universe through their spells, enchantment formulas, or mantras. “I am aware”, David Snellgrove comments, “that present-day western Buddhists, specifically those who are followers of the Tibetan tradition, dislike this English word [spell,] used for mantra and the rest because of its association with vulgar magic. One need only reply that whether one likes it or not, the greater part of the tantras are concerned precisely with vulgar magic, because this is what most people are interested in” (Snellgrove, 1987,vol. 1, p. 143).

“Erotic” spells, which allow the yogi to obtain women for his sexual magic rituals, are mentioned remarkably often in the tantric texts. He continues to practice the ritual sexual act after his enlightenment: since the key to power lies in the woman every instance of liturgical coition bolsters his omnipotence. It is not just earthly beings who must obey such mantras, but female angels and grisly inhabitants of the underworld too.

The almighty sorcerer can also enslave a woman against her will. He simply needs to summon up an image of the real, desired person. In the meditation, he thrusts a flower arrow through the middle of her heart and imagines how the impaled love victim falls to the ground unconscious. No sooner does she reopen her eyes than the conqueror with drawn sword and out-thrust mirror forces her to accommodate his wishes. This scenario played out in the imagination can force any real woman into the arms of the yogi without resistance (Glasenapp, 1940, p. 144). Another magic power allows him to assume the body of an unsuspecting husband and spend the night with his wife incognito, or he can multiply himself by following the example of the Indian god Krishna and then sleep with hundreds of virgins at once (Walker, 1982, p. 47).

Finally, we draw attention to a number of destructive Siddhis (magical powers): to turn a person to stone, the Hevajra Tantra recommends using crystal pearls and drinking milk; to subjugate someone you need sandalwood; to bewitch them, urine; to generate hate between beings from the six worlds, the adept must employ human flesh and bones; to conjure up something, he swings the bones of a dead Brahman and consumes animal dung. With buffalo bones the enlightened one slaughters his enemies (Snellgrove, 1959, p. 118). There are spells which instantly split a person in half. This black art, however, should only be applied to a person who has contravened Buddhist doctrine or insulted a guru. One can also picture the evil-doer vomiting blood, or with a fiery needle boring into his back or a flaming letter branding his heart — in the same instant he will fall down dead (Snellgrove, 1959, pp. 116–117). Using the “chalk ritual” a yogi can destroy an entire enemy army in seconds, each soldier suddenly losing his head (Snellgrove, 1959, p. 52). In the second part of our analysis we will discuss in detail how such magic killing practices were, and to a degree still are, a division of Tibetan/Lamaist state politics.

One should, however, in all fairness mention that, to a lesser degree in the original tantra texts, but therefore all the more frequently in the commentaries, every arbitrary use of power and violence is explicitly prohibited by the Bodhisattva oath (to act only in the interests of all suffering beings). There is no tantra, no ceremony and no prayer in which it is not repeatedly affirmed that all magic may only be performed out of compassion (karuna). This constant, almost suspiciously oft-repeated requirement proves, however, as we shall see, to be a disguise, since violence and power in Tantrism are of a structural and not just a moral nature.

Yet, in light of the power structures of the modern state, the world economy, the military and the modern media, the imaginings of the Maha Siddhas sound naive. Their ambitions have something individualist and fantastic about them. But appearances are deceptive. Even in ancient Tibet the employment of magical forces (siddhis) was regarded as an important division of Buddhocratic state politics. Ritual magic was far more important than wars or diplomatic activities in the history of official Lamaism, and, as we shall show, it still is.

The tantric concept, that power is transformed erotic love, is also familiar from modern psychoanalysis. It is just that in the Western psyche this transformation is usually, if not always, an unconscious one. According to Sigmund Freud it is repressed erotic love which can become delusions of power. In contrast, in Tantrism this unconscious process is knowingly manipulated and echoed in an almost mechanical experiment. It can — as in the case of Lamaism — define an entire culture. The Dutch psychologist Fokke Sierksma, for instance, assumes that the “lust of power” operates as an essential driving force behind Tibetan monastic life. A monk might pretend, according to this author, to meditate upon how a state of emptiness may be realized, but “in practice the result was not voidness but inflation of the ego”. For the monk it is a matter of “spiritual power not mystic release” (Sierksma, 1966, pp. 125, 186).

But even more astonishing than the magical/tantric world of ancient Tibet is the fact that the phantasmagora of Tantrism have managed in the present day to penetrate the cultural consciousness of our Western, highly industrialized civilization, and that they have had the power to successfully anchor themselves there with all their attendant atavisms. This attempt by Vajrayana to conquer the West with its magic practices is the central subject of our study.


[1] The first known Tantric Buddhist document, the Guhyasamaja Tantra, dates from the 4th century at the earliest. Numerous other works then follow, which all display the same basic pattern, however. The formative process ended with the Kalachakra Tantra no later than the 11th century.

[2] A conference was held in Berkeley (USA) in 1987 at which discussion centered primarily on the term upaya.

[3] This cultural integration of the tantric divinities is generally denied by the lamas. Tirelessly, they reassure their listeners that it is a matter of universally applicable archetypes, to whom anybody, of whatever religion, can look up. It is true that the Shunyata doctrine, the “Doctrine of Emptiness”, makes it theoretically possible to also summon up and then dismiss the deities of other cultures. “Modern” gurus like Chögyam Trungpa, who died in 1989, also refer to the total archetypal reservoir of humankind in their teachings. But in their spiritual praxis they rely exclusively upon tantric and Tibetan symbols, yiddams and rites.


Until now we have only examined the tantric scheme very broadly and abstractly. But we now wish to show concretely how the “transformation of erotic love into power” is carried out. We thus return to the starting point, the love-play between yogi and yogini, god and goddess, and first examine the various feminine typologies which the tantric master uses in his rituals. Vajrayana distinguishes three types of woman in all:

The “real woman” (karma mudra). She is a real human partner. According to tantric doctrine she belongs to the “realm of desire”.
The “imaginary woman” or “spirit woman” (inana mudra). She is summonsed by the yogi’s meditative imagination and only exists there or in his fantasy. The inana mudra is placed in the “realm of forms”.
The “inner woman” (maha mudra). She is the woman internalized via the tantric praxis, with no existence independent of the yogi. She is not even credited with the reality of an imagined form, therefore she counts as a figure from the “formless realm”.

All three types of woman are termed mudra. This word originally meant ‘seal’, ‘stamp’, or ‘letter of the alphabet’. It further indicated certain magical hand gestures and body postures, with which the yogi conducted, controlled and “sealed” the divine energies. This semantic richness has led to all manner of speculation. For example, we read that the tantric master “stamps” the phenomena of the world with happiness, and that as his companion helps him do this, she is known as mudra (‘stamp’). More concretely, the Maha Siddha Naropa refers to the fact that a tantric partner, in contrast to a normal woman, assists the guru in blocking his ejaculation during the sexual act, and as it were “seals” this, which is of major importance for the performance of the ritual. For this reason she is known as mudra, ‘seal’ (Naropa, 1994, p. 81). But the actual meaning probably lies in the following: in Vajrayana the feminine itself is “sealed”, that is, spellbound via a magic act, so that it is available to the tantric master in its entirety.

The karma mudra: the real woman

What then are the external criteria which a karma mudra, a real woman, needs to meet in order to serve a guru as wisdom consort? The Hevajra Tantra, for example, describes her in the following words: “She is neither too tall, nor too short, neither quite black nor quite white, but dark like a lotus leaf. Her breath is sweet, and her sweat has a pleasant smell like that of musk. Her pudenda gives forth a scent from moment to moment like different kinds of lotuses or like sweet aloe wood. She is calm and resolute, pleasant in speech and altogether delightful” (Snellgrove, 1959, p. 116). At another juncture the same tantra recommends that the guru “take a consort who has a beautiful face, is wide-eyed, is endowed with grace and youth, is dark, courageous, of good family and originates from the female and male fluids” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 217). Gedün Chöpel, a famous tantric from the 20th century, draws a distinction between the various regions from which the women come. Girls from Kham province, for example, have soft flesh, lovers from Dzang are well-versed in the erotic techniques, “Kashmiri girls” are to be valued for their smile, and so on (Chöpel, 1992, p. 45).

Sometimes it is also required of the karma mudra that as well as being attractive she also possess specialized erotic skills. For example, the Kalachakra Tantra recommends training in the sophisticated Indian sexual techniques of the Kama Sutra. In this famous handbook on the intensification of sexual lust, the reader can inform him- or herself about the most daring positions, the use of aphrodisiacs, the anatomical advantages various women possess, the seduction of young girls, dealings with courtesans, and much more. The sole intention of the Kama Sutra, however, is to sexualize life as a whole. In contrast to the tantras there are no religious and power-political intentions to be found behind this work. It thus has no intrinsic value for the tantric yogi. The latter uses it purely as a source of inspiration, to stimulate his desires which he then brings under conscious control.

Youth is a further requirement which the mudra has to meet. The Maha Siddha Saraha distinguishes five different wisdom consorts on the basis of age: the eight-year-old virgin (kumari); the twelve-year-old salika; the sixteen-year-old siddha, who already bleeds monthly; the twenty-year-old balika, and the twenty-five-year-old bhadrakapalini, who he describes as the “burned fat of prajna” (Wayman, 1973, p. 196). The “modern” tantric already mentioned, Lama Gedün Chöpel, explicitly warns that children can become injured during the sexual act: “Forcingly doing it with a young girl produces severe pains and wounds her genitalia. ... If it is not the time and if copulating would be dangerous for her, churn about between her thighs, and it [the female seed] will come out” (Chöpel, 1992, p. 135). In addition he recommends feeding a twelve-year-old honey and sweets before ritual sexual intercourse (Chöpel, 1992, p. 177).

When the king and later Maha Siddha, Dombipa, one day noticed the beautiful daughter of a traveling singer before his palace, he selected her as his wisdom consort and bought her from her father for an enormous sum in gold. She was “an innocent virgin, untainted by the sordid world about her. She was utterly charming, with a fair complexion and classical features. She had all the qualities of a padmini, a lotus child, the rarest and most desirable of all girls” (Dowman, 1985, pp. 53–54). What became of the “lotus child” after the ritual is not recorded.

“In the rite of ‘virgin-worship’ (kumari-puja)”, writes Benjamin Walker, “a girl is selected and trained for initiation, and innocent of her impending fate is brought before the altar and worshipped in the nude, and then deflowered by a guru or chela” (Walker, 1982, p. 72). It was not just the Hindu tantrics who practiced rituals with a kumari, but also the Tibetans, in any case the Grand Abbot of the Sakyapa Sect, even though he was married.

On a numerological basis twelve- or sixteen-year-old girls are preferred. Only when none can be found does Tsongkhapa recommend the use of a twenty-year-old. There is also a table of correspondences between the various ages and the elements and senses: an 11-year-old represents the air, a 12-year-old fire, a 13-year-old water, a 14-year-old earth, a15-year-old sound, a 16-year-old the sense of touch, a 17-year-old taste, an 18-year-old shape or form, and a 20-year-old the sense of smell (Naropa, 1994, p. 189).

The rituals should not be performed with women older than this, as they absorb the “occult forces” of the guru. The dangers associated with older mudras are a topic discussed at length. A famous tantric commentator describes 21- to 30-year-olds as “goddesses of wrath” and gives them the following names: The Blackest, the Fattest, the Greedy, the Most Arrogant, the Stringent, the Flashing, the Grudging, the Iron Chain, and the Terrible Eye. 31- to 38-year-olds are considered to be manifestations of malignant spirits and 39- to 46-year-olds as “unlimited manifestations of the demons”. They are called Dog Snout, Sucking Gob, Jackal Face, Tiger Gullet, Garuda Mug, Owl Features, Vulture’s Beak, Pecking Crow (Naropa, 1994, p. 189). These women, according to the text, shriek and scold, menace and curse. In order to get the yogi completely off balance, one of these terrible figures calls out to him in the Kalachakra Tantra, “Human beast, you are to be crushed today”. Then she gnashes her teeth and hisses, “Today I must devour your flesh”, and with trembling tongue she continues, “From your body I will make the drink of blood” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 191). That some radical tantras view it as especially productive to copulate with such female “monsters” is a topic to which we shall later return.

How does the yogi find a real, human mudra? Normally, she is delivered by his pupil. This is also true for the Kalachakra Tantra. “If one gives the enlightened teacher the prajna [mudra] as a gift,” proclaims Naropa, “the yoga is bliss” (Grünwedel, 1933, p. 117). If a 12- or 16-year-old girl cannot be found, a 20-year-old will suffice, advises another text, and continues, “One should offer his sister, daughter or wife to the ‘guru’”, then the more valuable the mudra is to the pupil, the more she serves as a gift for his master (Wayman, 1977, p. 320).

Further, magic spells are taught with which to summons a partner. The Hevajra Tantra recommends the following mantra: “Om Hri — may she come into my power — savaha!” (Snellgrove, 1959, p. 54). Once the yogi has repeated this saying ten thousand times the mudra will appear before him in flesh and blood and obeys his wishes.

The Kalachakra Tantra urges the yogi to render the mudra pliant with intoxicating liquor: “Wine is essential for the wisdom consort [prajna]. ... Any mudra at all, even those who are still not willing, can be procured with drink” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 147). It is only a small step from this to the use of direct force. There are also texts, which advise “that if a woman refuses sexual union she must be forced to do so” (Bhattacharyya, 1982, p. 125).

Whether or not a karma mudra needs special training before the ritual is something which receves varying answers in the texts and commentaries. In general, she should be familiar with the tantric doctrine. Tsongkhapa advises that she take and keep a vow of silence. He expressly warns against intercourse with unworthy partners: “If a woman lacks ... superlative qualities, that is an inferior lotus. Do not stay with that one, because she is full of negative qualities. Make an offering and show some respect, but don’t practice (with her)” (quoted in Shaw, 1994, p. 169). In the Hevajra Tantra a one-month preparation time is required, then “the girl [is] freed of all false ideas and received as though she were a boon” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 261).

But what happens to the “boon” once the ritual is over? “The karma mudra ... has a purely pragmatic and instrumental significance and is superfluous at the finish” writes the Italian Tibetologist Raniero Gnoli in the introduction to a Kalachakra commentary (Naropa, 1994, p. 82). After the sexual act she is “of no more use to the tantrik than husk of a shelled peanut”, says Benjamin Walker (Walker, 1982, pp. 72–73). She has done her duty, transferred her feminine energy to the yogi, and now succumbs to the disdain which Buddhism holds for all “normal” women as symbols of the “supreme illusion” (maha maya). There is no mention of an initiation of the female partner in the codified Buddhist tantra texts.

The karma mudra and the West

Since the general public demands that a Tibetan lama lead the life of a celibate monk, he must keep his sexual practices secret. For this reason, documents about and verbal accounts of clerical erotic love are extremely rare. It is true that the sexual magic rites are freely and openly discussed in the tantra texts, but who does what with whom and where are all “top secret”. Only the immediate followers are informed, the English author June Campbell reports.

And she has the authority to make such a claim. Campbell had been working for many years as translator and personal assistant for the highest ranking Kagyüpa guru, His Holiness Kalu Rinpoche (1905–1989), when the old man (he was then approaching his eighties) one day asked her to become his mudra. She was completely surprised by this request and could not begin to imagine such a thing, but then, she reluctantly submitted to the wishes of her master. As she eventually managed to escape the tantric magic circle, the previously uninformed public is indebted to her for a number of competent commentaries upon the sexual cabinet politics of modern Lamaism and the psychology of the karma mudra.

What then, according to Campbell, are the reasons which motivate Western women to enter into a tantric relationship, and then afterwards keep their experiences with the masters to themselves? First of all, their great respect and deep reverence for the lama, who as a “living Buddha” begins and ritually conducts the liaison. Then, the karma mudra, even when she is not publicly acknowledged, enjoys a high status within the small circle of the informed and, temporarily, the rank of a dakini, i.e., a tantric goddess. Her intimate relationship with a “holy man” further gives her the feeling that she is herself holy, or at least the opportunity to collect good karma for herself.

Of course, the mudra must swear a strict vow of absolute silence regarding her relations with the tantric master. Should she break it, then according to the tantric penal code she may expect major difficulties, insanity, death and on top of this millennia of hellish torments. In order to intimidate her, Kalu Rinpoche is alleged to have told his mudra, June Campbell, that in an earlier life he killed a woman with a mantra because she disobeyed him and gossiped about intimacies. “The imposition of secrecy ... in the Tibetan system”, Campbell writes, “when it occurred solely as a means to protect status , and where it was reinforced by threats, was a powerful weapon in keeping women from achieving any kind of integrity in themselves. ... So whilst the lineage system [the gurus’ chain of initiation] viewed these [sexual] activities as promoting the enlightenment state of the lineage holders, the fate of one of the two main protagonists, the female consort, remained unrecognized, unspoken and unnamed” (June Campbell, 1996, p. 103). June Campbell also first risked speaking openly about her experiences, which she found repressive and degrading, after Kalu Rinpoche had died.

In her book, this author laments not just the subsequent namelessness of and disregard for the karma mudra despite the guru praising her as a “goddess” for as long as the ritual lasted, but also discusses the traumatic state of “used up” women, who, once their master has “drunk” their gynergy, are traded in for a “fresh” mudra. She also makes reference to the naiveté of Western husbands, who send their spouses to a guru in good faith, so that they can complete their spiritual development. (June Campbell, 1996, p. 107). During her relationship with Kalu Rinpoche he was also practicing with another woman who was not yet twenty years old. The girl died suddenly, of a heart attack it was said. We will return to this death, which fits the logic of the tantric pattern, at a later stage. The fears which such events awakened in her, reports Campbell, completely cut her off from the outside world and left her totally delivered up to the domination of her guru.

This masculine arrogance becomes particularly obvious in a statement by the young lama, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, who announced the following in response to Campbell’s commotion stirring book: “If Western women begin sexual relationships with Tibetan lamas, then the consequence for a number of them is frustration, because their culturally conditioned expectations are not met. If they hope to find an agreeable and equal lover in a Rinpoche, they could not be making a bigger mistake. Certain Rinpoches, who are revered as great teachers, would literally make the worst partners of all — seen from the point of view of the ego. If one approaches such a great master expecting to be acknowledged, and wishing for a relationship in which one shares, satisfies one another, etc., then one is making a bad choice — not just from the ego’s point of view, but also in a completely normal, worldly sense. They probably won’t bring them flowers or invite them to candlelight dinners” (Esotera, 12/97, p. 45; retranslation). It speaks for such a quotation that it is honest, since it quite plainly acknowledges the spiritual inferiority of women (who represent the ego, desire and banality) when confronted with the superhuman spiritual authority of the male gurus. The tantric master Khyentse Rinpoche knows exactly what he is talking about, when he continues with the following sentence: “Whilst in the West one understands equality to mean that two aspects find a common denominator, in Vajrayana Buddhism equality lies completely outside of twoness or duality. Where duality is retained, there can be no equality” (Esotera, 12/97, p. 46; retranslation). That is, in other words: the woman as equal and autonomous partner must be eliminated and has to surrender her energies to the master’s completion (beyond duality).

“Sexual abuse” of Western women by Tibetan lamas has meanwhile become something of a constant topic in the Buddhist scene and has also triggered heated discussion on the Internet. “Sexual abuse” of Western women by Tibetan lamas has meanwhile become something of a constant topic in the Buddhist scene and has also triggered heated discussion on the Internet. See:

Even the official office of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has had to respond to the increasingly common allegations: “What some of these students have experienced is terrible and most unfortunate”, announced Tenzin Tethon, a secretary to His Holiness, and admitted that for a number of years there had already been reports of such incidents (Lattin, Newsgroup 2). Naturally, Tenzin Tethon made no mention of the fact that the sexual exploitation of women for spiritual purposes forms the heart of the tantric mystery.

But there are more and more examples where women are beginning to defend themselves. Thus, in 1992 the well-known bestseller author and commentator on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Sogyal Rinpoche, had to face the Supreme Court of Santa Cruz, alleged to have “used his position as an interpreter of Tibetan Buddhism to take sexual and other advantage of female students over a period of many years” (Tricycle 1996, vol. 5 no. 4, p. 87). The plaintiff was seeking 10 million dollars. It was claimed Sogyal Rinpoche had assured his numerous partners that it would be extremely salutary and spiritually rewarding to sleep with him. Another mudra, Victoria Barlow from New York City, described in an interview with Free Press how she, at the age of 21, was summoned into Sogyal Rinpoche’s room during a meditative retreats: “I went to an apartment to see a highly esteemed lama and discuss religion. He opened the door without a shirt on and with a beer in his hand”. When they were sitting on the sofa, the Tibetan “lunged at me with sloppy kisses and groping. I thought [then] I should take it as the deepest compliment that he was interested and basically surrender to him”. Today, Barlow says that she is “disgusted by the way the Tibetans have manipulated the reverence westerners have for the Buddhist path” (Lattin, Newsgroup 2). The case mentioned above was, however, settled out of court; the result, according to Sogyal’s followers, of their master’s deep meditation.

It would normally be correct to dismiss such “sex stories” as superfluous gossip and disregard them. In the occult logic of Vajrayana, however, they need to be seen as strategically placed ritual practices designed to bring the guru power and influence. Perhaps they additionally have something to do with the Buddhist conquest of the West, which is symbolized by various mudras. Such conjectures may sound rather bizarre, but in Tantrism we are confronted with a different logic to that to which we are accustomed. Here, sexual events are not uncommonly globalized and capable of influencing all of humankind. We shall return to this point.

But at least such examples show that Tibet’s “celibate” monks “practice” with real women — a fact about which the Tibetan clergy including the Fourteenth Dalai Lama have deceived the West until now. Because more and more “wisdom consorts” are breaking their oath to secrecy, it is only now that the conditions are being created for a public discussion of the tantric rituals as such. The criticism to date has not gone beyond a moral-feminist discourse and in no case known to us (with the exception of some of June Campbell’s statements) has it extended to the occult exploitative mechanism of Vajrayana.

On the other hand, the fact that the sexual needs of the lamas can no longer be covered up, has, in a type of advance strategy, led to a situation in which their “spiritual” work with karma mudras is presentable as something to be taken for granted, and which is not inherently shocking. “Many Rinpoches”, one Christopher Fynn has written on the Internet, “including Jattral Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse, Dilgo Khyentse and Ongen Tulku have consorts — which everyone knew about” (Fynn, Newsgroup 4).

And the Dalai Lama, himself the Highest Master of the sexual magic rites, raises the moral finger: “In recent years, teachers from Asia and the West have been involved in scandals about sexual misbehavior towards male and female pupils, the abuse of alcohol and drugs, and the misuse of money and power. This behavior has caused great damage to the Buddhist community and individual people. Pupils of both sexes should be encouraged to confront teachers with unethical aspects of their behavior in an appropriate manner” (Esotera, 12/97, p. 45; retranslation). What should be made of such requests by His Holiness, which are also silent about the sexist mechanisms of Tantrism is a topic which we explore in detail in the second part of our study.

Following these up-to-date “revelations” about Western karma mudras, let us return to our presentation of the tantric scenario as described in the traditional texts.

The inana mudra: the woman of imagination

In contrast to the real karma mudra, the inana mudra is a purely spiritual figure, who appears as a goddess, the wisdom consort of various Buddhas, or as a “dakini”. She is the product of the imagination. But we must keep in mind that the inana mudra may never be a random fantasy of the guru, rather, her external appearance, the color of her hair, her clothing, her jewelry and the symbols which surround her, are all codified. Thus, in his imagination the tantric copies an image which is already recorded in the Buddhist pantheon. In this regard the cult of inana mudra worship has much in common with Christian mysticism surrounding Sophia and Mary and has therefore often been compared with, for example, the mater gloriosa at the end of Goethe’s Faust, where the reformed alchemist rapturously cries:

Highest mistress of the world!

Let me in the azure

Tent of Heaven, in light unfurled

Hear thy Mystery measure!

Justify sweet thoughts that move

Breast of man to meet thee!

And with holy bliss of love

Bear him up to greet thee!

(Faust II, 11997–12004)

Here, “the German poet Goethe … unsuspectingly voices expresses the Buddhist awareness of the Jñānamudrā [inana mudra]” notes Herbert Guenther, who has attempted in a number of writings to interpret the tantras from the viewpoint of a European philosopher (Guenther, 1976, p. 74).

It should however be noted that such Western sublimations of the feminine only correspond to a degree with the imaginings of Indian and Tibetan tantrics. There, it is not just noble and ethereal virgins who are conjured up in the yogis’ imaginations, but also sensuous “dakinis” trembling with lust, who not uncommonly appear as figures of horror, goddesses with bowls made of skulls and cleavers in their hands.

But whatever sort of a woman the adept imagines, in all events he will unite sexually with this spiritual being during the ritual. The white and refined “Sophias” from the realm of the imagination are not exempted from the ritual sexual act. “Among the last phases of the tantrik’s progress”, Benjamin Walker tells us, “is sexual union on the astral plane, when he invokes elemental spirits, fiendesses and the spirits of the dead, and has intercourse with them” (Walker, 1982, p. 74).

Since the yogi produces his wisdom companion through the imaginative power of his spirit, he can rightly consider himself her spiritual father. The inana mudra is composed of the substance of his own thoughts. She thus does not consist of matter, but — and this is very important — she nonetheless appears outside of her imagination-father and initially encounters him as an autonomous subject. He thus experiences her as a being who admittedly has him alone to thank for her being, but who nevertheless has a life of her own, like a child, separated from its mother once it is born.

In all, the tantras distinguish two “types of birth” for imagined female partners: firstly, the “women produced by spells”; secondly, the “field-born yoginis”. In both cases we are dealing with so-called “feminine energy fields” or feminine archetypes which the tantric master can through his imaginative powers render visible for him as “illusory bodies”. This usually takes place via a deep meditation in which the yogi visualizes the inana mudra with his “spiritual eye” (Wayman, 1973, pp. 193–195).

As a master of unbounded imagination, the yogi is seldom content with a single inana mudra, and instead creates several female beings from out of his spirit, either one after another or simultaneously. The Kalachakra Tantra describes how the imagined “goddesses” spring from various parts of his body, from out of his head, his forehead, his neck, his heart and his navel. He can conjure up the most diverse entities in the form of women, such as elements, planets, energies, forces and emotions — compassion for example: “as the incarnation of this arises in his heart a golden glowing woman wearing a white robe. ... Then this woman steps ... out of his heart, spreads herself out to the heaven of the gods like a cloud and lets down a rain of nourishment as an antidote for all bodily suffering” (Gäng, 1988, p. 44).

Karma mudra vs. inana mudra

In the tantric literature we find an endless discussion about whether the magical sexual act with a karma mudra of flesh and blood must be valued more highly than that with an imagined inana mudra. For example, Herbert Guenther devotes a number of pages to this debate in his existentialist study of Vajrayana. Although he also reports in detail about the “pro-woman” intentions of the tantras, he comes to the surprising conclusion that we have in the karma mudra a woman “who yields pleasure containing the seed of frustration”, whilst the inana mudra is “a woman who yields a purer, though unstable, pleasure” (Guenther, 1976, p. 57).

As a product of the PURE SPIRIT, he classes the inana mudra above a living woman. She “is a creation of one’s own mind. She is of the nature of the Great Mother or other goddesses and comprises all that has been previously experienced” (Guenther, 1976, p. 72, quoting Naropa). But she too finally goes the way of all life and “therefore also, even love, Jñānamudrā [inana mudra], gives us merely a fleeting sense of bliss, although this feeling is of a higher, and hence more positive, order than the Karmamūdra [karma mudra] who makes us ‘sad’…” (Guenther, 1976, p. 75).

On the other hand there are very weighty arguments for the greater importance of a real woman (karma mudra) in the tantric rite of initiation. Then the purpose of the ritual with her is the final transcending of the real external world of appearance (maya) and the creation of a universe which functions solely according to the will and imagination of the tantric master. His first task is therefore to recognize the illusory character of reality as a whole. This is naturally represented more graphically, tangibly, and factually by a woman of flesh and blood than by a fictive construction of the own spirit, which the inana mudra is. She appears from the outset as the product of an illusion.

A karma mudra thus presents an exceptionally difficult challenge to the spiritual abilities of the adept, since the real human woman must also be recognized as an illusion (maya)! This means, in the final instance, nothing less than that the yogi no longer grants the entire physical world, which in Indian tradition concentrates itself in the form of a woman, an independent existence, and that as a consequence he recognizes matter as a conceit of his own consciousness. He thereby frees himself from all restrictions imposed by the laws of nature. Such a radical dissolution of reality is believed to accelerate several times the initiation process which otherwise takes numerous incarnations.

Especially if “enlightenment” and liberation from the constraints of reality is to be achieved in a single lifetime, it is necessary in the opinion of many tantra commentators to practice with a human mudra. In the Cakrasamvara Tantra we read for example, that “the secret path without a consort will not grant perfection to beings” (quoted by Shaw, 1994, p. 142). Tsongkhapa, founder of the Tibetan Gelugpa sect is of the same opinion: “A female companion is the basis of the accomplishment of liberation” (quoted by Shaw, 1994, p. 146). Imagined women are only recommendable for less qualified individuals, or may serve at the beginning of the ritual path as a preliminary exercise, reports Miranda Shaw, who makes reference to modern Gelugpa Masters like Lama Yeshe, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and Geshe Dhargyey (Shaw, 1994, pp. 146, 244, notes 26, 27, 29).

A further reason for the use of a karma mudra can be seen in the fact that for his magical transformations the yogi needs a secretion which the woman expresses during the sexual act and which is referred to as “female seed” in the texts. It is considered a bodily concentrate of gynergy. This coveted vaginal fluid will later be the subject of a detailed discussion.

The maha mudra: the inner woman

During the tantric ritual the karma mudra must therefore be recognized by the yogi as an illusion. This is of course also true of the inana mudra, since the tantric master as an autonomous being has to transcend both forms of the feminine, the real and the imagined. We have already learned from Herbert Guenther that the “spirit woman” is also of fleeting character and prone to transitoriness. The yogi may not attribute her with an “inherent existence”. At the beginning of every tantric ritual both mudras still appear outside of him; the karma mudra before his “real” eyes, the inana mudra before his “spiritual” eyes.

But does this illusory character of the two types of woman mean that they are dissolved into nothing by the tantric master? As far as their external and autonomous existence is concerned, this is indeed the yogi’s conception. He does not accord even the real woman any further inherent existence. When, after the tantric ritual in which she is elevated to a goddess, she before all eyes returns home in visible, physical form, in the eyes of the guru she no longer exists as an independent being, but merely as the product of his imagination, as a conceptual image — even when a normal person perceives the girl as a being of flesh and blood.

But although her autonomous feminine existence has been dissolved, her feminine essence (gynergy) has not been lost. Via an act of sexual magic the yogi has appropriated this and with it achieved the power of an androgyne. He destroys, so to speak, the exterior feminine in order to internalize it and produce an “inner woman” as a part of himself. “He absorbs the Mother of the Universe into himself”, as it is described in the Kalachakra Tantra (Grünwedel, Kalacakra IV, p. 32). At a later stage we will describe in detail the subtle techniques with which he performs this absorption. Here we simply list some of the properties of the “inner woman”, the so-called maha mudra (“great” mudra). The boundary with the inana mudra is not fixed, after all the maha mudra is also a product of the imagination. Both types of woman thus have no physical body, and instead transcend “the atomic structure and consist of a purely spiritual substance” (Naropa, 1994, p. 82). But the inana mudra still exists outside of the tantric master, the “inner woman”, however, as her name indicates, can no longer be distinguished from him and has become a part of his self. In general, the maha mudra is said to reside in the region of the navel. There she dances and acts as an oracle as the Greek goddess Metis once did in the belly of Zeus. She is the “in-born” and produces the “in-born joy of the body, the in-born joy of language, the in-born joy of the spirit and the in-born joy of consciousness” (Naropa, 1994, p. 204).

The male tantric master now has the power to assume the female form of the goddess (who is of course an aspect of his own mystical body), that is, he can appear in the figure of a woman. Indeed, he even has the magical ability to divide himself into two gendered beings, a female and a male deity. He is further able to multiply himself into several maha mudras. In the Guhyasamaja Tantra, with the help of magical conjurations he fills an entire palace with female figures, themselves all particles of his subtle body.

Now one might think that for the enlightened yogi the book of sensual pleasures would be closed, since for him there are no more exterior women. But the contrary is the case. His lust is not transformed, but rather made eternal. Thus in his imagination, he is “united day and night [with the maha mudra]. The yogi often says, he would not live without her kiss and embrace” (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 102). He is even able to imaginatively stimulate the sexual organs of the inner woman in order to combine her erotic pleasure with his own (he simultaneously enjoys both), and thus immeasurably intensify it. (Farrow and Menon, 1992, pp. 271, 272, 291).

Despite this sexual turbulence he retains a strict awareness of the polarity of the primal cosmic forces, it is just that these are now realized within his own person. He is simultaneously masculine and feminine, and has both sexual energies under his absolute control. He incarnates the entire tantric theater. He is director, actor, audience, plot and stage in one individual.

Such agitated games are, however, just one side of the tantric philosophy, on the other is a concept of eternal standstill of being, linked to the image of the maha mudra. She appears as the “Highest Immobile”, who, like a clear, magical mirror, reflects a femininity turned to crystal. An obedient femininity with no will of her own, who complies with the looks, the orders, the desires and fantasies of her master. A female automaton, who wishes for nothing, and blesses the yogi with her divine knowledge and holy wisdom.

Whether mobile or unmoving, erotic or spiritualized — the maha mudra is universal. From a tantric viewpoint she incarnates the entire universe. Consequently, whoever has control over his “inner woman” becomes a lord of the universe, a pantocrat. She is a paradox, eternal and indestructible, but nevertheless, like the whole cosmos, without an independent existence. For this reason she is known as a “magical mirror” (Naropa, 1994, p. 81). In the final instance, she represents the “emptiness”.

In Western discussion about the maha mudra she is glorified by Lama Govinda (Ernst Lothar Hoffmann) as the “Eternal Feminine” which now counts as part of the yogi’s essential being. (Govinda, 1991, p. 111). According to Govinda she fulfills a role comparable to that of the muse, who up until the 19th century whispered inspiration into the ears of European artists. Muses could also become incarnated as real women, but in the same manner existed as “inner goddesses”, known then under the name of “inspiration”.

The Buddhist doctrine of the maha mudra has also been compared with Carl Gustav Jung’s concept of anima (Katz 1977). Jung proposed that the human soul of a man is double gendered, it has a masculine and a feminine part, the animus and the anima. In a woman the reverse is true. Her feminine anima corresponds to a masculine animus. With some qualifications, the depth psychologist was convinced that the other-gendered part of the soul could originally be found in the psyche of every person. Jung thus assumes the human soul possesses a primary androgyny, or gynandry, respectively. The goal of an integrated psychology is that the individual recognize his or her other-gendered half and bring the two parts of the soul into harmony.

Even if we attribute the same intentions to Tantrism, an essential difference remains. This is, as all the relevant texts claim, that the feminine side of the yogi is initially found outside himself — whether in the form of a real woman or the figure of an imaginary one — and must first be integrated through sacred sexual practices. If — as in Jung — the anima were to be found in the “mystic body” of the tantric master from the start, then he would surely be able to activate his feminine side without needing to use an external mudra. If he could, then all the higher and highest initiations into Vajrayana would be redundant, since they always describe the “inner woman” as the result of a process which begins with an “exterior woman”.

It is tempting to conclude that a causal relation exists between both female tantric “partners”, the internal and the external. The tantric master uses a human woman, or at least an inana mudra to create his androgynous body. He destroys her autonomous existence, steals her gynergy, integrates this in the form of an “inner woman” and thus becomes a powerful double-gendered super-being. We can, hypothetically, describe the process as follows: the sacrifice of the exterior woman is the precondition for the establishment of the inner maha mudra.

The “tantric female sacrifice”

But are we really justified in speaking of a “tantric female sacrifice”? We shall attempt to find an answer to this difficult question. Fundamentally, the Buddhist tantric distinguishes three types of sacrifice: the outer, the inner and the secret. The “outer sacrifice” consists of the offering to a divinity, the Buddhas, or the guru, of food, incense, butter lamps, perfume, and so on. For instance in the so-called “mandala sacrifice” the whole universe can be presented to the teacher, in the form of a miniature model, whilst the pupil says the following. “I sacrifice all the components of the universe in their totality to you, O noble, kind, and holy lama!” (Bleichsteiner, 1937, p. 192)

In the “inner sacrifice” the pupil (Sadhaka) gives his guru, usually in a symbolic act, his five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch), his states of consciousness, and his feelings, or he offers himself as an individual up to be sacrificed. Whatever the master demands of him will be done — even if the sadhaka must cut the flesh from his own limbs, like the tantric adept Naropa.

Behind the “secret sacrifice” hides, finally, a particular ritual event which attracts our especial interest, since it is here that the location of the “tantric female sacrifice” is to be suspected. It concerns — as can be read in a modern commentary upon the Kalachakra Tantra — “the spiritual sacrifice of a dakini to the lama” (Henss, 1985, p. 56). Such symbolic sacrifices of goddesses are all but stereotypical of tantric ceremonies. “The exquisite bejeweled woman ... is offered to the Buddhas” (Gäng, 1988, p. 151), as the Guhyasamaja Tantra puts it. Often eight, sometimes sixteen, occasionally countless “wisdom girls” are offered up in “the holy most secret of offerings” (quoted by Beyer, 1978, p. 162)

The sacrifice of samsara

A sacrifice of the feminine need not be first sought in Tantrism, however; rather it may be found in the logic of the entire Buddhist doctrine. Woman per se– as Buddha Shakyamuni repeatedly emphasized in many of his statements — functions as the first and greatest cause of illusion (maya), but likewise as the force which generates the phenomenal world (samsara). It is the fundamental goal of every Buddhist to overcome this deceptive samsara. This world of appearances experienced as feminine, presents him with his greatest challenge. “A woman”, Nancy Auer Falk writes, “was the veritable image of becoming and of all the forces of blind growth and productivity which Buddhism knew as Samsara. As such she too was the enemy — not only on a personal level, as an individual source of temptation, but also on a cosmic level” (Gross, 1993, p. 48). In this misogynist logic, it is only after the ritual destruction of the feminine that the illusory world (maya) can be surmounted and transcended.

Is it for this reason that maya (illusion), the mother of the historical Buddha, had to die directly after giving birth? In her early death we can recognize the original event which stands at the beginning of the fundamentally misogynist attitude of all Buddhist schools. Maya both conceived and gave birth to the Sublime One in a supernatural manner. It was not a sexual act but an elephant which, in a dream, occasioned the conception, and Buddha Shakyamuni did not leave his mother’s body through the birth canal, but rather through her hip. But these transfeminine birth myths were not enough for the tellers of legends. Maya as earthly mother had, on the path to enlightenment of a religion which seeks to free humanity from the endless chain of reincarnation, to be proclaimed an “illusion” (maya) and destroyed. She receives no higher accolade in the school of Buddha, since the woman — as mother and as lover — is the curse which fetters us to our illusory existence.

Already in Mahayana Buddhism, the naked corpse of a woman was considered as the most provocative and effective meditation object an initiand could use to free himself from the net of Samsara. Inscribed in the iconography of her body were all the vanities of this world. For this reason, he who sank bowed over a decaying female body could achieve enlightenment in his current life. To increase the intensity of the macabre observation, it was usual in several Indian monastic orders to dismember the corpse. Ears, nose, hands, feet, and breasts were chopped off and the disfigured trunk became the object of contemplation. “In Buddhist context, the spectacle of the mutilated woman serves to display the power of the Buddha, the king of the Truth (Dharma) over Mara, the lord of the Realm of Desire.”, writes Elizabeth Wilson in a discussion of such practices, “By erasing the sexual messages conveyed by the bodies of attractive women through the horrific spectacle of mutilation, the superior power of the king of Dharma is made manifest to the citizens of the realm of desire.” (Wilson, 1995, p. 80).

In Vajrayana, the Shunyata doctrine (among others) of the nonexistence of all being, is employed to conduct a symbolic sacrifice of the feminine principle. Only once this has evaporated into a “nothing” can the world and we humans be rescued from the curse of maya (illusion). This may also be a reason why the “emptiness” (shunyata), which actually by definition can not possess any characteristics, is hypostasized as feminine in the tantras. This becomes especially clear in the Hevajra Tantra. In staging of the ritual we encounter at the outset a real yogini (karma mudra) or at least an imagined goddess (inana mudra), whom the yogi transforms in the course of events into a “nothing” using magic techniques. By the end the tantric master has completely robbed her of her independent existence, that is, to put it bluntly, she no longer exists. “She is the Yogini without a Self” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, pp. 218–219). Thus her name, Nairatmya, literally means ‘one who has no self, that is, non-substantial’ (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 219). The same concept is at work when, in another tantra, the “ultimate dakini” is visualized as a “zero-point” and experienced as “indivisible pleasure and emptiness” (Dowman, 1985, p. 74). Chögyam Trungpa sings of the highest “lady without being” in the following verses:

Always present, you do not exist ...

Without body, shapeless, divinity of the true.

(Trungpa, 1990, p. 40)

Only her bodilessness, her existential sacrifice and her dissolution into nothing allow the karma mudra to transmute into the maha mudra and gynergy to be distilled out of the yogini in order to construct the feminine ego of the adept with this “stuff”. “Relinquishing her form [as] a woman, she would assume that of her Lord” the Hevajra Tantra establishes at another point (Snellgrove, 1959, p. 91).

The maha mudra has, it is said, an “empty body” (Dalai Lama I, 1985, p. 170). What can be understood by this contradictory metaphor? In his commentary on the Kalachakra Tantra, Ngawang Dhargyey describes how the “empty body” can only be produced through the destruction of all the “material” elements of a physical, natural “body of appearance”. In contrast to such, “their bodies are composed simply of energy and consciousness” (Dhargyey, 1985, p. 131). The physical world, sensuality, matter and nature — considered feminine in not just Buddhism — thus become pure spirit in an irreconcilable opposition. But they are not completely destroyed in the process of their violent spiritualization, but rather “sublated” in the Hegelian sense, namely “negated” and “conserved” at the same time; they are — to make use of one of the favorite terms of the Buddhist evolutionary theorist, Ken Wilber — “integrated”. This guarantees that the creative feminine energies are not lost following the material “dissolution” of their bearers, and instead are available solely to the yogi as a precious elixir. A sacrifice of the feminine as an autonomous principle must therefore be regarded as the sine qua non for the universal power of the tantric master. These days this feminine sacrifice may only be performed entirely in the imagination. But this need not have always been the case.

“Eating” the gynergy

But Vajrayana is concerned with more than the performance of a cosmic drama in which the feminine and its qualities are destroyed for metaphysical reasons. The tantric recognizes a majority of the feminine properties as extremely powerful. He therefore has not the slightest intention of destroying them as such. In contrast, he wishes to make the feminine forces his own. What he wants to destroy is solely the physical and mental bearer of gynergy — the real woman. For this reason, the “tantric female sacrifice” is of a different character to the cosmogonic sacrifice of the feminine of early Buddhism. It is based upon the ancient paradigm in which the energies of a creature are transferred to its killer. The maker of the sacrifice wants to absorb the vital substance of the offering, in many cases by consuming it after it has been slaughtered. Through this he not only “integrates” the qualities of the killed, but also believes he may outwit death, by feeding up on the body and soul of the sacrificial victim.

In this connection the observation that world wide the sacred sacrifice is contextually linked with food and eating, is of some interest. It is necessary to kill plants and animals in order to nourish oneself. The things killed are subsequently consumed and thus appear as a necessary condition for the maintenance and propagation of life. Eating increases strength, therefore it was important to literally incorporate the enemy. In cannibalism, the eater integrates the energies of those he has slaughtered. Since ancient humans made no basic distinction between physical, mental or spiritual processes, the same logic applied to the “eating” of nonbodily forces. One also ate souls, or prana, or the élan vital.

In the Vedas, this general “devouring logic” led to the conception that the gods nourished themselves from the life fluids of ritually slaughtered humans, just as mortals consume the bodies of animals for energy and nourishment. Thus, a critical-rational section of the Upanishads advises against such human sacrifices, since they do not advance individual enlightenment, but rather benefit only the blood-hungry supernatural beings.

Life and death imply one another in this logic, the one being a condition for the other. The whole circle of life was therefore a huge sacrificial feast, consisting of the mutual theft and absorption of energies, a great cosmic dog-eat-dog. Although early Buddhism gave vent to keen criticism of the Vedic rites, especially the slaughter of people and animals, the ancient sacrificial mindset resurfaces in tantric ritual life. The “devouring logic” of the Vedas also controls the Tantrayana. Incidentally, the word tantra is first found in the context of the Vedic sacrificial gnosis, where it means ‘sacrificial framework’ (Smith, 1989, p. 128).

Sacred cannibalism was always communion, holy union with the Spirit and the souls of the dead. It becomes Eucharistic communion when the sacrifice is a slaughtered god, whose followers eat of him at a supper. God and man are first one when the man or woman has eaten of the holy body and drunk the holy blood of his or her god. The same applies in the relation to the goddess. The tantric yogi unites with her not just in the sexual act, but above all through consuming her holy gynergy, the magical force of maya. Sometimes, as we shall see, he therefore drinks his partner’s menstrual blood. Only when the feminine blood also pulses in his own veins will he be complete, an androgyne, a lord of both sexes.

To gain the “gynergy” for himself, the yogi must “kill” the possessor of the vital feminine substances and then “incorporate” her. Such an act of violence does not necessarily imply the real murder of his mudra, it can also be performed symbolically. But a real ritual murder of a woman is by like measure not precluded, and it is not surprising that occasional references can be found in the Vajrayana texts which blatantly and unscrupulously demand the actual killing of a woman. In a commentary on the Hevajra Tantra, at a point where a lower-caste wisdom consort (dombi) is being addressed, stands bluntly, “I kill you, o Dombi, I take your life!” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 159).

Sati or the sacred inaugural sacrifice

In any case, in all the rituals of the Highest Tantra initiations a symbolic female sacrifice is set in scene. From numerous case studies in cultural and religious history we are aware that an “archaic first event”, an “ inaugural sacred murder” may be hiding behind such symbolic stagings. This “original event”, in which a real wisdom consort was ritually killed, need in no sense be consciously acknowledged by the following generations and cult participants who only perform the sacrifice in their imaginations or as holy theater. As the French anthropologist René Girard convincingly argues in his essay on Violence and the Sacred, the original murderous deed is normally no longer fully recalled during later symbolic performances. But it can also not become totally forgotten. It is important that the violent origin of their sacrificial rite be shrouded in mystery for the cult participant. “To maintain its structural force, the inaugural violence must not make an appearance”, claims Girard (Girard, 1987, p. 458). Only thus can the participants experience that particular emotionally laden and ambivalent mixture of crime and mercy, guilt and atonement, violence and satisfaction, shuddering and repression which first lends the numinous aura of holiness to the cult events.

It thus seems appropriate to examine Tantric Buddhism for signs of such an “inaugural sacrifice”. In this connection, we would like to draw attention to a Shiva myth, which has nonetheless had an influence on the history of the Buddhist tantras.

In the mythical past, Sati was the consort of the god Shiva. When her father Daksa was planning a great sacrificial feast, he failed to invite his daughter and son-in-law. Unbidden, Sati nonetheless attended the feast and was deeply insulted by Daksa. Filled with shame and anger she threw herself upon the burning sacrificial altar and died. (In another version of the story she alone was invited and cremated herself when she heard that her spouse was barred from the feast.) Shiva, informed of the death of his wife, hurried at once to the scene of the tragedy and decapitated Daksa. He then took the body of his beloved Sati, laid her across his shoulders and began a funeral procession across all India. The other gods wanted to free him from the corpse and set about dismembering it, piece by piece, without Shiva noticing what they were doing.

The places where the fragments fell were destined to become holy sites known as Shakta pithas. There where Sati’s vulva came to land the most sacred location was established. In some texts there is talk of 24, in others of 108 pithas, the latter being the holy number of Buddhism. At Sati’s numerous graves cemeteries were set up forthwith, at which the people cremated their dead. Around these locations developed a many-sided, and as we shall see, extremely macabre death culture, which was nurtured by Tantrics of all schools (including the Buddhist variety).

In yet another version of the Sati legend, the corpse of Shiva’s wife contained a “small cog — a symbol of manifest time -, [which] destroyed the body of the goddess from the inside out. ... [It] was then dismembered into 84 fragments which fell to earth at the various holy sites of India” (Hutin, 1971, p. 67). This is indeed a remarkable variant on the story, since the number of famous Maha Siddhas (Grand Sorcerers), who in both the Buddhist and Hindu tradition introduced Tantrism to India as a new religious practice, is 84. These first Tantrics chose the Shakta pithas as the central locations for their rituals. Some of them, the Nath Siddhas, claimed Sati had sacrificed herself for them and had given them her blood. For this reason they clothed themselves in red robes (White, 1996, p. 195). Likewise, one of the many Indian cemetery legends tells how five of the Maha Siddhas emerged from the cremated corpse of a goddess named Adinatha (White, 1996, p. 296). It can be assumed that this is also a further variation on the Sati legend.

It is not clear from the tale whether the goddess committed a sacrificial suicide or whether she was the victim of a cruel murder. Sati’s voluntary leap into the flames seems to indicate the former; her systematic dismemberment the latter. A “criminological” investigation of the case on the basis of the story alone, i.e., without reference to other considerations, is impossible, since the Sati legend must itself be regarded as an expression of the mystifying ambivalence which, according to René Girard, veils every inaugural sacrifice. All that is certain is that all of the originally Buddhist (!) Vajrayana’s significant cult locations were dedicated to the dismembered Hindu Sati.

Earlier, however, claims the Indologist D. C. Sircar, famous relics of the “great goddess” were said to be found at the Shakta pithas. At the heart of her cult stood the worship of her yoni (‘vagina’) (Sircar, 1973, p. 8). We can only concur with this opinion, yet we must also point out that the majority of the matriarchal cults of which we are aware also exhibited a phallic orientation. Here the phallus did not signalize a symbol of male dominance, but was instead a toy of the “great goddess”, with which she could sexual-magically manipulate men and herself obtain pleasure.

We also think it important to note that the practices of Indian gynocentric cults were in no way exempt from sacrificial obsession. In contrast, there is a comprehensive literature which reports the horrible rites performed at the Shakta pithas in honor of the goddess Kali. Her followers bowed down before her as the “consumer of raw meat”, who was constantly hungry for human sacrifices. The individuals dedicated to her were first fed up until they were sufficiently plump to satisfy the goddess’s palate. On particular feast days the victims were decapitated in her copper temple (Sircar, 1973, p. 16).

Naturally we can only speculate that the “dismemberment of the goddess” in the Sati myth might be a masculine reaction to the original fragmentation of the masculine god by the gynocentric Kali. But this murderous reciprocity must not be seen purely as an act of revenge. In both cases it is a matter of the increased life energy which is to be achieved by the sacrifice of the opposite sex. In so doing, the “revolutionary” androcentric yogis made use of a similar ritual praxis and symbolism to the aggressive female followers of the earlier matriarchy, but with reversed premises. For example, the number 108, so central to Buddhism, is a reminder of the 108 names under which the great goddess was worshipped (Sircar, 1973, p. 25).

The fire sacrifice of the dakini

The special feature of Greek sacrificial rites lay in the combination of burning and eating, of blood rite and fire altar. In pre-Buddhist, Vedic India rituals involving fire were also the most common form of sacrifice. Humans, animals, and plants were offered up to the gods on the altar of flame. Since every sacrifice was supposed to simulate among other things the dismemberment of the first human, Prajapati, it always concerned a “symbolic human sacrifice”, even when animal or plant substitutes were used.

At first the early Buddhists adopted a highly critical attitude towards such Vedic practices and rejected them outright, in stark opposition to Vajrayana later, in which they were to regain central significance. Even today, fire pujas are among the most frequent rituals of Tantric Buddhism. The origin of these Buddhist “flame masses” from the Vedas becomes obvious when it is noted that the Vedic fire god Agni appears in the Buddhist tantras as the “Consumer of Offerings”. This is even true of the Tibetans. In this connection, Helmut von Glasenapp describes one of the final scenes from the large-scale Kalachakra ritual, which the Panchen Lama performed in Beijing 1932: A “woodpile was set alight and the fire god invited to take his place in the eight-leafed lotus which stood in the middle of the fireplace. Once he had been offered abundant sacrifices, Kalachakra was invited to come hither from his mandala and to become one with the fire god” (von Glasenapp, 1940, p. 142). Thus the time god and the fire unite.

Burning Dakinis

The symbolic burning of “sacrificial goddesses” is found in nearly every tantra. It represents every possible characteristic, from the human senses to various states of consciousness. The elements (fire, water, etc.) and individual bodily features are also imagined in the form of a “sacrificial goddesses”. With the pronouncement of a powerful magic formula they all perish in the fire. In what is known as the Vajrayogini ritual, the pupil sacrifices several inana mudras to a red fire god who rides a goat. The chief goddess, Vajrayogini, appears here with “a red-colored body which shines with a brilliance like that of the fire of the aeon” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 443). In the Guhyasamaya Tantra the goddesses even fuse together in a fiery ball of light in order to then serve as a sacrifice to the Supreme Buddha. Here the adept also renders malignant women harmless through fire: “One makes the burnt offerings within a triangle. ... If one has done this three days long, concentrating upon the target of the women, then one can thus ward them off, even for the infinity of three eons” (Gäng, 1988, p. 225). A “burning woman” by the name of Candali plays such a significant role in the Kalachakra initiations that we devote an entire chapter to her later. In this context we also examine the “ignition of feminine energy”, a central event along the sexual magic initiation path of Tantrism.

In Buddhist iconography, the tantric initiation goddesses, the dakinis are represented dancing within a fiery circle of flame. These are supernatural female beings encountered by the yogi on his initiatory journey who assist him in his spiritual development, but with whom he can also fall into serious conflict. Translated, dakini means “sky-going one” or “woman who flies” or “sky dancer”. (Herrmann-Pfand, 1996, pp. 68, 38). In Buddhism the name appeared around 400 C.E.

The German Tibetologist Albert Grünwedel was his whole life obsessed with the idea that the “heaven/sky walkers” were once human “wisdom companions”, who, after they had been killed in a fire ritual, continued to function in the service of the tantric teachings as female spirit beings (genies). He saw in the dakinis the “souls of murdered mudras” banished by magic, and believed that after their sacrificial death they took to haunting as Buddhist ghosts (Grünwedel, 1933, p. 5). Why, he asked, do the dakinis always hold skull cups and cleavers in their hands in visual representations? Obviously, as can be read everywhere, to warn the initiands against the transient and deceptive world of samsara and to cut them off from it. But Grünwedel sees this in a completely different light: For him, just as the saints display the instruments of their martyrdom in Christian iconography, so too the tantric goddesses demonstrate their mortal passing with knives and skulls; like their European sisters, the witches, with whom they have so much in common, they are to be burnt at the stake (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 41) Grünwedel traces the origin of this female sacrifice back to the marked misogyny of the early phase of Buddhism: “The insults [thrown at] the woman sound dreadful. ... The body of the woman is a veritable cauldron of hell, the woman a magical form of the demons of destruction” (Grünwedel, 1924, vol. 2, p. 29).

One could well shrug at the speculations of this German Tibetologist and Asian researcher. As far as they are understood symbolically, they do not contradict tantric orthodoxy in the slightest, which even teaches the destruction of the “external” feminine as an article of faith. As we have seen, the sacrificial goddesses are burnt symbolically. Some tantras even explicitly confirm Grünwedel’s thesis that the dakinis were once “women of flesh and blood”, who were later transformed into “spirit beings” (Bhattacharyya, 1982, p. 121). Thus she was sacrificed as a karma mudra, a human woman in order to then be transformed into an inana mudra, an imaginary woman. But the process did not end here, then the inana mudra still had an existence external to the adept. She also needed to be “sacrificed” in order to create the “inner woman”, the maha mudra. A passage from the Candamaharosana Tantra thus plainly urges the adept: “Threaten, threaten, kill, kill, slay slay all Dakinis!” (quoted by George, 1974, p. 64)

But what is the intent behind a fiery dakini sacrifice? The same as that behind all the other tantric rituals, namely the absorption of gynergy upon which to found the yogi’s omnipotence. Here the longed-for feminine elixir has its own specific names. The adept calls it the “heart blood of the dakini”, the “essence of the dakini’s heart”, the “life-heart of the dakini” (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 342). “Via the ‘conversion’ the Dakinis become protectors of the religion, once they have surrendered their ‘life-heart’ to their conqueror”, a tantra text records (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 204).

This “surrender of the heart” can often be brutal. For example, a Tibetan story tells of how the yogini Magcig declares that she is willing for her breast to be slit open with a knife — whether in reality or just imagination remains unclear. Her heart was then taken out, “and whilst the red blood — drip, drip — flowed out”, laid in a skull bowl. Then the organ was consumed by five dakinis who were present. Following this dreadful heart operation Magcig had transformed herself into a dakini (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 164). As macabre as this story is, on the other hand it shows that the tantric female sacrifice need not necessarily be carried out against the will of woman to be sacrificed. In contrast, the yogini often surrenders her heart-blood voluntarily because she loves her master. Like Christ, she lets herself be crucified for love. But her guru may never let this love run free. He has a sacred duty to control the feelings of the heart, and the power to manipulate them.

In the dakini’s heart lies the secret of enlightenment and thus of universal power. She is the “Queen of Hearts”, who — like Diana, Princess of Wales — must undergo a violent “sacrificial death” in order to then shine as the pure ideal of the monarchy (the “autocratic rule” of the yogis). Lama Govinda also makes reference to a fiery sacrificial apotheosis of the dakini when he proclaims in a vision that all feminine forces are concentrated in the sky walkers, “until focused on a point as if through a lens they kindle to a supreme heat and become the holy flame of inspiration which leads to perfect enlightenment” (Govinda, 1991, p. 231). It need not be said that here the inspiration and enlightenment of the male tantra master alone is meant and not that of his female sacrifice.


The “tantric female sacrifice” has found a sublime and many-layered expression in what is known as the “Vajrayogini rite”, which we would like to examine briefly because of its broad distribution among the Tibetan lamas. Vajrayogini is the most important female divine figure in the highest yogic practices of Tibetan Buddhism. The goddess is worshipped as, among other things, “Mistress of the World”, the “Mother of all Buddhas”, “Queen of the Dakinis”, and a “Powerful Possessor of Knowledge”. Her reverential cult is so unique in androcentric Lamaism that a closer examination has much to recommend it. In so doing we draw upon a document on Vajrayogini praxis by the Tibetan lama Kelsang Gyatso.

