Two encyclopedia articles on Chod   Daniel McNamara

“Chod” a Tibetan word literally meaning “cutting” or “severance.” It is an abbreviation for “dud kyi chod yul,” “Severance of the demonic object(s).” Chod is most popularly associated with Tibetan Buddhism but is practiced throughout the Himalayas (e.g., Ladhakh, Bhutan, Nepal) and, increasingly, by Buddhist practitioners in Western countries. As the name would imply, chod functions in part as an exorcism and/or funerary rite, but is also considered a separate Mahayana Buddhist practice for cultivating generosity, as well as the acceptance of impermanence and of one’s own inevitable demise. Therefore, along with its practical applications for healing diseases and taming unruly spirits, chod is also considered a complete path to Buddhahood.
Although the gamut of Tibetan Buddhist practices is indeed quite broad, chod is nonetheless unusual for several reasons. First and foremost, it is considered the only authentic path to Buddhahood that originated in Tibet (from a female practitioner called Macik Labdron (c.1050-1150 CE)), rather than being imported from India. Macik received teachings from her root teacher, Pha Dampa Sangye (who is, despite deep historical inaccuracies, also considered to be Bodhidharma, who first brough Cha’an Buddhism to China) on his own system of “shi chey,” the pacification of suffering,” which does bear some similarities to chod. Scholars debate the extent to which Macik “created” chod (rather than simply borrowing it from her teacher);however, chod is unique on its own and the argument that Macik formulated the practice herselfis quite strong.
The second (and in some ways more important) unique feature of chod is that it began from a woman. The tradition’s discomfort with this fact is evident in the major biography of Macik relates that she had been an Indian Brahmin man who, meditating in a cave, received a vision that he should abandon his body and take the form of a woman to help the people of Tibet.According to this story, Macik is “actually” Indian, and a man, rather than a Tibetan woman. It is not the case that all Tibetans or Buddhists exhibit these sorts of biases, but they are nonetheless noteworthy.
Chod has become a popular practice amongst Western Buddhists, partly because of it has propagated by several influential Buddhist teachers since the 1980s (e.g., Dudjom Rinpoche, Lama Tsering Wagdu, and Tsultrim Allione). Another reason is more functional: chod involves simultaneously singing while beating a hand drum called a dramaru and ringing a bell, and occasionally blowing on a trumpet (kangling) which, ideally, should be made from a human thigh bone.
There are, additionally, dances associated with chod, but these are not always taught or practiced. Chod may be popular in the West, then, in part because it completely engages themind and body of the practitioner, and partly because, put simply, it produces beautiful music, perhaps best exemplified by the numerous award won by Ani Choying Drolma, who published several chod cds beginning in the late 1990s. Chod has two inter-related but nonetheless distinct uses: as a healing, exorcism or funerary rite, and as a personal spiritual practice.