Throughout the pandemic, the Chöd group has remained active and open for anyone willing to join the practice. Here, Tina Lang kindly agreed to do an interview about the group and the change it has faced with the shift to the online platform.
Could you say a bit about the group?
When our Shedrub group started in 2013, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche requested that everybody should learn different practices. Rinpoche gave a lot of teachings and guidance to help us practice. In the beginning, we got a lot of interest and around sixty people joined the group. When we had the practice group on campus, sometimes we had 20 and sometimes only 3. Of course, during the semester we had more people and towards the end of the semester there were usually less, with students preparing for their exams. So it started through Rinpoche’s inspiration, and he guided us very clearly on which practices we should start with, and when we can move on to the next step. We requested that Rinpoche give a Chöd seminar, and he obliged with a three-day Chöd seminar in Pharping. Many monks and lamas also requested the teachings.
How has the transition to practicing online gone? How has it affected the practice?
On campus it was nice to be in the same room, and to hear each other’s instruments and the chant master. In a physical group setting, everyone knows, for example, the drum pattern and when it starts. But none of this works online, because there is too much feedback with platforms such as zoom. So that’s why we decided to use a recording, instead of one of us being the head chanter.
One of the benefits of the online format is that it allows us to show photos easily, eg. the refuge tree, Machig Labdron, the deities etc. Having the practice online brought us together as a group and the dharma proved very helpful in these difficult times. It’s good to have the sangha to support one another. When we opened it up to the world, some dharma students and alumni from Poland, America, and Australia, were able to join. We also were able to open up to more friends from other Gomde centers. Sometimes we have people from Malaysia, Scotland, Ukraine, Pyrenees etc.
In Nepal, sometimes we would have the whole monastery practice Chöd together, and of course that is a completely different feeling. It becomes very emotional, people chant more passionately. I miss that part. But in the end, you focus on the text, which is very profound. Even though you can’t see people online, at least you know they are there and we are all practicing together.
How can I join and what do I need?
It is a Vajrayana practice, so usually you need to have taken refuge and bodhicitta vows. But Rinpoche says that people can join if they are total beginners. Later, if you feel like you really want to do this sādhanā, you have to do all the prerequisites, as in any Vajrayana practice. To support people, I send newcomers all sorts of materials. One time, at RYI, we had Lama Tsultrim Tsangpo give a three-hour talk on Chöd in 2018. The first hour and a half was a general talk about Chöd, then the next hour and a half focused on particular instructions of the sādhanā. It is a fabulous introduction to both Chöd and this specific sādhanā, so I send people the audio in case they want to practice by themselves. If people ask, I will also send them my MA thesis on Chöd. Gomde California also offers Chöd seminars online. You don’t have to join with instruments, although some people do. It is a situation of friends practicing together.
If you’d like to join Chöd practice, feel free to contact Tina on email@example.com. Everyone is welcome.