This tantric ritual, centered upon a principal female figure, begins like all others, with the pupil’s adoration of the guru. Seated upon two cushions which represent the sun and moon, the master holds a vajra and a bell in his hands, thus emphasizing his androgyny and transsexual power.

Vajra Yogini in the burning circle

External, internal, and secret sacrifices are made to him and his lineage. Above all this concerns many imagined “sacrificial goddesses” which emanate from the pupil’s breast and from there enter the teacher’s heart. Among these are the goddesses of beauty, music, flowers, and the light. With the “secret sacrifices” the sadhaka pronounces the following: “And I offer most attractive illusory mudras, a host of messengers born from places, born from mantra, and spontaneously born, with lender bodies, skilled in the 64 arts of love” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 250).

In the Vajrayogini praxis a total of three types of symbolic female sacrifice are distinguished. Two of these consist in the offering of inana mudras, that is of “spirit women”, who are drawn from the pupil’s imagination. In the third sacrificial offering he presents his teacher with a real sexual partner (karma mudra) (Gyatso, 1991, p. 88).

Once all the women have been presented to the guru and he has absorbed their energies, the image of the Vajrayogini arises in his heart. Her body appears in red and glows like the “apocalyptic fire”. In her right hand she holds a knife with a vajra-shaped handle, in her left a skull bowl filled with blood. She carries a magic wand across her shoulders, the tip of which is adorned with three tiny human heads. She wears a crown formed out of five skulls. A further fifty severed heads are linked in a chain which swings around her neck. Beneath her feet the Hindu divinity Shiva and the red Kalarati crouch in pain.

Thereupon her image penetrates the pupil, and takes possession of him, transforming him into itself via an internalized iconographic dramaturgy. That the sadhaka now represents the female divinity is considered a great mystery. Thus the master now whispers into his ear, “Now you are entering into the lineage of all yoginis. You should not mention these holy secrets of all the yoginis to those who have not entered the mandala of all the yoginis or those who have no faith” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 355). With divine pride the pupil replies, “I am the Enjoyment Body of Vajrayogini!” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 57) or simply and directly says, “I am Vajrayogini!” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 57). Then, as a newly arisen goddess he comes to sit face-to-face with his guru. Whether the latter now enjoys sexual union with the sadhaka as Vajrayogini cannot be determined from the available texts.

At any rate we must regard this artificial goddess as a female mask, behind which hides the male sadhaka who has assumed her form. He can of course set this mask aside again. It is impressive just how vivid and unadorned the description of this reverse transformation of the “Vajrayogini pupil” into his original form is: “With the clarity of Vajrayogini”, he says in one ritual text, “I give up my breasts and develop a penis. In the perfect place in the center of my vagina the two walls transform into bell-like testicles and the stamen into the penis itself” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 293).

Other sex-change transfigurations are also known from Vajrayogini praxis. Thus, for example, the teacher can play the role of the goddess and let his pupil take on the male role . He can also divide himself into a dozen goddesses — yet it is always men (the guru or his pupils) who play the female roles.


The dreadful Chinnamunda (Chinnamastra) ritual also refers to a “tantric female sacrifice”. At the center of this ritual drama we find a goddess (Chinnamunda) who decapitates herself. Iconographically, she is depicted as follows: Chinnamunda stands upright with the cleaver with which she has just decapitated herself clenched in her right hand. On her left, raised palm she holds her own head. Three thick streams of blood spurt up from the stump of her neck. The middle one curves in an arc into the mouth of her severed head, the other two flow into the mouths of two further smaller goddesses who flank Chinnamunda. She usually tramples upon one or more pairs of lovers. This bloody cult is distributed in both Tantric Buddhism and Hinduism.

According to one pious tale of origin, Chinnamunda severs her own head because her two servants complain of a great hunger which she is unable to assuage. The decapitation was thus motivated by great compassion with two suffering beings. It nevertheless appears grotesque that an individual like Chinnamunda, in possession of such extraordinary magical powers, would be forced to feed her companions with her own blood, instead of conjuring up an opulent meal for them with a spell. According to another, metaphysical interpretation, the goddess wanted to draw attention to the unreality of all being with her self-destructive deed. Yet even this philosophical platitude can barely explain the horrible scenario, although one is accustomed to quite a deal from the tantras. Is it not therefore reasonable to see a merciless representation of a “tantric female sacrifice” in the Chinnamunda myth? Or are we here dealing with an ancient matriarchal cult in which the goddess gives a demonstration of her triune nature and her indestructibility via an in the end “ineffectual” act of self-destruction?

This gynocentric thesis is reminiscent of an analysis of the ritual by Elisabeth Anne Benard, in which she explains Chinnamunda and her two companions to be an emanation of the triune goddess (Benard, 1994, p. 75). [1]

Chinnamunda is in no sense the sole victim in this macabre horror story; rather, she also extracts her life energies from out of the erotic love between the two sexes, just like a Buddhist tantra master. Indeed, in her canonized iconographic form she dances about upon one or two pairs of lovers, who in some depictions are engaged in sexual congress. The Indologist David Kinsley thus sums up the events in a concise and revealing equation: “Chinnamasta [Chinnamunda] takes life and vigor from the copulating couple, then gives it away lavishly by cutting off her own head to feed her devotees” (Kinsley, 1986, p. 175). Thus, a “sacrificial couple” and the theft of their love energy are to be found at the outset of this so difficult to interpret blood rite.

Yet the mystery remains as to why this particular drama, with its three female protagonists, was adopted into Tantric Buddhist meditative practices. We can see only two possible explanations for this. Firstly, that it represents an attempt by Vajrayana to incorporate within its own system every sacrificial magic element, regardless how bizarre, and even if it originated among the followers of a matriarchal cult. By appropriating the absolutely foreign, the yogi all the more conspicuously demonstrates his omnipotence. Since he is convinced of his ability to — in the final instance — play all gender roles himself and since he also believes himself a lord over life and death, he thus also regards himself as the master of this Chinnamunda “female ritual”. The second possibility is that the self-sacrifice of the goddess functions as a veiled reference to the “tantric female sacrifice” performed by the yogi, which is nonetheless capable of being understood by the initiated. [2]


The broad distribution of human sacrifice in nearly all cultures of the world has for years occasioned a many-sided discussion among anthropologists and psychologist of the most varied persuasions as to the social function and meaning of the “sacrificium humanum”. In this, reference has repeatedly been made to the double-meaning of the sacrificial act, which simultaneously performs both a destructive and a regulative function in the social order. The classic example for this is the sacrifice of the so-called “scapegoat”. In this case, the members of a community make use of magical gestures and spells to transfer all of their faults and impurities onto one particular person who is then killed. Through the destruction of the victim the negative features of the society are also obliterated. The psychologist Otto Rank sees the motivation for such a transference magic in, finally, the individual’s fear of death. (quoted by Wilber, 1990, p. 176).

Another sacrificial gnosis, particularly predominant in matriarchal cults presupposes that fertility can be generated through subjecting a person to a violent death or bleeding them to death. Processes from the world of vegetative nature, in which plants die back every year in order to return in spring, are simulated. In this view, death and life stand in a necessary relation to one another; death brings forth life.

A relation between fertility and human sacrifice is also formed in the ancient Indian culture of the Vedas. The earth and the life it supports, the entire universe in fact, were formed, according to the Vedic myth of origin, by the independent self-dismemberment of the holy adamic figure Prajapati. His various limbs and organs formed the building blocks of our world. But these lay unlinked and randomly scattered until the priests (the Brahmans) came and wisely recombined them through the constant performance of sacrificial rites. Via the sacrifices, the Brahmans guaranteed that the cosmos remained stabile, and that gave them enormous social power.

All these aspects may, at least in general, contribute to the “tantric female sacrifice”, but the central factors are the two elements already mentioned:

The destruction of the feminine as a symbol of the highest illusion (Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism)
The sacrifice of the woman in order to absorb her gynergy (Tantrayana).

Let us close this chapter by once again summing up why the female sacrifice is essential for the tantric rite: Everything which opposes a detachment from this world, which is characterized by suffering and death, all the obscuring of Maya, the entire deception of samsara is the shameful work of woman. Her liquidation as an autonomous entity brings to nothing this world of appearances of ours. In the tantric logic of inversion, only transcending the feminine can lead to enlightenment and liberation from the hell of rebirth. It alone promises eternal life. The yogi may thus call himself a “hero” (vira), because he had the courage and the high arts needed to absorb the most destructive and most base being in the universe within himself, in order not just to render it harmless but to also transform it into positive energy for the benefit of all beings.

This “superhuman” victory over the “female disaster” convinced the Tantrics that the seed for a radical inversion into the positive is also hidden in all other negative deeds, substances, and individuals. The impure, the evil, and the criminal are thus the raw material from which the Vajra master tries to distill the pure, the good, and the holy.


[1] Elisabeth Anne Benard would like to clearly distinguish her interpretation from an androcentric reading of the ritual. She openly admits her feminist intentions and celebrates Chinnamunda as both a female “solar deity” and a “triune moon goddess”. She thus accords her gynandric control over the two heavenly bodies and both genders.

[2] The Tibetan texts which describe the rite of Chinnamunda, see in it a symbol for the three energy channels, with which the yogi experiments in his mystical body. (We will discuss this in detail later.) Hence, the famous scholar Taranatha writes, “when the [female] ruler severs her head from her own neck with the cleaver held in her right hand, the three veins Avadhuti, Ida and Pingala are severed,and through this the flow of greed, hate, and delusion is cut off, for herself and for all beings” (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, pp. 263–264). This comparison is somewhat strained, however, since the inner energy channels are in fact sex-specific (Ida — masculine; Pingala — feminine; Avadhuti — androgyne) and for this reason could well present difficulties for a represention in the form of three women.


Every type of passion (sexual pleasure, fits of rage, hate and loathing) which is normally considered taboo by Buddhist ethical standards, is activated and nurtured in Vajrayana with the goal of then transforming it into its opposite. The Buddhist monks, who are usually subject to a strict, puritanical-seeming set of rules, cultivate such “breaches of taboo” without restriction, once they have decided to follow the “Diamond Path”. Excesses and extravagances now count as part of their chosen lifestyle. Such acts are not simply permitted, but are prescribed outright, because according to tantric doctrine, evil can only be driven out by evil, greed by greed alone, and poison is the only cure for poison.

Suitably radical instructions can be found in the Hevajra Tantra: “A wise man ... should remove the filth of his mind by filth ... one must rise by that through which one falls”, or, more vividly, “As flatulence is cured by eating beans so that wind may expel wind, as a thorn in the foot can be removed by another thorn, and as a poison can be neutralized by poison, so sin can purge sin” (Walker, 1982, p. 34). For the same reason, the Kalachakra Tantra exhorts its pupils to commit the following: to kill, to lie, to steal, to break the marriage vows, to drink alcohol, to have sexual relations with lower-class girls (Broido, 1988, p. 71). A Tantric is freed from the chains of the wheel of life by precisely that which imprisons a normal person.

As a tantric saying puts it, “What binds the fool, liberates the wise” (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 187), and another, more drastic passage emphasizes that, “the same deed for which a normal mortal would burn for a hundred million eons, through this same act an initiated yogi attains enlightenment” (Eliade, 1985, p. 272). According to this, every ritual is designed to catapult the initiand into a state beyond good and evil.

This spiritual necessity to encounter the forbidden, has essentially been justified via five arguments:

Firstly, through breaking a taboo for which there is often a high penalty, the adept confirms the core of the entire Buddhist philosophy: the emptiness (shunyata) of all appearances. “I am void, the world is void, all three worlds are void”, the Maha Siddha Tilopa triumphantly proclaims — therefore “neither sin nor virtue” exist (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 186). The shunyata principle thus provides a metaphysical legitimization for any conceivable “crime”, as it actually lacks any inherent existence.

A second argument follows from the emptiness, the “equivalence of all being”. Neither purity nor impurity, neither lust nor loathing, neither beauty nor ugliness exist. There is thus “no difference between food and offal, between fruit juice and blood, between vegetable sap and urine, between syrup and semen” (Walker, 1982, p.32). A fearless maha siddha justifies a serious misdeed of which he has been accused with the words: A fearless maha siddha justifies a serious misdeed of which he has been accused with the words: “Although medicine and poison create contrary effects, in their ultimate essence they are one; likewise negative qualities and aids on the path, one in essence, should not be differentiated” (quoted by Stevens, 1990, p. 69). Thus the yogi could with a clear conscience wander along ways on the far side of the dominant moral codex. “By the same evil acts that bring people into hell the one who uses the right means gains salvation, there is no doubt. All evil and virtue are said to have thought as their basis” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 174).

The third — somewhat ad hoc, but nonetheless frequent — justification for the “transgressions” of the Vajrayana consists in the Bodhisattva vow of Mahayana Buddhism, which requires that one aid and assist every creature until it attains enlightenment. Amazingly, this pious purpose can render holy the most evil means. “If”, we can read in one of the tantras, “for the good of all living beings or on account of the Buddha’s teaching one should slay living beings, one is untouched by sin. ... If for the good of living beings or from attachment for the Buddha’s interest, one seizes the wealth of others , one is not touched by sin”, and so forth (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 176). In the course of Tibetan history the Bodhisattva vow has, as we shall show in the second part of our study, legitimated numerous political and family-based murders, whereby the additional “clever” argument was also employed, that one had “freed” the murder victim from the world of appearances (samsara) and that he or she thus owed a debt of thanks to the murderer.

The fourth argument, which was also widespread in other magical cultures, is familiar to us from homeopathy, and states: similia similibus curantur (‘like cures like’). In this healing practice one usually works with tiny quantities, major sins can thus be expiated by more minor transgressions.

The fifth and final argument attempts to persuade us that enlightenment per se arises through the radical inversion of its opposite and that there is absolutely no other possible way to break free of the chains of samsara. Here, the tantric logic of inversion has become a dogma which no longer tolerates other paths to enlightenment. In this light, we can read in the Guhyasamaja Tantra that “the most lowly-born, flute-makers and so forth, such [people] who constantly have murder alone in mind, attain perfection via this highest way” (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 128). Yes, in some texts an outright proportionality exists between the magnitude of the “crime” and the speed with which the spiritual “liberation” occurs.

However, this tantric logic of inversion contains a dangerous paradox. On the one hand, Vajrayana stands not just in radical opposition to “social” norms, but likewise also to the original fundamental rules of its own Buddhist system. Thus, it must constantly fear accusations and persecution from its religious brethren. On the other there is the danger mentioned by Friedrich Nietzsche, that anyone who too often looks monsters in the face can themselves become a monster. Sadly, history — especially that of Tibet — teaches us how many tantra masters were not able to rid themselves of the demons that they summoned. We shall trace this fate in the second part of our study.

The twilight language

In order to keep hidden from the public all the offensive things which are implicated by the required breaches of taboo, some tantra texts make use of a so-called “twilight language” (samdhya-bhasa). This has the function of veiling references to taboo substances, private bodily parts, and illegal deeds in poetic words, so that they cannot be recognized by the uninitiated. For example, one says “lotus” and means “vagina”, or employs the term “enlightenment consciousness” (bodhicitta) for sperm, or the word “sun” (surya) for menstrual blood. Such a list of synonyms can be extended indefinitely.

It would, however, be hasty to presume that the potential of the tantric twilight language is exhausted by the employment of euphemistic expressions for sexual events in order to avoid stirring up offense in the world at large. In keeping with the magical world view of Tantrism, an equivalence or interdependence is often posited between the chosen “poetic” denotation and its counterpart in “reality”. Thus, as we shall later see, the male seed does indeed effect enlightenment consciousness (bodhicitta) when it is ritually consumed, and the vagina does in fact transform itself through meditative imagination into a lotus.

Of course, in such a metaphoric twilight everything is possible! Since, in contrast to the extensive commentaries, the taboo violations are often explicitly and unashamedly discussed in the original tantric texts, modern textual exegetes have often turned the tables. For example, in the unsavory horror scenes which are recounted here, the German lama Govinda sees warning signs which act as a deterrent to impudent intruders into the mysteries. To prevent unauthorized persons entering paradise, it is depicted as a slaughterhouse. But this imputed circumscription of the beautiful with the horrible contradicts the sense of the tantras, the intention of which is precisely to be sought in the transformation of the base into the sublime and thus the deliberate confrontation with the abominations of this world.

The scenarios which are presented in the following pages are indeed so abnormal that the hair of the early Western scholars stood on end when they first translated the tantric texts from Tibetan or Sanskrit. E. Burnouf was dismayed: “One hesitates to reproduce such hateful and humiliating teachings”, he wrote in the year 1844 (von Glasenapp, 1940, p. 167). Almost a century later, even world famous Tibetologists like Giuseppe Tucci or David Snellgrove admitted that they had simply omitted certain passages from their translated versions because of the horrors described therein, even though they thus abrogated their scholarly responsibilities (Walker, 1982, p. 121). Today, in the age of unlimited information, any resistance to the display of formerly taboo pictures is rapidly evaporating. Thus, in some modern translation one is openly confronted with all the “crimes and sexual deviations” in the tantras.

Sexual desire

Let us begin anew with the topic of sex. This is the axis around which all of Tantrism revolves. We have already spoken at length about why women were regarded as the greatest obstacle along the masculine path to enlightenment. Because the woman represents the feared gateway to rebirth, because she produces the world of illusion, because she steals the forces of the man — the origins of evil lie within her. Accordingly, to touch a woman was also the most serious breach of taboo for a Buddhist from the pre-tantric phase. The severity of the transgression was multiplied if it came to sexual intercourse.

But precisely because most extreme estrangement from enlightenment is inherent to the “daughters of Mara”, because they are considered the greatest obstacle for a man and barricade the realm of freedom, according to the tantric “law of inversion” they are for any adept the most important touchstone on the initiation path. He who understands how to gain mastery over women also understands how to control all of creation, as it is represented by him. On account of this paradox, sexual union enjoys absolute priority in Vajrayana. All other ritual acts, no matter how bizarre they may appear, are derived from this sexual magic origin.

Actually, the same tantric postulate — that the overcoming of an opposite pole should be considered more valuable and meritorious the more abnormal characteristics it exhibits — must also be valid for sexuality:. According to the “law of inversion”, the more gloomy, repulsive, aggressive and perverse a woman is, the more suitable she must be to serve as a sexual partner in the rituals. But the preference of the yogis for especially young and attractive girls (which we mention above) seems to contradict this postulated ugliness.

Incidentally, the Kalachakra Tantra is itself aware of this contradiction, but is unable to resolve it. Thus the third book of the Time Tantra has the following suggestions to make: “Terrible women, furious, stuck-up, money-hungry, quarrelsome...are to be avoided” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 121). But then, a few pages later, we find precisely the opposite: “A woman, who has abandoned herself to a lust for life, who takes delight in human blood ... is to be revered by the yogi” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 146). The fourth book deals with the “law of inversion” directly, and in verse 207 describes the karma mudra as a “gnarled hetaera”. Directly after this follows the argument as to why a goddess must be hiding behind the face of the hetaera, since for the yogi, “gold [can] be worth the same as copper, a jewel from the crown of a god the same as a sliver of glass, if unheard of masculine force can be received through the loving donations of trained hetaeras ...” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra IV, p. 209) — that is, the highest masculine can be won from the basest feminine.

In this light, the Chakrasamvara Tantra recommends erotic praxis with haughty, moody, proud, dominant, wild, and untamable women, and the yogini Laksminkara urges the reader to revere a woman who is “mutilated and misshapen” (Gäng, 1988, p. 59). The Maha Siddha Tilopa also adhered strictly to the tantric politics of inversion and copulated with a woman, who bore the “eighteen marks of ugliness”, whatever they may be. His pupil Naropa followed in his footsteps and was initiated by an “ugly leprous old crone”. The later’s successor, Marpa, received his initiation at the hands of a “foul-smelling ‘funeral-place dakini’ ... with long emaciated breasts and huge sex organs of offensive odor” (Walker, 1982, p. 75).

Whilst the ugly “love partners” threaten at the outset the way to salvation and the life of an adept, at the end of the tantric process of inversion they shine like fairy-tale beauties, who have been transformed from toads into princesses. Thus, after the transmutation, a “jackal jaws” has become the “dakini of wisdom”; a “lion’s gob” the honourable “Buddha dakini” with “a bluish complexion and a radiant smile”; a “beak-face” a “jewel dakini” with an “pretty, white face” and so forth (Stevens, 1990, p. 97). All these charming creatures are under the complete control of their guru, who through the conquest of the demonic woman has attained the qualification of sorcerer and now calls the tune for the transformed demonesses.

For readily understandable reasons the fact remains that in the sexual magic practices a preference is shown for working with young and attractive girls. But even for this a paradoxical explanation is offered: Due to their attractiveness the virgins are far more dangerous for the yogi than an old hag. The chances that he lose his emotional and sexual self-control in such a relationship are thus many times higher. This means that attractive women present him with a even greater challenge than do the ugly.

The tantras are more consistent when applying the “law of inversion” to the social class of the female partners than they are with regard to age and beauty. Women from lower castes are not just recommendable, but rather appear to be downright necessary for the performance of certain rituals. The Kalachakra Tantra lists female gardeners, butchers, potters, whores, and needle-workers among its recommendations (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, pp. 130, 131). In other texts there is talk of female pig-herds, actresses, dancers, singers, washerwomen, barmaids, weavers and similar. “Courtesans are also favored”, writes the Tibet researcher Matthias Hermanns, “since the more lecherous, depraved, dirty, morally repugnant and dissolute they are, the better suited they are to their role” (Hermanns, 1975, p. 191). This appraisal is in accord with the call of the Tantric Anangavajra to accept any mudra, whatever nature she may have, since “everything having its existence in the ultimate non-dual substance, nothing can be harmful for yoga; and therefore the yogin should enjoy everything to his heart’s content without the least fear or hesitation” (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 184).

Time and again, so-called candalis are mentioned as the Tantric’s sexual partners. These are girls from the lowest caste, who eke out a meager living with all manner of work around the crematoria. It is evident from a commentary upon the Hevajra Tantra that among other things they there offered themselves to the vagrant yogis for the latter’s sexual practices (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 168). For an orthodox Hindu such creatures were considered untouchable. If even the shadow of a candali fell upon a Hindu, the disastrous consequences were life-long for the latter.

Since it annulled the strict prescriptions of the Hindu caste system with its rituals, a fundamentally social revolutionary attitude has been ascribed to Tantric Buddhism. In particular, modern feminists accredit it with this (Shaw, 1994, p. 62). But, aside from the obvious fact that women from the lower classes are more readily available as sexual partners, here too the “law of inversion” is considered decisive for the choice to be made. The social inferiority of the woman increases the “antinomism” of the tantric rituals. “It is the symbol of the ‘washerwoman’ and the ‘courtesan’ [which are] of decisive significance”, we may read in a book by Mircea Eliade, “and we must familiarize ourselves with the fact that, in accordance with the tantric doctrine of the identity of opposites, the ‘most noble and valuable’ is precisely [to be found] hidden within the ‘basest and most banal’” (Eliade, 1985, p. 261, note 204).

Likewise, when women from the higher castes (Brahmans, ‘warriors’, or rich business people) are on the Tantric’s wish list, especially when they are married, the law of inversion functions here as well, since a rigid taboo is broken through the employment of a wife from the upper classes — an indicator for the boundless power of the yogi.

The incest taboo

There is indisputable evidence from archaic societies for the violation of the incest prohibition: there is hardly a tantra of the higher class in which sexual intercourse with one’s own mother or daughter, with aunts or sisters-in-law is not encouraged. Here too the German lama Govinda emphatically protests against taking the texts literally. It would be downright ridiculous to think “that Tantric Buddhists really did encourage incest and sexual deviations (Govinda, 1991, p. 113). Mother, sister, daughter and so on stood for the four elements, egomania, or something similar.

But such symbolic assignments do not necessarily contradict the possibility of an incestuous praxis, which is in fact found not just in the Tibet of old, but also in totally independent cultures scattered all around the world. Here too, it remains valid that the yogi, who is as a matter of principle interested in a fundamental violation of proscriptions, must really long for an incestuous relationship. There is also no lack of historical reports. We present the curse of a puritanically minded lama from the 16th century, who addressed the excesses of his libertine colleagues as follows: “In executing the rites of sexual union the people copulate without regard to blood relations ... You are more impure than dogs and pigs. As you have offered the pure gods feces, urine, sperm and blood, you will be reborn in the swamp of rotten cadavers” (Paz, 1984, p.95).

Eating and drinking impure substances

A central role in the rites is played by the tantric meal. It is absolutely forbidden for Buddhist monks to eat meat or drink alcohol. This taboo is also deliberately broken by Vajrayana adepts. To make the transgression more radical, the consumption of types of meat which are generally considered “forbidden” in Indian society is desired: elephant meat, horsemeat, dogflesh, beef, and human flesh. The latter goes under the name of maha mamsa, the ‘great flesh’. It usually came from the dead, and is a “meat of those who died due to their own karma, who were killed in battle due to evil karma or due to their own fault”, Pundarika writes in his traditional Kalachakra commentary, and goes on to add that it is sensible to consume this substance in pill form (Newman, 1987, p. 266). Small amounts of tit are also recommended in a modern text on the Kalachakra Tantra as well (Dhargyey, 1985, p. 25). There are recipes which distinguish between the various body parts and demand the consumption of brain, liver, lungs, intestines, testes and so forth for particular ceremonies.

The five taboo types of meat are granted a sacramental character. Within them are concentrated the energies of the highest Buddhas, who are able to appear through the “law of inversion”. The texts thus speak of the “five ambrosias” or “five nectars”. Other impure “foods” have also been assigned to the five Dhyani Buddhas. Ratnasambhava is associated with blood, Amitabha with semen, Amoghasiddhi with human flesh, Aksobhya with urine, Vairocana with excrement (Wayman, 1973, p. 116).

The Candamaharosana Tantra lists with relish the particular substances which are offered to the adept by his wisdom consort during the sexual magic rituals and which he must swallow: excrement, urine, saliva, leftovers from between her teeth, lipstick, dish-water, vomit, the wash water which remains after her anus has been cleaned (George, 1974, pp. 73, 78, 79) Those who “make the excrement and urine their food, will be truly happy”, promises the Guhyasamaja Tantra (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 134). In the Hevajra Tantra the adept must drink the menstrual blood of his mudra out of a skull bowl (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 98). But rotten fish, sewer water, canine feces, corpse fat, the excrement of the dead, sanitary napkins as well as all conceivable “intoxicating drinks” are also consumed (Walker, 1982, pp. 80–84).

There exists a strict commandment that the practicing yogi may not feel any disgust in consuming these impure substances. “One should never feel disgusted by excrement, urine, semen or blood” (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 266). Fundamentally, “he must eat and drink whatever he obtains and he should not hold any notions regarding likes and dislikes” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 67).

But it is not just in the tantric rites, in Tibetan medicine as well all manner of human and animal excretions are employed for healing purposes. The excrement and urine of higher lamas are sought-after medicines. Processed into pills and offered for sale, they once played -and now play once more — a significant role in the business activities of Tibetan and exile-Tibetan monasteries. Naturally, the highest prices are paid for the excretions of the supreme hierarch, the Dalai Lama. There is a report on the young Fourteenth god-king’s sojourn in Beijing (in 1954) which recounts how His Holiness’s excrement was collected daily in a golden pot in order to then be sent to Lhasa and processed into a medication there (Grunfeld, 1996, p. 22). Even if this source came from the Chinese camp, it can be given credence without further ado, since corresponding practices were common throughout the entire country.


The "feast on fæces fallacy"

As damtsig has come into contact with Western psychological materialism, self-defence tactics have taken a variety of forms. The one that has most intrigued me is what I have dubbed the "feast on fæces fallacy" - of which there appear to be two variations. I encountered the first during my introduction to Vajrayana at Vajradhatu Seminary - a three-month practice and study retreat designed by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. I attended this retreat after Trungpa Rinpoche's death, when his son, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, taught it. As the summer progressed and the teachings grew more challenging, speculation about samaya heated up. The speculation took on an odd repeating pattern. At some point in every conversation on the topic, someone would inevitably say, "I heard that samaya means that if the Sakyong tells you to eat shit, you have to do it." The conversation would then devolve into everyone deciding whether they would eat shit or not. After puzzling over it for a while, my eventual response to this statement was, "How likely is it that the Sakyong would ask you to eat shit?" The whole discussion was a scare tactic, however unconscious it may have been. It presented one with an extreme, reductio ad absurdum proposition from which one could quite justifiably turn away in disgust. In the process, it just so happened that one also cut oneself off from finding out what samaya actually did mean. That version of the Feast on Fæces Fallacy operates by the student scaring himself or herself away from damtsig.

The second variation on this theme operates to discredit the Lama with whom the student might make the vow. A good example of this was in a report on the first conference of Western Buddhist teachers with HH Dalai Lama in Dharamsala in 1993. At one of the conference sessions, Robert Thurman reportedly said that anyone who allowed himself or herself to be called a vajra master should be presented with a plate of excrement and a fork. If he or she was not capable of eating it, based on the principle of rochig (ro gcig - one taste), then he or she was a fraud and should take up knitting. This politically devious perspective is one which seeks to neuter every Lama who is not invested with the correct degree of current western adulation. Evidently a Lama who denies being a vajra master but who is nonetheless regarded as a vajra master is exempt from the offer of Robert Thurman's fæcal feast.

From: The "Feast on Fæces Fallacy" Or - how not to scare oneself away from liberation - by Nora Cameron in:



In a brilliant essay on Tantrism, the Mexican essayist and poet Octavio Paz drew attention to the fact that the great fondness of the Mexicans for skeletons and skulls could be found nowhere else in the world except in the Buddhist ritual practices of the Tibetans and Nepalese. The difference lies in the fact that in Mexico the death figures are regarded as a mockery of life and the living, whilst in Tantrism they are “horrific and obscene” (Paz, 1984, p. 94). This connection between death and sexuality is indeed a popular leitmotiv in Tibetan art. In scroll images the tantric couples are appropriately equipped with skull bowls and cleavers, wear necklaces of severed heads and trample around upon corpses whilst holding one another in the embrace of sexual union.

A general, indeed dominant necrophiliac strain in Tibetan culture cannot be overlooked. Fokke Sierksma’s work includes a description of a meditation cell in which a lama had been immured. It was decorated with human hair, skin and bones, which were probably supplied by the dismemberers of corpses. Strung on a line were a number of dried female breasts. The eating bowl of the immured monk was not the usual human skull, but was also made from the cured skin of a woman’s breast (Sierksma, 1966, p. 189).

Such macabre ambiences can be dismissed as marginal excesses, which is indeed what they are in the full sweep of Tibetan culture. But they nonetheless stand in a deep meaningful and symbolic connection with the paradoxical philosophy of Tantrism, of Buddhism in general even, which since its beginnings recommended as exercises meditation upon corpses in the various stages of decomposition in order to recognize the transience of all being. Alone the early Buddhist contempt for life, which locked the gateway to nirvana, is sufficient to understand the regular fascination with the morbid, the macabre and the decay of the body which characterizes Lamaism. Crematoria, charnel fields, cemeteries, funeral pyres, graves, but also places where a murder was carried out or a bloody battle was fought are considered, in accord with the “law of inversion”, to be especially suitable locations for the performance of the tantric rites with a wisdom consort.

The sacred art of Tibet also revels in macabre subjects. In illustrations of the wrathful deities of the Tibetan pantheon, their hellish radiation is transferred to the landscape and the heavens and transform everything into a nature morte in the truest sense of the word. Black whirlwinds and greenish poisonous vapors sweep across infertile plains. Deep red rods of lightning flash through the night and rent clouds, ridden by witches, rage across a pitch black sky. Pieces of corpses are scattered everywhere, and are gnawed at by all manner of repulsive beasts of prey.

In order to explain the morbidity of Tibetan monastic culture, the Dutch cultural psychologist Fokke Sierksma makes reference to Sigmund Freud’s concept of a “death wish” (thanatos). Interestingly, a comparison to Buddhism occurs to the famous psychoanalyst when describing the structure of the necrophiliac urge, which he attributes to, among other things, the “nirvana principle”. This he understand to be a general desire for inactivity, rest, resolution, and death, which is claimed to be innate to all life. But in addition to this, since Freud, the death wish also exhibits a concrete sadistic and masochistic component. Both attitudes are expressions of aggression, the one directed outwards (sadism), the other directed inwardly (masochism).

Ritual murder

The most aggressive form of the externalized death wish is murder. It remains as the final taboo violation within the tantric scheme to still be examined. The ritual killing of people to appease the gods is a sacred deed in many religions. In no sense do such ritual sacrifices belong to the past, rather they still play a role today, for example in the tantric Kali cults of India. Even children are offered up to the cruel goddess on her bloody altars (Time, August 1997, p. 18). Among the Buddhist, in particular Tibetan, Tantrics such acts of violence are not so well-known. We must therefore very carefully pose the question of whether a ritual murder can here too be a part of the cult activity.

It is certain at least that all the texts of the Highest Tantra class verbally call for murder. The adept who seeks refuge in the Dhyani Buddha Akshobya meditates upon the various forms of hate up to and including aggressive killing. Of course, in this case too, a taboo violation is to be transformed in accordance with the “law of inversion” into its opposite, the attainment of eternal life. Thus, when the Guhyasamaja Tantra requires of the adept that “he should kill all sentient beings with this secret thunderbolt” (Wayman, 1977, p. 309), then — according to doctrine — this should occur so as to free them from suffering.

It is further seen as an honorable deed to “deliver” the world from people of whom a yogi knows that they will in future commit nasty crimes. Thus Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, in his childhood killed a boy whose future abominable deeds he foresaw.

Maha Siddha Virupa and an impaled human

But it is not just pure compassion or a transformatory intent which lies behind the already mentioned calls to murder in the tantras, above all not then when they are directed at the enemies of Buddhism. As, for example, in the rites of the Hevajra Tantra: “After having announced the intention to the guru and accomplished beings”, it says there, “perform with mercy the rite of killing of one who is a non-believer of the teachings of the Buddha and the detractors of the gurus and Buddhas. One should emanate such a person, visualizing his form as being upside-down, vomiting blood, trembling and with hair in disarray. Imagine a blazing needle entering his back. Then by envisioning the seed-syllable of the Fire element in his heart he is killed instantly” (quoted by Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 276). The Guhyasamaja Tantra also offers instructions on how to — as in voodoo magic — create images of the opponent and inflict “murderous” injuries upon these, which then actually occur in reality: “One draws a man or a woman in chalk or charcoal or similar. One projects an ax in the hand. Then one projects the way in which the throat is slit” (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 225). At another point the enemy is bewitched, poisoned, enslaved, or paralyzed. Corresponding sentences are to be found in the Kalachakra Tantra. There too the adept is urged to murder a being which has violated the Buddhist teachings. The text requires, however, that this be carried out with compassion (Dalai Lama XIV, 1985, p. 349).

The destruction of opponents via magical means is part of the basic training of any tantric adept. For example, we learn from the Hevajra Tantra a magic spell with the help of which all the soldiers of an enemy army can be decapitated at one stroke (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 30). There we can also find how to produce a blazing fever in the enemy’s body and let it be vaporized (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 31). Such magical killing practices were — as we shall show –in no sense marginal to Tibetan religious history, rather they gained entry to the broad-scale politics of the Dalai Lamas.

The destructive rage does not even shy away from titans, gods, or Buddhas. In contrast, through the destruction of the highest beings the Tantric absorbs their power and becomes an arch-god. Even here things sometimes take a sadistic turn, as for example in the Guhyasamaja Tantra, where the murder of a Buddha is demanded: “One douses him in blood, one douses him in water, one douses him in excrement and urine, one turns him over, stamps on his member, then one makes use of the King of Wrath. If this is completed eight hundred times then even a Buddha is certain to disintegrate” (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 219).

In order to effectively perform this Buddha murder, the yogi invokes an entire pandemonium, whose grotesque appearance could have been modeled on a work by Hieronymus Bosch: “He projects the threat of demons, manifold, raw, horrible, hardened by rage. Through this even the diamond bearer [the Highest Buddha] dies. He projects how he is eaten by owls, crows, by rutting vultures with long beaks. Thus even the Buddha is destroyed with certainty. A black snake, extremely brutish, which makes the fearful be afraid. ... It rears up, higher than the forehead. Consumed by this snake even the Buddha is destroyed with certainty. One lets the the perils and torments of all beings in the ten directions descend upon the enemy. This is the best. The is the supreme type of invocation” (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 230). This can be strengthened with the following aggressive mantra: “Om, throttle, throttle, stand, stand, bind, bind, slay, slay, burn, burn, bellow, bellow, blast, blast the leader of all adversity, prince of the great horde, bring the life to an end” (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 230).

We encounter a particularly interesting murder fantasy in the deliberate staging of the Oedipus drama which a passage from the Candamaharosana Tantra requires. The adept should slay Aksobhya, his Buddha father, with a sword, give his mother, Mamaki, the flesh of the murdered father to eat and have sexual intercourse with her afterwards (George, 1974, p. 59; Filliozat, 1991, p. 430).

Within the spectrum of Buddhist/tantric killing practices, the deliberately staged “suicide” of the “sevenfold born” represents a specialty. We are dealing here with a person who has been reincarnated seven times and displays exceptional qualities of character. He speaks with a pleasant voice, observes with beautiful eyes and possesses a fine-smelling and glowing body which casts seven shadows. He never becomes angry and his mind is constantly filled with infinite compassion. Consuming the flesh of such a wonderful person has the greatest magical effects.

Hence, the Tantric should offer a “sevenfold born” veneration with flowers and ask him to act in the interests of all suffering beings. Thereupon — it says in the relevant texts — he will without hesitation surrender his own life. Afterwards pills are to be made from his flesh, the consumption of which grant among other things the siddhis (powers) of ‘sky-walking’. Such pills are in fact still being distributed today. The heart-blood is especially sought after, and the skull of the killed blessed one also possesses magical powers (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 142).

When one considers the suicide request made to the “sevenfold born”, the cynical structure of the tantric system becomes especially clear. His flesh is so yearned-for because he exhibits that innocence which the Tantric on account of his contamination with all the base elements of the world of appearances no longer possesses. The “sevenfold born” is the complete opposite of an adept, who has had dealings with the dark forces of the demonic. In order to transform himself through the blissful flesh of an innocent, the yogi requests such a one to deliberately sacrifice himself. And the higher being is so kind that it actually responds to this request and afterwards makes his dead body available for sacred consumption.

The mystery of the eucharist, in which the body and blood of Christ is divided among his believers springs so readily to mind that it is not impossible that the tantric consumption of a “sevenfold born” represents a Buddhist paraphrase of the Christian Last Supper. (The tantras appeared in the 4th century C.E. at the earliest.) But such self-sacrificial scenes can also be found already in Mahayana Buddhism. In the Sutra of Perfected Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses a description can be found of how the Bodhisattva Sadaprarudita dismembers his own body in order to worship his teacher. Firstly he slits both his arms so that the blood pours out. Then he slices the flesh from his legs and finally breaks his own bones so as to be able to also offer the marrow as a gift. Whatever opinion one has of such ecstatic acts of self-dismemberment, in Mahayana they always demonstrate the heroic deed of an ethically superior being who wishes to help others. In contrast, the cynical sacrifice of the “sevenfold born” demonstrates the exploitation of a noble and selfless sentiment to serve the power interests of the Tantric. In the face of such base motives, the Tibet researcher David Snellgrove with some justification doubts the sevenfold incarnated’s imputed preparedness to be sacrificed: “Did one track him down and wait for him to die or did one hasten the process? All these tantras give so many fierce rites with the object of slaying, that the second alternative might not seem unlikely ...” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 161).

Symbol and reality

Taking Snellgrove’s suspicion as our starting point, the question arises as to whether the ritual murder of a person is intended to be real or just symbolic in the tantric scripts. Among Western interpreters of the tantras opinions are divided. Early researchers such as Austine Waddell or Albert Grünwedel presumed a literal interpretation of the rituals described in the texts and were dismayed by them. Among contemporary authors, especially those who are themselves Buddhists, the “crimes” of Vajrayana are usually played down as allegorical metaphors, as Michael M. Broido or Anagarika Govinda do in their publications, for example. This toned-down point of view is, for readily understandable reasons, today thankfully adopted by Tibetan lamas teaching everywhere in the Western world. It liberates the gurus from tiresome confrontations with the ethical norms of the cultures in which they have settled after their flight from Tibet. They too now see themselves called to transform the offensive shady sides of the tantras into friendly bright sides: “Human flesh” for example is to be understood as referring to the own imperfect self which the yogi “consumes” in a figurative sense through his sacred practices. “To kill” means to rob dualistic thought patterns of their life in order to recreate the original unity with the universe, and so forth. But despite such euphemisms an unpleasant taste remains, since the statements of the tantras are so unequivocal and clear.

It is at any rate a fact that the entire tantric ritual schema does not get by without dead body parts and makes generous use of them. The sacred objects employed consist of human organs, flesh, and bones. Normally these are found at and collected from the public crematoria in India or the charnel fields of Tibet.

But there are indications which must be taken seriously that up until this century Tibetans have had to surrender their lives for ritualistic reasons. The (fourteenth-century) Blue Annals, a seminal document in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, already reports upon how in Tibet the so-called “18 robber-monks” slaughtered men and women for their tantric ceremonies (Blue Annals, 1995, p. 697). The Englishman Sir Charles Bell visited a stupa on the Bhutan-Tibet border in which the ritually killed body of an eight-year-old boy and a girl of the same age were found (Bell, 1927, p. 80). Attestations of human sacrifice in the Himalayas recorded by the American anthropologist Robert Ekvall date from the 1950s (Ekvall, 1964, pp. 165–166, 169, 172).

In their criticism of lamaism, the Chinese make frequent and emphatic reference to such ritual killing practices, which were still widespread at the time of the so-called “liberation” of the country, that is until the end of the 1950s. According to them, in the year 1948 21individuals were murdered by state sacrificial priests from Lhasa as part of a ritual of enemy destruction, because their organs were required as magical ingredients (Grunfeld, 1996, p. 29). Rather than dismissing such statements in advance as evil communist propaganda, the original spirit of the tantra texts would seem to afford that they be investigated conscientiously and without prejudice.

The morbid ritual objects on display in the Tibetan Revolutions Museum established by the Chinese in Lhasa, certainly teach us something about horror: prepared skulls, mummified hands, rosaries made of human bones, ten trumpets made from the thigh bones of 16-year-old girls, and so on. Among the museum’s exhibits is also a document which bears the seal of the (Thirteenth or Fourteenth?) Dalai Lama in which he demands the contribution of human heads, blood, flesh, fat, intestines, and right hands, likewise the skins of children, the menstrual blood of a widow, and stones with which human skulls had been staved in, for the “strengthening of holy order” (Epstein, 1983, p.138). Further, a small parcel of severed and prepared male sexual organs which are needed to conduct certain rituals can also be seen there, as well as the charred body of a young woman who was burned as a witch. If the tantra texts did not themselves mention such macabre requisites, it would never occur to one to take this demonstration of religious violence seriously.

That the Chinese with their accusations of tantric excesses cannot be all that false, is demonstrated by the relatively recent brutal murder of three lamas, which deeply shook the exile-Tibetan community in Dharamsala. On 4 February 1997, the murdered bodies of the 70-year-old lama Lobsang Gyatso, head of the Buddhist-dialectical school, and two of his pupils were found just a few yards from the residence of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. The murderers had repeatedly stabbed their victims with a knife, had slit their throats and according to press reports had partially skinned their corpses (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 1997, no. 158, p. 10). All the observers and commentators on the case were of the unanimous opinion that this was a case of ritual murder. In the second part of our analysis we examine in detail the real and symbolic background and political implications of the events of 4 February.

At any rate, the supreme demands which a yogi must make of himself in order to expose a “crime” which he “really” commits as an illusion speaks for the likelihood of the actual staging of a killing during a tantric ritual. In the final instance the conception that everything is only an illusion and has no independent existence leads to an indifference as to whether a murder is real or “just” allegorical. From this point of view everything in the world of Vajrayana is both “real” and “symbolic”. “We touch symbols, when we think we are touching bodies and material objects”, writes Octavio Paz with regard to Tantrism, “And vice versa: according to the law of reversibility all symbols are real and touchable, ideas and even nothingness has a taste. It makes no difference whether the crime is real or symbolic: Reality and symbol fuse, and in fusing they dissolve” (Paz, 1984, pp. 91–92).

Concurrence with the demonic

The excesses of Tantrism are legitimated by the claim that the yogi is capable of transforming evil into good via his spiritual techniques. This inordinate attempt nonetheless give rise to apprehensions as to whether the adept does in fact have the strength to resist all the temptations of the “devil”? Indeed, the “law of inversion” always leads in the first phase to a “concurrence with the demonic” and regards contact with the “devil” as a proper admission test for the path of enlightenment. No other current in any of the world religions thus ranks the demons and their retinue so highly as in Vajrayana.

The image packed iconography of Tibet literally teems with terrible deities (herukas) and red henchmen. When one dares, one’s gaze is met by disfigured faces, hate-filled grimaces, bloodshot eyes, protruding canines. Twisted sneers leave one trembling — at once both terrible and wonderful, as in an oriental fairy-tale. Surrounded by ravens and owls, embraced by snakes and animal skins, the male and female monster gods carry battle-axes, swords, pikes and other murderous cult symbols in their hands, ready at any moment to cut their opponent into a thousand pieces.

The so-called “books of the dead” and other ritual text are also storehouses for all manner of zombies, people-eaters, ghosts, ghouls, furies and fiends. In the Guhyasamaja Tantra the concurrence of the Buddhas with the demonic and evil is elevated to an explicit part of the program: “They constantly eat blood and scraps of flesh ... They drink treachery like milk ... skulls, bones, smokehouses, oil and fat bring great joy” (quoted by Gäng, 1988, pp. 259–260). In this document the Buddhist gods give free rein to their aggressive destructive fantasies: “Hack to pieces, hack to pieces, sever, sever, strike, strike, burn, burn” they urge the initands with furious voices (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 220). One could almost believe oneself to be confronted with primordial chaos. Such horror visions are not just encountered by the tantric adept. They also, in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, appear to every normal person, sometimes during a lifetime on earth, but after death inevitably. Upon dying every deceased person must, unless he is already enlightened, progress through a limbo (Bardo) in which bands of devils sadistically torment him and attempt to pull the wool over his eyes. As in the Christian Middle Ages, the Tibetan monks’ fantasies also revel in unbearable images of hell. It is said that not even a Bodhisattva is permitted to help a person out of the hell of Vajra (Trungpa, 1992, p. 68).

Here too we would like to come up with a lengthier description, in order to draw attention to the anachronistic-excruciating world view of Tantric Buddhism: “The souls are boiled in great cauldrons, inserted into iron caskets surrounded by flames, plunge into icy water and caves of ice, wade through rivers of fire or swamps filled with poisonous adders. Some are sawed to pieces by demonic henchmen, others plucked at with glowing tongs, gnawed by vermin, or wander lost through a forest with a foliage of razor sharp daggers and swords. The tongues of those who blasphemed against the teaching grow as big as a field and the devils plow upon them. The hypocrites are crushed beneath huge loads of holy books and towering piles of relics” (Bleichsteiner, 1937, p. 224). There are a total of 18 different hells, one more dreadful than the next. Above all, the most brutal punishments are reserved for those “sinners” who have contravened the rules of Vajrayana. They can wait for their “head and heart [to] burst” (Henss, 1985, p. 46).

A glance at old Tibetan criminal law reveals that such visions of fear and horror also achieved some access to social reality. Its methods of torture and devious forms of punishment were in no way inferior to the Chinese cruelties now denounced everywhere: for example, both hands of thieves were mutilated by being locked into salt-filled leather pouches. The amputation of limbs and bloody floggings on the public squares of Lhasa, deliberately staged freezing to death, shackling, the fitting of a yoke and many other “medieval” torments were to be found in the penal code until well into the 20th century. Western travelers report with horror and loathing of the dark and damp dungeons of the Potala, the official residence of the Dalai Lamas.

This clear familiarity with the spectacle of hell in a religion which bears the banners of love and kindness, peace and compassion is shocking for an outsider. It is only the paradoxicalness of the tantras and the Madhyamika philosophy (the doctrine of the ‘emptiness’ of all being) which allows the rapid interplay between heaven and hell which characterizes Tibetan culture. Every lama will answer that, “since everything is pure illusion, that must also be the case for the world of demons”, should one ask him about the devilish ghosts. He will indicate that it is the ethical task of Buddhism to free people from this world of horrors. But only when one has courageously looked the demon in the eye, can he be exposed as illusory or as a ghostly figure thrown up by one’s own consciousness.

Nevertheless, that the obsessive and continuous preoccupation with the terrible is motivated by such therapeutic intentions and philosophical speculations is difficult to comprehend. The demonic is accorded a disturbingly high intrinsic value in Tibetan culture, which influences all social spheres and possesses a seamless tradition. When Padmasambhava converted Tibet to Buddhism in the eighth century, the sagas recount that he was opposed by numerous native male and female devils, against all of whom he was victorious thanks to his skills in magic. But despite his victory he never killed them, and instead forced them to swear to serve Buddhism as protective spirits (dharmapalas) in future.

Why, we have to ask ourselves, was this horde of demons snorting with rage not transformed via the tantric “law of inversion” into a collection of peace-loving and graceful beings? Would it not have been sensible for them to have abandoned their aggressive character in order to lead a peaceful and dispassionate life in the manner of the Buddha Shakyamuni? The opposite was the case — the newly “acquired” Buddhist protective gods (dharmapalas) had not just the chance but also the duty to live out their innate aggressiveness to the full. This was even multiplied, but was no longer directed at orthodox Buddhists and instead acted to crush the “enemies of the teaching”. The atavistic pandemonium of the pre-Buddhist Land of Snows survived as a powerful faction within the tantric pantheon and, since horror in general exercises a greater power of fascination than a “boring” vision of peace, deeply determined Tibetan cultural life.

Many Tibetans — among them, as we shall later see, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama — still believe themselves to be constantly threatened by demonic powers, and are kept busy holding back the dark forces with the help of magic, supplicatory prayers, and liturgical techniques, but also recruiting them for their own ends, all of which incidentally provides a considerable source of income for the professional exorcists among the lamas. Directly alongside this underworldly abyss — at least in the imagination — a mystic citadel of pure peace and eternal rest rises up, of which there is much talk in the sacred writings. Both visions — that of horror and that of bliss — complement one another and are in Tantrism linked in a “theological” causal relationship which says that heaven may only be entered after one has journeyed through hell.

In his psychoanalytical study of Tibetan culture, Fokke Sierksma conjectures that the chronic fear of demonic attacks was spread by the lamas to help maintain their power and, further to this, is blended with a sadomasochistic delight in the macabre and aggressive. The enjoyment of cruelty widespread among the monks is legitimated by, among other things, the fact that — as can be read in the tantra texts — even the Highest Buddhas can assume the forms of cruel gods (herukas) to then, bellowing and full of hate, smash everything to pieces.

These days a smile is raised by the observations of the Briton Austine Waddells, who, in his famous book published in 1899, The Buddhism in Tibet, drew attention to the general fear which then dominated every aspect of religious life in Tibet: “The priests must be constantly called in to appease the menacing devils, whose ravenous appetite is only sharpened by the food given to stay it” (quoted by Sierksma, 1966, p. 164). However, Waddell’s images of horror were confirmed a number of decades later by the Tibetologist Guiseppe Tucci, whose scholarly credibility cannot be doubted: “The entire spiritual life of the Tibetans”, Tucci writes, “is defined by a permanent attitude of defense, by a constant effort to appease and propitiate the powers whom he fears” (Grunfeld, 1996, p. 26).

There is no need for us to rely solely on Western interpreters in order to demonstrate Tantrism’s demonic orientation; rather we can form an impression for ourselves. Even a fleeting examination of the violent tantric iconography confirms that horror is a determining element of the doctrine. Why do the “divine” demons on the thangkas only very seldom take to the field against one another but rather almost exclusively mow down men, women, and children? What motivates the “peace-loving” Dalai Lama to choose as his principal protective goddess a maniacal woman by the name of Palden Lhamo, who rides day and night through a boiling sea of blood? The fearsome goddess is seated upon a saddle which she herself personally crafted from the skin of her own son. She murdered him in cold blood because he refused to follow in the footsteps of his converted mother and become a Buddhist. Why — we must also ask ourselves — has the militant war god Begtse been so highly revered for centuries in the Tibetan monasteries of all sects?

One might believe that this “familiarity with the demonic” would by the end of the 20th century have changed among the exile Tibetans, who are praised for their “open-mindedness”. Unfortunately, many events of which we come to speak of in the second part of our study, but most especially the recent and already mentioned ritual murders of 4 February 1997 in Dharamsala, illustrate that the gates of hell are by no means bolted shut. According to reports so far, the perpetrators were acting on behalf of the aggressive protective spirit, Dorje Shugden. Even the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has attributed to this dharmapala (protective deity) the power to threaten his life and to bewitch him by magical means.

If horror is acceptable, then death is cheap. It is true that in Tantrism death is considered to be a state of consciousness which can be surmounted, but in Tibetan culture (which also incorporates non-tantric elements) like the demons it has also achieved a thriving “life of its own” and enjoys general cult worship. There — as we shall often come to show — it stands at the center of numerous macabre rites. Sigmund Freud’s problematic formulation, that “the goal of all life is death” can in our view be prefaced to Lamaism as its leitmotiv.

The aggression of the divine couple

Does this iconography of horror also apply to the divine couple who are worshipped at the heart of the tantric rituals? On the basis of the already described apotheosis of mystic sexual love as the suspension of all opposites, as a creative polarity, as the origin of language, the gods, time, of compassion, emptiness, and of the white light we ought to assume that the primal couple radiate peace, harmony, concord, and joy. In fact there are such blissful illustrations of the love of god and goddess in Tantrism. In this connection the primal Buddha, Samantabhadra, highly revered in the Nyingmapa school, deserves special mention; naked he sits in the meditative posture without any ritual objects in his hands, embracing his similarly unclothed partner, Samantabhadri. This pure nakedness of the loving couple demonstrates a powerful vision, which breaks through the otherwise usual patriarchal relation of dominance which prevails between the sexes. All other images of the Buddhas with their consorts express an androcentric gesture of dominance through the symbolic objects assigned to them. [1]

The implements of the deity Kalachakra and his consort Vishvamata

Peaceful images of the divine couple are, however, exceptional within the Highest Tantras and in no way the rule. The majority of the yab–yum representations are of the Heruka type, that is, they show couples in furious, destructive and violent positions. Above all the Buddha Hevajra and his consort Nairatmya. Surrounded by eight “burning” dakinis he performs a bizarre dance of hell and is so intoxicated by his killing instinct that he holds a skull bowl in each of his sixteen hands, in which gods, humans, and animals are to be found as victims. In her right hand Nairatmya threateningly swings a cleaver. Raktiamari, Yamantaka, Cakrasamvara, Vajrakila or whatever names the clusters of pairs from the other tantras may have, all of them exhibit the same striking mixture of aggressiveness, thanatos, and erotic love.

Likewise, the time god, Kalachakra, is of the heruka type. His wildness is underlined by his vampire-like canines and his hair which stands on end. The tiger pelt draped around his hips also signalizes his aggressive character. Two of his four faces are not peaceful, but instead express greed and wrath. But above all his destructive attitude is emphasized by the symbols which the “Lord of Time” holds in his twenty-four hands. Of these, six are of a peaceful nature and eighteen are warlike. Among the latter are the vajra, vajra hook, sword, trident, cleaver, damaru (a drum made from two skull bowls), kapala (a vessel made out of a human skull), khatvanga (a type of scepter, the tip of which is decorated with three severed human heads), ax, discus, switch, shield, ankusha (elephant hook), arrow, bow, sling, prayer beads made from human bones as well as the severed heads of Brahma. The peaceable symbols are: a jewel, lotus, white conch shell, triratna (triple jewel), and fire, so long it is not used destructively. Finally, there is the bell.

His consort, Vishvamata, also fails to make a pacifist impression. Of the eight symbolic objects which she holds in her eight hands, six are aggressive or morbid, and only two, the lotus and the triple jewel, signify happiness and well-being. Among her magical defense weapons are the cleaver, vajra hook, a drum made from human skulls, skull bowls filled with hot blood, and prayer beads made out of human bones. To signalize that she is under the control of the androcentric principle, each of her four heads bears a crown consisting of a small figure who represents the male Dhyani Buddha, Vajrasattva. As far as the facial expressions of the time goddess can be deciphered, above all they express sexual greed.

Both principal deities, Kalachakra and Vishvamata, stand joined in union in the so-called at-ease stance, which is supposed to indicate their preparedness for battle and willingness to attack. The foundation is composed of four cushions. Two of these symbolize the sun and moon, the other two the imaginary planets, Rahu and Kaligni. Rahu is believed to swallow both of the former heavenly bodies and plays a role within the Kalachakra rituals which is just as prominent as that of Kaligni, the apocalyptic fire which destroys the world with flame. The two planets thus have an extremely aggressive and destructive nature. Beneath the feet of the time couple two Hindu gods are typically shown being trampled, the red love god Kama and the white terror god Rudra. Their two partners, Rati and Uma, try in vain to rescue them.

Consequently, the entire scenario of the Kalachakra Tantra is warlike, provocative, morbid, and hot-tempered. In examining its iconography, one constantly has the feeling of being witness to a massacre. It is no help against this when the many commentaries stress again and again that aggressive ritual objects, combative body postures, expressions of rage, and wrathful deeds are necessary in order to surmount obstacles which block the individual’s path to enlightenment. Nor, in light of the pathological compulsiveness with which the Tantric attempts to drive out horror with horror, is the affirmation convincing, that Buddha’s wrath is compensated for by Buddha’s love and that all this cruelty is for the benefit of all suffering beings.

The aggressiveness of both partners in the tantras remains a puzzle. To our knowledge it is not openly discussed anywhere, but rather accepted mutely. In the Highest Tantras we can all but assume the principle that the loving couple as the wrathful- warlike and turbulent element finds its counterpoint in a peaceful and unmoving Buddha in meditative posture. In the light of this tantric iconography one has the impression that the vajra master prefers a hot and aggressive sexuality with which to effect the transformation of erotic love into power. Perhaps the Dutch psychologist, Fokke Sierksma, did not lie so wide of the mark when he described the tantric performance as “sadomasochistic”, whereby the sadistic role is primarily played by the man, whilst the woman exhibits both compulsions together. At any rate, the energy set free by “hot sex” appears to be an especially sought-after substance for the yogis’ “alchemic” transformative games, which we will come to examine in more detail later in the course of our study.

