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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chd (Tibetan:

, Wylie: gcod lit. 'to sever'[1]), is a spiritual practice found primarily in Tibetan Buddhism.

Also known as "Cutting Through the Ego,"[2] the practice is based on the Prajpramit sutra. It combines
prajpramit philosophy with specific meditation methods and a tantric ritual.

1 Nomenclature, orthography and etymology

2 Indian Antecedents
2.1 Chdpa as Avadhta
3 Iconography
3.1 Ritual objects
3.2 Bone ornaments
4 Origins of the practice
4.1 The transmission of Chd to Tibet
4.2 Third Karmapa: systematizer of Chd
5 Key elements of the Practice
6 Western reports on Chd practices
7 See also
8 Notes
9 Further reading
9.1 Primary Sources
9.2 Secondary Sources
10 External links

(Tibetan: gcod sgrub thabs; Sanskrit: cheda-sdhana; both literally "cutting practice"),
pronounced ch (the d is silent).

...Chd was never a unique, monolithic tradition. One should really speak of Chd traditions and
lineages since Chd has never constituted a school.[3]
A form of Chd was practiced in India by Buddhist mahsiddhas, prior to the 10th Century.[4] However, Chd
as practised today developed from the entwined traditions of the early Indian tantric practices transmitted to
Tibet and the Bonpo[citation needed] and Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayna[citation needed] lineages. Besides the Bonpo,
there are two main Tibetan Buddhist Chd traditions, the "Mother" and "Father" lineages. In Tibetan tradition,
Dampa Sangye is known as the Father of Chd and Machig Labdron, founder of the Mahmudra Chd lineages,

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as the Mother of Chd. Chd developed outside the monastic system. It was subsequently adopted by the four
main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Chd, as an internalization of an outer ritual, involves a form of self-sacrifice:[5] the practitioner visualizes
their own body as the offering at a ganachakra or tantric feast. The purpose of the practice is to engender a sense
of victory and fearlessness.[citation needed] These two qualities are represented iconographically by the dhvaja, or
victory banner and the kartika, or ritual knife. The banner symbolizes overcoming obstacles and the knife
symbolizes cutting through the ego. Since fearful or painful situations help the practitioner's work of cutting
through attachment to the self, such situations may be cultivated.[6] Machig Labdrn said: "To consider
adversity as a friend is the instruction of Chd".[4]

Chdpa as Avadhta
Sarat Chandra Das equated the Chd practitioner (Tibetan:

, Wylie: chod pa) with avadhta:

" ku-su-lu-pa is a word of Tantrik mysticism, its proper Tibetan equivalent being
gcod-pa, the art of exorcism. The mystic Tantrik rites of the Avadhauts, called Avadhtipa in Tibet,
exist in India."[7]
NB: = kusulu or kusulupa (Sanskrit; Tibetan loanword) that is studying texts rarely whilst focusing on
meditation and praxis. Often used disparagingly by pandits.
Avadhtas, or 'mad saints,' are well known for their 'crazy wisdom.' Chd practitioners (chdpas) are a type of
avadhta particularly respected, detested, feared or held in awe due to their role as denizens of the charnel
ground. Edou says they were often associated with the role of shaman and exorcist:
"The Ch[d]pa's very lifestyle on the fringe of society - dwelling in the solitude of burial grounds
and haunted places, added to the mad behavior and contact with the world of darkness and mystery
- was enough for credulous people to view the Chdpa in a role usually attributed to shamans and
other exorcists, an assimilation which also happened to medieval European shepherds. Only
someone who has visited one of Tibet's charnel fields and witnessed the offering of a corpse to the
vultures may be able to understand the full impact of what the Chd tradition refers to as places that
inspire terror."[8]

In Chd, the adept symbolically offers the flesh of their body in a form of gaacakra or tantric feast.
Iconographically, the skin of the practitioner's body may represent surface reality or maya. It is cut from bones
that represent the true reality of the mindstream. Some commentators see the Chd ritual as cognate with the
prototypical initiation of a shaman.[citation needed] Traditionally, Chd is regarded as challenging, potentially
dangerous and inappropriate for some practitioners.[9]

Ritual objects
Practitioners of the Chd ritual, Chdpa, use a kangling or human thighbone trumpet, and a Chd drum, a hand
drum similar to but larger than the amaru commonly used in Tibetan ritual. In a version of the Chd sdhana
of Jigme Lingpa from the Longchen Nyingthig terma, five ritual knives (phurbas), are employed to demarcate

