Kalachakra, varyingly known as Wheel of Time or Circle of Time is both a Buddhist Tantric doctrine and its emblem. Each of Sakyamuni’s doctrines is termed a “Turning of the Wheel”; the Kalachakra doctrine was the fourth such exposition. The Buddha taught this Tantra upon the request of Chandrabhada, ruler of Shambhala, who travelled to India especially for this purpose. In essence, Kalachakra is a sacred exposition of the relationship between Kala or Time and cycles (chakra) of existence. According to this doctrine, Man, the microcosm is inseparable from the Universe or macrocosm. The Kalachakra also teaches students of Tantra how to use subtle energies in the human body as a means to overcome suffering and achieve spiritual happiness. Only fragments of the original Kalachakra doctrine still exist; what has survived are abridged versions, with variations.

The Kalachakra philosophy is often depicted as a seven syllabic monogram in the stylized Sanskrit Lantsa script that was typically used for writing or engraving mantras. Above the syllables are a crescent moon, a sphere and a curved shape, making ten elements in all – this “seed syllable” (in Tibetan, “mam bcu dbang Idan”) is also known as the Tenfold Powerful One. The symbol is encircled by a ring of fire. To its left and right are two characters, E and VAM, standing respectively for nothingness and bliss.

The seed syllable is studied at three levels – the Outer Kalachakra represents the universe as manifested in the ten planets and elements, the Inner Kalachakra refers to channels and centers of subtle energies within us. Finally, the Alternative Kalachakra consists of initiations and the practices leading to enlightenment.