Chöd, the practice of severance, is a profound ritual for dealing with fears, illnesses, and difficult emotions. Developed in the 11th century by the great Tibetan yogini Machig Labdrön, the practice of Chöd slowly transformed from an obscure practice lineage into a cornerstone of multiple schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
The practice of Chöd is a unique blend of the Mahayana, Vajrayana, and Tibetan Shamanic traditions, with deep philosophical roots in the Prajñāparamitā (Perfection of Wisdom) literature. The practice is sung with accompaniment by a ritual drum and bell, creating a ritual environment that is rich with many layers of symbolic and energetic depth.
Chöd practitioners in Tibet were long renowned for their supreme healing capacity, especially in instances of epidemic disease. They would be regularly called upon to lead funerary activities, especially in cases when people have died from contagious disorders, due to their miraculous ability to deflect illness and work with unseen forces. While early western Tibetologists erroneously classified Chöd as a kind of wrathful “exorcism” ritual, Machig’s practice is in fact often regarded as a supremely peaceful offering rite. Instead of banishing or fighting with negative forces, Chöd facilitates the ceremonial offering of one’s own body as sustenance for the various guests included in the feast. Through this profound act of love, one’s self-clinging is undermined and awakening naturally dawns.