CHOD IS NOT INDEPENDENT PRACTICE FROM SHAKYAMUNI BUDDHA'S TEACHINGS
1. What is 'Chod'?
From 'Thugs-skon Grub-mtha'-Thugkon siddhanta’ (Losang kongyan page-1)
'Chod' means 'to cut', that is to say 'cutting through the Ego'. It is named so, because one cuts one’s own self-cherishing thoughts through loving-kindness and compassionate altruistic mind as well as roots of cyclic existence by the right view about emptiness; and furthermore, one cuts the four Mara-demons by unification of these two.
The essence of Chod realization is attained through: meditation and practice of a harmonious application of Tantras in accordance with meanings of 'Prajnaparamita Sutras.
2. The Roots of Chod Practice:
All Buddhist theories, teachings, rituals, attainments and lineages can be traced back to the Three Baskets of the Buddha' teachings, and hence, their main root is in the Three Baskets. Buddhism can be classified into two main categories, such as: (1) general sutra teachings; and (2) Tantras (intended only
for the fortunate ones). Thus Chod practice is rooted in the Paramitayana, or the Perfection of Wisdom teachings on emptiness with all of their three versions: elaborate, middle and concise, 2) on the teachings on qualities of the altruistic mind of Bodhicitta, 3) on the paths to enlightenment as
presented in the Avatamsaka Sutra, etc., and 4) on the most secret Tantras, including all father and mother Tantras. Thus, a number of sages regard 'All Three Mother Sutras, such as extensive, middle and concise (ཡུམ་རྒྱས་འབྲིང་བསྡུས་གསུམ - yum rgyas 'bring bsdus gsum - Prajnaparamita in 100,000 shlokas, 20,000, and 8,000) in general, and the concise one (མདོ་སྡུད་པ - mdo sdud pa) in particular as the root of Chod practice. It is said in the Concise Sutra:
'One who resides in emptiness and never gives up on sentient beings,
Acts as instructed and receives blessings of the Well Gone One.
Powerful Bodhisattvas who are skillful in these four causes
Become non-defeatable and undeceivable by four Maras'.
The four causes are as mentioned below:
1. Residing in emptiness: meditating on the view of emptiness
2. Never giving up on sentient beings: meditating on loving-kindness and compassion
These two make up the main practice (they are the principle and essence of the practice)
3. Acting as instructed: relying on a virtuous friend, who is a root of the path
4. Receiving blessings from the Well Gone Ones (Sugatas): taking refuge in a visualized field of merit and offering seven limb offerings, together with a mandala
These two make up a preparation for the main practice.
How do these coincide with Secret Tantras? This is clearly taught in various Tantric texts like 'Ego??' as showing:
1. What would be a proper place to receive these teachings?
2. What would be proper way to receive them?
3. How is one motivated after receiving teachings and what are the stages of realizations after cutting through 'Ego', etc. Particularly, the 'Ego' text speaks about the Offering of One's Own Body Practice.
3. A spread of the Chod practice:
This practice was transmitted to Tibetans by Dampa Sangye for the first time, who visited Tibet three times and bestowed Chod teachings to Jo Lama Sonam in Tsang and Mara Serpo of Yarlung. Then Mara Serpo transmitted it to his disciple Mad Serong, Mad Serong transmitted it to Lama Ze and Lama Sum; Lama Ze to
Nyang, while Lama Sum to Kalden Sramo, Kalden Sramo to Lama Zang, and Lama Zang transmitted it to Nyang, and so on. This transmission lineage is called the ‘Method Chod,’ while a transmission lineage from Jo Sonam Lama to Mother Machig Labdron is called 'Wisdom Chod'. One can draw conclusion that Zhi byed
(Pacification of Suffering) practice, which is the root of Chod, was initiated by Padampa Sangye before Machig Labdron and then instructions were developed by Machig Labdron later. Nevertheless, according to some texts, it is very vague whether there was any usage of the term 'Chod' before Machig Labdron. However, it is a fact that Machig Labdron's transmission of the Chod practice is widely spread among all Tibetan Buddhist schools.
4. Mother Machig Labdron as an initiator of Chod practice
Wisdom Dakini, Machig Labdron (1055-1149), who was renowned as one of the Seven Wonders of the 11th-century Tibet, was born just as how Guru Shakyamuni foretold it: 'In the times, a person by the name of Dronma will be born in Lab region of the Northern Snowy Land, and she will glorify secret Tantras'. She was the kindest Yogini who spread Chod practice all over the Tibet.
