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Kalki
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Kalki

Table of contents
1 The Kalki Avatara
2 Origins of the Kalki Prophecy
3 Modern Mutations of the Kalki Prophecy
4 External links
5 Other meanings of Kalki

The Kalki Avatara

In Hindu traditions, Kalki (also rendered by some as Kalkin and Kalaki) is the name of the tenth and final Maha Avatara (Great Avatar) of Vishnu the Preserver, who will come to end the current Kali Yuga, (The Age of Darkness and Destruction). The name Kalki is often a metaphor for "Eternity" or "Time". The origins of the name probably lie in the word Kalka which refers to "dirt", "filth" or "foulness" and hence denotes the "Destroyer of Foulness", "Destroyer of Confusion", "Destroyer of Darkness", or "The Annihilator of Ignorance". Other similar and divergent interpretations (based on varying etymological derivations from the ancient Sanskrit language, —including one simply meaning "White Horse") have been made.

Hindu traditions permit numerous interpretations of what Avatars are and to what purpose they act. Avatara means descent, and indicates a descent of the divine awareness into manifestations of the mundane form. Prominent social and philosophical leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, and Ramakrishna are considered avatars by many, but in most Hindu traditions there are only 10 Maha Avataras (Great Avatars), though the identities of the most recent are sometimes disputed, and some sources list as many as 22 or 23.

All Hindu traditions declare all people to be manifestations of the divine essence, the Atman, and Avatars to be individuals who are far more acutely and extensively aware of this fact and its implications than most, and who have entered the mortal realms voluntarily to teach important truths to humanity, and who usually have extraordinary abiliities to aid in these roles.

As with the messianic prophecies of many traditions there are many diverse beliefs and depictions as to when, how, where and why the Kalki Avatar would appear, and the Divine purpose the descent will aim to fulfill. The popular image of the Avatar is that of a rider upon a whitehorse, which some sources name as Devadatta (God-given) and describe as a winged horse; but some have even declared that Kalki would come in the form of a white horse, while a few others even claim that he would appear as a horse-headed person. The most common accounts declare Kalki will come riding upon a white horse, brandishing a flaming comet-like sword, (or wielding a comet like a sword), intent on eradicating the reign of evil on the Earth, vanquishing Yama (Death), reconciling all opposites, renewing the processes of the Dharma (Paths of Virtue), of Creation, and establishing a reign of righteousness. The sword is sometimes interpreted as a symbol for "discernment", or Wisdom, slicing away the bonds of lies and foulness and liberating souls to greater awareness of truth and beauty.

All sources place the manifestation of Kalki at the end of the Kali Yuga, the age of Darkness and Destruction we are currently in, and the beginning of a new Satya Yuga, "(The Golden Age of Wisdom and Virtue)". Most traditional Hindu calculations of that advent do not predict such a change occurring for another 430,000 years or more, and a slow decay into barbarity and nearly absolute depravity until then — not a very comforting assessment of the potentials for human progress and wisdom.

Origins of the Kalki Prophecy

One of the earliest mentions of Kalki is in the Vishnu Purana. Vishnu is the Preserver, the sustainer of life in the Hindu trinity, balancing the processes of Creation and Destruction. Kalki is also mentioned in another of the 18 major Purana, the Agni Purana. Agni is the god of Fire in the Hindu pantheon, and symbolically represents the spiritual fire of life and the processes of transformation. It is one of the earliest works declaring Gautama Buddha to have been a manifestation of Vishnu, and seems to draw upon the Vishnu Purana in it's mention of Kalki. A later work, the Kalki Purana, a minor Purana is an extensive exposition of expectations and predictions of when, where, and why it is said he will come, and what he is expected to do. It has a very militant perspective, and celebrates the defeat of traditions that are deemed heretical for not adhering closely enough to the traditions of the Vedas, such as Buddhism and Jainism. A few other minor Purana also mention him.

It has been theorized that the Kalki Purana may have been written as a Hindu response to the Buddhist prophecies within the Kalachakra Tantra of many leaders with the name or title of Kalki. Followers of Tibetan Buddhism have preserved the Kalachakra Tantra, and initiation rites based upon it are a prominent part of the Tibetan traditions. In the Kalachakra Tantra Kalki (or Kalaki, or Kulika) is declared to be a title or name of at least 25 future rulers of the mystical realm of Shambala. The aims and actions of some of these are prophesied in portions of the work and some identify the 25th Kalki as the Maitreya Buddha who brings about world-wide enlightenment.

Modern Mutations of the Kalki Prophecy

The myths of Shambala were part of the inspiration for the tale of Shangri-La told in the popular book Lost Horizon, and thus some people even refer to Shambala improperly as if it were Shangri-La. Shambala's location and nature remains a subject of much dispute, and several traditions have arisen as to where it is, or will be, including those that emphasize it as a metaphoric non-physical realm that one can approach only through the mind.

In the last few decades several leaders of relatively small religious movements in India and a few outside of it, including some women, have at times claimed to be the Kalki Avatar of Hinduism or have been declared to be by their followers. Some Muslim writers have asserted that Muhammad actually fullfilled many predictions of some of the Kalki prophecies, in their particular interpretations. Others have noted some similarities in the prophecies to those of the Islamic figure of the Mahdi, which over the centuries several notable Muslim religious or political leaders have claimed to be. Some adherants of the Bahá'í Faith have interpreted the prophecies as having referred to their prophet Bahá'u'lláh.

