An Introduction to Chöd – By Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche


An Introduction to Chöd

A few selected instructions from the seminar presented at the Kamalashila Institute for Buddhist Studies in Langenfeld, October 2006.

Note : In order to practice chöd, the sincere disciple must have received transmission and permission from an authentic lineage-holder. The transmission is a spiritual blessing that is passed down in an unbroken lineage, and as such protects the student on this quite advanced path of practice.

1. Introduction

I am very happy to have the opportunity to speak about chöd and hope that my introduction will be helpful for all of you who wish to engage in the practice. It is important to know which tradition of teachings chöd belongs to before one begins. gChöd belongs to the Secret Mantrayana (gsang-sngags being the Tibetan term that is synonymous with Vajrayana) and was brought to Tibet from India within the scope of the Eight Chariots of Accomplishment by Machig Labdron. Ma-gchig Lab-sGron , ‘One Mother, Lamp of the Lab’ was born in the region of Lab in Central Tibet and lived from 1055-1152 A.D. It is important to know that Machig Labdron did not invent chöd, a practice that brings together the essence of the entire teachings on Prajnaparamita that Lord Buddha presented when he turned the Wheel of Dharma a second time in Rajgriha, India.

Prajnaparamita is shes-rab-kyi-pha-rol-tu-phyin-pa in Tibetan and means, ‘reaching the other shore through the perfection of wisdom-awareness,’ in the sense of having left “this shore” of dualistic concepts. Prajnaparamita embraces the complete Mahayana teachings of perfect omniscience – the heart of Lord Buddha's realization. The Buddha gave short, middle-length, and long instructions on Prajnaparamita on the occasion of the Second Dharmachakra and meticulously explained insight into emptiness. Prajnaparamitasutras are the scriptures that were later composed in India (between approximately 100 B.C. and A.D. 600). The short text consists of 700 lines, the middle text has 8000 verses, and the long text has 100,000 verses. Chöd combines the Prajnaparamita teachings with the practice of lojong (blo-sbyong, ‘mind training’). Lojong is the Mahayana meditation system of the early Kadampa School on purifying the mind through self-cultivation and intellectual discipline. Dipamkara Srijana Atisha, the founder of the Kadampa Tradition, originally received this as a transmission from his supreme master Dharmakirti. Atisha brought this great transmission lineage to Tibet and compiled all teachings into his major work, entitled The Seven Points of Mind Training. These teachings have been assimilated by all the Tibetan Buddhist schools.

Chöd means ‘cutting through,’ i.e., severing erroneous concepts about the world of appearances and all illusions regarding the existence of a self. The practice of chöd is an advanced skilful method that enables practitioners to become free of clinging to false notions and beliefs regarding inherent existence of appearances and experiences and therefore of an individual self. Attachment and clinging to a self are forces that give rise to the defilements, which are the source of anguish and pain. Chöd is the practice that enables disciples to understand emptiness of all appearances that are fit to arise and therefore can be apprehended. It is an exceptional practice.

One needs to eradicate unfavourable delusions and hindrances and accomplish favourable conditions in order to realize and manifest perfect awakening. Unfavourable conditions are all negative habits that conceal the pure vision of reality. There are three types of unfavourable conditions: (1) delusions caused by past evil deeds, (2) delusions that are present and manifest as disturbing and therefore harmful emotions, and (3) the delusion of not knowing the true nature of all things. These delusions need to be purified. Furthermore, a disciple needs to accumulate favourable conditions, accomplished by practicing the six paramitas.

Generally, the six paramitas that a bodhisattva practices in order to achieve the highest goal of awakening are: generosity, ethical conduct, patience, joyful endeavour, meditation, and wisdom-awareness. The first paramita (‘perfection’) is transcendent giving that dissipates scarcity and wants that beings living in poverty endure. There are three ways to be generous: general, exceptional, and very difficult generosity. (1) General generosity is giving clothes, food, medicine, and other everyday necessities to those who are destitute. (2) Exceptional generosity is additionally giving away precious things that one cherishes very highly to those in need. (3) Extremely difficult generosity is even giving away one’s own body.

