INTRODUCTION TO CHÖ
TAI SITU RINPOCHE
Verbatim transcription of Teachings given at Samye-Ling, 1988.
When I talk about this practice I have to give the complete picture of it, otherwise only the one aspect of the entire practice, which is a particular meditation and chanting that is done with a big drum. So it is necessary to go into the source of this particular teaching.
When Vajrayana was introduced into Tibet, it was introduced gradually, and developed or continued into eight major Vajrayana lineages out of which the particular lineage involved with Chö is sixth of the eight according to most historical texts. This lineage is entitled Shee Ché (zhi byed), the particular teaching involved with the principle of pacifying any kind of negativities, or enriching, or magnetising or destroying, which are the four aspects of particular activity.
Shee Ché lineage is privileged with the title that covers not only a particular aspect, but both the Sutra and Tantra essential process. In Sutra, every single practice is to develop awareness, compassion, that pacifies the things such as aggression, attachment, etc. In Tantra, particular methods that are effective in transforming negativity into positivity: that can also be seen and understood as pacifying the negativity. So, we can see it is a general title, and it is particularly marked on this particular lineage.
The main source involved with this lineage is great Bodhisattva Dampa Sangyé, or 'Padampa' in Tibet, and in many historical sources his other name is Kamalashila, the two are sort of connected. This great master who introduced this teaching and their lineage continued in Tibet, has particular way to translate the title Shee Ché: he elaborates this by the Buddhist title 'Dam Cheu Duk-ngal Shee Ché Chépa', 'Profound Dharma Which Pacifies the Suffering'.
He visited Tibet about five times, each time from a different entrance: from the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, from Nepal, from China. He transmitted this lineage to many great masters, and there are 54, both men and women, enlightened masters. This teaching is not something invented by Padampa. This teaching is transmitted by Padampa into Tibet; the source of it is from both Sutra and Tantra. Needless to say, every single sutra is interconnected, and sutras and tantras are interconnected. But these are specific sutras and tantras considered as the main text, the teaching of Buddha, which is involved with Dam Cheu Shee Ché, part of it which is now known as Chö.
For instance, with Sutra, the entire Prajna Paramita Sutra makes 18 huge volumes. Total 17 texts, and one is the largest Prajna Paramita, elaborated text, this text is 12 volumes. Each four complete sentences make one shloka. This text contains 100,000 shlokas. Then 16 others. Also there are many other sutras close to this principle of emptiness, but Prajna Paramita they are somehow the source texts for Dam Chö Duk-ngal Shee Ché.
With Tantra, the 'Choo Rim Chenpo Gyud', the tantra 'Great River Tantra Alphabet and Consonants'. This tantra, the 'Expression Alphabet for Great River', represents that. How the entire Sanskrit language is developed - from nothing. Therefore the sound that is produced from nothing is "AH" , and the sound that is produced by nothing is the source of all sound, that is there, both alive or inanimate object, every kind of sound that they make they are based on the sound of "AH". If you don't involve the sound of "AH", you can't make any sound at all. Therefore using this as a way to describe the ultimate nothingness of everything, ultimate nothingness in the sound, the language, is the expression. All the other tantras involved with Mahamudra, particularly, are described as the source of Shee Ché. This is 'Mahamudra Tak (Symbol, Sign) Yee Gyud (Tantra)': 'Symbolic Mahamudra Tantra'. These are the main tantric texts for the source of Shee Ché.
This lineage in Tibet involves several great masters, 25 men. Crazy Jokro. Jokro is surname. His real name is Crazy. Nothing great about being crazy, but I think he must be crazy in the right way, properly mad.