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the maala of the offering and to affix the five wisdoms.[10]

Key to the iconography of Chd is the hooked knife or skin flail
(kartika). A flail is an agricultural tool used for threshing to separate
grains from their husks. Similarly, the kartika symbolically separates the
bodymind from the mindstream.[11] The kartika imagery in the Chd
ritual provides the practitioner with an opportunity to realize Buddhist
The Kartika (Skt.) or curved knife symbolizes the cutting of
conventional wisdom by the ultimate insight into emptiness. It is
usually present as a pair, together with the skullcup, filled with
wisdom nectar. On a more simple level, the skull is a reminder of
(our) impermanence. Between the knife and the handle is a
makara-head, a mythical monster.[12]

Bone ornaments
A recurrent theme in the iconography of the Tibetan Buddhist tantras is a
Tibetan Board Carving of Vajrayogini
group of five or six bone ornaments[13] ornamenting the bodies of
various enlightened beings who appear in the texts. The Sanskrit
includes the term mudr, meaning "seal".[14] The Hevajra tantra
associates the bone ornaments directly with the five wisdoms, which also appear as the Five Dhyani Buddhas.
These are explained in a commentary to the Hevajra tantra by Jamgn Kongtrul:[15]
the wheel-like[16] crown ornament (sometimes called "crown jewel"),[17] symbolic of Akobhya and
mirror-like pristine awareness[18]
the earrings[19] representing Amitbha and the pristine awareness of discernment[20]
the necklace[21] symbolizing Ratnasambhva and the pristine awareness of total sameness[22]
the bracelets[23] and anklets[24] symbolic of Vairocna and the pristine awareness of the ultimate
dimension of phenomena[25]
the girdle[26] symbolizing Amoghasiddhi and the accomplishing pristine awareness[27]
The sixth ornament sometimes referred to is ash from a cremation ground smeared on the body.[28]

Sources such as Stephen Beyer have described Machig Labdrn as the founder of the practice of Chd.[29] This
is accurate in that she is the founder of the Tibetan Buddhist Mahamudr Chd lineages. Machig Labdrn is
credited with providing the name "Chd" and developing unique approaches to the practice.[30] Biographies
suggest it was transmitted to her via sources of the mahsiddha and Tantric traditions.[4] She did not found the
Dzogchen lineages, although they do recognize her, and she does not appear at all in the Bn Chd lineages.[4]
Among the formative influences on Mahamudr Chd was Dampa Sangye's 'Pacification of Suffering'.[31]

The transmission of Chd to Tibet

There are several hagiographic accounts of how Chd came to Tibet.[4] One spiritual biography[32] asserts that

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shortly after Kamalala won his famous debate with Moheyan as to whether Tibet should adopt the "sudden"
route to enlightenment or his "gradual" route, Kamalala used the technique of phowa, transferring his
mindstream to animate a corpse polluted with contagion in order to safely move the hazard it presented. As the
mindstream of Kamalala was otherwise engaged, a mahasiddha by the name of Padampa Sangye came across
the vacant "physical basis"[33] of Kamalala. Padampa Sangye, was not karmically blessed with an aesthetic
corporeal form, and upon finding the very handsome and healthy empty body of Kamalala, which he assumed
to be a newly dead fresh corpse, used phowa to transfer his own mindstream into Kamalala's body. Padampa
Sangye's mindstream in Kamalala's body continued the ascent to the Himalaya and thereby transmitted the
Pacification of Suffering teachings and the Indian form of Chd which contributed to the Mahamudra Chd of
Machig Labdrn. The mindstream of Kamalala was unable to return to his own body and so was forced to
enter the vacant body of Padampa Sangye.[34][35]