The poetry and beauty of mystic sexual love is far more often (even if not at all consistently) expressed in the words of the Highest Tantra texts, than in the visual representations of a morbid tantric eroticism. This does not fit together somehow. Since at the end of the sexual magic rituals the masculine principle alone remains, the verbal praise of the goddess, beauty and love could also be manipulative, designed to conjure up the devotion of a woman. Bearing in mind that the method (upaya) of the yogis can also be translated as “trick”, we may not exclude such a possibility.

Western criticism

In the light of the unconcealed potential for violence and manifest obsessions with power within Tantric Buddhism it is incomprehensible that the idea has spread, even among many Western authors and a huge public too, that Vajrayana is a religious practice which exclusively promotes peace. This seems all the more misled since the whole system in no way denies its own destructiveness and draws its entire power from the exploitation of extremes. In the face of such inconsistencies, some keen interpreters of the tantras project the violent Buddhist fantasies outwards, by making Hinduism and the West responsible for aggression and hunger for power.

For example, the Tibetologist of German origins, Herbert Guenther (born 1917), who has been engaged in an attempt to win philosophical respectability for Vajrayana in Europe and America since the 60s, sharply attacks the Western and Hindu cultures: “this purely Hinduistic power mentality, so similar to the Western dominance psychology, was generalized and applied to all forms of Tantrism by writers who did not see or, due to their being steeped so much in dominance psychology, could not understand that the desire to realize Being is not the same as the craving for power” (Guenther, 1976, p. 64). The sacred eroticism of Buddhism is completely misunderstood in the west and interpreted as sexual pleasure and exploitation. “The use of sexuality as a tool of power destroys its function”, this author tells us and continues, “Buddhist Tantrism dispenses with the idea of power, in which it sees a remnant of subjectivistic philosophy, and even goes beyond mere pleasure to the enjoyment of being and of enlightenment unattainable without woman” (Guenther, 1976, 66).

Anagarika Govinda (1898-1985), also a German converted to Buddhism whose original name was Ernst Lothar Hoffmann and who believed himself to be a reincarnation of the German romantic Novalis, made even greater efforts to deny a claim to power in Tibetan Buddhism. He even attempted, with — when one considers the print run of his books — obviously great success, to cleanse Vajrayana of its sacred sexuality and present it as a pure, spiritual school of wisdom.

Govinda also gives the Hindus the blame for everything bad about the tantras. Shakti — the German lama says — mean power. “United with Shakti, be full of power!”, it says in a Hindu tantra (Govinda, 1984, p. 106). “The concept of Shakti, of divine power,” — the author continues — “plays absolutely no role in Buddhism. Whilst in tantric Hinduism the concept of power lies at the center of concern” (Govinda, 1984, p. 105). Further, we are told, the Tibetan yogi is free of all sexual and power fantasies. He attains union exclusively with the “eternal feminine”, the symbol for “emotion, love, heart, and compassion”. “In this state there is no longer anything ‘sexual’ in the time-honored sense of the word ...” (Govinda, 1984, p. 111).

Yet the feminist critique of Vajrayana, which Miranda Shaw presented in her book on “Women in Tantric Buddhism” published in 1994, appears even more odd. With reference to Herbert Guenther she also judges the interpretation of authors who reveal Tantrism to be a sexual and spiritual exploitation of the woman, to be a maneuver of “western dominance psychology”. These “androcentric” scholars reiterate a prejudice embedded deeply within western culture, which says that men are always active, women in contrast passive victims; men are power conscious, women are powerless; men are molded by intellect, women by emotion. It was suggested that women did not posses the capacity to practice tantric Yoga (Shaw, 1994, p. 9).

It is no surprise that the “militant Tantric” Miranda Shaw argues thus, then from the first to the last line of her committed book she tries to bring the proof that women were in no way inferior to the great gurus and Maha Siddhas. The apparently meager number of “yoginis” to be found in the history of Vajrayana, compared that is to the literally countless assembly of tantric masters, are built up by the author into a spiritual, female super-elite. The women from the founding phase of Tantrism — we learn here — did not just work together with their male partners as equals, rather they were far superior to them in their knowledge of mysteries. They are the actual “masters” and Tantric Buddhism owes its very existence to them. This radical feminist attempt to interpret Tantrism as an originally matriarchal cult event, is however, not entirely unjustified. Let us briefly trace its footsteps.


[1] In the usual yab–yum representation of the Dhyani Buddhas, the male Buddha figure always crosses both of his arms behind the back of his wisdom consort, forming what is known as the Vajrahumkara gesture. At the same time he holds a vajra (the supreme symbol of masculinity) in his right hand, and a gantha (the supreme symbol of femininity) in his left. The symbolic possession of both ritual objects identifies him as the lord of both sexes. He is the androgyne and the prajna is a part of his self.



In order to understand the “theological” intentions of Vajrayana and its iconography and psychology, it is of great value to draw a comparision to the matriarchal and gynocentric goddess cults of India. The high tensions and explosive forces in the sexual magic scenarios of the tantras can only be explained in the light of the conflicting manner in which the two cultural currents treat the dynamic between the sexes. To our knowledge there is no culture where the sexes have as theocratic systems given rise to such sophisticated and complex power struggles as in Indian — up to and including the present day.

Heinrich von Glasenapp calls pure Shaktism the contrary counter-force to androcentric Buddhism: “pure, hundred-percent Shaktism is the teaching of all those sects which regard Durga or one of her forms as the mistress of the world” (von Glasenapp, 1940, p. 123). Durga, that is just another name for the goddess Kali. She is worshipped by her followers as the highest universal deity. All other gods, whether masculine or feminine, emerge from her. She has both pleasant and horrific characteristics, but the dark and cruel traits predominate. She is traditionally linked to a destructive, man-destroying sexuality. She epitomizes forbidden sex, destructive rage, and death. Terror and madness count among her characteristics and it is believed her out and out destructiveness will one day reduce the world to rubble. Our era, which Hindus and Buddhists equally consider to be the “dark” one, and which is rushing headlong and inevitably towards its downfall, bears the name of this fearsome goddess — Kali yuga.

Kali appears to her believers as Shakti, that is as feminine energy in the form of a universal female divinity. In her omnipotence “she includes both the spiritual and the material principles and can therefore be understood to contain both the soul and nature ... The feminine principle creates the cosmos in combination with the masculine principle– though the masculine is always of secondary importance and subordinate to the feminine principle...” — reports the tantra researcher Agehananda Bharati (Bharati, 1977, p. 174).

Here the androcentric Wheel of Time has been rotated 180 degrees and Tantrism’s patriarchal pattern of dominance has been reinterpreted matriarchally. Instead of shaven-headed monks or long-haired Maha Siddhas, women now celebrate as “priestesses and female shamans”. The omnipotent divinity now reveals itself to be a woman. “Thus the followers of the Shakti school justify their appellation by the belief that god is a woman and it ought to be the aim of all to become a woman” (Bhattacharyya, 1982, p. 109) — writes Bhattacharyya in his history of the tantric currents.

The gynocentric male sacrifice

According to one widely distributed view, the matriarchal element and goddess cult are believed to have been predominant for centuries in Indian society and can still now be discovered in folk culture (Bhattacharya, 1982, p. 116, note 41; Tiwari 1985). The native inhabitants of the first pre-Aryan agricultural societies were followers of the “great goddess”. Ritual objects from excavations of the ancient towns of Mohenjodaro and Harappa (c. 2500 B.C.E.) indicate that matriarchal cults were practiced there. Astounding parallels to the Babylonian goddesses of the Fertile Crescent have been drawn.

Only following the violent intrusion of patriarchal pastoral peoples from the north (around 1500 B.C.E.) was the native religion of India systematically displaced. From now on the Aryan caste system with its sacrificial priests (Brahmans) and warriors (Kshatriyas) at its peak determined social religious politics. Nor did the first phase of Buddhism show any essential change in the androcentric pattern. At the time of the Maurya and Gupta periods (around 300 C.E.) this experienced a decisive transformation. The ascetic doctrine of early Buddhism (Hinayana) gave way to the ideal of the compassionate Bodhisattva (Mahayana). Hinduism’s colorful lineage of gods developed — often represented as great mythical couples. But the archeologists have also excavated numerous clay figures from this epoch, which depict the Great Mother deity. Her figure even appears on coins. The submerged “feminine principle” of the earliest times thus reappeared between the third and seventh centuries C.E. in India.

Starting among the rural population it gained access to even the highest strata. “ The mass strength behind it,” Bhattacharyya informs us, “placed goddesses by the side of gods of all religions, but even by doing so the entire emotion centering round the Female Principle could not be channelised. So the need was felt for a new religion, entirely female dominated, a religion in which even the great gods like Visnu or Shiva would remain subordinated to the goddess. This new religion came to be known as Shaktism” (Bhattacharyya, 1982, p. 207).

The Buddhists were also not in a position to remain completely untouched by this renaissance of ancient female cults. This can be detected, for example, in the famous collection of poems, Therigatha, where Buddhist nuns sing of their liberation from the slavery of everyday family life. But there was never a real emancipation movement of female Buddhists. In contrast the followers of the Buddha Shakyamuni were successful in their epochal attempt to gain control of the “new women”, through integration and manipulation, without needing to combat or suppress the emergent “woman power” directly: the monks discovered Vajrayana.

There is much to be said for the suggestion the tantric practices, or at least similar rites, were originally part of the cult of worship of the great goddess, which in contrast to early Buddhism had a completely free and open attitude towards sexuality. This is also admitted implicitly by the Buddhist yogis when they project all the forces of the universes into a female archetype. Since they were convinced they possessed a technique (upaya) which in the final instance placed absolute power over the goddess in their hands, the could maintain this apparent omnipotence of the feminine without risk. One almost has the impression that they deliberately adopted the omnipotent matriarchal image.

Yet as soon as women actually grasped for power, this was seen by all the androcentric cults of India as a great disaster and much feared. The woman then appears as a bestial horror god or a bloodthirsty tigress who kills her lover, performs bizarre dances upon his corpse or places the still-aroused penis of the dead in her vulva. She is depicted as a being with a gaping maw and bloody canines. Numerous variants of such macabre portraits are known. In the light of such images of horror the fears of the men were thoroughly justified and man-destroying cult sacrifices were then no rarity in the vicinity of the black Kali.

The religious studies scholar Doniger O’Flaherty traces them all back to the archetypal ritual of an insect, which bears the name of “preying mantis”. This large locust bites off the head of the smaller male during copulation and then consumes it with relish (O’Flaherty, 1982, p. 81). Although the tales do not say that the goddess rips off the head of her lover with her teeth, she does decapitate him with a saber.

Such female cults are supposed to imitate vegetative events in nature. Just as the plants germinate, sprout, blossom, bear fruit and then die back to arise anew from seed, so death appeared to them to be a necessary aspect of life and the precondition for a rebirth. When the ancient cosmocentric mother goddess donates fertility, she demands in return bloody sacrifices. It was mostly animals and humans of male gender who had to surrender their lives to preserve and propagate the plant, animal and human kingdoms (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 102; Neumann, 1949, p. 55). It is not said, however, whether this vegetative orientation to the cult was the sole motive or whether there was not also a bloody demonstration of power within a religiously motivated struggle between the sexes involved.

The cruel rites of Kali in no way belong to the past. As the Indian press currently reports, in recent times more and more incidents of human sacrifice to the goddess have accumulated, in which it is primarily children who are offered up. The ancient and universal myth of the Earth Mother, who consumes her own progeny and fattens herself with their corpses, who greedily laps up the blood-seed of humans and animals, who lures life into her abyss and dark hole in order to destroy it, is actually celebrating a renaissance in contemporary India (Neumann, 1989, pp. 148–149).

The vajra and the double-headed ax

Initially, men may have reacted with fear and then with protestation to such bloody matriarchal rites, as we can conclude from many patriarchal founding myths. Perhaps some kind of masculine anxiety neurosis, derived from long forgotten and suppressed struggles with matriarchy, lies hidden behind the seemingly pathological overemphasis accorded to the vajra and thus the “phallus” in Tantric Buddhism?

In a cultural history of the “diamond scepter” (vajra), the Tibetologist Siegbert Hummel mentions that the vajra was worshipped both in Vedic India and among the Greeks as a lightning symbol. The symbol entered Buddhism via the Hellenistic influence on the art of Gandhara. The current form only evolved over the course of centuries. Formerly, the vajra more resembled a “double-headed ax with lightning-like radiance” (Hummel, 1954, pp. 123ff.).

Hummel, who has also examined matriarchal influences on Tibetan culture in other works, surmises that the symbol had a Cretan gynocentric origin. But let us quote him directly: “Vajra” and “double-headed ax” presuppose “images of the Cretan mother deity, who carries a double-headed ax, as not just a sign but also an embodiment of her sovereignty and power as well as a magical instrument, a privilege, incidentally, which male deities significantly did not receive” (Hummel, 1954, p. 123). The Minoan cult object is said to have been used as a weapon with which the sacred bull was slaughtered.

This bovine blood ritual, which according to reports and myths of antiquity was widely distributed among the matriarchal cults of the Near East, brings the ancient male sacrifice into the discussion once more. Then the bull is considered a historically more recent substitute for the husband of the tribal queen, who herself was supposed to be the incarnation of a goddess. Following the expiry of his period in office, the priestesses sacrificed him and soaked the soil with his royal blood in order to generate fertility.

Aside from this, it is highly likely that ancient castration were linked with the double-headed ax (Hummel, 1954, pp. 123ff.). At any rate, the almighty Cybele bore this sharp implement as her emblem of power. Classical authors report with horror how the fanatical priests of this Phrygian mother-goddess let themselves be ritually emasculated or performed the mutilation themselves. “Cybelis” is said to be a translation of “double-headed ax” (Alexiou, n.d., p. 92).

If we accept Hummel’s account of the origin of the vajra as the man-destroying scepter of the great goddess, then the excessive reverence with which the Tantric Buddhists treat the “thunderbolt” becomes more comprehensible: The ax, which once felled or mutilated man has now become his most-feared magical weapon, with which he graphically demonstrates his victory over the great goddess.

In the vajra, the “diamond scepter”, “thunderbolt” or “phallus”, the androcentric control of the world is symbolized. It represents the superiority of the masculine spirit over the feminine nature. “The vajra”, Lama Govinda writes, “became ... the quintessence of supreme spiritual, a power which nothing can withstand and which is itself unassailable and invincible: just as a diamond, the hardest of all substances, can cut to pieces all other substances without itself being cut by anything else” (Govinda, 1991, p. 65). In order to demonstrate this omnipotence of absolute masculinity, there arose within “Vajrayana” the linguistic obsession which links all the events and protagonists of the tantric rituals to the word vajra.

It is not just the objects which are ceremonially sacrificed, like vajra-incense, vajra-shells, vajra-lamps, vajra-perfumes, vajra-flowers, vajra-flags, vajra-dresses and so forth which bear the Sanskrit name of the “diamond scepter”, but also all the ritual activities such as vajra-music, vajra-dance, vajra-motion, vajra-gestures. “The whole of this system pivots upon the idea of the vajra, which is the supreme ideal, but at the same time environs the initiate from his first steps. Everything which concerns the mystique training bears this name. The water of the preliminary purification, the pot that contains it, the sacred formula to repeat over it ... all is vajra” (Carelli, 1941, p. 6).

Even the symbol of supreme femininity, the “emptiness” (shunyata), is not spared its application. “The vajra represents the active principle,” writes Snellgrove, “the means towards enlightenment and the means of conversion, while the bell represents Perfection of Wisdom, known as the Void (sunyata). In the state of union, however, the vajra comprehends both these coefficients of enlightenment, the means and the wisdom” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 131). “Shunyata”, we can read in Dasgupta, “which is firm, substantial, indivisible and impenetrable, incapable of being burnt and imperishable, is called Vajra... Vajra ... is the void and in Vajrayana everything is Vajra” (Dasgupta, 1974, pp. 77, 72).

Vajra and the “bell” (gantha) count as the two most important ritual objects in Tantrism. But here too the masculine “thunderbolt” has achieved supremacy. This is most graphically expressed in the symbolic construction of the feminine “bell”. In order to display its subordinacy to the masculine principle, it always possesses a handle in the form of a half vajra. One will also not find a gantha, which does not have numerous tiny “diamond scepters”, i.e., “phalluses”, engraved on its outer edge. The bell, visible and much-praised symbol of the feminine, is thus also under the hegemony of the “thunderbolt”.

The gesture of dominance with which the tantric master seals his consort during the sexual act is called the Vajrahumkara mudra: he crosses both hands behind the back of his partner, with the vajra held in his right hand, and the gantha in the left. The symbolic content of this gesture can only be the following: the yogi as androgyne is lord over both sexual energies, the masculine (symbolized by the vajra) and the feminine (symbolized by the gantha). In encircling ("sealing”) his wisdom consort with the androgyne gesture, he wishes to express that she is a part of his self, or rather, that he has absorbed her as his maha mudra ("inner woman”).

The dakini

Among the noisy retinue of Kali can, in Hindu accounts, be found a cluster of lesser female demons known as dakinis. A s we have already seen, these also play an indispensable role in the salvational practices of Buddhist Tantrism. The “sky walkers”- as their name can be translated — are less a female species of angel; rather, they are primarily a subordinate class of female devils. Since they originally belonged to the Kali milieu, their historically more recent transformation into a Buddhist support unit must surely provide some interesting insights into the early history of Tantrism and its relation to the gynocentric cults.

The dakinis have a preference for hanging around crematoria. Their favorite fare is human flesh, which they use for magical purposes in their rituals. They visit sickness upon women, men, and children, especially fever, obsessions, consumption, and sterility. Like the European witches they fly through the air and assume the most varied animal forms. They thus torment those around them as cats, poisonous snakes, lionesses and bitches. They are reviled as “noise-makers, women who take away, hissers, and flesh-eaters”. As vampires, they suck up fresh blood and ritually consume menstrual discharge — their own or that of others. Like the Greek harpies, with whom they have much else in common, they devour afterbirth and feed themselves from corpses. They have a great predilection and craving for the male seed. These horror-women can even consume the breath of a living person (O’Flaherty, 1982, p. 237).

Their terrible appearance is described in a biography of the great Tibetan deliverer of salvation, Padmasambhava: some ride upon lions with their hair let out and carry skulls in their hands as signs of victory; others perch upon the backs of birds and let out shrill shrieks; the bodies of yet others are topped by ten faces and ten mouths with which they devour human hearts; a further group vomit up dogs and wolves; They generate lightning, and descend upon their victims with a thunderclap. “The trace of a third eye upon her forehead [can be found], they have long clawlike finger-nails, and a black heart in her vagina” (Stevens, 1990, p. 73). Ritual curved knives, with which they dismember corpses; a skull bowl out of which they slurp all sorts of blood; a small two-ended drum prepared from the brain-pans of two children, with which she summons her companions and a scepter, upon which three skulls are skewered, — are all considered part of a dakini’s standard equipment.

Sculpture of a Dakini

The dakinis normally only reveal themselves to the Tantric — either as human women in flesh and blood or as dream figures, or as ghosts. In the bardo state, the time between death and rebirth, however, they encounter everyone who has died in order to carry out their horrific sacrifices. The Tibetan Book of the Dead also calls them gauris and many individuals among them are named: Ghasmari, Candali, Nari, Pukkasi and so forth. They ride upon buffaloes, wolves, jackals and lions; wear the most varied human bones as jewelry; clasp banners of children’s skin in their hands; their baldachins are made of human skin; they play their horrible melodies upon the hip bones of a Brahman girl from which they have fashioned flutes; as scepter one grasps the corpse of an infant, another rips the head of a man off and consumes it. With this dreadful display the “sky walkers” want to induce the spirit of the dead person to seek out in fear the protective womb of a human woman so as to be reborn. But should he courageously resist the frightful images, then he becomes freed from the “Wheel of Life” and is permitted to enter nirvana.

Consequently, the tantras urge that every adept procure for himself the arts and cunning of Cakrasamvara, the first Buddhist dakini subduer, in order to conquer and bind these female fiends, as he can only experience enlightenment by subjugating the demonesses. He then becomes lord over the feminine in general, precisely because this opposed him in its most terrible form as a death-goddess and he did not yield to it.

But the process has more than just a psychological dimension. Since the dakinis come from the army of the black Kali, for patriarchal Tantrism her subjugation is also a “theocratic” act. With every victory over a “sky walker” the gynocentric cult of the great black goddess is symbolically overpowered by the androcentric power of the Buddha.

The methods employed in this act of conquest are often brutal. When the Maha Siddha Tilopa met the queen of the dakinis in her palace in the form of an attractive and graceful girl (a witch’s illusion), he did not let the demoness pull the wool over his eyes. He tore the clothes from her body and raped her (Sierksma, 1966, p. 112). In the Guhyasamaja Tantra the masculine Hauptgottheit draws the dakinis to him with skewers and diamond hooks which “shine like scorching flames”. We have already mentioned Albert Grünwedel’s surmise above, that the “sky walkers” were originally real women who were transformed into pliant spiritual beings via a “tantric fire sacrifice”. The possibility cannot be excluded that the reason they suffered their fiery “witches’ fate” was that before their “Buddhization” they offered their services to the terrible Kali as priestesses.

Whilst it is true, as the Tibetan historian Buston tells us, that the demonesses were subjugated by the tantric divinity Cakrasamvara and converted to Buddhism, their cruelty was only partially overcome by the conversion. Actually, from this point on, there are two types of dakini and it is not uncommon that the two represent contrary aspects of a single “sky walker”. The dark, repulsive form is joined by a figure of light, an ethereal dancing fairy, a smiling virgin. This goodly part took over the role of the inana mudra for the yogi, the amiable spiritual woman and transcendent bearer of knowledge. I the next chapter we discuss in more detail how such a division of dakinis into evil witches and good fairies represents a primary event in tantric (and alchemic) control techniques.

Thus the evil party among the dakinis did not need to surrender their pre-Buddhist terrors, and unlike the bloody Erinyes from the Greek sagas, did not transform themselves into peace-loving pillars of the state like the Eumenides. Rather, the horror dakinis offered their destructive arts in the service of the new Buddhist doctrine. They continued to play a role as forms in which the death-mother and her former mistress, Kali, whom an adept needed to subdue, could appear. Their terrible emergence has become a downright essential, albeit mortally dangerous, stretch to be traversed upon the path of tantric enlightenment. Only at the end of a successful initiation do the “demonesses” appear in the form of “female angels”.

For Lama Govinda, however, who constantly attempts to exorcise all “witches’ dances” out of Tibetan Buddhism, their light form is the only truth: for him, the dakini represents that element of the “ethereal realm” which we are unable to perceive with our senses, since the Tibetan name for the sky walker, Khadoma, is said to have this meaning (Govinda, 1984, p. 228). The European lama explains the Khadomas to be “meditative geniuses”, “impulses of inspiration, which transform natural force into creative genius” (Govinda, 1984, p. 228) — in brief, they operate as the muses of the yogis. Govinda’s view is not all that incorrect, but he describes only the result of a many –layered and very complicated process, in which the demonic dakini is transformed via the “tantric female sacrifice” described above into a soft and ethereal “sky walker”.

Kali as conquered time goddess

Now is it just the wild former retinue of Kali which is subdued in Buddhist Tantrism, or is the dark goddess herself conquered? The Tibet researcher, Austine Waddell, has concluded on the basis of an illustration of the time god, Kalachakra, and his consort, Vishvamata, that we are dealing here with a representation of the Highest Buddha in union with the Hindu horror goddess Kali, who together do the devil’s work (Waddell, 1934, p. 131). These days, his interpretation is considered amusing, and is often cited as a warning example of Western ignorance and arrogance. But in our view Waddell is absolutely correct, and he is able to help us understand the mystery hidden at the heart of the Kalachakra Tantra.

For the entire post-Vedic Indian culture (i.e., for both Hinduism and Buddhism), the goddess Kali represents the horror mother of our decadent last days, which bear her name as the Kali yuga. Therefore, she is the “mistress of history”. More comprehensively — she is considered to be the personification of manifest time (kala) itself. In translation, the word kali means both the feminine form of ‘time’ and also the color ‘black’. As such, for Hinduism the goddess symbolized the apocalyptic “black hole” into which the entire material universe vanishes at the end of time. The closer we draw to the end of a cosmic cycle, the thicker the “darkness” becomes.

Her male counterpole and Buddhist challenger, Kalachakra, attempts — one could conclude from Waddell’s interpretation — to wrench the “Wheel of Time” from her, in order to himself become “Lord of History” and establish a worldwide androcentric Buddhocracy. In the current and the coming eon he wants that he and he alone has control over time. It is thus a matter of which of the two sexes controls the evolution of the complete polar universe — she as goddess or he as god? When the tantric master as the representative of the time god on earth succeeds in conquering the goddess Kali, then he has — according to tantric logic — cleared the way on his path to exclusive patriarchal world domination.

Aggression toward one another is thus the basis of the relation between the two gender-pretenders to the “time throne”. But the Buddhist Kalachakra god appears to proceed more cleverly than his Hindu opponent, Kali Vishvamata. Using magic techniques he understands how to goad the aggressive sexuality of the goddess and nonetheless bring it under his control.

We shall later see that it is also his intention to destroy the existing universe, which bears the name Kali yuga. For this reason he is extremely interested in the destructive aspects of time (kali) or, respectively, in the destructive power of the goddess, who can crush all forms of existence beneath her. “What is Kalachakrayana?”, a contemporary tantra commentator asks, and answers revealingly, “The word kala means time, death and destruction. Kalachakra is the wheel of destruction” (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 65).

The “alchemic female sacrifice”

"The Kalachakra Tantra”, writes the American David Gordon White in his comprehensive history of Indian alchemy,”.... offers us the most penetrating view we have of any specifically Buddhist alchemical system” (White, 1996, p. 71). In the fifth chapter of the Time Tantra, the “great art” is treated as a separate discipline (Carelli, 1941, p. 21). In his commentary on the Kalachakra text, Pundarika compares the whole sexual magic procedure in this tantra with an alchemical work.

In India, alchemy was and still is a widely spread esoteric body of knowledge, and has been since the fourth century C.E. It is taught and employed as a holistic healing art, especially in Ayurveda. Alongside its medical uses, it was considered (as in China and the West) as the art of extracting gold (and thus wealth and power) from base substances. But over and above this, it was always regarded as an extremely effective means of attaining enlightenment. Indian yogis, especially the so-called Nath Siddhas, who had chosen the “great art” as their sacred technique, experienced their alchemic attempts not as “scientific” experimentation with chemical substances, but rather as a mystical exercise. They described themselves as followers of Rasayana and with the use of this term indicated that had chosen a special initiatory path, the “Path of Alchemy”. In their occult praxis they combined chemical experiments with exercises from Hatha Yoga and tantric sexual rites.

Arabic influences upon Indian alchemy are presumed, but the latter certainly predates these. Even older are the sophisticated alchemic–sexual magic experiments of the Taoists. For this reason, some important Western scholars of Asia, for example, David Gordon White, Agehananda Bharati, and Joseph Needham, are of the opinion that China could be considered a possible origin for both the “high art” and Indian Tantrism. On the other hand, European alchemy of early modern times (16th to 18th century) has so many similarities to the symbolic world of tantric-alchemic India, that — since a direct influence is difficult to imagine — one must either posit a common historical, most probably Egyptian, origin, or must assume that both esoteric currents drew upon the same archetypal reservoir of our collective unconsciousness. Most probably, both are the case.

In the West, the close relationship between occidental alchemy and Tantrism has been thematized by, among others, the religious studies scholar Mircea Eliade and Carl Gustav Jung, the depth psychologist. Jung more than once drew attention to the parallels between the two systems. His introduction to a quasi-tantric text from China with the title Das Geheimnis der goldenen Blüte [‘The Secret of the Golden Flower’] is just one example from many. Mircea Eliade also saw “a remarkable correspondence between Tantrism and the great western mysteriosophical [sic] current ..., in which at the beginning of the Christian era gnosis, hermetics, Greek/Egyptan alchemy and the traditions of the mysteries flowed together” (Eliade, 1985, p. 211). Of the more modern authors, it is primarily David Gordon White who deserves mention; he has exhaustively studied the close link between alchemic ideas and experiments and the Indian Siddhas (sorcerers) and their tantric practices. Without doubt, Tantrism and alchemy, whether of Indian or European provenance, share many fundamental images with one another.

Just like their oriental colleagues, the occidental alchemists expressed themselves in a twilight language (sandhabhasa). All the words, signs, and symbols, which were formulated to describe the experiments in their obscure “laboratories”, possessed multiple meanings and were only comprehensible to the “initiated”. Just as in some tantra texts, “secret” practices were represented by “harmless” images in the European treatises; this was especially true of the topic of erotic love and sexuality. This strong link to the erotic may appear absurd in the case of chemical experiments, but the alchemic world view was, just like that of Tantrism, dominated by the idea that our universe functions as the creation and interplayof a masculine and a feminine principle and that all levels of existence are interpenetrated by the polarity of the sexes. “Gender is in everything, everything has masculine and feminine principles, gender reveals itself on all levels”, we can read in a European treatise on the “great art” (Gebelein, 1991, p. 44).

This was also true for the sphere of chemical substances and compounds, the metals and elements. Both the tantric and the alchemic writings are therefore maps of the erotic imagination and anyone with a little speech psychology can recognize the pervasive sexual system of reference hidden in a hermetical text from the 16th century. At that time people did not have the slightest qualms about describing chemical processes as erotic events and erotic scenarios as chemical fusions. They behaved in exactly the same manner in the West as in the East.

Let us now examine tantric alchemy a little more closely. The Tibetan lama, Dragpa Jetsen, for example, distinguishes three aspects of the royal art: the “Alchemy of life: he can make his life last as long as the sun and moon[; the] Alchemy of body: he can make his body eternally be but sixteen years old[; and the] Alchemy of enjoyments: he can turn iron and copper into gold” (quoted by Beyer, 1978, p. 253). These three experiments, then, primarily concern two goals: firstly the attainment of immortality, and secondly the production of gold, that is, material wealth. Correspondingly, in a commentary on the Kalachakra Tantra we can read: “Then comes the practice of alchemy, which in this case means the production of gold through the use of the elixirs” (Newman, 1987, p. 120).

But for the “true” adept (whether Tantric or European alchemist) it was not just a matter of the actual yellow metal, but also the so-called “spiritual gold”. In the West this was understood to mean the “Philosopher’s Stone” or the “hermetical elixir”, which transformed the experimenter into a superman. Alchemy and Tantrism thus have the same spiritual goal. In order to achieve this, numerous processes of conversion were needed in the laboratory of the adept, which did not just take the form of chemical processes, but which the alchemist also experienced as successive transmutations of his personality, that is, his psyche was dissolved and then put together again a number of times in the course of the experimentation. Solve et coagula (dissolve and bind) is for this reason the first and most well-known maxim of the hermetical art. This principle too, controls the tantric ritual in numerous variants, as, say, when the yogi dissolves his human body in order to reconstruct it as a divine body.

Without going into numerous further parallels between Tantrism and the “great art”, we would like to concentrate here upon a primary event in European alchemy, which we term the “alchemic female sacrifice” and which plays an equally central role for the adept of the high art as the “tantric female sacrifice” does for the Tantric. There are three stages to be examined in this sacrificial event:

The sacrifice of the “dark woman” or the “black matter” (nigredo)
The absorption of the “virgin milk” or gynergy (albedo)
The construction of the cosmic androgyne (rubedo)

1. The sacrifice of the black matter (karma mudra)

The starting point for an alchemical experiment is in both systems, the European and the Indian, the realm of coarse matter, the ignoble or base, so as to then transmute it in accordance with the “law of inversion” into something beneficent. This procedure is — as we have shown — completely tantric. Thus the Buddhist scholar, Aryadeva, (third century C.E.) can employ the following comparison: “Just as copper becomes pure gold when it is spread with a wonder tincture, so too will the [base] passions of the Knowing become aids to salvation” (von Glasenapp, 1940, p. 30). The same tantric view is taken up in the eighteenth century by the French adept Limojon de Saint-Didier, when he ascertains in his Triomphe Hermétique that, “the philosophers [alchemists] say, that one must seek perfection in imperfect things and that one finds it there” (Hutin, 1971, p. 25).

In European alchemy the coarse starting material for the experiments is known as the prima materia and is of a fundamentally feminine nature. Likewise, as in the tantras, base substances such as excrement, urine, menstrual blood, part of corpses and so forth are named in the alchemic texts, no matter which culture they belong to, as the physical starting materials for the experiments. Symbolically, the primal material is describe in images such as “snake, dragon, toad, viper, python”. It is also represented by every conceivable repulsive female figure — by witches, mixers of poison, whores, chthonic goddesses, by the “dragon mother” so often cited in depth psychology. All these are metaphors for the demonic nature of the feminine, as we also know it from as far back as the early phase of Buddhism. We may recall that Shakyamuni compared women in general with snakes, sharks and whores.

These misogynous terms for the prima materia are images which on the one hand seek to describe the untamed, death-bringing nature; on the other one readily admit that a secret force capable of producing everything in the phenomenal world is hidden within “Mother Nature”. Nature in alchemy has at its disposal the universal power of birth. It represents the primordial matrix of the elements, the massa confusa, the great chaos, from which creation bursts forth. , On this basis, Titus Burckhardt, an enthusiastic expert on the great art, brings the western prima materia into direct comparison with tantric Shakti and the black goddess, Kali: “On the idea of Shakti are based all those tantric spiritual methods which are more closely related to alchemy than to any other of the spiritual arts. The Hindu, indeed, regard alchemy itself as a tantric method. As Kali, the Shakti is on the one hand the universal mother, who lovingly embraces all creatures, and on the other hand the tyrannical power which delivers them over to destruction, death, time, and space” (Burckhardt, 1986, p. 117). The alchemic first substance (prima materia or massa confusa) cannot be better personified in Tantrism than by Kali and her former retinue, the crematoria-haunting, horrifying dakinis

Experimenting around with the primal material sounds quite harmless to someone who is not initiated. Yet a symbolic murder is hidden behind this. The black matter, a symbol of the fundamental feminine and of powerful nature from which we all come, is burned or in some cases vaporized, cut to pieces or dismembered. Thus, in destroying the prima materia we at the same time destroy our “mother” or, basically, the “ fundamentally feminine”. The European adept does not shy away from even the most crass killing metaphors: “open the lap of your mother”, it says in a French text from the 18th century, “with a steel blade, burrow into her entrails and press forward to her womb, there you will find our pure substance [the elixir]” (Bachelard, 1990, p. 282). Symbolically, this violent first act in the alchemic production is located within a context of sacrifice, death and the color black and is therefore called nigredo, that is “blackening”.

2. The absorption of the “virgin milk” or gynergy (inana mudra)

The “pure substance” or the “elixir”, which according to the quotation above is obtained from the entrails of Mother Nature, is in alchemy nothing other than the gynergy so sought after in Tantrism. Just like the Tantric, the alchemist thus draws a distinction between the “coarse” and the “sublime” feminine. After the destruction of the “dark mother”, the so-called nigredo, the second phase follows, which goes by the name of albedo ("whitening”). The adept understands this to mean the “liberation” of the subtle feminine ("pure substance”) from the clutches of the coarse “dragon” (prima materia). The master has thus transformed the black matter, which for him symbolizes the dark mother, following its burning or cutting up in his laboratory into an ethereal “girl” and then distilled from this the “pure Sophia”, the incarnation of wisdom, the “chaste moon goddess”, the “white queen of heaven”. One text talks “of the transformation of the Babylonian whore into a virgin” (Evola, 1993, p. 207).

Now this transmutation is not, as a contemporary observer would perhaps imagine the process to be, a purely spiritual/mental procedure. In the alchemist’s laboratory some form of black starting substance is in fact burned up, and a chemical, usually liquid substance really is extracted from this material, which the adept captures in a pear-shaped flask at the end of the experiment. The Indians refer to this liquid as rasa, their European colleagues as the “elixir”. Hence the name for Indian alchemy — Rasayana.

Even though all the interpreters in the discussion of the alchemic “virgin image” (the subtle feminine) are of the unanimous opinion that this is a matter of the spiritual and psychological source of inspiration for the man, this nevertheless has a physical existence as a magical fluid. The “white woman”, the “holy Sophia” is both an image of desire of the masculine psyche and the visible elixir in a glass. (In connection with the seed gnosis we shall show that this is also the case in Tantrism.)

This elixir has many names and is called among other things “moon dew” or aqua sapientiae (water of wisdom) or “white virgin milk”. The final (chemical) extraction of the wonder milk is known as ablactatio (milking). Even in such a concrete point there are parallels to Tantrism: In the still to be described “Vase initiation” of the Kalachakra Tantra, the ritual vessels which are offered up to the vajra master in sacrifice, represent the wisdom consorts (mudras). They are called “the vase that holds the white [the milk]" (Dhargyey, 1985, p. 8). Whatever ingredients this “moon dew” may consist of, in both cultural circles it is considered to be the elixir of wisdom (prajna) and a liquid form of gynergy. It is as strongly desired by every European adept as by every Tibetan tantric master.

We can thus state that, in Tantrism, the relation between the real woman (karma mudra) and the imaginary spirit woman (inana mudra) is the same as that between the dark mother (prima materia) and the “chaste moon goddess” (the feminine life-elixir or gynergy) in European alchemy. Therefore, the sacrifice of karma mudra (prima materia), drawn usually from the lower classes, and her transformation into a Buddhist “goddess” (inana mudra) is an alchemic drama. Another variation upon the identical hermetic play emerges in the victory of the vajra master over the dark horror dakini (prima materia) and her slaughter, after which she (post mortem) enters the tantric stage as a gentle, floating figure — as a nectar-giving “sky walker” ("the chaste moon goddess”). The witch-like cemetery whore has transformed herself into a sweet granter of wisdom.

3. The construction of the cosmic androgyne (maha mudra)

Following the consumption of the “virgin milk”, the drawing off of the gynergy, the ethereal feminine is dissolved in the imagination of the alchemist and now becomes a part of his masculine-androgyne being. Thus, the second sacrifice of the woman, this time as “Sophia” or as an independent “spiritual being” takes place here, then the goal of the opus is reached only when the adept, just like the Tantric, has completely obliterated the autonomy of the feminine principle and integrated it within himself. To this end he works on and destroys the “chaste moon goddess” or the “white woman” (inana mudra), once more through the element of fire. The Italian occultist, Julius Evola, has described this procedure in clear and unvarnished terms: in this phase “sulfur and fire become active again, the now living masculine exerts an influence on the substance, ... gains the upper hand over the feminine, absorbs it and transmits its own nature to it” (Evola, 1983, p. 435). Accordingly, the feminine principle is completely absorbed by the masculine. Somewhat more prosaically expressed, this means the alchemist drinks the “virgin milk” mentioned above from his flask.

In summary, if we compare this alchemical process with Tantrism once more, then we can say that the alchemist sacrifices firstly the feminine “mother of all” (prima materia), just as the Tantric sacrifices the real woman, the karma mudra. From the destruction of the karma mudra the vajra master then obtains the “spiritual woman”, the inana mudra, just as the alchemist obtains the “Sophia” from the destruction of the prima materia. Then the Tantric internalizes the “spiritual woman” as maha mudra ("inner woman”), just as the adept of alchemy takes in the “white virgin” in the form of the luck-bringing feminine “moon dew”.

Once the work is completed, in both cases the feminine disappears as an external, independent and polar correspondence to the masculine and continues to function solely as an inner force (shakti) of the androgyne tantra master, or androgyne alchemist respectively. Within alchemy this internalization of the feminine principle (i.e., the construction of the maha mudra in Tantrism) is known by the term rubedo, that is “reddening”.

Since the symbolic sacrifice of the woman in both cases involves the use of the element of fire, in alchemy just as in Buddhist Tantrism we are dealing with an androcentric fire cult. Within both contexts a bisexual, ego-centered super being is produced via magic rites — a “spiritual king”, a “grand sorcerer” (Maha Siddha), a powerful “androgyne”, the “universal hermaphrodite”. “He is the hermaphrodite of the initial being,” C. G. Jung writes of the target figure of the alchemic project, “which steps apart in the classic brother–sister pair and unites itself in the ‘conjunctio’” (Jung, 1975, pp. 338, 340). Consequently, the final goal of every alchemical experiment which goes beyond simple moneymaking is the union of the sexes within the person of the adept, in the understanding that he could then develop unlimited power as a man–woman. The identical bisexual definition of the occidental super being is mirrored in the self-concept of the Tantric, who following his mystic union (conjunctio) with the feminine — that is to say, after the absorption of the gynergy — is reborn as the “lord of both sexes”.

In the West, as in the East, he then experiences himself to be the “father and mother of his self” — as a “child of his self” (Evola, 1993, p. 48) — “He marries himself, he impregnates himself”. He becomes “known as the father and begetter of all, because in him lives the seed and template of all things” (Evola, 1993, p. 35) To put it in one sentence — the mystic king of alchemy is in principle identical with the tantric Maha Siddha (grand sorcerer).

It would spring the bounds of this study to examine further patterns which link the two systems to one another. We shall, however, return to this where it seems necessary. In our opinion, all the events of Tantrism can be rediscovered in one form or another in the symbolic scenario of alchemy: the eroticization of the universe, the deadly dangers which are associated with the unchaining of the feminine elements, the “law of inversion”, the play upon fire, the swallowing of the “moon” (of the feminine) by the “sun” (the masculine), the mystical geography of the body, the mantras and mandalas, the mysticism surrounding the planets and stars, the micro-macrocosmic theory, the dark light and the clear light, the staged apocalypse, the grasp for power over the universe, the despotism of the patriarchal hermit, and so forth. We would like to let the matter rest with this list and close the chapter with a succinct statement from Lhundop Sopa, a contemporary Tibetan specialist on the Kalachakra Tantra: “Thus, the Kalachakra path becomes in the end like a kind of alchemy” (Newman, 1985, p. 150). Both systems are thus based upon the same original script.



The Kalachakra Tantra (Time Tantra) is considered the last and most recent of all the revealed tantra texts (c. tenth century), yet also as the “highest of all Vajrayana ways”, “the pinnacle of all Buddhist systems”. It differs from earlier tantras in its encyclopedic character. It has been described as the “most complex and profound statement on both temporal and spiritual matters” (Newman, 1985, p. 31). We can thus depict it as the summa theologia of Buddhist Tantrism, as the root and the crown of the teaching, the chief tantra of our “degenerate era” (Newman, 1985, p. 40). Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), the significant reformer and founder of the Tibetan Gelugpa order, was of the opinion that anybody who knew the Kalachakra Tantra mastered all other secret Buddhist teachings without effort.

Even though all Tibetan schools practice the Kalachakra Tantra, there have always only been individual experts who truly command this complicated ritual. For the Yellow Hats (Gelugpa), these are traditionally the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. A small study group from the Namgyal monastery are available to assist the Dalai Lama in executing the ceremonies with technical knowledge.

The ritual consists of a public part and a secret part, staged by the participants behind closed doors. Pupils with little prior knowledge or even people with none may participate in the public initiations. In contrast, the secret initiations are only accessible for the chosen few.

Despite the elitist selection, the texts sometimes suggest that the possibility of reaching the highest level of enlightenment in the Kalachakra Tantra within a single lifetime lies open to everybody. The reality is otherwise, however. Of the hundreds who participate in a public event, one commentary states, in the end only one will say his daily prayer. Of the thousands just one will commence with the yoga praxis which belong to this tantra and of these, only a handful will be initiated into the most secret initiations (Mullin, 1991, p. 28). In the Vimalaprabha, the earliest commentary upon the original text, it is stated in unmistakable terms that laity (non-monks) may absolutely not set foot upon the path to enlightenment (Newman, 1987, p. 422).

But even if the supreme goal remains closed to him, every participant ought nevertheless to gain numerous spiritual advantages for himself from the ritual mass events. According to statements by the Dalai Lama, karmic stains may thus be removed and new seeds for good karma begin to grow. The eager are beckoned by the prospect of rebirth in Shambhala, a paradise closely associated with the Kalachakra myth. At any rate the pupil has “ the opportunity to bask in the bright rays of spiritual communion with the initiating lama, in this case His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and hopefully to absorb a sprinkling of spiritual energy from the occasion” (Mullin, 1991, p. 28). Since, according to the official version, the celebrant guru conducts the Kalachakra ritual for, among other things, the “liberation of all of humanity” and the “maintenance of world peace”, both the masses present at the spectacle and the individual initiates participate in this highly ethical setting of goals (Newman, 1987, p. 382).

Fundamentally, the Buddhist tantras are subdivided into father tantras, mother tantras, or non-dual tantras. In father tantras it is principally the “method” of creation of a divine form body (vajrakaya) with which the yogi identifies which is taught. Hence the production of the self as a divinity is central here. To this end the following negative attributes of the adept need to be transformed: aggression, desire, and ignorance.

The mother tantras primarily lay worth upon the creation of a state of emptiness and unshakable bliss, as well as upon the calling forth of the clear light. Here the yogi exclusively employs the transformation of sexual desire as a means.

The non-dual tantras are a combination of father tantras and mother tantras. The “creation of a divine form body” is thus combined with the “calling forth of the clear light” and “blissful emptiness”. Thus, the yogi wants to both appear as a powerful deity and attain the ability to rest unconditionally in a state equivalent to nirvana and to bathe himself in mystic light.

Since the Kalachakra Tantra promises all these possibilities of enlightenment, the famous Tibetan scribe, Buston (1290-1364), classified it as a non-dual tantra. His opinion did not remain uncontested, however. Another outstanding expert on the rituals, Kay-drup-jay (1385-1438) described it, as do the majority of Gelugpa authors, as a mother tantra.

A further classification subdivides the “Time Tantra” into an external, internal, and alternative section.

The “external” tantra describes the formation and destruction of the universe, includes treatises on astronomy and geography, and concerns itself with the history of the world, with prophecies and religious wars. The reports on the magic realm of Shambhala are of great importance here. Emphasis is also placed upon astrology and the mathematical calculations connected with it. The entire national calendar and time-keeping methods of the Tibetans are derived from the astronomical and astrological system in the Kalachakra.

In contrast, the “internal” Kalachakra treats the anatomy of energy in the mystic body. From a tantric viewpoint, the body of every person is composed of not just flesh and blood but also a number of energy centers which are connected to one another by channels. Fluids, secretions, and “winds” flow through and pervade this complex network. Among the secretions, male semen and female menstrual blood play an important role.

In the “alternative” Kalachakra we get to know the techniques with which the yogi calls up, dissolves, or regulates these inner energy currents as needed. Further, how these can be brought into a magic relation to the phenomena of the external Kalachakra (sun, moon, and stars ...) is also taught here.

Since the Time Tantra belongs to the highest secret teachings (Anuttara Yoga Tantra), it may only be practiced by a chosen few. In the introduction to a contemporary commentary by Ngawang Dhargyey, we can thus read the following: “Sale and distribution of this book is restricted. We urgently request that only initiates into Highest Yoga Tantra and preferably into the Kalachakra system itself should read it. This caution is customary to the tradition, but to disregard it can only be detrimental” (Dhargyey, 1985, p. iii).

Such threatening gestures are a part of occult show business, then these days it is no longer even necessary to understand Tibetan or Sanskrit in order to dip into the tantras, since numerous texts plus their commentaries have been translated into European languages and are generally accessible. Even Dhargyey’s “forbidden” text (A Commentary on the Kalachakra Tantra) can be found in large public libraries. David Snellgrove, an outstanding and incorruptible interpreter of Tibetan religious history, snidely remarks of the widespread secretiveness also promoted by the lamas that, “There is nothing particularly secret about sexual yoga in the Highest Yoga Tantras; one merely has to read the texts” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 269).

This was in fact different in the Tibet of old. The highest yoga teachings were not allowed to be printed, and could at best be distributed in handwriting instead. Even for monks it was very difficult to receive higher initiations, and these afforded a much longer preparation time than is usual in our day. Mass initiations were, in contrast to the present day, extremely rare occasions.

The seven lower public initiations and their symbolic significance

Let us now turn to the various stages of initiation treated in the Kalachakra Tantra and their features and methods. What can be understood by the term initiation (abhisheka)? It concerns the transmission of spiritual energies and insights from a priest to an individual who has requested this of him. The initiation thus presupposes a hierarchical relationship. In its classic form, a master (guru or lama) communicates his knowledge and mystic powers to a pupil (sadhaka). This master too once sat facing his own guru before the latter likewise initiated him. The chains of the initiated, all of which can be traced back to the historical Buddha, are known as “transmission lines”. It is usual for the transmission to proceed orally, from ear to ear. This is thus also known as the “ear-whispered lineage” (Beyer, 1978, p. 399). But words are in no sense a necessity. The initiation can also proceed without speech, for example through hand gestures or the display of symbolic images.

Both forms of transmission (the oral and the nonverbal) still take place between humans. When, however, the Buddhist deities initiate the pupil directly, without a physical go-between, this is known as the “consciousness lineage of the victors”. The transcendent Buddhas (Dhyani Buddhas) who approach an earthly adept directly are referred to as “victors”. A subtype of such communication from beyond is known as the “trust lineage of the dakinis”. Here an adept discovers holy texts which were hidden for him in caves and mountain clefts by the dakinis in times of yore in order to instruct him following their discovery. Such “consciousness treasures”, also known as termas, generally provoked sharp criticism from the orthodox lamas, as they called into question their privilege of being the only source of initiation.

The Kalachakra Tantra is explicitly modeled upon the traditional Indian coronation ceremony (Rajasuya). Just as the Rajasuya authorizes the heir to the throne to take on the status of a king, so the tantric initiation empowers the adept to function as the emanation of a Buddhist deity. Of course, it is also not as a person that the lama communicates the divine energies to the initiand, but rather as a superhuman being in human form.

It is the pupil’s duty to imagine his guru as a living Buddha (Tibetan Kundun) during the entire initiatory process. So that he never forgets the superhuman nature of his master, the Kalachakra Tantra prescribes a Guruyoga liturgy, which is to be recited by the initiand at least three times a day and three times per night. Several of these liturgies are hundreds of pages long (Mullin, 1991, p. 109). But in all of them words to the following effect can be found, with which the lama demands the pupil’s (sadhaka) absolute obedience: “From henceforth I am your [deity] Vajrapani. You must do what I tell you to do. You should not deride me, and if you do, ... the time of death will come, and you will fall into hell” (Dalai Lama XIV, 1985, p. 242).

Since it is the goal of every tantric initiation that the sadhaka himself achieve a transhuman status, right from the outset of the initiatory path he develops a “divine pride” and, as the First Dalai Lama informs us, is transformed into a “vessel” in which the supernatural energies collect (Mullin, 1991, p. 102). This is also true for the Kalachakra Tantra.

The self-sacrifice of the pupil

But doesn’t a metaphysical contest now arise between the deity which stands behind the guru and the newly created pupil deity? This is not the case for two reasons. On the one hand, the divine being behind master and pupil forms a unity. One could even consider it characteristic of divine entities that they are simultaneously able to appear in various forms. On the other, it is not the pupil (sadhaka) who produces the deity; in contrast, he absolutely and completely loses his human individuality and transforms himself into “pure emptiness”, without having to surrender his perceivable body in the process. This empty body of the sadhaka is then in the course of the initiation occupied by the deity or the lama respectively. Chögyam Trungpa has expressed this in unmistakable terms: “If we surrender our body to the guru we are surrendering our primal reference point. Our body becomes the possession of the lineage; it is not ours any more. ... I mean that surrendering our body, psychologically our dear life is turned over to someone else. We do not have our dear life to hold any more” (June Campbell, 1996, p. 161). The pupil has completely ceased to exist as an individual soul and mind. Only his body, filled by a god or respectively by his guru, visibly wanders through the world of appearances.

The Kalachakra Tantra describes this process as an “act of swallowing” which the lama performs upon the initiand. In a central drama of the Time Tantra which is repeated several times, the oral destruction of the sadhaka is graphically demonstrated, even if the procedure does only take place in the imagination of the cult participants. The following scene is played out: the guru, as the Kalachakra deity, swallows the pupil once he has been melted down to the size of a droplet. As a drop the initiand then wanders through the body of his masters until he reaches the tip of his penis. From there the guru thrusts him out into the vagina and womb of Vishvamata, the wisdom consort of Kalachakra. Within Vishvamata’s body the pupil as drop is then dissolved into “nothingness”. The rebirth of the sadhaka as a Buddhist deity takes place only after this vaginal destruction. Since the androgyne vajra master simultaneously represents Kalachakra and Vishvamata within one individual and must be imagined by the adept as “father–mother” during the entire initiation process, he as man takes over all the sex-specific stages of the birth process — beginning with the ejaculation, then the conception, the pregnancy, up to the act of birth itself. [1]

In a certain sense, through the use of his pupil’s body the guru , or at least his superhuman consciousness, achieves immortality. So long the master is still alive he has, so to speak, created a double of himself in the form of the sadhaka; if he dies then his spirit continues to exist in the body of his pupil. He can thus reproduce himself in the world of samsara for as long as there are people who are prepared for his sake to sacrifice their individuality and to surrender him their bodies as a home.

Accordingly, Tantrism does not develop the good qualities of a person in order to ennoble or even deify them; rather, it resolutely and quite deliberately destroys all the “ personality elements” of the initiands in order to replace them with the consciousness of the initiating guru and of the deity assigned to him. This leads at the end of the initiatory path to a situation where the tantra master now lives on in the form of the pupil. The latter has de facto disappeared as an individual, even if his old physical body can still be apprehended. It has become a housing in which the spirit of his master dwells.

The lineage tree

The pupil serves as an empty vessel into which can flow not just the spirit of his master but also the lineage of all the former teachers which stretches back behind him, plus the deities they have all represented. It is all of these who now occupy the sadhaka’s body and through him are able to function in the real world.

In Lamaism, once anyone counts as part of the lineage of the High Initiates, they become part of a “mystic tree” whose leaves, branches, trunk, and roots consist of the numerous Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the Tibetan/tantric pantheon. At the tip or in the middle of the crown of the tree the Highest Enlightenment Being (the ADI BUDDHA) is enthroned, who goes by different names in the various schools. The divine energy flows from him through every part to deep in the roots. Evans-Wentz compares this down-flow to an electric current: “As electricity may be passed on from one receiving station to another, so ... is the divine Grace ... transmitted through the Buddha Dorje Chang (Vajradhara) to the Line of Celestial Gurus and thence to the Apostolic Gurus on earth, and from him, to each of the subordinate Gurus, and by them, through the mystic initiation, to each of the neophytes” (Evans-Wentz, 1978, p. 9, quoted by Bishop, 1993, p. 118).

All of the high initiates are separated by a deep divide from the masses of simple believers and the rest of the suffering beings, who either prostrate themselves before the dynastic line tree in total awe or are unable to even perceive it in their ignorance. Yet there is still a connection between the timeless universe of the gurus and “normal” people, since the roots of the mystic tree are anchored in the same world as that in which mortals live. The spiritual hierarchy draws its natural and spiritual resources from it, both material goods and religious devotion and loving energy. The critical Tibet researcher, Peter Bishop, has therefore, and with complete justification, drawn attention to the fact that the mystic line tree in Lamaism takes on the appearance of a bureaucratic, regulated monastic organization: “This idealized image of hierarchical order, where everything is evaluated, certified and allotted a specific place according to the grade of attainment, where control, monitoring and authorization is absolute, is the root-metaphor of Tibetan Buddhism” (Bishop, 1993, p. 118).

The first seven initiations

All together the Kalachakra Tantra talks of fifteen initiatory stages. The first seven are considered lower solemnities and are publicly performed by the Dalai Lama and open to the broad masses. The other eight are only intended for a tiny, select minority. The Tibetologist Alexander Wayman has drawn a comparison to the Eleusian mysteries of antiquity, the first part of which was also conducted in front of a large public, whilst only a few participated in the second, secret part in the temple at night (Wayman, 1983, 628).

The seven lower initiations ought to be succinctly described here. They areas follows: the (1) the water initiation;(2) the crown initiation; (3) the silk ribbon initiation; (4) the vajra and bell initiation; (5) the conduct initiation; (6) the name initiation; and (7) the permission initiation. All seven are compared to the developmental stages of a child from birth to adulthood. In particular they serve to purify the pupils.

Before beginning the initiatory path the neophyte swears a vow with which he makes a commitment to strive for Buddhahood incessantly, to regret and avoid all misdeeds, to lead other beings along the path to enlightenment, and to follow absolutely the directions of the Kalachakra master. But above all he must visualize his androgyne guru as the divine couple, Kalachakra in union with his consort Vishvamata. With blindfolded eyes he must imagine that he is wandering through a three-dimensional mandala (an imaginary palace) which is occupied by the four meditation Buddhas (Amitabha, Ratnasambhava, Amoghasiddhi, Vairochana) and their partners.

After his blindfold has been removed, he tosses a blossom onto a sacred image (mandala) spread out before him, which has been prepared from colored sand. The place where the flower comes to rest indicates the particular Buddha figure with which the pupil must identify during his initiation journey. In the following phase he receives two reeds of kusha grass, since the historical Buddha once experienced enlightenment as he meditated while seated on this type of grass. Further, the Lama gives him a toothpick for cleansing, as well as a red cord, which he must tie around the upper arm with three knots. Then he receives instructions for sleeping. Before he goes to bed he has to recite certain mantras as often as possible, and then to lay himself on his right side with his face in the direction of the sand mandala. Dreams are sent to him in the night which the guru analyzes another day. It is considered especially unfavorable if a crocodile swallows the pupil in his dream. The monster counts as a symbol for the world of illusions (samsara) and informs the sadhaka that he is still strongly trapped by this. But via meditation upon the emptiness of all appearances he can dissolve all unfavorable dream images again.

Further instructions and rites follow which likewise concern purification. At the end of the first seven stages the Vajra master then dissolves the pupil into “emptiness” in his imagination, in order to then visualize him as his own polar image, as Kalachakra in union with Vishvamata. We should never forget that the androgynous tantric teacher represents both time deities in one person. Since the pupil possesses absolutely no further individual existence right from the beginning of the initiation, the two time deities are doubled by this meditative imagining — they appear both in the tantra master and in the person of the sadhaka.

We can thus see that already in the first phase of the Kalachakra initiation, the alternation between dissolution and creation determines the initiatory drama. The teacher will in the course of the rituals destroy his pupil many times more in imagination, so as to replace him with a deity, or he will instruct the sadhaka to perform the individual act of destruction upon himself until nothing remains of his personality. In a figurative sense, we can describe this destruction and self-destruction of the individual as a continually performed “human sacrifice”, since the “human” must abandon his earthly existence in favor of that of a deity. This is in no sense a liberal interpretation of the tantra texts; rather it is literally demanded in them. The pupil has to offer himself up with spirit and mind, skin and hair to the guru and the gods at work through him. Incidentally, these, together with all of their divine attributes, are codified in a canon, they can no longer develop themselves and exert their influence on reality as frozen archetypal images.

