Confess all your hidden faults.
Approach that which you find repulsive.
Whoever you think you cannot help – help them.
Anything you are attached to let it go.
Go to places like cemeteries that scare you.
Sentient beings are limitless as the sky.
Be aware. Find the Buddha inside yourself.
The practice of Chöd, literally cutting through, offers a method used by all schools of Tibetan Buddhism to cut through the entangled web of ego-clinging, which binds us to an endless round of suffering. It is unique in the annals of Buddhist history, in that it is the only practice accepted into the Buddhist tradition, which originated in Tibet and only later spread to India. (from Ani Rinchen Palmo’s translation of Jamgon Kongtrul’s “Grove of Delights” and chapter four of Machig’s Explanations. The name of the translation is, “Cutting Through Ego Clinging”).
The practice of Chöd is associated with Machig Labdrön who is Tibet’s most renowned female saint, teacher and yogini whose life spanned a 90 year period from the mid 11th-mid 12th centuries. During this time when Buddhism was flourishing in Tibet, Machig developed a set of practices known as the Mahamudra Chöd which takes the teachings of the Buddha and applies them to the negative mind states of fear, hatred and confusion in a practical and direct way. Machig’s unique approach provides us with a path to invoke our inner demons and through embracing and nurturing them, achieve transformation. The essential instructions (the verses above) she received from her teacher, Padampa Sangye, became the foundation of the Chöd lineage that she initiated.
The practice of Chöd brings together the essence of the entire teachings of the Prajnaparamita scriptures that Shakyamuni Buddha presented when he turned the Wheel of Dharma (a second body of teachings that focus on the empty nature of phenomena) a second time in Rajgriha, India. Prajnaparamita, (shes-rab-kyi-pha-rol-tu-phyin-pa in Tibetan), means: “Reaching the other shore through the perfection of wisdom.” It describes the insight of going beyond the limitations of confused dualistic concepts that give rise to disturbing emotions and the turmoil of the human condition. Prajnaparamita embraces the entirety of the Mahayana teachings and the heart of the Buddha’s realization. The Prajnaparamita scriptures were later compiled (between approximately 100 B.C. and 600 B.C.E.) and include extended and abbreviated versions, the most condensed and renowned being the Heart Sutra.
Prajnaparamita painted by Tara DiGesu
Further readings and teachings:
Into the Haunted Ground: A Guide to Cutting Through the Root of Suffering by Anam Thubten
Machik’s Complete Explanation – Clarifying the Meaning of Chöd. Expanded edition; Translated and Introduced by Sarah Harding, Snow Lion 2013
A short video teaching by Pema Chodron on the 5 slogans of Machik Labdron – https://youtu.be/LcKPdkmVgTw
Light Comes Through, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Shambhala Publications 2008 (chapter 14. The Haunted Dominion of the Mind: Shaken from Within)