The Kālacakra maṇḍala according to the Vajrāvalī of Abhayākaragupta
|This article is in two parts. This present page describes the emblems of the deities of the maṇḍala, while the first page describes the drawing. A pdf file of this article is available here. An associated page describes the perimeter beings of the maṇḍala. Image above courtesy of Ricky Swaczy, Northern Shambhala, Italy. Unless otherwise stated, other images are from Bokar Monastery, Mirik, India.
Emblems of the deities
In the following notes, seed-characters from the Vimalaprabhā are given for completeness; the Vajrāvalī only lists the emblems. C: refers to the centre. Click on images for higher resolution versions.
Just outside the central lotus, in the corners formed by the inner beams of the tathāgata-dais, are four emblems:
SE: black wish-fulfilling jewel
SW: red dharma-semantron
NW: yellow wish-granting tree
NE: white dharma-conch
The next set of deities are the buddhas and their consorts, and they have between them a set of eight flasks. These are positioned right and left of the buddhas; there are also two further flasks, for above and below. These are placed in the east and west doorways, just beyond the lotuses for the wrathful deities.
The buddhas and their consorts are in the cardinal and intermediate directions of the tathāgata-dais, between the pillars. The lotuses in the cardinal directions are white with sun (red) seats, and those in the intermediate directions red with moon (white) seats:
Next are the male bodhisattvas and their consorts, on the deity-podium of the mind palace. These all are on white lotuses with sun seats except the two left of west (L of W) and left of north which are on red lotuses and moon seats:
Next are the wrathful deities in the doorways of the mind palace. In the east and north these are on white lotuses and sun seats; in the south and west on red lotuses and moon disks:
The available editions of the Vajrāvalī have these last two emblems the other way around, with lotus in the west and hammer in the north. This seems to be a mistake. (SG: There is an extra lotus in the eastern doorway for a fifth wrathful.)
And, in the central cell of each toran in the mind palace:
(SG: Describes using just golden drawing rather than lañca characters to represent these.)
Abhaya adds that the bowls in the north are both skulls and that the west toran drum is a paṭaha, a traditional Indian kettle-drum, a type usually used for proclaiming some event.
The seed-characters are considered to be stacked. For example, with cchjjhña, the character ca is on top, below it cha, then ja, jha, and finally ña on the bottom. The green and blue goddesses are to be drawn in the middle cells of the upper stages of the torans of the mind palace.
This completes the deities of the mind palace, and we now come to the deities on the eight lotuses in the speech palace. On each lotus there is a male and female deity (with the female the chief, facing the centre of the maṇḍala), surrounded by eight yoginīs. On the podium in both the speech and body palaces, the lotuses in the cardinal directions are red and in the intermediate directions, white. They have neither moon nor sun seats. Instead, they each have an animal mount, which in this tradition is drawn underneath the lotus. The same applies to the lotuses of the body palace podium.
In the following, the petals are numbered from the eastern-most petal, clockwise. The animal mounts under the lotuses are given in brackets. (There are many different names here from the equivalent list given in the Vimalaprabhā.)
East (red preta):
West (Airāvata, elephant):
The term mace is used here to indicate the pointed club of Brahma.
(SG: Only gives the animals for the intermediate directions, presumably because the animals cannot be drawn for the cardinal directions as the lotuses are in the central cells of the mind toran. The fact that Abhaya gives these animals perhaps suggests the method of the Vimalaprabhā, in which the animals are on top of the lotus receptacles.)
Body palace and beyond
Next are the deities of the body palace podium. There are 12 lotuses on the podium, each with 28 petals. On the receptacle of each lotus there is a male and female deity (this time the male is the chief deity), surrounded by twenty-eight yoginīs.
The ordering of the lotus petals is quite different from the lotuses in the speech palace, and the structure of the list of characters from which these deities arise is also different. There are 30 deities in each group, and their seed-characters are a combination of a group of five consonants with six vowels. For example, on the lotus right of the eastern door, the set of consonants is: ca, cha, ja, jha and ña. These are combined in reverse order with the vowels: a, i, ṛi, u, ḷi and aṃ. This produces the following list of 30 characters:
ña, ñi, ñṛi, ñu, ñḷi, ñaṃ, jha, jhi, jhṛi, jhu, jhḷi, jhaṃ, ja, ji, jṛi, ju, jḷi, jaṃ, cha, chi, chṛi, chu, chḷi, chaṃ, ca, ci, cṛi, cu, cḷi, caṃ.
These represent the 30 lunar days of the month of Caitra, and the deities for the 15th (full Moon) and 30th (new Moon) lunar days, are respectively the female and male deities on the receptacle of the lotus. Their characters are jṛi and caṃ. The remaining 28 characters are placed sequentially on the petals of the lotus, but exactly how is not described clearly in the original literature.
It is usually accepted that the characters are placed in order, first on the eastern petal of the inner ring of four petals, then proceeding clockwise, moving to the eastern petal of the middle ring after the inner is complete, and so on. The characters are placed in the order given above, with dzṛi and tsaṃ omitted as their deities are on the receptacle.
