Panchen Lama, Book of Dzyan, and Kālacakra

By David Reigle on May 31, 2020 at 11:58 pm

            The “Book of Dzyan” is said to be “the first volume of the Commentaries upon the seven secret folios of Kiu-te”:

“The Book of Dzyan . . . is the first volume of the Commentaries upon the seven secret folios of Kiu-te, and a Glossary of the public works of the same name. Thirty-five volumes of Kiu-te for exoteric purposes and the use of the laymen may be found in the possession of the Tibetan Gelugpa Lamas, in the library of any monastery; and also fourteen books of Commentaries and Annotations on the same by the initiated Teachers.” (“The Secret Books of ‘Lam-rim’ and Dzyan,” H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 422)

These fourteen volumes of commentaries are said to be “in the charge of the Teshu-Lama of Shigatse,” i.e., the Panchen Lama:

“Strictly speaking, those thirty-five books ought to be termed ‘The Popularised Version’ of the Secret Doctrine, full of myths, blinds, and errors; the fourteen volumes of Commentaries, on the other hand—with their translations, annotations, and an ample glossary of Occult terms, worked out from one small archaic folio, the Book of the Secret Wisdom of the World—contain a digest of all the Occult Sciences. These, it appears, are kept secret and apart, in the charge of the Teshu-Lama of Shigatse.” (H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 422)

The known “Books of Kiu-te,” i.e., rgyud-sde, are the Buddhist tantras. It is further said that these “must be read with a key to their meaning, and that key can only be found in the Commentaries”:

“The Books of Kiu-te are comparatively modern, having been edited within the last millennium, whereas, the earliest volumes of the Commentaries are of untold antiquity, some fragments of the original cylinders having been preserved. With the exception that they explain and correct some of the too fabulous, and to every appearance, grossly-exaggerated accounts in the Books of Kiu-te—properly so-called—the Commentaries have little to do with these. They stand in relation to them as the Chaldaeo-Jewish Kabalah stands to the Mosaic Books. . . . No student, unless very advanced, would be benefited by the perusal of those exoteric volumes. They must be read with a key to their meaning, and that key can only be found in the Commentaries.” (H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, vol. 14, pp. 422-424)

            The first volume of the known “Books of Kiu-te” contains the Kālacakra-tantra. Tashi-lhunpo monastery at Shigatse had one of the few Kālacakra colleges in Tibet. It was the Ninth (sometimes called the Sixth) Panchen Lama, Lozang Chokyi Nyima (1883-1937), who gave the first large public Kālacakra Initiations outside of Tibetan Buddhist lands, thus starting something that has been so widely continued by the present Fourteenth Dalai Lama. After leaving Tibet in late 1923, the Ninth Panchen Lama gave nine large public Kālacakra Initiations. The first five were given in Mongolia, the next two in China, and the last two in Eastern Tibet.1 The two given in China, outside of Tibetan Buddhist lands, were very influential. Photos of these were taken by Westerners who attended, and have been published.2 This was the first time since the appearance of the Kālacakra teachings in India a millennium ago and their transference to Tibet shortly thereafter that anyone outside of these lands had access to these teachings.

            The Kālacakra teachings are full of abstruse symbolism and obscure statements, which could well be regarded as blinds. Although called exoteric in relation to the fourteen volumes of secret commentaries, they have always been considered esoteric in India and Tibet. According to the information given by Blavatsky, they would be directly based on the secret commentaries, and thus would be esoteric in that sense. The Panchen Lamas followed Indian and Tibetan tradition in considering them esoteric. No doubt many students would welcome having a key to their meaning, as said to only be found in the secret commentaries.

            The first installment of teachings said to be brought out from the secret commentaries was given by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine. She had made contact with teachers associated with a secret school, said by her to be “attached to the private retreat of the Teshu-Lama,” i.e., the Panchen Lama:

“. . . Tsong-Kha-pa. This great Tibetan Reformer of the fourteenth century, . . . is the founder of the secret School near Shigatse, attached to the private retreat of the Teshu-Lama.” (H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 425)

It is not clear whether the “private retreat” of the Panchen Lama is the same as his private residence. As seen in the post, “The Kālacakra College at Tashi-lhunpo” (April 30, 2020), the Panchen Lama “built a new house for the 22-foot square Kalacakra mandala (dkyil ‘khor) at his residence,” and the Kālacakra maṇḍala was constructed there out of colored sand every year, along with the accompanying Kālacakra ritual performed by him:

“Panchen Rinpoche built a new house for the 22-foot square Kalacakra mandala (dkyil ‘khor) at his residence. That was the biggest Dus’kor mandala in Tibet. During his time, he (Panchen Rinpoche) built that 22-foot square mandala of dultson (rdul tshon) [i.e., sand] every year and did the Dus’kor ritual. From that time onward the Dus’kor Da-tsang followed the same up to 1959.”

