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Observations placeholder

Tibetan Buddhism - Chod and the wolf



Type of Spiritual Experience


The man is in a graveyard with a corpse that has been cut up and strewn about the graveyard.  Alexandra had come across him by accident intending to meditate nearby.  He was there going through the chod ceremony

A description of the experience

With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet – Alexandra David-Neel

When I arrived, the young ascetic recited the mantra of praise to the Prajnaparamita

" O Wisdom that is gone, gone, gone, gone to the beyond and beyond the beyond svaha!

The monotonous dong, dong of the deep-voiced drum became slower and finally ceased, the young ascetic seemed sunk in meditation. After a while he wrapped himself more tightly in his zen.  The kangling in his left hand, the damaru lifted high in the right and beating an aggressive staccato, the man stood in a challenging attitude, as if defying some invisible enemy.

"I, the fearless naljorpa” he exclaimed' I trample down the self , the gods, and the demons”

His voice sounded still louder! “Ye lamas, spiritual teachers, Heros, Khadomas, by thousands, come join me in the dance!”

The nocturnal landscape that had been animated by the performance recovered its serenity.  What was I to do? The naljorpa, I knew, would not leave his tent before daybreak. Nothing more was to be seen.  I was not in a meditative mood, I might as well go away. But there was no hurry. I continued to listen.

At intervals, I heard a few words of the ritual, then low indistinct muttering and moaning.  It was useless to remain there any longer. I moved cautiously out of my hiding-place. Then, as I took a few steps forward, I heard a low growl. An animal quickly passed in front of me. It was a wolf. The noise made by the naljorpa had kept it away and now, since all was silent, it had ventured to approach the feast Iaid there for those of its kind.

As I began to round the hillock, and climb down, a sudden exclamation stopped me.

" I pay my debts! " shouted the naljorpa. " As I have been feeding on you, so feed upon me in your turn !  Come, ye hungry ones, and you that ungratified desires torment!  In this banquet offered by my compassion, my flesh will transform itself into the very object of your craving.  Here, I give you fertile fields, green forests, flowery gardens, both white and red food, clothes, healing medicines! Eat! eat! "

The excited ascetic blew furiously his kangling, uttered an awful cry and jumped on his feet so hastily that his head knocked against the low roof of the tent, and the latter fell in on him. He struggled a while under the cloth, and emerged with the grim, distorted face of a madman, howling convulsively with gestures betokening intense physical pain.

Now I could understand what chod means for those who work themselves up until they are absolutely hypnotized by its ritual. No doubt that the man felt the teeth of some invisible ghouls in his body.

He looked around him in all directions and addressed unseen bystanders as if he had been surrounded by a host of beings from other worlds. Most likely he beheld some kind of ghastly vision.  The sight was deeply interesting. But I could not look at it with complete indifference. This poor fellow would kill himself with his dreadful ritual. I had discovered the secret of his sickly appearance and why he had deemed my medicines of no avail in his case.

I felt most anxious to awaken him from his nightmare. Yet I hesitated because I knew that my intervention would go against the established rule. Those who have engaged in such training must fight it out unaided.

As I remained undecided, I heard the wolf growling again. It had stopped on the top of the hillock. From there, as if petrified, and in an attitude of intense terror, the animal looked fixedly in the direction of the tumbledown tent as if it, too, beheld some appalling sight.

The naljorpa continued to groan in agony.  I could not bear it any longer. I rushed towards the poor mad fellow. But, as soon as he caught sight of me, he called to me with a vehement gesture, shouting:

"Come, angry one, feed on my flesh drink my blood!”

This was too absurd indeed! He took me for a ghost!  In spite of the pity which I felt, I nearly laughed.

"Do be quiet," I said. "There are no demons here.  I am the reverend lady-lama whom you know."

He did not appear even to hear my voice but continued to address me in the words of the ritual.  I thought that the toga in which I was wrapped gave me, perhaps, a somewhat ghost-like aspect. So throwing it on the ground I spoke again.

"Now, do recognize me!"

It was of no use. The poor novice was utterly out of his mind.

Then he began the ritualistic dance, turning successively towards the four quarters, reciting “I trample down the demon of pride, the demon of anger, the demon of  lust, the demon of  stupidity”

Each exclamation " I trample down” was accompanied by actual stamping and ritual vociferations of “tsem shes tsem!"- which grew louder and louder, till the last ones were thundered out in truly deafening tones.

He rearranged his toga which trailed on the ground, and having put aside his damaru and the bone trumpet, he spread the tent, seized a peg in one hand, a stone in the other one, and drove home the pegs while chanting the liturgy.

The tent stood there now, a puny thing made of a thin cotton fabric that had once been white and appeared greyish under the moonlight. It was ornamented with the words Aum, A, Hum, cut out in blue and red material and sewn on its three closed sides.

Several frills of the five mystic colours - red, blue, green, yellow and white - hung from the little roof.  The whole thing was faded and shabby.

Apparently agitated by disturbing thoughts, the lean ascetic looked at the pieces of the corpse scattered on the ground and then turned his head as if inspecting the surroundings. He seemed hesitating and, heaving a deep sigh, he passed his hand twice or thrice over his forehead.

Then, shaking himself as if summoning up his courage, he seized his kangling, blew loudly a number of times, first slowly, then accelerating the rhythm as if for an exasperated summons, and entered his tent.

The source of the experience

Tibetan Buddhism

Concepts, symbols and science items


Spirit being

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps