The death process is a slow thing, but it is not painfully slow once the body is emptied; no longer housing that which would sense or feel pain. The gases and chemicals that rise and distend, the shrinking tissue occuring due to moisture loss that is not replenished, these things bother none but the observer who fears what the being once resident is, is not, or may be; both fearing and feeling pain for the certainty that such an end is inescapable, inevitable.
Every being that lives is also dying, just a little, every day. This is true literally as well as figuratively in so many ways. It is a process that repeats throughout life. Sometimes, I am convinced that every loss, every departure, every pull or tear of change is practice; the chance to experience all of these feelings and fears in preparation for the final one that waits somewhere and, when finally encountered, grants no known memory.
Victory and Fearlessness are the purposes of the practice; to cultivate a sense of victory before the finality of death, and to work at whittling away at and eventually eliminating the fear of death and of the unknown.
Machig Labdron, a precious teacher, said, “To consider adversity as a friend is the instruction of Chod.” This seems to make quite good sense; what better way to smooth the sharp edges of pain and fear than to recognize and overcome every instance of them, all instances that resemble them while living?
While life, it seems, is quite capable of bringing the opportunities, engaging them is not always an easy thing. Painful happenings often find one withdrawing. Fear often finds one turning away, running and fleeing or denying. The activity of ego is to protect “the self” and so, naturally, when injured or fearing injury, loss, deprivation, et al, it rises and works to over-ride the intellect and remove one from whatever is occurring to cause the pain, the fear.
The interesting thing is that it doesn’t really work. The process of contemplating just how and why withdrawal and fleeing is pointless is also an important part of the practice.
Practitioners or proficients who delve into Chod practice are often recipients of an odd and contradictory response from others; detested, respected, found awe-some, or feared. Being able to face the terror and remain standing may not be such an amazing feat, but being able to do so with both serenity and comfort seems to be found quite amazing by others.
Traditionally, these adherents to the practice offer themselves as a feast to the world. Today, it is a symbolic offering and there are many who carry that figurative sense from the charnel ground; making the practice a part of the every day experience; forever lifting pieces of themselves and handing them to others as a means of overcoming the various pains and fears so often associated with doing so; to become a being capable of unceasingly giving and to do so with a sense of fearlessness and victory each time it is possible, each time one manages it.
In many ways, Chod is one of the most visceral methods of realization as it demands one be fully in the moment, aware of what is occuring and what is being given, and free the mind, returning it to its natural state of emptiness and pristine awareness.
Tonight’s meditation stumbled upon Chod for reasons that matter to no one but me. I might have shied away, but the thought that every instant of pain or fear is a potentially helpful lesson kept me still, helped me walk the bony, empty landscape of inner fears and emotional pain and think about it without thinking “about it”.
I can’t say much more than this. I am somewhat calm, I do not feel at all victorious, but I do find I am without fear. I suppose being utterly resigned to things being as they are helps there.
There is an old saying that I cannot properly attribute in this moment; it goes, “Abandon all hope of fruition.” The first time I read it, I thought it a terrifying and rather depressing statement. I can’t say that feeling is entirely gone, but I do begin to understand that not having hope would certainly remove a lot of pain for that hope being unmet. It very likely would also do much to assuage the fear that it may never be met.
Who knows? Maybe someday, it would overcome it all completely.
For reasons I find hard to put into words, that thought is deeply comforting to find.
Om Benza Sattva Hung
Om Vajra Sattva Hung
Om Mani Padme Hung
Om Ah Hung Om Ah Hung Om Ah Hung
(ref: Departures – courtesy of NetFlix – in particular, the scene at 0:40:00, wherein the sense of life’s beauty and the reality of how it is precious and should be cherished fully is most wonderfully conveyed.)