In the light of the entire procedure we have described, it seems sensible to remind ourselves of the thesis posed above, that the “production” of the deity and the “destruction” of the person stand in an originally causal relation to one another, or — to put it even more clearly — that the gods and the guru who manipulates them feed themselves upon the life energies of the pupil.

The first two initiations, the water and crown initiations, are directed at the purification of the mystic body. The water initiation (1) corresponds to the bathing of a child shortly after its birth. The five elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether) become purified in the energy body of the sadhaka. Subsequently, the guru in the form of Kalachakra imagines that he swallows the initiand who has melted down to the size of a droplet, then thrusts him out through his penis into the womb of his partner Vishvamata, who finally gives birth to him as a deity. As already mentioned above, in this scenario of conception and birth we must not lose sight of the fact that the androgynous guru simultaneously represents in his person the time god and the time goddess. The complete performance is thus set in scene by him alone. At the close of the water initiation the master touches the initiand at the “five places” with a conch shell: the crown, the shoulder, the upper arm, the hip and the thigh. Here, the shell is probably a symbol for the element of water.

The crown initiation (2) which now follows corresponds to the child’s first haircut. Here the so-called “five aggregates” of the pupil are purified (form, feeling, perception, unconscious structures, consciousness). By “purification” we must understand firstly the dissolving of all individual personality structures and then their “re-creation” as the characteristics of a deity. The procedure is described thus in the tantra texts; however, to be exact it is not a matter of a “re-creation” but of the replacement of the pupil’s personality with the deity. At the end of the second initiation the vajra master touches the “five places” with a crown.

The third and fourth initiations are directed at the purification of speech. In the silk ribbon initiation (3), the androgynous guru once more swallows the pupil and — in the form of Vishvamata — gives birth to him as a god. Here the energy channels, which from a tantric way of looking at things constitute the “mystic framework” of the subtle body, are purified, that is dissolved and created anew. In the development of the human child this third initiation corresponds to the piercing of the ears, so that a golden ring can be worn as an adornment.

The vajra and bell initiation (4) follows, which is compared to the speaking of a child’s first words. Now the guru cleanses the three “main energy channels” in the pupil’s body. They are found alongside the spine and together build the subtle backbone of the adept, so to speak. The right channel becomes the masculine vajra, the left the feminine bell (gantha). In the middle, “androgynous” channel both energies, masculine and feminine, meet together and generate the so-called “mystic heat”, which embodies the chief event in the highest initiations, to be described in detail later. The pupil now asks the Kalachakra deity, represented through the guru, to give him the vajra and the bell, that is, to hand over to him the emblems of androgyny.

Yet again, an act of swallowing takes place in the fifth initiation. The conduct initiation (5) corresponds to a child’s enjoyment of the objects of the senses. Accordingly, the six senses (sight, hearing, smell, etc.) and their objects (image, sound, scent, etc.) are destroyed in meditation and re-created afterwards as divine characteristics. The vajra master ritually touches the pupil’s “five places” with a thumb ring.

In the name initiation (6) which follows, the ordained receive a secret religious name, which is usually identical with that of the deity assigned to them during the preparatory rites. The guru prophecies that the pupil will appear as a Buddha in the future. Here the six abilities to act (mouth, arms, legs, sexual organs, urinary organs, and anus) and the six actions (speech, grasping, walking, copulation, urination, and defecation) are purified, dissolved and re-created. As seems obvious, the texts compare the naming of a child with the sixth initiation. The fifth and sixth initiations together purify the spirit.

The permission initiation (7) remains — which corresponds on the human level to the child’s first lesson in reading. Five symbols (the vajra, jewel, sword, lotus, and wheel) which act as metaphors for various states of awareness in deep meditation are purified, dissolved and replaced. The androgynous guru swallows the pupil once more and as Kalachakra in union with his consort gives birth to him anew. He then hands him the vajra and the bell, as well as the five symbolic objects just mentioned, one after another. A river of mantras pours from the lama’ mouth, flows over into the mouth of the pupil, and collects in his heart center. With a golden spoon the master gives him an “eye medicine”, with which he can cast aside the veil of ignorance. He then receives a mirror as an admonition that the phenomenal world is illusory and empty like a reflection in a mirror. A bow and arrow, which are additionally handed to him, are supposed to urge him on to extreme concentration.

The ritual lays especial weight on the handing over of the diamond scepter (vajra). The guru says “that the secret nature of the vajra is the exalted wisdom of great bliss. Holding the vajra will recall the true nature of the ultimate vajra, or what is called ‘method’” (Bryant, 1992, p. 165). Through this closing remark the tantra master forcefully evokes the masculine primacy in the ritual. In that the pupil crosses his arms with the vajra in his right hand and the feminine bell in his left (the Vajrahumkara gesture), he demonstrates his androgyny and his tantric ability to control the feminine wisdom energies (prajna) with “method” (upaya).

With this demonstration of dominance the seven lower initiations are ended. The adept can now describe himself as a “lord of the seventh level”. With immediate effect he gains the right to disseminate the teaching of Buddha, albeit only within the limits of the lower initiations described. The vajra master thus calls out to him, “Turn the vajra wheel (teach the Dharma) in or to help all sentient beings” (Bryant, 1992, p. 164).

In the truest sense of the word the first seven solemnities are just the “foreplay” of the Kalachakra initiation. Then only in the higher initiations which follow does it come to sexual union with a real partner. The wisdom consorts of the seven lower levels are of a purely imaginary nature and no karma mudra is needed for their performance. Therefore they can also be given in public, even in front of great crowds.

The divine time machine

So far, the vajra master and his pupil appear as the sole protagonists on the initiatory stage of the Time Tantra. Predominant in all seven initiation scenes is the uninterrupted consolidation of the position of the master, primarily depicted in the act of swallowing and rebirth of the initiand, that is, in his destruction as a human and his “re-creation” as a god. We can therefore describe the “death of the pupil” and his “birth as a deity” as the key scene of the tantric drama, constantly repeated on all seven lower initiation levels. The individual personality of the sadhaka is destroyed but his visible body is retained. The guru uses it as a living vessel into which he lets his divine substances flow so as to multiply himself. The same gods now live in the pupil and the master.

But is there no difference between the guru and the sadhaka any more after the initiation? This is indeed the case when both are at the same level of initiation. But if the master has been initiated into a higher stage, then he completely encompasses the lower stage at which the pupil still finds himself. For example, if the initiand has successfully completed all seven lower solemnities of the Kalachakra Tantra yet the Kalachakra master is acting from the eighth initiation stage, then the pupil has become a part of the initiating guru, but the guru is in no sense a part of the pupil, since his of spiritual power skills are far higher and more comprehensive.

The initiation stages and the individuals assigned to them thus stand in a classic hierarchical relation to one another. The higher always integrate the lower, the lower must always obey the higher, those further down are no more than the extended arm of those above. Should, for example — as we suspect — the Dalai Lama alone have attained the highest initiation stage of the Kalachakra Tantra, then all the other Buddhists initiated into the Time Tantra would not simply be his subordinates in a bureaucratic sense, but rather outright parts of his self. In his system he would be the arch-god (the ADI BUDDHA), who integrated the other gods (or Buddhas) within himself, then since all individual and human elements of the initiand are destroyed, there are only divine beings living in the body of the pupil. But these too stand in a ranked relationship to one another, as there are lower, higher and supreme deities. We thus need — to formulate things somewhat provocatively — to examine whether the Kalachakra Tantra portrays a huge divine time machine with the Dalai Lama as the prime mover and his followers as the various wheels.

The four higher “secret” initiations

The seven lower initiations are supposed to first “purify” the pupil and then transform him into a deity. For this reason they are referred to as the “stage of production”. The following “four higher initiations” are considered to be the “stage of perfection”. They are known as: (8) the vase initiation; (9) the secret initiation; (10) the wisdom initiation; and (11) the word initiation. They may only be received under conditions of absolute secrecy by a small number of chosen.

In all of the higher initiations the presence of a young woman of ten, twelve, sixteen, or twenty years of age. Without a living karma mudra enlightenment cannot, at least according to the original text, be attained in this lifetime. The union with her thus counts as the key event in the external action of the rituals. Thus, as the fourth book of the Kalachakra Tantra says with emphasis, “neither meditation nor the recitation of mantras, nor the preparation, nor the great mandalas and thrones, nor the initiation into the sand mandala, nor the summonsing of the Buddhas confers the super natural powers, but alone the mudra” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra IV, p. 226).

Further, in the higher initiations the adept is obliged to ritually consume the five types of meat (human flesh, elephant meat, horseflesh, dog, and beef) and drink the five nectars (blood, semen, menses ...).

In texts which are addressed to a broad public the vase initiation (8) is euphemistically described as follows. The vajra master holds a vase up before the sadhaka’s eyes. The adept visualizes a sacrificial goddess who carries the vase. The vessel is filled with a white fluid (Henss, 1985, p. 51). In reality, however, the following initiation scene is played out: firstly the pupil brings the lama a “beautiful girl, without blemish”, twelve years of age. He then supplicates to receive initiation and sings a hymn of praise to his guru. “Satisfied, the master then touches the breast of the mudra in a worldly manner” (Naropa, 1994, p. 190). This all takes place before the pupil’s watchful gaze, so as to stimulate the latter’s sexual desire.

According to another passage in the texts — but likewise in reference to the Kalachakra Tantra — the vajra master shows the undressed girl to the sadhaka and requires him to now stroke the breasts of the karma mudra himself (Naropa, 1994, p. 188). “There is not actually any vase or any pot that is used for this empowerment”, we are informed by Ngawang Dhargyey, a modern commentator on the Time Tantra. “What is referred to as ‘the pot’ are the breasts of the girl, which are called the ‘vase that holds the white’” (Dhargyey, 1985, p. 8). We have already drawn attention to the fact that this white substance is probably the same magic secretion from the female breast which the European alchemists of the seventeenth century enthusiastically described as “virgin’s milk” and whose consumption promised great magical powers for the adept.

The sight of the naked girl and the stroking of her breasts causes the “descent” of the semen virile (male seed) in the pupil. In the tantric view of things this originally finds itself at a point below the roof of the skull and begins to flow down through the body into the penis when a man becomes sexually aroused. Under no circumstances may it come to the point of ejaculation here! If the pupil successfully masters his lust, he attains the eighth initiation stage, which is known as the “immobile” on the basis of the fixation of the semen in the phallus.

Let us now continue with the euphemistic depiction of the next secret initiation (9): The pupil is blindfolded. The master unites the masculine and feminine forces within himself and subsequently lets the adept taste the “mystic nectar”, which is offered to him in the form of tea and yogurt so that he may experience great bliss (Henss, 1985, p. 52). In reality something different is played out on this level: firstly the adept hands valuable clothes and other sacrificial offerings over to the master. Then he presents him with a young and gracile girl. The lama demands that the sadhaka leave the room or blindfold himself. Tantric dishes are served, the master venerates and praises the mudra with songs of adulation, elevates her to the status of a goddess and then couples with her “until her sexual fluids flow” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 121). He then, exceptionally, allows his semen to flow into her vagina.

The mixture of “red-white fluid” thus created, that is, of the male and female seed, is scooped out of the sexual organs of the wisdom consort with a finger or a small ivory spoon and collected in a vessel. The master then summons the pupil, or instructs him to remove his blindfold. He now takes some of the “holy substance” with his finger once more and moistens the tongue of the adept with it whilst speaking the words, “This is your sacrament, dear one, as taught by all Buddhas ... “ — and the pupil answers blissfully, “Today my birth has become fruitful. Today my life is fruitful. Today I have been born into the Buddha-Family. Now I am a son of the Buddhas” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 272). Concretely, this means that he has, through the consumption of the female and the male seed, attained the status of an androgyne.

But there are also other versions of the second initiation. When we read that, “The pupil visualizes the secret vajra of the vajra masters in his own mouth and tastes the white bodhicitta of the guru lama. This white bodhicitta sinks to his own heart chakra and in so doing generates bliss ...The name ‘secret initiation’ is thus also a result of the fact that one partakes of the secret substance of the vajra master” (Henss, 1985, p. 53; Dhargyey, 1985, p. 8), then this in truth means that the guru lays his sperm-filled penis in the mouth of the adept and the latter tastes the semen, since the “white bodhicitta” and the “secret substance” are nothing other than the semen virile of the initiating teacher.

In the wisdom initiation (10) which follows, the pupil is confronted with an even more sexually provocative scene: “... he is told to look at the spreading vagina of a knowledge lady. Fierce passion arises in him, which in turn induces great bliss” (Dalai Lama I, 1985, p.155). The tantra master then “gives” the sadhaka the girl with the words, “O great Being, take this consort who will give you bliss” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 186). Both are instructed to engage in sexual union (Naropa, 1994, pp. 188, 190). During the ritual performance of the yuganaddha (fusion) the adept may under no circumstances let go of his semen.

The Kalachakra Tantra does not give away all of the secrets which are played out during this scene. It therefore makes sense to fall back upon other tantra texts in order to gain more precise information about the proceedings during the tenth initiation stage. For example, in the Candamaharosana Tantra, once the master has left the room, the mudra now provokes the pupil with culinary obscenities: “Can you bear, my dear,” she cries out, “to eat my filth, and faeces and urine; and suck the blood from inside my bhaga [vagina]?” Then the candidate must say: “Why should I not bear to eat your filth, O Mother? I must practice devotion to women until I realize the essence of Enlightenment” (George, 1974, p. 55).

The final “word initiation” (11) is in a real sense no longer an initiation by the guru, as its name indicates it only exists in a literal form. It is thus also not revealed in any external scenario, but instead takes place exclusively within the inner subtle body of the former pupil, since the latter has already made the switch to a perfected consciousness and been transformed into a deity. A commentary upon the eleventh higher initiation thus belongs in the next chapter, which concerns the microcosmic processes in the energy body of the practitioner.

Sperm and menstrual blood as magic substances

But before we continue with a discussion of the four highest initiations, we would like to make a number of reflections on the topic of sperm gnosis, which so decisively shapes not just the Kalachakra but rather all tantras. The same name, bodhicitta, is borne by both the male seed and the supreme mystic experience, that of the “clear light”. This already makes apparent how closely interlaced the semen virile and enlightenment are. The bodhicitta ("wisdom-mind”) is characterized by the feeling of “supreme bliss” and “absolute self-awareness”. A connection between both states of consciousness and the male sperm seems to be a necessity for the tantric, since, as we may read in the Hevajra Tantra, “without semen there would be no bliss and without bliss semen would not exist. Since semen and bliss are ineffective on their own they are mutually dependent and bliss arises from the union with the deity” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 169).

In the tantras, the moon and water are idiosyncratically assigned to the male seed, which is idiosyncratic because both metaphors are of largely feminine character in terms of cultural history. We will need to look into this anomaly in Tantric Buddhism later. But a solar assignation of sperm is likewise known (Bharati, 1977, p. 237). The exceptional meaning which is accorded to the semen virile in Vajrayana has given rise to the conception among the Tibetan populace that, rather than blood, male seed flows in the veins of a high lama (Stevens, 1993, p. 90).

The retention of sperm

For a Buddhist Tantric the retention of the male seed is the sine qua non of the highest spiritual enlightenment. This stands in stark opposition to the position of Galen (129–199 C.E.), the highest medical authority of the European Middle Ages. Galen was of the opinion that the retentio semenis would lead to a putrefaction of the secretion, and that the rotten substance would rise to the head and disturb the functioning of the brain.

In contrast, the tantras teach that the semen is originally stored in a moonlike bowl beneath the roof of the skull. As soon as a person begins to experience sexual desire, it starts to flow out, drop by drop, passing through the five energy centers (chakras). In each of these the yogi experiences a specific “seminal” ecstasy (Naropa, 1994, p. 191). The destination of the sperm’s journey within the body is the tip of the penis. Here, through extreme meditative concentration, the adept collects the lust: “The vajra [penis] is inserted into the lotus [vagina], but not moved. When lust of a transient art arises, the mantra hum should be spoken. ... The decisive [factor] is thus the retention of the sperm. Through this, the act obtains a cosmological dimension. ... It becomes the means of attaining enlightenment (bodhi)” (Grönbold, Asiatische Studien, p. 34). “Delight resides in the tip of the vajra [penis]", as is said in a Kalachakra text (Grönbold, 1992a).

With the topic of sperm retention an appeal is made to ancient Indian sexual practices which date from pre-Buddhist times. In the national epic poem of the Indians, the Mahabharata, we can already read of ascetics “who keep the semen up” (Grönbold, Asiatische Studien, p. 35). In early Buddhism a holy man (Arhat) is distinguished by the fact that his discharges have been conquered and in future no longer occur. From Vajrayana comes the striking saying that “A yogi whose member is always hard is one who always retains his semen” (Grönbold, Asiatische Studien, p. 34). In contrast, in India the flowing of the male seed into “the fiery maw of the female sexual organ” is still today regarded as a sacrificium and therefore feared as an element of death (White, 1996, p. 28).

The in part adventurous techniques of semen retention must be learnt and improved by the adept through constant, mostly painful, practice. They are either the result of mental discipline or physical nature, such as through pressure on the perineum at the point of orgasm, through which the spermatic duct is blocked, or one stops the seminal flow through his breathing. If it nonetheless comes to ejaculation, then the lost sperm should be removed from the mudra’s vagina with the finger or tongue and subsequently drunk by the practitioner.

Yet that which is forbidden under penalty of dreadful punishments in hell for the pupil, this is not by a long shot the case for his guru. Hence, Pundarika, the first commentator upon the Kalachakra Tantra, distinguishes between one “ejaculation, which arises out of karma and serves to perpetuate the chain of rebirth, and another, which is subject to mental control ...” (Naropa, 1994, p. 20). An enlightened one can thus ejaculate as much as he wishes, under the condition that he not lose his awareness in so doing. It now becomes apparent why the vajra master in the second higher initiation (9) of the Time Tantra is able to without harm let his sperm flow into the vagina of the mudra so as to be able to offer the mixture (sukra) which runs out to the pupil as holy food.

The female seed

As the female correspondence to male sperm the texts nominate the seed of the woman (semen feminile). Among Tantrics it is highly contested whether this is a matter of the menstrual blood or fluids which the mudra secretes during the sexual act. In any case, the sexual fluids of the man are always associated with the color white, and those of the woman with red. Fundamentally, the female discharge is assigned an equally powerful magic effect as that of its male counterpart. Even the gods thirst after it and revere the menses as the nectar of “immortality” (Benard, 1994, p. 103). In the old Indian matriarchies, and still today in certain Kali cults, the menstruating goddess is considered as one of highest forms of appearance of the feminine principle (Bhattacharyya, 1982, pp. 133, 134). It was in the earliest times a widespread opinion, taken up again in recent years by radical feminists, that the entire natural and supernatural knowledge of the goddess was concentrated in the menstrual blood.

Menstruating Dakini

Outside of the gynocentric and tantric cults however, a negative valuation of menstrual blood predominates, which we know from nearly all patriarchal religions: a menstruating woman is unclean and extremely dangerous. The magic radiation of the blood brings no blessings, rather it has devastating effects upon the sphere of the holy. For this reason, women who are bleeding may never enter the grounds of a temple. This idea is also widely distributed in Hinayana Buddhism. Menstrual blood is seen there as a curse which has its origins in a female original sin: “Because they are born as women,” it says in a text of the “low vehicle”, “their endeavors toward Buddhahood are little developed, while their lasciviousness and bad characteristics preponderate. These sins, which strengthen one another, assume the form of menstrual blood which is discharged every month in two streams, in that it soils not just the god of the earth but also all the other deities too” (Faure, 1994, p. 182). But the Tantrics are completely different! For them the fluids of the woman bear Lucullan names like “wine”, “honey”, “nectar”, and a secret is hidden within them which can lead the yogi to enlightenment (Shaw, 1994, p. 157)

According to the tantric logic of inversion, that precisely the worst is the most appropriate starting substance for the best, the yogi need not fear the magical destructive force of the menses, as he can reverse it into its creative opposite through the proper method. The embracing of a “bleeding” lover is therefore a great ritual privilege. In his book on Indian ecstatic cults, Philip Rawson indicates that “the most powerful sexual rite ... requires intercourse with the female partner when she is menstruating and her ‘red’ sexual energy is at its peak” (Rawson, 1973, p. 24; see also Chöpel, 1992, p. 191).

Astonishingly, the various types of menses which can be used for divergent magical purposes have been cataloged. The texts distinguish between the menstrual blood of a virgin, a lower-class woman, a married woman, a widow, and so on. (Bhattacharyya, 1982, p. 136) The time at which the monthly bleeding takes place also has ritual significance. In Tibet yiddams (meditation images) exist which illustrate dakinis from whose vaginas the blood is flowing in streams (Essen, 1989, vol. 1, p. 179).

In keeping with the Tantric’s preference for every possible taboo substance, it is no wonder that he drinks the menses. The following vision was in fact perceived by a woman, the yogini Yeshe Tsogyal, it could however have been just as easily experienced by pretty much any lama: “A red lady, perfectly naked and wearing not even a necklace of bones, appeared before me. She placed her vagina at my mouth and blood flowed out of it which I drank with deep draughts. It now appeared to me that all realms were filled with bliss! The strength, only comparable to that of a lion, returned to me!” (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 281).

As has already been mentioned, the monthly flow is not always recognized as the substance yearned for by the yogi. Some authors here also think of other fluids which the woman releases during the sexual act or through stimulation of the clitoris. “When passion is produced, the feminine fluid boils”, Gedün Chöpel, who has explored this topic intensively, tells us (Chöpel, 1992, p. 59). From him we also learn that the women guard the secret of the magic power of their discharges: “However, most learned persons nowadays and also women who have studied many books say that the female has no regenerative [?] fluid. Because I like conversation about the lower parts, I asked many women friends, but aside from shaking a fist at me with shame and laughter, I could not find even one who would give me a honest answer” (Chöpel, 1992, p. 61).

The sukra

In the traditional Buddhist conception an embryo arises from the admixture of the male seed and the female seed. This red-white mixture is referred to by the texts as sukra Since the fluids of man and woman produces new life, the following analogic syllogism appears as obvious as it is simple: if the yogi succeeds in permanently uniting within himself both elixirs (the semen virile and the semen feminile), then eternal life lies in store for him. He becomes a “born of himself”, having overcome the curse of rebirth and replaced it with the esoteric vision of immortality. With the red-white mixture he attains the “medicine of long life”, a “perfected body” (Hermanns, 1965, pp. 194, 195). Sukra is the “life juice” par excellence, the liquid essence of the entire world of appearances. It is equated with amrta, the “drink of immortality” or the “divine nectar”.

Even if many tantric texts speak only of bodhicitta, the male seed, at heart it is a matter of the absorption of both fluids, the male and the female, in short — of sukra. Admittedly the mixing of the sexual fluids does seem incompatible with the prohibition against ejaculation, but through the so-called Vajroli method the damaging consequences of the emission of semen can be reversed, indeed this is considered a veritable touchstone of the highest yogic skill. Here, the tantra master lets his bodhicitta flow into his partner‘s vagina in order to subsequently draw back into himself through his urethra the male-female mixture which has arisen there. “After he has streamed forth,” Mircea Eliade quotes a text as saying, “he draws in and says: through my force, through my seed I take your seed — and she is without seed” (Eliade, 1985, p. 264). The man thus steals the seed of the woman under the impression that he can through this become a powerful androgynous being, and leaves her without her own life energy.

Some of the “initiated” even succeed in drawing up the semen feminile without ejaculating any sperm so as to then produce the yearned-for sukra mixture in their own body. The mastery of this method requires painful and lengthy exercises, such as the introduction of small rods of lead and “short lengths of solder” into the urethra (Eliade, 1985, p. 242). Here can be seen very clearly how much of a calculating and technical meaning the term upaya (method) has in the tantras. Yet this does not hinder the Tantric Babhaha from celebrating this thieving process in a poetic stanza:

In the sacred citadel of the vulva of a superlative, skillful partner, do the praxis of mixing white seed with her ocean of red seed. Then absorb, raise, and spread the nectar— A stream of ecstasy such as you’ve never known. (quoted by Shaw, 1994, p. 158).


Now what happens if the yogi has not mastered the method of drawing back? Fundamentally, the following applies: “Through the loss of the bindu [semen] comes death, through its retention, life” (Eliade, 1985, p. 257). In a somewhat more tolerant view, however, the adept may catch the sukra from out of the vagina in a vessel and then drink it (Shaw, 1994, p. 157). It is not rare for the drinking bowl to be made from a human skull. The Candamaharosana Tantra recommends sucking the mixture up with a tube (pipe) through the nose (George, 1974, p. 75). If one sips the sukra out of his mudra’s genitals with his mouth, then the process is described as being “from mouth to mouth” (White, 1996, p. 200). Without exaggeration one can refer to this drinking of the “white-red bodhicitta” as the great tantric Eucharist, in which semen and blood are sacredly consumed in place of bread and wine. Through this oriental “Last Supper” the power and the strength of the women are passed over to the man.

Already, centuries before Tantrism ,the nightly ejaculations of the Buddhist Arhats (holy men) were a topic of great debate. In Tantrism, a man who let his sperm flow was referred to as a pashu, an “animal”, whereas anyone who could retain it in the sexual act was a vira, a “hero”, and accorded the attribute divya, “divine” (Bharati, 1977, p. 1977 148).

We have already reported how ejaculation is equated simply with death. This too we already learn from the pre-Buddhist Upanishads. In fact, Indian culture is, in the estimation of one of its best interpreters, Doniger O’Flaherty, characterized by a deadly fear of the loss of semen far beyond the limits of the tantric milieu: “The fear of losing body fluids leads not only to retention, but to attempts to steal the partner's fluid (and the fear that the partner will try the same trick) — yet another form of competition. If the woman is too powerful or too old or too young, terrible things will happen to the innocent man who falls into her trap, a fact often depicted in terms of his losing his fluids” (O'Flaherty, 1982/1988, p. 56). Agehananda Bharati also shares this evaluation, when he writes in his book on the tantric traditions that, “the loss of semen is an old, all-pervasive fear in Indian tradition and probably the core of the strongest anxiety syndrome in Indian culture” (Bharati, 1977, p. 237).

The drawing up of sperm by a woman is viewed by a tantric yogi as a mortally dangerous theft and a fundamental crime. Is this purely a matter of male fantasies? Not at all — a gynocentric correspondence to the thieving seed-absorption is, namely, known from the Kali cults to be a ritual event. Here, the woman assumes the upper position the sex act and in certain rites leaves the man whose life energies she has drained behind as a corpse. According to statements by the Tibet researcher, Matthias Hermanns¸ there were yoginis (female yogis) who received instruction in a technique “through which they were able to forcibly draw their partners’ semen from out of the penis”, and the author concludes from this that, “It is thus the counterpart of the procedure which the yogi employs to soak up the genital juices of several women one after another through his member” (Hermanns, 1965, p. 19). The theft of the male sperm in waking and in dream likewise counts as one of the preferred entertainments of the dakinis.

Alchemy and semen gnosis

Before we continue with the initiation path in the Kalachakra Tantra, we would like to throw a brief glance over Indian alchemy and the sexual substances it employs, because this half-occult science by and large coincides with the tantric seed gnosis. The Sanskrit term for alchemy is Rasa-vada. Rasa means ‘liquid’ or ‘quicksilver’. Quicksilver was considered the most important chemical substance which was made use of in the “mystic” experiments, both in Europe and in Asia. The liquid metal was employed in the transformation of materials both in the east and the west, in particular with the intention of producing gold. In the Occident it bore the name of the Roman god, Mercury. The Kalachakra Tantra also mentions quicksilver at several points. The frequency with which it is mentioned is a result of its being symbolically equated with the male seed (bodhicitta); it was, in a manner of speaking, the natural-substance form of the semen virile.

It is a characteristic of quicksilver that it can “swallow” other substances, that is, chemically bind with them. This quality allowed the liquid metal to become a powerful symbol for the tantric yogi, who as an androgyne succeeds in absorbing — i.e., “swallowing” — the gynergy of his wisdom consort.

The corresponding feminine counterpart to mercury is sulfur, known in India as Rasa-vada, and regarded as a chemical concentrate of menstrual blood. Its magic efficacy is especially high when a woman has been fed sulfur twenty-one days before her menses. Both substances together, mercury and sulfur, create cinnabar, which, logically, is equated with sukra, the secret mixture of the male and female seed. In the Indian alchemic texts it is recommended that one drink a mixture of quicksilver and sulfur with semen and menstrual blood for a year in order to attain exceptional powers (White, 1996, p. 199).

Just how fundamental the “female seed” was for the opus of the Indian alchemists can be deduced from the following story. The yogi and adept Nagarjuna, highly revered by the Tibetans and a namesake of the famous founder of Mahayana Buddhism with whom he is often put on the same level, experimented for years in order to discover the elixir of life. Albert Grünwedel has therefore christened him the “Faust of Buddhism”. One day, fed up with his lack of success, he threw his book of formulas into the river. It was fished out by a bathing prostitute and returned to the master. He saw this as a higher sign and began anew with his experimentation with the assistance of the hetaera. But once more nothing succeeded, until one evening his assistant spilt a liquid into the mixture. Suddenly, within seconds, the elixir of life had been created, which Nagarjuna had labored fourteen years in vain to discover.

Anyone who knows the tantras would be aware that the prostitute was a dakini and that the wonderful liquid was either the female seed or menstrual blood. Nagarjuna could thus only attain his goal once he included a mudra in his alchemical experiments. For this reason, among the Alchemists of India a “female laboratory assistant” was always necessary to complete the “great work” (White, 1996, p. 6).

There are also European manuals of the “great art” which require that one work with the “menstrual blood of a whore”. In one relevant text can be read: “Eve keeps the female seed” (Jung, 1968, p. 320). Even the retention of sperm and its transmutation into something higher is known in the west. Hence the seventeenth-century doctor from Brussels, Johannes Baptista Helmont, states that, “If semen is not emitted, it is changed into a spiritual force that preserves its capacities to reproduce sperm and invigorates breath emitted in speech” (Couliano, 1987, p. 102). Giordano Bruno, the heretic among the Renaissance philosophers, wrote a comprehensive essay on the manipulation of erotic love through the retention of semen and for the purposes of attaining power.

“Ganachakra” and the four “highest” initiations

The initiation path of the Kalachakra Tantra, to which we now return following this detour into the world of seed gnosis, now leads us on to the four highest initiations, or rather to the twelfth to fifteenth initiation stages. The reader will soon see that we are dealing with an extended copy of the four “higher initiations” (8–11). They thus also bear the same names: (12) the vase initiation; (13) the secret initiation; (14) the wisdom initiation; and (15) the word initiation. The difference primarily consists in the fact that rather than just one mudra, ten wisdom consorts now participate in the ritual. All ten must be offered to the master by the pupil (Naropa, 1994, p. 193). There are different rules for monks and laity in this regard. It is required of a layman that the mudras be members of his own family — his mother, his sister, his daughter, his sister-in-law, and so on (Naropa, 1994, p. 192). This makes it de facto impossible for him to receive the Kalachakra solemnity. Although the same commandment applies to a monk, it is interpreted symbolically in his case. Hence, he has to deliver to his guru numerous girls from the lower castes, who then adopt the names and roles of the various female relatives during the ritual. Among other things the elements are assigned to them: the “mother” is earth, the “sister” water, the “daughter” fire, the “sister’s daughter” is the wind, and so on (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 125).

After the pupil has handed the women over to his master, he is given back one of them as a symbolic “spouse” for the impending rites (Naropa, 1994, p. 193). There are thus ten women present on the tantric ritual stage — one as the “wife” of the sadhaka and nine as substitutes for the rest of his female relatives. The master now chooses one of these for himself. The chosen wisdom consort bears the name of Shabdavajra. It is prescribed that she be between twelve and twenty years old and have already menstruated. First the guru fondles the jewelry of the young women, then he undresses her and finally embraces her. The tantric couple are surrounded by the remaining eight women along with the pupil and his “spouse” in a circle. All the yoginis have a particular cosmic meaning and are assigned to among other things the points of the compass. Each of them is naked and has let down her hair so as to evoke the wild appearance of a dakini. In their hands the women hold a human skull filled with various repulsive substances and a cleaver (Naropa, 1994, p. 193/194).

The guru now moves to the center of the circle (chakra) and performs a magic dance. Subsequently he unites with Shabdavajra in the divine yoga, by inserting “the jewel of his vajra” (his phallus) into her (Naropa, 1994, p. 194). After he has withdrawn his member again, in the words of Naropa, the following happens: “'He places his vajra [phallus], which is filled with semen in the mouth [of the pupil]'. After that the master gives him his own mudra, whom he has already embraced” (Naropa, 1994, p. 1994,195). On the basis of the texts before us we have been unable to determine whether or not the pupil now couples with the girl. This part of the ritual is referred to as the vase initiation and forms the twelfth initiation level.

In the secret initiation (13) which now follows, “the master must lay his own vajra [phallus] in the mouth of the pupil’s wife and, whilst the pupil is blindfolded, he [the guru]must suck upon the Naranasika of the wisdom consort” (Naropa, 1994, p. 195). Translated from Sanskrit, naranasika means ‘clitoris’. “Then,” Naropa continues, “the master must give his own mudra to the pupil with the idea that she is his wife” (Naropa, 1994, p. 195). This passage remains a little unclear, since he has already given a mudra to the pupil as “wife” during the preceding vase initiation (12).

During the following wisdom initiation (14), the sadhaka, surrounded by the remaining women, unites firstly with the mudra which the guru has let him have. But it does not remain just the one. “Since it is a matter of ten mudras, the master must offer the pupil as many of them as he is able to sexually possess, and that in two periods of 24 minutes each, beginning from midnight until the sun rises”, Naropa reports (Naropa, 1994, p. 195). He thus has tenfold sexual intercourse in the presence of the master and the remaining women.

In contrast to his guru, the sadhaka may under no circumstances express his semen during the ritual; rather he must only bring his drops of bodhicitta to the tip of his penis and then draw up the semen feminile of one yogini after another (Naropa, 1994, p. 196). Should he not succeed, he is condemned to hell. There is, however, still a chance for him to escape divine judgment: “If, due to a weakness of the spirit, the bodhicitta [semen] is spilled in the vulva, then it is advisable to collect with the tongue that of it which remains outside of the lotus [vagina]" (Naropa, 1994, p. 196).

The fourth, word initiation (15) designates the “supreme state of perfection”. In the three prior initiations the sadhaka has drawn off the gynergy of his partners and reached a state of bliss. He has now become a vajra master himself. This is the result of the inner energy processes in his mystic body, which he has completed during the ritual and which we describe in the next chapter.

What happens now, at the end of this “disciplined” orgy, to the women who participated in the “witches’ Sabbath”? The sources are scant. But we nonetheless have access to a translation from the third chapter of the Kalachakra Tantra by Albert Grünwedel. This is to be treated with great caution, but taking into account the concreteness of the images the translator can not have made many errors here. Grünwedel tells us that, “At the end of the solemnity a breast-jacket, beneficial to her tender body, is to be given to the blessed earthly formed [i.e., the karma mudras mentioned above]. Holy yoginis are to be given another breast-jacket with a skirt” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 201). And in the following section the tantra recommends giving the girls scented flowers, fruit, and a scarf as mementos of the unique rendezvous (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 202).

The four-stage ritual just described is known as Ganachakra. It is the deepest secret of the Kalachakra Tantras, but is also known in the other Highest Tantras. Now, at which secret locations are such Ganachakras carried out? The famous (fourteenth-century) Tibetan historian, Buston, suggests using “one’s own house, a hidden, deserted or also agreeable location, a mountain, a cave, a thicket, the shores of a large lake, a cemetery, a temple of the mother goddess” (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 376). Not recommendable are, in contrast, the home of a Brahman or noble, a royal palace or a monastery garden. The Hevajra Tantra is more degenerate and less compromising regarding the choice of location for the Ganachakra ritual: “These feasts must be held in cemeteries, in mountain groves or deserted places which are frequented by non-human beings. It must have nine seats which are made of parts of corpses, tiger skins or rags which come from a cemetery. In the middle can be found the master, who represents the god Hevajra, and round about the yoginis ... are posted” (Naropa, 1994, p. 46). With the guru in the center these form a magic circle, a living mandala.

The number of participating yoginis differs from tantra to tantra. It ranges from eight to sixty-four. Numbers like the latter appear unrealistic. Yet one must bear in mind that in the past Ganachakras were also carried out by powerful oriental rulers, who would hardly have had difficulties organizing this considerably quantity of women together in one place. It is, however, highly unlikely that these tantra masters copulated with all 64 yoginis in one night.

Various ritual objects are handed to the women during the ritual of which the majority, if not all, are of an aggressive nature: cleavers, swords, bone trumpets, skulls, skewers. As a cult meal the above-mentioned holy nectars are served: excrement, human flesh, and the meat of various taboo animals. To drink there is menstrual blood, urine, semen, and so forth. The third chapter of the Kalachakra Tantra recommends “slime, snot, tears, fat, saliva, filth, feces, urine, marrow, excrement, liver, gall, blood, skin, flesh, sperm, entrails” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 155).

The sacrificial flesh of the “sevenfold born” which we mention above is, when available, also offered as a sacred food at a Ganachakra. In the story which frames a tantric tale, the Vajradakinigiti, several dakinis kill a sevenfold-born king’s son in order to make a sacrificial meal of his flesh and blood. Likewise, two scenes from the life of the Kalachakra master Tilopa are known in which the consumption of a “sevenfold born” at a dakini feast is mentioned (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, pp. 393-394).

Albert Grünwedel believed that the female partners of the gurus were originally sacrificed at the Ganachakra and in fact were burned at the stake like European witches so as to then be resurrected as “dakinis”, as tantric demonesses. His hypothesis is difficult to confirm on the basis of the available historical evidence. Nonetheless, as far as the symbolic significance of the ritual is concerned, we can safely assume that we are here dealing with a sacrificial ceremony. For example, Buston (14th century), in connection with the highest Kalachakra initiations and thus also in relation to the Ganachakra, speaks of “secret victims” (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 386). The ten karma mudras present during the ritual go by the name of “sacrificial goddesses”. One event in the Ganachakra proceedings is known as “sacrifice of the assembly”, which can only have meant the sacrifice of the women present (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 386). A further interpreter of the tantras, Abhinavagupta, refers to the Ganachakra as the “sacrifice of the wheel” (chakra means ‘wheel’) or as the “highest sacrifice” (Naropa, 1994, p. 46).

Everything which we have said about the “tantric female sacrifice” is without doubt also true for the Ganachakra. There are documents which prove that such sacrifices were really carried out. In the eleventh century a group of the notorious “robber monks” became prominent, of whom the following can be read in the Blue Annals: “The doctrine of the eighteen [robber monks] consisted of a corrupt form of the tantric praxis, they kidnapped women and men and were in the habit of performing human sacrifices during the tantric feasts (ganacakra - puja)” (Blue Annals, 1995, p. 697). Such excesses were criticized already by the traditional Tibetan historians, albeit with a certain leniency. Thus the Fifth Dalai Lama, who himself wrote a history of Tibet, exonerated the guru of the eighteen robber monks, Prajnagupta by name, of all guilt, whilst he condemned his “pupils” as the guilty party (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 418, note 11).

Obviously, a Buddhist Ganachakra is always led by a man. Yet, like much in Tantrism, this ritual also seems to have had a matriarchal origin. The Indologist Marie-Thérèse de Mallmann describes in detail such a gynocentric “circle feast” from the sixth century. It was staged by a powerful oriental queen. In one document it is said of her that, “through her [the queen], the circle king was reduced to the role of a sacrifice which was performed in the circle (chakra) of the goddesses” (Mallmann, 1963, p. 172). It thus involved the carrying out of a king sacrifice, found in many ancient matriarchal cultures, in which the old king was replaced by a new one. The sacrificial victim here is at any rate a man. In the Ganachakra of Buddhist Tantrism precisely the opposite took place! The yoginis are sacrificed and the guru elevates himself to the triumphant king of the circle.

The gynocentric ritual was also known under the names of “wheel of the goddesses”, “wheel of the mother” or “wheel of the witches”. Its wide distribution in the fifth and sixth centuries, above all in Kashmir, supports our above hypothesis, that there was a powerful reawakening of old matriarchal cults in India during this period.

Contemporary feminism has also rediscovered the matriarchal origins of the Ganachakra. Adelheid Herrmann-Pfand is able to refer to several somewhat ambivalent Tibetan textual passages in which in her view Ganachakras were formerly directed by women (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, pp. 379, 479). She therefore reaches the conclusion that this ritual is a matter of a “patriarchal usurpation” of a matriarchal cult.

Miranda Shaw on the other hand, can almost be said to revel in the idea of “female witch circles” and takes every Ganachakra which is mentioned in the tantras to be a purely female feast. She reverses the proceedings outright: “Tantric literature”, the feminist writes, “records numerous instances wherein yogis gain admittance to an assembly of yoginis. Inclusion in a yogini feast is seen as a high honor for a male practitioner. In the classic scenario, a yogi unexpectedly finds himself in the presence of a convocation of yoginis, perhaps in the depths of a forest, a deserted temple, or a cremation ground. He seeks entry to their assembly circle and feasts with them, receives initiation from them, and obtains magical lore and tantric teachings” (Shaw, 1994, p. 82). Based upon what we have analyzed to date, Shaw’s interpretation cannot be dismissed out of hand. In Buddhist Tantrism women were indeed accorded all power, it is just that at the end of the game the gynergy and power of the woman have, through the accomplished use of method (upaya), landed in the hands of the male guru.

As always, in this case too the question emerges as to whether the Ganachakra is to be understood as real or “just” symbolically. Texts by Sapan (thirteenth century) and Buston (fourteenth century) leave no doubt about its really being conducted. Alexandra David Néel nevertheless concludes that the sacrificial feast in the described form have no longer been practiced in our century. Symbolic stagings, in which no real women participate and are replaced by substitutes such as vases, are a different matter. According to statements by modern lamas, such ersatz Ganachakras were widespread up until the Chinese occupation (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 416).

We would like to briefly discuss whether we are dealing with an orgy in the case of the Ganachakra. Archaic people understood an orgy to be indiscriminate sexual mixing within a group. It was precisely the chaotic, ecstatic, and uncontrolled behavior of the participants determined the course of events amid the general promiscuity. Through the orgy ordered time was suspended, there was no hierarchy among the participants. For a few hours the “profane” state of established social order seceded to the “holy” turbulence of chaos. Usually, this occurred so as to invoke the fertility of the earth. It was agricultural and horticultural societies who preferentially fostered the orgy as a high point of their sacred rites. In contrast , the Buddhist Ganachakra must be seen as a controlled performance from start to finish. Admittedly it does make us of elements of the orgy (group sexuality and the wild dances of the yoginis), but the tantra master always maintains complete control over events.

Thus, at the end of this presentation of the fifteen initiation stages of the Kalachakra Tantra we can establish that all the essential features which we described in the general section on Tantrism reemerge in this “highest” occult teaching of Tibetan Buddhism: the absorption of gynergy, the alchemic transmutation of sexual energy, indeed from sexual fluids into androcentric power, the creation of androgyny, the sacrifice of the mudra and the sadhaka, the destruction of people to the benefit of the gods, and so on. To this extent the Kalachakra in essence does not differ from the other tantric systems of teachings. It is simply more comprehensive, magnificent and logically consistent. Additionally, there is its political eschatology, which allowed it to become the state tantra of Lamaism and which we still have to explore.

All the events in the tantric performance which we have described so far have been played out in the external world, in the system of rituals, the sexual magic practices and perceptible reality. The final goal of this visible tantric endeavor is that the yogi absorb all of the energies set free during the ritual (those of the mudra, the pupil, and the evoked deities). Only thus can he become the ONE who concentrates within himself the “many”, but above all the masculine and feminine principles, so as to subsequently, in a still to be described second phase, bring it all forth again. From here on he has first reached his perfected form, that of the ADI BUDDHA (the Highest Buddha), who in Tantrism is the ultimate cause of all appearances.


[1] The self-sacrifice (chod):in the chod ritual the pupil, in order to attain enlightenment, offers his own body up to be devoured by the dakinis (who, as we know, represent his master). It preferably takes place at burial grounds. The flesh-devourers appear in the dark of night or at full moon and begin to tear the candidate’s skin from his body and to tear him apart piece by piece down to the bone. Even then they do not pause, and instead with a dreadful cracking finallylconsume the bones and marrow. The initiand “dies” in the process and all of his bodily parts are destroyed. With this he achieves complete liberation from all that is earthly and makes the jump into a state of enlightenment. De facto, this ritual killing only takes place symbolically — not., however, in the imagination of the pupil — there the scene is experienced with real emotion, as in a dream. This is almost unbearable for people who behave purely passively. On her travels in Tibet, Alexandra David-Neel encountered ghostly figures, shunned by all, who wandered around lost and insane because they had not mentally survived the chod ceremonies. For this reason, the ritual also prescribes that the adept should imagine himself as not just the victim, but likewise as the active party, the sacrificer in the form of a goddess or a dakini. “As soon as your consciousness enters the body of the goddess, imagine that your former body is now a corpse whih slumps to the ground. ... You, who are now the goddess, use the curved knife in your right hand to cut off the skull just above the eyebrows” (Hopkins, 1982, p. 162). Afterwards the pupil, as a bloodthirsty vajra dakini, consumes his own body lain out before him. Thus, in this ritual he not only surrenders his life, but likewise also plays the sadistic executioner who destroys it. Since the latter is always a female being, he identifies with the imago of the evil goddess. He thereby attempts to overcome the act which he as a Tantric fears most of all, namely to be killed by the feminine, in that he carries it out on himself in the form of a woman.


So far we have only described what takes place in the external world of the rituals. But the perceivable tantric stage has its correspondences in the “inside” of the yogi, that is, in his consciousness and what is called his mystic body. We now wish to examine this “internal theater” more closely. It runs in parallel to the external events.

An anatomically trained person from the twenty-first century requires a godly portion of tolerance to gain a familiarity with the concepts of tantric physiology, then for the tantras the body consists of a network of numerous larger or smaller channels through which the life energies flow. These are also known as “veins” or “rivers” (nadi, rtsa). This dynamic body structure is no discovery of Vajrayana, rather it was adopted from pre-Buddhist times. For example, we can already find it in the Upanishads (ninth century B.C.E.).

Three main channels are considered to be the central axis within the subtle-physical system of a person; these run from the lower spine to the head. They are, like everything in the tantras, assigned a gender. The left channel is called lalana (or ida, kyangma, da-wa), is masculine, its symbol is the moon and its element water. The right, “feminine” channel with the name pingala (or roma, nyi-ama) is linked to fire and the sun, since both are also seen as feminine in the Buddhist tantras. We can provisionally describe the central channel (avadhuti or susumna, ooma, ) as being androgynous. It represents among other things the element of space. All of the life energies are moved through the channels with the help of winds — by which the Tantric means various forms of breathing.

In a simplified depiction (such as is to be found in most commentaries), the left, masculine channel (lalana) is filled with white, watery semen, the right-hand, feminine channel (rasana) with red, fiery menstrual blood. The main channel in the middle, in contrast, is originally empty. Via sacred, in part extremely painful, techniques the yogi succeeds in pressing the substances from both side channels into the avadhuti , the main channel. The mixture (sukra) thus created now flows through his entire body as enlightenment energy body and transforms him into an androgynous “diamond being”, who unites within himself the primary energies of the masculine and the feminine.

The three inner channels (see footnote 1)

All three channels pass through five energy centers which are to be found in the body of the yogi, which are known as chakras (wheels) or “lotus circles”. In Tibetan Buddhism, the count begins with the navel chakra and leads via the heart, throat, and forehead chakras to the highest thousandfold lotus at the crown of the skull. Of great importance for the tantric initiation is the equation of the individual “energy wheels” with the five elements: navel = earth; heart = water; throat = fire; forehead = air (wind); highest lotus (crown of skull) = space (ether). Likewise, the chakras are apportioned to the various senses and sense objects. In addition to this there are numerous further assignments of the lotus centers (chakra), as long as these can be divided into groups of five: the five “blisses” similarly count among these, likewise the five meditation Buddhas with their wisdom consorts, and the five directions.

Fine energy channels extend from the “wheels” and, like the physiological nervous system, branch through the entire human body. The tantras describe an impressive total of 72,000 fine channels, which together with the lotus centers and the three main channels form the “subtle” body of the yogi. In an “ordinary mortal” this network is blocked. The energies cannot flow freely, the chakras are “dead”, the “wheels” are motionless, the perception of spiritual phenomena limited. One also speaks of a “knotting”.

Now it is the first task of the yogi to untie these knots in himself or in his pupil, to free and to clean the blocked channels in all directions so as to fill the whole body with divine powers. The untying of the “knots” is achieved in the Guhyasamaja Tantra through the blocking off of the two side channels (lalana and pingala), in which the energies divided according to their sexual features normally flow up and down, and the introduction of the masculine and feminine substances into the avadhuti (the middle channel) (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 155). In the original Kalachakra texts (see footnote) the anatomy of the channels is much more complicated. [1]

The tantric dramaturgy is thus played out between three protagonists within the yogi — the masculine, the feminine, and the androgynous principle. Correspondingly, the three main energy channels reflect the tantric sexual pattern with the lalana as the man, the pingala as the woman, and the avadhuti as the androgyne. The lotus centers (chakras) are the individual stage sets in which the plot unfolds around the relationship between this trinity. Thus, if the microcosmic, “inner” world of events of the tantra master is supposed to square with the external, already described ritual actions, then we must rediscover the climaxes of the external performance in his “internal” one: for example, the tantric female sacrifice, the absorption of gynergy, the creation of androgyny, the destruction and the resurrection of all body parts, and so forth. Let us thus inspect these “internal” procedures more closely.

The Candali

The Kalachakra Tantra displays many parallels with the Hindu Kundalini yoga. Both secret doctrines require that the yogi’s energy body, that is, his mysto-magical channels and chakras, be destroyed through a self-initiated internal fire. The alchemic law of solve et coagole ("dissolve and rebuild”) is likewise a maxim here. We also know of such phoenix-from-the-ashes scenarios among the occidental mystics. For our study it is, however, of especial interest that this “inner fire” carries the name of a woman in the Time Tantra. The candali — as it is called — refers firstly to a girl from the lowest caste, but the Sanskrit word also etymologically bears the meaning of ‘fierce woman’ (Cozort, 1986, p. 71). The Tibetans translate “candali” as ‘the hot one’ (Tum-mo) and take this to mean a fiery source of power in the body of a tantra adept.

The candali thus reveals itself to be the Buddhist sister of the Hindu fire-snake (kundalini), which likewise lies dormant in the lowest chakra of a yogi and leaps up in flames once it is unchained. But in Buddhism the destructive aspect of the inner “fire woman” is far more emphasized than her creative side. It is true that the Hindu kundalini is also destructive, but she is also most highly venerated as the creative principle (shakti): “She is a world mother, who is eternally pregnant with the world. ... The world woman and Kundalini are the macrocosmic and microcosmic aspects of the same greatness: Shakti, who god-like weaves and bears all forms” (Zimmer, 1973, p. 146).

With regard to the bodily techniques which are needed to arouse the kundalini, these vary between the cultural traditions. The Buddhist yogi, for example, unleashes the inner fire in the navel and not between the anus and the root of the penis like his Hindu colleagues. The candali flares up in his belly and, dancing wildly, ascends the middle energy channel (avadhuti). One text describes her as “lightning-fire”, another as the “daughter of death” (Snellgrove, 1959, p. 49). Then, level for level, the “hot one” burns out all the adept’s chakras. The five elements equated with the energy centers are destroyed in blazing heat. Starting from below, firstly the earth is burned up in the region of the navel and transforms itself into water in the heart chakra. Then the water is burnt out and disintegrates in fire in the throat. In the forehead, with the help of the candali the air consumes the fire, and at the crown of the skull all the elements vanish into empty space. At the same time the five senses and the five sense objects which correspond to the respective lotus centers are destroyed. Since a meditation Buddha and his partner inhabit each chakra, these also succumb to the flames. The Kalachakra Tantra speaks of a “dematerialization of the form aggregate” (Cozort, 1986, p. 130).

Lastly the candali devours the entire old energy body of the adept, including the gods who, in the microcosmic scheme of things, inhabit him. We must never forget that the tantric universe consists of an endless chain of analogies and homologies and links between all levels of being. Hence the yogi believes that by staging the destruction of his imperfect human body he simultaneously destroys the imperfect world, and that usually with the best intentions. Thus, Lama Govinda describes with ecstatic enthusiasm the five stages of this fascinating micro-macrocosmic apocalypse: “In the first, the susumna (the middle channel) with the flame ascending within it is imagined as a capillary thin as a hair; in the second, with the thickness of a little finger; in the third, with the thickness of an arm; in the fourth, as broad as the whole body: as if the body itself had become the susumna (avadhuti), a single fiery vessel. In the fifth stage the unfolding scenario reaches its climax: the body ceases to exist for the meditater. The entire world becomes a fiery susumna, an endless storm-whipped ocean of fire” (Govinda, 1991, 186).

But what happens to the candali, once she has completed her pyrotechnical opus? Does she now participate as an equal partner with the yogi in the creation of a new universe? No — the opposite is true! She disappears from the tantric stage, just like the elements which were destroyed with her help. Once she has vaporized all the lotus centers (chakras) up to the roof of the skull, she melts the bodhicitta (male seed) stored there. This, on account of its “watery” character, possesses the power to extinguish the “fire woman”. She is, like the human karma mudra on the level of visible reality, dismissed by the yogi.

In the face of this spectacular volcanic eruption in the inner bodily landscape of the tantra master we must ask what the magic means might be which grant him the power to ignite the candali and make her serve his purpose. Several tantras nominate sexual greed, which brings her to the boil. The Hevajra Tantra speaks of the “fire of passion” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. xxix). In another text “kamic fire” is explicitly mentioned (Avalon, 1975, p. 140). The term refers to the Hindu god Kama, who represents sexual pleasure. Correspondingly, direct reference is made to the act of love in a further tantric manual, where it can be read that “during sexual intercourse the Candali vibrates a little and great heat arises” (Hopkins, 1982, p. 177).

The equation of the sexual act with a fire ritual can be traced to the Vedas, and was later adopted by Tantric Buddhism. There the woman is referred to as the “sacrificial fire, her lower portion as the sacrificial wood, the genital region as the flame, the penetration as the carbon and the copulation as the spark” (Bhattacharyya, 1982, p. 124). From a Vedic viewpoint the world cannot continue to exist without a fire sacrifice. But we can also read that “the fire offering comes from union with the female messengers [dakinis]" — this from Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Tibetan Yellow Hat school (Shaw, 1994, p. 254).

In his classic, Yoga and the Geheimlehren Tibets [Yoga and the Secret Teachings of Tibet], Evans-Wentz described an especially impressive scene concerning the “kindling” of the candali. Here the “fire woman” is set aflame through a meditation upon the sun. After the master has required of his pupil that he visualize the three main channels, the chakras, and the “empty form” of a yogini, the exercise should continue as follows: “At this point in the performance you should imagine a sun in the middle of each palm and the sole of each foot. Then see these suns placed opposite one other. Then imagine a sun at the meeting of the three main psychic nerves [the main channels] at the lower end of the reproductive organ. Through the influence upon one another of the suns at your hands and feet, a flame is kindled. This fire ignites the sun beneath the navel. ... The whole body catches fire. Then when breathing out imagine the whole world to be pervaded by the fire in its true nature” (Evans-Wentz, 1937, p. 154). The inner unleashing of the candali in the body of the yogi is so unique that it raises many still unanswered questions which we can only consider step by step in the course of the following chapter: Why must it be a woman and not a man who flames up in the belly of the tantra master? Why is the woman, who is linked with the element water in most cultures, equated with fire here? Why is the candali so aggressive and destructive, so enraged and wild instead of mild, constructive, and well-balanced? But above all we must ask ourselves why the adept needs to use a real girl in order to ignite the “inner woman” in his own body? Is there perhaps a connection between the external woman and the inner woman, the karma mudra and the candali?

We shall only address these questions briefly here, pointwise as it were, in order to treat them in more detail in the course of the text. As we have already said, the origin of the candali lies in the Hindu kundalini snake, of which Heinrich Zimmer says: “The snake embodies the world- and body-developing life force, it is a form of the divine world-effecting force [shakti].” (Zimmer, 1973, p. 141). Life, creation, world, power: kundalini or candali are manifestations of the one and the same energy, and this is seen in both Hinduism and Buddhism as female. Zimmer therefore explicitly refers to the mystic snake as the “world woman” (Zimmer, 1973, p. 146). Corresponding descriptions of the candali are likewise known. The Buddhist yogi, whose attitude towards the world of appearances is extremely hostile, makes woman and the act of birth responsible for the terrible burden of life. For him, “world” and “woman” are synonymous. When, in his imagination, he burns up a woman within himself, then he is with this pyromaniacal act of violence symbolically casting the “world woman” upon the pyre. But this world likewise includes his old bodily and sensory aggregates, his psychological moods, and his human structures of awareness. They all become victims of the flames. Only once he has destroyed the existing universe, which suffers under the law of a woman, in an inferno, can he raise himself up to be a divine ruler of the universe.

Thus the assignation of the feminine to the fiery element imputed by Tantrism proves itself upon closer examination to be a symbolic manipulation. Everything indicates that in Indian culture too, woman was and is fundamentally associated with water and the moon rather than with fire and the sun as is claimed in the tantras. In non-tantric Indian cults (Vedic, Vishnuite) the classic assignments of the sexes have completely retained their validity. Hence, the ignition of the “fire woman” concerns an “artificial” experiment which runs contrary to the cultural norms; what the European alchemists referred to as the “production of burning water”. Water — originally feminine — is set on fire by the masculine potency of the flame and then becomes destructive. We shall have to show later that the candali is also to be symbolically understood as no more than such an ignited water energy. The water serves in this instance as a type of fuel and “explodes” as the ignited feminine principle in the service of androcentric strategies of destruction. Such a clever idea can only be derived from the tantric law of inversion which teaches us that a thing arises from its opposite. As the Candamaharosana Tantra thus says, “Women are the supreme fire of transformation” (Shaw, 1994, p. 39).