Third Karmapa: systematizer of Chd

Chd was a marginal and peripheral sdhana, practiced outside traditional Tibetan Buddhist and Indian Tantric
institutions with a contraindication as caveat of praxis upon all but the most advanced practitioners. Edou[36]
foregrounds the textual exclusivity and rarity of the early tradition. Indeed, due to the itinerant and nomadic
lifestyles of practitioners, they could carry few texts. Hence they were also known as kusulu or kusulupa: that is,
studying texts rarely whilst focusing on meditation and praxis:
The nonconventional attitude of living on the fringe of society kept the Chdpas aloof from the
wealthy monastic institutions and printing houses. As a result, the original Chd texts and
commentaries, often copied by hand, never enjoyed any wide circulation, and many have been lost
Rangjung Dorje, 3rd Karmapa Lama, (12841339) was a very important systematizer of Chd teachings and
significantly assisted in their promulgation within the literary and practice lineages of the Kagyu, Nyingma and
particularly Dzogchen. It is in this transition from the outer charnel ground to the institutions of Tibetan
Buddhism that the rite of the Chd becomes more imaginal, an inner practice, that is, the charnel ground
becomes an internal imaginal environment. Schaeffer[38] conveys that the Third Karmapa was a systematizer of
the Chd developed by Machig Labdrn and lists a number of his works on Chd consisting of redactions,
outlines and commentaries amongst others:
Rang byung was renowned as a systematizer of the Gcod teachings developed by Ma gcig lab
sgron. His texts on Gcod include the Gcod kyi khrid yig; the Gcod bka' tshoms chen mo'i sa bcad
which consists of a topical outline of and commentary on Ma gcig lab sgron's Shes rab kyi pha rol
tu phyin pa zab mo gcod kyi man ngag gi gzhung bka' tshoms chen mo ; the Tshogs las yon tan kun
'byung ; the lengthy Gcod kyi tshogs las rin po che'i phrenb ba 'don bsgrigs bltas chog tu bdod pa
gcod kyi lugs sor bzhag; the Ma lab sgron la gsol ba 'deb pa'i mgur ma; the Zab mo bdud kyi gcod
yil kyi khrid yig, and finally the Gcod kyi nyams len.[39]

Chd literally means "cutting through". It cuts through hindrances and obscuration, sometimes called 'demons'
or 'gods'. Examples of demons are ignorance, anger and, in particular, the dualism of perceiving the self as
inherently meaningful, contrary to the Buddhist doctrine of no-self.[40] The practitioner is fully immersed in the
ritual: "With a stunning array of visualizations, song, music, and prayer, it engages every aspect of ones being
and effects a powerful transformation of the interior landscape."[41]

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Dzogchen forms of Chd enable the practitioner to maintain primordial awareness (rigpa) free from fear. Here,
the Chd ritual essentialises elements of phowa, gaacakra, pramit and lojong[42] gyulu, kyil khor,
brahmavihra, sel and tonglen.[43]
Chd usually commences with phowa in which the practitioner visualises their mindstream as the five pure
lights leaving the body through the aperture of the sahasrara at the top of the head. This is said to ensure
psychic integrity of, and compassion for the practitioner of the rite (sdhaka).[citation needed] In most versions of
the sdhana, the mindstream precipitates into a tulpa simulacrum of the dkin Vajrayogin. In the body of
enjoyment[44] attained through visualization, the sdhaka offers the ganacakra of their own physical body, to
the 'four' guests: Triratna, kis, dharmapalas, beings of the bhavachakra, the ever present genius loci and
pretas. The rite may be protracted with separate offerings to each maala of guests, or significantly abridged.
Many variations of the sdhana still exist.[45]
Chd, like all tantric systems, has outer, inner and secret aspects. They are described in an evocation sung to
Nyama Paldabum by Milarepa:
External chod is to wander in fearful places where there are deities and demons. Internal chod is to
offer one's own body as food to the deities and demons. Ultimate chod is to realize the true nature
of the mind and cut through the fine strand of hair of subtle ignorance. I am the yogi who has these
three kinds of chod practice.[34]
The Chd is now a staple of the advanced sdhana of Tibetan Buddhist traditions. It is practiced worldwide
following dissemination by the Tibetan diaspora.

Chd was mostly practised outside the Tibetan monastery system by chdpas, who were yogis, yogis and
ngagpas rather than bhikus and bhikus. Because of this, material on Chd has been less widely available to
Western readers than some other tantric Buddhist practices. The first Western reports of Chd came from a
French adventurer who lived in Tibet, Alexandra David-Nel in her travelogue Magic and Mystery in Tibet,
published in 1932. Walter Evans-Wentz published the first translation of a Chd liturgy in his 1935 book
Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines. Anila Rinchen Palmo translated several essays about Chd in the 1987
collection Cutting Through Ego-Clinging.[citation needed] Giacomella Orofino's piece entitled "The Great
Wisdom Mother" was included in Tantra in Practice in 2000 and in addition she published articles on Machig
Labdrn in Italian.[46]

