Occultism In The Heartland
By Carl Teichrib
(Forcing Change, Volume 2, Issue 8, September 2008)
"The student, by generating himself (or herself ) as the deity, is introduced to new mental patterns which help him to abandon old, destructive [Christian] conditioning, thus bringing him closer to the experience of the bliss consciousness of Kalachakra.” 6
"For those who embraced the Kalachakra, the ritual experience was viewed as an unleashing of powerful spiritual forces meant to empower world peace, and bring about the dawning of a New Age. Through all the ceremonies, lectures, and the ritual itself, a transcending spiritual theme was re-enforced: All religions are pathways to 'God,' and together we can reconnect with the divine." - Carl Teichrib
Preface: If you watched the coverage leading up to and during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, you’ve no doubt come across reports of the Tibetan’s struggle for independence. Over the last while, and especially as the Beijing Olympics took the world stage, Tibetan nationality issues have re-surfaced in the media as a point of contention between China and the inhabitants of this Himalayan region.
The struggle of Tibet under China’s rule isn’t new. Since the Chinese takeover in 1950and the exile of the Tibetan government, the free-Tibet movement has slowly grown in the public’s eye. However, it took until the 1990s before this movement started to gain serious momentum. It’s not surprising, therefore, that commentary surrounding the 2008 summer Olympics focused, at times, on this Himalayan hot spot.
Two items take centre-stage in this drama: Political sovereignty, wrapped up in the quest for self-determination, and Tibetan spirituality. This meshing of politics and religion is fixated on the exiled political head of Tibet, an individual who is also the nation’s spiritual leader – the Dalai Lama.
Over the years, the Dalai Lama’s books have received wide acclaim throughout the Western world, and he’s been publicly supported by a multitude of Hollywood stars. The Dalai Lama is also a frequent guest of heads-of-state and prominent religious leaders. He has become a recognized, international messenger for peace: a global celebrity with a multitude of fans and followers.
To help Forcing Change subscribers better grasp the significance of the Dalai Lama, FC is reprinting an article that was first published in the Fall, 1999 issue of Hope For The World Update. This article reflects some of the author’s experiences during the 1999 Kalachakra celebrations in Indiana, a Tibetan Buddhist spiritual exercise that made headlines throughout the US Midwest during August of that year.
The current Dalai Lama of Tibet, also known as His Holiness the Dalai Lama (the term “Dalai Lama” is a title), is the supposed reincarnation of a long line of Buddhist masters spanning many centuries. Within Tibetan Buddhism, it is believed that the Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion, a spiritual entity that traverses time and space through the cycles of death and re-birth: in other words, upon the passing of its current human host, the spirit re-emergences in the life of the next chosen Tibetan boy-child.
On July 6, 1935, in a small village in northeast Tibet, Lhamo Dhondrub was born to a peasant family. That same year, the 13th Dalai Lama died. After the death of the 13th Dalai, the Regent of Tibet went to Lhamo Lhatso, a sacred lake ninety miles south of the capital of Tibet. While at this lake the Regent received a vision of different colored monastery roofs and a house with turquoise tiles. Based on the Regent’s mystical message and equipped with the secrets of his vision, high Lamas (Buddhist monks) went searching throughout Tibet for the incarnated Dalai.
Two years after the 13th Dalai Lama’s death, a high monk from the Sera Monastery led a search party to Lhamo Dhondrub’s home. The monk, who went disguised as a servant, was wearing a rosary that belonged to the deceased Dalai Lama.
Lhamo, who was two years old at the time, recognized the rosary and demanded that it be given back to him. The disguised Sera monk promised the rosary to Lhamo if he could guess who he was. Lhamo replied that he was “Sera aga” – a lama of Sera.
The young Tibetan boy also correctly guessed that the “servant” was the real leader of the search party and divulged his correct name. Following this initial encounter, the boy-child undertook a series of tests including “choosing correct articles that had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama.”1 The quest to find the next reappearing of the incarnated Buddha was over.
Once admitted as the 14th Dalai Lama, Lhamo was renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso – Ocean of Wisdom, Gentle Glory, Holy Lord. In Tibet, the present Dalai Lama is often referred to as Yeshe Norbu, “The Presence.”2
In 1967, well over a decade after the Chinese invasion of Tibet and the Dalai Lama’s exile, the 14th Dalai Lama started on a worldwide journey promoting global unity, universal brotherhood, and religious harmony.
