H.H. the Dalai Lama once said, â€˜To conquer oneself is a greater victory than to conquer thousands in a battleâ€™; and this evidently was the sole aim of every soul floating around the â€˜UNESCO World Heritage Siteâ€™ of the Mahabodhi Temple [Bodh Gaya, Bihar] during the Kalachakra initiation. Kalachakra is a Sanskrit term used in Tantric Buddhism that translates as â€˜wheel of timeâ€™.
The term is mutually used for the deity as well as the teachings and as the name clearly suggests, the ritual and practices revolve around the concept of time and life cycles â€“ cycle of the cosmos, the turning of the planets known as the â€˜External Kalachakraâ€™, cycle of our breath or â€˜pranaâ€™ known as the â€˜Internal Kalachakraâ€™ and the cycle of â€˜kalaâ€™ or time itself that moves generations by spinning the wheel known as the â€˜Alternative Kalachakraâ€™.
The aim of the teachings is to re-connect the soul with the supreme consciousness and make it see itself in all its glory outside the web of â€˜Mayaâ€™ or â€˜material illusionâ€™.
The first Kalachakra tantra was taught by the Sakyamuni himself near Amravati in Andhra Pradesh, soon after his enlightenment.
This was the 33rd Kalachakra initiation given by H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama and Buddhists had poured in from all over the world to listen and practice.
Buddhism is one religion that has managed to break the barriers of culture and region and such Buddhist gatherings are rare occasions where one gets to see homogeneity and diversity together on the same platter.
Where else can you find a monk from Spiti, a software engineer from Delhi, a film maker from Peru, an old Tibetan peasant woman and a journalist from Paris on the same platform, seeking the same answers?
If a birdâ€™s eye view of the town was captured during the 10 day ritual one would have seen three fourth of it swarming with maroon and ochre.
The monks could be seen everywhere with the chant â€˜Om mani padme humâ€™ on their lips and rosaries adorning their fingers.
Those who could not get entry inside the main Kalachakra grounds, where thousands sat to see and hear Dalai Lama, made themselves comfortably stationed in large groups on either side of the roads and sat transfixed with radios glued to their ears.
The five colors of the prayer flags stringed together, the ochre adorned by Buddha Sakyamuni, the translucence of the thin smoke rising from the incense and the warmth extended by hundreds of flaming butter lamps lighted in unison created a befitting atmosphere to complement the spiritual trance brought about by the deep voice overtone Tantric chanting.
The visions and sounds intermingled to create a lasting impression and my own intimate recollection of that extended moment is that while it lasted everything existed just as it â€˜isâ€™ without a â€˜wasâ€™ and without a â€˜will beâ€™; purely as it â€˜isâ€™.
Written and photographed by: Parul Panthri