Chö 3
Chö, the Tibetan word for cutting, can be defined as using difficult experiences to develop your ability to be awake and clear in whatever life throws at you. This series explores Chö’s origins in the Diamond Sutra, its relationship to Taking and Sending, and daily prayers and practices.

Beginning Of Ritual Download

Section by section performance of the daily Chö ritual, utilizing the practices described in the preceding podcast; short Q&A at the end.




Section 1

Let me review here. Doing the ritual and we’re going to be building this up in stages. And some of it we’ll do in English, and some of it I’ll do in Tibetan but I’ll make sure that you are aware of what you are meant to be doing. Mic not on? Sorry. How’s that?

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: What you’re meant to be doing at each stage. We actually start on page 17 here, with the lineage prayer. This is called The Short Vajradhara Prayer in Tibetan the rdo rje ’chang thung ma [pron. dorjé chang tungma], which is the Tibetan for Vajradhara, thung ma.

And it’s arguably the most commonly recited prayer in the Kagyu tradition. It was written by a lama. Ah, and I just about had his name on my mind because I never…you can’t remember his name can you, Dan? No. I think it’s Lama Jampal, or something like that. But it’s homage to the whole Kagyu tradition that comes through Marpa, Milarepa, and Gampopa. And after that it divides out into a lot of different lineages. And it’s very highly regarded because in the four verses which comprise the body of the prayer are all the instructions that are key in the Karma Kagyu or in the Kagyu tradition.

So, let’s read this together.

Great Vajradhara, Tilo, Naro,
Marpa, Mila, Lord Gampopa,
Dusum Chenpa, totally aware Karmapa,
Holders of the four great and eight lesser lineages,

Masters of the profound path of mahamudra,
The Instruction Lineages of Dakpo, the peerless protector of beings,
Trikung, Taklung, Tsalpa and the glorious Drukpa,

I pray to you. Teachers of the Instruction Lineage,
I follow your lineage. Give me the energy for spiritual freedom.

Disgust and disenchantment are the legs of meditation,
So the teachings say.
To this meditator who does not yearn for comfort and wealth
And has severed ties to this life
Give me the energy to stop longing for money or prestige.

Respect and devotion form the head of meditation
So the teachings say.
To this meditator who continuously prays
To the teacher who opens the doors to the treasury of pith instructions
Give me the energy to discover uncontrived respect and devotion

Non-distraction is the substance of meditation
So the teachings say.
To this meditator who lets the essence of any movement
Rest fresh right there, in the moment, not doing anything with it,
Give me the energy for a mind free from working at meditation.

The essence of thought is what is,
So the teachings say.
To this meditator who arises as an unceasing play,
Being nothing at all, but arising as anything,
Give me the energy to know that samsara and nirvana are not separate.


Section 2

Then you form the intention to practice the practice of cutting—or as Sarah Harding chose to translate it as severance, which is kind of neat—with the intention of bringing all the things that cause disturbance in your life to full awakening. That’s what this next verse is about.

All of us beginning with our enemies that provoke anger, impediments that generate harm, conditions that cause interruptions, obsessions with mortality, local disturbances, physical disturbances, and our own parents. In short, all sentient beings whose numbers are as infinite as space will attain the direct understanding of the supreme mother. Consequently I take up the profound practice of the holy ground where obsessions are cut down.

Now, we invite all of these disturbances and literally imagine that they just gather all around you. Everything that just makes a mess out of your life.

All spirits weak and small, don’t be afraid, don’t be frightened.
Don’t be frightened at all.
All sentient beings from the highest planes of existence
down to the depths of the worst hells, listen to me!

Listen to me [Ken blows kangling]
Come here, all of you[Ken blows kangling]
Come here quickly, all of you [Ken blows kangling]

Now, with all of these around, you take refuge. And they’re all taking refuge with you. And we go right through to—and you can put a mark here—to the end of the second stanza on page 20. In addition to taking refuge, we form a number of aspirations and go through what are relatively short forms of formal rituals of devotion and confession and offerings and renewing, deepening the commitment or the engenderment of awakening mind, and so forth. The meaning is quite clear. If there are any questions we can take them up afterwards.

All of us, beginning with our enemies that provoke anger, impediments that generate harm, situations that cause interruptions, obsessions with mortality, local disturbances,physical disturbances, and our own parents. In short, all sentient beings whose number are as infinite as space.