A peculiarity of Machig Labdron's practice is lying in its spreading back to India and other Vajrayana countries, while all Buddhist teachings came into Tibet from India. Chod practice has been developing as bearing its own peculiar training in unification of both Sutra and Tantra and ritual with impressive melody, bell, hand drum, etc.
Machig Labdron transmitted this practice to her son, Gyalwa Dondrup. It is said that her son become sick due to black magic and curses. Thus Machig Labdron had healed him by her Chod practice and then bestowed this supreme Dharma elixir to him. Thereafter Gyalwa Dondrup transmitted this practice to the four Tibetan traditions of Buddhism. However, some other Chod texts suggest that Machig Labdron had directly transmitted it to her 16 disciples. Still some other texts suggest that Tulku Choenyi Randrol, who received hearing lineage of Chod from Machig's disciple Jamiyan Konpo, transmitted this teaching down to all others. Elaborative accounts about Machig Labdronma's lineages are presented in the treatise, titled, 'Chod Choekor'/Chod teachings/ by Jakar Yeshi Monglam, a Mongolian Chod practitioner.
5. A Gelugpa Chod practice
Wisdom Mother Dakini Machig Labdron made a divination about the future, saying: ’Lama Dawa of our time will be born as Losang Dakpo in the future times'. Je Tsong kha pa, the founder of the Gelugpa tradition, transmitted this Ganden Hearing Lineage (dga ldan snyan brgyu) to his disciples, and hence, this was unbrokenly transmitted from ear to ear, up to our era as a secret realization among Gelugpas.
Je Tsong ha pa (ཙོང་ཁ་པ་ Tsong-kha-pa 1357-1419) Ganden nyang geu lineage received deep teachings directly from the Buddha Manjushri with the help of Mahasiddha Pawo Dorje just before he was fully blossomed. The Buddha Manjushri bestowed the roots of Chod, Je Tsong kha pa, and he set the disciplines of
Chod practice as well. It is mentioned elsewhere in Chod texts that Je Tsong kha pa composed the Tsog Offering Puja, combining it with Guru Yoga sessions on the basis of the oral lineage of the sutra and tantra as well as a deep path lineage of Chod received from the Buddha Manjushri. Although he kept his Chod practice secret throughout his entire life because Chod is a deep path of Vajrayana. it has been proven that he practiced it by a thigh-bone trumpet that was found in his belongings after he had passed away.
For example, it is clearly said in the Tugan Siddhanta: ‘Fierce, Black Mother's blessings and Chod realizations, which are well spread and practiced in our era through transmissions of Ensapa, are included in the 'Jamiyan Chokor’ (Manjushri teachings), which were bestowed to Je Tsong kha pa by Buddha Manjushri. This is the root of Ganden hearing lineage. Moreover, there are numbers of Gelugpa commentaries on Chod practice such as the Limitless Ocean of Dedication Prayers - Chod Teachings, etc. Thus, the Gelugpa Chod lineage, which spans from Je Tsong kha pa up to Ensapa, is called the 'Ganden Oral Lineage.’
Although Je Tsong kha pa had a great number of disciples, he transmitted this teaching orally to only the few fortunate ones as most secret and precious practice. The deep and most secret teachings were specially given in accordance to mental levels of disciples. Je Tsong kha pa transmitted this precious teaching to Lama Togten Jampel Gyatso, and who then further spread this teaching. Therefore, this teaching is also called the 'Ensa Oral Lineage'.
6. How to be trained in Chod practice
Those engaged in a training of the Chod practice should study sutras and tantras, specially the Perfection of Wisdom teachings and the Madhyamaka view. Then and then alone, it would be easier to practice Chod and realize its deep meanings.
In the past it is said that when highly learned Geshes heard about someone was about to go for training in Chod practice, they usually asked: 'Oh is it a right time for him or her?' Preliminary learning of the Chod practice involves the generation of the mind of a conventional Bodhicitta and understanding of
emptiness to a certain degree. Then one should receive empowerments, or initiations, and oral transmissions, and should further study the principles and instructions for Chod practice as well as generating the personal identitylessness. One has to cut through ‘Ego,' and meditate on Selfless wisdom and emptiness in order to quickly achieve Buddhahood. In other words, due to cutting off the very root of all mental afflictions, such as ignorance, this practices is called the ‘Chod’, or “cutting through the ego'.