If one assumes that the feminine catches fire against its will in the Kalachakra ritual, then one can understand why the candali reacts so aggressively and destructively. Perhaps, once she has flared up, she instinctively detects that the entire procedure concerns her systematic destruction? Perhaps she also has an inkling of the perfidious intentions of the yogi and like a wild animal begins to destroy the elementary and sensory aggregates of her tormentor in the hope of thus exterminating him and freeing herself? Confronted with her obvious success in the bodily destruction of the patriarchal archenemy, she becomes maddened by power, unaware that she thereby only serves her enemy as a tool. For precisely what the tantric adept wants is to attain a state in which he still exists only as pure consciousness. His first goal is therefore the complete dematerialization of his human body, down to the last atom. For this he needs the fiery rage of the candali, who represents nothing other than the hate of a goddess incapacitated by patriarchy.

But it could also be the opposite, that the candali falls into the grip of the “consuming fire”, that mystic fire of love which burns women up when they celebrate the “sacred wedding” with their god. Christian nuns often describe the unio mystica with Christ, their heavenly husband, with metaphors of fire. In the case of Theresa of Avila, the flames of love are linked with an unequivocally sexual symbolism. The words with which she depicted the divine penetration of her love have become famous: “I saw Him with a long lance of gold, and its tip was as if made of fire, it seemed to me as if he repeatedly thrust it into my heart and it penetrated to my very entrails! .... The pain was so great that I had to groan, and yet the sweetness of this excessive pain was such that I could not wish to be freed of it” (quoted by Bataille, 1974, p. 220). A woman, who completely and totally surrenders herself to her yogi with her whole being, who opens to him the love of her entire heart, she too can burst into flames. Hate and mystic love are both highly explosive substances.

Regardless of what sets the feminine on fire, the pyromaniacal drama which is played out on this inner stage is from start to finish under the control of the yogi as the “master of the fire”. He never surrenders this position as “director”. Two beings are always sacrificed at the end of the tantric theater: the old energy body of the vajra masters and the ignited candali herself. She is the tragic inner symbol of the “tantric female sacrifice”, which — as we have explained above — was in the outside world originally executed upon a fire altar.

But here too the already often-repeated warning applies: Woe betide the adept who loses control over the kundalini or candali. For then she becomes a “terrible vampire, like an electric shock”, the “pure potency of death”, which exterminates him (Evola, 1926, p. 232).

The “drop theory” as an expression of androgyny

Let us now following the act of destruction examine the inner act of creation in the mystic body of the yogi as it is described in the various tantras, especially the Kalachakra Tantra. We have already considered the event where the “fire woman” (candali) reaches the inner roof of the yogi’s skull and melts the bodhicitta (semen) there. This latter is symbolically linked with water and the moon. Its descent is therefore also known as the “way of the moon”, whilst the ascent of the candali goes by the name of the “sun way”. The bodhicitta is also called bindu, which means ‘point’, ‘nil’, ‘zero’, or ‘drop’. According to the doctrine, all the forces of pure consciousness are collected and condensed into this “drop”, in it the “nuclear energy of the microcosm” is concentrated (Grönbold, Asiatische Studien, p. 33).

After the channels and chakras have been cleansed by the fire of the candali, the bodhicitta can flow down the avadhuti (the middle channel) unrestricted. At the same time this extinguishes the fire set by the “fire woman”. Since she is assigned the sun and the “drops of semen” the masculine moon, the lunar forces now destroy the solar ones. But nevertheless at the heart of the matter nothing has been changed through this, since the descent of the “drop”, even though it involves a reversal of the traditional symbolic correspondence, is, as always in the Buddhist tantras, a matter of a victory of the god over the goddess.

Step by step the semen flows down the central channel, pausing briefly in the various lotus centers and producing a feeling of bliss there, until it comes to rest in the tip of the aroused penis. The ecstatic sensations which this progress evokes have been cataloged as “the four joys”. [2]

This descending joy gradually increases and culminates at the end in an indescribable pleasure: “millions upon millions of times more than the normal emission [of semen]" (Naropa, 1994, p. 74). In the Kalachakra Tantra the fixation of orgiastic pleasure which can be attributed to the retention of semen is termed the “unspilled joy” or the “highest immovable” (Naropa, 1994, p. 304, 351).

This “happiness in the fixed” is in stark opposition to the “turbulent” and sometimes “wild” sex which the yogi performs for erotic stimulation at the beginning of the ritual with his partner. It is an element of tantric doctrine that the “fixed” controls the “turbulent”. For this reason, no thangka can fail to feature a Buddha or Bodhisattva who as a non-involved observer emotionlessly regards the animated yab–yum scenes (of sexual union) depicted or impassively lets these pass him by, no matter how turbulent and racy they may be. We also do not know of a single illustration of a sexually aroused couple in the tantric iconography which is not counterbalanced by a third figure who sits in the lotus posture and observes the copulation in total calm. This is usually a small Buddha above the erotic scene. He is, despite his inconspicuousness the actual controlling instance in the sexual magic play — the cold, indifferent, serene, calculating, and mysteriously smiling voyeur of hot loving passions.

The orgiastic ecstasy must at any price be fixed in the mystic body of the adept, he may never squander his masculine force, otherwise the terrible punishments of hell await him. “There exists no greater sin than the loss of pleasure”, we can read in the Kalachakra commentary by Naropa (Naropa, 1994, p. 73, verse 135). Pundarika also treats the delicate topic in detail in his commentary upon the Time Tantra: “The sin arises from the destruction of pleasure, ... a dimming then follows and from this the fall of the own vajra [phallus], then a state of spiritual confusion and an exclusive and unmediated concern with petty things like eating, drinking and so on” (Naropa, 1994, p. 73). That is, to put it more clearly, if the yogi experiences orgasm and ejaculation in the course of the sexual act then he loses his spiritual powers.

Since the drops of semen symbolize the “moon liquid”, its staged descent through the various energy centers of the yogi is linked to each of the phases of the moon. Beneath the roof of the skull it begins as a “new moon”, and grows in falling from level to level, to then reach its brightest radiance during its sixteenth phase in the penis. In his imagination the yogi fixates it there as a shining “full moon” (Naropa, 1994, p. 72, 306).

Logically, in the second, counterposed sequence the “ascent of the full moon” is staged. For the adept there is no longer a waning moon. Since he has not spilled his seed, the full shining abundance of the nightly satellite remains his. This ascendant triumphal procession of the lunar drop up through the middle channel is logically connected to an even more intensive pleasure than the descent, since “the unspilled joy” starts out in the penis as a “full moon” and no longer loses its full splendor.

During its ascent it pauses in every chakra so as to conjure up anew the “highest bliss” there. Through this stepwise ecstatic lingering in the lotus centers the yogi forms his new divine body, which he now refers to as the “body of creation” (Naropa, 1994, p. 311). This is first completed when the “full-moon drop” reaches the lotus in the forehead.

Sometimes, even if not all the time, in wandering through the four pleasure centers the “drop” encounters various goddesses who greet it with “diamond” song. They are young, tender, very beautiful, friendly, and ready to serve. The hissing wildness and the red wrath of the candali is no more!” May you,” the beauties call, “the diamond body, the revolving wheel that delights many beings, the revealer of the benefit of the Buddha aim and the supreme-enlightenment aim, love me with passion at the time of passion, if you, the mild lord wish that I live” (Wayman, 1977, p. 300). Such erotic enticements lead in some cases to an imaginary union with one of the goddesses. But even if it doesn’t come to this, the yogi must in any case keep his member in an erect state during the “ascent of the full moon” (Naropa, 1994, p. 75).

In several Kalachakra commentaries the ecstatic model of the rise and fall of the white moon-drops within the mystic body of the adept is determined by the triumph of the male bodhicitta alone. In the first, falling phase it destroys the fiery candali and leads her into emptiness, so to speak, since the bindu (drop) also means “nothing”, and has control over the power of dissolution. In the second phase the drop forms the sole cosmic building block with which the new body of the yogi will subsequently be constructed. In this view there is thus now talk of the male seed alone and not of a mixture of the semen virile and semen feminile. In his Kalachakra commentary Naropa writes explicitly that it is the masculine moon which produces the creation and the feminine sun which brings about the dissolution (Naropa, 1994, p. 281). One must thus be under the impression that after the extinguishing of the candali there are no further feminine elements existing in the body of the yogi, or, to put it in the words of the popular belief which we have already cited, that perm rather than blood flows in his veins. But there are other models as well.

Daniel Cozort, for example, in his contemporary study of the Highest Yoga Tantra, speaks of two fundamental drops. The one is white, masculine, lunar, and watery, and is located beneath the roof of the skull; the other is red, feminine, solar, and fiery, and located in the region of the genitals(Cozort, 1986, p. 77). The “four joys from above” are evoked when the white drop flows from the forehead via the throat, heart, and navel to the tip of the penis. The “four joys from below” arise in reverse, when the red drop streams upwards from the base of the spine and through the lotus centers. There are a total of 21,600 masculine and the same number of feminine drops stored in the body of the yogi. The adept who gets them to flow thus experiences 21,600 moments of bliss and dissolves 21,600 “components of his physical body”, since the drops effect not just pleasure but also emptiness (Mullin, 1991, p. 184).

The process is first completed when two “columns of drops” have been formed in the energy body of the adept, the one beginning above, the other from below, and both having been built up stepwise. At the end of this migration of drops, “a broad empty body, embellished with all the markings and distinguishing features of enlightenment, a body which corresponds to the element of space [is formed]. It is 'clear and shining', because it is untouchable and immaterial, emptied of the earthly atomic structure”, as the first Dalai Lama already wrote (Dalai Lama I, 1985, p. 46).

A further version (which also applies to the Time Tantra) introduces us to “four” drops of the size of a sesame seed which may be found at various locations in the energy body and are able to wander from one location to another. [3] Through complicated exercises the yogi brings these four principle drops to a standstill, and by fixating them at certain places in the body creates a mystic body.

The anatomy of the energy body becomes even more complicated in the Kalachakra commentary by Lharampa Ngawang Dhargyey when he introduces another “indestructible drop” in the heart of the yogi in addition to the four drop mentioned above. This androgynous bindu is composed of the “white seed of the father” in its lower half together with the “red seed of the mother” in the upper. It is the size of a sesame seed and consists of a mixture of “extremely fine energies”. The other lotus centers also have such “bisexual” drops, with mixtures of varying proportions, however. In the navel, for example, the bindu contains more red seed than white, in the forehead the reverse is true. One of the meditation exercises consists in dissolving all the drops into the “indestructible heart drop”.

Luckily it is neither our task, nor is it important for our analysis, to bring the various drop theories of tantric physiology into accord with one another. We have nonetheless made an effort to do so, but because of the terminological confusion and hairsplitting in the accessible texts, were left with numerous insoluble contradictions. In general, we can nevertheless say that we are dealing with two basic models.

In the first the divine energy body is constructed solely with the help of the white, masculine bodhicitta. The feminine energy in the form of the candali assists only with the destruction of the old human body.

In the second model the yogi constructs an androgynous body from both red and white, feminine and masculine bodhicitta elements.

The textual passages available to us all presume that the masculine-feminine drops can already be found in the energy system of the adept before the initiation. He is thus regarded from the outset as a bisexual being. But why does he then need an external or even an imagined woman with whom to perform the tantric ritual? Would it in this case not be possible to activate the androgyny (and the corresponding drops) apparently already present in his own body without any female presence? Probably not! A passage in the Sekkodesha, which speaks of the man (khagamukha) possessing a channel filled with semen virile and the woman (sankhini) a channel filled with semen feminile, leads us to suspect that the yogi first draws the red bodhicitta or the red drop off from the karma mudra (the real woman), and that his androgyny is therefore the result of this praxis and not a naturally occurring starting point.

This view is also supported by another passage in the Kalachakra Tantra, in which the sankhini is mentioned as the middle channel in the mystic body of the yogi (Grönbold, 1969, p. 84). Normally, the menstrual blood flows through the sankhini and it may be found in the lower right channel of the woman (Naropa, 1994, p. 72). In contrast, in the body of the yogi before the sexual magic initiation no “menstrual channel” whatever exists. Now when this text refers to the avadhuti (the middle channel) of the tantra master as sankhini, that can only mean that he has “absorbed” the mudra’s red seed following union with her.

We must thus assume that before the sexual magic ritual the red bodhicitta is either completely absent from the adept’s body or, if present, then only in small quantities. He is forced to steal the red elixir from the woman. The extraction technique described above also lends support to this interpretation.

Regardless of whether the Tibetan Lamas are convinced of the overwhelming superiority of their theories and practices, there is in principle no fundamental difference between Hindu and Buddhist techniques(Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, 294). Both systems concern the absorption of gynergy and the production of a microcosmic/masculine/androgyne/divine body by the yogi. There are, however, numerous differences in the details. But this is also true when one compares the individual Buddhist tantras with one another. The sole teaching contrary to both schools which one could nominate would be total “Shaktism”, “which elevates the goddess above all gods” (von Glasenapp, 1936, p.125).

Excursus: The mystic female body

But is it at all possible to apply the mystic physiology described in the Buddhist tantras to a woman? Or is the female energy body subject to other laws? Does the kundalini also slumber in the perineum of a woman? Does a woman carry her red drop in her forehead? Where can the white bodhicitta be found in her and what are its movements? Are the two side channels within her arranged just like those in a man or are they reversed? Why does she also work with fire in her body and not with water?

There are only very few reports about the mystic body of the woman, and even fewer instructions. The books on praxis which we have been able to consult are all drawn from the Chinese cultural sphere. The Frenchwoman, Catherine Despeux, has collected some of these in a historical portrait (Immortelles de la Chine Ancienne). A practical handbook by Mantak and Maneewan Chia is available; it is subtitled The Secret Way to Female Love Energy.

Generally, these texts allow us to say that the spiritual energy experiences undergone by women within their mystic bodies follow a different course to those for men described above. The two poles between which the “tantric” scenario is played out in the woman are not the genitals and the brain as in the case of a man, but rather the heart and the womb. Whilst for the yogi the highest pleasure is first concentrated in the tip of the penis, from where it is drawn up to the roof of the skull, the woman experiences pleasure in the womb and then a “mystic orgasm” in the heart, or the energy emerges from the heart, sinks down to the womb and then rises up once more into the heart. “The sudden opening of the heart, chakra, causes an ecstatic experience of illumination; the heart of the woman becomes the heart of the universe” (Thompson, 1981, p. 19).

According to Chinese texts, for example, the red seed of the woman arises between her breasts, and from there flows out into the vagina and is, unlike the male seed in Vajrayana, not to be sought under the roof of the skull (Despeux, 1990, p. 206). The techniques for manipulation of the energy body which result from this are therefore completely different for men and women in Taoism.

Without further examining the inner processes in the female body, what has been said in just a few sentences already indicates that an undifferentiated transferal of Vajrayana techniques to the female energy body must have fateful consequences. It thus amounts to a sort of rape of the feminine bodily pattern by the masculine physique. It is precisely this which the Fourteenth Dalai Lama encourages when he — as in the following quotation — equates the internal processes of a woman with those of a man. “Some people have confirmed that the white element is also present in women, although the red element is stronger in them. Therefore the praxis in the previously described tantric meditation is the same for women; the white element sinks in exactly the same manner and is then drawn back up” (Varela 1997, p. 154).

Should a woman adopt androcentric yoga techniques then her sexual distinctiveness disappears and she is transformed in energy terms into a man. In so doing she thus fulfills the sex change requirement of Mahayana Buddhism which is supposed to make it possible for a women to already in this lifetime be reincarnated as men — at least in regard to their mystic bodies.

Spiritual feminists (and there are a number of these) who believe they can overcome their female impotence by copying the male yoga techniques of Tantrism become caught in the most insidious and cynical trap which the patriarchy was able to set. In the delusion that by unchaining the candali within their own body they can shake off the androcentric yoke, they unwittingly employ sexual magic manipulations which effect their own dissolution as gendered beings. They perform the “tantric female sacrifice “ upon themselves without knowing, and set fire to the stake at which they themselves are burned as a candali or a witch (dakini).

The method or the manipulation of the divine

But let us return again to the male tantra techniques. The “method” which the adept employs to produce his androgynous body is referred to as the “Yoga with Six Limbs” (Sadanga yoga). This system of teaching is valid for both the Kalachakra Tantra and the Guhyasamaja Tantra. It has been referred to as the highest of all techniques in Vajrayana Buddhism. Fundamentally, sexual intercourse with a woman and the retention of semen are necessary in performing this yoga. Of course, if a partner cannot be found, masturbation can also be employed (Grönbold, Asiatische Studien, p. 34). [4]

The six stages of Sadanga yoga are called (1) Individual retreat (pratyahara); (2) Contemplation (dhyana); (3) Breath control (pranayama); (4) Fixation or retention (dharana); (5) Remembering (anusmrti); and (6) Unfolding or enlightenment (samadhi). We shall briefly present and interpret the six levels.

1. Pratyahara (individual retreat): The yogi withdraws from all sensory abilities and sense objects back into himself; he thus completely isolates himself from the external world. It is also said that he locks the doors of the senses and draws the outside winds into himself so as to concentrate them into a drop (Cozort, 1986, p. 124). The meditation begins at night and must be conducted in complete darkness. The American tantra interpreter, Daniel Cozort, recommends the construction of a “light-proof cabin” as an aid. The yogi rolls back his eyes, concentrates on the highest point of his middle energy channel and envisions a small blue drop there. During this exercise the ten photisms (light and fire signs) arise in the following order before his inner eye as forebodings of the highest enlightenment, the infinite clear light. (1) Smoke; (2) a ray of light; (3) glow worms; (4) the light of a lamp — these are the first four phenomena which are also assigned to the four elements and which Sadanga yoga describes as “night signs, since one still lives in darkness so to speak, as in a house without windows” (Grönbold, Asiatische Studien, p. 36). The remaining six phenomena are called the “day signs”, because one now, “as it were, looks into a cloudless sky” (Grönbold, Asiatische Studien, p. 35). They begin with (5) the steadfast light, followed by (6) fire, which is considered to be the shine of emptiness, (7) moonlight and sunshine, (8) the shine of the planet Rahu, which is compared to a black jewel. Then, in (9) an atom radiates like a bright bolt of lightning, and lastly (10) the great drop appears, which is perceived as “a shining of the black orb of the moon” (Grönbold, Asiatische Studien, p. 35). Grönbold interprets the fact that a “dark light” is seen at the end as an effect of bedazzlement, since the light phenomena are now no longer comprehensible for the yogi (Grönbold, Asiatische Studien, p. 35). [5]

2. Dhyana (contemplation): On the second level of Sadanga yoga the adept through contemplation fixes beneath the roof of the skull his thoughts and the ten day and night signs. This contemplation is characterized by five states of awareness: (1) wisdom; (2) logic; (3) reflection; (4) pleasure; and (5) imperturbable happiness. All five serve to grant insight into the emptiness of being (Grönbold, Asiatische Studien, p. 32). When he has stabilized the signs, the yogi has attained the purity necessary to ascend to the next level. He now possesses the “divine eye” (Naropa, 1994, p. 219).

3. Pranayama (wind or breath control): Breath, air, and wind are synonymous in every form of yoga. The energies internal to the body which flow through the subtle channels are called winds. A trained adept can control them with his breathing and thus has the ability to reach and to influence all 72,000 channels in his body by inhaling and exhaling. The energy wind generally bears the name prana, that is, pure life force. In the Kalachakra school the opinion is held that prana is the primordial wind from which the nine main winds are derived (Banerjee, 1959, p. 27). Time is also conceived of as a coming and going of breath. Accordingly one who has his breathing under control also has mastery over time. He becomes a superhuman being, that “knows [about] the three times”: about the future by inhaling, about the past by exhaling, and about the eternal present by holding his breath (Grönbold, Asiatische Studien, p. 29).The wind, as the yogi’s highest instrument of control, dominates the entire scenario, sometimes propelling the mystic indestructible drops through the channels, sometimes pushing through the knots in the chakras so that the energies can flow freely, sometimes burning up the yogi’s bad karma via breathing exercises. There are numerous catalogs of the various types of wind. Coarse and subtle, secondary and primary, ascending and descending winds all waft through the body. In the Kalachakra Tantra a total of ten principle types of breath wind are distinguished. The high point in pranayama yoga consists in the bringing of the winds found in the right and left side channels into the central channel (avadhuti). In an ordinary person, prana pulses in both outer channels, of which one is masculine and the other feminine. Therefore, from a tantric point of view he still lives in a world of opposites. Through the activation of his middle, androgynous channel the yogi now believes he can recreate the original bisexual unity.

4. The fourth exercise is called dharana (fixation). The breath wind is fixated or retained firstly within the middle channel, then in the individual chakras. The emotions, thoughts, and visions of particular deities are also fixed through this. Throughout this exercise the yogi’s penis must remain constantly erect. He is now the “lord of the winds” and can let the energies wander through his body at will in order to then fix them in particular locations. This also applies to the entry of the breath into the drops, wherever these are to be found. Although the adept now controls the ten main winds, at this stage his body is not yet purified. Therefore he concentrates the energy in the navel chakra and combines it with “the drop of sexual ecstasy”. It is this procedure which first results in the ignition of the candali.

5. The entrance of the “fire woman” (candali) dominates the scenario of the fifth yoga, known as anusmriti. Oddly, this has the meaning of ‘recollection’ (Grönbold, 1969, p. 89). Why is the catching sight of the candali “in the body and in the sky” linked to a mystic reminiscence? What is it that the yogi remembers? Probably the “original unity”, the union of god and goddess.

6. In the last stages of Sadanga yoga the adept reaches samadhi (enlightenment or unfolding), the “indestructible bliss”. This state is also equated with the “vision of emptiness” (Wayman, 1983, p. 39). All winds, and thus all manifestations of existence as well, are now brought to a standstill — peace reigns among the peaks. For a night and a day the yogi suspends the 21,600 breaths, that is, he no longer needs to breathe. His material bodily aggregates are dissolved. Complete immobility occurs, all sexual passions vanish and are replaced by the “motionless pleasure” (Naropa, 1994, p. 219).

Since the flow of time depicts nothing other than the currents of the energy winds in the body, the adept has, by stilling these, elevated himself beyond the cycle of time and become its absolute master. Back at the third level of the exercises, during pranayama, he had already won control over the flow of time, but he only halts it when he attains the state of samadhi.

It is astonishing that all six stages of Sandanga yoga should be performed during sexual union with a karma mudra (a real woman). But until it comes to this, many hours of preparation are needed. The inner photisms described also arise in the course of the sexual act.

For example, to press the masculine and feminine energy currents into the middle channel in pranayama, the adept employs drastic Hatha yoga practices, which are known as “the joining of the sun and moon breaths” (Evans-Wentz, 1937, p. 33). In translation ha means ‘sun’, and tha ‘moon’. Hatha, the combination of ha and tha, significantly means ‘violence’ or ‘violent exertion’ and thereby announces the element of violence in the sexual magic act (Eliade, 1985, p. 238). This consists of a sudden, jerking leap up during sexual intercourse accompanied by simultaneous pressure on the perineum with the hand or the heel. That such “methods” (upaya) are especially enticing and erotic for a “wisdom consort” (prajna) is something we would like to doubt. The lack of feeling, the coldness, the cunning, and the deep misogyny which lies behind these yoga techniques actually ought to hit the karma mudra in the eye at once. Yet in the arms of a godlike Lama she would only seldom dare to take her skeptical impressions seriously or even articulate them.

Sadanga yoga describes the Kalachakra Tantra “method” (upaya) to be employed during the higher and highest initiations. We are dealing here with an emotionless, “rational”, purely technical set of instructions for the manipulation of energies which are profoundly emotional, arousing, and instinctive — like love, eroticism, and sexuality. In the classic tantric polarity of “wisdom” (prajna) and “method” it is the latter which is covered by these yoga techniques. The yogi does not need to bother about anything else — wisdom, knowledge, or feelings. They are already to be found in the “prajna”, the feminine elixir which he can snatch from the woman by properly practicing Sandanga yoga. Now what is the result of this calculating and sophisticated sexual magic?


[1] The Kalachakra Tantra distinguishes between an upper part to the three main channels and a lower one. Above, the following symbolic division is made: left — moon, masculine; right — sun, feminine; middle — Rahu, androgynous. Rahu is an imaginary planet which can cause a solar or lunar eclipse. The upper three energy flows thus possess a planetary character. The lower part is determined by the substances which can be found in the three channels before the yoga praxis: left — urine; right — semen; middle — excrement. This arrangement becomes more complicated owing to the fact that the upper amnnd lower channels change their positions. The lalana (moon, upper left) appears below in the middle and is there filled with excrement. The pingala (sun, upper right) is linked to the lower left, urine-filled channel. Rahu, in the middle above, is found to the right below, as the sperm channel. The upper and lower channels also have different names and are filled with different substances in men and women, hence the lower right-hand channel is said to contain menstrual blood rather than semen in the female body (Naropa, 1994, pp. 274, 275). In the women the lower right channel bears the name sankhini and is filled with female seed; the lower right channel of the man is known as khagamukha and contains the semen virile (Naropa, 1994, p. 72). Martin Brauen’s graphical depiction of the channels in the Kalachakra Tantra (Brauen, 1992, p. 55) is admittedly logically consistent for a nmber of reasons — in that he shows the middle channel as continuous from top to bottom, for instance. However, it does not accord with the quoted textual passages from the Sekkodesha (Naropa, 1994, p. 72 ff.).

[2] The “first joy” takes effect in the forehead and stretches down to the throat chakra. The second reaches from there to the heart and bears the name “highest joy”, the third ends in the navel and is called the “special joy”. The fourth, the “inborn joy”, realizes itself in the tip of the penis (Cozort, 1986, p. 76).

[3] The first “drop of deep sleep” lies in the heart or at the tip of the penis. The second “drop of the dreaming state”, which is also known as the “drop of speech”, is likewise to be sought in the genital region or in the throat. The third “drop of the waking state” moves between the forehead and the navel. The fourth “drop of erotic ecstasy”, which is experienced during sexual intercourse between man and woman, may be found in the genitals or beneath the roof of the skull. It is also referred to as the “drop of transcendental wisdom” (Dhargyey, 1985, pp. 121,122).

[4] The Sadanga Yoga is not identical to the “Six Part Yoga of Naropa” which is far better known in the West. The Maha Siddha (Naropa) must nevertheless have known both types of yoga, since he refers to the Sadanga exercises in his commentary on the Kalachakra Tantra. In the original text of the Time Tantra (Sekkodesha) this yoga is only very briefly mentioned, in verses 115-119 of the fourth chapter. However, this brief passage has nothing to say about its fundamental importance, rather just that numerous specific documents exist to which the yogi can easily obtain access. Of these, many of these are in the meantime available in English or German translations. (See above all the works by Grönbold.)

[5] In contrast, alongside the four “night signs” mentioned above, Daniel Cozort mentions the following six “day signs”: (5) destructive fire; (6) the sun; (7) the moon; (8) the planet Rahu; (9) a stroke of lightning; and (10) the blue point (Cozort, 1986, p. 125). In the eleventh sign Kalachakra and Vishvamata reveal themselves in sexual union within the blue drop. The Sekkodesha calls this event the “universal, clear shining image” and speaks of an epiphany of the all-knowing Buddha, who shines “like the sun in water, unbesmirched, of every color, with all aspects, recognized as an expression of our own consciousness, without any objectivity” (Naropa, 1994, pp. 229, 254). Other texts specify still more photisms, but in all cases they concern pure fire and light meditations which the yogi has to successfully traverse.


The “Power of Ten”: The mystic body of the ADI BUDDHA:

The astral-temporal aspects of the ADI BUDDHA:

Rahu—the swallower of sun and moon:

Kalagni and the doomsday mare:

The myth of eternal recurrence:

The highest goal of the Kalachakra initiation is the attainment of a spiritual state which is referred to as ADI BUDDHA. In the year 1833, the founder of western Tibetology, the Hungarian Csoma de Körös, quoted for the first time in a European language the famous Kalachakra theses which the Maha Siddha Tilopa is said to have fixed to the gates of the Buddhist university in Nalanda. In them the ADI BUDDHA is introduced as the highest ONE, from whom everything else emerges: “He, that does not know the chief first Buddha (Adi-Buddha), knows not the circle of time (Kalachakra). He, that does not know the circle of time, knows not the exact enumeration of the divine attributes. He that does not know the exact enumeration of the divine attributes, knows not the supreme intelligence. He, that does not know the supreme intelligence, knows not the tantric principles. He, that does not know the tantric principles, and all such, are wanderers in the orb transmigratos, and are out of the way of the supreme triumphator. Therefore Adi-Buddha must be taught by every true lama, and every true disciple who aspires to liberation must hear them” (quoted by Körös, 1984, pp. 21, 22). No other tantra has made the idea of the ADI BUDDHA so central to its teaching as the Kalachakra Tantra.

It would be false to assume that the ADI BUDDHA is a being who resides in the highest spiritual sphere which the historical Buddha referred to as nirvana. This becomes apparent when we examine the three gateways of consciousness which lead to this ultimate realm of enlightenment (nirvana): (1) the emptiness (shunyata); (2) the signless (animitta); and (3) the wish-less (apranihata).

Nirvana, the raison d’être of Buddhism, is because of these three gateways a greatness no longer able to be defined in words. We can only ever talk “about” it, yet never capture it in words or conceptually grasp it. Edward Conze, the eminent historian of Buddhism, has assembled a great number of such formulations with which Buddhist authors have attempted to “picture” the highest spiritual level of their religion. We would like to quote some of these here: nirvana is the deathless, immutable, endless, enduring, it is peace, rest, silence, liberation, renunciation, the invisible, refuge, supreme good.

The impersonal “character” of nirvana is already apparent from this list. Nirvana is thus under no circumstances a person, but rather a state of consciousness. For this reason the bodily depiction of the enlightened Buddha was forbidden in early Buddhist iconography. Following his entry into nirvana he could only be portrayed symbolically and never physically — as, for example, a wheel or a pillar of fire or even through his absence whereby the artist drew an “empty” throne. The “Sublime One” who already dwells in the emptiness could not be portrayed more graphically.

Accordingly, nirvana is no creation, not even the prime cause of creation, but rather standstill. It is no action, but rather inaction; no goal-directed thought, rather non-thought. It is without intent and knows no motivation. It does not command, but rather remains silent. It is disinterested and lacks engagement. It stands outside time. It has no gender. It is not even, in the initial historical phase of Buddhism, identical with the mystical “clear light”. All this, however — the creative force, the highest clear light, action, thought, motivation, command — does apply to the ADI BUDDHA.

Unlike nirvana, the ADI BUDDHA is not sexually neutral, rather he is the Great Cosmic Androgyne who has integrated the polarity of the sexes within himself. He arose from himself, exists through himself, that is, he has no father or mother. He is birthless and deathless, without beginning and without end. He is the highest bliss and free of all suffering. He is untarnished and flawless. He is the collapse of opposites, the undivided. He is wisdom and method, form and formlessness, compassion and emptiness. He is the quiet and the motion, he is static and dynamic. He has countless names. He is the universal god, the highest lord. In the words of an old Indian hymn dedicated to him,

He is the ONE and proclaims the teaching of unity;

He stands at the summit of being.

He permeates everything; he is the infallible way.

He is the victor, one whose enemy is defeated,

a conqueror, a world ruler who possesses the great powers.

He is the leader of the flock, the teacher of the flock,

the lord of the flock, the master of the flock, the wielder of power.

He has great power, withstands all burdens.

He does not need to be led by others; he is the great leader.

He is the lord of speech, the master of speech,

the eloquent one, the master of the voice, the eternal word.

(quoted by Grönbold, 1995, p. 53)

We are standing here at an interesting turning point in the history of the Buddhist teaching. Instead of the unnamable, impersonal and sexless emptiness of nirvana, we are suddenly confronted by an androgynous universal ruler. A Buddha dwelling in nirvana is outside of all time, the ADI BUDDHA in contrast is, according to a statement by the Maha Siddha Tilopa, identical with the time god Kalachakra. “He is the Wheel of Time, without an equal, imperishable” (Carelli, 1941, p. 21). “The Primordial Buddha [ADI BUDDHA] gives rise to Wheel of Time, the cycle of creation and destruction, unceasing change, that defines our existence”, we are told by Bernbaum (Bernbaum, 1980, p. 127). He is the “king of the Kalachakra Tantra”.

He knows the entire secret doctrine of the tantras, controls the body, the language, the awareness and possesses all magic powers. The Kalachakra Tantra celebrates him as the lord of illusions, “who emanates many illusory forms. He uses those emanated forms to uproot trees, and also to shake the mountain tops” (quoted by Newman, 1987, p. 296). He is a dharmaraja, a king of laws, because he commands all beings as the hierarch. He presides over gods and mortals as the highest universal judge. As the bringer of salvation he vanquishes the foes of Buddhism and leads his followers into the golden age. The ADI BUDDHA stands active at the center of the Buddhist universe, which at the same time emanates from him. Nevertheless he can appear in the anthropomorphic form of a human, a yogi.

If we were to describe the ADI BUDDHA in the terms of philosophical idealism, then we would have to introduce such phrases as “absolute spirit”, “absolute subjectivity”, “absolute ego”. He is the ego ipsissimus of the yogi, whom the latter tries to attain through his sexual magic practices. At the end of his initiation, in one tantric text he proudly cries out: At the end of his initiation, in one tantric text he proudly cries out: “I make the universe manifest within myself in the Sky of Consciousness. I, who am the universe, am its creator. [….] The universe dissolves within me. I who am the flame of the great eternal fire of Consciousness.” (quoted by Dyczkowski, 1987, p. 189). Of course, these sentences are not addressed to an individual “ego”, but rather the “superego” of a divine universal being.

Alongside the absolute subjectification of the ADI BUDDHA, whose will is law and whose power is unbounded, there is oddly also the view which would see in this supreme being a great cosmic machine. The universal Buddha has also been imagined to be a clockwork in which every cogwheel is linked to others and all the cogs mesh. The mechanism of Buddhist cosmogony and its controller proceeds in unending repetition, without anything in this chain of events being able to be changed. Everything has its place, its order, its repetition. Even its own destruction — as we shall show — has become an inbuilt event of this mega-machine, just like the inevitable subsequent resurrection of the divine apparatus. A never-ending process, which can never be stopped, never turned back, never varied. Friedrich Nietzsche must have caught a glimpse of this cosmic clock when he experienced his vision of “eternal repetition”. The ADI BUDDHA is this world clock, the dieu machine or divine machine. Absolute will and absolute mechanism, absolute subjectivity and absolute objectivity, the absolute EGO and the OTHER are supposed to find unity in the absolute archetype of the ADI BUDDHA. This paradox is put about by the tantric teachers as a great mystic secret.

Undoubtedly the universal Buddha (ADI BUDDHA) of the Kalachakra Tantra exhibits all the characteristics of a universal god, a world ruler (pantocrat), a messiah (savior) and a creator; he undoubtedly possesses monotheistic traits. [1]

The idea of an omnipotent divine being, many of whose characteristics match the Near East concept of a creator god, was already accepted in Mahayana Buddhism and was taken up from there by the early tantras (fourth century C.E.). It first found its maturity and final formulation in the Kalachakra teachings (tenth century). Many western researchers are led by the monotheistic traits of the ADI BUDDHA to suspect non-Buddhist, primarily Near Eastern influences here. Convincing references to Iranian sources have been made. The continuing development of the image and its contour are further indebted to a reaction against Islam. In India and the Near East the personally-oriented theophany of Allah presented the common populace with an attractive and emotional counter-model to the elitist and “abstract” nirvana doctrine of the learned Buddhist monks. It thus seemed natural to incorporate appropriate charismatic images into one’s own cult. As arch-god, the ADI BUDDHA also represents an alternative to Hindu polytheism, which at that time threatened Buddhism just as strongly as the teachings of the Koran later did.

There had not been such a subjectification of the image of god in the philosophically oriented opinions of the early Buddhist schools up until the great scholar Nagarjuna (second to third century C.E.). They were all at pains to portray the “Buddha” as a level of consciousness, a cognitive field, a stage of enlightenment, as emptiness, in brief as a mental state, yet not as a Creator Mundi. In the ADI BUDDHA system, however, the creative aspect plays just as great a role as, for example, the epiphany of divine wrath or the apocalyptic judgment of divine destruction. But the highest mental and transpersonal Buddha consciousness exists on a level beyond creation and destruction, beyond life and death.

The ADI BUDDHA is according to doctrine the “theological” principle, which pervades the entire tantric ritual system. In his perfected form he appears as the “androgyne cosmocrat”, in his incomplete form he is still progressing through the individual initiation levels of the Kalachakra Tantra as a practicing yogi. In principle the mystic body of the tantra master coincides with that of the ADI BUDDHA, but complete identity first occurs when the yogi has “exterminated” all elements of his human body and transformed it into a divine body.

Let us now look at the expansion of power of the ADI BUDDHA as it is described in the Kalachakra Tantra. Essentially it exhibits five aspects:

An inner aspect, which can be described via microcosmic procedures in the androgynous energy body of the yogi (or of the ADI BUDDHA respectively). There is a “physiological map” of this, depicted with a complicated symbolic character, the so-called dasakaro vasi (the ten energy winds). We shall examine this sign more closely.

A temporal/astral aspect, which stretches to the stars. In his macrocosmic dimension the ADI BUDDHA encompasses the whole universe. As far as the heavenly bodies of sun, moon and stars are mentioned, they are treated, in the Kalachakra Tantra as in all archaic cultures, as the indicators of time. Anyone who controls them is accordingly the master of time. In this chapter we analyze the various tantric models of time.

A spatial/cosmic aspect, which likewise extends across all of space. The ADI BUDDHA is, although also a person, likewise identical with the structure of the Buddhist cosmos, or — to put it another way — the macrocosmic model of the universe is homologous with the microcosmic body of the ADI BUDDHA. Both take the form of a mandala (a cosmic diagram). Here we describe the structure of the universe over which the ADI BUDDHA exerts his power.

A global/political aspect, which is focused upon the idea of a Buddhist world ruler (Chakravartin). As we shall show, the ADI BUDDHA makes an outright claim for real political power over the whole globe.

A mytho-political program. The Kalachakra Tantra does not just treat the topic of the world ruler in general, but has also developed a specific utopia, ideology, and form of state, which are summarized in what is called the Shambhala myth. This global political program of the ADI BUDDHA is so significant for an understanding of the Kalachakra Tantra and later for the analysis of Tibetan history that we devote a separate section to it.

In the second, political part of our study (“Politics as ritual”) we shall examine all of these five aspects in connection with the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. He is currently the highest Kalachakra master, whose person, actions and thoughts most closely approximate the conception of an ADI BUDDHA.

The “Power of Ten”: The mystic body of the ADI BUDDHA

The control of cosmic energies through a mystic body described in the Kalachakra Tantra is a tradition which was also known in medieval Europe. There were philosophical schools in the West as well which regarded the anatomy of the human mystic body and cosmography as the same science. The person and the universe formed a unity. Homo omnis creatura — “man is the entire creation”. In this view, the microcosmic organs and limbs — the heart, the navel, the arms, the head, the eyes, for example — all had their macrocosmic correspondences.

In order to realize the microcosmic conditions for the expansion of power of the ADI BUDDHA, an androgynous body of a yogi is needed, that is, the internalization of the maha mudra (inner woman) which we have described above. This obsessive conception, that absolute power can be conjured up through the “mystic marriage” of the masculine and feminine principles within a single person, also had European alchemy in its thrall. We are once again confronted with an event which plays so central a role in both cultures (Western and Eastern) that the equation Tantrism = alchemy ought to be taken most seriously. At the end of the “great work” (opus magnum) of the Westerners we likewise encounter that transpersonal and omnipotent super being of whom it is said that it is “at the same time the controlling principle (masculine) and the controlled principle (feminine) and therefore androgynous” (Evola, 1989, p. 48). In the relevant texts it is also referred to as Hermaphroditus, to indicate that its masculine part consists of the god Hermes, and its feminine part of the goddess of love, Aphrodite. This bisexual deity is like the ADI BUDDHA a creative spirit who produces the universe. In the Corpus Hermeticum, the late Egyptian collection of mysto-magical texts (200 B.C.E.–200 C.E.) from which European alchemy is derived, we can already read that an “intellectual being, the masculine/feminine god, is the life and light”, which produced the universe (Evola, 1989, pp. 78, 79). Such fundamental correspondences reveal that we are confronted with far more than an astounding parallel between two cultural spheres. There is therefore much to be said for the suggestion that the Kalachakra Tantra and European alchemy both stem from a common source.

As we have already reported in some detail, the artificial genesis of the cosmic androgyne in both the occidental/alchemic and the tantric/Buddhist experiments is preceded by the sacrifice of the feminine sphere and its subsequent integration into the masculine sphere. Additionally, in both cases the old mental and physical “aggregates” of the adept are destroyed. At the same time as his tantric colleague the alchemist also dies and “lives through” several subtle deaths until he attains his goal. He too dissolves his human existence so as to be born as a deity. He strips away what the texts refer to as his “old Adam” (his human existence) in order to develop himself up into the “new Adam”, the universal superhuman (or god), just as the Tantric must let his earthly personality and ego die so as to then serve as the vessel of a deity.

According to the micro/macrocosmic doctrine, the cosmic androgyne — in alchemy as in Vajrayana — exercises control over the entire universe with the help of his mysto-magical body. The origin of the universal power lies inside the yogi and then grows out of his “small” body to finally expand to the “great” body of the universe, just as an oak tree grows from an acorn. In this micro/macrocosm theory we must regard the mystic body of the yogi as the central monad of which all other monads (and all other people too) are simply reflections, or, to put it more concretely — and both the alchemists and the Tantrics were so concrete — through the control of his energy body the cosmic androgyne (the ADI BUDDHA or the alchemic Hermaphroditus) determines the orbit of the stars, the politics of the world we know, and the psyche of the individual.

The dasakaro vasi

The microcosmic body of the ADI BUDDHA, with which he controls the whole universe, is depicted in the Kalachakra Tantra by an enigmatic symbol which goes by the name of the “Power of Ten” (Sanskrit dasakaro vasi; Tibetan namchuwangdan). The German orientalist, Albert Grünwedel, called it the “Powerful in Ten Forms” and the first Western Tibetologist, Csoma de Körös, the “Ten Protectors of the World”.

We find the character on numerous Lamaist objects. It adorns the covers of books, small boxes and containers for amulets, appears on stupas, and is considered a talisman in everyday life. As the personal seal of the Panchen Lama it is surrounded by the mythic bird, garuda, swallowing a snake. The dasakaro vasi is said to have been displayed for the first time together with the above-mentioned ADI BUDDHA theses of the Maha Siddha and Kalachakra specialist, Tilopa, on the gates of the Indian monastic university in Nalanda.

The dasakaro vasi (Tib. namchuwangdan)

The sign incorporates seven interwoven letters, of which each is in a different color. Letters one to five depict the five elements in the following order: air, fire, water, earth, space. The sixth letter represents Mount Meru, the cosmic axis of the Buddhist universe; the seventh the lotus, or the twelve continents arranged in a wheel around Mount Meru in Buddhist cosmology, one of which is supposed to be our earth. Above this we find the moon (10), and the sun (11). Both are crowned by the dark demon Rahu in the form of a small flame.

This entwined character (dasakaro vasi) is the anatomical map of the microcosmic body of the ADI BUDDHA. The individual lines forming the letters are therefore described as his inner venous or nervous system. On a mysto-physical level the dasakaro vasi symbol refers to the ten main energy channels from which a total of 72,000 side channels branch off. The starting point for the whole body schema is — as we have described above — formed by the three central veins assigned to the genders, the masculine on the left (lalana), the feminine on the right (rasana) and the androgynous middle channel (avadhuti).

Each of the letters composing the dasakaro vasi corresponds to a particular form of energy. The elements — earth, fire, water and space— also count as energies. Each of the energy currents which flow through the veins can be activated by a corresponding magic spell (mantra). Put together, the various mantras form a single magic formula, which is said to grant whoever pronounces it correctly power over the entire universe; the word is “hamkshahmalavaraya” (Mullin, 1991, p. 327). This global mantra controls all ten of the main energies which constitute creation and which the tantra master controls through the force of his spirit and his breathing.

This too has its counterpart in European alchemy or in the cabbala closely interwoven with it. The androgynous cabbalist deity in the Jewish system likewise possesses a mystic body composed of ten (!) energy centers, the ten sephirot, and 32 canales occultae (occult channels) coming out of these. The first three sephirot correspond to the three main tantric channels of the sexes: chochma is the masculine, bina the feminine, and kether the androgynous one.

There is no doubt that the ADI BUDDHA is identical with the venous system of the dasakaro vasi. Yet we must make a differentiation here, for there are numerous indications in the Kalachakra Tantra that the “Power of Ten” (dasakaro vasi) is exclusively regarded as the symbol of a feminine energy system which the adept renders subservient via the “method” (upaya). The term is namely also translated as the “ten shaktis” or the “ten powerful goddesses”. (Bryant, 1992, p. 157). Each of them bears a special name. These shaktis represent the ten primal forces of the ADI BUDDHA. They are additionally equated with the ten “states of perfection” of the consciousness: magnanimity, morality, patience, effort, concentration, wisdom, method, spiritual goal setting, spiritual power, and transcendent wisdom.

The ADI BUDDHA has — as it says in one Kalachakra text — dissolved the shaktis within himself (Dalai Lama XIV, 1985, p.406). It must be concluded from this sentence that prior to this inner act of dissolution they must have existed in the external world, either really or subtly. If our suspicion is correct, then these ten shaktis of the dasakaro vasi are the ten mudras who celebrated a ganachakra together with the tantra master in the four highest initiations of the Time Tantra. A further passage from the Kalachakra Tantra makes reference to this: “At that time there appear the forms of the various empty body Shaktis”, it says there, “The yogi, who has arisen in the form of the empty body deity, then sexually unites with these goddesses, giving rise to the extraordinary, supreme, unchanging bliss” (Mullin, 1991, p. 235).Here, his “empty body” absorbs the “form bodies” of the goddesses, so that these continue to exist within his interior as energy currents or as a mystic venous system. In the previous sections we have shown how the real women (karma mudras) at a ganachakra are transformed via a ritual sacrifice into spirit women (dakinis) so as to then continue their existence as the maha mudra ("inner woman”) in the body of the yogi. Adelheid Herrmann-Pfand writes that “the dakinis (or ten shaktis) are identified with the veins of the mystic yoga physiology, so that the [yogi’s] body [becomes] a horde of dakinis. The process of their union is conceived as a union of these veins or, respectively, of the energies circulating within them which unite into a great current, ascend, and finally pulse through the whole body. ... Through the union with all dakinis one becomes the same as all Buddhas” (Hermann-Pfand, 1992, pp. 400, 401).

In the image of the dasakaro vasi then, the ten shaktis (the ten mudras) flow together into a single powerful female being, the so-called “world woman”. We know her from the Kalachakra Tantra under the name of Vishvamata, the goddess of time. The various lines of the sign (dasakaro vasi) therefore symbolize, strictly speaking, her mystic venous system which is inserted into the empty body of the yogi or ADI BUDDHA at the culmination of the tantric ritual, becomes a part of his self and lies under his control. The male tantra master is thus in possession of a female energy body.


We must thus now ask what remains of him as a man? Are the yogi and his male body made female and transformed into the “great goddess”? No! As “empty” as the tantra master may have made himself, he would never relinquish his breathing. His breathing is the absolute control instrument with which he steers the incorporated “world woman” or the “ten shaktis”. A yogi who has mastered his breathing is said to ride the energy wind. He possesses a “wind or breath body”. Wind, air, and breath form a unity in tantric terminology and praxis. For this reason, and homologous to the ten shaktis or the ten veins of the “world woman”, the dasakaro vasi are spoken of in the Time Tantra as the ten “main winds”: “The first eight winds correspond to the eight goddesses (shakti) who surround the divine couple, Kalachakra and Vishvamata, whilst the last two are linked to the center and are associated with the goddess Vishvamata” (Brauen, 1992, p. 55).

The final step in controlling the winds is “holding the great breath”. With it, the yogi dissolves the “world woman” in his imagination into emptiness, that is, he exterminates her or brings her to a standstill. But since he can recreate her from nothing at any moment he is “lord over her life and her death”. With her death the world ends, with her creatio ex nihilo it arises anew, then the wind energies of the yogi “are endowed with special potencies that are capable of shaping a new world”, as the Tibetan Kalachakra interpreter Lodrö Tayé tells us (Tayé, 1995, p. 177).

Once the yogi has incorporated the dasakaro vasi, the world woman or the “ten powerful goddesses” he has become the ADI BUDDHA, who now possesses a bisexual “diamond body” (vajrakaya). The tantra researcher, Alex Wayman, has described how the vajrakaya emerges from the gender dynamics: “The fact that in each instance the goddess is imagined as the initiator, or as the female element behind the scenes, indicates the initiations as the step-wise progress in the solidification of the innate body of the tantras ... meaning the progress of that body to the pregenetic androgyne state and then to the Clear Light” (Wayman, 1977, p. 69). European alchemy also has its vajrakaya, the “glory body” which the adept receives in the finale of the opus (the great work).

Let us summarize: according to the teachings of the Kalachakra Tantra, the mystic body of the ADI BUDDHA consists of ten main energy channels. These correspond on a macrocosmic level to the ten main energies from which all the forces of our universe are derived. To move and lead the individual energies, the ADI BUDDHA makes use of above all his breathing. His energy body is symbolically depicted as the dasakaro vasi.

An “etiology” of this sign leads us to the ganachakra, or the four last initiations of the Time Tantra. The ten energy winds, which also go by the name of the ten shaktis, correspond to the ten karma mudras who participate in the sexual magic ritual. The dasakaro vasi is therefore a further proof for the fundamental significance of the “tantric female sacrifice” in Vajrayana Buddhism, since the gynergy of the ten tantric sexual partners is stolen in the ganachakra and then integrated into the mystic body of the yogi so that he can obtain the androgynous diamond body of an ADI BUDDHA with it. This body is the powerful instrument through which he controls all the processes of the universe.

The astral-temporal aspects of the ADI BUDDHA

There is an occult correspondence between the microcosmic body of the ADI BUDDHA and the macrocosmic universe. In the Kalachakra Tantra the term ADI BUDDHA encompasses both the energy body of the practicing yogi or vajra master and the entire universe with all its worlds and stars. The yogi, the ADI BUDDHA, the tantra master, and the laws of the universe are thus synonymous and form a mystic unity. (We take the liberty of repeating that this doctrine of magic correspondences is absolutely essential to an understanding of tantric logic and that, under the influence of our western/scientific world view, we tend to forget this.)

Already, the story has it, when the historical Buddha was explaining the Kalachakra Tantra to King Suchandra for the first time, he indicated that the entire universe was to be found within his body. The map of the heavens is similarly inscribed in his body. Sun, moon, and stars are found not just outside, but also within, the mystic body of the yogi (ADI BUDDHA). It was thus that the conception could arise that an enlightened tantra master could move the planets through his internal energy winds. Consequently, the rotation of the stars which we can observe in the firmament is also an action of the winds. “The wheel of stars, fixed at both poles [the pole star], propelled by driving winds, rotates untiringly”, it says in an astronomical fragment from the Kalachakra Tantra (quoted by Petri, 1966, p. 58). This driving wind is considered to be “the cosmic breath” of the ADI BUDDHA. Since the motion of the heavenly bodies proclaims the time, the microcosmic “star body” of the tantra master (ADI BUDDHA) is correspondingly a type of time machine, a “cosmic clock”.

Since a universal drama (the fiery ascent of the candali) is played out in the energy body of the yogi, there must, according to the doctrine of correspondences, be a matching performance in the macrocosmic heavens. We now wish to examine this spectacle in more detail: the sun and moon play the main roles here, the five planets have bit parts. Two further powerful astral protagonists, unknown to us here in the West, also take to the stage. They are called Rahu and Kalagni. The zodiac and the fixed stars initially remain in the audience, but become caught up in the general whirlwind of events at the end.

Sun—feminine ∙ Moon—masculine

The sun and moon correspond in the Kalachakra Tantra to the right and left energy channels in the mystic body of the yogi respectively. Here too, just as in tantric astrology, the sun is considered feminine and linked to fire and menstrual blood; the moon in contrast is masculine and corresponds to water and semen. This homology is, as we have already pointed out more than once, very unusual in terms of cultural history, then traditionally the moon is seen as feminine and the sun as masculine.

Perhaps we can grasp this symbolic inconsistency better if we take a look at the astral and elemental associations of fire and water, sun and moon in the Indian cultural sphere. In the Vedic era (1500–1000 B.C.E.) the symbolic linkages were still classical: man = fire and sun; woman = water and moon. The horse symbolism at this stage central to religious life also reflected this “classic” orientation: The stallion represented the sun and the day, the mare the moon and the night. The “sun stallion” symbolized the accumulation of masculine power, the “moon mare” feminine power. The latter was thus equated with the loss of male power in the androcentric society and was considered a symbol for castration anxieties.

In the Upanishads (800–600 B.C.E.) fire continued to be regarded as a masculine element. The man thrust his “fire penis” and his “fire semen” into the “watery” cave of the female vagina. (O'Flaherty, 1982, p. 55). Here too the feminine was classified as inferior and harmful. The “way of the sun” led to freedom from rebirth, the “way of the moon” led to unwanted incarnation.

Even in the first century (C.E.), the Puranas (a collection of old Indian myths) employed the fiery energy as a name for the semen virile. Yet at this time the conception had already emerged that the male seed ought to be assigned to the moon on account of its pale color, while menstrual blood should depict a solar energy. This idea then became codified in Tantrism, of both the Hindu and Buddhist form. For example, we can read in a shivaite text that “the male semen represents the moon, the female flux represents the sun, therefore the Yogi with great care must combine the sun and the moon in his own body” (O’Flaherty, 1982, p. 255).

The symbolic equipment of the Hindu god Shiva also provides a vivid example of this 180-degree change in the sexual significance of the sun and moon. Shiva wears the moon upon his head as a crown, is mounted upon the animal symbol of the great mother, the bull Nandi, and has her midnight blue skin (like the goddess Kali). He, the masculine god, is also fitted out with emblems which were regarded as feminine in the preceding cultural epochs. In terms of religious history, the symbolic reinterpretation of sun and moon probably takes effect in his appearance. But why?

We have already indicated on a number of occasions times that androcentric Tantrism must be deeply rooted in matriarchal religious concepts since it accords the universe a feminine character, even if the yogi exercises universal dominance at the end of the tantric ritual. This could be the reason why the male seed is symbolically linked to the moon. An androcentric claim to power over the traditionally feminine is, namely, already expressed in this association, before the whole tantric initiation process is set in motion. The most supreme masculine substance of all, the semen virile, reveals itself in feminine guise in order to demonstrate its omnipotence over both genders. Shiva wears the moon crown to indicate that he has integrated all the energies of the moon goddess in himself, that is, he has become the commander of the moon (and thereby of the feminine).

Naturally, we must now ask ourselves what happens to the semen feminile and the menstrual blood of the goddess. For reasons of symmetry, these symbols are assigned to the sun and to fire. But doesn’t the woman through this culturally anomalous distribution now absorb the force and power of the formerly masculine solar principle? Not at all — then in the tantras the “feminine sun” and “feminine fire” have obviously not taken on the many positive characteristics which distinguished the “masculine sun” and “masculine fire” in the preceding cultural epochs in India. In the Kalachakra Tantra they are no longer shining, warm, rational, and creative, in contrast they represent deadly heat, pyromania, flaming destructive frenzy, and irrationality on all levels. The yogi does admittedly understand how to deal skillfully with these negative feminine fire energies, he even outright uses them to burn up his coarse body and the universe, but they are not thereby transformed into anything positive. Whilst the tantra master — as we have shown — survives as “pure spirit” the flaming adventure of destruction in which his human body is exterminated, in the end his “inner fire woman” (the autonomous feminine principle) burns herself up and disappears for good from the tantric activities. We must thus distinguish between a destructive feminine sun and a creative masculine sun, just as we must draw a distinction between the ruinous fire of the candali and fire as a significant masculine symbol of the Buddha’s power.

The ADI BUDDHA (Kalachakra master) as the androgynous arch-sun

The association of the image of the Buddha with sun and fire metaphors is, in contrast to his links to moon and water symbols, pervasive and is already attested in early Buddhism. Buddha’s father, Suddhodana, was descended from a “sun dynasty” and counted as a member of the “sun race”. As a sign of his solar descent his son bore images of the sun upon the soles of his feet, a thousand-rayed wheel or a “hooked cross” (the swastika is an ancient sun symbol), for example. A sun-wheel adorns the back of his “spiritual” throne.

In all cultures the lion represents the “sun animal” par excellence; this is also true of Buddhism. According to a well-known legend, Shakyamuni Gautama Buddha roared like a lion upon leaving his mother’s body. From then on he was called the “lion of the house of Shakya”. After the young Gautama had fled his palace in order to follow the path of enlightenment, he also roared “with the sound of a lion”: “Till I have seen the farther shore of birth and death, I will never enter again the city ...” (Joseph Campbell, 1973, p. 265). How the gods rejoiced when they heard this powerful “leonine voice”. Joseph Campbell, a researcher of myths, comments upon this significant moment in world history in the following words: “The adventure had begun that was to shape the civilization of the larger portion of human race The lion roar, the sound of the solar spirit, the principle of the pure light of the mind, unafraid of its own force, had broken forth in the night of stars. And as the sun, rising, sending forth its rays, scatters both the terrors und the raptures of the night: as the lion roar, sending its warning out across the teeming animal plane, scatters the marvelously beautiful gazelles in fear: so that lion roar of the one who had thus come gave warning of a lion pounce of light to come.” (Joseph Campbell, 1962, 265)

Both in Mahayana Buddhism which followed and later in Tantrism this solar apotheosis of the Buddha is strictly maintained and even extended. The sun metaphors lie at the center of the Kalachakra Tantra too. The time god has a “body like the Sun”, it says there (Newman, 1987, pp. 225, 326). Kalachakra is particularly often spoken of as the “daymaker sun” (Newman, 1987, p. 243). He is the lord of the “three hundred and sixty solar days” (Newman, 1987, p. 454) and sits upon a “vajra lion throne”. His believers worship him as “the splendid lion of the Sakyas” (Newman, 1987, p. 243). In a commentary upon the Time Tantra we can read that “Kalachakra is in all three worlds as the sun, which is the image of time” (Banerjee, 1959, p. 133).