We know from stories about the former lives of Buddha Shakyamuni, at times when he was a bodhisattva, that he gave away his body or head, which is a very difficult thing to do. Can an ordinary individual do this? Shantideva taught in the Bodhicharyavatara that it is not at all recommendable for someone who has not realized extraordinary wisdom and compassion to give away his or her hands or other bodily parts. We may conclude that it is therefore impossible for ordinary beings like us to be just as generous as the Buddha was in his former lives. But the aspiration to achieve this most difficult kind of generosity is not less beneficial than actually carrying out the act. Therefore, so that doubts and discouragement do not arise, one practices phowa ('pho-ba being the practice of transference of consciousness). One imagines that one transfers one’s consciousness outside the body and then offers hands and limbs to ghosts, ghouls, evil phantoms, and gods.

What is exceptional about giving away one’s own body? Why is it really helpful? The size of the offering and the intention are decisive. If both are great, then the benefit will be great. What does this have to do with one’s physical body? Nobody will deny that one cherishes and clings to one’s body the most, therefore giving it away is an exceptional present. Why did Shantideva say that such an act is impossible for ordinary beings? He wrote that it is not such a good thing to do because ordinary beings are overly attached and habituated to their body. He explained that one may be fascinated by the idea, but when it comes to actually living up to one’s intention of giving away one’s body or limbs, one loses heart and becomes more than distraught. As a result, regret overwhelms practitioners. When this happens, one discovers that the intention was not such a good idea after all. And so, generously surrendering one’s body while practicing chöd is only imagined, which is already very beneficial. Merely imagining such an act of generosity is therefore a precautionary measure so that there is no danger of regretting and feeling badly when the situation actually presents itself and one backs off.

The instructions dealing with the sixth paramita say that prajna (‘wisdom-awareness’) needs to be realized in order to achieve supreme awakening. Wisdom-awareness is the realization that all appearances in the world and one’s life are devoid of inherent existence, i.e., everything is empty of a self-existing nature. The Prajnaparamitasutra states: “There is no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no mental formation, and so forth.” It is necessary to relinquish all preconceptions and discursiveness that one clings to and nurtures in order to fully realize the empty nature of all things referred to in the above verse. Chöd is a reliable and powerful method of practice to overcome all false assumptions about the world of appearances and experiences. Imagining that one is offering one’s body as food to spirits and demons helps a practitioner give up clinging to a self, which, in truth, does not exist as supposed.

It is so much easier imagining that one is offering one’s body to those one loves and admires. Offering one’s body to those one fears and dislikes, to those deemed enemies and foes, to those who hinder and obstruct any plans one may wish to accomplish is much more difficult. Therefore, the instructions on chöd suggest that, in order to overcome and reliably dispel attachment to a self, one specifically imagines giving one’s body to those one dislikes the most as well as to those who have been helpful and kind in the past.

Nyama Paldabum, one of Jetsun Milarepa’s very close disciples, approached him and asked, “You have received good instructions. But when one has received instructions, one needs to go into the mountains to practice. What kind of Dharma practice have you done?” In reply, Milarepa sang of outer, inner, and secret chöd, in which one cuts through one’s attachment to the self more efficiently each time. He sang, “External chöd is to wander in fearful places where there are deities and demons. Internal chöd is to offer one’s own body as food to the deities and demons. Ultimate chöd is to realize the true nature of the mind and cut through the fine strand of hair of subtle ignorance. I am the yogi who has these three kinds of chöd practice.” The instructions that Milarepa offered Nyama Paldabum are recounted in the 100,000Songs of Milarepa.

Jetsun Milarepa taught that chöd is entwined with the syllable PHET, the Sanskrit metaphor for ‘cutting through.’ Machig Labdron did not translate the mantra into Tibetan, because it embodies the essence of all teachings. Jetsun Milarepa went into great detail and explained that there are three ways to cut through clinging to a self. The practice of outer PHET enables a practitioner to gather and bind the mind, allowing him or her to hold the mind steadily and stop it from going astray. Inner PETH allows a practitioner to dispel delusions and drowsiness. And secret PHET enables a sincere practitioner to fathom the depths of everything that can be apprehended so that most subtle levels of clinging to a self are cut.

Many thoughts of hatred, lust, pride, jealousy, etc. arise in the mind, sometimes so overwhelmingly strong that it is impossible to hold or focus one’s mind during meditation, becoming lost in distractions instead. Anger, for instance, arises very often and is usually directed towards someone who threatens one’s physical existence. When situations like this occur, imagining that one is giving one’s own body to those who are angry and threaten one’s life severs attachment to a self. Then the mind is collected. Therefore, outer PHET is the practice of maintaining a steady mind so that thoughts do not carry one away.

