Chod Accoutrements

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Chod Accoutrements

Postby Jikan » Wed Oct 23, 2013 2:19 pm

Someone once expressed to me a feeling of inadequacy or frustration with the degree of difficulty in acquiring just the right kind of apparatuses & ornaments for the practice of chod. It's not hard to see how such feelings may arise. Take for instance these instructions on the construction of the chopen of the chod drum, this being merely one part of one of the main tools for chod practice--in addition to the five-colored fabric panels, one is expected also to include:

1. Mirror or melong.
2. Yerka or small jingle bells.
3. Tiger and leopard skins strips.
4. Semiprecious gems: turquoise, amber and dzi bead.
5. Human hair (which you will have to acquire yourself!).


quoted from here: http://www.damaruworks.com/accessories/chopen-2/ (and yes as a mod here I'm aware of the controversy surrounding this author)

My friend's comment caught me flat-footed. I wanted to encourage her in practice but I had no idea how to do so, except to speculate that it may be possible to visualize some of these elements until she could find them, or make provisional, temporary substitutions, eg faux fur in lieu of tiger fur (even if a muppet has to die)

So here's the question. How ought I to have encouraged my friend? How would you respond to such a concern?
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Re: Chod Accoutrements

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Oct 23, 2013 2:29 pm

A quick lesson on the emptiness of phenomena would be my advice. If they don't "get" that then either:
a)they shouldn't be practicing chod, or b)they REALLY need to practice chod .
(given it is a practice based on the Prajnaparmita teachings).
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Chod Accoutrements

Postby Glyn » Wed Oct 23, 2013 2:40 pm

This is all classic stuff that one should get from ones Lama. The website in the OP, and several similar ones are run for profit and are selling things at hugely inflated prices. The standard drums, as well as the human remains things, kanglings and skull cups, are not sources in Bhutan, but in Nepal. The drums are also mostly standard tourist quality made by a guy called Pema, not by any sort of specialist.

Seeing the abuse of practitioners, I am often tempted to set up a non-for profit Dharma supplies company. It would help me unload some of the stuff I am given as well.
"It's not ok to practice Dharma sometimes, just when you feel like it. You have to practice all the time" - Lama Rigzin Rinpoche.
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Re: Chod Accoutrements

Postby Kunga » Wed Oct 23, 2013 3:40 pm

Glyn wrote:This is all classic stuff that one should get from ones Lama. The website in the OP, and several similar ones are run for profit and are selling things at hugely inflated prices. The standard drums, as well as the human remains things, kanglings and skull cups, are not sources in Bhutan, but in Nepal. The drums are also mostly standard tourist quality made by a guy called Pema, not by any sort of specialist.

Seeing the abuse of practitioners, I am often tempted to set up a non-for profit Dharma supplies company. It would help me unload some of the stuff I am given as well.


I thought this stuff was from Bhutan?
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Re: Chod Accoutrements

Postby Knotty Veneer » Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:30 pm

I do Chod in Machig's tradition as passed down in the Karma Kamstang lineage. And all I need is a bell, a drum (which came with a tail and some conch shells) and a kangling. Things may be different in the terma tradition but I doubt it.

You got to remember that the Damaruworks folks are trying to sell you stuff. They obviously big up the quality and quantity of stuff you need. Chod is supposed to be the tradition of wondering beggars - you do not need all the stuff this site says you do.

I'd say get the best drum, bell and kangling you can realistically afford. They are all only supports. I've done the practice without a drum (so as not to annoy the neighbours) and I am told you can even blow thru your cupped hand if you do not have a kangling.
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Re: Chod Accoutrements

Postby Adamantine » Wed Oct 23, 2013 5:25 pm

Most Chod drums come with the conch part at the handle, and an embroidered tail. All you really need is this to start your practice. Ideally, make sure the drum has the mantra painted in the inside. Ideally the mantra according to the lineage you are practicing. Then get it blessed by your Lama (most essential ingredient is a qualified Lama you are studying under). A bell and dorje are essential as well. Get the quality you can afford. It may be extremely difficult, or expensive to find a kangling.. it is not essential to have one to begin your practice.

