The 16 Kalas

The 16 Kalas

One model of the stages of life development or evolution is the 16 Kala model. I’ve heard teachers make reference to it but have never found a complete and reliable source. The below is a compilation of a number of sources and should not be considered complete or well translated.

Kala is a curious word. In Sanskrit, its usually used to mean time. However it more broadly means attribute. And more specifically in this context, siddhi or ability.

I’ve mentioned Kalas here before as they’re used to “grade” avatars by the abilities they displayed. There is a list of about 64 abilities, grouped to the different levels of this scale. Krishna was said to be a 16/16 on the Kala scale of ability, a Purnavatar. Rama is suggested to be a 12 or so, and Buddha a 10.

The 16 Kalas:
1) Annamaya – seed-born (food)
2) Pranamaya – water-born (breath)
3) Manomaya – egg-born (mind)
4) Vigyanamaya – womb-born (intellect)
5) Anandamaya – reborn (joy)

Note how these first 5 are the first the koshas or sheaths and how childhood development progresses through these stages (physical, emotional, mental, intellect)

6) Atishayini (Peace)
7) Viparinabhini (Love)
8) Sankramini (Creator)
9) Prabhavi (potent, mighty)
10) Kunthini (beyond pain or eternal?)

Are the above stages of development in Consciousness?

11) Vikasini (great)
12) Maryadini (highly respected, attained)
13) Sanhaladini (a source of happiness)
14) Ahladini (causing joy or delight)
15) Paripurna (perfect or full)
16) Swarupavasthitha (established in God self/form)

Humans are obviously 4 – womb-born (mammals) but have the opportunity to gain “abilities” and rise to as high as an 8 or 9. The sequence is interesting as Joy, Peace, Love, and Creator suggest the stages of development I describe, with Peace as Self Realization, followed by God Consciousness and God Realization. Unity and Brahman are not as clear. After that, we move past what a human form is capable of.

For perspective, note that a very enlightened person is about half way up the scale. We can also suggest the stages are exponential. Just look at the potential of an egg-born vs a mammal. A chicken vs a horse.

It’s also interesting to note there is a second 16 kala model based on ones ability to command:
– 5 Elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space) – this correlates to the first 5 kalas in the model above. However, the typical human does not command any elementary forces so this is not an equivalent model.
– 5 Senses (Smell, Taste, Sight, Touch, Hearing)
– Time (inclusive)
– Prana (life force)
– Mind, Intellect, Ego, and Consciousness (Chetana)

Some texts suggest someone capable of deep samadhi is in command of their senses. But I’d suggest these are much more advanced than that. As in command of the cosmic senses.

This needs some work, but it perhaps offers a sense of it.

Last Updated on November 20, 2018 by Davidya

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  1. Seen another way, they list the 16 kalas as the 16 gifts of Krishna. Here is one translation:
    1. Daya – Compassion
    2. Dharjya – Patience
    3. Kshama – Forgiveness
    4. Nyaya – Justice
    5. Nirapeksha – Impartiality
    6. Niraskata – Detachment
    7. Tapasya – Meditation and Spiritual Powers
    8. Aparchitta – Invincibility
    9. Danasheel – Beneficience, Bestower of all wealth in the world and nature.
    10. Saundarjyamaya – Beauty Incarnate
    11. Nrityajna – Best of Dancers
    12. Sangitajna – Best of Singers
    13. Neetibadi – Embodiment of Honesty
    14. Satyabadi – Truth Itself
    15. Sarvagnata – Perfect master of all arts, such as poetry, drama, painting etc.
    16. Sarvaniyanta – Controller of All

  2. Bill

    Fascinating post, David. I wonder: If the eight limbs of yoga are not eight sequential steps of practice, but a description of higher consciousness (I believe Maharishi suggested Unity) in eight areas, then could the 9-16 Kalas also be characteristics of human development beyond Unity but which can also develop as Unity develops and ripens? (Just like one can have experiences of GC even while not established fully in CC.) Is man made in God’s image? What then of God’s (Gods’) image is reflected in human image? Not that humans can be God or Gods, but certainly if we can know “I am that, Thou are That, all this is That” then the rest is just details. Hope this is clear enough for you to respond!

    1. Hi Bill
      The 8 limbs of Yoga are often taught as 8 steps but as Maharishi pointed out, they are limbs. This is akin to the legs of a table – pull one and all come along. All will benefit the others.

      It is NOT necessary to perfect prior practices before samadhi. Some of the practices are practiced in a sequence (asana, pranayama, meditation) but that doesn’t make them “steps”.

      Practices like Yoga are primarily for the refinement of the physiology to support clearer shifts and higher quality of life. Not sure I see them as stages.

