A detailed, beautifully illustrated presentation of the construction and symbolism of the famed Kalachakra mandala, the crown jewel of the Indo-Tibetan tantric traditions.

This volume contains an extensive analysis of the construction and symbolism of the mandala of the Kalachakra tantric system, the most intricate and explicit of the Indian Buddhist unexcelled yoga tantras, the most advanced teachings within the Indo-Tibetan tradition. Indo-Tibetan tantric traditions, particularly the unexcelled category, depend on imagery and visualization for the processes of purifying cyclic existence, and Kalachakra is the most detailed. The late scholar-practitioner Edward Henning, one of the earliest Western specialists on this material, offers this labor of love as a testament to the genius of the Tibetan tradition in preserving and transmitting these teachings over a thousand years. Well known internationally now due to the Dalai Lama’s many public initiations, the Kalachakra mandala serves as a primary focal point for meditators both new and seasoned. Henning draws primarily from the Jonang tradition of Kalachakra practice, particularly the modern master Banda Gelek, to elucidate and clarify inconsistencies across traditions and literature, including the authoritative Indian commentary Stainless Light (Vimalaprabha), regarding the construction and visualization of the three-tiered mandala with its hundreds of deities. In addition to providing detailed information on the images to be visualized, Henning provides in the final chapter a clear and extensive explanation of the symbolism of the habitat and inhabitants that are to be animated during the meditation session. An excellent companion to the translations of the Kalachakra Tantra and Stainless Light chapters co-published by the American Institute of Buddhist Studies and Wisdom Publications, this beautifully illustrated volume is a must-have for scholars and practitioners alike.

About the author(s)

Edward Henning (1949-2016) was a leading Western authority on Kalachakra, having studied for decades with Tibetan masters of the Jonang tradition in particular. A mathematician by profession with an interest in computer programming and journalism, Henning applied his expertise to Tibetan calendrical systems with Kalacakra and the Tibetan Calendar (AIBS 2007). Some of his essays on Kalachakra and related topics remain available at his website,


"No modern scholar mastered the Kalacakra material with its complex technical details more thoroughly than Edward Henning, who shared his broad and profound knowledge in the present publication. Kalachakra Mandala: The Jonang Tradition covers a wide range of topics, from the symbolism of the mandala and its role in empowerment to more technical issues such as measurements and terms unique to this tantric system. It is a must-read for everybody interested in tantric Buddhism.”

Klaus-Dieter Mathes, head of the Department of South Asian, Tibetan, and Buddhist Studies at the University of Vienna

"This work will be of interest not only to scholars and practitioners of the Kalacakratantra but also to art historians interested in the comparative study of the kalacakramandala paintings.”

Vesna Wallace, professor of South and Central Asian religions at the University of California at Santa Barbara

"This book describes the symbolism, architectural design, and the multi-dimensional experience of the mandala. Such exquisite detail will be appreciated by scholars for its historical importance, artists for its representation of the mandala in both 2D drawings and 3D constructs, and perhaps most essentially, by Kalachakra practitioners for its instruction on how the vivid resplendence of the mandala is performatively visualized in their mind’s eye."

Michael R. Sheehy, director of scholarship at the Contemplative Sciences Center, research assistant professor in Tibetan Buddhist studies in the Department of Religious Studies, and affiliated faculty at the Tibet Center at the University of Virginia

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