The lady highly developed, 24 who developed significant realisation, and a few others makes 54, through which general Shee Ché lineage continued. Significantly, Chö is part of Shee Ché; the Chö teaching is transmitted by Padampa, to one of his leading lady disciples, Machik Labji Drönma. Lab is her town. Machik was prophesied, in both Sutra and Tantra by Buddha, and also by Guru Padmasambhava, as embodiment of Prajna Paramita, the mother of emptiness, and as embodiment of Tara, the mother of compassion. She is the 107th incarnation of Prajna Paramita and Tara, incarnated as human being. I don't know how to count that because Prajna Paramita and Tara incarnation can happen at the same time, or they manifested long time ago, and then she died and she was reborn, etc., as a conventional reincarnation pattern. Prophesied in 'Do Tang Nyik Jaypa' Sutra. Where 'Tang' is tea, 'Nyikma' means leaves. Tangma and Nyikma become inseparable. The name of sutra is not 'tea strainer', but that particular process. Buddha said in the sutra, "In future, when there is a great need for mankind, the emanation of Mother of Glorious One." (That means every feminine manifestation, such as Prajna Paramita, or Tara, they are entitled 'Mother of Glorious One': the wisdom gives birth to enlightenment; compassion gives birth to enlightenment, etc.) "In the North in a place called Lab, a person whose name is called Drönma will be born, and she will benefit numberless beings through Visualisation and Completion (or Sampannakrama and Utpattikrama). She will wander in towns and cemeteries". This was recognised as Machik Labji Drönma because her name is Drönma, the place is Lab, and she wandered in towns and cemeteries, and she was involved with visualisation and completion method which is quite advanced, the Chö method. This particular prophesy was recognised as prophesy about Machik.
In tantra 'Jampal Tsaway Gyu' (Jampal = Manjushri, Tsaway = Root, Gyu = Tantra), Buddha prophesied "When my teaching becomes like the tea leaf, the embodiment of Great Mother, whose name is Labdrön, will come and her activity will reach very far. Anybody who is involved with her activity will be liberated".
From Guru Padmasambhava, in a prophesy entitled 'Tenpa Chir Lung' ('The General Prophesy for Buddhism', the teaching taught by Buddha): "Manifestation who will cut through all aspect of negative thought, who will make them rootless, cutting through them so finely, they will never grow again, whose name is Labji Drönma, who will come in a place called Zang Ree (Copper Mountain)". Zang Ree is a particular place in Tibet which Machik was involved with.
When somebody is possessed or a place is haunted, what really happens there? That means there is a negative connection between that person who haunts the house and the house. Something terrible could have happened there, when a person is possessed by a negative force.
Not every crazy person is possessed, but of many people who are quite negative, a few of them are possessed. So that means there is a negative connection between that person who is a human being, and another sentient being who is not human or animal - a spirit of a kind, ghost or demon or whatever.
When good friends develop a connection to each other, they help each other, and person number A is better than person number B, in that case person number A will help person number B as a friend. We call that good friend. Bad friends: person number A is bad and strong, person number B is O.K. but weak, when they become friends, person number A changes person number B and both become bad. Similarly, when a person and a spirit develop a kind of a relation, even though they are not aware of that particular relation, there is a relation developed. It can be friendly, it can be enemy. When that happens that the spirit is bad, negative, then the person also becomes negative. If that influence is quite united, then person might lose his or her will for a certain period of time and become influenced by it.
The same thing with the place, because if spirit is strong and good, then we want to have a good spirit in our house, but if our house is haunted by a spirit who is negative and lot of animosity, etc., towards human being, what happens is the house is haunted negatively. How to separate them? Of course there is negative way to separate them. I interpret that as exorcism, but this particular way is pacify.
Why is there this negative tie? Because of one or another form of suffering involved, and some kind of negative cause and condition is involved there. Through the particular practice, that particular negative spirit becomes positive. That particular spirit who haunts our house becomes positive. Then whatever the cause and condition that makes the situation with the person or with the house as negative is being cured. So that is the particular way which Shee Ché or Chö method to purify a negative tie with a person or with a place.
Now you understand roughly the source of the entire teaching, the original lineage we call Mother Lineage Shee Ché, then its branch lineage, the Chö, and its particular subject with which we are involved.
On top of that, outer perfection, then the inner perfection, the awareness and mindfulness, the sincere intention, that is the second. When there is the perfect action, if that is possible, that is outside. That is the external. Now, what is in there? What is contained in that container is the intention. That makes outer action perfection more valid, more real, when there is perfect intention.
