Mahamudra Chod is a spiritual practice found primarily in Tibetan Buddhism. It combines Prajnaparamita (Heart Sutra) philosophy with specific meditation methods and a tantric ritual using sacred instruments, music, mantras, seed syllables, invocations, and visualizations. The goal is to transform beings and awaken them to their true enlightened potential. The word Chod means cut—cutting through our fears, fixations, neurosis, narcissism, selfishness, anxiety, paranoia and afflictive emotions using as its tool the knife of wisdom—the development of generosity and compassion.
In Jungian analytic psychology Chod is related to taming the shadow archetype, working directly with the negative and positive aspects of the unconscious. The shadow aspect is a part of the unconscious mind which is the repository of repressed weaknesses, traumas, fears, shortcomings and instincts, both personal and collective (social and cultural), but it is also the seat of creativity. In the depths of darkness, oceans and caves, treasures lie buried—treasures to be found through dark passages and heroic labyrinthic journeys. When we run around in life unconsciously we are easy prey for the shadow influence, making us act in incongruent and conflicting ways. The goal is to produce an increase of consciousness and a possible integration of these forces into our beings, making us more integrated and more creative. Only after the first steps into integration of the shadow we may proceed to integrate the feminine and masculine archetypes. But the work with the shadow never ends. Accepting one’s shadow is like washing our dirty laundry, it is a continuous work. It involves diplomacy (making offerings) and negotiations (invitations), a process that involves using the imagination (Active Imagination) and dreams.
In the Western tradition, Chod relates to rituals pertaining to the dead, ghosts, All Saints ’ Day, and Halloween. Artifacts and symbols related to Halloween developed through centuries and today it became a ritual in which we dress up as monsters, ghosts, vampires, princes and princesses to exchange tricks or treats—mischievousness, offerings and appeasements (negotiations). Although, like with carnivals, we have lost the conscious meaning of what we are doing, the performance of these social rituals still provide a sort of compromise and psychological appeasement for the individual and the social milieu. It also provides dangers and become a source of acting out for the delusional or possessed (by unconscious contents). In Western religions it relates to exorcism and the expulsion of demons and ghosts. In Catholic mysticism it relates to the dark night of the soul, and walking through the valley of death.
In Mahayana Buddhist tradition it relates to Lojong, which approaches everything as your teacher: good or bad people, good or bad events and situations can teach you the way, "Gain and victory to others, loss and defeat to oneself"; and Tonglen, Atisha’s practice of taking and giving—taking in the suffering of the world with the in breath, and with the out breath give love and light.
Mahamudra Chod is the only tantric practice that can be said to have developed in Tibet and exported to India. It was created by a historical woman, 1055-1149, Machig Labdron. She came from a Bonpo family and combined Bon practices with Dzogchen rituals and system. In the Tibetan universe, she represents the enlightened dakini, the feminine energy of wisdom. Since very early childhood she was hired to give reading sessions on the Prajnaparamita Sutra to illiterate practitioners. When her fame spread to India, Pundits came to test her knowledge and realization.
For several years Machig's main practice was one of tantric union with her spiritual consort and husband, Topabhadra, with whom she had three children. It was only later that she developed the system today known as Chod. We can see the roots of her thought on teachings supposedly given to her son who was a thief and later became her disciple:
"You may think that Gods are the ones who give you benefits and Demons cause damage; but it may be the other way around. Those who cause pain teach you to be patient, and those who give you presents may keep you from practicing the Dharma. So it depends on their effect on you if they are Gods or Demons."
Mahamudra Chod as a valid and authentic Sadhana tradition. Thereafter its practice spread even to India. Machig and her children, among many disciples, became the lineage holder for this tradition, which was later systematized by the third Karmapa.
The empowerment introduces you to the sadhana and the teachings, including blessings and cleansing of the chakras.
In the words of Machig:
“The origin of all demons is in mind itself.
When awareness holds on and embraces any outer object,
It is in the hold of a demon.
Likewise, mind is stained when a [mental image]
Is wrongly taken to be a real object.”
The ritual involves the visualization and visit of charnel grounds and cemeteries, making offerings to demons and disruptors to tame and integrate these powerful energies into our conscious lives. The method is through offering our own bodies (symbolically) offering the corpse prepared in different ways so each being invoked to the banquet may receive exactly what they desire. Transformed by the blessings of the Buddhas, our form becomes an inexhaustible feast for the whole of creation.
This offering-banquette is made to all Four Classes of Guests: 1) Higher guests, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Yidams (deities), dakinis, sages, teachers, yogis and yoginis; 2) Guests of Quality—fierce beings, wrathful protectors of the dharma, pure emanations of enlightened mind, and powerful worldly spirits; 3) Guests of Compassion—existing in the six realms, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, hell beings, demy-gods and gods. 4) Lower Guests—all beings to whom we owe a karmic debt, demonic forces, harm-givers, negative spirits and entities.
Through this method Chod is able to clear karmic imprints and complexes created by body, mind and speech deeds performed in countless lives, individually and collectively; ultimately lifting obstacles, healing diseases, cleansing negativities, and taking us beyond the realm of fear and hope towards the ultimate reality of enlightenment.
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