Chö 5
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.

Ritual 3Download

Recitation of daily Chö ritual; guided visualization; purification practice; simpler form of transference practice; white feast and red feast visualizations.




Section 1

I mean, great to do it in the dark, it gets really freaky then, but…

One time I had this text Short Vajradhara Prayer memorized, not in English of course.

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 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 energy to know that samsara and nirvana are not separate.


Section 2

All of us beginning with 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.

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 hells, listen to me! [Ken blows kangling]

Come here all of you. [Ken blows kangling]
Come here all of you. [Ken blows kangling three times]

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 numbers 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 retinues 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 disrupted by 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 this 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

Okay, now we’re going to change the order a little bit. We’ll read through the recitation up to the visualization and stop at, “at the heart, a blue hung.” And then I’ll guide you through setting the visualization up.

In the sky before is me 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 leg 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 teachers of 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 the eight classes of demons and all karmic debt collectors,
listening and obeying attentively.

Every deity has at his or her forehead a white om,
at the throat a red ah, and at the heart a blue hung.


Section 4

Okay, so let your attention rest. You may find this easier to do with your eyes closed. It’s really interesting, learning how to read texts with your eyes closed.

In the sky in front of you, from a white pam, bursts into light and appears an eight-petaled white lotus. And then from a yellow syllable tam bursts into light and the sun appears, the flat disk of the sun right on top of the lotus, and then from ah a moon disk appears, lying on top of the sun.

Then a hung appears, white in color, radiates light and then bursts into light, becomes Machik Labdron. Female figure, beautiful, dancing posture. In her right hand she holds a gold damaru aloft, beating it. In her left hand she holds a silver bell to her hip. She has three eyes looking into the space in front of her. Black hair, some of it bound up, the rest falling freely across her back. Her body is brilliantly white, blazing with light. And around her are all the teachers of the Kagyu lineage.

Slightly above her and to the right is Padampa Sangye who is a dark-skinned Indian clad in yogic garb holding a damaru and a kangling, which he is blowing, surrounded by teachers of the Father Lineage.

To her left, to Machik’s left and slightly above her, is Vajrayogini, brilliantly red dancing dakini, holding a chopper and skull cup, surrounded by dakinis, four dakinis of the four different colors. All surrounded by other yidams and the teachers of the Mother Lineage.

Directly above Machik is Green Tara, and above Green Tara is Shakyamuni Buddha, surrounded by the buddhas of this kalpa and the teachers of the Non-Dual Lineage.

And above Shakyamuni is Prajnaparamita, gold figure, female, four hands, seated in lotus posture. Two hands joined at her heart, her right hand holding a rosary, a crystal rosary, and her left holding a volume of the Prajnaparamita, the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra.

Surrounded by buddhas and bodhisattvas and above her is Vajradhara, a blue figure holding a vajra and bell crossed over his heart surrounded by the buddhas of the five families.

Immediately below Machik are all the dakinis and protectors of the lineage, some beautiful dancing figures, others very fierce and terrifying figures with flames surrounding them. And below them are all the disturbances, figures representing all the things that have disturbed you from time without beginning.

All the different kinds of obsessions, all the physical and local disturbances. Things that have opposed you and thwarted you in your life. Particularly, all of these sources where there’s the karmic debt from actions that you have done. All of these figures have on their forehead a white om, a red ah at the throat, blue hung at the heart. And you imagine from those three syllables light radiates out inviting, drawing the attention of all buddhas and bodhisattvas, lamas, teachers in all the ten directions. All the yidams and protectors. All the disturbances.


Section 5

[Ken rings bell and beats damaru]

Now invite them all. The kangling invites them all. They all come swarming in to the figures visualized in front, so they take on life and vitality in front of you.

[Ken beats damaru, blows kangling, and rings bell]

Now sing this song of praise and homage to all of the figures visualized in front.


Section 6

[Ken chants in Tibetan]


Section 7

Now we do the purification practice.

Light shines from Machik’s heart where there is a flat disk of the moon, above this the white syllable hung surrounded by the mantra of the perfection of wisdom, om gate gate paragate parasamgate bhodhi svaha. And as you recite the mantra, light radiates from her heart, inviting the energy and power of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, lineage teachers, yidams and protectors of the ten directions and the three times.

