The Chö Ceremony (Read also the Prepatory
Explanation below if you are planning on attending a Chod event

Healing Chö is an ancient Buddhist ritual known for its power to heal mental and physical sickness, remove karmic obstacles to spiritual growth, and address human suffering. During the multiple-session Healing Chö ceremony, there will be no teachings to listen to, no instructions to follow or techniques to learn. Just bring your favorite pillow, a blanket or mat, lay down and relax. The Chö consists of four musically compelling rituals (with breaks in between) led by Rinpoche and the monks and nuns of Zangdokpalri. The sacred sound and mantra initiate favorable conditions necessary to pacify the causes of discord and illness. With roots in the teachings of the Prajnaparamita Buddhist Sutra, Rinpoche's Chöd is identical in essence to the teachings of Machik Lapdron, an eleventh-century female Buddhist master in Tibet .

With the support of the Dalai Lama, these Healing Chö events are being offered in the West for our benefit and to raise money for a monastery-building project in one of the poorest parts of India, Arunachal Pradesh (click here for map), where no spiritual, educational, or artistic services currently exist. Please plan to arrive 15 minutes earlier than the scheduled starting time of the first session for these events. You may want to read Machig Labdron and the Foundations of Chod by Jerone Edou, and continue to read the brief articles below.

A Preparatory Explanation of Receiving the Healing Cho
Transcribed from an Introductory Talk by Moke Mokotoff (President of Zangdokpalri Foundation) during the 2008 U.S. Tour

For the last eight years, the Zandokpalri Foundation for Great Compassion has brought Rinpoche Dungse Rigdzin Dorje, along with a group of monks and nuns for tours in the Healing Cho ceremony.  We are a very small nonprofit organized for this purpose, with no paid staff or offices or other overhead. Over 97% of the funds we receive have gone back to establish a visionary temple in the Himalayas and to support the activities of the nuns and monks there .  Rinpoche’s father, Kunzang Dechen Lingpa, actually accessed the ceremony you are going to experience in his dreams, directly from the Buddhas, specifically Guru Rinpoche. Until his death in 2006, amidst rainbows and other auspicious signs, he led the monks and nuns in offering this ceremony in the West as well as his native Himalayas .  His son is now continuing the tradition and carrying forth the vision of his father (like "water poured into water").

In another dream Kunzang Dechen Lingpa was given instructions to build this very specific temple. In his dream he saw all its architectural elements and the place where it should be. Every detail of the temple was shown to him in a dream. It is nearly done and this year we hope to raise the final funds to complete the temple, realizing this vision (see the photo galleries for latest images).

Most of you probably haven’t done this ceremony before. More than 4,000 people over the last eight years have experienced it and hundreds of those people do it again and again. The good news is that there really is nothing to know and it really doesn’t matter if you understand it or not. Simply put, you are just going to lie down and rest while Rinpoche and the monks and nuns conduct this musical ceremony. The vast majority of people fall asleep at some point or the other and it is very restful. There is really nothing to know. You are just going to lie down. While it is preferable for women to lie on their left side and men on their right side, the most important thing is that you are comfortable. If lying on the preferred side is not comfortable, please lay in any way you wish. If you cannot lie down; please sit. Those are the simple instructions.

In the Himalayas , people come in and they don’t ask any questions; they just lay down, fall asleep and they get a healing from the ritual. Here in the west we want a more ratiocinated approach, and possibly we even wish to participate in this meditation as the monks and nuns are.

The monks and nuns are actually visualizing a very complicated process during the ceremony. That process in its most basic form is this: Cho means “cut” or at least that is how it gets translated. Actually it means release. Rather than a sense of destroying or breaking something that exists, it implies a release of something that is an illusion into something that is vast and open without any duality; so one is in a natural state. The translation says that what is being cut is the ego.

The ego in western culture is a very complex abstract concept. The Tibetan word they are actually using is "grasping", grasping at self.  Think about this grasping as a pivot in which all this duality occurs; you like something or you don’t like something, you think this is good, this feels bad; or I like them; I don’t like them; all this is pivoting on this self-grasping inclination. What we are going to try to do during the ceremony is just release this grasp. We’re not cutting anything, it is not something violent or extreme but when these thoughts come up and we grasp them, we are dragged by them, they never really end. We are always following our thoughts as if we own them.  24/7 we are following our thoughts and when we look back we never really got anywhere Thoughts will come up, you can’t stop your thoughts but you can chose to not follow them. You have the right to choose to follow your thoughts and in this case you are just going to let them go.

Think of your mind as the sky and any thoughts that arise are clouds. They appear, but after a while they dissipate. If you don’t follow them when you look later on they are not there. So, during the ceremony, try to rest in the sky-like quality of your mind. Normally we are holding to the focused part. Let’s just try to rest in the open part during this brief ceremony and just give up everything that arises and that will be the so called “cutting” or the release.