The auspicious accoutrements to add to the drum additionally may differ according to lineage. It may be ideal, but not necessary!
In the Dudjom lineage, it is not important to have a melong or bells on the drum,- it is preferred if one can have tiger skin sure, but only a symbolic amount and be careful how you procure it and how it was sourced.
The three hairs are not ordinary, they are a hair of a dakini, the hair of a demoness, and the hair of a very powerful woman. Most of us are not going to be able to find these, unless they are given to us... so we must wait for auspicious circumstances based on our merit (fruit of the practice) to ripen and so of course we shouldn't wait for all this to start practicing! First we should just learn to coordinate our drum and bell, learn the melodies, perfect the motivation and visualization... then wait for practice to bear some fruit after intensive accumulation-- then maybe we can think of wandering in terrifying places according to the Guru's instruction and THEN maybe we should be a little more interested in perfecting our Chod drum accoutrements. But why worry about it now? Just do the practice!
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Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
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Re: Chod Accoutrements

Postby Adamantine » Wed Oct 23, 2013 5:28 pm

And yes, as Knotty said you can do the practice with just the melody and no instruments.. eventually one should aspire to use all the instruments but sometimes it is easier to dive in with just the vocal melody and visualization-- of course ONLY do as your Guru asks you, this is just according to what I have heard.
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Re: Chod Accoutrements

Postby Tsultrim T. » Wed Oct 23, 2013 9:58 pm

As was already mentioned the only things really essential to start practicing Chod are the drum, bell and dorge. Even that is not absolutely needed since, as I was advised, one should learn the melodies without instruments first, focusing on memorizing the text and perfecting the visualizations. Then learning the coordination needed to play the drum and bell along with the practice can come later. If a suitable kangling is available of course it would be great but not really needed until one's practice has deepened. Also the quality of the drum and instruments do not need to be the "best possible" as one might think, rather it is more important that they are correct for the lineage. For example when I first started learning I bought a beautiful red sandal wood drum with a solid silver band and coral and turquoise inserts. My Guru's khandro scolded me, saying that Chod is a practice of renunciation and offering and that the instruments should not be constructed of such expensive materials (this would include silver adorned kanglings as well) as it might actually intimidate some of the beings we are calling to partake in the offering. I ended up offering the drum to my Guru and replacing it with an unadorned sengdeng one instead. As others have mentioned it is more important that the mantras inside the drum and the accessories be correct for the lineage that one is practicing in.
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Re: Chod Accoutrements

Postby Karma Jinpa » Thu Oct 24, 2013 1:02 am

I've struggled with this same issue, as some of you well know. On the one hand you have cheap tourist versions more suited for display on the wall in some Orientalist's house than ritual practice. On the other you have charlatans charging exorbitant prices for the genuine article, which you still can't be sure of in all honesty.

Best bet is to deal with the instrument maker personally. I accompanied a friend when she did this in Dharamshala, and can ask her about who her source was. Obviously this is much easier to do in Tibetan communities overseas, but it should still be possible where there is a strong exile community (Charlottesville, VA comes to mind).

Alternatively, your friend could always ask if there are any Kusali Chöd practices within her lineage. Kusali, as I understand it at least, is practice done without any instruments and is all visualization.

Karma Chagme talks about such pithy practices in his Mountain Dharma. In the version published by KTD with Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche's commentary, it's found in volume 2. I also believe that the Namchö Kusali done in Palyul is sans accoutrements. Willing to bet that there are Kusali done in all schools, if not all lineages. As mentioned previously, Chöd was often done by wandering practitioners.

phantom59 wrote:The word kusali means “beggar”. Hermits and renunciates who lack any other possessions make offerings of their own bodies.

http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=571


If she's set on getting the ritual instruments, or was told to get them by her lama, there are a few options that don't cost an arm and a leg (all pun intended!)