Inner PHET serves to dispel dull states of mind. Heavy and wild thoughts distract more obviously than subtle thoughts, but drowsiness and dullness also lead astray. Mental dullness, even unconsciousness (which are based upon attachment to a truly existing self that purports to possess a truly existing body) can reliably be overcome through the practice of chöd. So the inner mantra is the practice of eradicating mental dullness.

Secret or true PHET is the practice that opens the door to realization of mind’s true nature through wisdom-awareness. It is not utterly hard or impossible to learn that all outer and inner appearances lack inherent existence, i.e., are empty of a self-entity. It is easy to logically deduce that forms, sounds, etc. lack independent existence, are mere appearances that arise in dependence upon other things and are therefore fit to be designated by a mind that apprehends them. It is much more difficult to actually realize emptiness of appearances, though. Practicing the true mantra enables a practitioner to realize that an independently existing self is not established through its own right or of its own accord and therefore does not really exist, the connotation of the term ‘emptiness.’ Furthermore, true mantra enables a fervent disciple to experience that – due to emptiness (i.e., lack of impediments for spatial existents to arise when conditions prevail) – it is not the case that nothing is present when appearances do arise and things happen. So, realizing the true mantra means experiencing the presence of clarity and radiant precision, i.e., realizing that the mind and all things are not only empty of inherent existence but are clear and radiant when they arise, abide, and cease. Realization engenders and increases one’s confidence in and certainty of the fact that things are not only empty of self-existence but are also clear and distinct when they arise – truly experienced when the secret mantra of cutting through has been accomplished. In daily practice, chöd means surrendering one’s body. Once in a while practitioners organize a big party and celebrate a feast, called chöd-ganachakra in Sanskrit.

What is the fundamental, day-to-day practice of giving away one’s body? Machig Labdron – who learned, perfected, and delineated the practice of chöd that was imparted to her by great Indian Mahasiddas – taught the preliminary practices, the main practices, and the concluding practices. There are five preliminary practices: (1) opening one’s heart for all living beings by giving rise to bodhicitta, (2) taking refuge in the Three Jewels, (3) accumulating and increasing merit and wisdom, (4) dispelling negative mental habits, and (5) giving offerings as an expression of gratitude and joy.

2. The First Three Preliminary Practices

a) Generating Bodhicitta

It is so much easier giving things to those persons one loves and likes than giving things to those persons one cannot stand, or giving things to those who have already harmed or who wish to harm one. But in the practice of chöd, one firstly thinks of worst enemies who are really out to hurt and harm. They are the most important individuals who need to be appeased through generosity. Secondly, maybe there are no tangible enemies who wish to hurt one; maybe there is nobody around who insults, belittles, or disparages one. Sometimes someone just gets in the way, or sometimes difficulties at work rule the day, or sometimes financial worries, sorrow, or anguish bring on disturbing situations in life. Then one can imagine that similar situations are spirits. Now, we do not really know if this is true, but it can be imagined – one can imagine that misfortunes have an intangible form and make good use of the opportunity to practice chöd. So, one can imagine the second type of recipients of generosity in the form of evil spirits. Thirdly, obstacles can also be objects of generosity, and there are many, e.g., being stopped from carrying out a plan, or having been robbed, or experiencing a streak of bad luck. One can imagine that such circumstances are intangible beings and wish to do something good for them. Sometimes there is tremendous fear of disaster or slight fear that something may go wrong. One can imagine such instances as formless living beings and not be afraid, rather use the opportunity to practice chöd by wishing and trying to do something really good for them.

In general, there are many reasons to be fearful and to suffer, for instance, terrifying images or apparitions can manifest in one’s mind. Nevertheless, it is important to resolve not to respond with anger and fear to vicious apparitions but to welcome every terrifying experience or appearance by saying, “Okay, you are not evil but are actually good, therefore I greet and bid you welcome. I want to do something good for you.” There are demons causing diseases and sicknesses, there is much ill health that one can and often does go through. When this happens, one can think, “Just a short while ago I was well, and suddenly I got sick.” One can also be afraid of getting sick the next day or feel uncomfortable and uneasy in a certain place. Nobody can deny that vicious spirits (that cannot be seen with the eyes but who may be eager to harm) haunt those places. But maybe one has succumbed to fear of having to face what is often dreaded to be a demon.

