Machik’s Complete Explanation by Harding

Sarah Harding, transl. Machik’s Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chöd, A Complete Explanation of Casting Out the Body As Food. Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion, 2003. Hardcover, 365 pp.

The great female adept Machik Lapkyi Drönma ( Machik Lapdrön), who lived in Tibet in the eleventh to twelfth century.

This expert translation was originally suggested to Sarah Harding by her root guru Kalu Rinpoche, and Sarah Harding labored on this challenging work for numerous years. Here fine introduction illustrates not only her mastery of the subject but also her dedication to Tibetan Buddhism in theory and practice.

Chöd (“Cutting”) is a radical Tantric practice ( sadhana) by which the ego illusion can effectively be transcended. Its central ritual and visualization of offering all one’s body parts to spirits has become something of a popular practice with Western practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. Machik’s masterful and detailed portrayal, translated here into English for the first time, shows the amazing depth of this unique sadhana.

Machik’s book is based on her teachings and stories, though it is not known whether the text records her words and ideas faithfully and without additions. Regardless, the teachings found in Machik’s Complet Explanationare of immense value to all chöd practitioners and have in fact been used by many generations of monastic and lay practitioners alike.

Machik’s text is divided into ten chapters. The first two chapters deal with her life—her birth, childhood, teachers, initiations, and culminating vision of the Goddess Tara. The next two chapters cover the chöd practice, basic teachings on the objects of refuge (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha), the four immeasurables, offerings, and the esoteric practice of separating the mind from the body. This is followed by a chapter explaining the process of dying and the outer and inner deities and demons encountered in visionary experience. The seventh and eighth chapter furnishes more details about chöd visualization and signs of success. The ninth chapter deals with Machik’s prophecies about future corruption, which will make Dharma practice very difficult. This consideration is continued in the final chapter.

This volume, which includes notes, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index, is a great gift to all Dharma practitioners.

Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form requires prior permission from Traditional Yoga Studies.

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