When the universal regal power of the Buddha needs to be illustrated, then the sun symbols step back out into the limelight in Tantrism as well. The images of the moon, which are of such great significance in the mystic body of the yogi, now in the very same texts play second fiddle, or sometimes count as emblems of negativity. Hence the Kalachakra researcher Günter Grönbold places the “solar” descent of the historical Buddha in direct contrast to the lunar sphere: “The dynasty of the sun stands, as the reader is aware, for the principle of the unadulterated light. The light of the sun is pure. The light of the moon in contrast has its share of darkness. Moreover, the light of the sun is eternal, whilst the light of the moon, which waxes and wanes in the counterplay with its own darkness, is mortal and immortal at the same time” (Grönbold, 1969, p. 38). That such a sudden “heliolatry” can be only poorly squared with the logic of tantric physiology, in which the masculine principle is represented by the moon and the feminine by the sun, is also apparent to several commentators upon the Kalachakra Tantra. Therefore, so that no doubts can arise about the solar superiority of the male time god, these authors have degraded the time goddess, Vishvamata, who according the tantric understanding of the body possesses a solar nature, as follows: She “represents not the sun itself, but the sun's effect of daily cycles [hours]" (Mullin, 1991, p. 273). She thus symbolizes a “small feminine sun” which is overshadowed by the “great masculine sun” of the ADI BUDDHA.

Fundamentally it must be said that in the Kalachakra Tantra the androgynous ADI BUDDHA unites fire and water, sun and moon within himself — but nevertheless in the final instance he lets himself be glorified as an androcentric arch-sun, so as to demonstrate the masculine light’s primacy in comparison to the darkness. The sun symbol is therefore of a far greater radius than the natural sun. It integrates within itself all the light metaphors of the universe. In a description by Herbert Guenther the highest Buddha (ADI BUDDHA) appears “as if the light of the sun were to fall into an ocean of vermilion; as if the luster of all the suns in the universe were to gather in a single sun; as if a golden altar were rising higher and higher in the sky; ... as it fills the sky with its rays of light as if all the suns in the universe had become a single sun” (quoted by Guenther, 1966, p. 101). The reader should never lose sight of the fact that the ADI BUDDHA, and hence the arch-sun, is identical with the mystic body of the initiated yogi.

Rahu—the swallower of sun and moon

In Greek mythology the union of sun (Helios) and moon (Selene) is celebrated as a mystic marriage, as the collapse of opposites. We can also find such statements in the Kalachakra school, but here the Hieros Gamos is a marriage of death, brought about by a terrible existence by the name of Rahu, which we now wish to examine in more detail.

In Tibetan astronomy and astrology (which are not distinguished from one another) two further planets with the names of Rahu and Ketu are to be found alongside the seven wandering stars (the sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn). Seen from an astronomical point of view we are not dealing with real heavenly bodies here, but rather with the ascendant and descendant lunar nodes, that is, the two points at which the moon’s orbit intersects the ecliptic (the path of the sun). These are also known in the occident as the “dragon’s head” and the “ dragon’s tail”, or together as the “ dragon points”. When, at times which can be determined astronomically, the moon passes through such an orbital node (or syzygy), then an eclipse can occur: when the moon is full a lunar eclipse, and with a new moon a solar eclipse.

Rahu – the Kalachakra demon of darkness

Both types of eclipse gave rise to the belief in the minds of the Indian astronomers that a gigantic planet swallowed the relevant heavenly orb. Since the shadow of the moon which obscures the sun during a solar eclipse is always pitch black, one of the imaginary planets, Rahu (which consumes the sun), is also black. In lunar eclipses the shadow of the earth appears to have a colored border and the moon becomes copper red, and hence the other planet, Ketu (which consumes the moon), is described as being colorful. Nonetheless, in the Kalachakra Tantra Ketu remains largely in the background and all the events associated with it (the lunar eclipses) are transferred to Rahu. Thus Rahu appears here as the swallower of the sun and the moon.

Let us now take a closer look at the mythical origin of the dark demon (Rahu). In old Indian tales Rahu storms across the heavens in a dark chariot drawn by eight black horses as swift as thought itself. He pursues the orbs of sun and moon, snapping at their heels with his huge jaws. In another version of the myth, however, only Rahu’s head still exists floating above the firmament, having been severed by Indra, the sun god, as the dark demon tried to steal the vital drink of the gods. Nonetheless, this decapitation did not hinder him from continuing to fly through the heavens and swallowing the sun and moon. It is just that these now passed through him unharmed and soon reappeared, freed from the lower end of his throat. In astronomical terms this process signifies the end of the solar or lunar eclipse respectively.

Rahu plays such a prominent role in the philosophy of the Kalachakra Tantra that according to Helmut Hoffmann the events associated with him form a “darkness theology” of their own (Hoffmann, 1964, p. 128). The epithets of the dark demon alone have much to say about his psychology and proclaim his comprehensive mythic program. He is known, among other things, as the “enemy of the moon, subduer of the moon, darkling, flesh-devourer, lion’s son, the roarer, but also [as the] lightgiver of the heavenly paradise” (Petri, 1966, p. 141). He is also called “dragon”, “snake”, “eclipser”, and “lord of the darkness”. In the Hevajra Tantra it is still said that it is solely the consciousness of the yogi which brings the sun and moon under control. But in the Kalachakra Tantra, the Vajra master in league with Rahu pronounces the sentence of destruction over the two heavenly bodies. It becomes the task of the “darkling” (Rahu) to destroy the two shining orbs as autonomous forces, that is, to bring the masculine and feminine energies to a standstill.

The destruction of the gender polarity appears — as we have seen — as a necessary stage along the road to power in every tantric ritual. The final goal is first reached by that initiand, “by whom the ways of the sun and the moon are completely destroyed” (Grönbold, 1969, p. 74), as a text from the Sadhanga Yoga says, and the famous tantra master Saraha requires that: “Where motility and intentionality are not operative / And where neither sun nor moon appear, / There, you fools, let mind relax restfully” (Guenther, 1976, pp. 69-70). Since the sun and moon both indicate the time, their exterminator Rahu is also described as “free from time” (Wayman, 1973, p. 163).

Likewise, in the Kalachakra Tantra the middle energy channel within the yogi’s body (avadhuti), which draws the right-hand, solar and left-hand, lunar energy currents into itself and thereby shuts them down as independent forces, is equated with Rahu which indeed also destroys the sun and moon. The avadhuti therefore bears its name and is called “Rahu’s channel” (Wayman, 1973, p. 163). In reference to the “lord of the darkness” the middle channel is also known as the “leading channel of the darkness” (Naropa, 1994, p. 272).

Its association with the bodily geography of the yogi also brings the planetary demon into contact with the mystic heat. Accordingly, Rahu, the swallower of the shining orbs, blazes as an “androgyne fire” in the Tantric’s body (Wayman, 1983, p. 616). “Hence also when one reaches the androgyne as fire in the middle the sun and the moon will disappear” (Wayman, 1983, p. 616), The relationship of this fire symbolism to the candali, who is conceived of as purely feminine and not at all androgynous, remains unresolved. But then the tantras are often not very exact when it comes to the details. Important for us is that in the Rahu myth the destruction of the heavenly orbs is executed through fire as well as through darkness. This combination has also earned the imaginary planet Rahu the name of “dark sun”. [2]

The power symbol of Rahu adorns every Tibetan stupa. In tantric doctrine it is this small, unprepossessing flame which has elevated itself above the sun and the moon so as to demonstrate that both shining orbs are under its control. The androgynous violence of the “black sun” could hardly be demonstrated more vividly or concisely.

Kalagni and the doomsday mare

The demon Rahu also occupies a central place in the iconography of the Kalachakra couple. The four cushions upon which the time god dances with his partner (Vishvamata) contain in concentrated form the entire program of this tantra. The two upper cushions depict the sun and moon respectively and must be seen as the emblems of the two time deities (Kalachakra and Vishvamata). Beneath them lie the cushions of Kalagni and Rahu, the two demons of death which shall exterminate the mystic couple. We have already made Rahu’s acquaintance, but who is Kalagni?

Kalagni is considered the “apocalyptic fire” which destroys the world. On a microcosmic level Kalagni is equated with the “inner fire woman” of the yogi, the candali. On a macrocosmic scale this fire demoness (we have several still to be presented reasons for regarding it as a feminine force) destroys the entire universe. She liquidates the sexes as the two universal primal forces of being and therefore like the planet Rahu has the epithet of “devourer of the sun and moon”. But primarily she is known as the “fire of destruction”. The Sanskrit word kalagni is, namely, etymologically composed of kala (‘time’/‘destruction’) and agni (‘fire’). But kala also means ‘black’ and reminds us of Kali, the wrathful black goddess, ruler of the dark last days, the Kali yuga. Kalagni, Kali and Candali are accordingly variants of the terrible mother who plunges the universe and herself into a sea of flames, so that the tantra master as the ADI BUDDHA can then bring it forth from himself in an autonomous act of creation.

We can thus see that Kalagni performs similar functions to Rahu, so that we can quite reasonably regard both planets as the two aspects of the same energy (the one masculine, the other feminine). The German explorer of Kalachakra astronomy, Winfried Petri, refers to them on the basis of their limitless destructive power “as the highest instances of cosmic activity” (Petri, 1966, p. 146). They are at any rate the two protagonists of the Time Tantra who systematically bring about the downfall of the heavens, then Rahu’s and Kalagni’s destructive role is not limited to the destruction of the sun and moon. Just as the yogi burns up the various aggregate states of his body from the bottom to the top using the inner fire (candali), so too do Rahu and Kalagni destroy all the planets of the heavens (Saturn, Jupiter, etc.) in parallel, then the energy centers (chakras) in the mystic body of the tantra masters correspond to the various planetary spheres. Just as all the chakras are microcosmically burnt out by the “inner heat”, so to a corresponding planetary holocaust takes place in the macrocosmic world. Candali and Kalagni are thus aspects of the same feminine destructive force.

In the Kalachakra Tantra, Kalagni also has the epithet of “the mare's mouth fire” (Newman, 1987, pp. 229, 481). Based upon a study by the American Indologist, Doniger O’Flaherty, we would like to devote a few considerations to this peculiar phrase. The myth of the so-called “doomsday mare” has a long tradition in India. The customary tales tell of how she is held captive at the deepest point of the ocean and how flames stream continuously from her nostrils. At the end of time the monstrous horse escapes its watery prison and sets the whole universe on fire. “The fire of the mare's mouth drinks the waters of the ocean and lets them out again; eventually this fire of the underworld will destroy the universe, at the end of the Kali age”, we are told in the Indian national epic, the Mahabharata (O’Flaherty, 1982, p. 213).

In general, in Indian mythology the “mare” has characteristics similar to those we know from descriptions of the candali. It is a symbol for a “lower-class woman”, for the insatiable sexual appetite of men-destroying witches, for all erotic excesses of the female sex. “The minute she sees a man,” we read in one text, “a woman's vulva becomes wet immediately. ... Death, hell, the mare-headed [fire], a razor's edge, poison, a serpent, and fire — women are all of these in one” (O’Flaherty, 1982, p.214). Women from the retinue of the Indian goddess Kali, who are considered as seductive and highly sexual, are still today feared as emanations of the dangerous doomsday mare. [3]

Deep down, the demonic mare, inflamed with rage, is the arch-enemy of the tantra master, who can only bring her under control through the reining in of all his passions. O’Flaherty sees in her the outright cosmic gynocentric opponent to the androgynous cosmocrat, the bisexual yogi: “For the mare is the quintessential female androgyne, the phallic woman. ... female androgynes are comparatively rare but, when they occur they are more deadly than the males” (O’Flaherty, 1982, p. 236) But we ought never forget that the tantra master has mastered the magic art with which to put the deadly energy of the woman to use in his own pursuit of power. Let us also not forget that at the end of the eschatological fire occasioned by the doomsday mare (Kalagni/Candali/Kali), it is not she, but rather the yogi as ADI BUDDHA who ascends the world throne.

It is particularly striking that in the myth of the mare the apocalyptic fire comes out of the water. (The fiery mare is to be found in the depths of the world’s oceans.) If we interpret the story from the viewpoint of the tantric initiation this origin may become more comprehensible. This concerns, namely, a phenomenon which is known as “burning water” in European alchemy. Water, originally feminine, is ignited by the masculine energy of fire and then functions destructively. In the old Indian legal codex of Manu we can also read that, “Fire is born of water, as is seen in the case of lightning and the mare fire” (O’Flaherty, 1982/1988?, p.214).

Once ignited water behaves like some sort of cosmic fuel and serves the masculine as a destructive energy. On the macrocosmic level the yogi makes use of the “submarine fire” of the mare to dissolve the old universe with its help, just as he destroys his old bodily aggregates on the microcosmic level with the help of the candali. Thereby, the “death” of the ocean and of the feminine with it is preprogrammed, since when the doomsday mare has burnt up all of the seas it ultimately destroys itself, just as in parallel the candali collapses and quits the tantric stage once the tantric combustion procedure is concluded.

The doomsday mare and the apocalyptic fire, Kalagni, represent the same destructive energy, it is just that one is to be found in the depths of the sea, the other in contrast at the roots of the of the world mountain Meru, there where the fires of hell burn. When the time has come, Kalagni rises up out of the lower layers and step by step burns down the world, the planets, and the stars. Just as the yogi is weighed down with past karmic debts which he must cleanse with a baptism of fire along his way to enlightenment, so too, according to the Kalachakra doctrine, the debt of many millennia weighs upon the stars and planets. Therefore the heavenly bodies must also undergo a total purification by fire. The same is true for the twelve months and the zodiacal signs which correspond to them. They are likewise blemished with a special nidama, a type of karmic stain: the star sign Capricorn with ignorance, for example, Leo with desire, Scorpio with rebirth, and so forth (Banerjee, 1959, p. 166).

Inexorably and cruelly, Kalagni lets the whole universe go up in flames. Along with the stars the inhabitants of heaven are also burnt out, the Buddhas and the gods; with the earth humanity and all other living creatures are also consumed by fire. The elements dissolve themselves — space, air, fire, water, and earth. The entire creation sinks into a sea of fire. In the macrocosm only a few “galactic seeds” remain, which form the starting material for a new world (Tayé, 1995, p. 41). The sole element which survives this apocalypse is wind, that is, in microcosmic terms, the breath of the tantra masters (ADI BUDDHA). In the next cosmic epoch it has an effect on the remaining “galactic seeds” and creates a new universe from them. [4]

The myth of eternal recurrence

The myth of the world fire, which dominates the Kalachakra Tantra, was originally at home in the Greek and Oriental cultures. The majority of orientalists assume that it came from Iran. From there it penetrated the Indian cultural sphere and became linked to, among other things, Buddhist systems of yoga. Hence we also find the traditional motif of the apocalyptic fire doctrine in the Time Tantra, namely the destructive triumph of Good over Evil: In an epoch of decadence Evil has seized power. Therefore the great fire which consumes the corrupted universe acts as the final catharsis. The apocalyptic logic to be found in many religions which infers that the new can only be born out of the catastrophic destruction of the old, is thus also a paradigm in the Kalachakra teachings and has , as we shall later show through examples from Tibetan history, had disastrous consequences — incidentally no less than the Apocalypse of St. John has had for the West.

Time and time again Rahu will swallow the sun and the moon, time and again Kalagni will drown the universe in a sea of flames, time and again the world will end and time and again it will arise anew. Such concepts of “eternal recurrence” repeatedly display the same apocalyptic schema: a state of paradise at the start, then accelerating decline of morals and the conditions of life, a destructive global catastrophe at the end and a glorious new beginning which recreates the original paradise.

In the Indian beliefs about world time (which were taken up by Buddhism) just as in the Greco-Roman world a distinction is drawn between four great cycles. In the West these are known as the golden, silver, copper, and iron ages. The first of these corresponds in the Indian system to the Krta yuga the last to the Kali yuga. All four eras form a Mahakalpa, a great cycle, at the end of which stands the sacrifice of the whole universe and at whose new beginning a redemptive figure stands. (We shall consider in detail this messianic figure who emerges at the interface between the destruction and the renewal of the world and who also makes a spectacular appearance in the Kalachakra Tantra in our discussion of the Shambhala myth.) [5]

In eternal recurrence the universe runs through this rhythm of destruction and resurrection. Billions upon billions of universes suffer the same fate. Something like this exceeds human comprehension, but the truly monstrous in this conception is that the tantra master, for whom there is an occult correspondence between the inner world and the outside world, is supposed to be the director of this cosmic drama, in that he purposefully frees the candali (the fire woman) within his mystic body. He appears in the Kalachakra Tantra both as the great destroyer, the Rudra Chakrin, the wrathful “wheel turner”, who moves the wheel of cyclical time, and also in the form of the long awaited messiah who leads the chosen out of the terrible hell of the Kali yuga (to which he administers the death-blow) into the sunlight of the Krta yuga. He is the ADI BUDDHA, the lord of the astral worlds and of the times. [6] The famous scholar of religious studies, Mircea Eliade, speculates over a number of pages in a text on the Mythos der ewigen Wiederkehr [Myth of eternal recurrence] as to how the people of antiquity found comfort in the idea that one day the time of their misery and torment would pass and be replaced by a joyful time (Eliade, 1953). As bad as it may be for us, the hour will come in which we enter the original paradise once more. The resurrection inevitably follows the catastrophe. But — and this is something Eliade suppresses — in this model, the catastrophe inevitably follows the resurrection. (He also suppresses the fact that in most religions those of different faiths are sacrificed in the apocalyptic downfall and only the true believers are allowed to enter the Christian “New Jerusalem” or the Buddhist mythic realm, “Shambhala”.)


[1] This doesn’t mean that he must therefore renounce the nameless “characteristics” of nirvana in the tantric texts. Indeed, Tantrism sees itself as the continuation and further development of the two previous schools of Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism and is constantly at pains to integrate their teachings. In its view they can be all but said to form the necessary steps which must be climbed before the diamond path may be set foot upon. It is, however, not rare for Vajrayana to become caught up in incurable contradictions in this undertaking. One of these is the personification of the ADI BUDDHA as a creator god.

[2] We also know of a “dark” or “black sun” in the symbolic world of European alchemy, which — exactly like Rahu in the Kalachakra Tantra — has the role of destroying the sun and moon as the masculine and feminine principles and replacing them with an androgynous principle.

[3] The “mare” as the symbol of dangerous, aggressive and morbid femininity must therefore be seen in stark contrast to the “cow”, highly revered in India. In the two animals prostitution (mare) and marriage (cow), dissolution and fidelity, lecherousness and motherhood, sex and love, destruction and fertility confront one another.

[4] The cynicism and the consequences of such or similar statements as — “The microcosmic apocalypse experienced by the yogi is only from one side a downfall: It is opposed by a becoming in the spiritual [side]" — is something the authors are barely aware of, simply because they do not take the micro/macrocosmic consequences seriously (Hinze, 1983, p. 48). Everything which is within, so Tantrism teaches us, is also outside. This means without exception that the yogi through the ritual destruction of the internal (his bodily aggregates) also destroys the external. Or, to put about the above quotation, the “becoming in the spiritual” is linked to an extermination of the material (the external world).

[5] Normally the sequence of yugas is conceived as a series in time. This is also true in general for the Kalachakra Tantra. Yet here a further, very original conception is adopted from Indian mythology, which says that all four ages exist simultaneously alongside one another, as the segments of a circle, so to speak. The time god wanders through this circle as the savior, pacing the periphery. The territory which he is walking through always finds itself in the last phase of the Kali yuga. But as soon as the “messiah” has set foot in it, the golden era (Krta Yuga) dawns at this location. The time god thus finds himself constantly on the borderline between catastrophe and paradise. He is the clock hand which in every second transforms hell into heaven and, since he is walking in circles, this situation repeats itself incessantly (Petri, 1966., p. 39).

[6] In the Four Noble Truths, all schools of Buddhism teach the origin of suffering, the way to alleviate the suffering, and the entry into timelessness (nirvana). It is difficult too understand why the doctrine — already in Mahayana and later in Vajrayana — adopted as its own a cyclic vision of world history, which predicates suffering as a constantly to be repeated cosmic program.



We have described how the “starry body” of the tantra master (ADI BUDDHA) indexes the time, but his mystic body likewise embraces all of space and everything we have said about the heavenly bodies is basically also true for the spatial arrangement of the universe. The ADI BUDDHA incorporates the entire Buddhist cosmos. This is to be understood most concretely in a tantric point of view, and means that the structural elements of the “great world” must be able to be found again as structural elements in the body (the “small world”) of the yogi (ADI BUDDHA). We thus begin with a look at the construction of the Buddhist cosmos.

The Buddhist mandala cosmos

As soon as we have gained some insight into the cosmography of Buddhism it becomes apparent how fundamentally different it is from our modern scientific world view. It is primarily based upon the descriptions of the Abhidharmakosa, a written record from the Mahayana scholar Vasubhandu (fifth century C.E.). The Kalachakra Tantra has largely adopted Vasubhandu’s design and only deviates from it at particular points.

At the midpoint of the Buddhist universe rises Meru, the world mountain, which towers above everything else and on which heaven and earth meet. It is round like the “axle of a wheel”. In a passage in the Kalachakra Tantra it is compared to the vajra and described as a gigantic “thunderbolt” (Newman, 1987, p. 503). The Swiss mandala expert, Martin Brauen, sees in it a “dagger-like shape” and therefore calls it the “earth dagger” (Brauen, 1992, p. 127). According to Winfried Petri the world mountain has the form of the “inverted base of a cone”. All of these are phallic metaphors.

Five circles of different sizes surround the gigantic “phallus” like wheels; they are each assigned to an element. Starting from the outermost they are the circle of space, the circle of air, the circle of fire, the circle of water, the circle of earth. Air and fire, however, permeate the entire cosmic architecture. “In all directions are wind [air] and fire”, the Kalachakra Tantra says (Newman, 1987, p. 506). These two elements are the spirit, so to speak, which blows through the entire construction, but they also form the two forces of destruction which shall obliterate the world structure at the end of time, exactly as the breath (air, wind) and the flames (fire, candali) together burn down the old bodily aggregates in the yogi’s mystic body. The circle of the earth consists of a total of twelve individual continents which swim on the circle of water like lotus blossoms. It thus forms a discontinuous, non-homogenous circular segment. One of these continents is our world, the “earth”. It bears the name Jambudvipa, which means “rose apple tree continent”.

In Vasubandhu’s original account, Meru is not surrounded by the five elements, but rather by seven ring-like chains of mountains, which lie like wheels around the world axis. Huge oceans are found between these wheels. The last of these seas is also the largest. It is called Mahasa Mudra, the Great Mudra.

Thus, in the Buddhist concept of the world Meru forms the vertical, which is divided into three segments — from bottom to top: (1) hell, (2) earth, and (3) heaven.

At its roots, (1), the seven main hells are found, each more horrific than the last. In contrast to Western beliefs about the under world, in Buddhism there are “cold hells” in addition to the hot, where souls are tormented not with fire but with ice. Watery hells can also be found there, in others only smoke. The precise description of the torments in these dreadful places has been a favorite pastime of Tibetan monks for centuries. Above the underworld, at the foot of Meru, live the so-called hunger spirits (pretas),a restless horde of humanoid beings, who are driven by constant desire.

In the middle segment of the mountain, (2), we encounter the twelve continents, and among them Jambudvipa, the earth. Since the continents are surrounded by ocean, there is no natural land bridge to the world axis. We humans live on the “rose apple tree continent” (Jambudvipa). This continent is also called the “land of karma”, since the beings who live there are still burdened with karma (stains as a consequence of bad deeds). But we inhabitants of Jambpudvipa have the chance to work off such karmic stains for good, by following the teachings of the Buddha. This is a great privilege which is not as readily available to the inhabitants of other spheres or the other continents.

Above the earthly world rises the segment of the heavens, (3), and here we find ourselves in the realm of the stars and planets. Beyond this one can wander through various divine circles, which become ever more powerful the higher one goes. The “divine” ascent begins in regions inhabited by deities who have not yet freed themselves from their desires. Then we enter the victorious residences of the thirty-three deities of the “realm of forms”, which we can regard as “Forms” in the platonic sense, that is, as immobile, downward radiating energy fields. Among them are to be included, just as with Plato, the higher entities which represent the pure essence of the five elements.

We now leave behind Mount Meru as a geographically describable region and “fly” through a “zone of intersection”, in which the realm of the form gods and the even more powerful, more grandiose, and more holy imperium of formlessness can be found. The “inhabitants” of this sphere are no longer personalities at all and cannot be visualized, rather, they bear the names of general terms. The Abhidharmakosa calls them “Without sorrow”, “Nothing greater”, “Great success”, Stainless”, and so forth. Even higher up we encounter a sphere, which has names such as “Infinite consciousness “ and “ Nothing whatever” (Tayé, 1995, p.155). The Kalachakra Tantra has completely incorporated this model of the world from Mahayana Buddhism.

From this staged symbolism of the world mountain we can easily recognize that it embodies not just a cosmic model, but also, homologously, the likeness of an initiatory way. Now whether this way begins down in hell or from the middle of the continent of earth, it should in any case lead, via a progression through various earthly and heavenly spheres, to the highest regions of the formless realm.

The cosmos and the energy body of the yogi

As we have already indicated a number of times, a homology exists between the Buddhist cosmogram and the bodily geography of the yogi. Microcosm and macrocosm are congruent, the world and the mystic body of a practicing yogi form a unity. The ADI BUDDHA, as the perfected form of the highest tantra master, and the cosmos are identical.

"Everything is in the body” — this famous occult correspondence is of fundamental significance for Tantrism too. The parallel to the world axis (Meru) is formed, for example, by the middle channel (avadhuti) in the mystic body of the yogi. The texts then also refer to it simply and straightforwardly as “Meru”. Just as the realm of formlessness is to be sought above Mount Meru in the cosmos, so the yogi (ADI BUDDHA) experiences the highest bliss of the “emptiness of all forms” above his head in the “thousand-petaled lotus”. The forehead chakra and the throat chakra correspond to the residences of various of the thirty-three form gods (Forms) mentioned above. Humanity lives in the heart of the yogi and below this it goes on to the genitals, where the realms of hell are situated.

Correspondingly, it says in the Kalachakra Tantra: “Earth, wind, gods, seas, everything is to be recognized amidst the body” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra II, p. 2). All the parts of the “small” body correspond to the parts of the “great” body: The yogi’s (ADI BUDDHA’s) rows of teeth form the various lunar houses; the veins the rivers. Hands and feet are islands and mountains, even a female louse hidden in the pubic hair of a Tantric has a “transcendent” significance: It counts as the dangerous vulva of a demoness from a particular region in hell (Grünwedel, Kalacakra II, p. 34). This bodily homology of the cosmos is the great secret which Buddha revealed to King Suchandra as he instructed him in the Kalachakra Tantra: “As it is without, so it is in the body.” (Newman, 1987, pp. 115,104, 472, 473, 504, 509). At the same time as the secret was exposed, the “simple” recipe with which the yogi could attain and exercise absolute control over the whole universe was also revealed: in that he controls the energy currents within his mystic body he controls the cosmos; on the scale in which he lets bliss flow through his veins (wind channels), on that scale he brings delight to the universe; the turbulence which he calls forth in his insides also shakes the external world through storms and earthquakes. Everything happens in parallel: when the yogi burns up his body during the purification the very same procedure reduces the whole universe to rubble and ash.

Chakravala or the iron wheel

Just as the androgynous body of the ADI BUDDHA or of the enlightened yogi concentrates within itself the energies of both sexes, so Buddhist cosmography is also based upon a gender polarity. Meru, the world mountain, has a most obviously phallic character and is therefore also referred to as Vajra or, more directly, as Lingam (phallus). The great oceans which surround the masculine symbol represent — as a circle and as water — the feminine principle.

Oddly, the outermost chain of mountains within the cosmic model are forged from pure iron. This iron crown must have a deep symbolic significance since the whole system is named after it; its name is Chakravala ("iron wheel”). We thus have to ask ourselves why the Buddhist universe is framed by a metal which is seen all over the world as a symbol of injury, killing, and war. The image naturally invites a comparison to the “iron age” to which in Greco-Roman mythology humanity is chained before its cyclical downfall. The Indian idea of the Kali yuga and the European one of the “iron age” are congruent in a surprising number of aspects. In both cases it comes to an increasingly rapid degeneration of the law, cusstoms, and morality. In the end only a war of all against all remains. Then a savior figure appears and the whole cosmic game begins afresh.

Modern and Buddhist world views

The reader may have already asked him or herself how contemporary Tibetan lamas reconcile their traditional Buddhist cosmology with our scientific world view. Do they reject it outright, have they adopted it, or do they seek for a way to combine both systems? Someone who knew the Kalachakra Tantra well, the Kagyupa guru, Kalu Rinpoche, who died in 1989, gave a clear and concise answer to all three questions: “Each of these cosmologies is perfect for the being whose karmic projections cause them to experience their universe in this manner. ... Therefore on a relative level every cosmology is valid. At a final level, no cosmology is absolutely true. It cannot be universally valid as long as there are beings in fundamentally different situations” (Brauen, 1992, p. 109). According to his, the cosmos is an apparition of the spirit. The world has no existence outside of the consciousness which perceives it. If this consciousness changes then the world changes to the same degree. For this reason the cosmography of Buddhism does not describe nature but solely forms of the spirit. Such an extreme idealism and radical relativism helps itself to the power to undermine with a single dry statement the foundations of our scientific world view. But if nothing is final any more, it follows that everything is possible, even the cosmology of the Abhidharmakosa. Yet, the lamas argue, only at the point in time where all of humanity have adopted the Buddhist paradigm can they also perceive the gigantic Meru mountain in the middle of their universe. Today, Tibetan gurus claim, only the few “chosen” have this ability.

In the second part of our study, we shall examine the intensive and warm relationship between the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and modern Western scientists and show that the radical relativism of a Kalu Rinpoche is also distributed in such circles. Similar philosophical speculations by Europeans can be found, even from earlier times. Heinrich Harrer, who traveled extensively through Tibet tells in an anecdote of how Westerners readily — even if purely out of coquetry — take on the Tibetan world view. Harrer was assigned to impart to the Tibetans, but in particular the young Dalai Lama, the modern scientific world view. In the year 1948, as he tried to explain to a group of Tibetan nobles at a party that our earth is round and is neither flat nor a continent, he called upon the famous Italian Tibetologist, Giuseppe Tucci, who was also present, to be his witness and support his theory. “To my greatest surprise”, says Harrer, “he took the side of the doubters, since he believed that all sciences must constantly revise their theories and one day the Tibetan teaching could just as well prove to be right” (Harrer, 1984, p. 190).

Thus, following a Buddhization of our world there would be no need for the “converted” population of the world to do without the traditional cosmic “map” of the Abhidharmakosa, since in accordance with the Buddhist theory of perception the “map” and the territory it describes are identical. Both, the geography and its likeness in consciousness, ultimately prove themselves to be projections of one and the same spirit.

The downfall of the tantric universe

The mystic bodily structure of the yogi (ADI BUDDHA) duplicates the cosmogram of the Chakravala. Correspondingly, the fate of his energy body proves to be identical to the fate of the universe. Just as the fore woman in the form of the candali burns up all the coarse elements inside the tantra master step by step, so at the end of time the whole universe becomes the victim of a world fire, which finds its origin at the roots of Mount Meru in the form of Kalagni. Step by step, Kalagni set the individual segments of the world axis aflame and arises flickering up to the region of the form gods (the Forms). Only in the highest heights, in the sphere of formlessness, does the destructive fire come to a standstill. When there is nothing more to burn the flame is extinguished from alone. That which remains of the whole of Chakravala are atomic elements of space ("galactic seeds”), which provide the building blocks for the construction of a new cosmos, and which, in accordance with the law of eternal recurrence, will look exactly the same as the old one and share the same fate as its predecessor.

The mandala principle

The Buddhist universe (Chakravala) takes the form of a mandala. This Sanskrit word originally meant ‘circle’ and is translated into Tibetan as kyl-khor, which means, roughly ‘center and periphery’. At the midpoint of the Chakravala we find Mount Meru; the periphery is formed by the gigantic iron wheel we have already mentioned.

There are round mandalas, square mandalas, two- and three-dimensional mandalas, yet in all cases the principle of midpoint and periphery is maintained. The four sides of a square diagram are often equated with the four points of the compass. A five-way concept is also characteristic for the tantric mandala form — with a center and the four points of the compass. The whole construction is seen as an energy field, from which, as from a platonic Form, tremendous forces can flow out.

A mandala is considered to be the archetype of order. They stand opposed to disorder, anarchy and chaos as contrary principles. Climatic turbulence, bodily sicknesses, desolate and wild stretches of land, barbaric peoples and realms of unbelief all belong to the world of chaos. In order to seize possession of such regions of disorder and ethnic groupings or to put an end to chaotic disturbances (in the body of a sick person for instance), Tibetan lamas perform various rites, which ultimately all lead to the construction of a mandala. This is imposed upon a “chaotic” territory through symbolic actions so as to occupy it; it is mentally projected into the infirm body of a patient so as to dispel his or her illness and the risk of death; it is “pulled over” a zone of protection as a solid fortification against storm and hail.

Like a stencil, a mandala pattern impresses itself upon all levels of being and consciousness. A body, a temple, a palace, a town, or a continent can thus as much have the form of a mandala as a thought, an imagining, a political structure. In this view, the entire geography of a country with its mountains, seas, rivers, towns and shrines possesses an extraterrestrial archetype, a mandala-like prototype, whose earthly likeness it embodies. This transcendent geometry is not visible to an ordinary eye and conceals itself on a higher cosmic level.

Hidden behind the geographical form we perceive, the country of Tibet also has, the lamas believe, a mandala structure, with the capital Lhasa as its center and the surrounding mountain ranges as its periphery. Likewise, the street plan of Lhasa is seen as the impression of a mandala, with the holiest temple in Tibet, the Jokhang, as its midpoint. The architectural design of the latter was similarly based on a mandala with the main altar as its center.

The political structure of former Tibet also bore a mandala character. In it the Dalai Lama formed the central sun (the mandala center) about which the other abbots of Tibet orbit as planets. Up until 1959 the Tibetan government was conceived of as a diagram with a center and four sections (sides). “The government is founded upon four divisions”, wrote the Seventh Dalai Lama in a state political directive, “These are (1) the court of law, (2) the tax office, (3) the treasury, and (4) the cabinet. They are all aligned to the four points of the compass along the sides of a square which encloses the central figure of the Buddha” (Redwood French, 1985, p. 87).

The prototype of the highest Buddha and the emanations surrounding him was thus transferred to the state leadership and the various offices which were subordinate to it. Of course, the central figure of this political mandala is intended to be the Dalai Lama, since he concentrates the entire worldly and spiritual power in his person. Every single monastery reiterates this political geometry with the respective abbot in the middle.

But the mandala does not just structure the world of appearances; in Buddhist culture it likewise determines the human psyche, the spirit and all the transcendental spheres. It serves as an aid to meditation and as an imaginary palace of the gods in the tantric exercises. On a microcosmic level the energy body of the yogi is seen as the construction of a three-dimensional mandala with the middle channel (avadhuti) as the central axis. The whole cosmic-psychic anatomy of the ADI BUDDHA (tantra master) is thus a universal mandala. For this reason we can comprehend Buddhist culture in general (not just the Tibetan variant) as a complicated network of countless mandalas. Further, since these exist at different levels of being, they are encapsulated within one another, include one another, and overlap each other.

Quite rightly one aspect of the Buddhist/tantric mandalas has been compared in cross-cultural studies with the magic circles used by the medieval sorcerers of Europe to summon up spirits, angels, and demons. Then a mandala ("magic circle”) can also be used to conjure up Buddhas, gods and asuras (demons).

The Kalachakra sand mandala

Mandalas are employed in all tantric rituals, yet in the Kalachakra Tantra it plays an extremely prominent role. Before the seven lower solemnities of the Time Tantra even begin a mandala –a very lavish one indeed — is constructed in the visible external world. Specially trained monks — for the Dalai Lama a special unit from the Namgyal institute — are entrusted with its construction. The “building materials” consist primarily of colored sand, lines and figures of which are applied to a sketch in a complicated process lasting several days. Every line, every geometric form, every shading, every object inserted has its cosmic significance. Since the mandala is built from sand, we are dealing with a very vulnerable work of art, which can easily be destroyed; and this, astonishingly — and as we shall see — is the final goal of the entire complicated procedure.

The sand mandala of the Time Tantras can be deciphered as the visual representation of the whole Kalachakra ritual by anyone who understands the symbols depicted there. Such an interpreter would once again come across all the semantic content we have encountered in the above description of the tantric initiatory way.

The Kalachakra sand mandala

For this reason, we must regard this external image in sand as just the visible reflection of an inner-spiritual construction which (in another sphere) the yogi imagines as a magnificent palace built upon the peak of Mount Meru. [1] As the center and the two regents of the imagined temple palace we encounter Kalachakra and his wisdom consort, Vishvamata. They are enthroned as the divine couple in the midpoint of the holy of holies.

This Buddhist “Versailles” is inhabited by a total of 722 deities, the majority of whom represent the individual segments of time: the gods of the twelve-year cycles, the four seasons, twelve months, 360 days, twelve hours, and sixty minutes all dwell here. In addition there are the supernatural entities who represent the five elements, the planets, the 28 phases of the moon and the twelve sensory regions. Very near to the center, i.e., to the divine couple Kalachakra and Vishvamata, the four meditation Buddhas can be found in union with their partners, then follow a number of Bodhisattvas.

The architecture of the Kalachakra palace encompasses five individual mandalas, each enclosing the next. Segments which lie closer to the center (the divine couple) are accorded a higher spiritual evaluation than those which are further away. The fivefold organization of the building complex is supposed to reflect, among other things, the five rings (the five elements) which lie around Mount Meru in Buddhist cosmography. Likewise the height and breadth of the palace are in their relation to one another a copy of the proportions of the cosmos. Thus the Kalachakra mandala is also a microcosmic likeness of the Buddhist universe.

Anyone entering the Kalachakra palace from outside progresses through a five-stage initiation which culminates in the inner sanctum where the primordial couple, Kalachakra and Vishvamata, are in union. But seen from within, each of the individual mandala segments and the deities dwelling within them represents an outward radiation (emanation) of the divine first couple.

Just as the macrocosmic mandala of the universe with Mount Meru as its axis can be rediscovered in the microcosmic body of the yogi (ADI BUDDHA), so too the Kalachakra palace is identical with his mystic body. We must never lose sight of this. For this reason, the detailed description of the Kalachakra sand mandala which now follows must also be regarded as the anatomy of the tantra master (ADI BUDDHA). The anatomical “map” of the ADI BUDDHA thus exhibits a number of different images: on one occasion it possesses the structure which corresponds to that of the entire universe, on another it forms that of the Kalachakra palace, or it corresponds to the complicated construction of the dasakaro vasi ("the Power of Ten”) described above. But in all of these models the basic mandala-like pattern of a center and a periphery is always the same.

The structure of the Kalachakra palace

The primordial divine couple, the time god Kalachakra and the time goddess Vishvamata, govern from the center of the Kalachakra palace. They are depicted in the visible world of the sand mandala by a blue vajra (Kalachakra) and an orange dot (Vishvamata). Directly beneath them a yellow layer of sand which represents Kalagni, the destructive fire, is found; beneath this there is a blue layer, symbol of the apocalyptic planet, Rahu. Layers for the sun, the moon, and for a lotus flower follow. The destruction of the primordial couple is thus, through the presence of Kalagni and Rahu, already preprogrammed in the center of the sand mandala, or rather of the palace of time.

Kalachakra and Vishvamata are surrounded by eight lotus petals (all of this is made from colored sand). Now these do not — as one might assume — represent eight further emanation couples, but rather– in the official interpretation — we encounter the eight shaktis here. We are thus dealing with eight female beings, eight energy bearers (or eight “sacrificial goddesses”). They correspond to the eight karma mudras who surround the tantra master in union with his partner in the ganachakra, the twelfth level of initiation (the vase initiation). However, when we think back, there was talk of ten Shaktis before. We reach the number “ten” by counting two feminine aspects of Vishvamata (the central goddess) in addition to the eight “sacrificial goddesses” (lotus petals). Together they signalize the ten chief winds (the dasakaro vasi) with which the tantra master controls all the microcosmic energies in his mystic body.

The center of the Kalachakra sand mandala

Thus, within the innermost segment of the palace of time the whole tantric sacrificial scenario is sketched out using only a very few symbols, since the ten shaktis (originally ten women) are, as we have described in detail above, manipulated and eradicated as autonomous individuals in the ganachakra ritual so that their feminine energies can be transferred to the tantra master. This central segment of the sand mandala bears the name of the “mandala of great bliss” (Brauen, 1992, p. 133).

The second, adjacent complex is called the “mandala of enlightened wisdom”. Here there are sixteen pillars which symbolize different kinds of emptiness and which divide the space into sixteen different rooms. The latter are occupied by couples who are in fact peaceful deities. They are represented in the mandala by small piles of colored sand. In this part of the palace ten (!) vases (kalashas) can also be found. These are filled with revolting substances like excrement, urine, blood, human flesh, and so on, which are transformed into bliss-conferring nectars during the ritual by the tantra master. These vessels symbolize once again the ten “sacrificial goddesses” or the ten mudras of the ganachakra. In the first precise description of a Kalachakra ritual by a Western academic (Ferdinand Lessing), reference is made to the feminine symbolic significance of the vases: the “lamas ... proceed to the podium, each with a large water pot (kalasha). They move it to and fro. It symbolizes the young lady of the initiation, who plays such a great role in this cult” (Wayman, 1973, p. 62). Yet again, the kalashas correspond to the ten winds or the “Power of Ten” (dasakaro vasi) and thereby to the diamond body of the ADI BUDDHA.

On our tour of the palace of time, the third segment with the name of “the mandala of enlightened mind” follows. This is the house of the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. The latter, the Dhyani or meditation Buddhas, reside here in close embrace with their consorts: to the East, the black Amoghasiddhi with Locana; to the South, the red Ratnasambhava with Mamaki; to the North, the white Amitabha with Pandara; to the West, Vairocana in the arms of Tara. The areas between the points of the compass are likewise occupied by Buddha couples. All the Bodhisattvas who dwell the in the “mandala of enlightened mind” are also portrayed in the yab-yum posture (of sexual union). This third segment demonstrates most vividly that Tantrism derives the emanation of time from the erotic love of divine couples.

The fourth “mandala of enlightened speech” follows. Within it are found eight lotus flowers, each of which itself has eight petals. Once again the pattern of the ganachakra, which we have already encountered in the center of the sand mandala, is repeated in this bouquet. In the middle of each of the eight lotuses a couple sits in close embrace and on each of the eight surrounding petals we can discern a goddess. This makes a total of eighty deities (64 shaktis, 8 female partners, and 8 male deities).

The large number of shaktis, “daughters” of the mudras “sacrificed” in the ganachakra, is an indicator of how fundamentally the idea of the tantric female sacrifice determines the doctrine of time and its artistic representation. At the gates which lead out from the fourth segment into the third “mandala of enlightened mind”, we are once again confronted with the symbolic representation of “sacrificial goddesses”. Aside from this, 36 further shaktis, who represent the root syllables of the Sanskrit alphabet and thereby the building blocks of language, live in this building complex.

As the final and outermost segment of the mandala palace we enter the “body mandala”. There we meet the 360 deities of the days of the year. Here too we encounter the basic pattern of the ganachakra. There are twelve large lotuses, each with 28 petals. In the center of each flower a god and a goddess embrace one another, all around them sit 28 goddesses grouped into three rows. Each lotus thus exhibits 30 deities, multiplying by twelve we have the 360 day gods (five days are not calculated). In addition we meet in the body mandala twelve pairs of wrathful deities and 36 goddesses of desire.

We have nonetheless not yet described all the grounds of the palace. The five square architectural units already mentioned are namely bordered by six circular segments. Numerous symbols of bliss like wheels, wish-granting jewels, shells, mirrors, and so on, rest in the arcs (quadrants) which are formed between the last square and the first circle. The five subsequent circles symbolize the elements in the following order: earth, water, fire, wind, and space. Cemeteries are to be found on circles three and four, depicted in the form of wheels. In the imagination they are inhabited by ten horrifying dakinis with their partners. From a Buddhist point of view this “ring of the dead” signifies that only he who has surmounted his bodily existence may enter the mandala palace.

The fifth circle of space is represented by a chain of golden vajras. The whole mandala is surrounded by a circle of flames as a sixth ring. According to a number of commentator this is supposed to represent the wisdom of Buddha; however, if we further pursue the fate of the sand mandala, it must be associated with the “world fire” (Kalagni) which in the end burns down the palace of the time gods.

As aesthetic and peaceful as the sand mandala may appear to be to a Western observer, it still conceals behind it the frozen ornament of the sacrificial ritual of Tantrism. Every single female figure which inhabits the palace of time, be she a dakini, shakti, or a “sacrificial goddess”, is the bearer of the so sought after “gynergy” which the yogi has appropriated through his sexual magic practices so as to then let it flow as the power source of his androgynous mystic body. The Kalachakra palace is thus an alchemic laboratory for the appropriation of life energies. In the ritual fate of the sand mandala we shall unmistakably demonstrate that it is a gigantic sacrificial altar. It is not just the shaktis who are sacrificed, but the erotic couples as well, who delight the temple with their untroubled pleasures of love, indeed the time god (Kalachakra) and the time goddess (Vishvamata) themselves. The downfall of them all is preordained, their fate is sealed.

The construction of the Kalachakra sand mandala

The construction of the Kalachakra sand mandala is a complex and multilayered procedure which is carried out by a number of specially trained lamas. The “master builder “ of the diagram and the spiritual leader of the Kalachakra initiation need not always be the same person. They are so to speak the assistants of the tantra master. Nonetheless, at the outset the latter makes the following appeal to the time god: “Oh, victorious Kalachakra, lord of knowledge, I prostrate myself to the protector and possessor of compassion. I am making a mandala here out of love and compassion for my disciples and as an offering in respect to you. Oh Kalachakra, please be kind and remain close to me. I, the vajra master, am creating this mandala to purify the obstructions of all beings. Therefore, always be considerate of my disciples and me, and please reside in the mandala” (quoted by Bryant, 1992, p. 141).

The grounds sought out for the ritual are now subjected to a rigorous examination, the so-called “purifying of the site”. Monks investigate the ground, measurements are taken, mantras and sutras are quoted. Subsequently it comes to a highly provocative scene, in which the local spirits and the earth goddess are violently forced to agree to the construction of the mandala.

Vajravega – the terrifying emanation of Kalachakra

For this purpose one of the lamas takes on the appearance of Vajravega, that is, he visualizes himself as this deity. Vajravega is blue in color, has three necks and 24 hands. As clothing he wears a tigerskin skirt, decorated with snakes and bones. He is considered to be the terrifying emanation of the time god Kalachakra. He can evoke sixty wrathful protective deities from out of his inscrutable heart, who then storm out through his ears, nostrils, eyes, mouth, urethra, anus, and from an opening in the top of his skull. Among these are found zombies, vampires and dakinis with the heads of animals.

In the imaginations of the lamas who conduct the ritual, this monster now drags in the impeding local spirits with iron hooks and, once they have been bound in chains, nails them down in the ten directions with ritual daggers. A further ten wrathful deities are projected into each of these daggers (phurbas). There are indications which must be regarded seriously that in the performance of the Kalachakra rituals it is not just the local spirits, but likewise the earth mother (Srinmo) who embody the nailed down victims. This myth of the nailing of Srinmo played a central “national” role in the construction of Tibetan temples, which actually represent nothing more than three-dimensional mandalas. We shall come to speak of this in detail in the second part of our study.

Now the tantra master solemnly circles the mandala location in a clockwise direction, and sprinkles it with various substances and holy water. After this the monks who participate in the ritual imagine in their spirits that this location is covered in numerous small vajras.

Afterwards there is a significant demonstration of power: The tantra master sits down on his own in the center of the mandala space, faces the East and says the following: “I shall build on this place a mandala in the manner in which I have imagined it” (quoted by Brauen, 1992, p. 77). With this act of occupation he makes it unmistakably clear who the lord of the ritual action is. Further liturgical actions follow.

The tantra master evokes the terrifying deity, Vajravega, anew, and once again drives potential disruptive spirits out of the mandala grounds. He is so filled with wrathful deities that horror figures who are supposed to protect the mandala even emanate from out of the soles of his feet. Afterwards the place is occupied by the symbols of the five Dhyani Buddhas. On the table top, the lama lays a lotus, a sword, a wish-granting jewel, a wheel and, in the middle, a vajra. This centrally placed “thunderbolt” demonstrates yet again the masculine control of the earth.

This dominating, patriarchal behavior has not always been present in the history of Buddhism. In a famous scene from the life of the historical Buddha, he calls upon the earth to bear witness to his enlightenment by touching it with his right hand (Bhumisparsha mudra). Tantric Buddhism has preserved this scene among its Buddha legends, but has added a small change; here Shakyamuni makes the gesture of stroking the earth with a vajra, the scepter of phallic power. “This instrument is indispensable for the liturgy of the Great Path”, Giuseppe Tucci writes, “The earth transformed by the vajra becomes diamond” (Tucci, 1982, p. 97). As spiritually valuable a symbol as the diamond may appear to be, it is not just an image of purity but is also a metaphor for sterility. Between the vajra and the earth lies the opposition between spirit and life, or — as the American Buddhist Ken Wilber would express it — the “noosphere” (the realm of the spirit) and the “biosphere” (the realm of nature). In that the earth is transformed into a diamond by the tantric gesture of the Buddha, nature is symbolically transformed into pure spirit and woman into a man.

But let us return to the script which describes the construction of the sand mandala. After the fixation of the earth spirits or the earth mother, the “procession of the ten vases” which are filled with nectars follows. These are carried by monks around the ritual table upon which the sand mandala will be built. Yet again the number ten! The ten vases, the ten powers, the ten winds, the ten shaktis — they are all variations on the ten mudras, who participated and were “sacrificed” in the highest initiation of the ganachakra ritual.

All their energies flow into Vishvamata, the chief consort of the Kalachakra deity. The time goddess is symbolized by a seashell which the monks lay in the middle of the ritual table and which is to be filled with the essences from all ten vessels (vases). Here the shell represents the feminine element at its highest concentration.

The tantra master now ties a golden vajra to a thread. He puts the other end of the thread to his heart and then lays the “thunderbolt” with emphasis on the central shell. The sovereignty of the masculine principle (vajra) over the feminine principle (the shell) could not be demonstrated more unequivocally. Afterwards, all the ritual objects are removed from the mandala.

The time has now come to begin with the preparatory sketches of the sand mandala. The monks commence with the “snapping of the wisdom string”. Here we are dealing with five different threads which symbolize the five Dhyani Buddhas with their consorts. Through a ritual “plucking” of these strings, the texts tell us, the mandala site becomes occupied by these five supreme beings. [2]

After many recitations the monks now begin with the actual artistic work, surrounded by numerous containers filled with the colored sand. This is carefully applied to the preliminary sketch with a type of funnel. This requires extreme precision, since the sand must form hair-thin lines, and there are even a number of drawings of figures to be rendered in sand. Work begins in the middle and proceeds outwards, that is, the center of the mandala is created first and one then works step by step towards the periphery. It takes another five days before the artwork is completed.

At the end, the complete work is surrounded by ten (!) ritual daggers (phurbas) which act as protective symbols. Likewise, ten (!) vases which are supposed to represent the ten shaktis are arranged around the mandala. Since all the tenfold symbols in the Kalachakra Tantra stand in a homologous relation to the “sacrificed” mudras (shaktis, dakinis, yoginis) of the ganachakra ritual described above, the mandala, with- we repeat — its numerous sequences of ten, is an ornamental demonstration of the “tantric female sacrifice” also described above.

Once the vases and daggers have been put in place, the whole artwork is hidden behind a curtain, as if the sacrificial scenario concealed behind the sacred work ought to be masked. To close, the monks perform another dance. Anyone who has up till now doubted whether the Kalachakra sand mandala concerns the visual portrayal of a sacrificial rite, actually ought to be convinced by the name of this dance. It is called the “ritual dance of the sacrificial goddesses”.

The destruction of the mandala

The sand mandala accompanies the seven lower levels of the public Kalachakra ritual as the mute and earthly likeness of a transcendental tantric divine palace. It is supposed to help the initiand create a corresponding architectural work with all its inhabitants within his imagination and to thus give it a spiritual existence. As in the real construction, within the imagination work also begins at the center of the mandala, in which Kalachakra and Vishvamata are united. Starting from there, the initiand visualizes step by step the construction of the whole palace of time with its 722 gods. He thus commences at the inner sanctum, and then imagines every mandala segment which follows, ending with the periphery of the ring of flame, which blazes around the entire architectural construct.

During the imaginary construction of the mandala, the initiand is suddenly required to imagine an extremely puzzling scene which we would like to examine more closely: “Out of the syllable HUM”, it says in the Kalachakra Tantra, “Vajravega emanates in the heart of the medititator [the initiand], the wrathful form of Kalachakra — grinning and with gnashing teeth Vajravega stands upon a chariot drawn by a fabulous being; he thrusts a hook into the navel of Kalachakra, ties his hands up, threatens him with weapons and drags him before the meditator, in whose heart he finally dissolves himself” (Brauen, 1992, p. 114).

What is happening? Vajravega, the wrathful emanation of the time god, suddenly turns against his own “emanation father”, Kalachakra, and brutally drags him before the meditating adept. In this scene a distinction is thus drawn between Kalachakra and Vajravega. Is this — as Martin Brauen suspects — to be interpreted as the symbolic repetition of the act of birth, which is indeed also associated with pain?

Such an interpretation does not seem convincing to us. It seems far more plausible to recognize a somewhat obscure variant of the dark demon Rahu in the Vajravega figure, who destroys the sun and the moon in the Kalachakra Tantra so as to claim power over time in their stead. Brauen also indirectly concedes this when he compares the aggressive emergence of Vajravega with the activation of the “middle channel” (avadhuti) in the mystic body of the yogi and the associated destruction of both energy streams (the sun and moon). The same procedure is also regarded to be the chief task of Rahu, and likewise, as we have described above, the middle channel bears the name of the dark planet (Rahu). Be that as it may, the destructive arrival of Vajravega heralds the fate of the whole sand mandala and of the palace of time hidden behind it.

During the seven lower solemnities of the Kalachakra Tantra, the mandala artwork is left standing. At the end of the whole performance the tantra master recites a number of prayers and certain mantras. He then circles the sand mandala, removing with his fingers the 722 gods who were scattered across it in the form of seeds and laying them on a tray. At the same time he imagines that they enter his heart. He thus absorbs all the time energies and transforms them into aspects of his own mystic body. He then grasps a vajra, symbol of his diamond masculinity, and begins to destroy the sandy “divine palace” with it. The whole impressive work dissolves into colorful heaps and is later swept together. The monks tip the colored mixture into a vase. The master sprinkles a little of this in his head, and gives a further mini-portion to his pupils. With prayers and song a procession carries the sandy contents of the vase to a river and surrenders it there to the nagas (snake gods) as a gift.

But an important gesture is still to come. The tantra master returns to the site of the mandala and with water washes off the white basis lines remaining on the site. Then he removes the ten ritual daggers. Facing the East he now seats himself on the cleansed mandala site, vajra and bell in his hands, the absolute lord of both sexes (Kalachakra and Vishvamata), of time and of the universe.

This destruction of the sand mandala is usually seen as an act which is supposed to draw attention to the transience of all being. But this forgets that the palace of time is only destroyed as an external construction and that it continues to exist in the interior of the highest tantra master (as ADI BUDDHA). In his mystic body, Kalachakra and Vishvamata live on as the two polar currents of time, albeit under his absolute control. At the end of the ritual, the yogi (ADI BUDDHA) has transformed himself into a divine palace. Then his microcosmic body has become identical to the Kalachakra palace; we can now rediscover all the symbols which we encountered there as forces within his energy body.

The world ruler: The sociopolitical exercise of power by the ADI Buddha

In his political function the ADI BUDDHA is a world ruler, a “universal sovereign”, a “world king” (dominus mundi), an “emperor of the universe”, a Chakravartin. The early Buddhists still drew a distinction between a Buddha and a Chakravartin. Hence we can read in the legends of Buddhism’s origins how a holy man prophesied to Shakyamuni’s father that his wife, Maya, would soon bear an enlightened one (a Buddha) or a world ruler (Chakravartin), depending upon which this son would as a young man later decide to be. Gautama chose the way of the “spiritual” Buddha and not that of the “worldly” Chakravartin, who in the customs of his time also had to act as military leader alongside his political duties.

In Mahayana Buddhism this distinction between a dominus mundi and an enlightened being increasingly disappears, yet the Chakravartin possesses exclusively peaceful characteristics. All his “conquests”, reports the scholar Vasubandhu (fourth or fifth century C.E.), are nonviolent. The potentates of the world voluntarily and unresistingly subject themselves on the basis of his receptive radiation. They bow down before him and say: “Welcome, O mighty king. Everything belongs to you, O mighty king!” (quoted by Armelin, n.d., p. 21). He is mostly incarnated as an avatar, as the reincarnation of a divine savior, who should lead humanity out of its earthly misery and into paradise.

In Vajrayana Buddhism, especially in the Kalachakra Tantra, the Chakravartin is the successful result of the sexual magic rites we describe above. The “asocial” yogi, who during his initiatory phase hangs around cemeteries and with prostitutes like an outlaw has become a radiant king whose commands are obeyed by nations. The Time Tantra thus reveals itself to be a means of “conquering” the world, not just spiritually but also in power political terms; in the end the imperial idea of a Chakravartin includes the whole universe. Boundlessly expanding energies are accumulated here in a single being (the “political” ADI BUDDHA).

The eminently political character of the Indian Chakravartin makes him an ideal for Tibetan Lamaism, which could first be realized, however, in the person of the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682). Before the “Great Fifth” ascended the throne, the arch-abbots of the individual Lamaist sects — whether voluntarily or by necessity aside — accorded the title of world ruler only to the mighty Chinese Emperors or, depending on the political situation, to individual Mongolian Khans. The Tibetan hierarchs themselves “only” claimed the role of a Buddha, an enlightened being, whom they nonetheless considered superior to the Chakravartin. The Fifth Dalai Lama, who combined in his person both worldly and spiritual power for the first time in the history of Tibet, was also still careful about publicly describing himself as Chakravartin. This could have provoked his Mongolian allies and the “Ruler on the Dragon Throne” (the Emperor of China). Such restraint was a part of the diplomacy of the Tibet of old; or rather, since the Dalai Lamas were during their enthronement handed the highest symbol of universal rule — the “golden wheel” — they were the “true”, albeit hidden, rulers of the world, at least in the minds of the Tibetan clergy. The worldly potentates of neighboring states were at any rate accorded the role of a protector.