Since that time he has become a special guest in the halls of power, from Washington DC to London, from Brasilia to Wellington, from the United Nations to the Vatican, and even Lambeth Palace.
Besides numerous honorary degrees, the Dalai Lama has been given the Noble Peace Prize (1989), and has been bestowed with awards from the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, the Temple of Understanding, the UN Environmental Program, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the World Management Council, and the Research Institute of America. He has been made an honorary citizen of Houston, Texas and Wheaton, Illinois. In 1979, the mayors of San Francisco and Los Angeles presented him with the keys to both cities. And Jerusalem’s Hebrew University made him an Honorary Fellow in 1994.3
Coming in the name of peace, the Dalai preaches a message of hope through the oneness of humanity: world harmony via global governance, and more importantly, spiritual unity.4 Consider his September 4, 1997 comments while attending the Forum 2000 Conference in Prague.
At this event, the Dalai Lama spoke about “the acceptance of universally binding standards of human rights” and the development of a “global political structure.” He spoke of demilitarizing the entire planet, calling for “the abolition of all national defensive forces…creat[ing] an international force to which all member states would contribute.” He openly dreamt of “an interdependent yet peaceful and cooperative global society,” where overpopulation and environmental concerns could be met at the international level.5
Beyond global governance, the Dalai’s religious work centers on interfaith unity, the idea that all faiths can bind themselves around agreed-upon, universal, spiritual precepts. To this end he has been heavily involved in meeting with religious leaders of other faiths, including Roman Catholic popes, the Archbishop of Canterbury, chief Rabbis (the Lama has a special interest in Jewish mysticism via the Kabala), Muslim authorities, shamans, and Hindu gurus.
In 1999, the Dalai Lama visited Indiana to participate in a deeply occult Buddhist ritual, the Kalachakra. This elaborate series of rites, and its assembly of monks and spiritual teachers, was a religious milestone for the US Midwest.
Turning the Wheels of Time
Drawing thousands of Lama-followers from around the world, the Kalachakra is a multi-day Tibetan Buddhist event that incorporates prayers, ritual offering dances, student initiations, meditations for healing and harmony, and Earth rites. The Kalachakra is more than just a single ceremony; it’s a ritualistic, celebratory event that incorporates a host of spiritual exercises, ceremonies, and other religious functions. Central to this is the creation of a giant Kalachakra Mandala, an intricately crafted, multi-colored mandala – a spiritually energized symbol comprised of sand.
Before 1999, the Kalachakra, also known as the “Turning of the Wheel of Time,” had been performed on three occasions in the United States. But the Kalachakra of ‘99, held in Bloomington, Indiana, was especially significant: it was the last one before the dawn of the new millennium.
To house the Kalachakra, a new three-story shrine was constructed at the Tibetan Culture Center in Bloomington, which was founded by the Dalai Lama’s older brother, Thubten Jigme Norbu, in 1979 [Note: This center was renamed the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in 2007].
Concerning the Kalachakra, BuddhaNet offers the following details,
“The Kalachakra Initiation is generally given over 12 days. First, there are eight days of preparation rituals, during which the monks make the mandala. Then the students are initiated, after which they are allowed to see the completed sand mandala. The ceremony ends when the monks release the positive energy of the mandala into the everyday world through a final ritual.
"The Tibetan word for initiation is wong-khor, which literally means giving permission, or granting the authority to practice the Tantra. The person conferring the initiation is known as the ritual master or Vajra Master, because the vajra is the ritual implement that cuts through illusion and represents the indestructible mind. Since the tantra itself lives through direct transmission by the Vajra Master, the initiation fulfils the Vajra Master’s pledge to pass on the tantra without diminishing it in any way, always for the benefit of all sentient beings.
"During the initiation, the student makes a similar pledge to respect and uphold the teachings. In this way the student enters into the lineage…
"The student, by generating himself (or herself ) as the deity, is introduced to new mental patterns which help him to abandon old, destructive conditioning, thus bringing him closer to the experience of the bliss consciousness of Kalachakra.”6
BuddhaNet then explains how the Kalachakra is spiritually empowered, and the role of the Dalai Lama in this work.