            The movement for the spread of the Kālacakra teachings outside of Tibetan Buddhist lands was started by the Ninth Panchen Lama four or five decades after Blavatsky’s time. Only in the last few decades have these teachings become known throughout the world, thanks to the many Kālacakra Initiations given by the present Fourteenth Dalai Lama and other Tibetan lamas. The stage has now been set for some of the keys to these teachings to come out from the secret commentaries referred to by Blavatsky.


1. Information about the nine Kālacakra Initiations given by the Ninth Panchen Lama after his departure from Tibet can be found in: Biographies of the Tibetan Spiritual Leaders: Panchen Erdenis, by Ya Hanzhang, translated by Chen Guansheng and Li Peizhu, pp. 266, 271, 274, 283-284, 295, and 296 (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1994); and in: The Ninth Panchen Lama (1883-1937): A Life at the Crossroads of Sino-Tibetan Relations, by Fabienne Jagou, translated by Rebecca Bissett Buechel, pp. 65-74, and summarized in note 16, p. 259 (Paris: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, and Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2011).

2. A photo of the Kālacakra maṇḍala taken by Ferdinand Lessing at the Kālacakra Initiation given in Peking (now Beijing) in 1932 can be found in: The Buddhist Tantras: Light on Indo-Tibetan Esotericism, by Alex Wayman, p. 80 (see pp. xii, 63), New York: Samuel Weiser, 1973. Photos taken by Gordon Enders at the Kālacakra Initiation given in Hangchow (Hangzhou) in 1934, including one of the Kālacakra maṇḍala, can be found in: Nowhere Else in the World, by Gordon B. Enders and Edward Anthony, pp. 311, 321, 325 (see pp. 303, 322), New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1935.

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  • Robert Hütwohl says:

    Although I have no doubts about the Master’s of Wisdom’s relations to the Panchen Lama (pronounced: bën chên la ma), I have always thought the Tashi Lama’s reconstruction of the 5×5 foot Kālacakra mandala to also be a miniature or parallel world of what takes place at Shambhala (Shamballa), for it is there, the latter, which the Lord of the World, Sanat Kumāra, undertakes the highest initiations and implements the commands of the Planetary Logos. As it is said in the Bible, “Yet not one of them [sparrow] will fall to the ground apart from the will [knowing] of your Father (The Logos).” [Matthew 10:29] So too, the Kings of Shambhala being cycles of Sanat Kumāra. Thus, minor cycles of this Kali-Yuga, etc.

    While studying, years ago with David and Nancy Reigle, I met Sergei Diakoff, who allowed me to photograph several tangkhas in his collection. Among those painted tangkhas was one of Shambhala, of which at the center is Kalāpa, the capitol of Shambhala. The Lord of the World sits at its center in a palace on a high seat. Below the palace are depicted two Kālacakra mandalas (maṇḍalas). This being the occult center of the world should come as no surprise as being very significant, so the teachings in the world today are very important. The mandalas symbolically reflect the Divine Plan and so are an announcement, occultly. One who practices the Kālacakra sādhana is a reflection of Vajrasattva (one’s Solar Angel or Higher Self), Who is a reflection of the Lord of the World, Who is a reflection of the Planetary Logos, Who is a reflection of the Solar Logos, Who is a reflection of . . . the One About Whom Naught May Be Said, etc.

    So too David Reigle’s conveyance of the Kālacakra teachings based on many, many years of dedicated, intensive research. See, for example, his scholarly Kālacakra Research Publication, no. 1, Feb. 1986, titled: “The Lost Kālacakra Mūla Tantra on the Kings of Śambhala” at David and Nancy’s website:

    Considering the difficulty of locating the above mentioned tangkha of Shambhala, I have pasted in the center-most portion, depicting Kalāpa. Since the ones I have are very large, I have thus reduced them so a web-user can see them (considering the limitation of 256 colors) and hopefully it fully loads into your browser. **** I am sorry, but I do’t know how to paste in an image. It will be posted to my website someday.

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