Presentations

The conference schedule will include daily keynote talks, panel discussions, break-out session presentations and Dharma talks. Evenings will offer practice, celebratory and community events.

Please continue to revisit this page for further presentation descriptions and schedule information.

Keynote Talks:

How Did Chöd Become Chöd?
Lama Sarah Harding

Chöd has arguably been one of the most popular practices in Tibet since the thirteenth century and its popularity continues today in the modern world of Tibetan Buddhism as it spreads around the globe. While it is easy to understand the appeal, it is more difficult to trace its origins. The official histories attempt to claim this practice both as a lineage going back to ancient India via Pa Dampa Sangye and as an indigenous tradition deriving from the revelations of Machig Labdrön. Can we have it both ways?

Lama Sarah Harding will discuss the textual evidence based on actual source materials that are attributed to Machig Labdrön, Pa Dampa Sangye, and the earliest commentators.

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The Dudjom Tersar Chöd
Sangye Khandro

Sangye Khandro will introduce the Tröma Nagmo Chöd from the Dudjom lineage and discuss the role of Chöd as a platform for the integration of Sutra and Tantra. She will highlight the special importance the Dudjom Chöd tradition places upon the vehicle of the Great Perfection, Ati Yoga, emphasizing the view according to the fourth cycle of the Upadesha class known as the Quintessential Secret Heart Essence.

If time allows, Sangye Khandro will discuss the purpose of Chöd practice and will further illuminate the meaning of the unique methods that are used to perform the severance of ego-grasping.

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The Relevance of Machig Labdrön’s Lineage in the Modern World
Lama Tsultrim Allione

Lama Tsultrim Allione will offer a presentation of Feeding Your Demons™, exploring the historical roots of the practice within the teachings of Machig Labdrön as well as the development of the current practice of Feeding Your Demons™. The talk will outline the theoretical and philosophical foundations of this work and include a guided meditation, taking the audience through the five steps of Feeding Your Demons™.

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Dharma Teachings:

Lama Tsering Wangdu Rinpoche

With his beloved heart-opening wisdom and humor, Rinpoche shares teachings from his life-long practice and study of the Chöd /Zhije tradition. This is a rare chance to receive teachings from and be in the presence of a true Chödpa who has offered healing and guidance to countless people in the East and West.

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Venerable Drüpon Lama Karma

This is a special opportunity to receive Dharma teachings on “Introduction to Rinchen Threngwa: Lineage and Practice” from one of Bhutan’s most eminent teachers, the renowned retreat master Ven. Drüpon Lama Karma.

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Panel Discussions:

Scholar-practitioners engage in lively discourse on relevant themes and topics:

  • The Role of Women in Tibetan Buddhism and the Chöd Lineage
  • Dampa Sangye and the Zhije Lineage
  • The Living Tradition and Modern Applications of Chöd /Zhije
  • The Future of the Chöd /Zhije Lineage in the East & West

Break-out Presentations:

These sessions allow for intimate conversation with presenters around topics particular to their research, study and practice; some sessions include practice and experiential engagement.

Cutting Through Boundaries: A Workshop on the Bönpo Chöd (gcod)
Alejandro Chaoul, PhD

In the beautiful autumn of 1989, a striking melodious voice accompanied by powerful bells and drums reached my room in Zilnon Kagye Ling monastery in Dharamsala, India.

This was Alejandro Chaoul’s introduction to Chöd, leading him on an in-depth journey to research and learn Chöd from different traditions, primarily among Nyingma and Bön lineages. Inspired by his teachers, Yeshe Dorje Rinpoche, Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, Lopon Tenzin Namdak, and Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, he pursued an exploration of Chöd and its origins in the Bön tradition from both an academic and practitioner’s perspective.

In this workshop Dr. Chaoul will share his experience of the various Bönpo Chöd lineages and how one can practice it in a simple way, without needing a bell or a drum. This practice can become a powerful tool for the practitioner to confront their fears and limitations, finding support in a state of mind that is more open, luminous, and warm.

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Women Chodpas in the Mongolian Tradition
Kunze Chimed and Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo PhD

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The Unfolding of the Nyen-Gyü: The Machig Dakini Ear-Whispered Lineage
Chöying Khandro

This presentation explores the unfamiliar territory of the Nyen-Gyü, the Ear-Whispered Lineage, called “The Machig Ḍākinī Ear-Whispered lineage” (Machig Khandro Nyengyü). It is a rare, secret, and unequaled Chöd tradition of Tibetan Vajrayana.

This lineage was once highly valued and spread from the borders of Eastern Tibet to Amdo and Inner Mongolia. Its practices are profound and powerful as well as beautiful, melodious, and imbued with the dakinis’ blessings. However, the lineage was strictly orally transmitted and was on the verge of disappearing by the early twentieth century.

This exploration will uncover the historical background of the Machig Ḍākinī Ear-Whispered Lineage, identify the unique characteristics of the lineage of wandering yogis, provide an overview of its practices and retreats, and highlight recent endeavors to revitalize it.

This session will serve as a helpful introduction to the Chöd empowerment and the retreat of the Ganden Ear-Whispered Lineage practice following the conference.

