The secret conduct of chod practice is called "thulshuk" or uncontrived conduct. This means fearlessness and abstinence from expectation and disappointment, even the hope for enlightenment and realization of identitylessness; also, the fear of falling into lower samsaric realms. When "thulsuk" is perfected, the practioner is known as a thoroughly pure practioner of secret chod.
These benefits fall into three categories: temporal, intermediate and ultimate. The first temporal benefit is called "shijay" meaning to pacify, particularly to pacify the suffering of beings in the three worldly planes who have taken birth in a physical body that is not strong and healthy, a body that is afflicted with illness or incomplete faculties. Through chod pratice, the yogi is able to transform a non-conducive condition into the path which ultimately leads to liberation very quickly and actually the yogi uses the power of negative karma to overcome habitual instincts and realize dharmata. This is called "using an adverse condition to be set free."
Another temporary benefit of chod practice is accumulating merit. Chod is a powerful means of accumulating merit because one is practicing the generosity of offering one's body. This practice is popular among beggars or retreatants who have given up everything and live isolated in the mountains. They have nothing concrete to offer, no possession at all, except for their body. So they invite the lamas, meditational deities, dakinis, dharma protectors and lesser gods and spirits to come and partake of their body. In this manner, they accumulate tremendous merit.
While practicing chod, from the external point of view, gods and demons will appear; from the inner point of view, these gods and demons are simply one's own conceptual proliferations that are out of control. Through realizing identitylessness, both the external and internal problems cannot harm the practioner and the practioner feels comfortable. Ultimately, the practioner establishes himself (herself) in the state of the primordial mother, Prajnaparamita.
During chod practice, we should integrate the sutra chod, which is transcendental wisdom with the essence of the profound path of mantra. This can be expressed in a threefold manner: external, inner and secret practice.
The external practice of chod is to go to a qualified lama and receive the complete instructions on how to do every aspect of the practice. Then one abandons all worldly concerns, particularly, the eight worldly dharmas. One goes off to frightening and dangerous places such as burial or charnal grounds and to terrifying places where most people would not go. In Tibet, there were a hundred such places on the route the chod practioners would travel. They would spend some time in each one and then move to the next. At each place there were lots of spirit. These places are the exact type of place where external chod should be practiced because when one goes to these types of places, one calls out to the gods and spirits and asks them to create magical displays and deceptions so that the practioner can apply the view of chod.
If you are a practioner of a high view, there will be many gods and spirits who surround you and you will have an opportunity to perform the various chod visualizations and test how strong your view really is while you are having the frightening experiences of all these spirits and demons. This practice is maintained while going from place to place and if everything is going well, the demons and spirits will follow you all day and night and you will have an opportunity to constantly apply the view. In order to get pass any overwhelming fear, one shouts "phat!" very loudly and other sounds to bring oneself back to the view of realizing that the frightening display arises only from the mind, i.e. the gods and spirits which seem very real are only the display of one's mind and nothing else. Under these most trying circumstances, one can test the realization that external appearances arise only from the mind; the normal reaction is suppressed through employing the splendor of the view. This is what the chod practioner must accomplish so that gradually, as the view deepens, the gods or spirits cannot be harmful. This is the external practice of chod.
The internal practice is to simply relax in a natural state and remain in the view while all mental phenomena, such as displays and visions, are occurring. A chod practioner would probably spend their entire life in cemeteries and uncertain places; he (she) would not return to the household and live comfortably, but for the most part, would spend their life in retreat. Westerners probably will not have an opportunity to do this. Therefore, as chod practioners who are also householders, we must try to reduce, little by little, our attachment to our household and the world. We can try to eliminate attachment to our situation while remaining in our situation, without leaving it. When we are in retreat, the more we meditate on identitylessness by doing chod and the more we actualize the awareness of the view through practice, the more we will be able to easily give up our body.