Cham Dance
Dampa Sangye
Machig Labdron
Sky burial
Tantra techniques (Vajrayana)
Tsultrim Allione

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1. ^ "Chd Teachings & Practice His Eminence Garchen

Rinpoche January 15, 2011, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Chd literally means "to sever." What we sever is not
anything in the outside world, but rather we cut
through our ego-clinging, which is the very root of
our afflictive emotions and suffering." - current
version of
2. ^ Rinpoche, Yangthang (1991). "Chod - Cutting
Through the Ego" (
/Chod.htm) .
Retrieved 2009-06-04.
3. ^ Edou, Jrme (1996). Machig Labdrn and the
Foundations of Chd (
/books?id=AQULAAAAYAAJ&) . Snow Lion
Publications. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-55939-039-2.
/books?id=AQULAAAAYAAJ&. (Emphasis
preserved from print original.)
4. ^ a b c d e Edou, Jrme (1996). Machig Labdrn and
the Foundations of Chd (
/books?id=AQULAAAAYAAJ&) . Snow Lion
Publications. ISBN 978-1-55939-039-2.
5. ^ Sanskrit: tma-yaj
6. ^ "This practice strikes right at the heart of the selfish
attitude. In the practice of Chd, rather than
imagining defending ourselves from potential
harm-givers, from those perceived as enemies, we
imagine offering our treasured body-minds to those
who might seek to harm us. We also imagine making
the same offering to satisfy the needs of all beings.
This requires us to examine carefully how we hold
the "I" thought, and that presents a supreme
opportunity to develop both wisdom and compassion
simultaneously." - current version of on 12/08/2010
at 3:54pm
7. ^ Sarat Chandra Das, Graham Sandberg & Augustus
William Heyde (1902). Tibetan-English Dictionary
with Sanskrit Synonyms. Calcutta, India: Bengal
Secretariat Book Depot, p.20. Source: [1]
f=false) (accessed: Tuesday February 9, 2010)
8. ^ Edou, Jrme (1996). Machig Labdrn and the








Foundations of Chd (

/books?id=AQULAAAAYAAJ&) . Snow Lion
Publications. ISBN 978-1-55939-039-2.
/books?id=AQULAAAAYAAJ&., p.61
^ Eliade, Mircea (1989), "Histoire des croyances et
des ides religieuses" Tome 3, 316, Ed. Payot.
ISBN 28881600
^ Jigme Lingpa (revealed; undated); Liljenberg,
Karen (translator; 2006)The Longchen Nyingthig
Chd Practice "The Loud Laugh of the Dakini"
^ A Buddhist Guide to the Power Places of the
Kathmandu Valley (
^ Tantric Symbols (
^ Sanskrit: ahiamudr; Tibetan: rus pa'i rgyan
phyag rgya
^ Kongtrul, Jamgn (author); (English translators:
Guarisco, Elio; McLeod, Ingrid) (2005). The Treasury
of Knowledge: Book Six, Part Four: Systems of
Buddhist antra, The Indestructible Way of Secret
Mantra. Bolder, Colorado, USA: Snow Lion
Publications. ISBN 1-55939-210-X p.493
^ Kongtrul Lodr Ta, Disclosing the Secret of the
Invincible Vajra: Phrase by Phrase Commentary on
the Hevajra Tantra Two Examinations. Rumtex,
Sikkim: Dharma Chakra Centre, 1981.
'^ Tib: khor lo
^ Tib: gtsug gi nor bu
^ dara-jna
^ Tib: rna cha
^ Skt: pratyavekaa-jna
^ Tib: mgul rgyan
^ samat-jna
^ Tib: lag gdu
^ Tib: gdu bu
^ tathat-jna
^ Tib: ske rags
^ Sansrit: kty-anuhna-jna
^ Tib: thal chen: Kongtrul, Jamgn (author); (English
translators: Guarisco, Elio; McLeod, Ingrid) (2005).
The Treasury of Knowledge: Book Six, Part Four:
Systems of Buddhist Tantra, The Indestructibe Way of
Secret Mantra Bolder, Colorado, USA: Snow Lion
Publications. ISBN 1-55939-210-X p.493
^ Beyer, Stephen (1973). The Cult of Tara. University
of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03635-2 p.47
^ Thrangu, Khenchen & Klonk, Christoph (translator)
& Hollmann, Gaby (editor and annotator)(2006).
Chod The Introduction & A Few Practices

