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Home > Advanced Meditation > Kalachakra > The Kalachakra Presentation of the Four Creative-Energy Drops and the Winds of Karma, Together with an Analysis of Their Relation with Our Everyday Experience > Part Three: The Role Played by the Winds of Karma If the Mental Holograms of the Four Occasions Are Made of Subtle Particles

The Kalachakra Presentation of the Four Creative-Energy Drops and the Winds of Karma, Together with an Analysis of Their Relation with Our Everyday Experience

Alexander Berzin, September-October 2012

Part Three: The Role Played by the Winds of Karma If the Mental Holograms of the Four Occasions Are Made of Subtle Particles

The second hypothesis concerning the role that the winds of karma play regarding the mental holograms of the four occasions is that the subtle particles of the winds of karma make up the holograms. This hypothesis derives from the following analysis:

Logical Pervasions

If the mental holograms of the four occasions are not basis-level devoid-forms, then what are they? One way to derive possible alternative explanations is from examining the pervasion between the set of forms made of particles and the set of forms known only by mental cognition:

  • There are forms that are made of particles, but not known only by mental cognition, such as a table. Tables are made of particles and can be known by both sensory and mental cognition.

  • There are forms that are not made of particles, but known only by mental cognition, such as astronomical distances, the microscopic distances between particles, and both pathway-level devoid forms and the basis-level clear-light-of-death devoid forms.

  • As for forms that are both not made of particles and not known only by mental cognition, if the mental holograms that arise in sensory cognition were basis-level devoid-forms, they would be members of this set. They would not be made of particles, but would be knowable by both sensory and mental cognition. But if there are logical inconsistencies in asserting the mental holograms of the four occasions as being basis-level devoid-forms knowable only by mental cognition, there would also be similar inconsistencies in asserting that the mental holograms that arise in sensory cognition are basis-level devoid-forms. So it would seem that this set has no members.

  • The set of forms that are made of particles and are knowable only by mental cognition is also a null set. There seem to be no forms that would be members of this set.

In light of these four possibilities, are there any ways to fit the mental holograms of the four occasions into any of them?

Dzogchen Style Explanation

One possibility is that the mental holograms of the four occasions are not basis-level devoid-forms as defined in the Kalachakra system, but rather are basis-level devoid-forms as defined in the dzogchen (great completeness) system. Then, they would fit as members of the set of forms that are not made of particles and are known only by mental cognition.

This explanation is suggested, for instance, by the following verse (61) from Longchenpa’s A Precious Garland for the Four Themes (of Gampopa):

In the mandala of the sphere of the basis, which is a womb containing a Blissfully Gone One, all phenomena, which are its reflexive appearances, are mere appearances of your own limited mind. They are deceptions, not true phenomena – devoid forms that are (just) clarity and appearance itself.

[See: A Precious Garland for the Four Themes (of Gampopa).]

According to the dzogchen presentation, basis-level devoid-forms are the reflexive appearances of the limited mind (sems); whereas pure devoid-forms are the reflexive appearances of pure awareness (rig-pa) – equivalent to the primordially unstained state of the clear-light mind. Limited awareness occurs when our pure awareness does not “recognize its own face,” in other words when it does not recognize its own void nature.

In this dzogchen system, the mental holograms that arise with sensory cognition are basis-level dzogchen devoid-forms. They would be members of the set of forms that are not made of particles and are not known only by mental cognition. They can also be known by sensory cognition.

Such dzogchen-style explanation, however, does not fit comfortably with the Gelug-style presentation of Kalachakra. Is there a more Gelug-style possible alternative explanation?

Suggestions from the Guhyasamaja System

One such possibility would be to assert that there are gross particles and subtle particles. As Kalachakra devoid-forms, which are not made of either gross or subtle particles, the mental holograms of the four occasions do not fit in the category of forms that are not made of particles and are known only by mental cognition. However, suppose we redefine the parameter of “not being made of particles” as “not being made of gross particles.” If the mental holograms of the four occasions were not made of gross particles, but rather were made of subtle particles, then they would fit in the set of forms that are not made of gross particles and are known only by mental cognition.

Such an approach to understanding what makes up the mental holograms of the four occasions accords with the explanations found in the Gelug Guhyasamaja system. Let us examine this anuttarayoga tantra system.

In the eight-step dissolution process outlined in the Gelug presentation of the Guhyasamaja system, the consciousness withdraws from the gross particles of the four elements during the first four stages.

  • These are the gross particles asserted in the abhidharma system.

  • According to abhidharma, there are eight types of both gross particles and subparticles – earth, water, fire, wind, form, odor, taste and tactile sensation, so leaving out sound. Each gross particle is made up of all eight types of subparticles. Within each gross particle, whichever of the eight subparticles dominates determines what type of gross particle it is.

Next in the dissolution process, the entire set of winds of the eighty universally-occurring types of subtle conceptual minds (kun-rtog brgyad-cu) dissolve. This is not counted as one of the eight steps.

  • Tsongkhapa explains that these winds are made of the “subtle source elements” (khams phra-mo), also referred to as the “five light-rays of the subtle source elements” (khams phra-ba’i ‘od-zer lnga).

  • These are not made of particles, but as forms of physical phenomena, they could be analogous to some sort of electromagnetic energy, though perhaps not the same as visible light.

Next, the three light appearance-making subtlest conceptual minds (snang-ba gsum), which merely make appearances of true existence, dissolve in turn:

  • the light appearance-making conceptual mind (snang-ba, white appearance),

  • the sheer light appearance-making conceptual mind (mched-pa, red increase),

  • the threshold appearance-making conceptual mind (nyer-thob, black near attainment).

This is followed by the clear-light nonconceptual mind, which does not make appearances of true existence.