      We can say all beings are made as pictured by the divine – aka in God’s image. This doesn’t mean we look like God but rather that God intended us into being. That image is known as the cosmic body or “first born”. Our physiology reflects that. As above, so below.

      What we can be is fully realized expressions of wholeness, fully expressed aspects of totality.

      1. Bill

        I had never heard of the 16 kalas before. As you first laid them out I am reminded of what Father Thomas Keating said in his interview by Rick Archer, to paraphrase closely:

        “It is only there in the experience of that transcendent presence that one perceives that God is in everything without being limited to anything…[What the promise of evolution] means is that we are developing our capacity as human beings to do the things that God does with the greatest of ease: forgive, show compassion, respect everything, experience oneness with everyone and identify with everyone…God identifies with us even in our spiritual poverty.”

        I have heard it suggested that the siddhis are most effectively practiced after CC. This would be supportive of the idea that kalas 10-16 are not necessarily limited to what you posited: “After that [kalas 1-9], we move past what a human form is capable of.”

        1. Yes, it’s somewhat obscure which is why decent translations are lacking. The only place I’ve seen it is in rating avatars and there is all kinds of confusion on that topic. It’s not even clear which is the correct list.

          On the quote, I’d say this is true at first. But later we do come to see God in everything, even on the surface.

          And yes, a person here or there may be given what could be described as divine gifts. Or exceptional talents. But a human can’t embody all of it at once.

          Similarly, there is a siddhi (Yoga ability) for bi-location – being in 2 places at once. But an avatar, even an archangel, are omnipresent. Humans can discover their omnipresence in consciousness but cannot be so physically.

          (it may be possible when we evolve into pure light but then you don’t have a strictly human body 🙂 )

          On the siddhis, it is true we become more effective after waking up and even more so further along. But CC and Unity are stages in consciousness. Performance of the siddhis is more a reflection of clarity of the physiology.

          Some people who are clearly awake will have little expression of siddhis, just as they may find little refined perception. Others will express some long before awakening.

          It also quite depends on what channels are open and smooth. Knowing past lives is another one. This has no interest for some of the awake where others find it makes more sense of things.

          This isn’t any real issue. Human potential is still vastly greater than what anyone I’m aware of is currently living.

          1. Yes, I think I ran into it but its rather incomplete and puts several different things together. It is an interesting site but you have to cross-reference such things as it may be taken out of context, etc.

            The 16 siddhis mentioned are not the same thing as qualities or gifts of Krishna. These are things a yogi is said to gain. I’ve not seen this as that black and white. They tend to gain siddhis but it varies what arises. The specific laws of nature and the need of the time.

            That also has to be put into the context of the time it was written in. For example, Yoga Sutra describes awakening as Kaivalya, the singularity. That’s not how its experienced in the current time.

  3. Jeff

    Many people in the movement, who were very close to Maharishi, and are considered to be awake, feel that the Sidhis are are a measure of unity consciousness. They tell me that Maharishi spent of good deal of time on this subject. In other words, if you are not capable of being a dynamic flyer, you are not in unity consciousness.

    I know this may be different from your thinking. But certainly, from my own experience, the sidhis have become clearer as I have evolved. For me, listening to to Vedic recitation or Gandharva Veda are more effective for enlivening different aspects of natural law.

    1. Hi Jeff
      I’d suggest this idea comes out of texts written in a different yuga or age. When group consciousness is higher, the body naturally evolves more easily with consciousness. In a lower age, there is more of a lag.

      Also, Unity is a shift in consciousness, deep within. It is a profound realization that the consciousness that underlies the world appearance is the same consciousness that is the Self of Self realization (CC). It then progressively moves forward into all layers.

      The siddhis are more on the level of embodiment but are also influenced by group consciousness. Consciousness can only be as clear and as flowing as nature is able to support. If certain laws of nature are dormant, it’s much more difficult to do some. Different parts of the world vary here too.

      The people I’ve known who have had the Unity shift have all had some of the siddhis arise, but it varies which. None can fly but nor was life calling on them to do so. Life is not driven the same way any more.

      Yes, as we clean house, we’re able to be express in ways we may never have imagined. And yes, the language closest to nature can help enliven.

    2. I’ll also note I’ve found that concepts about what a certain stage is supposed to look like can be a barrier to its unfolding. There is common fundamental shifts that take place but huge variation in expression.

      Another example is witnessing deep sleep – it’s held as a key marker for CC. Yet I know several who regularly witnessed deep sleep decades before CC. And I know many who have woken who have never experienced clear deep sleep. That level is simply not clear enough. A long restful retreat would probably fix that.

      The key to me is looking at the mechanics. Why would flying be required for Unity? There is no relationship between the mechanics of the shift and the siddhi.

      The siddhis do help culture refinement – something that does really fill out the stages.

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