All of this energy pours into Machik and into her heart. And from the mantra and the seed syllable, the hung at her heart, elixir flows filling her whole body, until it blazes brilliantly with white light. And this elixir pours out of her toe coming into your form and the form of all sentient beings who are around us, washing away all of the obscurations, negativity, reactivity, confusion and bewilderment of evil karma. This washes out of our body like black tar, vermin, vomit, pus and blood going down to the very center of the earth where it is absorbed into the golden foundation of the universe. And our body ends up radiant and transparent like crystal.


Section 8

om gate gate paragate parasamgate bhodhi svaha

[Ken recites mantra]


Section 9

And now, offering goddesses.

White, red, and blue radiate from your heart, offering all form in the whole universe as an offering of awakened form to Machik and her entourage. Offering all sound as awakened sound. The goddess is holding a mirror to symbolize form, a lute to symbolize sound, vajra to symbolize all the thoughts and memories, recollections, and emotions—all mental activity as symbol for direct awareness. This is offered to Machik. And then all the suffering and all the happiness throughout the whole world, and all the universe, offered as symbols of good fortune and good luck. These are offered to Machik, praying for all sentient beings to be free from suffering, for them all to be completely happy.


Section 10

[Ken rings bell, beats damaru and chants in Tibetan]


Section 11

Now ordinarily one would continue right into the transference practice, continuing with the drum and bell. But since it would be a little difficult for you to hear me on top of that cacophony, we’re stopping.

So, imagine that you’re standing up. By the way, the page is of the whole visualization, so the field of recipients, Machik and Padampa Sangye and Vajrayogini and all the buddhas and teachers and so forth are still there. Image that you’re standing up. And we’ll do this slightly simpler form.

The soles of your feet are two vital essences, red and white. On each phat, you enter first the hell realm right at the souls of your feet. And you experience all of the suffering in the hell realm. But because you’re experiencing it in attention, it is transformed. And so the hell realm is just done with. There is no more aggression, aversion or anything in you. And the vital essences glow or shine brighter and grow a little larger.

And then, on the next phat, they come up to the genital region, and they join to form one vital essence, and you experience all of the hunger and thirst of the hungry ghost realm. And again, that’s transformed in attention. And the one vital essence now grows a little bit larger and shines even brighter, with more color.

And on the next phat, it comes up to the navel, where you experience the animal realm, and all of the suffering and domestication, and automaticity, and confusion and struggle to survive in the animal realm. And that’s transformed.

And then the next phat comes up to the human realm. And in the human realm you experience birth, old age, illness and death, not getting what you want, or not being with the people you want to be with, being with people you don’t want to be with, trying to get what you want, trying to keep what you do have. All of these sufferings. And they’re transformed.

And then up to the throat, the titan realm, where you experience the suffering of competition, never getting ahead, always being second—jealousy, envy. And then the next phat comes up to the god realm in the center of your head, and the experience of suffering of pride and the inevitable fall that comes with that, with the end of the god realm.

And then on the final phat, which will be a little bit louder, you imagine your consciousness shooting up into the sky. And you become totally empty, just present, one with everything.


Section 12

[Bell and damaru]









Section 13

The red hri appears in space and you become Vajrayogini. Brilliantly red, flaming red hair, three eyes, holding a vajra chopper in your right hand, and a skull cup filled with blood in your left.

Before you is your own body—many, many, times larger than it is ordinarily. And from your heart dakinis go out. And each of them, they’re all different colors, but each of them holds a chopper, and they start cutting up your body and rearranging it. And as they arrange it, it becomes the universe itself.

The skin which is peeled off becomes the gold foundation of the world. The blood becomes the oceans. The nails from your toes and fingers become the iron mountains that surround the world. Your torso becomes the mountain at the center of the world. The four limbs become the four continents. Two eyes become the sun and moon. The teeth become all the stars.

Every part of your body is transformed into some part of the universe, and imagine this beautifully arranged universe with all its riches and beauty and splendor in front of you. You offer it to Machik, and the three jewels, all the gurus, yidams, and protectors in front of you.