I have not found a reference explaining whether or not the energy-winds of these last four minds in the eight-step dissolution sequence are also made of subtle source elements or what they are made of.

[See: Introduction to the Guhyasamaja System of Anuttarayoga Tantra.]

Citing one of the Guhyasamaja explanatory tantras, Vajra Garland (rDo-rje ‘phreng-ba), Tsongkhapa explains that our universally-occurring types of subtle conceptual minds give rise to the disturbing emotions and attitudes, and by them karma is built up, and from that we experience uncontrollably recurring samsaric rebirth.

It can be argued that the five light-rays of subtle source elements that constitute the winds of these eighty subtle conceptual minds are the simultaneously arising causes (lhan-cig ‘byung-ba’i rgyu) for the mental holograms that we experience in cognition.

  • Simultaneously arising causes are causes that arise simultaneously with their results, like the constituent elements of material objects and the material objects consisting of them.

If we transpose this Guhyasamaja-style analysis to the Kalachakara system, then since the mental holograms of the four occasions are not basis-level devoid-forms and are not the reflexive appearance of the limited, tainted mind, then it is possible that they also have energy-wind as their simultaneously arising cause. A possible candidate for that energy-wind would be the winds of karma.

Kalachakra Presentation of Particles

According to Kalachakra, there are five types of particles – earth, water, fire, wind and space. Each type of particle is subtler than the previous one. The five are:

  • Earth particles, with five qualities of odor, form, taste, tactile sensation, and sound. His Holiness the Dalai Lama explains that the eight gross particles asserted in abhidharma are probably included here.

  • Water particles, with four qualities, leaving out odor. So water particles have form, taste, tactile sensation and sound.

  • Fire particles, with three qualities, leaving out odor and form. So fire particles have taste, tactile sensation of heat, and sound.

  • Wind particles, with two qualities, leaving out odor, form and taste. So wind particles have just tactile sensation and sound.

  • Space particles, with only one quality, sound.

[See: Buddhist Cosmology: A Comparison of the Abhidharma and Kalachakra Explanations.]

Presumably, because Kalachakra always presents an analogy between the external and internal worlds, there are both external particles making up the environment and internal ones making up our gross and subtle bodies.

  • Thus, since wind particles have only two qualities: physical sensation and sound, if we are very sensitive, we can be aware of the subtle physical sensation of the coursing of the winds in our subtle body. In a sense, it is like being aware of our subtle energy, as when we sense our nervous energy.

The winds of karma would fall in the category of internal winds comprising subtle wind particles. If the winds of karma are the simultaneously arising causes for the mental holograms of the four occasions – if they are, in a sense, the type of subtle matter/energy that makes up these holograms – we may ask whether the winds of karma might have any feature similar to the five light-rays of subtle source elements that could account for the diversity of appearances of these holograms.

There are 21,600 karmic winds each day – twelve shifts of 1800 each. For each of the twelve shifts, all 1800 winds (minus 56 ¼ deep awareness winds) are passing through one of the twelve great shift channels at the navel chakra. The great shift channel through which they course alternates each shift. First 1743 ¾ karmic winds all course through one great shift channel on the left side of the body (and so through the left side-channel) and then the next set of 1743 ¾ karmic winds course through one great shift channel on the right side (and so through the right side-channel). 56 ¼ deep awareness winds pass through the central channel at the cusp when each great shift occurs.

Each set of 1743 ¼ winds is, in sequence, one of the five types of element winds – space winds, wind winds, fire winds, water winds, and earth winds. Further, each of the twelve great shift channels at the navel chakra has coming out of it five minor shift channels – one in the center and four around it. During a great shift of 1800 breaths, 360 breaths at a time all pass through each of the minor shift channels (minus 11 ¼ deep awareness breaths) in turn. Consequently there are space-space winds, space-wind winds, space-fire winds, and so on passing through the right and left side-channels. Thus, there are twenty-five of these types of karmic winds, making twenty-six all together when we add the deep awareness winds that course through the central channel.

Could this variety of karmic winds be responsible for the diversity in the appearances of the holograms of the four occasions?

Objections

One objection to this hypothesis is that each of the twenty-six types of karmic winds courses only at set times each day. However, there do not seem to be set times in a set pattern when specific types of mental holographic appearances arise.

The second objection is more of a doubt. The Kalachakra literature also mentions the energy-winds of the universally-occurring subtle conceptual minds, although it does not specify that there are eighty of them, nor have I found reference to five light-rays of subtle source elements in conjunction with them. When the winds of karma are coursing through one of the two side-channels, the winds of the universally-occurring subtle conceptual minds are coursing through the other side-channel.

The Guhyasamaja literature does not contradict this. Tsongkhapa explains that there are two sets of eighty universally-occurring subtle conceptual minds, one set occurring during the daytime and the other occurring at night. The 160 subtle energy-winds of these subtle conceptual minds course through the right and left side-channels and thus pass around the six main chakras of our central channel.

  • Although the Guhyasamaja system does not present the creative-energy drops of the four occasions, it seems reasonable to assume that in the Kalachakra system, just as the karmic winds can pass through the creative-energy drops of the four occasions in the chakras, the winds of the universally-occurring subtle conceptual minds can do likewise.

If the winds of the universally-occurring subtle conceptual minds play a role in the Kalachakra system similar to the one they play in the Guhyasamaja system, then they would be the simultaneously arising causes of the mental holograms of the four occasions. If that is the case, then the winds of karma would not play that same role as these winds of the subtle conceptual minds play and would probably be merely the mount of the mental consciousness that cognizes these mental holograms.

On the other hand, if the winds of karma are the simultaneously arising causes of the mental holograms of the four occasions, then what role do the universally-occurring subtle conceptual minds play in the Kalachakra system?

These are questions that need further analysis.