It’s necessary to not only understand but to face the truth that life entails suffering and pain. It is a fact that having been born means being subject to impermanence, ageing, sickness, and death. By acknowledging and accepting any painful and disturbing experiences that life inevitably entails, one can accept whatever happens and more easily recognize that nothing is really bad. If people are not nice, one can call to mind the aspiration prayers that one once made to help all living beings without exception. One is free to reflect that all living beings, whoever they are, were once one’s kind parents one promised to help. During the practice of chöd, one especially remembers most horrific enemies and foes or thinks about the most malevolent spirits and greatest obstacles that can be imagined. This is one of the seven points of lojong practice, namely using obstacles and hindrances as the path, by not getting angry about what is usually considered terrible but by being grateful and making good use of the exceptional chance to generate and increase loving kindness and compassion instead.

Lojong teaches that every living being – especially those out to harm one as well as frightful spirits who seem to just show up – was once one’s dear mother. A practitioner of lojong contemplates, “I want to transform them into the state of the Great Mother.” What does this mean? Great Mother is a synonym for Prajnaparamita, ‘perfection of highest wisdom-awareness’ that extraordinary individuals who have reached supreme bodhisattva levels have realized and one wishes to realize too. How is this supreme goal accomplished? Through the virtue of listening to and contemplating the Dharma, in order to gain certainty, and through the virtue of meditating the instructions, in order to actually realize yeshe (‘primordial wisdom’) that all Buddhas have.

Prajnaparamita (Sher-phyin-ma, ‘Perfection of Wisdom’) is called “Great Mother” because she gives birth to four types of aryas (‘noble beings’). Buddha-aryas would never have become a buddha (‘a fully realized saint and sage’) without first having been born by Prajnaparamita. She also gives birth to bodhisattvas, to pratyekabuddhas, and to shravakas, i.e., to all maha-arhats who have reached the goal they diligently worked on to reach. The four accomplishments that the four types of aryas accomplish could never be achieved without prajna. Therefore Prajnaparamita is compared to a mother, a great mother.

Having decided to lead all living beings to the same state as Prajnaparamita, one needs to be honest and admit that one is presently not in a position to do so. Why? Because one is still overwhelmed by delusions and emotions that follow. Everyone has the potential and ability to become free from delusions concerning the way things are and the way things appear. Everyone has the capability to become free of deceptive illusions and, having accomplished the goal, to lead others to the same state.

We have heard these instructions many times and know that usually the first contemplation and meditation in any sadhana (a vajrayana liturgy for one of many deities that includes chanting, visualization, and mantra recitation) is taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and sangha, and that the second practice is giving rise to bodhicitta. We may wonder, “Why is the order of practice different in chöd?” The reason is that chöd is a special practice. Its purpose is to enable practitioners to pacify and overcome emotions, especially the strongest emotions that disturb and harm most painfully (pride, anger that is born from hatred, passion, ignorance, and jealousy) as well as those feelings that are not listed as the most harmful emotions but that arise due to attachment to a self (such as fear, depression, etc.). Therefore it is necessary to open one’s heart to others every time one engages in the practice of chöd by first generating bodhicitta.

This concludes the discussion of the first preliminary practice, which is generating bodhicitta by opening one’s heart for all living beings. Please practice in this way.

b) Seeking Refuge

The second preliminary practice is seeking refuge in those who are competent and reliable. In the Mahamudra-Ngöndro practice, one thinks that, together with all dear friends and family members, one seeks refuge in the images depicted in the Refuge Tree. In the practice of chöd, though, one invites all those one thinks are malicious enemies. One imagines that one sincerely invites all enemies by first blowing a thighbone trumpet (kang-gling in Tibetan). This may sound strange, repulsive, and frightening. Why is the trumpet used in the practice of chöd a thighbone? Nothing in dharmadhatu (‘the vast expanse of space’) is really awful and dreadful; nothing is dirty or clean, because those interpretations are not real. The thighbone trumpet symbolizes this fact. Jetsun Milarepa taught, “Everything in dharmadhatu is one-taste.” He explained why the kang-gling is used and said, “The sight of a corpse disgusts us, but it is not different than the physical body we carry around with us anyway and cherish so much. Therefore, there is no reason to be repelled by a kang-gling.” So, that is why it is used.