Some of you here have been meditating for years, and if you wish, you can practice a more advanced form of meditation, although it is not necessary to do this. Rinpoche is practicing it – his father put him in retreat in a graveyard, in a cemetery in India when he was a young teenager and for years Rinpoche practiced this ceremony again and again, in which he purified his own grasping and the problems that arise from it. The monks and nuns also have been extensively trained, have done the retreats, and conduct in this particular practice in their monastery in India on a daily basis.

The advanced practice is this: We reverse the normal selfish process of wanting things for ourselves. Instead, we visualize our enemies, or people with whom we are having difficulties. It could be a political concept, it could be a relative or whatever ticks you off. Then, rather than feeling aversion, give to this entity or person anything that you normally want for yourself, anything that you normally don’t give. This practice is called Tonglen, or giving and taking which is the basis of the Mahayana technique of ultimate generosity.

But again, the easiest thing to do is just rest - take a nap! Let Rinpoche and the monks and nuns perform their healing ceremony for you. In a sense, Rinpoche is able to meditate for you, to clear away a lot of karmic stuff.

They say that the mind rides the breath. You’ll notice that there are beautiful rhythmic tunes and if you want, you can practice a kind of breathing yoga which is to let your mind ride these tunes by breathing along with them which will probably lead you to a deep sleep.

In 8 years, visiting over 35-45 U.S. cities each year, no participant has ever complained. Some people have even let us know that serious health issues have been resolved; all felt very much at ease by the end of the final session. Again, the only requirement is that if you are a woman try to lay on your left side and a man, try to lay on your right. This will balance your elements, but is not mandatory.  If you are wearing any protection cord or talisman, take that off during the ceremony. And please, if you are not comfortable, move into a position where you feel relaxed. So, let's begin.


Not Just Any Nap: Healing Ceremony Comes to Bridgehampton
By Raphael Odell Shapiro

In a world as stricken with hardships and misfortune as ours is today, and in a society as jaded and cynical as ours, a little compassion can go a long way. And a lot of compassion can go an even longer way. It can cross oceans and continents and cultural barriers. This weekend it will find itself in Bridgehampton.

Our culture is one to make fads of religions. Who can forget the now dwindled Kabbalah craze? And celebrities spearheading Scientology still make headlines. But Buddhism has carved a niche for itself in Western society. As its popularity has continued to grow and its universal messages spread, Buddhism has proven to be much more than a fad for the usually fickle Westerners.

Its widespread acceptance in our country can be seen in the success of the Zangdokpalri Foundation for Great Compassion's Healing Chod tours. A Healing Chod is a Tibetan ceremony intended to alleviate stress and maladies from those who attend. One such ceremony will be held over the course of two days, beginning this Friday, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork Meeting House in Bridgehampton.

"It's like psychological vitamins," said Moke Mokotoff, who has been president and head usher for the non-profit organization for the past seven years. It was Mokotoff who in 2001 first brought over the Lama Kunzang Dechen Lingpa Rinpoche from India . He lived in the northeastern region of Assam , where he had fled in exile just four years before the Chinese occupation of Tibet . The Lama requested that the organization should be founded, as a way to raise money for his Zangdokpalri Temple still under construction in Assam . Mokotoff, a practicing Buddhist for 39 years, assures that the Healing Chod ceremony is beyond religion.

"It's completely secular and generic," he said. "And it's open to anyone. In fact, most of the audience isn't Buddhist." Mokotoff explained that the ceremony was specially designed by Rinpoche to be performed only by the monks and nuns. For those participating, no prior knowledge is required. "That's what's so groovy, it's completely pluralistic," Mokotoff said. He continued with a laugh, "You basically come in and take a nap."

It was designed to be like a hospital for those who wish to be healed. According to Mokotoff most who follow the tour and repeat the experience aren't physically sick, but are just people who have normal, everyday stress and anxiety. "A lot of us just haven't felt that relaxed, open feeling before."

"The ceremonies have been very helpful for me," said Marybeth Armstrong. Armstrong, a Sag Harbor acupuncturist and one of the coordinators of the Bridgehampton event, has been studying Buddhism for the past 15 years. She has been involved with the Zangdokpalri Foundation since its inception in 2002. Armstrong first felt the power of Rinpoche's teachings at a healing ceremony he held in Central Park in 2001 for those who were suffering in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Armstrong explained how the ceremonies are run. Members of the audience lie down while keeping in mind the "obstacles" they wish to be removed from their karma. Some may write these obstacles down. There are also methods of healing for those who cannot attend the Chod ceremony. Then the healing begins. The ceremony is comprised of four "feasts," as they are called, with breaks in between. The monks and nuns from the Zangdokpalri Temple sing and chant, allowing the millennium old music to waft over the attendees and purge them of whatever ails them. "Chod," in fact, literally means "cutting through." The organization stresses that the ceremony is not a kind of exorcism, something to remove malcontented karmic demons, but is rather something that can soothe and placate them.