“Many beautiful objects are used in the Kalachakra rituals. The thekpu is the special house where the mandala is built. There is a brocade throne where the Vajra Master, in this case His Holiness the Dalai Lama, sits to give the initiation and the altar to the Kalachakra deity contains elaborate offerings and ritual objects. Large silk tapestries of the Buddha, Kalachakra, and various protector deities are hung around the thekpu, the throne, and the altar.
On the first day of the ceremony, a representative of the students requests that the Vajra Master give the initiation, and he consents, showing his great compassion for his students. Next the Vajra Master asks the local spirits for permission to use their home. Usually the spirits at first do not want to cooperate so to appease them, the assisting monks perform the Dance of the Earth, making symbolic gestures with their hands and feet. The prayers, music and dance subdue all interfering spirits.
After the dance, the Dalai Lama receives permission to proceed with the ceremony from Tenma, the earth spirit, on behalf of all the local spirits. The mandala will house many of the thousands of deities found in Tibetan Buddhism during the ceremony. Symbolic daggers are now placed around the mandala site to protect it. All the objects to be used in the many rituals must be blessed by the Dalai Lama, including the string that is used to draw the mandala and the coloured sands.”7
After going through Seven Childhood Initiations, the Tibetan Buddhist students are now “born again” and may move onward in their spiritual journey. At the end of the ritual, the Dalai Lama releases the spiritual energy and the entities that are held in the Mandala.
“After the students have been ‘reborn’ by completing the childhood initiations, they may enter the ideal world of the Wheel of Time - the universe of enlightenment, ruled by the deity Kalachakra. They can now view the mandala. The Kalachakra sand mandala shows the 722 gods and goddesses as well as the palace in which they dwell. The four faces of the deity named Kalachakra are also pictured…
In the last part of the ceremony, the Dalai Lama says prayers, thanking the 722 deities for their participation and requesting them to leave the mandala and return to their sacred homes. He removes the sand that symbolically represents the deities, then cuts through the mandala along its original wheelshaped lines with a ritual implement. The sand is brushed toward the centre of the platform and then the monks put it into urns and transport it to a nearby body of water. With chanting and more prayers, a ritual assistant empties the sand into the water, and the perfect peace of Kalachakra flows with it into the everyday world. The mandala, now gone from view, remains forever in the memory of all who entered its perfect realm.”8
While the main thrust of the August 1999 Kalachakra was the ritual itself, many sideline events took place in support of Tibetan Buddhism. Films, musicians, and other performers gave visiting followers extra venues in which to expand on the Kalachakra experience. One of the benefit shows was the Mystical Arts of Tibet, which featured monks performing the Dur-dak Gar-cham, also known as the Dance of the Skeleton Lords, a presentation to remind oneself of the fleeting nature of this world.
For those who embraced the Kalachakra, the ritual experience was viewed as an unleashing of powerful spiritual forces meant to empower world peace, and bring about the dawning of a New Age.
Through all the ceremonies, lectures, and the ritual itself, a transcending spiritual theme was re-enforced: All religions are pathways to “God,” and together we can reconnect with the divine.
Blending the Gods
Officially subtitled “An Interfaith Teaching for World Peace,” the Kalachakra drew representatives from other religions.
At the opening ceremony held in Indianapolis’ Market Square Arena, four individuals from world faiths announced their support of the Dalai Lama and his message. Greeting “His Holiness” was Dr. Clark Williamson from the Christian Theological Seminary of Indianapolis; Iman Michael Saahir of the Nur-Allah Islamic Center; Sister Margaret Funk, a Catholic nun and Executive Director of the Monastic Interfaith Dialogue; and Rabbi Dennis Sasso from the Beth-el Zedeck congregation.
Consider these leader’s greetings given at the welcoming ceremony for the Dalai Lama, Note: the following quotes are taken from private audio recordings of the welcoming event.
Dr. Clark Williamson (representing Protestant/mainstream Christianity) –
“Everything and anything can and must be questioned. Nothing is above question. That’s kind of an anti-dogmatic principle, isn’t it? But it is a striking one for this day in which we’re trying to talk about religious pluralism and interfaith and inter-religious conversation and cooperation. To be reminded – it is quite salient to be reminded – that we do not have, any of us, a corner on the absolute truth.”