7. The Chod View
Chod view cannot be other than that of the Prasangika Madhyamaka (དབུ་མ་ཐལ་འགྱུར་བ), because it is rooted in 'All Three Mother Sutras: the extensive, middle and concise (ཡུམ་རྒྱས་འབྲིང་བསྡུས་གསུམ) in general, and in the concise one (མདོ་སྡུད་པ - mdo sdud pa) in particular. It is in this way instructed by Machig Labdron. Nevertheless, later day followers added various misinterpretations; and in the meantime, meditations on various views were taught in various Siddhantas since its spreads in all traditions.
According to my understanding, other traditions vary in their view of the Chod practice, whereas all Gelugpa commentaries are rooted in Prasangika Madhyamaka view. I regard Padampa Sangye, who is the founder of Zhi byed, as a holder of the Pransangika Madhyamaka view because he was a disciple of Aryadeva. It is possible that Arya Asanga was also a holder of the Prasangika Madhyamaka view despite the fact that he founded the Yogacara School (སེམས་ཙམ་པ). However, the Prasangika Madhyamaka view is essential for attaining the highest realizations (དངོས་གྲུབ) through secret tantric practices. It is permitted to meditate on emptiness in accordance with Yogacara or Svatantrika Madhyamaka views in practicing the paths lower than the Stage of Generation
8. On the meaning of the term 'Chod Body Offering'
A Practice of eliminating one’s own self-cherishing thoughts and cutting through ignorance, anger, attachment, and other defilements, which are the roots of sufferings, in order to quickly achieve Buddhahood is Chod-'Cutting through Ego'. The yoga of the Body offering consists of inviting the fields of merit
such as one’s own Guru, Yidam, Dakinis and Dharma protectors with melodious chanting for blessing one's own body and then offering the blessed body to demons, evils, nagas, lords of the land, etc., in a detailed visualization, and in realizing the impermanence of cyclic existence, generating loving-kindness and the altruistic mind of Bodhicitta.
The Chod practice was transmitted from the Buddha and spread in India, Tibet, and Mongolia as an unbroken lineage. As for Mongolia, this precious lineage was transmitted from the Amdo region of Eastern Tibet through Southern Mongolia. The lineage is an unbroken transmission of realizations and experiences
from a guru to a disciple from the time of Shakyamuni Buddha up to our era. The guru-disciple relationship is the most sublime connection, and hence, a guru has responsibility to transmit all of his realizations, knowledge, and experiences, whereas a disciple must learn everything with great respect as taught by the guru. As for tantric teachings, a guru teaches to the only few fortunate ones who can dedicate their body, speech, and mind to practice upon receiving empowerments.
9. Chod lineages
There are two main lineages of Chod based on their origination:
1. A Distant Lineage
2. A Close Lineage
A distant lineage goes back to the Buddha Shakyamuni, while a close lineage has to do with certain sages, who transmitted their realization and practices after they directly met a certain meditational deity or a Buddha and received profound teachings.
Moreover, there are other classifications of lineages that are based on the traditions of initiators:
3. Son Lineage
For example, the Father lineage is transmitted from the Father Buddhas, like Shakyamuni, Manjushri, Aryadeva, Padampa Sangye, and Je Tsong kha pa. In contrast, the Mother lineage is transmitted from wisdom dakinis, like Yumchen Shirchenma, Tara, Swaha Siddhi Dakini, Machig Labdronma, and so on.
The Son lineage is a combination of the Father and Mother lineages, and is based on the development of Tibetan Buddhism in accordance with teaching methods, clothing, chanting, rituals, and the like of each School of Tibetan Buddhism: Nyingmapa, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug.
10. The content of Chod teachings
As far as a compiled Chod chokor in Mongolia is concerned, the Gelugpa Chod lineage gurus emphasize the wisdom and method Chod realizations combined with Lamrim teachings. As previously mentioned, the Chod teachings were transmitted from guru to disciple in the most secret manner. One of the highest lineage gurus was Damchoe Tsomo, who completed his retreat in an isolated place. It is said that Yongzin Kenpo Jamba Trinlye Dargye, also known as Karma Dargye,
met Damchoe Tsomo and made a fervent request for receiving Chod teachings. As a result of his genuine request, he received the Hearing Lineage empowerment, chanting with melody, and so on. After that, this lineage continued from Karma Dargye to Lama Lhawang Rigzing, from Lhawang Rigzing to Jamba Ngagwang Puntsog, from Ngagwang Puntsog to Gere shabrung Kalsen Chogne, and then to Kalsen Choewang, Choeten Kalsen, Losang Rabten, Gelek Pelsang, Losang Yeshe, Gendun Gyaltsen, Gelek Rabgye, and Jigme Gyaltsen. This was an unbroken Chod lineage in Tibet. Among these, Jamba Ngagwang Puntsog revealed some supernatural abilities, such as healing insane people simply by a single sound of his damaru, and so on. Lhawang Rigzing and Ngagwang Puntsog compiled their chanting rituals, tunes, instructions into texts, which serve as main source texts for Chod practice today.