Calling those persons, spirits, ghosts, and ghouls that one thinks are repulsive and cruel in one’s imagination causes various reactions in them. Some of them may wonder why they are being addressed and become suspicious or disturbed, scratching their heads, puzzled, and wondering whether one’s intentions are good or not. This is normal. If someone we don’t like calls us by our name, for example, and tells us to hurry on over, we too would wonder what they could possibly want from us. Therefore one claps the trumpet three times and tells them, “Do not be afraid. Please, listen to me.” One continues by asking them, “Come on over. I wish to do something good for you, so do hurry.” One calls all negative forces one can imagine when one forwards the invitation that they please come on over to take refuge together.

When guests are invited to participate in other practices and have arrived, one usually imagines that everyone takes refuge in all teachers of the transmission lineage and that all Buddhas, the Dharma and the complete sangha are assembled in the Refuge Tree in front. In the practice of chöd, though, one imagines that Prajnaparamita is seated in the centre of space in front. She has gone to the other shore, the shore of primordial wisdom that is beyond form. During the practice of chöd, one imagines that she has a form and can protect everyone from falling from low to lower states of existence and, as a result, suffer horrific wounds and laceration. She is Yum-chen-mo, the ‘Great Mother’ of the wisdom that gave and continues giving birth to Buddhas, bodhisattvas, pratyekabuddhas, and shravakas, those saints and sages who manifest invaluable qualities by having realized wisdom-awareness. This is why she is more than a friend – she is a protector, a source of refuge. This is why she has a golden body, because gold is very valuable and does not change. She is not only the embodiment of supreme wisdom but also actively helps everyone – and she does have a lot to do. Imagining her in a physical form, she can certainly help many beings with two arms and hands, but she can do much more with four. This is why she has four arms and hands.

Each of Prajnaparamita’s four hands makes a distinct and meaningful gesture. Her first left hand is placed in her lap to show that she has reached the goal and transcended worldly knowledge with prajna. Three kinds of wisdom-awareness can be attained: (1) prajna that arises from hearing the precious Dharma instructions, (2) prajna that is developed by contemplating and reflecting the instructions one has heard, and (3) prajna that becomes manifest by meditating and integrating the teachings in one’s life. The final result of having accomplished the third kind of prajna is attainment of perfect mental stability, the goal, and this is why her left hand rests in her lap.

Buddha Shakyamuni, seated directly below Prajnaparamita, touched the earth with his right hand when he attained perfect enlightenment in Bodhgaya. What does the earth-touching gesture mean? Lord Buddha called upon the earth, by touching it with his right hand, to witness that he had attained perfection of inner stability and supreme wisdom when he became enlightened. Prajnaparamita does not touch the earth with her first right hand because she is the one who gives birth to perfect awakening. Therefore her first right hand rests on her left hand in her lap. Nothing lasts, everything changes, therefore Prajnaparamita’s second left hand holds a sacred text that represents all the precious Dharma teachings, and her second right hand holds a vajra that stands for perfect realization of the immutable, ever-present changeless nature.

The Sambhogakaya-Buddha is seated above Prajnaparamita in space in front. There are two types of physical emanations of a Buddha in the world of appearances: nirmanakaya and sambhogakaya. Buddha Shakyamuni is a nirmanakaya, wears three robes which denote simplicity, i.e., freedom from discursiveness. The Sambhogakaya-Buddha is depicted with many ornaments, which symbolize the radiance and abundance of insight and wisdom that bring joy and well-being. Both form kayas, each in its own way, show that perfect awakening is not a thing of naught, rather perfect awakening means being fully adorned and magnificently present while abiding in simplicity, sprös-bräl.

Of course, the source of refuge is the Three Jewels, i.e., the Buddha, the Dharma and the sangha, the sangha referring to all great masters, protectors, and helpers who belong to the transmission lineage. So, just as in lojong practice, together with all guests, one invokes the Buddha as the ultimate teacher who shows the way. Then one invokes the Dharma that is the teachings. One also invokes the sangha, those beings that protect, help, and care for everyone most heedfully. The Three Jewels are the source of freedom from suffering and fear, the reason one invokes them. Actually, the Three Jewels represent the wisdom and compassion that everyone will realize too – if they practice.