Iman Michael Saahir (representing Islam) –
“Standing here in Market Square Arena, before this beautiful gathering of believers of various faiths and backgrounds, it is indeed an honor to extend greetings to His Holiness the Dalai Lama on behalf of the Islam communities here in Indianapolis. And also we sincerely give thanks to the Tibetan Cultural Center for their gracious outreach to our people. Iman W. Muhammad, who is the Muslim-American spokesman, he also sends special greetings and encourages the works and support to His Holiness…May God bless us with peace in abundance for what we learn during this Kalachakra, led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”
Sister Margaret Funk (representing Roman Catholicism) –
“We are privileged Hoosiers today to welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Indiana. He is more than a peace filled man because he also teaches us how to embody peace in our everyday lives. I intend to follow His Holiness down to Bloomington these next ten days and be an observer for the Kalachakra initiation rite. Since I’ve already taken vows as a Roman Catholic nun, I won’t be a participant, but I expect to enter into it as if its my own retreat…The Kalachakra ritual is an empowerment…it has the unique energy of bringing wisdom…Yes, Indiana is the first beneficiary of this sacred gathering of like-minded people that are following His Holiness to Bloomington.”
Rabbi Dennis Sasso (representing Judaism) –
“It was once assumed that East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet: Not today. In our global village, East and West do indeed meet…the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama affords us an opportunity to further grow in a deeper knowledge and appreciation of each other’s cultural and spiritual traditions. As a teacher of Judaism and as a student of world religions I find in Buddhism’s noble truths a tradition rich in reverence…Judaism and Tibetan Buddhism, in particular, share several intellectual and spiritual strands…a system of ritual discipline and a higher goal of metaphysical enlightenment. Of course, even as we share similarities we also recognize differences. These differences reflect our spiritual uniqueness and enrich our varied landscapes of the sacred. But where our paths diverge is not as important as the point in which they intercept.”
According to Sister Funk, this high priest of Tibetan Buddhism has had an especially profound interfaith connection with the Catholic monastic community. Funk explained this linkage during the opening ceremony,
“In 1996 he [Dalai Lama] was here in Indiana at the invitation of our board to come to the Abbey of Gethsemani where 200 of us monks and nuns gathered together to dialogue about meditation practices.”
This inter-religious connection was strengthened during the Kalachakra. On Monday, August 23, an invitation-only interfaith service, hosted by the Tibetan Cultural Center and led by the Dalai Lama, was held at the Saint Charles Catholic Church. [Note: since the Kalachakra ritual, the Abbey of Gethsemani has participated in other interfaith, monastic events with the Dalai Lama and Buddhist leaders].
But it wasn’t just religious leaders who welcomed the Buddhist deity to Indiana. At the opening ceremony, Governor Frank O’Bannon, Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, and actor Steven Segal each walked to the podium and welcomed the Dalai Lama, each in turn addressing this man from Tibet with the high titles, “His Holiness” and “Your Holiness.”
Yet, the interfaith approach – which honors all so-called deities and their emissaries – is invalid according to the message given in the Book of Isaiah,
“For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it,
Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited:
'I am the Lord, and there is no other…
…there is no other God beside Me, a just God and a Savior;
There is none beside Me.
Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the Earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:18, 21b-22)
Support for the Dalai Lama and the Kalachakra ritual was immense and widespread all through the US Midwest.
During his stay, the Dalai was front-and-center in the media. He made appearances on network television stations, was a constant figure in the evening news, and received a great deal of publicity via the press.
From the civic side, both the cities of Indianapolis and Bloomington played up the Dalai Lama’s visit, and offered support to the Buddhist leader. Likewise the Indiana University ensured that the Dalai had a platform from which to speak. And to protect the high Lama, the US State Department provided security.
Behind the scenes was the Kalachakra Advisory Board. Members included Oscar Arias (member of the Commission on Global Governance), Rabbi Eric Bram of the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, actors Richard Gere and Harrison Ford, Dr. Paul A. Crow (Disciples of Christ), Congressman Benjamin A. Gilman, Rev. Timothy Kelly (Abbot, Abbey of Gethsemani), Myles Brand (Pres. Indiana University), Mary Margaret Funk (Exec. Dir. Monastic Interfaith Dialogue), Elie Wiesel (Nobel Peace Laureate, 1986), and others.