On top of that, in tantric level, the Chö practitioner should have the basic tantric samayas all together. Otherwise we might have everything, there is no samaya, no transmission, we can't practice. "Chö out of book". That is not enough. Also there is a great danger for getting it wrong if you don't have the correct transmission. When we have the proper transmission, then our actions are O.K., our intention is O.K. Then what is left is actual practice to progress. Then anything we don't manage doesn't become a mistake, it becomes something that we have not yet developed. But if we don't have that, then it is a mistake. So,
There is a combination of things necessary for a Chö practitioner right from the beginning, but then according to the improvement in the practice, that also develops. This is compassion and emptiness, unified. When we look back to Machik, the original source, she is the manifestation of Prajna Paramita (that is the emptiness, 'Mother of Emptiness') and then the Tara (the compassion, the 'Mother of Compassion'). Now emptiness and compassion unity, you can cut through anything, therefore a Chö practitioner's key importance should be emptiness and compassion unity.
Now, when we do Chö it is very impressive, we get stuck into it, we get into a rhythm of it, and there is an impressive huge instrument, and it's also allowed to be a little mysterious there, you know, and it is possible to do after dark, and in a cemetery. There is the chance to be slightly different, but when there is emptiness and compassion unity this practice is extremely effective. When there isn't this, then it can be funny.
It also can be eccentric actually. That's no good. I consider that is no good. Some people consider that is good.
Anyway, how we can understand the emptiness and compassion unity?:-
(Tong is Tongpa, emptiness; Nyinjé means compassion; Zung-Juk means together.)
It's like two strings: you tie them together, they become one. Compassion and emptiness put together. That is the central of the Chö practice, of every practice, but more of Chö. If we don't have TONG DANG NYINGJÉ ZUNG-JUK, even if we have something, maybe NYINGJÉ, maybe TONGPA, just emptiness is quite a valid subject as an intellectual understanding: "Nothing exists", "Everything is just a reflection of everything else", which is very true, but if you only have that, then you become quite a strange person, maybe impeccable, but more than impeccable, what can that be? If you only know emptiness, and are convinced about it, and just that, that's valid understanding, but it's not enough, it's just one side: without two hands you can't clap, so it's like one hand.
NYINGJÉ, compassion, is good: we feel sorry for someone who has nothing to eat; we feel sorry for someone who doesn't understand what you understand; we feel sorry for someone who, though it's simple for you, is complicated for them. But if we only have NYINGJÉ, then it is one-sided. You might become a nice person first, you must become quite pushy nice person afterward, then you become very irritating person because you mind everybody's business.
When compassion and emptiness are put together it solves both shortcomings, it becomes healthy. You have compassion but at the same time you know that everything is empty. You know that everything is empty, but you still have compassion. That is exactly the purpose of Buddhism, especially Vajrayana. Before anything else, the ultimate and relative truth is repeated again and again, until it is carved into your skull. That is the reason emptiness and compassion together: your emptiness understanding will not become just stubborn, philosophical, pig-headed; your compassion will not become just obsession, for you find the balance, then your compassion and emptiness understanding will become more effective. You will not become just a person who has nothing but big head and big body, but a big mind in it. It becomes total, complete.
In Chö practice it is very important. For example, if a Chö practitioner wanted to do Chö in a most powerful place, in most powerful places things happen, it is not easy, so when things happen, if you have compassion, if you have understanding of emptiness, then it takes care of most of the things that can happen to us. If something powerful happens to us in a powerful place in a powerful moment, that will allow us to be able to handle it. If we do not have enough compassion or understanding of emptiness, then we had better do Chö in the daytime, afternoon O.K., at our home, and simple Chö, not advanced one. That might be something we are unable to handle. Up to now I don't hear of a Chö practitioner going crazy, but I can imagine if the person does the wrong thing in the wrong place, even if it's the right thing, something can go wrong.
Then his disciple asked, "What do you mean?"
Then Padampa Sanjé explained, "This time to somebody you give your heart, they will steal it. To somebody you give your head, they will take out your eye and give back your eyeless head. People are becoming more and more greedy. They become so greedy, that even without doing anything they want to be wealthy. People are more and more ashamed of doing good thing, and more inspired by doing bad things." (It is fashionable to be drunk, drugged, crazy, stupid, careless, wild; it is shameful to be gentle. I see this in our society more and more.) "Somebody who lies, everybody thinks is telling the truth; someone who tells the truth, everyone thinks is lying. Somebody who has been the kindest person to you, you have that much resentment for that person; someone who has been the unkindest person to you, you have that much acceptance for that person. But I have a hope that is like a star in the daytime: there are a few who are blessed by the precious alive lineage, who are blessed so they have some chance to overcome all of these things. That is my only hope, and you, my son, why I cry, is because I want you to know this and carry it out, that that little star of the daytime to become the sun of the daytime."