Section 14

[Ringing bell and beating damaru, Ken chants in Tibetan]


Section 15

And that’s where we got to yesterday. Now, the next two visualizations are called The White Feast and The Red Feast, and there are about six variations of these, but we’re only going to do one of them, to keep it simple.

Again we do the transference. This time, it’s a simpler version. You just imagine a vital essence at your heart and with a single phat you become completely empty. Imagine the consciousness shoots into empty space and becomes one with it. And again the three forms. You become Vajrayogini. You’re holding the vajra chopper. Your own body is in front of you. And you touch the chopper to the head, and the top of the skull splits off and becomes a skull cup. You touch the chopper to the skin, the skin flattens out into a kind of blanket. You chop off the two arms and the right leg and they become the three hearth stones, and the skull cup is placed on that. And you pick up the rest of the corpse, throw it in the skull cup. The skull cup is huge, it’s like an ocean.

And then, from the skull cup that you as Vajrayogini hold, the elixir pours out and converts your body into an ocean of elixir. And then from your heart, hundreds of thousands of dakinis pour out, all holding skull cups, and they fly to this huge skull cup filled with elixir in front of you and pick it up and feed it to Machik and her entourage, all the teachers, and buddhas, bodhisattvas, Padampa Sangye, Vajrayogini, and so forth in front of you. And then a new wave comes and picks up even more elixir and feeds it to all of the protectors and dakinis. And then another wave of dakinis comes out of your heart, picks up more elixir and feeds it to all sentient beings in all six realms, freeing them from all of the suffering there. And then still another wave comes up and feeds it to all of the karmic collectors and all the disturbances that you’ve invited here. And then that all dissolves with a phat, and you rest, just open and empty. And that’s the White Feast.

And then once again you do the transference and become Vajrayogini. And this time you chop off the four limbs and put them like stakes in the ground, four limbs from your own body. And you touch the skin and you stretch it out like a blanket, suspended on these four stakes. And then the rest of your body is piled up in a heap of flesh and bones. And then dakinis come out from your heart and pick up all of this flesh and bones and feed it to all of the demons. Everything that you’ve invited, all the disturbances. And if you look on page 24, you see what the Red Feast is like.


Section 16

All gods and demons who dwell in this fearsome place
come and show me your frightening apparitions.
All gods and demons in existence gather here like clouds in the sky,
pour down like rain in a storm, and whirl around like wind at the base of the world.
To all of you I offer you my body.

I offer you the six pieces of flesh from my body, may you attain the six perfections.
I offer the nine orifices into my body, may you attain the nine vehicles.
I offer you the five sense faculties, may you attain the five pristine awareness bodies.
To all of you I offer my body.

Those of you who’ve come a long way, eat it raw.
Those of you who are not in a hurry, eat it cooked.
Depending on what distance you’ve come, eat it as you wish: fried, grilled, or raw.
Those of you with big stomachs, eat as much as you can.
Those of you who are thin, take it home with you.
Like a lion feasting on flesh, don’t leave anything behind.


Section 17

And you imagine that they just gorge themselves on your body, carrying off everything, every part of it. Your body is completely given. And they do this, and they are so happy—they finally got a piece of you. [Laughter] That’s really important because that’s what they want. They feel that you owe them a piece of you, and so you’re inviting them and offering.

Now, you remember in the mind-training teachings, we talked about offering torma to gods and demons, saying, “Here take my flesh, you know. Yes you’re disturbing me, I know, and there’s something unresolved between us, so, here’s my body—eat it, enjoy it. It’s all over now, just resolve it.” And that’s what you think is happening here. This is the connection. You’re really just giving attention and what you cherish most to these disturbances which constantly weigh on your mind and disturb your peace and so forth. And so, once and for all, they are happy, they finally got a piece of you.

Now is that too much visualization to go through in one shot or do you want some more guidance with it?

[Laughter] You’ve done this before. Okay. Let’s go through the White Feast again. There’ll be a single phat which you imagine your vital essence at your heart, which is a drop, which is red and white in color, goes shooting up and becomes one with the sky. You become…

[Recording ends]