In fact, there are four sessions that are preformed daily for giving up the body and there are four different ways of doing this according to visualizations which are very profound for developing the realization of identitylessness. The first is the white feast which is the offering of one's body through a specific meditation in the early morning dawn. The second is the mixed feast which is the offering of the body to the guests at noon time. The red feast is offered in the evening and the black feast if offered after 9pm. There are different visualizations for these four feasts according to different traditions such as Chagdud Rinpochay, Dudgom Rinpochay, Nyingtik and so on. The main point is always the same: one visualizes oneself as the Black Yogini, Troma Nakmo and then ejects one's consciousness from the body with the sound of phat and then transforms the corpse into different offerings for the feast. If you understand the basic view, you can understand all the various practices.
Practicing the four feasts throughout the day is a means of accumulating tremendous merit. The main reason is that since there is nothing in the world that we are more attached to than our body, then it stands to reason that offering the body is a powerful source of merit. From the time we were born until now, most of our efforts have been directed to the sustenance and nourishment of our body and so we cherish it very deeply. We feed it the best foods we can find, we care for it, we want it to be healthy, we adorn it with clothes and all the things that we spend time and effort to make. Therefore, the body is more precious to us than any other precious possession. Offering a material object such as an elephant, horse or mountain is a source of merit; offering one's son or wife is a hundred times greater because they are more dear to us; offering one's own body is a thousand times greater because there is nothing more precious to us than our body. The great bodhisattvas of the past who realized emptiness were even able to physically give part of their body to beings who were suffering or were in need. This is only because they had truly realized identitylessness. Without this realization, it is absolutely inappropriate to give any part of one's body because as soon as you try to offer your body, you will start to feel pain or illness and immediately develop regret. The moment you regret the deed, the merit will be lost. This is why one visualizes offering one's body - it has the same benefit with no regret and so the chod practice is based only on visualization, mental activity - there is no physical offering of the body. In fact, it's all considered to be artificial, if you have a lot of material possessions and never express generosity and then just visualize that you're giving the body - this is considered hypocritical, because offering the body is also meant to be done because one has nothing else to give. And so the main point is eliminating grasping or cherishing the body and the self.
We offer the body to the objects of refuge, lamas, meditational deities, dakinis and protectors. We also imagine that it is offered to the gods and spirits and to many other beings to whom we owe karmic debts. So we actually invite all these beings to whom we still owe something to come and take whatever they want. However, we are mainly offering to the Three Jewels and thereby accumulating merit and purifying obscurations.
In the inner chod practice, one transforms the body into anything which is excellent or edible and invites the guests to partake of the feast in any way they wish. If you are uncertain about this and you are not really imagining that they are devouring the feast, then you are just playing a game with the gods and spirits whom you have invited. In order to practice you must have great compassion for all beings, our previous mothers and just let them take what they want in any way that they want. At first, it won't be like this; we won't be able to actually give up the body so easily, but by meditating again and again, slowly we will be able, in the actual presence of gods and spirits, to give up our body easily and certainly. When this happens, the mind is purified of obscuration and merit is accumulated; one has understood the meaning of inner chod, which is the giving up, through generosity, of our attachment to the five aggregates. Absolute chod, or the real meaning of chod, is to understand clearly that all confused perceptions arise from grasping to self. Until we have been able to sever the root of confusion, confusion will persist. For example, gods and spirits are an aspect of confused perception, and so in our chod practice, if we believe that gods and spirits really exist, then we will never be able to sever the source of that appearance. This is where many practioners deviate. They may be invited by sponsors or patrons or by a sick person to come into the home and do a pratice to get rid of spirits or illness. These misguided practioners will go and view the demonic force possession or the spirit in the house as an enemy, a truly existing entity, and then with a mind of aggression and even anger towards the entity, they will try to strike it, kill it, eliminate it through exorcism of the external enemy. They will play their damaru very fiercely and blow the thighbone trumpet intensely and say, ""Phat!" and this and that and roll their eyes back. But without having a focus on the source of that phenomenon, they will never kill that enemy or penetrate it because it didn't arise from that. In fact, anger is what created it. It arose from grasping to self; the belief that it's there is what created it. Until the fire is gone, there will be smoke.
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