We go for refuge in the teacher
We go for refuge in the buddha
We go for refuge in the dharma
We go for refuge in the sangha

We go for refuge in the teacher
We go for refuge in the buddha
We go for refuge in the dharma
We go for refuge in the sangha

We go for refuge in the teacher
We go for refuge in the buddha
We go for refuge in the dharma
We go for refuge in the sangha

We go for refuge in the glorious teachers of the chö lineage who attained mastery.
We go for refuge in the dakinis of the three levels.
We go for refuge in the buddhas and bodhisattvas who abide in the ten directions.
We go for refuge in the sugatas of the five families.
We go for refuge in the lords of the three families.
We go for refuge in the teacher Vajra Dakini and her retinue.
We go for refuge in the Kagyu teachers and their retinue of dakinis.
We go for refuge in our kind root teachers and their retinue of dakinis.
We go for refuge in mind itself, empty unborn dharmakaya.
We pray for refuge, please take us under your protection.

I and all sentient beings rely on the buddha, we rely on the dharma, we rely on the sangha. May what all beings do be virtuous. May what they say be virtuous. May what they feel be virtuous. May they be cured of the 404 kinds of illness. May they be free from the 91 kinds of unexpected disturbances. May they not be disrupted by the 360 emotional states. May the 80,000 kinds of interruptions naturally die down. May they naturally let go and may they naturally go away.

I pay homage to the three jewels. I take refuge in the three jewels. I give offerings to the three jewels. I confess all unwholesome actions. I rejoice in the good works of others. I rely on buddhas and bodhisattvas. Until awakening I take refuge in the buddha, dharma, and supreme assembly.

In order to realize the aims of all of us, I give rise to awakening mind. I regard all beings as my guests and engage in the actions of awakening beings. I will attain full awakening to help all beings. Just as the buddhas of the three times gave rise to the supreme awakening mind that definitely brings about pure awakening, I also give rise to the sacred aspiration and ask all those who have done so to think of me. Not only to think of me but to look after me.


Section 3

Now, the next phase is setting up what is called the field of offering or the assembly field. And as I described yesterday, we have Machik as the central figure with Padampa Sangye, and Vajrayogini, and Tara, and Buddha Shakyamuni, and Prajnaparamita, and all the hordes of protectors, and all of the demons and things that cause disturbance.

If you can’t do all of that, just do Machik. And you have a picture of Machik at the beginning and at the end of the book. And regard her as the union of all of the sources of refuge, everything that inspires you to practice.

And below her, arraigned are all of the forces in the world that create disturbance in your mind. And the disturbances are generally of two kinds. One is, they elicit attraction. So they disturb us by eliciting desire, and want, and need in us. And the other way, they create disturbance is, that they create unpleasant situations. So, these are things we want to push away and get rid of.

So all of these forces, in whatever shape you want to imagine them. I was reading Machik’s Complete Explanation earlier today and it says, Sometimes gods appear as demons and sometimes demons appear as gods. And that sometimes in order to fool you, these disturbing forces appear as exactly what you want, and so you’re sucked in. And sometimes, the things that really do you good appear in forms that are just really, that really put you off.

So just really let your imagination run wild here, because the main point is to create a sense that you’re really inviting and bringing in everything that a) inspires you; that’s Machik and all of the lineage gurus and so forth, and b) all the things that just make a mess out of your life, one way or another. And we’ll read through the next few lines down to page 21, the middle of 21.


Section 4

Student: Ken?

Ken: Yes?

Student: When you say gods [unclear]?

Ken: No, no. They’re included in that, but much broader than that. So, all of the local gods, local deities, and anything that—and this is how it’s explained—anything that elicits attraction, and desire, and need in us, and they want that. That’s the disturbance in mind that moves us out of presence.

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: No, it’s what creates disturbance. Okay? And sometimes wanting things and desire, you know, which feels good in a certain way, that creates disturbance. And certainly the stuff that makes us feel angry and irritated, that creates a disturbance. Okay?

So, and when you feel that they’re all present, and the term visualization is very unfortunate in English because everybody feels they have to see something. So, it’s much better to work with just imagining this happening. Just imagining. Then you don’t feel you have to see something. And just get the feeling of it.