We shall come to speak in detail about whether such cosmocratic images still excite the imagination of the current Fourteenth Dalai Lama in the second part of our study. In any case, the Kalachakra Tantra which he has placed at the center of his ritual politics contains the phased initiatory path at the end of which the Lion Throne of a Chakravartin rears up.

The “golden wheel” (chakra) is regarded as the world ruler’s coat of arms and gave him his name, which when translated from Sanskrit means “wheel turner”. Already at birth a Chakravartin bears a signum in the form of a wheel on his hand and feet as graphic proof of his sovereignty. In Buddhism the wheel symbol was originally understood to be the “teaching” (the Dharma) and the first “wheel turner” was no lesser than the Buddha himself, who set the “wheel of Dharma” in motion by distributing his truths among the people and among the other beings. Later, in Mahayana Buddhism, the golden wheel already indicated “The Great Circle of Power and Rule” (Simpson, 1991, p. 45). The Chakravartin was referred to as the “King of the Golden Wheel”. This is the title given to the “Emperor of Peace”, Ashoka (273–236 B.C.E.), after he had united India and with great success converted it to Buddhism; but is also a name which the Dalai Lama acquires when the “golden wheel” is presented to him during his enthronement.

A Buddhist world ruler grasps the “wheel of command”, symbol of his absolute force of command. In the older texts the stress is primarily on his military functions. He is the supreme commander of his superbly armed forces. As “king and politician”, the Chakravartin is a sovereign who reigns over all the states on earth. The leaders of the tribes and nations are subordinate to him. His epithet is “one who rules with his own will, even the kingdoms of other kings” (quoted by Armelin, n.d., p. 8). He is thus also known as the “king of kings”. His aegis extends not just over humanity, but likewise over Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, wrathful kings, gods, demons, nagas (snake gods), masculine and feminine deities, animals and spirits. Of his followers he demands passionate devotion to the point of ecstasy.

The seven “valuable treasures” which are available to a Chakravartin are (1) the wheel, (2) the wish-granting jewel, (3) the wonder horse, (4) the elephant, (5) the minister, (6) the general, and (7) the princess. Sometimes, the judge and the minister of finance are also mentioned. [3]

Opinions differ from text to text about the spatial expansion of power of the Chakravartin. Sometimes he “only” controls our earth, sometimes — as in the Kalachakra Tantra — the entire universe with all its suns and planets. This is — as we have already shown — described in the Abhidharmakosha, the Buddhist cosmology, as a gigantic wheel with Meru the world mountain as its central axis. The circumference is formed by unscaleable chains of mountains made of pure iron, from whence the name of this cosmic model is derived — Chakravala, that is, ‘iron wheel’. The Chakravartin is thus sovereign of an “iron wheel” of astronomical proportions.

In terms of time, the Buddhist writings nominate varying lengths of reign for the Chakravartin. In one text, as a symbol of control the supreme regent carries in his hand a golden, silver, copper, or iron wheel depending upon the eon (Simpson, 1991, p. 270). This corresponds to the Indo-European division of the ages of the world in which these become increasingly short and “worse” nearer the end. For this reason, world rulers of the golden age reign many millions of years longer than the ruler of the iron age. The Chakravartin also represents the Kalachakra deity, he is the bearer of the universal “time wheel” and hence the “Lord of History”.

As lawmaker, he monitors that human norms stay in keeping with the divine, i.e., Buddhocratic ones. “He is the incarnate representation of supreme and universal Law”, writes the religious studies scholar, Coomaraswamy (Coomaraswamy, 1978, p. 13, n. 14a). As a consequence, the world ruler governs likewise as “protector” of the cosmic and of the sociopolitical order.

As a universal guru he sets the “wheel of the teaching” (Dharmachakra) in motion, in memory of the famous sermon by the historical Buddha in the deer park of Benares, where the “first turning of the Wheel of the Word” took place (Coomaraswamy, 1979, p. 25). As a consequence, the Chakravartin is the supreme world teacher and therefore also holds the “wheel of truth” in his hands. As cosmic “wheel turner” he has overcome the “wheel of life and death” through which the unenlightened must still wander.

In the revolutionary milieu of the tantras (since the fourth century C.E.), the political, war-like aspects of the “wheel turner” known from Hinduism became current once more, to then reach — as we shall see — their most aggressive form in the Shambhala myth of the Kalachakra Tantra. The Chakravartin now leads a “just” war, and is both a Buddha (or at least a Bodhisattva) and the glorious leader of an army in one person. The “lord of the wheel” thus displays clear military political traits. As the emblem of control the “wheel” also symbolizes his chariot with which he leads an invincible army. This army conquers and subjugates the entire globe and establishes a universal Buddhocracy. The Indian religious scholar, Coomaraswamy, also makes reference to the destructive power of the wheel. Like the discus of the Hindu god Vishnu, it can shave off the heads of the troops of entire armies in seconds.

Destruction and resurrection are thus equally evoked by the figure of the Chakravartin. He therefore also appears at the intersection of two eras (the iron and the subsequent golden age) and represent both the downfall of the old and the origin of the new eon. This gives him marked apocalyptic and messianic characteristics. He is incarnated as both world destroyer and world redeemer, as universal exterminator and universal savior.

Profane and spiritual power

The history of India, just like that of medieval Europe, is shaped by the clash between spiritual and worldly power. “Pope” and “Emperor” also opposed one another on the subcontinent in the form of Brahman and King, the battle between sacerdotium (ecclesiastical rule) and regnum (kingly rule) was also a recurrent political topic in the India of old. Interestingly, this dispute is regarded in both the Occident and in Asia as a gender conflict and the two sex roles are transferred onto the two pretenders to power. Sometimes the king represented the masculine and the priest the feminine, on other occasions it was the reverse, depending on which political party currently had the say.

This long-running topic of the “political battle of the sexes” was picked up by the intellectual elite of European fascism in the thirties of this century. The fascists had an ideological interest in conceding the primary role in the state and in society to the warrior type and thus the monarchy. It was a widespread belief at that time that the hypocritical and cunning priestly caste had for centuries impeded the kings in their exercise of control so as to seize power for themselves. Such warrior-friendly views of history influenced the national socialist mythologist, Alfred Rosenberg, just as they did the Italian Julius Evola, who for a time acted as “spiritual” advisor to Mussolini. Both believed the masculine principle to be obviously at work in the “king” and the inferior feminine counterforce in the “priest”. “The monarchy is entitled to precedence over the priesthood, exactly as in the symbolism [where] the sun has precedence over the moon and the man over the woman “, Evola wrote (Evola, 1982, p. 101).

The Indian philosopher of religion, Ananda Coomaraswami, answers him with a counter-thesis: originally the king was “unquestionably feminine” and the priest masculine: “The sacerdotium and the man are the intellectual, and the regnum and the woman the active elements in what should be literally a symphony” (Coomaraswamy, 1978, p. 6). Thus we find here the conception, widespread in India, that the feminine is active, the masculine passive or contemplative, and that control can be exercised through meditation (such as through holding the breath). In this we are confronted with the view that the practice of yoga is transferable to politics. Such a conception is in fact characteristic of Hinduism. In Tantric Buddhism, however, the order is reversed, as it is in the West: the goddess is passive and the god active. For this reason the fascist, Julius Evola, for whom the heroic masculine principle is entitled to the royal throne, was much more strongly attracted to Buddhist Vajrayana than to the Hindu tantras.

But when the sacerdotium unites with the regnum in one person, as in the case of the Dalai Lama, then the two celebrate a “mystic wedding”. The powers of the two forces flow together in a great current out of which a universal “wheel turner”, a Chakravartin arises, who has condensed within himself the masculine and feminine principle, worldly and priestly power, and is thus capable of exercising supreme control. Ananda Coomaraswamy has emotionally described this exceptional situation with the following words: “It is, then, only when the priest and the king, the human representatives of sky and earth, God and his kingdom, are ‘united in the performance of the rite’, only when ‘thy will is done on earth as it is in heaven’, that there is both a giving and a taking, not indeed an equality but a true reciprocity. Peace and prosperity, and fullness of life in every sense of the words, are the fruits of the ‘marriage’ of the temporal power to the spiritual authority, just as they must be of the marriage of the ‘woman’ to the ‘man’ on whatever level of reference. For ‘verily, when a mating is effected, then each achieves the other’s desire’; and in the case of the ‘mating’ of the sacerdotium and the regnum, whether in the outer realms or within you, the desire of the two partners are for ‘good’ here and hereafter” (Coomaraswamy, 1978, p. 69). The marriage of the masculine and the feminine principle, which here forms the foundation for absolute political power, shows the Chakravartin to be an androgyne, a bisexual superhuman.

Neither Coomaraswamy nor Evola appear to have the slightest doubts about according feminine energies to masculine individuals and institutions in their theories. For this reason, the patriarchal power visions of Tantrism are as obvious in the two authors’ interpretations of history as they otherwise only are in the original Tibetan texts. Since for Coomaraswamy the feminine is incarnated in the “king”, and as such may never rule alone, the religious philosopher considers the autonomous power of the kings to be the origin of evil: “But, if the King cooperating with and assimilated to the higher power is thus the Father of his people, it is none the less true that satanic and deadly possibilities inhere in the Temporal Power: When the Regnum pursues its own devices, when the feminine [!] half of the Administration asserts its independence, when Might presumes to rule without respect for Right, when the ‘woman’ demands her ‘rights’[!], then these lethal possibilities are realised; the King and the Kingdom, the family and the house, alike are destroyed and disorder prevails. It was by an assertion of his independence and a claim to ‘equal rights’ that Lucifer fell headlong from Heaven and became Satan, the ‘enemy’” (Coomaraswamy, 1978, p. 69). The equation of the feminine with the epitome of evil is here no less clear and crass than it is in the work of the fascist, Julius Evola, who interprets our “unhappy” age as the result of a “gynocracy” which was prepared by the priests of the various religions.

That the role of the Chakravartin is reserved exclusively for men must be a self-evident assumption in the light of what has been said above. In a very early Buddhist text we already find this succinct formulation:

It is impossible and can not be

that the woman a Holy One, a Completely Awakened [One]

or a King World-Conqueror [Chakravartin] may embody:

such a case does not occur.

(quoted by Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 172)


[1] As we have already seen , the world mountain itself with its surrounding cosmic circles possesses the form of a huge mandala.

[2] However, the actual marking up of the diagram is carried out with a cord coated in chalk powder, which is placed in particular directions on the ritual table. With a brief pluck upon this cord the powder is transferred to the surface and forms a line there. Together, all the lines sketch the pattern of the sand mandala foundations.

[3] Where his golden wheel, (1), appears on the horizon the Buddhist teaching is spread. “This wheel has a thousand rays. The monarch who possesses it is called ‘the Holy King who causes the wheel to turn’, because from the moment of his possessing it, the wheel turns and traverses the universe according to the thoughts of the king” (Simpson, 1991, p. 269). Thanks to the wish-granting jewel, (2), the world ruler need only raise his hand and gold coins start to rain down (Coomaraswamy, 1979, fig. 19). The wonder horse, (3), transports him anywhere in next to no time. The elephant, (4), is obedient and represents the workforce among his subjects. The minister, (5), has no ulterior motives and stands by him with moral and tactical support. The general, (6), has the power to defeat all enemies. The body of the princess, (7), smells of sandalwood and from her mouth comes the scent of the blue lotus. She performs the functions of a royal mother: “Contact with her provokes no passions; all men regard her as their mother or sister. ... She gives birth to many sons [!]. When her husband is absent (she maintains chastity) and never succumbs to the pleasures of the five senses” (Tayé, 1995, p. 136). — With the following seven “semi-valuable” treasures it becomes even clearer how the magic political objects of the Chakravartin coincide with those of the tantric Maha Siddha (Grand Sorcerer): (1) the sword, which defends the king’s laws; (2) a tent which withstands any weather; (3) a palace full of goddesses playing music; (4) a robe impenetrable for any weapon and immune against fire; (5) a garden of paradise full of wondrous plants and animals; (6) a sleeping place which repels all false emotions and dreams and produces a clear awareness; and (7) a pair of seven league boots with which any point in the universe can be reached in a flash.


The role of the ADI BUDDHA or rather of the Chakravartin is not just discussed in general terms in the Kalachakra Tantra, rather, in the “myth of Shambhala” the Time Tantra presents concrete political objectives. In this myth statements are made about the authority of the world monarch, the establishment and administration of his state, the organization of his army, and about a strategic schedule for the conquest of the planet. But let us first consider what exactly the Shambhala myth can be understood to be.

According to legend, the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, taught the king of Shambhala, Suchandra, the Kalachakra Mulatantra, and initiated him into the secret doctrine. The original text contained 12,000 verses. It was later lost, but an abridged version survived. If we use the somewhat arbitrary calendar of the Time Tantra as a basis, the encounter between Shakyamuni and Suchandra took place in the year 878 B.C.E. The location of the instruction was Dhanyakataka close to the Mount Vulture Heap near Rajagriha (Rajgir) in southern India. After Suchandra had asked him for instruction, the Buddha himself assumed the form of Kalachakra and preached to him from a Lion Throne surrounded by numerous Bodhisattvas and gods.

Suchandra reigned as the king of Shambhala, a legendary kingdom somewhere to the north of India. He did not travel alone to be initiated in Dhanyakataka, but was accompanied by a courtly retinue of 96 generals, provincial kings and governors. After the initiation he took the tantra teaching back with him to his empire (Shambhala) and made it the state religion there; according to other reports, however, this only happened after seven generations.

Suchandra recorded the Kalachakra Mulatantra from memory and composed a number of comprehensive commentaries on it. One of his successors (Manjushrikirti) wrote an abridged edition, known as the Kalachakra Laghutantra, a compendium of the original sermon. This 1000-verse text has survived in toto and still today serves as a central text. Manjushrikirti’s successor, King Pundarika, composed a detailed commentary upon the Laghutantra with the name of Vimalaprabha (‘immaculate light’). These two texts (the Kalachakra Laghutantra and the Vimalaprapha) were brought back to India in the tenth century by the Maha Siddha Tilopa, and from there reached Tibet, the “Land of Snows” a hundred years later. But only fragments of the original text, the Kalachakra Mulatantra, have survived. The most significant fragment is called Sekkodesha and has been commented upon the Maha Siddha Naropa.

Geography of the kingdom of Shambhala

The kingdom of Shambhala, in which the Kalachakra teaching is practiced as the state religion, is surrounded by great secrecy, just as is its first ruler, Suchandra. Then he is also regarded as an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Vajrapani, the “Lord of Occult Knowledge”. For centuries the Tibetan lamas have deliberately mystified the wonderland, that is, they have left the question of its existence or nonexistence so open that one has to paradoxically say that it exists and it does not. Since it is a spiritual empire, its borders can only be crossed by those who have been initiated into the secret teachings of the Kalachakra Tantra. Invisible for ordinary mortal eyes, for centuries the wildest speculation about the geographic location Shambhala have circulated. In “concrete” terms, all that is known is that it can be found to the north of India, “beyond the River Sitha”. But no-one has yet found the name of this river on a map. Thus, over the course of centuries the numerous Shambhala seekers have nominated all the even conceivable regions, from Kashmir to the North Pole and everywhere in between.

A mandala of Shambhala

The most widespread opinion in the studies tends toward seeking the original region in what is today the desert of the Tarim Basin (Tarim Pendi). Many lamas claim it still exists there, but is screened from curious eyes by a magical curtain and is well guarded. Indeed, the syncretist elements which are to be found in the Kalachakra Tantra speak for the view that the text is a product of the ancient Silk Road traversed by many cultures, which leads through the Tarim Basin. The huge chain of mountains which surround the plateau in almost a circle also concord with the geography of Shambhala.

Typically, the mythical map of Shambhala, of which there are numerous reproductions, resembles a mandala. It has the form of a wheel with eight spokes, or rather it corresponds to a lotus with eight petals. Each of the petals forms an administrative region. There a governor rules as the highest official. He is the viceroy of not less than 120 million villages which can be found on each “lotus petal”. Shambhala thus possesses a total of 960 million settlements. The whole land is surrounded by a ring of barely scaleable snowcapped mountains.

In the center of the ring of mountains lies the country’s capital, Kalapa by name. By night, the city of light is lit up as bright as day, so that the moon can no longer be seen. There the Shambhala king lives in a palace made from every conceivable gem and diamond. The architecture is based upon the laws of the heavens. There is a sun temple and a moon temple, a replica of the zodiac and the astral orbits. A little to the south of the palace the visitor finds a wonderful park. In it Suchandra ordered the temple of Kalachakra and Vishvamata to be built. It is made from five valuable materials: gold, silver, turquoise, coral, and pearl. Its ground plan corresponds to the Kalachakra sand mandala.

The kings and administration of Shambhala

All the kings of Shambhala belong to an inherited dynasty. Since the historical Buddha initiated the first regent, Suchandra, into the Time Tantra there have been two royal houses which have determined the fate of the country. The first seven kings called themselves Dharmaraja (kings of law). They were originally descended from the same lineage which produced Buddha Shakyamuni, the Shakyas. The following 25 kings of the second dynasty are the “Kulikas” or “Kalkis”. Each of these rulers reigns for exactly 100 years. The future regents are also already laid down by name. The texts are not always unanimous about who is presently ruling the realm. Most frequently, King Aniruddha is named, who is said to have taken the reins of power in 1927 and shall set them aside again in the year 2027. A great spectacle awaits the world when the 25th scion of the Kalki dynasty takes office. This is Rudra Chakrin, the wrathful wheel turner. In the year 2327 he will ascend the throne. We shall come to deal with him in detail.

Like the Indian Maha Siddhas, the Kalkis have long hair which they tie up in a knot. Likewise, they also adorn themselves with earrings and armbands. “The Kalki has excellent ministers, generals, and a great many queens. He has a bodyguard, elephants and elephant trainers, horses, chariots, and palanquins. His own wealth and the wealth of his subjects, the power of his magic spells, the nagas, demons, and goblins that serve him, the wealth offered to him by the centaurs and the quality of his food are all such that even the lord of the gods cannot compete with him. ... The Kalki does not have more than one or two heirs, but he has many daughters who are given as vajra ladies during the initiations held on the full moon of Caitra each year” (Newman, 1985, p. 57). It thus appears they serve as mudras in the Kalachakra rituals.

The ruler of Shambhala is a absolute monarch and has at his disposal the entire worldly and spiritual power of the country. He stands at the apex of a “hierarchical pyramid” and the foundations of his Buddhocracy is composed of an army of millions of viceroys, governors, and officers who carry out the decrees of the regent.

As spiritual ruler, he is the representative of the ADI BUDDHA, as “worldly” potentate a Chakravartin. He is seated upon a golden throne, supported by eight sculptured lions. In his hands he holds a jewel which grants him every wish and a magic mirror, in which he can observe and control everything in his realm and on earth. Nothing escapes his watchful eye. He has the ability and the right to look into the deepest recesses of the souls of his subjects, indeed of anybody.

The roles of the sexes in the realm of Shambhala are typical. It is exclusively men who exercise political power in the androcentric state. Of the women we hear only something of their role as queen mother, the bearer of the heir to the throne, and as “wisdom consorts”. In the “tantric economy” of the state budget they form a reservoir of vital resources, since they supply the “gynergy” which is transformed by the official sexual magic rites into political power. Alone the sovereign has a million (!) girls, “young as the eight-day moon”, who are available to be his partners.

The highest elite of the country is formed by the tantric clergy. The monks wear white, speak Sanskrit, and are all initiated into the mysteries of the Kalachakra Tantra. The majority of them are considered enlightened. Then come the warriors. The king is at the same time the supreme commander of a disciplined and extremely potent army with generals at its head, a powerful officer corps and obedient “lower ranks”. The most effective and “modern” weapons of destruction are stored in the extensive arsenals of Shambhala. Yet — as we shall later see — the army will only mobilize completely in three hundred years time (2327 C.E.).

The totalitarian power of the Shambhala king extends over not just the inhabitants of his country, but likewise over all the people of our planet, “earth”. The French Kalachakra enthusiast, Jean Rivière, describes the comprehensive competencies of the Buddhist despots as follows: “As master of the universe, emperor of the world, spiritual regent over the powerful subtle energy flows which regulate the cosmic order just as [they do] the lives of the people, the Kulika [king] of Shambhala directs the spiritual development of the human masses who were born into the heavy and blind material [universe]" (Rivière, 1985, p. 36). [1]

The “sun chariot” of the Rishis

Although all its rulers are known by name, the Shambhala realm has no history in the real sense. Hence in the many centuries of its existence hardly anything worthy of being recorded in a chronicle has happened. Consider in contrast the history-laden chain of events in the life of Buddha Shakyamuni and the numerous legends which he left behind him! But there is an event which shows that this country was not entirely free of historical conflict. This concerns the protest of a group of no less than 35 million (!) Rishis (seers) led by the sage Suryaratha ("sun chariot”).

As the first Kulika king, Manjushrikirti, preached the Kalachakra Tantra to his subjects, Suryaratha distanced himself from it, and his followers, the Rishis, joined him. They preferred to choose banishment from Shambhala than to follow the “diamond path” (Vajrayana). Nonetheless, after they had set out in the direction of India and had already crossed the border of the kingdom, Manjushrikirti sank in to a deep meditation, stunned the emigrants by magic and ordered demon birds to bring them back.

This event probably concerns a confrontation between two religious schools. The Rishis worshipped only the sun. For this reason they also called their guru the “sun chariot” (suryaratha). But the Kulika king had as Kalachakra master and cosmic androgyne united both heavenly orbs in himself. He was the master of sun and moon. His demand of the Rishis that they adopt the teachings of the Kalachakra Tantra was also enacted on a night of the full moon. Manjushrikirti ended his sermon with the words: “If you wish to enter that path, stay here, but if you do not, then leave und go elsewhere; otherwise the doctrines of the barbarians will com to spread even in Shambhala.” (Bernbaum, 1980, p. 234).

The Rishis decided upon the latter. “Since we all want to remain true to the sun chariot, we also do not wish to give up our religion and to join another”, they rejoined (Grünwedel, 1915, p. 77). This resulted in the exodus already outlined. But in fetching them back Manjushrikirti had proved his magical superiority and demonstrated that the “path of the sun and moon” is stronger than the “pure sun way”. The Rishis thus brought him many gold tributes and submitted to his power and the primacy of the Kalachakra Tantra. In the fifteenth night of the moon enlightenment was bestowed upon them.

Behind this unique historical Shambhala incident hides a barely noticed power-political motif. The seers (the Rishis) were as their name betrays clearly Brahmans; they were members of the elite priestly caste. In contrast, as priest-king Manjushrikirti integrated in his office the energies of both the priestly and the military elite. Within himself he united worldly and spiritual power, which — as we have already discussed above — are allotted separately to the sun (high priest) and the moon (warrior king) in the Indian cultural sphere. The union of both heavenly orbs in his person made him an absolute ruler.

Because of the Shambhala realm’s military plans for the future, which we will describe a little later, the king and his successors are extremely interested in strengthening the standing army. Then Shambhala will need an army of millions for the battles which are in store for it, and centuries count for nothing in this mythic realm. It was thus in Manjushrikirti’s interest to abolish all caste distinctions in an overarching militarily oriented Buddhocracy. The historical Buddha is already supposed to have prophesied that the future Shambhala king, “.. possessing the Vajra family, will become Kalki by making the four castes into an single clan, within the Vajra family, not making them into a Brahman family” (Newman, 1985, p. 64). The “Vajra family” mentioned is clearly contrasted to the priestly caste in this statement by Shakyamuni. Within the various Buddha families as well it represents the one who is responsible for military matters. Even today in the West, high-ranking Tibetan lamas boast that they will be reborn as generals (!) in the Shambhala army, that is, that they think to transform their spiritual office into a military one.

The warlike intention behind this ironing out of caste distinctions becomes more obvious in Manjushrikirti’s justification that the land, should it not follow Vajrayana Buddhism, would inevitably fall into the hands of the “barbarians”. These — as we shall later show — were the followers of Islam, against whom an enormous Shambhala military was being armed.

The journey to Shambhala

The travel reports written by Shambhala seekers are mostly kept so that we do not know whether they concern actual experiences, dreams, imaginings, phantasmagoria or initiatory progress. There is also no effort to keep these distinctions clear. A Shambhala journey simply embodies all of these together. Thus the difficult and hazardous adventures people have undertaken in search of the legendary country correspond to the “various mystical practices along the way, that lead to the realization of tantric meditation in the kingdom itself. ... The snow mountains surrounding Shambhala represent worldly virtues, while the King in the center symbolizes the pure mind at the end of the journey” (Bernbaum, 1980, p. 229).

In such interpretations, then, the journeys take place in the spirit. Then again, this is not the impression gained by leafing through the Shambha la’i lam yig, the famous travel report of the Third Panchen Lama (1738–1780). This concerns a fantastic collection , which is obviously convinced of the reality of its factual material, of historical and geographic particulars from central Asia which describe the way to Shambhala.

The landscapes which, according to this “classic travel guide”, a visitor must pass through before entering the wonderland, and the dangerous adventures which must be undergone, make the journey to Shambhala (whether real or imaginary) a tantric initiatory way. This becomes particularly clear in the central confrontation with the feminine which just like the Vajrayana controls the whole travel route. The quite picturesque book describes over many pages encounters with all the female figures whom we already know from the tantric milieu. With literary leisure the author paints the sweetest and the most terrible scenes: pig-headed goddesses; witches mounted upon boars; dakinis swinging skull bowls filled with blood, entrails, eyes and human hearts; girls as beautiful as lotus flowers with breasts that drip nectar; harpies; five hundred demonesses with copper-red lips; snake goddesses who like nixes try to pull one into the water; the one-eyed Ekajati; poison mixers; sirens; naked virgins with golden bodies; female cannibals; giantesses; sweet Asura girls with horse’s heads; the demoness of doubt; the devil of frenzy; healers who give refreshing herbs — they all await the brave soul who sets out to seek the wonderland.

Every encounter with these female creatures must be mastered. For every group the Panchen Lama has a deterrent, appeasing, or receptive ritual ready. Some of the women must be turned away without fail by the traveler, others should be honored and acknowledged, with yet others he must unite in tantric love. But woe betide him if he should lose his emotional and seminal control here! Then he would become the victim of all these “beasts” regardless of whether they appear beautiful or dreadful. Only a complete tantra expert can pursue his way through this jungle of feminine bodies.

Thus the spheres alternate between the external and the internal, reality and imagination, the world king in the hearts of individual people and the real world ruler in the Gobi Desert, Shambhala as everyday life and Shambhala as a fairytale dream, and everything becomes possible. When on his travels through Inner Asia the Russian painter, Nicholas Roerich, showed some nomads photographs of New York they cried out: “This is the land of Shambhala!” (Roerich, 1988, p. 274).

The “raging wheel turner”: The martial ideology of Shambhala

In the year 2327 (C.E.) — the prophecies of the Kalachakra Tantra tell us — the 25th Kalki will ascend the throne of Shambhala. He goes by the name of Rudra Chakrin, the “wrathful wheel turner” or the “Fury with the wheel”. The mission of this ruler is to destroy the “enemies of the Buddhist teaching” in a huge eschatological battle and to found a golden age. This militant hope for the future still today occupies the minds of many Tibetans and Mongolians and is beginning to spread across the whole world. We shall consider the fascination which the archetype of the “Shambhala warrior” exercises over western Buddhists in more detail later.

Rudra Chakrin – the militant messiah of Shambhala

The Shambhala state draws a clear and definite distinction between friend and enemy. The original idea of Buddhist pacifism is completely foreign to it. Hence the Rudra Chakrin carries a martial symbolic object as his insignia of dominion, the “wheel of iron” (!).We may recall that in the Buddhist world view our entire universe (Chakravala) is enclosed within a ring of iron mountains. We have interpreted this image as a reminder of the “doomsday iron age” of the prophecies of antiquity.

Mounted upon his white horse, with a spear in his hand, the Rudra Chakrin shall lead his powerful army in the 24th century. “The Lord of the Gods”, it is said of him in the Kalachakra Tantra, “ joined with the twelve lords shall go to destroy the barbarians” (Newman, 1987, p. 645). His army shall consist of “exceptionally wild warriors” equipped with “sharp weapons”. A hundred thousand war elephants and millions of mountain horses, faster than the wind, shall serve his soldiers as mounts. Indian gods will then join the total of twelve divisions of the “wrathful wheel turner” and support their “friend” from Shambhala. This support for the warlike Shambhala king is probably due to his predecessor, Manjushrikirti, who succeeded in integrating the 120 million Hindu Rishis into the tantric religious system (Banerjee, 1985, p. xiii).

If, as legend has it, the author of the Kalachakra Tantra was the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, in person, then he must have forgotten his whole vision and message of peace and had a truly great fascination for the military hardware. Then weaponry plays a prominent role in the Time Tantra. Here too, by “weapon” is understood every means of implementing the physical killing of humans. It is also said of Buddha’s martial successor, the coming Rudra Chakrin, that, “with the sella (a deadly weapon) in the hand ... he shall proclaim the Kalachakra on earth for the liberation of beings” (Banerjee, 1959, p. 213).

Lethal war machines

The graphic description of the war machines to which the Kalachakra deity devotes a number of pages already in the first chapter of the tantra is downright impressive and astonishing (Newman, 1987, pp. 553-570, verses 135-145; Grönbold, 1996). A total of seven exceptionally destructive arts of weapon are introduced. All take the form of a wheel. The text refers to them as yantras. There is a “wind machine” which is primarily put into action against mountain forts. They float over the enemy army and let burning oil run out all over them. The same happens to the houses and palaces of the opponent. The second art of weapon is described as a “sword in the ground machine”. This acts as a personal protection for the “wrathful wheel turner”. Anyone who enters his palace without permission and steps upon the machine hidden beneath the floor is inevitably cut to pieces. As the third art follows the “harpoon machine”, a kind of ancient machine gun. At the squeeze of a finger, “many straight arrows or sharp Harpoons hat pierce and pass through the body of an armored elephant” (Newman, 1987, p. 506).

We are acquainted with three further extremely effective “rotating weapons” which shear everything away, above all the heads of the enemy troops. One of them is compared to the wheels of the sun chariot. This is probably a variant of the solar discus which the Indian god Vishnu successfully put to use against the demon hordes. Such death wheels have played a significant role in Tibet’s magic military history right up into this century. We shall return to this topic at a later point. These days, believers in the Shambhala myth see “aircraft” or “UFOs” in them which are armed with atomic bombs and are guided by the world king’s extraterrestrial support troops.

In light of the numerous murderous instruments which are listed in the Kalachakra Tantra, a moral problem obviously arose for some “orthodox” Buddhists which led to the wheel weapons being understood purely symbolically. They concerned radical methods of destroying one’s own human ego. The great scholar and Kalachakra commentator, Khas Grub je, expressly opposes this pious attempt. In his opinion, the machines “are to be taken literally” (Newman, 1987, p. 561).

The “final battle”

Let us return to the Rudra Chakrin, the tantric apocalyptic redeemer. He appears in a period, in which the Buddhist teaching is largely eradicated. According to the prophecies, it is the epoch of the “not-Dharmas”, against whom he makes a stand. Before the final battle against the enemies of Buddhism can take place the state of the world has worsened dramatically. The planet is awash with natural disasters, famine, epidemics, and war. People become ever more materialistic and egoistic. True piety vanishes. Morals become depraved. Power and wealth are the sole idols. A parallel to the Hindu doctrine of the Kali yuga is obvious here.

In these bad times, a despotic “barbarian king” forces all nations other than Shambhala to follow his rule, so that at the end only two great forces remain: firstly the depraved “king of the barbarians” supported by the “lord of all demons “, and secondly Rudra Chakrin, the wrathful Buddhist messiah. At the outset, the barbarian ruler subjugates the whole world apart from the mythical kingdom of Shambhala. Its existence is an incredible goad to him and his subjects: “Their jealousy will surpass all limits, crashing up like waves of the sea. Incensed that there could be such a land outside their control, they will gather an army together und set out to conquer it.” (Bernbaum, 1980, p. 240). It then comes, says the prophecy, to a brutal confrontation. [2]

Alongside the descriptions from the Kalachakra Tantra there are numerous other literary depictions of this Buddhist apocalyptic battle to be found. They all fail to keep secret their pleasure at war and the triumph over the corpses of the enemy. Here is a passage from the Russian painter and Shambhala believer, Nicholas Roerich, who became well known in the thirties as the founder of a worldwide peace organization ("Banner of Peace”). “Hard is the fate of the enemies of Shambhala. A just wrath colors the purple blue clouds. The warriors of the Rigden-jyepo [the Tibetan name for the Rudra Chakrin], in splendid armor with swords and spears are pursuing their terrified enemies. Many of them are already prostrated and their firearms, big hats and all their possessions are scattered over the battlefield. Some of them are dying, destroyed by the just hand. Their leader is already smitten and lies spread under the steed of the great warrior, the blessed Rigden. Behind the Ruler, on chariots, follow fearful cannons, which no walls can withstand. Some of the enemy, kneeling, beg for mercy, or attempt to escape their fate on the backs of elephants. But the sword of justice overtake defamers. The Dark must be annihilated.” (Roerich, 1985, p. 232) The “Dark”, that is those of different faiths, the opponents of Buddhism and hence of Shambhala. They are all cut down without mercy during the “final battle”. In this enthused sweep of destruction the Buddhist warriors completely forget the Bodhisattva vow which preaches compassion with all beings.

The skirmishes of the battle of the last days (in the year 2327) are, according to commentaries upon the Kalachakra Tantra, supposed to reach through Iran into eastern Turkey (Bernbaum, 1982, p. 251). The regions of the Kalachakra Tantra’s origin are also often referred to as the site of the coming eschatological battlefield (the countries of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan). This has a certain historical justification, since the southern “Islamic” flank of the former Soviet Union counts as one of the most explosive crisis regions of the present day (see in this regard the Spiegel, 20/1998, pp. 160-161).

The conquest of Kailash, the holy mountain, is nominated as a further strategic goal in the Shambhala battle. After the Rudra Chakrin has “killed [his enemies] in battle waged across the whole world, at the end of the age the world ruler will with his own fourfold army come into the city which was built by the gods on the mountain of Kailash” (Banerjee, 1959, p. 215). In general, “wherever the [Buddhist] religion has been destroyed and the Kali age is on the rise, there he will go” (Banerjee, 1959, p. 52). [3]

Buddha versus Allah

The armies of Rudra Chakrin will destroy the “not-Dharma” and the doctrines of the “unreligious barbarian hordes”. Hereby, according to the original text of the Kalachakra Tantra, it is above all the Koran which is intended. Mohammed himself is referred to by name several times in the Time Tantra, as is his one god, Allah. We learn of the barbarians that they are called Mleccha, which means the “inhabitants of Mecca” (Petri, 1966, p. 107). These days Rudra Chakrin is already celebrated as the “killer of the Mlecchas” (Banerjee, 1959, p. 52). This fixation of the highest tantra on Islam is only all too readily understandable, then the followers of Mohammed had in the course of history not just wrought terrible havoc among the Buddhist monasteries and communities of India — the Islamic doctrine must also have appeared more attractive and feeling to many of the ordinary populace than the complexities of a Buddhism represented by an elitist community of monks. There were many “traitors” in central Asia who gladly and readily reached for the Koran. Such conversions among the populace must have eaten more deeply into the hearts of the Buddhist monks than the direct consequences of war. Then the Kalachakra Tantra, composed in the time where the hordes of Muslims raged in the Punjab and along the Silk Road, is marked by an irreconcilable hate for the “subhumans” from Mecca.

This dualist division of the world between Buddhism on the one side and Islam on the other is a dogma which the Tibetan lamas seek to transfer to the future of the whole of human history. “According to certain conjectures”, writes a western commentator upon the Shambhala myth, “two superpowers will then have control over the world and take to the field against one another. The Tibetans foresee a Third World War here” (Henss, 1985, p. 19).

In the historical part of our analysis we shall come to speak of this dangerous antinomy once more. In contrast to Mohammed, the other “false doctrines” likewise mentioned in the first chapter of the Kalachakra Tantra as needing to be combated by the Shambhala king appear pale and insignificant. It nevertheless makes sense to introduce them, so as to demonstrate which founders of religions the tantric blanket conception of enemy stretched to encompass. The Kalachakra nominates Enoch, Abraham and Moses among the Jews, then Jesus for the Christians, and a “white clothed one”, who is generally accepted to be Mani, the founder the Manichaeism. It is most surprising that in a further passage the “ false doctrines “ of these religious founders are played down and even integrated into the tantra’s own system. After they have had to let a strong attack descend upon them as “heresies” in the first chapter, in the second they form the various facets of a crystal, and the yogi is instructed not to disparage them (Grönbold, 1992a, p. 295).

Such inconsistencies are — as we have already often experienced — added to tantric philosophy by itself. The second chapter of the Kalachakra Tantra thus does not switch over to a western seeming demand for freedom of religion and opinion, on the contrary apparent tolerance and thinking in terms of “the enemy” are both retained alongside one another and are, depending on the situation, rolled out to serve its own power interest. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama is — as we shall show in detail — an ingenious interpreter of this double play. Outwardly he espouses religious freedom and ecumenical peace. But in contrast, in the ritual system he concentrates upon the aggressive Time Tantra, in which the scenario is dominated by destructive fantasies, dreams of omnipotence, wishes for conquest, outbreaks of wrath, pyromaniacal obsessions, mercilessness, hate, killing frenzies, and apocalypses. That such despotic images also determine the “internal affairs” of the exiled Tibetans for the Tibetan “god-king”, is something upon which we shall report in the second part of our study.

After winning the final battle, the Kalachakra Tantra prophecies, the Rudra Chakrin founds the “golden age”. A purely Buddhist paradise is established on earth. Joy and wealth will abound. There is no more war. Everybody possesses great magical powers, Science and technology flourish. People live to be 1800 years old and have no need to fear death, since they will be reborn into an even more beautiful Eden. This blissful state prevails for around 20,000 years. The Kalachakra Tantra has by then spread to every corner of the globe and become the one “true” world religion. (But afterwards, the old cycle with its wars of destruction, defeats and victories begins anew.)

The non-Buddhist origins of the Shambhala myth

Apocalyptic visions, final battles between Good and Evil, saviors with lethal weapons in their hands are absolutely no topic for Hinayana Buddhism. They first emerge in the Mahayana period (200 B.C.E.), are then incorporated by Vajrayana (400 C.E.) and gain their final and central form in the Kalachakra Tantra (tenth century C.E.). Hence, as in the case of the ADI BUDDHA, the question arises as to where the non-Buddhist influences upon the Shambhala myth are to be sought.

Yet before we come to that, we ought to consider the widespread Maitreya prophecy, which collides with the Shambhala vision and the Kalachakra Tantra. Already in the Gandhara era (200 B.C.E.), Maitreya is known as the future Buddha who shall be incarnated on earth. He is still dwelling in the so-called Tushita heaven and awaits his mission. Images of him strike the observer at once because unlike other depictions of Buddha he is not resting in the lotus posture, but rather sits in a “European” style, as if on a chair. In his case too, the world first goes into decline before he appears to come to the aid of the suffering humanity. His epiphany is, however, according to most reports much more healing and peaceable than those of the “wrathful wheel turner”. But there are also other more aggressive prophecies from the seventh century where he first comes to earth as a messiah following an apocalyptic final battle (Sponberg, 1988, p. 31). For the Russian painter and Shambhala seeker, Nicholas Roerich, there is in the end no difference between Maitreya and Rudra Chakrin any more, they are simply two names for the same redeemer.

Without doubt the Kalachakra Tantra is primarily dominated by conceptions which can also be found in Hinduism. This is especially true of the yoga techniques, but likewise applies to the cosmology and the cyclical destruction and renewal of the universe. In Hindu prophecies too, the god Vishnu appears as savior at the end of the Kali yuga, also, incidentally, upon a white horse like the Buddhist Rudra Chakrin, in order to exterminate the enemies of the religion. He even bears the dynastic name of the Shambhala kings and is known as Kalki.

Among the academic researchers there is nonetheless the widespread opinion that the savior motif, be it Vishnu or Buddha Maitreya or even the Rudra Chakrin, is of Iranian origin. The stark distinction between the forces of the light and the dark, the apocalyptic scenario, the battle images, the idea of a militant world ruler, even the mandala model of the five meditation Buddhas were unknown among the original Buddhist communities. Buddhism, alone among all the salvational religions, saw no savior behind Gautama’s experience of enlightenment. But for Iran these motifs of salvation were (and still are today) central.

In a convincing study, the orientalist, Heinrich von Stietencron, has shown how — since the first century C.E. at the latest — Iranian sun priests infiltrated into India and merged their concepts with the local religions, especially Buddhism. (Stietencron, 1965. p. 170). They were known as Maga and Bhojaka. The Magas, from whom our word “magician” is derived, brought with them among other things the cult of Mithras and combined it with elements of Hindu sun worship. Waestern researchers presume that the name of Maitreya, the future Buddha, derives from Mithras.

The Bhojakas, who followed centuries later (600–700 C.E.), believed that they emanated from the body of their sun god. They also proclaimed themselves to be the descendants of Zarathustra. In India they created a mixed solar religion from the doctrines of the Avesta (the teachings of Zarathustra) and Mahayana Buddhism. From the Buddhists they adopted fasting and the prohibitions on cultivating fields and trade. In return, they influenced Buddhism primarily with their visions of light. Their “photisms” are said to have especially helped shape the shining figure of the Buddha Amitabha. Since they placed the time god, Zurvan, at the center of their cult, it could also be they who anticipated the essential doctrines of the Kalachakra Tantra.

Like the Kalachakra deity we have described, the Iranian Zurvan carries the entire universe in his mystic body: the sun, moon, and stars. The various divisions of time such as hours, days, and months dwell in him as personified beings. He is the ruler of eternal and of historical time. White light and the colors of the rainbow burst out of him. His worshippers pray to him as “father-mother”. Sometimes he is portrayed as having four heads like the Buddhist time god. He governs as the “father of fire” or as the “victory fire”. Through him, fire and time are equated. He is also cyclical time, in which the world is swallowed by flames so as to arise anew.

Manichaeism (from the third century on) also took on numerous elements from the Zurvan religion and mixed them with Christian/Gnostic ideas and added Buddhist concepts. The founder of the religion, Mani, undertook a successful missionary journey to India. Key orientalists assume that his teachings also had a reverse influence upon Buddhism. Among other aspects, they mention the fivefold group of meditation Buddhas, the dualisms of good and evil, light and darkness, the holy man’s body as the world in microcosm, and the concept of salvation. More specific are the white robes which the monks in the kingdom of Shambhala wear. White was the cult color of the Manichaean priestly caste and is not a normal color for clothing in Buddhism. But the blatant eroticism which the Kalachakra translator and researcher in Asia, Albert Grünwedel, saw in Manichaeism was not there. In contrast; Mani’s religion exhibits extremely “puritanical” traits and rejects everything sexual: “The sin of sex”, he is reported to have said, “is animal, an imitation of the devil mating. Above all it produces every propagation and continuation of the original evil” (quoted by Hermanns, 1965, p. 105).

While the famous Italian Tibetologist, Guiseppe Tucci, believes Iranian influences can be detected in the doctrine of ADI BUDDHA, he sees the Lamaist-Tibetan way in total rather as gnostic, since it attempts to overcome the dualism of good and evil and does not peddle the out and out moralizing of the Avesta or the Manichaeans. This is certainly true for the yoga way in the Kalachakra Tantra, yet it is not so for the eschatology of the Shambhala myth. There, the “prince of light” (Rudra Chakrin) and the depraved “prince of darkness” take to the field against one another.

There was a direct Iranian influence upon the Bon cult, the state religion which preceded Buddhism in Tibet. Bon, often erroneously confused with the old shamanist cultures of the highlands, is a explicit religion of light with an organized priesthood, a savior (Shen rab) and a realm of paradise (Olmolungring) which resembles the kingdom of Shambhala in an astonishing manner.

It is a Tradition in Europe to hypothesize ancient Egyptian influences upon the tantric culture of Tibet. This can probably be traced to the occult writings of the Jesuit, Athanasius Kirchner (1602-1680), who believed he had discovered the cradle of all advanced civilizations including that of the Tibetans in the Land of the Nile. The Briton, Captain S. Turner, who visited the highlands in the year 1783, was likewise convinced of a continuity between ancient Egypt and Tibet. Even this century, Siegbert Hummel saw the “Land of Snows” as almost a “reserve for Mediterranean traditions” and likewise nominated Egypt as the origin of the tradition of the Tibetan mysteries (Hummel, 1954, p. 129; 1962, p. 31). But it was especially the occultist Helena Blavatsky who saw the origins of both cultures as flowing from the same source. The two “supernatural secret societies”, who whispered the ideas to her were the “Brotherhood of Luxor” and the “Tibetan Brotherhood”.

The determining Greek influence upon the sacred art of Buddhism (Gandhara style) became a global event which left its traces as far afield as Japan. Likewise, the effect of Hellenistic ideas upon the development of Buddhist doctrines is well vouched for. There is widespread unanimity that without this encounter Mahayana would have never even been possible. According to the studies of the ethnologist Mario Bussagli, hermetic and alchemic teachings are also supposed to have come into contact with the world view of Buddha via Hellenistic Baktria (modern Afghanistan) and the Kusha empire which followed it, the rulers of which were of Scythian origin but had adopted Greek language and culture (Bussagli, 1985).

Evaluation of the Shambhala myth

The ancient origins and contents of the Shambhala state make it, when seen from the point of view of a western political scientist, an antidemocratic, totalitarian, doctrinaire and patriarchal model. It concerns a repressive ideal construction which is to be imposed upon all of humanity in the wake of an “ultimate war”. Here the sovereign (the Shambhala king) and in no sense the people decide the legal norms. He governs as the absolute monarch of a planetary Buddhocracy. King and state even form a mystic unity, in a literal, not a figurative sense, then the inner bodily energy processes of the ruler are identical with external state happenings. The various administrative levels of Shambhala (viceroys, governors, and officials) are thus considered to be the extended limbs of the sovereign.

Further to this, the Shambhala state (in contrast to the original teachings of the Buddha) is based upon the clear differentiation of friend and enemy. Its political thought is profoundly dualist, up to and including the moral sphere. Islam is regarded as the arch-enemy of the country. In resolving aggravated conflicts, Shambhala society has recourse to a “high-tech” and extremely violent military machinery and employs the sociopolitical utopia of “paradise on earth” as its central item of propaganda.

It follows from all these features that the current, Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s constant professions of faith in the fundamentals of western democracy remain empty phrases for as long as he continues to place the Kalachakra Tantra and the Shambhala myth at the center of his ritual existence. The objection commonly produced by lamas and western Buddhists, that Shambhala concerns a metaphysical and not a worldly institution, does not hold water. We know, namely, from history that both traditional Tibetan and Mongolian society cultivated the Shambhala myth without at any stage drawing a distinction between a worldly and a metaphysical aspect in this matter. In both countries, everything which the Buddhocratic head of state decided was holy per se.

The argument that the Shambhala vision was distant “pie in the sky” is also not convincing. The aggressive warrior myth and the idea of a world controlling ADI BUDDHA has influenced the history of Tibet and Mongolia for centuries as a rigid political program which is oriented to the decisions of the clerical power elite. In the second part of our study we present this program and its historical execution to the reader. We shall return to the topic that in the view of some lamas the Tibetan state represents an earthly copy of the Shambhala realm and the Dalai Lama an emanation of the Shambhala king.

“Inner” and “outer” Shambhala

In answer to the question as to why the “world ruler on the Lion Throne” (the Shambhala king) does not peacefully and positively intervene in the fate of humanity, the French Kalachakra believer, Jean Rivière, replied: “He does not inspire world politics and does not intervene directly or humanly in the conflicts of the reborn beings. His role is spiritual, completely inner, individual one could say” (Rivière, 1985, p. 36).

Such an “internalization” or “psychologization” of the myth is applied by some authors to the entire Buddhocratic realm, including the history of Shambhala and the final battle prophesied there. The country, with all its viceroys, ministers, generals, officials, warriors, ladies of the court, vajra girls, palace grounds, administrative bodies and dogmata, now appears as a structural model which describes the mystic body of a yogi: “If you can use your body properly, than the body becomes Shambhala, the ninety-six principalities concur in all their actions, and you conquer the kingdom itself.” (Bernbaum, 1980, p. 155)

The arduous “journey to Shambhala” and the “final battle” are also subjectified and identified as, respectively, an “initiatory path” or an “inner battle of the soul” along the way to enlightenment. In this psycho-mystic drama, the ruler of the last days, Rudra Chakrin, plays the “higher self” or the “divine consciousness” of the yogi, which declares war on the human ego in the figure of the “barbarian king” and exterminates it. The prophesied paradise refers to the enlightenment of the initiand.

We have already a number of times gone into the above all among western Buddhists widespread habit of exclusively internalizing or “psychologizing” tantric images and myths. From an “occidental” way of looking at things, an internalization implies that an external image (a war for example) is to be understood as a symbol for an inner psychic/spiritual process (for example, a “psychological” war). However, according to Eastern, magic-oriented thinking, the “identity” of interior and exterior means something different, namely that the inner processes in the yogi’s mystic body correspond to external events, or to tone this down a little , that inside and outside consist of the same substance (of “pure spirit” for example). The external is thus not a metaphor for the internal as in the western symbolic conception, but rather both, inner and exterior, correspond to one another. Admittedly this implies that the external can be influenced by inner manipulations, but not that it thereby disappears. Applying this concept to the example mentioned above results in the following simple statement: the Shambhala war takes place internally and externally. Just as the mystic body (interior) of the ADI BUDDHA is identical with the whole cosmos (exterior), so the mystic body (interior) of the Shambhala king is identical to his state (exterior).

The Shambhala myth and the ideologies derived from it stand in stark opposition to Gautama Buddha’s original vision of peace and to the Ahimsa politics (politics of nonviolence) of Mahatma Ghandi, to whom the current Dalai Lama so often refers. For Westerners sensitized by the pacifist message of Buddhism, the “internalization” of the myth may thus offer an way around the militant ambient of the Kalachakra Tantra. But in Tibetan/Mongolian history the prophecy of Shambhala has been taken literally for centuries, and — as we still have to demonstrate — has led to extremely aggressive political undertakings. It carries within it — and this is something to we shall return to discuss in detail — the seeds of a worldwide fundamentalist ideology of war.


[1] In the thirties, Jean Marquès Rivière worked on the journal Voile d'Isis, in which the occult elite of Europe published. The editor was René Guénon. During this period Rivière performed a tantric ritual ("with blood and alcohol”), which left him possessed by a Tibetan deity. Only through the intervention of a Catholic exorcist could he be freed of the possession. In gratitude he reconverted to Christianity. But several years later he was once again to be found in the Buddhist camp (Robin, 1986, p. 325).

[2] In another version of the prophecy the barbarians at first succeed in penetrating into the wonderland and storming the palace of the king. Rudra Chakrin then extends the offer of ruling Shambhala together with his opponents. The barbarian king apparently consents, but then tries to seize control alone with an attempted assassination. But the attempt fails, and the Shambhala king escapes. Only now does the bloody final battle of Good versus Evil occur.

[3] The scenario of the Shambhala wars cannot be easily brought into accord with the total downfall of the world instigated by the tantra master which we have described above. Rudra Chakrin is a commander who conducts his battles here on earth and extends these to at best the other 11 continents of the Buddhist model of the world. His opponents are above all the followers of Allah. As global as his mission may be, it is still realized within the framework of the existing cosmos. In other textual passages the coming Shambhala king is also compared with the ADI BUDDHA, who at the close of the Kali yuga lays waste to the entire universe and lets loose a war of the stars. It is, however, not the aim of this study to explicate such contradictions.


In this chapter we want to introduce the reader to a spectacular European parallel to the fundamental tantric idea that erotic love and sexuality can be translated into material and spiritual power. It concerns several until now rarely considered theses of Giordano Bruno (1548-1600).

At the age of fifteen, Bruno, born in Nola, Italy, joined the Dominican order. However, his interest in the newest scientific discoveries and his fascination with the late Hellenistic esotericism very soon led him to leave his order, a for the times most courageous undertaking. From this point on he began a hectic life on the road which took him all over Europe. Nonetheless, the restless and ingenious ex-monk wrote and published numerous “revolutionary” works in which he took a critical stance toward the dogmata of the church on all manner of topics. The fact that Bruno championed many ideas from the modern view of the world that was emerging at the time, especially the Copernican system, made him a hero of the new during his own lifetime. After he was found guilty of heresy by the Inquisition in 1600 and burned at the stake at the Campo dei Fiori in Rome, the European intelligentsia proclaimed him to be the greatest “martyr of modern science”. This image has stayed with him up until the present day. Yet this is not entirely justified, then Bruno was far more interested in the esoteric ideas of antiquity and the occultism of his day than in modern scientific research. Nearly all of his works concern magic/mystic/mythological themes.

Like the Indian Tantrics, this eccentric and dynamic Renaissance philosopher was convinced that the entire universe was held together by erotic love. Love in all its variations ruled the world, from physical nature to the metaphysical heavens, from sexuality to heartfelt love of the mystics: it “led either to the animals [sexuality] or to the intelligible and is then called the divine [mysticism]" (quoted by Samsonow, 1995, p. 174).

Bruno extended the term Eros (erotic love) to encompass in the final instance all human emotions and described it in general terms as the primal force which bonded, or rather—as he put it—"chained”, through affect. “The most powerful shackle of all is ... love” (quoted by Samsonow, 1995, p. 224). The lover is “chained” to the individual loved. But there is no need for the reverse to apply, then the beloved does not themselves have to love. This definition of love as a “chain” made it possible for Bruno to see even hate as a way of expressing erotic love, since he or she who hates is just as “chained” to the hated by his feelings as the lover is to the beloved. (To more graphically illustrate the parallels between Bruno’s philosophy and Tantrism, we will in the following speak of the lover as feminine rather than masculine. Bruno used the term completely generically for both women and men.

According to Bruno, “the ability to enchain” is also the main chacteristic of magic, then a magician behaves like an escapologist when he binds his “victim” (whether human or spirit) to him with love. “There where we have spoken of natural magic, we have described to what extent all chains can be related to the chain of love, are dependent upon the chain of love or arise in the chain of love” (quoted by Samsonow, 1995, p. 213). More than anything else, love binds people, and this gives it something of the demonic, especially when it is exploited by one partner to the disadvantage of the other. “As regards all those who are dedicated to philosophy or magic, it is fully apparent that the highest bond, the most important and the most general belongs to erotic love: and that is why the Platonists called love the Great Demon, daemon magnus” (quoted by Couliano, 1987, p. 91).

Now how does this erotic magic work? According to Bruno an erotic/magic involvement arises between the lovers, a fabric of affect, feelings, and moods. He refers to this as rete (net or fabric). It is woven from subtle “threads of affect”, but is thus all the more binding. (Let us recall that the Sanskrit word “tantra” translates as “fabric” or “net”.) The rete (the erotic net) can be expressed in a sexual relationship (through sexual dependency), but in the majority of cases it is of a psychological nature which nonetheless further strengthens its power to bind. Every form of love chains in its own way: “This love”, Bruno says, “is unique, and is a fetter which makes everything one” (quoted by Samsonow, 1995, p. 180).

If they wish, a person can control the one whom they bind to themselves with love, since “through this chain [the] lover is enraptured, so that they want to be transferred to the beloved” as Bruno writes (quoted by Samsonow, 1995, p. 181). Accordingly, the real magician is the beloved, who exploits the erotic energy of the lover in the accumulation of his own power. He transforms love into power, he is a manipulator of erotic love. [1] As we shall soon see, even if Bruno’s manipulator is not literally a Tantric, the second part of the definition with which we prefaced our study still seems to fit:

The mystery of Tantric Buddhism consists in ...

the manipulation of erotic love

so as to attain universal androcentric power.

The manipulator, also referred to as a “soul hunter” by Bruno, can reach the heart of the lover through her sense of sight, through her hearing, through her spirit, and through her imagination, and thus chain her to him. He can look at her, smile at her, hold her hand, shower her with flattering compliments, sleep with her, or influence her through his power of imagination. “In enchaining”, Bruno says, “there are four movements. The first is the penetration or insertion, the second the attachment or the chain, the third the attraction, the fourth the connection, which is also known as enjoyment. ... Hence [the] lover wants to completely penetrate the beloved with his tongue, his mouth, with his eyes, etc.” (Samsonow, 1995, pp. 171, 200). That is, not only does the lover let herself be enchained, she must also experience the greatest desire for this bond. This lust has to increase to the point that she wants to offer herself with her entire being to the beloved manipulator and would like to “disappear in him”. This gives the latter absolute power over the enchained one.

The manipulator evokes all manner of illusions in the awareness of his love victim and arouses her emotions and desires. He opens the heart of the lover and can take possession of the one thus “wounded”. He is lord over foreign emotions and “has means at his disposal to forge all the chains he wants: hope, compassion, fear, love, hate, indignation, anger, joy, patience, disdain for life and death” writes Joan P. Couliano in her book, Eros and magic in the Renaissance (Couliano, 1987, p. 94). Yet the magically enacted enchainment may never occur against the manifest will of the enchanted one. In contrast, the manipulator must always awake the suggestion in his victim that everything is happening in her interests alone. He creates the total illusion that the lover is a chosen one, an independent individual following her own will.

Bruno also mentions an indirect method of gaining influence, in which the lover does not know at all that she is being manipulated. In this case, the manipulator makes use of “powerful invisible beings, demons and heroes”, whom he conjures up with magic incantations (mantras) so as to achieve the desired result with their help (Couliano, 1987, p. 88). We learn from the following quotation how these invoked spirits work for the manipulator: They need “neither ears nor a voice nor a whisper, rather they penetrate the inner senses [of the lover] as described. Thus they do not just produce dreams and cause voices to be heard and all kinds of things to be seen, but they also force certain thoughts upon the waking as the truth, which they can hardly recognize as deriving from another” (Samsonow, 1995, p. 140). The lover thus believes she is acting in her own interests and according to her own will, whilst she is in fact being steered and controlled through magic blandishments.

The manipulator himself may not surrender to any emotional inclinations. Like a tantric yogi he must keep his own feelings completely under control from start to finish. For this reason well-developed egocentricity is a necessary characteristic for a good manipulator. He is permitted only one love: narcissism (philautia), and according to Bruno only a tiny elite possesses the ability needed, because the majority of people surrender to uncontrolled emotions. The manipulator has to completely bridle and control his fantasy: “Be careful,” Bruno warns him, “not to change yourself from manipulator into the tool of phantasms” (quoted by Couliano, 1987, p. 92). The real European magician must, like his oriental colleague (the Siddha), be able “to arrange, to correct and to provide phantasy, to create the different kinds at will” (Couliano, 1987, p. 92).

