Ramblings on Tibetan Chöd System

  • Chöd (གཅོད/Chedaka) is a special vajrayAna Buddhist sAdhanA of anuttarayoga class tantra.
  • Chöd literally mean ‘Cutting Through the Ego’.It cuts through hindrances and obscurations, sometimes called ‘demons’ or ‘gods’.It is also known as ‘The Beggars Offering’.
  • Chöd has long been a way of seeking direct and personal experiences of mind and divinity outside of conventional and institutional frameworks of Vajrayana Buddhism.
  • According to Machig Labdrön མ་གཅིག་ལབ་སྒྲོན the main goal of Chöd is cutting through ego clinging.
  • Historically Maa Machig Labdrön མ་གཅིག་ལབ་སྒྲོན is originator of the Chöd lineage in Tibet.
  • She is renowned 11th century Tibetan tantric Buddhist yoginI who is reincarnation of Yeshe Tsogyal ཡེ་ཤེས་མཚོ་རྒྱལ.
  • Padampa Sanggye was guru of Machig Labdrön.Dampa Sangye is known as the ‘father of Chöd’.
  • Machig’s encounters with and teachings received from Dampa Sangye, a famed Indian master, provided the basis for her development and formalization of the Chöd.
  • One of her major contributions in Tibetan Buddhism is systemisation of the practice of Chöd .She is known as the ‘Mother of Chöd’.
  • As one of Machig Labdron’s biographies states

All the Dharmas originated in India And later spread to TibetOnly Machig’s teaching, born in Tibet Was later introduced in India and practiced there.

  • Iconographically, she is depicted holding a large drum, a vajrablad in her right hand and a bell in her left. Her right leg is often lifted and the standing left leg is bent in motion, in a dancing posture. Machig Labdron is depicted as white in color with three eyes and a pleasing countenance. She wears the Six Bone Ornaments of the charnel grounds, and stands on a lotus. Above Machig Labdron is Buddha Shakyamuni and mahasiddhas and the Chod lineage masters, while specific teachers and lineage holders are on either side. Below her is a tantric deity holding a Chod bone trumpet and swinging skins, while Gesar and a wrathful tantric dakini are on either side.
  • Machig and her guru are generally viewed as the founders of the Chöd system.
  • It is practised among Yundrung Bön traditions as well as the Nyingma and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism .
  • There are three different Chöd lineages. (1) Method based Father tantra lineage (2) Wisdom based Mother tantra lineage (3) Experience based Son tantra lineage
  • Chöd combines praj~nApAramitA philosophy with specific tantric rituals of vajrayAna.
  • Chöd practitioners perform rituals in lonly caves, hidden monasteries , graveyards, mountains and in no mans land.
  • Chöd practitioners visualise offering their bodies in a tantric feast in order to put their understanding of emptiness to the ultimate test.
  • In Chöd sAdhanA the mindstream precipitates into a tulpa simulacrum of vajrayoginI. In sambhogakAya attained through visualization sAdhakas offers a gaNachakra of their own physical body to the four guests: ratnatraya, DAkinI, dharmapAla and beings of the bhavachakra, lokapAlas and the pretAs. The rite may be protracted with separate offerings to each maṇḍala of guests, or significantly abridged.
  • As an internalization of an outer ritual, Chöd involves a form of self-sacrifice. Practitioner visualizes their own body as the offering at a ganachakra. The purpose of the practice is to engender a sense of victory and fearlessness.
  • krodhakAlI is main deitiy of Chöd system. She is wrathful form of vajravArAhI.
  • Iconographically, she is depicted with a great radiance at the time of darkness, fierce and raging. Her face is wrathful, gazing upward; having three round red eyes.The right hand holds a curved knife upraised and the left a skullcup of blood to the heart. In the bend of the left elbow, as the nature of method, appears a khaTvA~Nga staff. Wearing an elephant hide as an upper garment and a tiger skin as a lower garment; adorned with snakes and bones. Dark yellow hair bristles upward, the remainder falling loose. With a crown of five dry human skulls, a necklace of fifty fresh. The left leg is extended in a half dance posture pressing on the heart of a human corpse. Appearing youthful and dwelling in the middle of a blazing mass of fire. Adorned with a tiara of five skulls, bone earrings, ornaments and a necklace of freshly severed heads, draped across the shoulders she wears a frightful human skin. Standing on the left leg in a posture of dance atop a corpse, sun disc and lotus blossom, she is completely surrounded by the orangered flames of pristine awareness. At the lower left, presented as an offering, is a skullcup of nectar. At the lower right is a skullcup of blood.
  • Male practitioners of Chöd are called ChödpAs གཅོད་པ and Female practitioners of Chöd are called ChödmA. They are similar to Hindu avadhUta and kApAlikas.
  • ChödpAs and ChödmAs use a use a ritual bell vajraghaNTA, a specialized drum called a Chöd DamarU, and a human thigh bone trumpet Kangling རྐང་གླིང་།.
  • Chöd Kangling is part of an ensemble of sacred instruments that emerged from the tantric crucible of India some fifteen hundred years ago. shaiva and bauddha yogIs and yoginIs lived as wandering ascetics, staying close to charnel grounds , wearing bone ornaments, and using a unique group of ritual implements, including the human skullcup kapAla . These same objects, worn by the deities described in tantric liturgies, also appeared in the great monasteries of the time, used for both their profound symbolic meaning, and as objects possessing inherent spiritual power. Buddhist tantric religion and lifestyle.

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