The third kaya a Buddha realizes is the dharmakaya, which is the own mind. One needs to realize that the dharmakaya, one’s own mind, is unborn, empty of inherent existence, never arises or ceases. How can this be? One can investigate by taking an opponent’s view into account and ask, “If the mind is a solid thing that can be found and identified, then how can it be changed or develop for the better? How can one even hope to attain and manifest qualities of awakening if the mind is a solid and static thing?” In truth, the own mind is dharmakaya, unborn and empty of inherent existence. This is the situation.

At this point in practice, one is assembled with one’s worst enemies, with all those one thinks are out to harm. One seeks refuge together with them. Everyone who has arrived shows deepest respect for all sources of protection, for the yidams and protectors at the base of the Refuge Tree, too, by folding their palms and speaking The Refuge Prayer with devotion and an open, loving heart. While concentrating on the source of refuge, i.e., all Buddhas and bodhisattvas who possess magnificent qualities, and while concentrating on Prajnaparamita, one prays, “May the body of all living beings, including myself, be well and all our actions help others. May everything we say be beneficial and good. May our minds be pure and sincere.” One recites this because one wishes that all living beings have happiness and the causes of happiness. The causes of happiness are wholesome deeds carried out with one’s body, helpful and encouraging words that one speaks, and pure thoughts and intentions generated and held in one’s mind.

The practice of seeking refuge together with one’s enemies and foes is concluded by praying that all living beings be naturally free of painful experiences, that they may be happy and content, and that they fully realize the qualities that all those noble beings assembled in the Refuge Tree have. And so, in the practice of chöd, generating bodhicitta is the first preliminary practice and taking refuge is the second. Generating bodhicitta means opening one’s heart for others, the reason it is the first preliminary practice.

Following, one takes the bodhisattva vows to always work for the welfare of others; it is the second aspect of increasing bodhicitta. The community of practitioners who took refuge have opened their hearts for others by giving rise to bodhicitta, but it is important to make the same promise and pledge that bodhisattvas always made and make, by saying, “Now we will really work for the welfare of others and promise never to forfeit our commitment.” This is a special practice that consists of five steps: (1) admitting and regretting all bad actions one and all others formerly carried out with body, speech, and mind, (2) being happy about the good one and all others have been able to do, (3) seeking refuge in the true objects of refuge together with one’s guests, (4) conscientiously resolving to help all beings by taking the bodhisattva vows, and (5) making wishing prayers and dedicating any positive merit that has been able to accomplish for the welfare of others.

This is the stage in practice at which one conscientiously resolves and promises the Buddhas of the three times to work for the welfare of others, just as they have done and continue doing. The Buddhas of the three times are those who have worked and those who continue working for the benefit of others. One speaks the aspiration prayer together with all those one invited and resolves, “Just as the Buddhas of the three times have worked for the welfare of others, we wish to do this too.” One intensifies the prayer by promising to carry out one’s intention so that it is fruitful and effective by praying, “May this aspiration not only be an idea, but may all our wishes come true.” These two aspects are bodhicitta of aspiration and bodhicitta of application.

c) Accumulating and Increasing Merit and Wisdom

As it is, one makes offerings to a referential object during sadhana practice in order to accumulate merit, and the recipient of offerings in the practice of chöd is Machig Labdron, who is imagined to be in space before one. She embodies all saintly beings, protectors, and dakinis who are assembled in the Refuge Tree. She is also inseparably one with our Root Lama.

Historically, Machig Labdron was a mahasiddha (‘a great pandit and saint’) who lived in Tibet and attained realization. In the practice of chöd, one sees her as a wisdom dakini. Dakinis are female spiritual beings that fulfil enlightened activities, which protect and serve the Dharma as well as all practitioners. They are actually the root of activities among the Three Roots. The Three Roots (rtsa-ba-gsum) are the Lama, yidams and dakinis. The Lama is the root of blessings, the yidam meditation deities are the root of all siddhis (‘accomplishments’), and the dakinis are the source of Buddha activities.

Machig Labdron is white in colour, has one face and three eyes. The third wisdom-eye on her forehead symbolizes her unclouded vision that sees everything. In her left hand, she holds an upturned bell at her hip; her right hand is upraised and holds a damaru (‘hand drum’). One imagines t