He must not develop any reciprocal feelings for the lover, but he has to pretend to have these, since, as Bruno says, “the chains of love, friendship, goodwill, favor, lust, charity, compassion, desire, passion, avarice, craving, and longing disappear easily if they are not based upon mutuality. Fom this stems the saying: love dies without love” (quoted by Samsonow, 1995, p. 181). This statement is of thoroughly cynical intent, then the manipulator is not interested in reciprocating the erotic love of the lover, but rather in simulating such a reciprocity.

But for the deception to succeed the manipulator may not remain completely cold. He has to know from his own experience the feelings that he evokes in the lover, but he may never surrender himself to these: “He is even supposed to kindle in his phantasmic mechanism [his imagination] formidable passions, provided these be sterile and that he be detached from them. For there is no way to bewitch others than by experimenting in himself with what he wishes to produce in his victim” (Couliano, 1987, p. 102). The evocation of passions without falling prey to them is, as we know, almost a tantric leitmotif.

Yet the most astonishing aspect of Bruno’s manipulation thesis is that, as in Vajrayana , he mentions the retention of semen as a powerful instrument of control which the magician should command, since “through the expulsion of the seed the chains [of love] are loosened, through the retention tightened” (quoted by Samsonow, 1995, p. 175). In a further passage we can read: “If this [the semen virile] is expelled by an appropriate part, the force of the chain is reduced correspondingly (quoted by Samsonow, 1995, p. 175). Or the reverse: a person who reatins their semen, can thereby strengthen the erotic bondage of the lover.

Bruno’s idea that there is a correspondence between erotic love and power is thus in accord with tantric dogma on the issue of sperm gnosis as well. His theory of the manipulability of love offers us valuable psychological insights into the soul of the lover and the beloved manipulator. They also help us to understand why women surrender themselves to the Buddhist yogis and what is played out in their emotional worlds during the rites. As we have already indicated, this topic is completely suppressed in the tantric discussion. But Bruno addresses it openly and cynically — it is the heart of the lover which is manipulated. The effect for the manipulator (or yogi) is thus all the greater the more his karma mudra surrenders herself to him.

Bruno’s treatise, De vinculis in genere [On the binding forces in general] (1591), can in terms of its cynicism and directness only be compared with Machialvelli’s The Prince (1513). But his work goes further. Couliano correctly points out that Macchiavelli examines political, Bruno however, psychological manipulation. Then it is less the love of a consort and rather the erotic love of the masses which should — this she claims is Bruno’s intention — serve the manipulator as a “chain”. The former monk from Nola recognized manipulated “love” as a powerful instrument of control for the0 seduction of the masses. His theory thus contributes much to an understanding of the ecstatic attractiveness that dictators and pontiffs exercise over the people who love them. This makes Bruno’s work up to date despite its cynical content.

Bruno’s observations on “erotic love as a chain” are essentially tantric. Like Vajrayana, they concern the manipulation of the erotic in order to produce spiritual and worldly power. Bruno recognized that love in the broadest sense is the “elixir of life”, which first makes possible the establishment and maintenance of institutions of power headed by a person (such as the Pope, the Dalai Lama, or a “beloved” dictator for example). As strong as love may be, it is, if it remains one-sided, manipulable in the person of the “lover”. Indeed, the stronger it becomes, the more easily it can be used or “misused” for the purposes of power (by the “beloved”).

The fact that Tantrism focuses more upon sexuality then on the more sublime forms of erotic love, does not change anything about this principle of “erotic exploitation”. The manipulation of more subtle forms of love like the look (Carya Tantra), the smile (Kriya Tantra), and the touch (Yoga Tantra) are also known in Vajrayana. Likewise, in Tantric Buddhism as in every religious institution, the “spiritual love” of its believers is a life energy without which it could not exist. In the second part of our study we shall have to demonstrate how the Tibetan leader of the Buddhists, the Dalai Lama, succeeds in binding ever more Western believers to him with the “chains of love”.

Incidentally, in her book which we have quoted (Eros and Magic in the Renaissance) Couliano is of the opinion that via the mass media the West has already been woven into such a manipulable “erotic net” (rete). At the end of her analysis of Bruno’s treatise on power she concludes: “And since the relations between individuals are controlled by ‘erotic’ criteria in the widest sense of that adjective, human society at all levels is itself only magic at work. Without even being conscious of it, all beings who, by reason of the way the world is constructed, find themselves in an intersubjective intermediate place, participate in a magic process. The manipulator is the only one who, having understood the ensemble of that mechanism, is first an observer of intersubjective relations while simultaneously gaining knowledge from which he means subsequently to profit” (Couliano, 1987, p. 103).

But Couliano fails to provide an answer to the question of who this manipulator could be. In the second part of our analysis we shall need to examine whether the Dalai Lama with his worldwide message of love, his power over the net (rete) of Western media, and his sexual magic techniques from the Kalachakra Tantra, fulfills the criteria to be a magician in Giordano Bruno’s sense.


[1] The Renaissance philosopher attempts to describe this transformation process in his text De vinculis in genere (1591)


We have shown that Buddhism has from the very beginning considered the feminine principle to be a force which acts in opposition to its redemptive concepts. All types of women, from the mother to the lover, the wife, the hetaera, even the Buddhist nun, are seen to be more or less obstructions along the path to enlightenment. This negative evaluation of the feminine does not and never did have — as is often currently claimed — a social origin, but must rather be considered as a dogmatic and fundamental doctrine of this religion. It is an unavoidable consequence of the opening sentence of the Four Noble Truths, which states that all life is, per se, suffering. From this we can conclude that each and every birth brings only misery, sickness, and death, or conversely, that only the cessation of reincarnation leads to liberation. The woman, as the place of conception and childbearing, opens the gateway to incarnation, and is thus considered to be the greatest adversary to the spiritual development of the man and of humanity in total.

This implies that the deactivation, the sacrifice, and the destruction of the feminine principle is a central concern of Buddhism. The “female sacrifice” is already played out in one of the first legends from the life of Buddha, the early death of Buddha's mother Maya. Even her name evokes the Indian goddess of the feminine world of illusion; the death of Maya (illusion) simultaneously signifies the appearance of the absolute truth (Buddha), since Maya represents only relative truth.

We have shown how Shakyamuni's fundamentally misogynist attitude was set forth in the ensuing phases of Buddhism — in the meditative dismemberment of the female during a spiritual exercise in Hinayana; in the attempt to change the sex of the woman so that she can gain entry to the higher spiritual spheres as a male in Mahayana.

In Vajrayana the negative attitude towards the feminine tips over into an apparently positive valuation. Women, sexuality, and the erotic receive a previously unknown elevation in the tantric texts, a deification in fact. We have nonetheless been able to demonstrate that this reversal of the image of the woman is for the yogi merely a means to an end — to steal the feminine energy (gynergy) concentrated within her as a goddess. We have termed the sexual magic rituals through which this thieving transfer of energy is conducted the “tantric female sacrifice”, intended in its broadest sense and irrespective of whether the theft really or merely symbolically takes place, since the distinction between reality and the world of symbols is in the final instance irrelevant for a Tantric. All that is real is symbolic, and every symbol is real!

The goal of the female sacrifice and the diversion of gynergy is the production of a superhuman androgynous being, which combines within itself both forces, the masculine and the feminine. Buddhist Tantrics consider such a combination of sexual energies within a single individual to be an expression of supreme power. He as a man has become a bearer of the maha mudra, the vessel of an “inner woman”. In the light of the material we have researched and reported, we must view our opening hypothesis, repeated here, as confirmed:

The mystery of Tantric Buddhism consists in the sacrifice of the feminine principle

and the manipulation of erotic love in order to obtain universal androcentric power

Since, from the viewpoint of a tantric master, the highest (androcentric power) can only be achieved via the ritual transformation of the lowest (the real woman), he also applies this miracle of transubstantiation to other domains. Thus he employs all manner of repulsive, base substances in his rituals, and commits criminal deeds up to and including murder, in order to achieve, via the “law of inversion”, the exact opposite: joy, power, and beauty. We have, however, indicated with some force how this “familiarity with the demonic” can become a matter of course. This brings with it the danger that the Tantric is no longer able to overcome the negativity of his actions. The consequence is a fundamentally aggressive and morbid attitude, which — as we will show — forms one of the characteristics of the entire Tibetan culture.

As the Kalachakra Tantra includes within itself the core ideas and the methods of all other tantras, and as it represents the central ritual of the Dalai Lama, we concentrated upon an analysis of this text and offered a detailed description of the various public and secret initiations. We were able to demonstrate how the internal processes within the energy body of the yogi are aligned with external ritual procedures, and how the “female sacrifice” takes place in both spheres — externally through the “extermination” of the real woman (karma mudra) and internally through the extermination of the candali (“fire woman”).

The Kalachakra Tantra, too, has as its goal the “alchemical” creation of a cosmic androgyne, who is supposed to exercise total control over time, the planets, and the universe. This androgynous universal ruler (dominus mundi) is the ADI BUDDHA. Only after he can align his sexual magic rites and his inner physiological processes with the laws of the heavens and earth can a practicing yogi become ADI BUDDHA. He then sets sun, moon, and stars in motion with his breath, and by the same means steers the evolution of the human race. His mystic body and the cosmic body of the ADI BUDDHA form a unit, and thus his bodily politics (the motions of the internal energy flows) affects and effects world politics in every sense.

On the astral plane, the yogi unleashes a gigantic war among the stars before he becomes ADI BUDDHA, which likewise aims to sacrifice the gender polarity (represented by the sun and moon). In the final act of this apocalyptic performance, the tantric master burns up the cosmos in a murderous firestorm so as to allow a new world to emerge from the ashes of the old, a world which is totally subject to his imagination and will. [1] Only than does the ADI BUDDHA's (or yogi's) dominion encompass the entire universe, in the form of a mandala.

In his political role (as King of the World) the ADI BUDDHA is a Chakravartin, a cosmic wheel turner who governs the cosmos, conceived of as a wheel. This vision of power is linked by the Shambhala myth in the Kalachakra Tantra to a political utopia, one which is aggressive and warlike, despotic and totalitarian. This Buddhocratic world kingdom is controlled by an omnipotent priest-king (the Chakravartin), a lord of evolution, a further emanation of the ADI BUDDHA.

Admittedly, there are many literary attempts to interpret the entire construction of the Kalachakra Tantra as the symbolic playing out of psychic/spiritual processes which ought to be accessible to any person who sets out upon the Vajrayana path. But there is a strong suspicion — and in our historical section we table conclusive evidence for this — that the ideas and the goals of the Time Tantra are meant literally, i.e., that we are concerned with a real dominus mundi (world ruler), with the establishment of a real Buddhocracy, the real Buddhization of our planet — even (as the Shambhala myth prophesies) through military force.

But perhaps the Shambhala vision is even more concrete, then the concept of an ADI BUDDHA and a Chakravartin can only refer to one present-day individual, who has for years and uncontestedly fulfilled all the esoteric conditions of the Kalachakra Tantra. This individual is His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

The Time Tantra would then form the ideological and dogmatic basis of a strategy for the spiritual conquest of our planet by the Tibetan god-king. Thus, if we wish to understand his political decisions in their full depth, we must start with the magic metapolitics of the Kalachakra Tantra, since both levels (the ritual/magical, and the real/political) are — as we will demonstrate through many examples — intimately interwoven in the ancient world of Lamaism. The autocratic religious system of the god-king integrates all the social domains and political powers which have been separated in our Western culture at least since the North American and French Revolutions. The Dalai Lama is — according to the doctrine — Emperor and Pope, state and god in one person, he is the living sacred center of a “Buddhocracy”.

He meets all the criteria we have brought to light for a tantric world ruler (Chakravartin) or an ADI BUDDHA. But, since he does not really govern our planets, his rituals and political powerplay decisions, his negotiations and his statements must all be seen as tactical and strategic steps towards the eventual achievement of the final global goal (of world domination). [2] This ambitious enterprise will in no way be interrupted by the death of the god-king, since he can — reincarnated — build upon the acts of his predecessor (which he also was) and continue his work.

His Holiness would never publicly admit that he aspired to the global role of a Chakravartin through the Kalachakra initiations. Yet numerous symbolic events which have accompanied his ceremonial life since childhood are harbingers of his unrestricted claim to “world domination”. In 1940, as a five year-old, he was led with much ostentation into the Potala, the “Palace of the Gods”, and seated upon the richly symbolic “Lion Throne”. This enthronement already demonstrated his kingship of the world and expressed his right to worldly power, as the “Lion Throne”, in contrast to the Seat of the Lotus, is a symbol of the imperium (secular power) and not the sacerdotium (spiritual power). On 17 November 1950, the god-king was ceremoniously handed the “Golden Wheel”, which identified him as the “universal wheel turner” (Chakravartin).

But it is less these insignia of power which make him (who has lost his entire land) a potential planetary sovereign in the eyes of his Western believers, [3] than the fact that a long dormant image of desire has resurfaced in the imaginations of Europeans and Americans. “Which people, which nation, which culture”, Claude B. Levenson enthuses about the Dalai Lama, for example, “has not, within its collective consciousness, dreamed of a perfect monarch, who, imbued with a sense of justice and equanimity, is entrusted to watch over the well-ordered course of a harmonic and in every sense just society? The image of the Great King also nestles somewhere in the depths of the human spirit ... there is something of Judgment Day and the Resurrection in these manifold interpretations of sincere belief” (Levenson 1990, p.303).

Such a global dominion, that is, total power over the earth, contradicts the apparent total political impotence of the Dalai Lama which is enhanced by his constantly repeated statements of self-denial ("I am just a simple monk”). But let us not forget the tantric play upon paradox and the “law of inversion”. This secular powerlessness is precisely the precondition for the miracle which reveals how the lowly, the empty, and the weak give rise to the exalted, the abundant, and the strong. The “simple monk from Tibet” can — if the doctrines of his tantric texts are correct — count on the dizzying rotation which will one day hurl him high from the depths of impotence to become the most powerful ruler of the universe. Absolute modesty and absolute power are for him as Tantric two sides of the same coin.

The Dalai Lama never appears in the public light as a Tantric, but always as a Mahayana Bodhisattva, who thinks only upon the suffering of all living beings, and regards it with deepest compassion. Tantrism, upon which Tibetan Buddhism in its entirety is essentially based, thus belongs to the shadow side of the Kundun ("living Buddha”). His sexual magic rites shun the light just as much as the claims for global domination they intend. This is especially true of the Kalachakra Tantra.

We mentioned already in the introduction that a person can deny, suppress, or outwardly project his shadow. Insofar as he knowingly veils the procedures which take place in the highest initiation of the Time Tantra, the Dalai Lama denies his tantric shadow; in as far as he is probably unclear about the catastrophic consequences of the Shambhala myth (as we will demonstrate in the case of Shoko Asahara), he suppresses his tantric shadow; insofar as he transfers everything negative, which according to the “law of inversion” represents the starting substance (prima materia) for spiritual transformation anyway, to the Chinese, he projects his tantric shadow onto others.

The aggression and morbidity of the tantra, the sexual excesses, the “female sacrifice”, the “vampirism” of energy, the omnipotent power claims, the global destructive frenzy — all of these are systematically disguised by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, and can, even when the majority of the tantric texts are publicly available, be still further disguised — on the one hand by the argument that it is all only a matter of symbolic events that would never be conducted in reality, and, on the other hand, by the tantras’ claim that any negative actions have transformed themselves into positive ones by the end of the ritual.

As far as the first argument is concerned, we have been able to present numerous cases where the tantric texts have been interpreted thoroughly literally. Further, we have shown that this argument collapses upon itself, since no distinction between symbol and reality may be drawn by a Vajrayana Buddhist, as opposed to a contemporary “westerner”.

The second argument, that the tantras transform the negative into the positive (i.e., would call upon the devil to drive the devil out), needs to be able to stand up to empirical testing. The most telling body of evidence for the tantric theory, in particular for the philosophy and vision of the Kalachakra Tantra, is history itself. Over many hundreds of years thousands of tantric rituals have been performed in Tibet; for centuries people have tried to influence the history of the country through tantric rituals. But what, up to now, has this ritual politics achieved for the Tibetans and for humanity, and what is it aiming to achieve? We will consider the use of Buddhist Tantrism as a political method for better understanding the history of Tibet and influencing the country's destiny in the following, second part of our book. Here, our topic will be the influence of Vajrayana upon the Buddhist state, the economy, the military, upon foreign affairs and world politics.


[1] One must ask here whether we can really talk about a will, since the whole cosmic system of Buddhist Tantrism resembles a mega-machine which destroys itself and then sets itself in motion once more along the same lines as before. This would make the ADI BUDDHA much more of a mechanical world clock than a being who possesses free will.

[2] For this reason we must regard statements on practical politics by the Dalai Lama, which contradict the ideas of the Time Tantra (like, for instance his professions of belief in western democracy), as a mere tactic or trick (upaya) in order to mislead those around him as to his true intentions (the establishment of a worldwide Buddhocracy).

[3] For Tibetans and Mongolians who believe in Lamaism, the conception of the Dalai Lama as the Chakravartin is a matter of course.


Link to all the above chapters:


Posted 4th November 2007

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The Cristian Family November 2006

We Stand For NO SYSTEM

Kindom (Do No Harm Communities) is the dream for freedom, but it is the dream for the freedom of those around us who also live the dream of freedom, because it is in living for the freedom of others that we get our freedom. When we live for the dreams of Kindom of those around us, we live life as a gift because we live for (dedicate our lives to) their dream of freedom, truth, peace, joy, abundance, etc, just as they live for our Kindom dreams too. This is true co-creation (cooperation) with no attack on the uniqueness of each of us. When we live this way, we have no need for any man-made system - everything/everyone has already been taken care of by our love for life.

Just as we do not have to jump 10 feet across the room to grab our next breath, neither do we have to worry about food, water and shelter because it has all been taken care of as we each co-create Kindoms/Kin-Domains for everyone. Now everybody and everything of the dream of life that is Kindom/Paradise is free (has been set free once again). The issue is greed and selfishness, power and control trips, arrogance, ignorance, being fed many many lies and being traumatised. The issue is not overpopulation - there is more than enough land available for every family to have a hectare (2.5 acres Kin-Domain) to care for. The land of Australia can provide a Kin-Domain for every family across Earth, each with a food forest, clean fresh drinking water and plenty of space for building natural do no harm habitats and with plenty of land left over.

Everyone must have the freedom to take full-responsibility for their lives, for the water they drink, the food they eat and for their shelter. Currently, "The System" forces everyone to give up taking full-responsibility so that we become grown up children accustomed to sucking on the nipples of "The System" corporations for everything, having to use money to get by and to follow the rules of money because we are not co-creating freedom, peace, truth, joy and abundance for each other. Money only leads to haves and have nots and all the abuse, manipulation and distractions that we are subjected to as slaves to money.

When we give up living for other's Kindom dreams, we start creating hell ("The System") all around us because we become self-centred - now it's all about "my freedom","my money", "my land", "my belief", "my saviour", "mine", "mine","mine", "i","i", "i", "own", "own", "own", etc. To protect what we claim we own requires a man-made system with FORCE to protect those self-centred claims. This is ALL trauma based and all story-telling (brainwashing/braindirtying).

NO SYSTEM = KINDOM/DO NO HARM COMMUNITIES photo Kindom_zpsa6d24e8a.jpg

Our true freedom comes when we set our thoughts of freedom into motion so that we live freedom rather than just talking and thinking about it while we still slave for "The System". Kindom will not happen while we meditate for hours in the bush or do yoga retreats or wait for Jesus or follow the processes of the OPPT (One People's Public Trust now called One People). This is not freedom because we are not living freedom because we are living the story-telling of Jesus or Zeitgeist or The Secret or Thrive or One Earth/Consciousness/People.

Living Kindom is very, very hard work as we set about repairing the damage to MAN/Earth/Nature that we are ALL responsible for but the burden becomes lighter the more of us put our life-energy into the dream of returning Earth to Paradise. Day-after-day, we all have to work our arses off until Kindom is all around us (MAN) once again. This is the price we pay to set each other free on a piece of land (Kin-Domain), so that no one is under the image-power (education/brainwashing/story-telling) of another MAN anymore and so that everyone can have their space of love to create and live their unique, do no harm dreams. This only happens once we have the Kindoms set up so that everyone is provided for.

Once we re-create the food forests, whether on land or in the suburbs, we can re-claim our freedom, breaking the strangle-hold of "The System" because we are no longer reliant on its services and benefits and no longer turning each other into slaves of "The System", cogs in the wheels of "The System" machine. If we don't put the effort in to set everyone and everything free all around us then we still live in HELL ("The System"). The key is to live for everyone else's freedom so that we can have it too.

From Bare Dirt To Abundance
A Year In The Life Of The
Love For Life Food Forest

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
8th February 2013
51 Minutes 46 Seconds

From Bare Dirt To Abundance Part Two A
5th November 2014

From Bare Dirt To Abundance Part Two B
Coming Shortly

We live for NO SYSTEM. We do not lose anything by not having a man-made system and, in fact, we gain. We gain our freedom and we gain abundance. Let go of the fear.

The Cristian Family November 2006

A Collection Of Various Love For Life Posts
Providing The Big Picture We See

Sequential Order

We ask you to NOT believe anything we say/share and instead use scrutiny like an intense blow torch and go where the logic of truth/sense takes you. This is very, very important. Put everything you believe up to the test of scrutiny to see how it stacks up. If you are true to your heart/senses and go where the logic of truth/sense takes you will find that NO belief, etc, will stand up to the test of scrutiny. They just do not stack up because they are lies/fraud.

After you have watched and read all the material and any questions are left unanswered, send us your landline number and we will use the internet phone as a free unlimited call. We are on Sydney NSW Australia time. Best times for us to chat are between 11.00am and 6.00pm.

It is critical that you fully comprehend Image Power, "Spelling", Trauma, Reaction To Trauma, Curses, Processing Curses, Full-Responsibility/Liability, Limited Liability/Responsibility (passing-the-back), Slavery, Senses/Sense vs Non-Sense/Senses, Re-Presenting Intellectual Property such as but not limited to "Name", Storytelling/Storytellers, Duality, Black-Magic, Belief, Lies, "i", All Seeing "i" (eye), etc..... These themes and others are covered over and over and over again.

If you do not comprehend these insights and are unable to use your senses to sense your way through all the non-sense/non-sensory-images that enslave MAN under their image power (darkness = "The System" = Hell), men and women will remain deeply trapped under a terrible state of trauma. Our intention is to inspire you to remedy by showing you how to move away from reacting to trauma in all its nefarious and devious forms.

Superb Diamond Range Interviewing
Arthur & Fiona Cristian 4th February 2014

His-Story/Her-Story (History)
Arthur Cristian - Love For Life
2005-2007 - Re-posted July 2014

The Dream Of Life Part 6
Under The Spell Of Intellectual Property

Arthur Cristian - 51 Minutes 52 Seconds

Trauma Induced Fantasy
July 2013 Interview With
Jeanice Barcelo And Arthur & Fiona Cristian

The Dark Side Of The Moon
The Background To "The System"

Arthur & Fiona Cristian Interviewed By
Jahnick Leaunier, The Tru-Mon Show
24th August 2016
Love For Life - 142 Minutes

Eric Dubay's Flat Earth Is A Cult
The Background To The System Part Two

Arthur & Fiona Cristian Chatting With
Jahnick Leaunier On The Tru-Mon Show
Love For Life - 31st August 2016
154 Minutes

Eclipse Of The Sun - Video (Arthur swears in this video)
The Background To The System Part Three
Arthur & Fiona Cristian Chatting With
Jahnick Leaunier On The Tru-Mon Show
Love For Life - 25th October 2016

The "Name" Is The Mark Of The Beast
The Strawman Identifying
Your Slave Status In "The System"

By Arthur Cristian - Love For Life
5th February 2012 - 56 Minutes 25 Seconds

The Satanic Craft Of Inculcation In Practice
Fiona's ACT Supreme Court Affidavit Explaining Inculcation & Illumination
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
4th March 2016

The Spinning Top
Full Bloom Inculcation

Arthur And Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
Facebook Discussions Between The
8th December 2016
26th January 2017

The Shit Of Death
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
28th January 2017

The Selfie Of Freakenstein
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
17th March 2017

Three Sets Of Fiona Cristian Documents Filed With ACAT
Merged Into One Document For Downloading

Fiona Cristian Affidavit
ACT Supreme Court / Court Of Appeal

Dancing With Magic (Lies)
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Videos, Articles, Comments
And Pending E-Book
Love Fort Life
September 2015

Dancing With Magic Part One
Arthur & Fiona Cristian - Love For Life
5th September 2015

Dancing With Magic Part Two
Arthur Cristian - Love For Life
12th September 2015

Dancing With Magic Part Three
Arthur & Fiona Cristian - Love For Life
13th September 2015

Dancing With Magic (Lies) Part Four:
Arthur & Fiona Cristian - Love For Life
16th September 2015

Introduction To Kindom Video
By Arthur & Fiona Cristian - Love For Life
6th March 2015

To Be Educated Is To Have No Soul
The System Is Soul Destroying

Frederick Malouf & Michael Tellinger's
Contrived Gifting
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
1st September 2016

Illumination IS Definition
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
26th to 29th January 2016

The Nefarious Tactics Used
To Disguise Truth And Distract Us
From Remedy

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
24th January 2014
This post contains many recent Facebook comments
and email replies which collectively provides a big picture
into exposing the deception behind IMAGE POWER.

The Pull Of E-Motion
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
8th February 2014

Processing Curses
A Lie Is A Curse
Liars Process Curses

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
26th February 2014

How The System Is Really Constructed
Bouncing Back Curses Upon Curse Makers
To Stop Harm Forevermore

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
27th February 2014

Slave To A Name
Parts One, Two, Three, Four,
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
3rd to 6th March 2014

Educated Slaves
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
20th March 2014

The Only Path To Freedom
Beware The False Steps

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 2nd April 2014

Free-Dumb For All
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 5th April 2014

Revoking The Ego
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 8th April 2014

How MAN Commits Spiritual Suicide
Arthur Cristian
Love For Life - 3rd April 2014

How To Detect Intel Operatives Working
For The New World Order Agenda
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 10th April 2014

How The Psyop Program & Intel Networks
Are Messing With Your Head +

Arthur & Fiona Cristian - April 2014

Godzilla Through The Looking Glass
Destroyed By Name"

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 20th April 2014

What It's Going To Take
To Co-Create Freedom Forevermore

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 22nd April 2014

Falling For Fairy Stories
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 24th April 2014

A Disassociation From The Work
Of Kate of Gaia

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 17th May 2014

Separating The Wheat From The Chaff
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 22nd May 2014

Revolution Or Revolution
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 25th May 2014

Routing Out Psyop Programs
Routs Out Intel Operatives
Exposing Max Igan's Psyop Program

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 31st May 2014

The Psyop Program Scam
Behind Religion Belief Faith
& Associated Opinion

Arthur Cristian
Love For Life
11th June 2014

Another Delusion
Arthur Cristian
Love For Life
11th June 2014

A World Of Words Is A World Of Lies
Arthur Cristian
Love For Life
13th June 2014

The Name Of The Beast Is MAN

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 9th May 2014
Includes Mountain MAN Arrested
Facebook Discussion About "Name"
Uploaded 25th June 2014

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 13th August 2014

Discussion With Brother Gregory
Clearly Demonstrating Christianity
Is Part Of The Problem
And Not The Solution

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
Between the 12th May 2014 and 30th August 2014

The Psyop Program Behind Free Food
And Permaculture

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
29th October 2014
Facebook Discussion With Unconditional Love Moon

Head So Strong
Music and Vocals Arthur Cristian
Backing Vocals and Vocal Effects Arthur Cristian & Hannah Wood
Lyrics Fiona and Arthur Cristian
Written during our spare time between Aug & Oct 2014

The Time Of Trauma That Destroys Us
Arthur Cristian - Love For Life
9th November 2014

The Most Powerful Video On Spirituality
And Happiness FOR SLAVES
How To Accept Slavery And Be Happy About It

Arthur Cristian - Love For Life
6th August 2014
Facebook Discussion About The Work Of Eckhart Tolle

What Can We Do What Can We See
Arthur Cristian - Love For Life
A series of Arthur Cristian Facebook
posts and discussions
between 17th and 21st November 2014

The Misuse Of Love By Intel Networks
To Create Doubt And Uncertainty
With The Intention To Destroy Love
And Therefore Destroy MAN
(True Freedom, Peace, Joy, Abundance And Truth
For Everyone)

By Arthur Cristian - Love For Life
26th November 2014

The Void Of E-GO That Is Spiritual Suicide
The Justification Of Laziness
That Perpetuates System Creature Comforts
Ensuring Our Fall

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
13th December 2014
Massive Update Occurred 14th Dec 2014 3.10pm Sydney Aust time

Darkness Visible Part One A, B, C, D
The Freemasonic World In Plain Sight
Decoding George Washington Lithographs

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
14th December 2014
Part One A
Part One B
Part One C
Part One D

Darkness Visible Part Two
Yin And Yang, Duality, Spiritual Suicide
And Frank O'Collins UCADIA / One Heaven

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
14th December 2014

Darkness Visible Part Three
How The Word Sausage
Re-Presents The New World Order
Boiling Point & Out To Get Us

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
27th December 2014

Darkness Visible Part Four
Aleister Crowley - Thelema - OTO
And The Black Magic Psychedelia Of The Intellect

Facebook Discussion
4th to 10th January 2015

Darkness Visible Part Five
Living MAN Fiona Cristian's Standing
+ Decoding Judeo/Judaism

Fiona Cristian & Arthur Cristian
Love For Life
24th January 2015

Darkness Visible Part Six
The Many Fingers Of The Hidden Hand Appearing
YouTube Community Flagged A Video
Posted To The ArthurLoveForLife YouTube Channel
As Being "Hate Speech"

Fiona Cristian & Arthur Cristian
Love For Life
4th February 2015

Darkness Visible Part Seven
The Full Responsibility For Setting
True Freedom For All Into Motion
In Present-Sense Forevermore

Fiona Cristian & Arthur Cristian
Love For Life
10th February 2015

Who We Really Are Does Not End
At The Surface Of Our Skin

Arthur Cristian & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 22nd February 2015

Introduction To Kindom Video
By Arthur & Fiona Cristian - Love For Life
6th March 2015

The Rot Parts One, Two, Three
Arthur Cristian
Love For Life
5th June 2015

"The Good Guys" And The "Bad Guys"
Working Together To Bring In
The New World Order

Arthur Cristian - 18th July 2015

Can You Spot The Ego?
Where's Wally? Part One

Compilation of Facebook & Youtube
Insight Posts During Aug/Sept 2015
By Arthur Cristian

Can You Spot The Ego?
Where's Wally? Part Two

Compilation of Facebook & Youtube
Insight Posts During Aug/Sept 2015
By Arthur Cristian

Dancing With Magic (Lies)
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Videos, Articles, Comments
And Pending E-Book
Love Fort Life
September 2015

Dancing With Magic Part One
Arthur & Fiona Cristian - Love For Life
5th September 2015

Dancing With Magic Part Two
Arthur Cristian - Love For Life
12th September 2015

Dancing With Magic Part Three
Arthur & Fiona Cristian - Love For Life
13th September 2015

Dancing With Magic (Lies) Part Four:
Arthur & Fiona Cristian - Love For Life
16th September 2015

Illumination IS Definition
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
26th to 29th January 2016

The Satanic Craft Of Inculcation In Practice
Fiona's ACT Supreme Court Affidavit Explaining Inculcation & Illumination
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
4th March 2016

The Dark Side Of The Moon
The Background To "The System" Part One

Arthur & Fiona Cristian Chatting With
Jahnick Leaunier On The Tru-Mon Show
Love For Life - 24th August 2016

Eric Dubay's Flat Earth Is A Cult
The Background To The System Part Two

Arthur & Fiona Cristian Chatting With
Jahnick Leaunier On The Tru-Mon Show
Love For Life - 31st August 2016

To Be Educated Is To Have No Soul
The System Is Soul Destroying
Frederick Malouf & Michael Tellinger's
Contrived Gifting

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
1st September 2016

New Love For Life Kindom Facebook Group
Started March 2015
Includes 63 Minute
Introduction To Kindom Video
By Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Facebook Kindom Group Guidelines
The Love For Life website home-page provides
the bigger-picture background to the themes
touched on in this video:

Crop Circles Are A Massive Hoax
Facebook Discussion On Simon Kawai's Wall
Involving Arthur & Fiona Cristian
31st August 2013

OPPT & Slavery Through Intellectual Conscription By Deceit
Arthur & Fiona Cristian - Love For Life
27th February 2013 onwards...
Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:

Water Is The Life Of MANS Consciousness (Breath)
Arthur & Fiona Cristian - Love For Life - 8th February 2013
Part One: - 70 Minutes 5 Seconds
Part Two: - 81 Minutes 13 Seconds
Part Three: - 70 Minutes 18 Seconds

What Do You Believe On Origins?
Who Said There Was A Beginning?
Who's Truth Do You Accept?
Belief Is A Strange Idea.

Discussion Lyndell, Scott and Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Between March and April 2013
Posted 29th October 2013

So You Want The Good Bits Of "The System"
But Not The Bad Bits?

By Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life - 12th August 2013

Turning Away From The Reflection
Of MANS Looking Glass

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
30th April 2013


From Bare Dirt To Abundance
A Year In The Life Of The
Love For Life Food Forest

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
8th February 2013
51 Minutes 46 Seconds

From Bare Dirt To Abundance Part Two
5th November 2014

From Bare Dirt To Abundance Part Three
7th March 2016
60 Minutes

Love For Life Food Forest & Native Garden March 2016
Extension Of The Love For Life Food Forest And Establishment
Of A New Native Garden At The Front Of The Rental Property
In East Bowral - 24th October 2015 to Mid February 2016.
15 Minutes

Control The Land
And You Control MAN On The Land
Displace MAN From Land
And You Turn MAN Into Slaves

Arthur & Fiona Cristian - Love For Life
April 2011 (Updated 14th September 2011)

The Divine Spark
Facebook Discussion With Raymond Karczewski
Arthur & Fiona Cristian & Others
2nd October 2013

Capturing Another MANS Uniqueness
A Facebook Debate With
Arthur & Fiona Cristian - Love For Life
And Raymond Karczewski
Starting 13th May 2013

The Spell Is Broken
Taking The Land To Create Kindom

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
3rd March 2013

The Steps Of Kindom
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life 2006/2007

To explore these themes in greater detail go here where you can find links to all our Love For Life comments, articles, debates, discussions, videos, podcasts, etc:

All the best
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life

Email :
Mobile : 0011 61 418 203204 - (0418 203204)
Snail Mail: PO Box 1320 Bowral 2576 NSW Australia
Facebook Arthur Cristian :
YouTube Arthur Cristian :

Register To The Love For Life Mailing List:

Facebook Group Why Aren't We Free Discussion :
Facebook Group Kindom/Do No Harm Community Discussion :

Links below will kick in when the professionally recorded Love For Life music is released.

SoundCloud :
Nimbit Music :
Twitter :
Facebook Music :
YouTube Love For Life Music :
MySpace :
Google + Fiona Cristian :

Peaceful Transition Through Sacrifice And Service

We feel there is an essential peaceful do no harm transition required to get all of MAN back to standing on MANS feet without reliance upon another MAN for water, food, shelter. As it stands everyone in "The System" are highly dependent and reliant on the "group mind-set" that forms "The System" of slaves providing services and benefits for the emotionally addicted slaves to "The System" (and you can put us in the same basket too). The transition is to get MAN back to relying ONLY on nature without 3rd party interlopers, intermeddlers, interceders getting in the way. The transition is a team effort with the foresight for setting all of MAN free down-the-line so that MAN is no longer dependent on slaves and masters providing services, benefits, privileges and exclusivity while being bound to contracts, rituals, procedures, conditions, rules & regulations which compromises MAN severely.

This transition is all about shifting from limited liability/responsibility to full liability/responsibility. This full responsibility is all about caring for our health, nature all around us, clean uncorrupted (pure) water and food, partner/co-creator, children, shelter, animal-friends in partnership, etc. In "The System", we are already together destroying each other - we have to come together to create peace together so that we can all have peace. We cannot live peacefully when we are islands, not taking full responsibility for the lives of those around us until EVERYONE can take full responsibility for their life, which means that EVERYONE is healed of system trauma. In "The System", we all come together to make slaves of each other - now is the moment to come together to set each other free, to live for each other's freedom, peace, joy and abundance. Once we have set each other free, we are free.

Control The Land
And You Control MAN On The Land
Displace MAN From Land
And You Turn MAN Into Slaves

Arthur & Fiona Cristian - Love For Life
April 2011 (Updated 14th September 2011)

The Spell Is Broken
Taking The Land To Create Kindom

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
3rd March 2013

"The Steps Of Kindom"


Once we fix these issues, we or our children or our descendants to come, can start focusing on the even bigger picture of getting back to where our ancestors were, as breatharyan's, before they fell into non-sense images to be enslaved by them.

All the best to you and your family
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life

The Cristian Family November 2006

The Cristian Family Declaration

The Cristian family and The Love for Life Campaign are apolitical, non-religious, non-violent, anti weapons, anti drugs (both pharmaceutical and recreational) and anti any ideology that denies the existence of Do No Harm Communities (Kindoms) and suppresses the uniqueness and freedom of all men, women and children.

The Cristian family and our Love For Life work is unaligned to any big business corporation, intelligence agency, government body, "system" law, "system" think tanks, "system" green or environmental movements, religion, cult, sect, society (fraternity, brotherhood, sisterhood, order, club, etc,) secret or not, hidden agenda, law or sovereignty group, occult, esoteric, New Age or Old Age.

The Cristian family supports and promotes the remedy that brings an everlasting peace, freedom, truth, joy, abundance and do no harm for all of life without causing loss of uniqueness or the need for having slaves and rulers. We are not into following the one in front or being shepherds for sheeple. Most importantly, we take full-responsibility for everything we think, feel and do.

The Cristian family are not Christians.

Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life

December 2006

The Cristian Family November 2006


Being of clear brain, heart and intention, we each declare the following to be true:

• We have no intention of ending our own lives.

• We will not tolerate suppression of truth, ideas, freedom, or our work. We stand for freedom of speech.

• We stand together to support others in the expression of truths and freedom to speak out no matter how radical those ideas may seem.

• Standing for freedom takes courage; together we shall be strong in the face of all odds.

• If it is ever claimed that we have committed suicide, encountered an unfortunate accident, died of sickness/disease, disappeared, been institutionalized, or sold out financially or in any other way to self-interested factions, we declare those claims false and fabricated.

• We testify, assert and affirm without reservation, on behalf of all those who have dedicated their lives to the ending of secrecy and the promotion of freedom of thought, ideas and expression that we shall prevail.

• We Do Not Have Multiple Personality Disorders

Arthur Cristian
Fiona Cristian
Jasmin Lily Cristian
Emma Rose Cristian
Frances Hannah Cristian
Xanthe Jane Cristian

15th December 2006 (Edited/Updated 18th September 2011)

The Cristian Family November 2006

Update Regarding The Love For Life
Home Page And Quick User Guide

We are turning the Love for Life Quick User Guide into a blog of all the main insights of our work since March 2005, whether through articles, videos, podcasts or discussions/debates.

As we do not have the time to compile everything we have written into a book, as many have suggested we do, compiling all our most important work into one area of the website is a way of providing easy access to this work so those interested are able to fully comprehend the big picture.

Instead of having to find our different articles, videos, etc, in various parts of the website, it will all be accessible here: and here:

Love For Life Videos

As amateurs and posted in the Quick User Guide below the Facebook links, we're currently creating and posting a series of videos called "The Dream Of Life" which covers the ground of all the Love For Life insights. We plan to have the videos completed by December 31st 2012. Once this is behind us, our intention is to create a 2 hour or so video covering the body of this work. All videos are embedded in the quick user guide and uploaded in Arthur's YouTube channel:

Love For Life Music

We have started recording songs, with others, that express the themes of Love For Life. They are now being posted on Arthur's YouTube channel: and are embedded in the quick user guide We have over 100 songs to record. A few rough demos have already been used as the soundtrack on the first "Dream of Life" video.

About Us - Love For Life & The Cristian Family

Also, everything we, the Cristian family, have gone through, from bank fraud and the theft of the family home to death threats and attempts on Arthur's life, is documented in the Quick User Guide too. If you, the reader, are prepared to put the effort in, you will comprehend the extent to which we have all been tricked into becoming slaves, giving up our uniqueness and our full-responsibility for life and destroying everything of life to the point where life is in danger of dying out completely. You will also comprehend the remedy to all this chaos; a remedy that requires only love for life and the determination to do what needs to be done. Though our focus is very strongly on the remedy that creates a world of freedom, truth, peace, joy, abundance and Do No Harm for all of life without loss of uniqueness or the need for slaves and rulers, we realise that it is vital to comprehend how to get there and what stops us from getting there. This is why there is so much information on the hows and whys of everything going wrong in the world today. We are not into peddling conspiracy theories, we are into routing out all forms of organised crime.

Saturday 26th November 2011

Arthur and Fiona Cristian
Love For Life

Mobile: 0011 61 418 203204 - (0418 203204)
Facebook Arthur Cristian:
YouTube Arthur Cristian:
Nimbit Music:
Facebook Music:
Facebook Why Aren't We Free Discussion:
Facebook Do No Harm Community:
YouTube Love For Life Music:
Google + Fiona Cristian:
Register To The Love For Life Mailing List:

1. For The Body Of The Love For Life Work by Arthur and Fiona Cristian

Which Unravels The Reasons For The Chaos, Mayhem and Confusion Being Experienced In The World Today, Explains The Need For "Community Immunity" and Responsibility, and Focuses On The Creation Of Kindoms - Do No Harm, Life-Sustainable Communities (As The Remedy That Heals All Mans Woes) - And How We Can Co-Create Them. For Comments, Articles And Discussions, Go Here: - Also Go Here To See Podcasts And Videos Posted by Arthur & Fiona Cristian: - The Information Shared Comes From Inspiration, Intuition, Heartfelt-Logic And Information Gathered From Nature And Many Amazing Men And Women Along The Way. It Is Not Found In Any Books Or Channellings, Or Talked About By "Experts". Go Here To Read A Brief Synopsis Of Why We Started Love For Life:

2. For Information About The Ringing Cedars of Russia Series

go here: and for more on Eco Homes, Villages, Organic and Permaculture Gardening and Life-Sustainability, etc, go here: and here: and Mikhail Petrovich Shchetinin - Kin's School - Lycee School at Tekos:

3. For How To Eat A Raw, Living Food Diet,

go here: - LIFE is information. When we distort LIFE and then eat, drink, absorb, think, feel, hear, see, touch, taste, smell and perform these distortions, the information of LIFE, your LIFE, our LIFE, our children's lives, everyone's LIFE, is distorted.

4. To Find A Menu For The Extensive Research Library (over 8,000 items posted embodying over 11,000 documents, pdf's, videos, podcasts, etc)

Which Covers Topics From Health to Chemtrails/Haarp to Brain Control to Archaeology to Astronomy Geocentricity Heliocentricity to Pandemics Bird Flu Swine Flu to Fluoride to Cancer to Free Energy to Global Warming, 9/11, Bali Bombings, Aspartame, MSG, Vaccinations, Aids/HIV, Mercury, New World Order, Satanism, Religions, Cults, Sects, Symbolism, etc, etc, go here:

5. If You Would Like To Read About The Cristian Family NSW Supreme Court Case

(Macquarie Bank/Perpetual Limited Bank Fraud Condoned By Judges, Registrars, Barristers, Lawyers, Politicians, Public Servants, Bureaucrats, Big Business and Media Representatives - A Crime Syndicate/Terrorist Organisation) Which Prompted The Creation Of This Love For Life Website December 2006, And The Shooting And Torture Of Supporters Who Assisted Us In Reclaiming The Family Home, Joe Bryant And His Wife, Both In Their Late 70's, go here: And Read Some Of Our Email Correspondence With Lawyer Paul Kean - Macedone Christie Willis Solari Partners - Miranda Sydney May 17th-June 27th 2006:

6. For The Stories Of Other Victims Of The System,

go here: (If you have a story you would like us to put up, we would love to here from you:
action @

7. For Documentation Of Harm Done By The Powers-That-Be And Their Representatives,

Evidence Revealing How Victims Did Not Break The Peace, Caused No Crime or Harm, There Were No Injured Parties. Documenting Incontrovertible Evidence Demonstrating How The Powers That Be (PTB) And Their Lackeys Will Break All The Laws They Are Supposed To Uphold. They Will Kidnap, Intimidate, Terrorise, Rape, Pillage, Plunder And Lie And Take Responsibility For None Of It. All Part Of Their Tactics Of Using Fear And Trauma To Keep Us In Our Place. Relatives Of Those Under Their Radar Are Also Not Safe From Attack And Intimidation. All Starting From A $25 Fine For Not Voting And A $65 Fine For Not Changing A Dog Registration. We Do Not Have Freedom And Can Only Appear To Have Freedom If We Comply. Regardless How Small The Matter The PTB Throw Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars Away To Enforce Their Will.... Go Here:
Fiona Cristian Reply To State Debt Recovery Office - Part One to Part Ten - From 17th October 2008 And Still Continuing: or
Fiona Cristian Reply To State Debt Recovery Office
Part One: - From 17th October 2008
Part Two: - From 18th December 2008
Part Three: - From 9th January 2009
Part Four: - From 14th January 2009
Part Five: - The Sick Puppy - From 20th February 2009
Part Six: - Police Officers, Sheriff’s Officers, Tow Truck Driver and State Debt Recovery Office Blatantly Ignore the Law To Rape, Pillage and Plunder The Private Property Of Fiona Cristian - From 11th March 2009
Part Seven: - Affidavit Of Truth - Letter To The Queen + Australia: Fascism is Corporatism - From 30th March 2009
Part Eight: - The Pirates Auction And The Ghost Of VSL386 - From 4th April 2009
Part Nine: - Arthur Cristian's Letter To Pru Goward MP - From 15th December 2009
Part Ten: - Should We Be In Fear Of Those Who Claim To Protect Us? "Roman Cult" Canon Law - Ecclesiastical Deed Poll - The Work Of Frank O'Collins - From 13th October 2010

8. If You Are Interested In Information On Freedom From Statutes, Rule-Of-Law, Free Man/Free Woman, Strawman, "Person" and Admiralty Law (The Law Of Commerce),

go here: - For Common Law, Democracy, Constitution, Trial By Jury, Fee Simple, etc, go here:

9. If You Are Interested In Banking and Money Created (Fiat/Credit/Debt/Mortgage/Loan/Overdraft etc) Out-Of-Thin-Air, How Banks Counterfeit Money,

go here:

10. For A List Of All The Latest Posts In The Love For Life Website,

go here:

11. For Links To Many Hundreds Of Videos, DVDs And Podcasts

go here:

12. To See The Cristian Family Pledge, Legal and other Disclaimers

go here:

13. To Read About How A Representative Of The NSW Jewish Board Of Deputies Had Threatened To Shut Down The Love For Life Website

go here: Part One: Part Two: THE STEVE JOHNSON REPORT AND VIDEO: and Part Three: Latest Update On James Von Brunn:

Conscious Love Always
Arthur & Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
action @
0418 203204 (int: 0011 61 418 203204)
PO Box 1320 Bowral 2576 NSW Australia

Arthur Cristian

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The Cristian Family November 2006

Love For Life Legal Disclaimer

The information contained on this world wide web site (the web site and all information herein shall be collectively referred to as "Web Site Information"), under the registered url name,, resides on a host server environment in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15203, United States of America.

The Web Site Information has been prepared to provide general information only and is not intended to constitute or be construed as providing substantive professional advice or opinion on any facts or circumstances. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, nor does its receipt give rise to, a professional-client relationship between 'Love for Life' and the receiver.

While every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of the information prepared and/or reported on this site, 'Love for Life' is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the Web Site Information not being up to date. The Web Site Information may not reflect the most current developments.

The impact of the law, policy and/or procedure for any particular situation depends on a variety of factors; therefore, readers should not act upon any Web Site Information without seeking professional advice. 'Love for Life' is not responsible for any action taken in reliance on any Web Site Information herein.

'Love for Life' is not responsible for any action you or others take which relies on information in this website and/or responses thereto. 'Love for Life' disclaim all responsibility and liability for loss or damage suffered by any person relying, directly or indirectly, on the Web Site Information, including in relation to negligence or any other default.

'Love for Life' does not warrant, represent or hold out that any Web Site Information will not cause damage, or is free from any computer virus, defect(s) or error(s). 'Love for Life' is not liable to users for any loss or damage however caused resulting from the use of material found on its web site.

'Love for Life' does not necessarily endorse or approve of any Web Site Information linked to and contained on other web sites linked herein and makes no warranties or representations regarding the merchantability or fitness for purpose, accuracy and quality, of any such information.

The sending of information by you, and the receipt of it by 'Love for Life', is not intended to, and does not, create a professional-client relationship.

All Web Site Information is considered correct at the time of the web site's most recent revision.



The Cristian Family November 2006

Posted Wednesday 17th June 2009
Updated September 2011

NSW Jewish Board Of Deputies
Has Threatened To Shut Down
The Love For Life Website

No Freedom Of Speech - No Freedom Of Thought

Love For Life does not support harm doing in any shape or form. However, we are supporters of free speech and post articles, documentaries, etc, that represent a wide cross section of ideas. See the Love For Life extensive research library where over 6000 documents, articles and videos are posted: We clearly see the evidence of the destruction to MAN and the earth that has been caused by ALL religions over the centuries and are therefore not supporters of religions, cults, sects or any group that demands conformity of thought, speech or action, or has rules, regulations or rituals that must be followed. Religions, nationalities and cultural "identities" are formed as a result of the brainwashing we receive from childhood. They are part of the tactics the Establishment uses to keep us all divided from one another and fighting one another.

All religions promote discrimination and division, leading to hatred and even violence and murder. None of them have yet to produce a remedy to all the suffering, poverty, unhappiness and discrimination in the world. If any religion truly had the remedy to all the suffering on earth, there would no longer be any suffering. What have Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, atheism and the New Age done to end the suffering in the world?

Since December 2006, there have been many attempts to take down the Love For Life website. Any attempts have been thwarted by Love For Life supporters inundating the harm-doers with emails, etc, objecting to them taking down the website for a variety of reasons. The trouble makers usually back off when they realise that they can post all their views, arguments, beliefs, etc, in the Love For Life website without censorship or restriction imposed. They get to see that even the Queen, Pope, Prime Minister, President of America, etc, can post all their views without hindrance or sabotage and that we support freedom of speech/thought which means we support the right of all sides to express their views.

Of note, there is a vast amount of information posted in the Love For Life website which we do not agree with but we leave it all up because we refuse to be biased, opinionated or self-centered/self-serving. Of the many thousands of comments posted over the years we have only removed posts containing secret links to commercial advertisements, terrible foul language, threats of violence and death, etc, and attacks on other people's characters that avoid the subject/debate at hand. Besides links to advertisements, we have taken down less than six comments due to the above. We usually leave everything up, all warts and all, even those posts threatening to do terrible things to Fiona, our children, our dogs, our friends, family & supporters, etc.

The Love For Life website has information from all sides on many subjects, whether about Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Law, health, psychology, mind control, vaccination, aspartame, MSG, Chemtrails etc. There are over 11,000 articles, documentaries etc on the website and they are so diverse that we are sure that everyone would be able to find something they loved and something they hated, if they took the time to search. If we removed all the articles hated by everyone, there would probably be nothing left! We are not anti anyone but freedom of speech is freedom of speech and no one should condemn the work of another without taking the time to research the subject themselves. Yes, there are articles by those who have a less-than-rosy-viewpoint of Judaism, but there are also articles on the dark side of Tibetan Buddhism (and it is very dark) for those who are interested in the truth: Tibet - Buddhism - Dalai Lama: Should the authors of these articles be abused and imprisoned for daring to challenge the widely conceived reputation of Buddhism as being the religion of peace and love and that of the Dalai Lama as a saint, or should those interested be allowed to study the work and come to their own conclusions? The same applies to all the articles, documentaries, etc, about Christianity, Islam, Freemasonry, New World Order, etc.

The Love for Life website also shows how the Rule of Law, the Bar, the Government, the Monarchy, the system of commerce, the local, national and multi/trans-national private corporations, all the courses and careers on offer from our universities, all the educators, scientists, academics and experts, the aristocrats and the Establishment bloodlines have also done NOTHING to end the suffering in the world. The website maps the insanity of a world where there is no help for those in need, just as there was no help available for us when we were victims of terrible bank fraud: "NSW Supreme Court Case - Macquarie Bank/Perpetual Limited vs Fiona Cristian - Victims Of Bank Fraud Condoned By Judges" (orchestrated, condoned and protected by an international crime syndicate/terrorist organisation of judges, barristers, registrars, lawyers, politicians, banksters, big business representatives, media moguls and other lackeys who, all together, put up a wall of silence despite our trying many, many avenues. After the family home was stolen and business destroyed we were left close to poverty and destitution caring for 4 young daughters. Three years later not much has changed regardless of all our efforts. Where were all the followers of all the religions to help us? Or do we have to be members of those religions to receive help from others involved in them?

The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies accused us of being anti - Jewish, see: and because we had posted an excerpt from James von Brun's book: Kill the Best Gentiles: in which he blames Jews for the problems of the world. Obviously this is not our view because of what we have stated above. We do not hate anyone, whatever religion they follow. We are always open to talk to any religious leader or politician and meet with any judge, member of the Bar, experts, academics, educators etc to share the remedy we offer that heals all the divisions between MAN and MAN, and MAN and the EARTH.

Today, a representative of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies is threatening to close the website down, because they have decided it is anti - Jewish and that we promote racism. What has the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies done to end the suffering in the world? Can they show that they are concerned with the suffering of ALL men, women and children AND ARE SEEN TO BE DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT or are they only concerned with Jewish affairs? If so, they, along with all the other religions that only care for their own, are part of the problem, not part of the solution. The man who rang Arthur today was only concerned with Jewish affairs; he was not interested in our intentions or in anybody else, just as most Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Catholics, etc, are only interested in their own. While we separate ourselves into groups, dividing ourselves from others with rules, regulations, rituals, procedures and conditions, we will never solve our problems.

No matter what we in the Western World Civilisation of Commerce have been promised by our politicians, religious leaders, scientists, educators, philosophers, etc, for the past two hundred years, all we have seen is ever-increasing destruction of men, women and children and the earth. None of the so-called experts and leaders we have been taught to rely on are coming up with a solution and none of them are taking full-responsibility for the fact that they can't handle the problem. All religious books talk about end times full of destruction and suffering but why do we have to follow this program when there is an alternative to hatred, mayhem and death? Why are our leaders following the program of destruction and death rather than exploring the alternatives? It seems that any mainstream politician, priest or academic are only interested in supporting the RULES OF THE DIVIDE, that maintain the haves and the have nots. For 200+ years, 99% of the world population have been so trained to pass on their responsibility for themselves, others and the earth, that the 1% of the population that make up the leaders of the rest of us are making all the decisions leading to the destruction of all of us and the earth. Let's not forget the education system that brainwashes the 99% of the population that we are free and have equal rights while, in fact, we are feathering the nests of those at the top.

At the root of all our problems is self-centredness, an unwillingness nurtured by the Establishment that keeps us concerned only with our own needs rather than the needs of others around us and the Earth. Instead of creating and releasing acts of love for those around us as gifts to benefit them and the earth, we take, take and take, until there is nothing left. The whole point of the Love for Life website is to show people the root of all our problems and to share the remedy. The extensive research library is there to attract browsers and to provide access to information not available through mainstream channels. If the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies can, after careful examination of our work, prove that anything we are saying is wrong, we will be happy to accept their proof. If they cannot, and they are still insistent on closing the website down, they will be showing themselves to be traitors to MAN because they are not interested in pursuing any avenue that can end the suffering in the world.

All religions, corporations and organisations that support and maintain the Western World Civilisation of Commerce are part of the problem because our civilisation is a world of haves and have nots, racism, violence, hatred, poverty, sickness, discrimination, abuse, starvation, homelessness, corruption, collusion, vindictiveness, social unrest, arrogance, ignorance, fear, war and chaos. While we support civilisation, we support death and destruction because ALL civilisations that have ever existed are apocalyptic by design.

If we truly want peace on earth and freedom for all, we have to let go of all that which keeps us divided, and come together as MAN, conscious living co-creators of creation. The Love For Life website offers a remedy to the problems we all face in the form of DO NO HARM COMMUNITIES: For more details see here: and here: - We also highly recommend that everyone read the brilliant Russian books called The Ringing Cedars: - The Love For Life Website Homepage also provides lots of inspiring remedy based information: - If you want to be kept up to date with our work please register to the Love For Life Mailing List here: We usually send two postings per month. Presently (September 2011) there are over 7000 registrations reaching over 500,000 readers across Earth. The website now (September 2011) receives up to 12 million hits per month. Since December 2006, over 100 million people have visited the Love For Life website.

Conscious Love Always
Arthur and Fiona Cristian
Love For Life
17th June 2009

The Cristian Family November 2006

Clarification Regarding Our Intentions
Behind The Use Of Donations

The Love For Life website is offered for free without a fee and without any conditions attached. If people are inspired to donate money, then we accept their gift and have provided an avenue for them to support the work we do through Fiona's Paypal or ANZ bank account There is no obligation whatsoever to donate and all are equally welcome to our work and to our "time", whether they donate or not. Over the last 9 years, all the Love For Life work has been put out for free and it has often been donations from supporters that have enabled us to renew the domain name, etc, to keep the website going. While some complain that we have an avenue for donations, others complained when we didn't! Either use it or don't - the choice is yours.

Since Love For Life started March 2005 and website December 2006, Arthur has worked 16 hours a day, 7 days a week unpaid for much of this period, putting together the website and sharing insights to wake people up to what has been done to them, whether through the 11,500+ individual articles, videos, podcasts, debates, discussions, pdf's, research documents, etc, found amongst the 8,500+ posts, as well as helping many, many men and women over the phone, and through email, website correspondence, Facebook and YouTube, and creating the Love For Life food forest vege garden and Love For Life music recording studio. This is our life is a gift commitment to serve MAN/Nature/Earth but we are still severely compromised by "The System" and still have to give to Caesar what is claimed to belong to Caesar, which is where the donations help us.

Fiona & Arthur Cristian
Love For Life
21st July 2014