Kālacakra World System

The images on this page are not yet fully developed and should be considered a "work in progress", but do give a reasonable impression of the full scene that is imagined in Kālacakra meditation. The description used to create these images is taken mainly from the instruction text on the Six Yogas by Banda Gelek (dpal dus kyi 'khor lo'i rdzogs rim sbyor ba yan lag drug gi sgom rim grub pa'i lam bzang sku bzhi'i rgyal sar bsgrod pa'i shing rta).

The maṇḍala palace, containing Kālacakra and all the deities in the retinue, sits on top of the central Mt. Meru of the Kālacakra world system.

As shown in the first image, at the bottom is the black disk of the element of wind, 400,000 yojanas across and 50,000 yojanas deep. Above it, and the same depth, is the 300,000 yojana red disk of the element of fire. Above that, the 200,000 yojana white disk of water, and then finally the 100,000 yojana yellow disk of the element of earth.

The four disks of the elements, from the bottom, wind,
fire, water and earth.

Translation note: Peak/summit. in the book "Myriad Worlds" this term has been translated as "enclosure". It would appear that the Tibetan terms ra ba and rwa have been confused. The first of these certainly does refer to an enclosure, wall or fence, but it is the second that is in use here. An alternative that is sometimes used is rtse mo, which should leave no room for doubt. The intention here is the summit or peak that is on the top of a mountain.

Mt. Meru sits on top of the disk of earth. It is 100,000 yojanas in height, circular in shape, 16,000 yojanas in diameter at the bottom, and 50,000 in diameter at the top. Mt. Meru has a central core made of green emerald, that rises up and protrudes through the upper surface to form the central of five peaks, or summits, on top of the mountain. The eastern sector of Meru is black (deep blue), the southern is red, the northern is white and the western is yellow. These are also the colours of the four peaks of the mountain that surround the central peak.

The four disks together with Mt. Meru.

Surrounding the base of Meru on the top of the disk of earth is a perimeter ledge, surrounding this are a series of six circular continents, six oceans and six mountain ranges, reaching out so that the outer edge of the outer ring of mountains is 50,000 yojanas in diameter, exactly under the upper rim of Meru. The first, innermost continent is surrounded by the first ocean; this is surrounded by the first mountain range which in turn is surrounded by the second continent, and so on.

Surrounding the outermost ring of mountains, and stretching out to the edge of the disk of earth, is the great Golden Ground, divided up into twelve regions. These are all filled with salt water oceans (not depicted in the images) and have in the centre of each large continents. There would also be many minor islands in the oceans as well, but these are not specified and are not shown in these images.

(These minor details of the rings of continents and so forth, would not normally be imagined in the generation process meditation. However, they are imagined in other circumstances such as maṇḍala offering practices, and are explained in most textual descriptions of the world system.)

The upper surface of the disk of the earth containing these twelve regions or continents is also called Great Jambudvīpa, and comprises the seventh ring of continents surrounding Mt. Meru. From the disk of the element of water below, water rises up to the level of the surface of Great Jambudvīpa, forming the great salt ocean, the seventh great ocean surrounding Meru. This is shown in the image below.

Material rising up from the water disk
to form the great salt ocean.

Also, material rises up from the disk of fire below, to a level slightly above that of the surface of Great Jambudvīpa. This forms a "fire-mountain" surrounding the great salt ocean, the seventh ring of mountains around Meru.

Material rising up from the fire disk
to form the seventh mountainous ring.

Finally, material rises up from the disk of wind, also to the level of the top surface of Great Jambudvīpa.

Material rising up from all three lower disks,
including here the disk of wind.

In the image below, the continent in the centre, near the bottom, is our own Jambudvīpa. It is on the southern side of Mt. Meru, and from the point of view of Jambudvīpa, Meru is to its north. In this image, the view is from Jambudvīpa's south towards its north. (The relative positioning here is straightforward, as the system is based on the geography of India. For the other continents, they lie to the west, east, and so forth of Meru, but from their own respective points of view, Meru is always to the north of any particular continent.)

So, just as India is triangular in shape, has oceans around it (at least to the west, south and east), and has mountains to the north, so does this continent. To the north of Jambudvīpa, in the direction of Mt Meru, the first mountains encountered are the outer range, and these are usually identified with the Himālaya.

All these continents in the twelve regions produce water that flows into their respective oceans and from there into the great salt ocean surrounding them, rising from the lower disk of the element of water. The sizes of the four main continents are specified in the Kālacakra literature, and they are shown here to scale. The eight minor continents (such as the two triangles to the right and left of Jambudvīpa) are generally considered to be somewhat smaller, with no particular sizes specified.

Close-up of the upper surface of the disk of earth, showing the Golden Ground. The view is from
the south, and so the triangular continent closest (at the bottom) is our Lesser Jambudvīpa.

On the very top of Mt Meru (50,000 yojanas in diameter) is imagined a multicoloured lotus, 25,000 yojanas across. The receptacle of this lotus is one third of this size in diameter, and has on top of it a white moon disk, a red sun disk, and on the top a deep blue disk of Rāhu.

View of the top of Mt Meru, with the lotus in place to hold the maṇḍala palace.

This alternative view follows Tāranātha, who explains that at the top, the core of Meru is
in diameter half of the diameter of the upper surface. In this method, the upper surface
of Meru is the same diameter as the vajra ground on which the palace will sit. The
diameters of the core summit and lotus are the same, and this equals the internal
width of the main (body) palace. Banda Gelek does not seem to discuss this point.

On top of the disk of Rāhu sits the vajra-ground of the maṇḍala palace, 50,000 yojanas in diameter, completely obscuring the lotus and three disks.

The world system complete with the maṇḍala palace on top.

More distant view of the full scene. In this image the elements are shown in their full forms,
with material rising up from the disks of wind, fire and water, reaching the same level as
the top surface of the disk of earth and the Golden Ground.

Broadband users: Click here in order to download a video fly-around of the disks of the elements, Mt. Meru, and up into the Kālacakra maṇḍala palace. This is a medium resolution (640x480) AVI video file. It is large – 113 Megabytes – and so is a significant download. The computer model for this is still being worked on, and as it contains over three quarters of a million polygons, the animation takes some time to prepare. However, there are several places where it can be improved, and this video will be replaced with revised versions from time to time. This is version 2, posted on 8th November 2004.

The scene and the architecture depicted are based on the writings of the Jonangpa Banda Gelek, with some minor adjustments due to Tāranātha. I am grateful to help given by Khenpo Choenang from Jonang Takten Phuntsok Choeling, in Shimla, northern India. His advice significantly improved my understanding of some key points in the writings of Banda Gelek on this subject.

E Henning.
Last updated 4 February 2010.
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