And then George very kindly made up these cards. Every one of them, but particularly Machik has—and you don’t have to use the Tibetan. If you like the Tibetan or are familiar with it, that’s fine—but there’s a white om at the forehead, red ah at the throat, blue hung at the heart. And when you finish that stanza—actually, a little bit before then, at the end of the line—there’s a blue hung; at the end of the line a red ah, and at the heart a blue hung. At that point I’ll pick up the bell and drum. And then we’ll do the next line together to the beat of the drum: Light shines from the hungs in their hearts and invites them and then we’ll just do—I’ll just do the bell—and the drum together for a while.

As you let your imagination really take form, at the crown, at the head there’s the om, throat ah, heart the blue hung, and light shines from these and invites Machik and all the lineage gurus and all of the disturbances. So, we have at one time the imagined form, and then we feel that the actual form—so to speak—comes and just makes the whole thing really, really vivid. And I’ll be blowing the trumpet to invite them, the thigh-bone trumpet. And the drum will gradually get faster and faster as you say, vajra samaya dza hum bam ho and they merge and unite.

And then we’ll go into the next song which I will sing in Tibetan—if you can handle my singing voice, which is something else—but you can read along because this is the meaning in Tibetan. Basically, it’s a prayer of homage to everything that you’ve imagined in front of you. Then I will stop there, and we’ll go into the next visualization which is a purification practice. Okay? Is that clear enough to proceed?


Section 5

In the sky before me is my kind root teacher
who is one with Machik Labdron.
Her body is white like a conch shell.
She has one face and two arms.
The right beating a gold drum held high,
the left holding a silver bell to her hip.
Her three eyes staring into space.
Her hair is black, half of it tied up on her head,
the rest falling freely over her back.
Her naked body is adorned with bone and jewel ornaments.
Her right leg is drawn in, her left extended in dancing posture.
Around her are all the teachers of the Kagyu tradition.
To her right is Padampa Sangye and the teachers of the Father Lineage.
To her left is Vajrayogini and the five dakinis
surrounded by the Mother Lineage.
Above is Buddha Shakyamuni surrounded by the Non-dual Lineage.
Above him is the Great Mother surrounded by the lineage
of attained masters of chö.
Below Machik are all the gods and demons of existence,
including at the heart a blue hung. [Ken beating drum, ringing bell, and blowing kangling]

[Ken sings prayer in Tibetan]

This is where we start into the prayer of homage. I’m going to have to turn a page in the middle of it.

[Ken sings prayer in Tibetan]


Section 6

Okay, I’m not as rusty as I thought I was. Now, with this field of offering, the first meditation is a purification practice. In Machik’s heart you imagine there is the flat disk of the moon and above that the white syllable hung. And around that, the mantra of the perfection of wisdom: om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha.

And you imagine light shining out from Machik’s heart from the seed syllable hung and the mantra in her heart. Drawing in all of the power and energy of the buddhas of the ten directions, and bodhisattvas, the energy of the lineage. It all comes and condenses in her. So she’s filled with all of this energy. And as you recite the mantra of the perfection of wisdom, an elixir drips from the hung in her heart, and it fills her whole form. And it comes out from the toe of her right foot and pours into you.

And as it pours into you, your body is filled with this elixir. And all of the unwholesome actions that you’ve ever done takes the form of like black tar and vermin and puss and blood, and everything that’s disgusting, and pours out of your body down to the very depths of the earth. And this process goes on and on, until your body is as clear and bright and as transparent as crystal. This is what we now do as we recite this mantra together. om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha.


Section 7

[Recitation of mantra in silence]


Section 8

om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha

Now, continuing to imagine your body radiant like crystal and Machik and all the offerings vividly, brilliantly present in front of you. Imagine that from the om ah hung on Machik’s three points, light radiates out and invites hundreds and hundreds of thousands of offerings goddesses. They pour out of your heart. They pour out of everywhere, and they offer everything that arises in form.

This is symbolized as them holding mirrors, so that reflects everything that exists in the whole world universe and all its world systems. And you offer these as symbols of awakened form. And you pray for the power of unchanging form. This prayer actually was written by Machik herself.

And all of those goddesses are white. And then the red goddesses appear. They’re holding bells. And they offer all sound everywhere in the universe as symbols of awakened speech. I can’t remember what they’re holding—the blue goddesses offer everything that arises as thought or any kind of mental activity. And you offer that as a symbol of awakened mind. And then you offer all of the happiness or suffering—in other words all experience that arises—you offer as symbols of good fortune. And you pray for everyone to be happy and for everyone to be free of suffering.