Some Theosophists and New Age speculators have declared the Kalki prophecies and those of the Maitreya Buddha of Buddhism, might actually refer to one and the same individual, and they and others have noted similarities of the Kalki prophecy to the Rider on the White Horse in the Christian book of Revelations who has been interpreted as a herald of the Second Coming of Christ, or by some (who seem to take the passage out of it's larger context), to be Jesus Christ himself. In such interpretations the sword of Kalki is equated to the two-edged sword that proceeds from the mouth of this apocalyptic figure, and is often symbolically interpreted to be the swordlike effectiveness of words of truth against all manner of lies and deceptions.

Drawing on symbolic and metaphoric interpretations of the Buddhist Kalachakra, Shambala, and Bodhisattva traditions at least as much as the Hindu prophecies, interpretations of the Kalki legends in ways that do not necessarily apply the designation "Kalki" uniquely to any particular person have arisen. In such interpretations "Kalki" is seen primarily as an archetypal symbol of what can be manifest in any person, whether man, woman, or child. It is a designation of spiritual repose and vigor, a "beautiful life essence", impelling people to follow diverse and harmonious paths of virtue, rather than needlessly harsh and destructive paths of bigotry and narrow minded presumptions. To those who embrace this view the term Kalki can refer to an attitude or quality of awareness that will be manifest in many enlightened people, who percieve beyond (the appearances of Space and Time) and into Eternity in ways that are both rational and mystical in nature. A level of Awareness where people become destroyers of the uncharitable ways of bigotry within themselves which would otherwise lead them to unjustly oppress others, and limit themselves.

In such interpretations everyone who is enlightened enough to follow the ways of ultimate honesty and ultimate love can be declared to be an honorable manifestation of Vishnu the preserver of Life, and Kalki the Destroyer of Foulness … but no one person can be declared to be the ultiimate manifestation…or the ultimate teacher for all people. There are many ways to point out some of the worst confusions that afflict human minds and souls… and for anyone to think that there is only one greatest and most perfect way for all, (which is of course their own), and that all others must be scorned, shunned, denigrated and vilified is itself one of the worst and most dangerous confusions that afflict many who are spiritually weak, ignorant, cowardly and vain.

It is emphasized that much is often required in many spiritual paths, but the most important of all requirements are the will to speak only the truth, and the capacity to love anyone who can percieve the truth, and become devoted to it, no matter how troubelsome, misguided, dishonest and dangerous they may initially be. One can never rightfully seek to force change upon people, but one can give them the information and opportunity by which they can come to desire many beneficial changes themselves.

Each person who is wisely charitable, "riding the white horses" of fate's flow, and wielding the deceit destroying "sword" of honesty can become a "Kalki" — a destroyer of such foulness as could dwell within themselves first and foremost, that they may more ably assist others in destroying the capacities for evil within themselves.

Each person is considered potentially… a spiritual ruler of their own manifest span of mortal life, a universe to themselves connected to all others by bonds of awareness and sympathy; a person of utmost integrity, percieving many connections between all people, all events, all ideas and all souls, and therefore affirming that respect for the individual integrity of all other mortals as an imperative of their own. The Kali Yuga ends in them, no matter how long it may persist in others, and a Satya Yuga of wisdom begins within their life, that enables them to help others to find their own unique paths towards enlightenment, and into their own ranges of contentment.

Unfortunately not all interpretations of Kalki are so charitable.

Extending upon the bleakness of the Kalki Purana extremely disturbing and violently oppressive interpretations of the Kalki prophecies also exist. One musical group Current 93 has even recorded a very harsh discordant and disturbing song Hitler as Kalki (which the writer David Tibet dedicated to his father who fought against the Nazis). Adolf Hitler is well known to have had extremely perverse racist interpretations of many myths, legends, and symbols, especially those he could claim to have "Aryan" origins, and has been rumored to have believed the Kalki prophecies, among others, referred to him and predicted the ultimate worldwide military triumph of his Nazi "Third Reich". There is currently a Neo-Nazi group in Argentina that operates under the name "Red Kalki", and other fascist, racist and ethno-centric groups still are putting their own peculiarly brutal twists on the prophecies, much as they do with nearly anything they can.

The author Gore Vidal, known for his dark witty cynicism in such works as Messiah, Live from Golgotha and other novels, wrote an extremely nightmarish and depressing satire on modern society, human motivations, and the potential consequences of extreme complacency, indifference, delusion, decietfulness, and jealousy entitled Kalki (1978). It depicted Kalki as a deranged American veteran of the Vietnamese War intent on destroying most of humanity and who succeeds all too thoroughly in that dreadful goal. Vidal was prompted to this particular endeavor as a response to a friend who mentioned the Kalki prophecies, saying that he was not worried too greatly about all the ills of society, because he had a firm faith and confidence that Kalki was already here, and would bring about a great transformation that would sweep most of them away. The sweeping away that Vidal's Kalki does is far more total than even most of the deeply depraved could ever wish.

Other, brighter interpretations suggest that the Kalki Avatar was to appear in India around the time of the Second World War, leading India, then ripe for war against the British, as an Axis power, tilting the outcome of the war, and bringing the Thousand Year Reich. The suggestion is that Gandhi was an alternative manifestation of the Kalki Avatar, a divine mercy.

All of the above interpretations and more can be found at various places on the internet, including various sites of quite a number of claimants to be the one and only Kalki Avatar… ranging from some that are perhaps sublime to many that are amusingly ridiculous, including at least one man who claims to be from another planet. It has been jokingly asserted that there are hundreds of people in India claiming to be the Kalki Avatar of ultimate might and righteousness —most of them from jail cells.

Whatever the proper assessments of any of these interpretations, good, bad or mixed, will ultimately be perhaps only time… or Eternity will tell.


Hinduism | Dashavatara
Matsya | Kurma | Varaha | Narasimha | Vamana | Parashurama | Rama | Krishna | Balarama/Buddha | Kalki

External links

Interpretations of the Kalki Avatar

Artistic Imagery

Other meanings of Kalki