The syllaable 'phat' is repeatedly recited throughout chanting in the Chod practice. It is interesting to mention what the syllable “phat” means. Briefly speaking, the 'pha' symbolizes here the Paramitayana, or the Perfection of Wisdom Vehicle, whereas the sound 't' symbolizes Vajrayana, or the secret
Tantric Vehicle. Thus, the “phat” symbolizes the union of sutra and tantra. It also symbolizes emptiness. The Chod practice contains the ways of accumulating the stores of merit and wisdom. Through meditative visualization, one separates one’s own body and
mind, and makes the mind inseparable from the mind of the Guru and the deity. After that, one offers the body to the Guru, to the Deity, Buddhas, Bodhisattva, Dakas, Dakinis, and Dharmapalas as a sublime offering. Meanwhile, one offers the body to lowers beings, to t he demons, harm-givers, etc., as
the red, white, and mixed forms in order to satisfy their wishes. This is how Chod practitioners accumulate merit. While doing so, one meditates on the emptiness and personal identitylessness, thinking that everything, including oneself practicing the Chod, offerings and offering fields, does not exist on its own, that it exists by mere conceptual designation, and that it is empty of inherent existence. It is how one accumulates wisdom.
The Chod practice that is based on Prasangika Madhyamaka view is mainly a practice of 'giving' out all six perfections.
11. Ganden and Kandro Hearing Lineages
There are two Chod practice lineages in the Gelug tradition: (1) Ganden Oral Lineage, also known as the Ensa Oral Lineage, and (2) Kandro Oral Lineage.
1. Ganden Oral Lineage
Ensapa Losang Dondrub (1505-1566) received complete teachings of Je Tsong kha pa's oral lineage from his guru Mahasiddha Choe Dorje, and he excelled in practice, demonstrating how a person can master both sutra and tantra. He was duly regarded as the holder of Je Tsong kha pa's oral lineage at his time. He also received other Chod empowerments, such as ’Namkya Kogyed' (‘Opener of Space Exit) and Manjushri Chod teachings like 'Digga', etc., from Lodro Gyaltsen of Gephel Ling. (Lamrim, Lama rgyud, p. 458)
Losang Dondrup is renowned as Ensapa because he received the complete Hearing realizations, such as the uncommon empowerments, the stages of generation and completion, and so on, which were bestowed to Je Tsong kha pa by Manjushri, in accordance with instructions of both Buddha Manjushri and Wisdom Dakini Yumchenmo, and he mastered them during his retreat in an isolated place. It is said that he was perfectly practicing the mind isolation (སེམས་དབེན), illusionary body, the mind of clear light, and achieved the union of wisdom-and method, and hence he became renowned as Gyalwa Ensapa.
The main sadhana of the Gelug Chod lineage is Method and Wisdom Experiences and Dedicating the Illusionary Body as Tsog Offerings (sGyu lus tshogs su sngo ba). This practice was composed by Gyalwa Ensapa and his spiritual heirs, Panchen Lobsang Choegyan, and by the accomplished meditator Lobsang Namgyal. It
was transmitted in an unbroken lineage until now, and put in to verses by Kyabje Phabongka Dechen Nyingpo. In this way, it became very suitable to chanting and rhythmic in combination with bell and damaru beats. Upon receiving the 'Opener of Space Exit' empowerment, one has to recite the above-mentioned Ganden Hearing Lineage verses every day.
Melody and tune
The chanting consists of 10 parts, and each part has its own specific tune with damaru beating a rhythm, like 'Ma-tan lha-ye kan-dro', starting from refuge taking up to the words for auspiciousness. Based on my daily practice of this Chod chanting for many years, I have had recorded my recitations on the background of a classical music melody (piano and horse head fiddle) for the memory of my dearest Guru Khalkha Jetsun Dampa Rinpoche.