Now I’m going to sing this in Tibetan if I can find it. There we are.


Section 9

[Bell and drum. Ken sings prayer in Tibetan]


Section 10

Okay, now, this actually completes the end of the beginning. This is as far as we’re going to go this evening. So, questions and any explanations you would like on any parts we talked about so far. There’s a lot here. Yes, John?

John: You said her hung is white.

Ken: Yes. The hung in her heart?

John: Yeah.

Ken: Yes. It gets very complicated you have om ah hung the white, red, and blue. Those are on the surface of her body but in her heart there’s a white one. Yes, Gail?

Gail: Does it spin?

Ken: Yes. The mantra? Actually, the mantra does spin but I wasn’t going to add that complication. If you can do that, that’s great, you know. Actually, as you are reciting the mantra, the mantra spins and elixir pours down from her and fills her body, pours out and fills your body. This just goes on and on, washing everything away you’ve ever done, everything you ever regretted. Wonderful. Any other questions? Or you just don’t know what to ask?


Section 11

So, if you go back to the original.

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: You actually have the practice text here, minus the songs and the tunes. This is something that some of you may feel like incorporating into your practice. One of these days, this stuff will be translated into a form that you can actually sing in English, which would be very nice. But that’s hard. I’ve tried that several times, and I just haven’t been successful at it yet. But this is a practice that you can use if you wish, and I hope that…my intention is, that by the end of this retreat, actually by the middle of this retreat, you will have all of the elements to be able to do it on your own, using this text. Does that answer your question?

What’s the next one? What’s the next question?

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: No, I just did it.

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Well, of course, yes, it’s a practice, right? I mean, I did this every night for about five years. Actually, no, more than that. I got very sick in the second retreat. And even when I was very sick, I tried to do this practice because it helped, you know. Because it’s all about surrendering to the illness. So, I tried to do it.

I love the practice because it is so rich and so complete and covers every aspect of practice. You know, taking refuge, generating awakening mind—very, very key element all through this is the generation of awakening mind—purification, offering. And then you get to offer up your body to all of these demons and you just feel lighter by the end of it. Particularly, when you’re not feeling very well and you really feel the karmic debt collectors are at the door.

So, there they are. Okay? Yes, it takes time to learn it all. And even after you’ve learned it all, it takes time to really get the feel. But once you get the feel—and you get the feel by going through it again and again and again—then it has a definite flow.

What’s very interesting is, this is exactly the sequence that Machik herself taught in the twelfth century. It comes straight from her. Some of the prayers are written by her when she was teaching this to her students. So, it’s got a wonderful lineage. Any other questions?

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: No, we learned it all orally. We were taught the songs. Nothing was written down.

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Interesting. I’m surprised you could recognize anything with my singing, but [laughs] okay.


Section 12

But another thing is that the drum, which is [Ken beats drum] about that speed. And the speed keeps going through all the visualizations. That’s about the speed of a resting heart. It helps to induce a kind of quiet and rest in the mind which allows you to imagine more clearly everything that’s taking place.

Anything else before we close for this evening? Yes?

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: As you gain versatility in the practice, yes, you can imagine that the elixir pouring out of Machik not only purifies you of all of the unwholesome actions you’ve done, it purifies all sentient beings. And, yes, you can imagine that all sentient beings join with you in making the offerings. So, it becomes everybody is involved in it. It’s very good to do it, to practice that way. It’s not just you. Everybody’s engaged in it. Everybody’s participating.

Because, don’t forget what’s running through here: everything that you experience is an expression, a manifestation of your own mind. So, when you can include everything in your experience as part of the ritual, you’re actually including everything in your own mind. That’s what makes it so wonderful. Okay? Anything else? Yes?

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: You mean the resting mind?

Student: Yeah, resting mind.

Ken: That really helps, yes. That really helps. I mean, ideally, the whole sense of Machik and all the lineage being present and all of the disturbances being present and the sentiments, such as taking refuge, awakening mind, making the offerings—all of that is arising out of the resting mind without the resting mind being disturbed. That’s a little tricky, but that’s the best way to practice. Okay, anything else? All right have a good evening. See you in the morning.