The most reasonably priced kangling I've seen online is the copper one sold by DharmaStuff.com, which was created by Drikung Ontul Rinpoche to help meet the needs of his students. Have to imagine that they were encountering the same issues. Also, the proceeds go towards the creation of a Jowo in Boston, so it's helping fund a good cause, not lining someone's greedy pockets and jeopardizing samaya.

Image

http://dharmastuff.com/shop/article_TDCC/Kangling-(thigh-bone-trumpet).html?sessid=YWxBPdkiUPEKCZkrnOsk0NL5gTB8jEMqm1zYqqFjwYsrXzgn2tp6ukkrlivW8NHZ&shop_param=cid%3D3%26aid%3DTDCC%26
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Re: Chod Accoutrements

Postby ClearblueSky » Thu Oct 24, 2013 8:29 am

As far as answering about those specific 5:
1. Mirror or melong. (can get online for under $10)
2. Yerka or small jingle bells. (can get online or a bead store for less than $1 each)
3. Tiger and leopard skins strips. (go online or to a fabric store and get fake if you'd like. Gotta be careful with any sort of real animal product in general, and something real like that is basically guaranteed from a poacher and immoral now).
4. Semiprecious gems: turquoise, amber and dzi bead. (online or bead store again. Shouldn't be too expensive for small ones)
5. Human hair (which you will have to acquire yourself!). (As with any product from a living animal, absolutely ask your Lama on this one. You're better with none, than one that is not proper).

Most important is your mind. If you can read the sadhana and do the visualizations, there is still benefit. A very plain drum and bell and dorje are fine. You can look into wood kangling's as well, I think it may be a bit cheaper. I even remember hearing something about literally blowing through your own hand as a kangling but can't remember the details, maybe someone else knows.
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Re: Chod Accoutrements

Postby Adamantine » Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:08 am

ClearblueSky wrote:As far as answering about those specific 5:
1. Mirror or melong. (can get online for under $10)
2. Yerka or small jingle bells. (can get online or a bead store for less than $1 each)
3. Tiger and leopard skins strips. (go online or to a fabric store and get fake if you'd like. Gotta be careful with any sort of real animal product in general, and something real like that is basically guaranteed from a poacher and immoral now).
4. Semiprecious gems: turquoise, amber and dzi bead. (online or bead store again. Shouldn't be too expensive for small ones)
5. Human hair (which you will have to acquire yourself!). (As with any product from a living animal, absolutely ask your Lama on this one. You're better with none, than one that is not proper).

Most important is your mind. If you can read the sadhana and do the visualizations, there is still benefit. A very plain drum and bell and dorje are fine. You can look into wood kangling's as well, I think it may be a bit cheaper. I even remember hearing something about literally blowing through your own hand as a kangling but can't remember the details, maybe someone else knows.


4. an authentic Dzi bead will cost you many thousands of dollars.
5. As I mentioned earlier this is not just anyone's hair that is required.

Overall: what is the textual source for this particular list?
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Re: Chod Accoutrements

Postby Dharmaswede » Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:43 am

I would say you work with what you got. It is not difficult to find photos of great practitioners that use simple implements and without the full gear. Which is of course not an excuse to exert yourself in getting the best you can. And paying attention to specific instruction from the teacher and the particular lineage.

But that's just my one cent.

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Re: Chod Accoutrements

Postby Jikan » Thu Oct 24, 2013 12:32 pm

Adamantine wrote:
Overall: what is the textual source for this particular list?


That's a good question--I think the author of the website linked above is best positioned to address that.

I gave that list as a general example of the kind of thing my friend was feeling tight about... details altered somewhat to protect the innocent, &c.

Thank you everyone for the detailed and helpful responses.
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