Armstrong added, "And the melodies are really very beautiful."

The Zangdokpalri Temple is the residence of 170 other monks and nuns. It is also the only equipped medical center in the isolated and impoverished area. Lama Kunzang Rinpoche was a Master of Dzogchen in the Ancient School of Tibetan Buddhism, who studied with the greatest Lamas of the twentieth century. There were many prophecies made regarding his birth, and he later became recognized as a true living Buddha, a fully realized and enlightened being. Towards the end of his life he designated that the new monastery should be built for a new generation of monks and nuns. He hoped to protect and let flourish the secret oral tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism, which he described as "like a small butter lamp in a strong wind."

Kunzang Dechen Lingpa Rinpoche passed away in 2006. However his son and spiritual heir, Dungse Rigdzin Dorje Rinpoche, has continued the tours to great acclaim. The younger Rinpoche, now 44 years old, has also accepted the responsibility of the education and welfare of the 170 monks and nuns at Zangdokpalri.

All of the proceeds from the Healing Chod ceremonies go towards the construction of the monastery and sponsorship of the monks and nuns in residence. Donations can also be made on the foundation's website, www.totalgoodness.org, and those interested can purchase professional quality CDs of the healing chants.

Additional background:

The Tradition of Chö
Chö is a unique spiritual practice and a path to complete enlightenment. It can also be used as an extremely effective method for healing others in body, mind and spirit. The chief way it does this is by clearing the karmic obstacles and blockages arising from our negative interaction with others in countless past lives. Harming others through physical, verbal or emotional aggression results in a karmic seed, which ultimately ripens in various sufferings of body and mind. These sufferings are particularly of the kind that are not readily explained by our immediate actions, attitudes or life context. Rather, they stem from our taking of life, vitality, property, honor, confidence or hope from others. They may also arise from past actions, speech and thoughts, based on greed, attachment, apathy or egotism. Similarly, the limitless ways in which humans disrespect or despoil the material and spiritual forces of nature, the planet, or the elements (fire, water, air, earth) are the basis of numerous difficulties and life obstacles; socially, materially, physically and mentally

Clearing Karma
The way these many debts are repaid in Chö is by offering our most previous and closely guarded possession - our own bodies - to the universe. Our physical form is left behind, and our consciousness takes on a pure, enlightened form, appearing as the wrathful feminine Wisdom Dakini. One’s corpse is then transformed and prepared in a variety of ways so that each and every being receives offerings of exactly what they desire. The highest, enlightened guests are offered beautiful objects, nectar, divine sounds and so on. Humans, animals and other sentient beings receive food, shelter, happiness, a mate, love and whatever they lack or need. In particular, those whom we owe a karmic debt are repaid, and are given back whatever we have taken from them, or whatever eases their suffering. This may even take the form of our flesh, organs and bones, or whatever demonic beings may desire (thus causing our illness). While undergoing Chö ritual one may merely rest and relax, or one may visualize this process of paying back all debts, multiplied a million fold in our mind.

Thus, on one hand, by making exquisite offerings to enlightened spiritual beings, one creates tremendous positive karma that generates health, prosperity, happiness and ultimately enlightenment. On the other hand our negative karma and its consequences, is purified.

Note that Chö is not "exorcism," nor does it simply banish or aggressively attempt to destroy or hurt attacking or injurious entities. On the contrary, demonic or obstructing forces, and all those that have karmic debts with us, are satisfied and placated. They are healed and brought towards the spiritual path, giving up their negativity and rage.

The Chö Cycle
Healing Chö uses the profound power of sacred ritual, sacred sound and mantra, combined with the meditative power of Lamas and Anis trained since early childhood to perform these practices. The thousand-year history of Chö inherently carries extremely potent blessings, as it is connected to numerous lineages of enlightened beings, mahasiddhis, realized yogins and Archetypal Spiritual Beings (or Yidams). Chö particularly calls upon the enlightened Feminine Wisdom Energy, in the form of a Dakini, the Wrathful Black Troma.

While this all brings incredible vitality and veracity to the practice, its greatest strength lies in the leading force behind those rituals - Kunzang Rinpoche, a renowned Master of Dzogchen in the Ancient (Nyingmapa) School of Tibetan Buddhism. His own life reads like a fantastic tale: from the prophecies about his birth to the enlightened visions and experiences of his early childhood, and from his study with the greatest Lamas of the last century to his flight from Tibet, arriving at his recognition as a true living Buddha, a fully realized and enlightened being. those who meet him see a deeply loving and compassionate human being whose openness and wisdom illuminate his simple, straightforward approach.

Excerpted from a paper by Asa Hershoff

email: asianarts108@gmail.com | web: www.totalgoodness.org and www.zangdokpalri.org
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