When I see outside of Dharma, it is very true in society. Look into the majority of people's lives. It is very noticeable: shameful to be gentle and kind; fashionable to be aggressive and sleazy. I think our teacher might be saying this to us quite often. The definition of progress comes to this simple process: whatever limitations, whatever attachment that we are individually involved with, with any kind of present development state, when we cut through, or cut off, it is progress. Until we cut through, we just remain there. So any development can be understood as cutting through. In the concept and principle of Chö practice this particular process is exaggerated slightly, by putting extra emphasis on it.
Example with one particular Chö practice it is involved with 4 steps:
There is some risk therefore, since I have shared this with you. Just as information, and maybe some application this will be useful for us right now, but there is some kind of risk in it if we overestimate oneself, or underestimate these efforts. How can that be possible? With all the other things, but especially with the view, I can explain it more clearly. It is true that we should not be attached and clinging to one view, but right now that should be in back of our heads, and that understanding should be applied when we become too much attached to our view. But we must have some kind of view, and principle, otherwise our standard, most of us, if we don't have a principle, get lost. If we don't have a view we get lost. Even if that view is not the best view, best view is no view, still we have to have some view to hold onto, and get to that 'beyond view' state of understanding. Therefore we should not take it literally right now, and we should not get too carried away with this set of wonderful advice. These are the ultimate advice sort of, and we are dealing with more deeper relative, therefore it is quite important to see the value of this, understand this and get inspired by this, and at the same time to have a valid principle.
This one says 'Opening the Gate to the Space'. The meaning is, now or ordinarily, limited or closed. Inside this closed and limited our personal, not to mention physical ability but mental ability, is closed and limited. Through this method, opens that gate, so from limited emerge to the limitless. It is like someone put in a cellar for many years, all of a sudden a doorway is opened up there and he could walk out, there is a lot of room. This is through a particular Chö method using sound, using visualisation, and using physical posture. This is developing a very strong concentration in the centre of the body, and centre of the body is very important. If someone chops off my right hand I will still be alive; somebody chops my centre, I would be finished. Central part of body is like trunk of a tree which is the centre of the energy in which the mind functions very solidly from the time we are conceived and after 16 or 29 days, that time onward until we die, we function from the centre.
So, to develop a direct straight channel in the centre, and this channel is explained lots of method how to go about it, you don't have to guess, it is all taught in the Chö. In this method, the entire energy which is embodiment of mind brought down in the lower part of the centre, and through the Chö method chanting, physical posture and particular breathing method, that one is released gradually and to the main points such as navel, heart, throat, crown, we call the chakras (it means main places in body), and they are all in the centre. So pass through each of the main places, and finally come out from the crown, this is the highest place, that's where the Queen wears the crown. That is the most important and sacred part of the body. That mind is released into the sky and melt into the space, but properly. This method is one particular method, it is not short. There is transmission for it, there is instruction for it, then one can practice it. That is one example of particular Chö method.
There are a few things necessary for a person to develop, or even for doing anything actually. If you have an ambitious idea, many people get carried away and get nothing done, and get into lot of trouble. Some people can make their ambition a reality. Of course there are all kinds of karma and everything for it, but technically speaking it is three-dimensional principle. Devotion, or offering up, not down, and generosity and compassion down, not up. And yourself in the middle. Devotion, compassion, offering, generosity. Now, in doing something, first you have to know what you really want to do, who you are and what you can do. When you have these three, you know exactly what you want to do, exactly who you are, and exactly what you can do. Then work that out and you can get things done. Otherwise you don't know exactly what you want, or you don't know exactly who you are, and you don't know exactly what you can do. In between that all kinds of trips and confusions get in the way, and you have such a big ego, you think you can do something, but you can't even know what it is. So, the same thing in the practice. How to have compassion, to whom? How to have devotion, to whom? It's quite simple. You should have devotion to those who have more devotion and more compassion than you. You should have compassion to those who have less compassion and devotion than you. That's it.