Moving around the podium clockwise, the next lotus is in the south-east, and the vowels are now long, and combined with the same consonants, but in the normal order:
cā, cī, cṛī, cū, cḷī, caḥ, chā, chī, chṛī, chū, chḷī, chaḥ, jā, jī, jṛī, jū, jḷī, jaḥ, jhā, jhī, jhṛī, jhū, jhḷī, jhaḥ, ñā, ñī, ñṛī, ñū, ñḷī, ñaḥ.
As before, jṛī and ñaḥ are omitted from the group when placing them on the petals.
For all twelve lotuses:
Left of west, instead of "jewel or mace" as the text states, we should probably read a jewel-tipped mace. In traditions for the Kālacakra maṇḍala other than the Vajrāvalī, the deities LoE and LoS are green and those LoW and LoN blue. The fact that they are here the colours of their directions is one of the most prominent differences with the Vajrāvalī, and identification of this feature is the easiest way to recognise a maṇḍala from Abhayākaragupta's tradition.
Next are the wrathful deities in the doorways of the body palace, plus one above and one below, each drawn by seven draught animals. At this point, Abhaya states that the emblems are placed on lotuses. Four chariots were described earlier for these deities, and the lotuses will be on the chariots, but what about the other two? He states that the other two emblems are just beyond those in the eastern and western doorways. There is not much space to draw them that way, and so some draw the chariots side by side, while others have the above and below chariots beyond the tops of the eastern and western torans. The latter method seems the most accepted.
The draught animals pulling these chariots are:
A: three-eyed, five-coloured garuḍas
B: eight-legged lions (śarabha)
The final list of emblems described in the Vajrāvalī are for a group of thirty-six goddesses ('dod ma, icchās) on the plinth of the speech palace, and an equivalent group of thirty-six goddesses (phyir 'dod ma/mi 'dod ma, pratīcchās) on the plinth of the body palace.
Their colours, hand emblems, directions, etc., all match between the two groups, and their seeds are easily converted between the two. For example the seed of Vidveṣecchā on the speech plinth is caḥ, and of the equivalent Vidveṣapratīcchā on the body plinth is caṃ.
It is with this list of goddesses that one finds the greatest variations between the different texts and traditions, in the spelling of their names, their emblems, their positions and their physical descriptions. There is no such thing as a definitive list of these goddesses.
The icchā goddesses are associated with groups of other goddesses in the maṇḍala: four buddha consorts, six bodhisattva consorts, four mind palace wrathfuls' consorts, the eight chief goddesses of the speech palace, the six wrathfuls' consorts on chariots, and, the eight pracaṇḍā. They are also associated with another group of 36 mātṛikā goddesses in the maṇḍala of 100 yoginīs, which are themselves connected to the 36 professional castes in medieval Bengal. The list is given here for the icchās of the speech palace. They are described in eight groups, those to the right and to the left of the doorway, the one nearest to the doorway first. In the groups of five to the right of each doorway, the last in each list are considered by some to be on the corners of plinth.
LoS (all red, except one):
RoW (all yellow):
LoW (all yellow, except one):
RoN (all white ):
LoN (all white, except one):
(SG: Suggests that the emblems are not drawn, but lañca characters instead.)
Abhaya does not at this point mention emblems for the nāgas or the pracaṇḍas – these were described earlier. For the sake of completeness, their names and seeds are given here:
Pracaṇḍās (all emblems are curved knives):
In the Vajrāvalī's companion text, the Niṣpannayogāvalī (rdzogs pa'i rnal 'byor gyi phreng ba), Abhaya has these last two on chariots, rather than the disks of emptiness as described earlier. (SG: Has here two wheels in both the east and west; they all have eight-petalled lotuses on their hubs, and have no animal seats.)
The final emblems that need to be mentioned are those of the perimeter beings in the perimeter of wind (or more usually on the border between the wind and fire perimeters). These are not given in the Vajrāvalī but are mentioned in the Niṣpannayogāvalī. This first gives the position of the planets, each on disks of elements. It simply names them, without giving any emblems or seeds.
E: wind – Moon
SE: wind – Sun
S: fire – Mercury
SW: fire – Mars
W: earth – comet (mjug rings)
NW: earth – Saturn
N: water – Venus
NE: water – Jupiter
A: space – Rāhu (sgra gcan, Moon's ascending node)
B: space – Kālāgni (dus me, descending node)
No particular instructions are given, and so an artist would represent as many of these as seems appropriate, with different colours, emblems, and so forth. However, two traditions have been developed in Tibet for these beings to be represented by specific seed-characters between the charnel grounds - a total of 88 developed by Buton, used for example in the Gelug tradition, and a total of 112 used in the Karma Kagyu tradition. These traditions are both described on this web page.
This completes the decription of the Kālacakra maṇḍala from the Vajrāvalī.