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( .
(accessed: November 2, 2007)
^ Tib: zhi byed
^ namthar
^ kuten
^ a b Thrangu, Khenchen & Klonk, Christoph
(translator) & Hollmann, Gaby (editor and annotator)
(2006). Chod The Introduction & A Few Practices.
Source: [2] (
/chod.htm) (accessed: November 2, 2007)
^ Tantric Glossary (
^ 1996: 7
^ Edou, Jrme (1996). Machig Labdrn and the
Foundations of Chd (
/books?id=AQULAAAAYAAJ&) . Snow Lion
Publications. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-55939-039-2.
^ 1995: p.15
^ Schaeffer, Kurtis R. (1995). The Englightened
Heart of Buddhahood: A Study and Translation of the
Third Karma pa Rang byung rdo rje's Work on
Tathagatagarbha. (Wylie: de bzhin pa'i snying po





gtan la dbab pa). University of Washington. Source:

[3] (
/The-Enlightened-Heart-of-Buddhahood) (accessed:
Friday February 12, 2010), p.15.
^ Skt: antma
^ Harding, Sarah (2003). "Preface". Machik's
Complete Explanation Clarifing the Meaning of
Chod. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-182-0.
^ Thrangu, Khenchen & Klonk, Christoph (translator)
& Hollmann, Gaby (editor and annotator)(2006).
Chod The Introduction & A Few Practices
( .
(accessed: September 28, 2008)
^ Jigme Lingpa (revealed; undated); Liljenberg,
Karen (translator; 2006). The Longchen Nyingthig
Chd Practice: "The Loud Laugh of the Dakini"
( . (accessed:
September 28, 2008)
^ Skt: sambhogakaya
^ Tantric Glossary:Chd (
/tantric_glossary.htm) (September 29, 2008)
^ Allione, Tsultrim (2008). Feeding Your Demons:
Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict. Little
Brown and Company. p. 262.
ISBN 978-0-316-01313-0.

Primary Sources
Machik Labdron: Machik's Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chod (Tsadra Foundation),
Snow Lion Publications (June 25, 2003), ISBN 1-55939-182-0 (10), ISBN 978-1-55939-182-5 (13),
Translation by Sarah Harding (Review by Michelle Sorensen (
/showrev.php?id=12208) )

Secondary Sources
Allione, Tsultrim (1984/2000). "The Biography of Machig Labdron (1055-1145)." in Women of Wisdom.
Pp. 165220. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-141-3
Allione, Tsultrim (1998). "Feeding the Demons." in Buddhism in America. Brian D. Hotchkiss, ed.
Pp. 344363. Rutland, VT; Boston, MA; Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc.
Benard, Elisabeth Anne (1990). "Ma Chig Lab Dron. Chos Yang 3:43-51.
Beyer, Stephen (1973). The Cult of Tara. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03635-2
Edou, Jrme (1996). Machig Labdrn and the Foundations of Chd (
/books?id=AQULAAAAYAAJ&) . Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 978-1-55939-039-2.
Harding, Sarah (2003). Machik's Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chd. Snow Lion
Publications. ISBN 1-55939-182-0
Kollmar-Paulenz, Karenina (1998). Ma gcig Lab sgrn maThe Life of a Tibetan Woman Mystic
between Adaptation and Rebellion. The Tibet Journal 23(2):11-32.

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Orofino, Giacomella (2000). The Great Wisdom Mother and the Gcod Tradition. in Tantra in Practice.
David Gordon White, ed. Pp. 396416. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Stott, David (1989). Offering the Body: the Practice of gCod in Tibetan Buddhism. Religion
Lawrence, Leslie L. (2002) "Csd" ISBN 963-8229-76-4

Ganden Chkhor, Chd and Meditation Center [4] (

The Longchen Nyingthig Chd Practice: "The Loud Laugh of the Dakini" (
Extract: Machik's Complete Explanation, Clariyfing the Meaning of Chod (
Review: Machik's Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chod: A Complete Explanation of
Casting Out the Body as Food (
Ch/Chd - Lineages associated with Machig Labdrn (
Chod The Introduction & A Few Practices (
His Eminence Khentin Tai Situ Rinpoche: An Introduction to Chod (
Chd: An Advanced Type of Shamanism (
School of Tibetan Healing Ch (
Everyday Chd (
The Merit of Practice in a Cemetery (
Kapala Training (
Lochen Chnyi Zangmo, Chod practitioner (
A Partial Genealogy of the Lifestory of Yesh Tsogyel (
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