In this Chö method, the devotion and compassion, there is entire sentient being and all the enlightened ones who are beyond ordinary sentient beings. Once, they have been ordinary sentient being, but no more, they are enlightened. This is categorised into four:
Another term in the Chö terms, they're entitled '4 guests'. You are giving a big feast, and you have 4 categories of guest. The 4th, object of something of course compassion, but at the same time specific that you owe something to them and they owe something to you, like strong karmic connection. What is strong karmic connection in Buddhist principle? Each single sentient being have been our mother and our father, and everything else, some time ago, but who have been your recent father and recent mother or recent anything, recent friend? 'Recently' means not two years ago, but past 100 lifetimes, who have been close. So, karmic connection with them is more recent than the others, and this recent karmic connection there is some kind of negative karma. I have killed someone, I was born as a spider, and someone was born as a fly, I ate it, he screamed, but I did not let him go, I ate him alive. So that's quite bad karmic connection, and that kind of recent karmic connection is known as negative karmic debts, like we owe something for each other. This the 4th.
Now, through particular Chö method, one has limited materialistic feast, usually the Chö practitioners can't afford too much material feast, therefore they have significant symbolic feast there. It is very much like Catholic who have little bread to eat and little wine to drink. Now we call it contemplated, visualised feast. So there in the text, there are all kinds of offering, basically three types: vegetarian, non-vegetarian, and goods. Vegetarian are for all sentient beings including monkeys and rabbits, and non-vegetarian include all type of sentient beings including tigers and leopards, and both of them for all sentient beings include bear, sometimes eats meat, sometimes eat vegetables. Now all the goods for all the materialistic sentient beings. So you have this offering. This offering that is imagined as well as physically, symbolic offerings, we don't just visualise them, and we don't just give them neurotically. They are blessed with proper physical ritual, chanting and thought, powerful thought, which is of course enforced by the lineage of transmission. So that way, whatever you visualise, blessed, they become powerful things, not just a piece of bread, or not just an imagination of jewelleries, clothes, etc. When you have that, you invoke those guests. First the sequence, you invoke object of devotion: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, Guru, Deity, Protector.
After that you invoke object of respect, the gods of the universe, god of the mountains, river, ocean, gods of the men, gods of the women, children, gods of the education. Each person have their own spirit, we call them 'shoulder gods'. Sits on the right shoulder, and when you take good care of it, everything goes well. When not, it goes away. When that is gone, you go down. Lots of unfortunate things happen to people who don't take good care of it. It is not as a punishment, but it is like if there is no water, fish cannot live. So there is no proper self-respect, and that inherent god cannot remain with you, so you become a sentient being without that extra divine force. They can't give us more than what they have, they can't give us enlightenment; they can give us protection, make us healthy, help us in many ways, but not enlightenment, therefore object of respect, not of devotion.
Then all sentient beings, object of compassion because there is one reason for that. All sentient beings are perfect in nature but since they don't recognise, they suffer in samsara. No matter who they are, in what kind of condition they are, they have lots of suffering. So you have compassion to them.
Then the karmically-connected beings that each of us in our recent lifetimes, including this one, we are involved with them karmically, in a negative way. That we owe something to them, or they owe something to us. We are connected and still not yet the result is taken into manifestation, not yet. So you have compassion for them.
So this object of devotion, respect, compassion, karmic-connected sentient beings, all of them we make offering up and down, generosity down. Whatever is to be fulfilled, we will fulfil it. If some being's karmic connection to you is 100% negativity, then you fulfil that by 100% positive. Then this negativity connection is overruled by this positive between you and them.
You can say this particular sequence and structure is very much the structure for every Chö method to heal someone who is physically sick, mentally sick, and heal a place that is negatively influenced, and also heal someone who is possessed by evil spirit or something. All of this is followed with similar principle, although particular method. These are the few particular aspect of Chö related practices, I thought might be beneficial to all of you.
Summerlaw, Linton Bankhead,
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