The important training in Ganden hearing lineage is a union of method and wisdom. It is instructed that accumulating the two stores of wisdom and merit is a cause for attaining the Rupakaya (Form Body) and Dharmakaya (Dharma Body). Thus Je Tsong kha pa said: 'Attaining the Form Body and Dharma Body for those disciples in a Higher Vehicle depends on immeasurable accumulations of wisdom and merit through the union of wisdom and method. It is important to accumulate merit in order to attain a Form Body in accordance with a common path, and to mediate on emptiness of the Dharma Body in accordance with uncommon path for the sake of actualizing a complete path to method- and-wisdom union. As for the accumulation of merit in accordance with a common path, one should immeasurably accumulate inner merits through outer hand gesture offerings. Particularly, one should accumulate merit by actualizing the Noble path and through the mind trainings. Then and then alone one could master all theoretical realizations with great ease. Giving is the most important among all six perfections in Chod practice, and hence, one has to actualize the sublime giving in order to achieve the state of Buddhahood. There are many
shining examples of giving, such as Shakyamuni Buddha giving his body to a hungry tigress in his previous life, and so on. Generally, giving is to offer one's own body, mind, and property to someone in need or to all other sentient beings. It is best to practice red offerings, which is an offering of one's
own inner life and body, right from the beginning, because this serves as an essential key for generating a strong mind of giving. This is very special and different from other practices of generosity, because we are feeding demons and terrifying harm-doers. They enjoy red offerings more than white ones.
Offering one’s own cherished body and life is very terrifying due to attachment. One should be certain about result and benefit of this offering practice. Thus, there is no benefit at all in reciting a Chod chanting without inner analysis and mediation. It is essential to analyze one's own mind before
practicing Chod. In case of experiencing a vision of one's mind going to demons, one must meditate on two levels of Bodhicitta in the course of chanting. If one does not have enough courage to exchange oneself with others, one will experience fear, which is a great obstacle.
Meditation on the emptiness and Dharma Body in accordance with uncommon path.
It is very crucial for practitioners to analyze a difference between 'searching the truth through mediation in accordance with view' and 'searching truth-view in accordance with meditation'. Generally, it is common to meditate in accordance with view as far as commentaries on the Chod practice and view are
concerned. But, it is the most profound and fastest way to 'analyze a view in accordance with meditation' as Ensapa’s oral lineage does. However, since all founders of Chod teachings, like Padampa Sangye, and Machig Labdron, hold the Parasangika Madhyamaka view, we have to analyze the extensive heritage of later Chod teachings and experiences.
2. Khandro oral lineage
The lineage of this practice, referred to in the tradition as the Dakini lineage, comes from Machig Labdron to Gyalwa Dondrub, Khambu Yale, Tonyon Latonm, Kugam Choseng, and so on in one lineage, as well as through another profound ear-whispered lineage up to the Gelugpa’s E Lama Geleg Pelzang, Losang Yeshe, Gendun Gyaltsen, Geleg Rabgye and Lhatsun Rinpoche, up to Kundeling Rinpoche, Khalka Jetsun Dampa Rinpoche, and others of the elder present generation.
E Lama Gelug Pelsang and Gelug-Ngagwang Puntsog had greatly contributed to the spread of this Dakini Oral Lineage. E Lama Gelug Pelsang was regarded as a reincarnation of Machig Labdron's son Gyalwa Dondrup, and born in E region of Southern Tibet, he was renowned as E Lama. He composed two texts, The Opener
of Space Exit, which is the uncommon Chod empowerment, and the Deep Path to Nirvana (ཞི་བ་ལམ་ཟབ། - zhi ba lam zab), which is the main practice in the Dakini lineage. It is important to note that a concise and daily chanting of the Space Prevailing (Mkha' khyab ma) is composed by E Lama’s disciple Gyawralpa Losang Yeshe, who is known as Choedzad Ling Lama.
One has to receive the empowerment in accordance with common lineage and the Opener of Space Exit in order to practice the Zhi-ba Lam-zab. It is also equally important to receive the Terryifing Black Mother empowerment in order to practice her sadhana. The text of this sadhana is written by E Lama Dechen
Gebay Dorje, who is a reincarnation of E Lama Gelug Pelsang. Another important source text for daily chanting is written by Kunchen Jigme Wangpo, and it belongs to the Dakini oral transmission lineage.
An Extensive commentary on the Zhiba Lamzab consists of two parts, namely, a 'commentary on meanings' and 'commentary on meditations'