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Severing the Body as Object: Contemplative Dynamics of the Simulated Self and Altered Embodiment in Tibetan Chöd Practice
Michael Sheehy, PhD

In “Severing the Source of Fear: Contemplative Dynamics of the Tibetan Buddhist gCod Tradition” (2005) Dr. Sheehy describes the first-person meditative processes that transform the self within the active imagination of a Chöd (gcod) practitioner. Extending this work more specifically to the Chöd view of the bodily self, this presentation will discuss (a) the sense of self as subject and the sense of self as object, (b) the powa (’pho ba) process of disassociating the body and mind that is integral to Chöd practice in dialogue with neurophysiological research on out-of-body experiences, and (c) how Chöd contemplative techniques simulate the self and alter embodiment to reorient the baseline operations that are in error. We explore Tibetan Chöd liturgical literature in conversation with Buddhist and contemporary philosophy of mind and neuroscience to describe a phenomenology of embodiment and understand Chöd contemplative contributions to the body-world dance.

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Chöd, Illness, and Tibetan Medicine
Ācārya Malcolm Smith

Tibetan Medicine identifies 404 classes of illness. Among those, 101 of those illnesses are caused by the immaterial spirits called dön (gdon). Furthermore, in addition to the three causes of illness, the three humors, Tibetan Medicine identifies four conditions of illness: season/time, spirit provocations (dön), diet, and behavior.

The most common method of dealing with illnesses caused by dön are medical treatments combined with ritual methods (rim ‘gro), such as smoke offerings, tormas, fire pujas, and other rites included under the general rubric of tö (gto). The practice of Chöd Healing is included here.

This presentation will focus on the general meaning of dön, identifying different illnesses caused by dön, and understanding how they are recognized, classified, and diagnosed in Tibetan Medicine and Elemental Calculation (‘byung rtsi, also known as nag rtsi). The various methods to address these illnesses, with special attention to those methods found in the Chöd tradition, will also be discussed.

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Newest Visions of Padampa Sangye: Insights from the Zhijé Collection
Dan Martin, PhD

In this talk, Dan Martin – a well-respected scholar and researcher of the life and teachings of Padampa Sangye and the Zhijé tradition – draws from one of the oldest existing manuscript collections dating from around 1245, the Zhijé Collection. He will share what is known about Padampa Sangye, the 11th century Indian teacher; the Tingri community he established in Tibet; and the early Zhijé tradition, called the “Later Transmission.”

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“The Great Mother of the Buddhas:” Motherhood as Metaphor and Model in the Writings of “the Second Machig” Sera Khandro
Sarah Jacoby, PhD

Motherhood as a metaphor with multivalent significance pervades Buddhist teachings, even as actual mothers remain scarce in Buddhist lineage histories. One exception is Machig Labdrön, who was a “Great Mother” in both a spiritual and a somatic sense. The example Machig set as a spiritual mother has not been lost on subsequent generations of female Tibetan religious masters. This talk will center on one such inheritor of Machig’s legacy, the 20th century dakini and Treasure revealer Sera Khandro, who is renowned by contemporary Tibetan commentators as “the second Machig.” Through listening to select passages from Sera Khandro’s autobiography, we will consider what being a “Great Mother of the Buddhas” in the image of Machig meant for Sera Khandro and others in her milieu. In the course of this conversation we will explore aspects of motherhood, consortship, female mentorship, and the symbolism of gender complimentarily pervasive in Tantric Buddhism as well as the implications of these—both pitfalls and promises—for contemporary Buddhist practitioners.

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Chöd and its Doctrinal Developments from the 11th – 15th Centuries
Michelle Sorensen, PhD

In this presentation, Dr. Sorensen will discuss her research on the transmission and institutionalization of Tibetan Buddhist Chöd in the lineage of Machig Labdrön (1055-1153) from the 11th to 15th centuries, providing new ways to appreciate the development of Chöd. In order to stimulate conversation on how Buddhist Chöd praxis has been an ongoing project of innovation and renewal, she will introduce a Chöd geneaology of key figures and transmission lineages she has been compiling. She will consider several important early commentaries on The Great Speech Chapter by Machig Labdrön written by scholar-practitioners from the Karma Kagyu and Nyingma traditions, including the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorjé (1284-1339), Kunkhyen Longchen Rabjampa Drimé Özer (1308-1363/4), and the great terton, Dorjé Lingpa (1346-1405). By appreciating the continuities and changes in the Chöd traditions through this historical approach, we can better understand the nuances of contemporary Chöd practice.

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The Philosophical Foundations of Chod Practice: Feminist Reflections
Ven. Lekshe Tsomo

Although the practice of Chod is authentically Tibetan, its origins and adaptations reveal a continuing process of innovation. It is clear, however, that the practice developed within a Buddhist philosophical framework. This presentation explores the connections between Chod practice and the Buddhist teachings. Two of the most important of these connections are the concepts of the pure, luminous nature of the mind, and the capacity of the mind for awakening. Another connection is the bodhicitta aspiration to awaken spiritually in order to liberate all beings from suffering.The practice of Chod began with Machik Lobdron, a realized woman who lived in Tibet almost a thousand years ago – a fact that gives the practice of Chod a special and liberating significance for women in cultures throughout the world. Today, in a time of great awakening for women, tracing the philosophical genealogies of this liberating practice helps us appreciate the depth of her wisdom.

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Chöd Songs: An Evening Concert with Kunze Chimed

Kunze’s singing career began as a Chöd umdze (chant leader) in the Takten House of the 9th Khalka Jetsun Dampa Rinpoche. Renowned in Mongolia and Russia as a popular singer of Buddhist songs, her numerous recordings include three Chöd albums, The Tara Sound, and Vajrayogini Chöd Tsog. We have the joy of hearing Kunze offer traditional Chöd songs in this special evening event.

Read more about Kunze Chimed