Tickets to attend the Kalachakra started at $375. However, if you wanted to sit close to celebrities, the price climbed to $1000 a seat. Welcoming Banquet spots sold for $500. Only the two public presentations of the Dalai Lama were lower-priced: $10 a seat. With more then 4,000 attending the first presentation, and many more for the second, these two events brought in a hefty sum.
Undoubtedly the overall cost of hosting the Kalachakra was high. According to the Indianapolis Star, the price tag to bring the Dalai Lama and his monks to the US was $2 million. But as the Indianapolis Star’s columnist Ruth Holladay pointed out, the “Dalai Lama’s followers aren’t troubled by the tab for tranquility.”9
As a Christian researcher on globalization, I believed it was important to attend the Dalai Lama’s two public presentations. Waiting to go through the security check for his first speech, I overheard two devotees from Chicago discuss a previous visit by the Lama to their city. Through the conversation I learned that when the Dalai Lama visited Chicago a few years ago, the attendance was relatively small and the media response was moderate at best. On the other hand, the Indiana visit witnessed a tremendous amount of media attention; and literally thousands of followers and the curious flocked to hear the Tibetan leader speak.
At the second public event, which took place at the Indiana University Assembly Hall in Bloomington, multitudes swarmed to find a seat that would give them the best view of the Lama.
Watching all of this, I couldn’t help but notice the demographics: Regardless of the fact that this public lecture was held on a university campus, youth and younger adults proved to be the dominant demographic group. A cluster of young teens, all appearing under the age of sixteen, sat directly behind me. To my right a collage couple hung on the Lama’s every word, to my left a young family with a small boy enthusiastically took notes, and in front of me sat a mother with two teenage daughters. Everywhere I looked youth, college students, and young professionals filled the seats. Compared to a decade-ago, when you would have been hard pressed to find a Western youth who would have known of Tibet, large numbers now soaked up the teachings of this Eastern master.
Looking back on the Kalachakra rites of 1999, what was gained? For Buddhism in America, new followers and a huge boost in interest from the general public; for the interfaith movement, tighter connections across religious lines; for the world, the impartation of occult energies; and for Christians in Indiana, confusion.
Because the Christian community in the Midwest was torn regarding the Lama’s visit. A number of prominent Christian leaders openly supported this Buddhist encounter, and while a few may have expressed opposition or concern, those voices generally weren’t heard. Members of one church, Northview Christian Life of Carmel, Indiana, did attend the first public lecture to pray against the spiritual deceptions and occult fascinations that accompanied the Kalachakra.
However, Christians from other churches were supporting the event by handing out Kalachakra visitor programs!10
Overall, the response from Christian churches was strangely absent. One of the largest, and most potent occult rituals had been set up in the Midwest Bible Belt, and the silent majority held firm to their modus operandi – silence.
1 The Government of Tibet in Exile, “Discovery of His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama,” www.tibet.com/DL/discovery.html, accessed 10/7/1999.
3 The Government of Tibet in Exile, “Major Awards conferred on His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” www.tibet.com/DL/awards.html, accessed 10/7/1999.
4 See the Dalai Lama’s book, Ancient Wisdom, Modern World: Ethics for a New Millennium.
5 Speech of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Forum 2000 Conference, Prague, Czech Republic, 3-7 September, 1997. www.tibet.com/DL/forum-2000.html, accessed 10/7/1999.
6 See BuddhaNet, “The Kalachakra Initiation Explained,” www.buddhanet.net/kalini.htm
9 Ruth Holladay, “Dalai Lama’s followers aren’t troubled by tab for tranquility,” The Indianapolis Star, August 17, 1999, p.B1.
10 Judith Cebula, “A peaceful century,” The Indianapolis Star, August 17, 1999, p.A2.
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1 All quotes, unless otherwise noted, have been taken from the audio recordings of this event.
2 Lucile W. Green, Journey to a Governed World: Thru 50 Years in the Peace Movement (The Uniquest Foundation, 1991/92), p.39.
3 Ibid, pp.34-35.