Fear: Chod’s The Final Frontier
For most people, fear is the single greatest motivator. Thus fear plays a pervasive role in the life of sentient beings. This is a primal, even physiological part of our psyche. Inherent to biology, fear is hard-wired to a complex set of cellular and chemical reactions. Just slightly below the level of our sophisticated intellect, fear and its polar opposite, hope, remain the single greatest motivator of the average individuals thoughts and actions. But our fear has become deeply unconscious, engendering multiple layers of compensation and rationalization. Like the tip of an iceberg, the fears we recognize or admit to are only a tiny fragment of the underlying mass of latent anxiety.
Chod and Fearlessness
That makes the intentional nurturing of fearlessness within Chod all the more intriguing. Yes, all meditation practices leading toward enlightenment engender this quality as a by-product. But in Chod there is a direct, frontal assault on the edifice of fear that surrounds people’s lives. Chod tears off our well-crafted mask and brings us face to face with these ultimate demons.
We normally think of fearlessness as synonymous with courage. While it is true, as a number of Western commentators have noted, that in Chod one must confront their fears, this does not mean merely by developing bravery, or any kind of bravado. The meaning of fearlessness in Chod has little to do with psychological comfort, ease or balance. It is unconditional.
Vajra Confidence of Chod
This core experience of fearlessness is closely tied to the development of confidence, or certainty (don dam pa). Normally confidence is there for us if we feel good about ourselves in the moment or over a period of time. Due to some compliment, achievement, or some other validation that has occurred, we feel we are more attractive, capable and knowledgeable than we had previously suspected. We are more worthy and valuable to our friends, our mates, or society. We are smarter, a better person, kinder, more clever at winning our intellectual, emotional or financial struggles. But this confidence is not based on some sense of superior quality we possess. It is simply the polar opposite of fear, and like all opposites, only exists because of the other like two sides of a coin. One is just the temporary absence of the other, before the pendulum swings again. It is a dumb, blind loop, deeply imbedded and fixated. And no matter how many times our falsely inflated confidence crashes to the ground and is enveloped in fear, we pick ourselves up and start all over again. Indeed, this human quality, certainly a kind of madness, is celebrated endlessly, showing the indomitable nature of the human spirit. The fact that we bounce between hope and fear endlessly is glorified and upheld.
FBut in its ultimate sense, the sense of Chod, fearlessness means there is no insecurity. How can such a state come about? Are not sickness, disrepute, poverty and even death itself, to be feared? Are they not something to inherently revolt against?
Here we see not just a momentary movement into confidence, before the swing back into doubt and fear. This is mind beyond fear and beyond the poles of hope and fear. This fearlessness is as stable as a mountain, having nothing whatever to do with the small or large ups and downs of life. It is not that it is stronger than any of these bumps and falls. It is simply that it is beyond them. True fearlessness operates on another level, a level that time and fortune do not touch. It is permanent, immutable, unassailable. As such, it need not defend itself. It need not even identity itself as brave.
So how does it feel, if not puffed up, full of phony bravado, machismo; inflated and bloated to protect our inner anxiety. It actually feels joyous?
The chopa is described always as joyful.
The yogi is joyful in the day,
Joyful in the night,
Joyful all day and night. All is auspicious
Or from PeGyal Lingpa,
When death comes
….from the Daily Chod of Kagyupa
The joy is subtle and pervasive one. It is the joy only freedom can bring. A joy because life can finally be fully lived. Fearlessness is an internal wealth that can never be spent. Fearlessness is a well-being that can never be sick. Fearlessness is a possession that you never lose.
So life can only be fully lived, but it is fully let go of. The yogi, or practitioner of Chod, has given up all attachment to the eight worldly dharmas: loss or gain, fame and infamy, success or failure, happiness or unhappiness. There is no fear, because there is no fear of loss of anything. To most people this sounds like a kind of madness. To not care about all those things, those normal human impulses and drives, seems to be a slipping into insanity, to giving up on life and retreating into a kind of autistic state. We think a person must have numbed themselves in order arrive at this feelingless vacuum.
So fearlessness, and the female quality of Wisdom, go hand in hand. They are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. One could say that fearlessness is just a result of the dawning of Wisdom, but the doorway may be fearlessness anyway. But lets define what is meant here by Wisdom, with a capital W Wisdom means the knowledge about how things really are. How are things? Things are not solid, permanent, or eternal on any level. Life itself is as fleeting as leaves in a storm, as the impressions of rain on the rippled water of a pond. All moves on, all fades away. The people of fear, most of we humans, spend all their time, energy and money, in warding of this fact. It is an extraordinary and shocking truth that whole lives are lived to create that false security. In spite of the fact that everywhere we look, we see lives ending in sickness and death, and homes and families being ripped apart, we persist in thinking we can build a bulwark against this. But not even empires, dynasties of wealth, are permanent for long. The greatest kings of Babylon, ancient Greece, tycoons of modern Europe, Emperors of China, prime ministers, saints and sinners: all becomes dust in the wind.
This tremendous terror of impermanence and instability, becomes the yogis greatest friend. It is the ticket to freedom. For accepting those conditions, and all the implications, is true liberty. This is not fatalistic, nor an existential resignation to living. Death hath lost its sting means that even on death one loses nothing, as long as one clings to nothing. This can only be done when we recognize that our own nature is truly without clinging. It is clear, limpid, joyous, and above all fearless. If we understand this, and then jump in and live it, small ego is not there when we land. We are in a place where we know that we own nothing, and can stay with nothing, for nothing can stay with us. Chod asks us to become open to all, and all is open to us. We do have an I, but we recognize it as a convenient fabrication, or a temporary prop we use while having this experience. It is like taking a cab. The structure and form are fine for the ride, but you would not want to try and carry it around when that ride is over. Most people think the inside of the cab they are riding the experiences they are having moment to moment define them. But nothing could be further from the truth. They simply do not know who the rider is; they only see the intriguing and very distracting scenery. Truth to tell, the scen
Fearlessness induces joy. Fearless Chod is a celebration, for one is free to experience anything. We normally felt tremendous guilt about experiencing things. When I say experience, I do not mean going and doing some taboo thing. I mean internally experiencing. We feel tremendously guilty about actually taking the moment to be here now, fresh and vibrant. We shouldn’t be doing this, it is breaking the code. There is somehow a taboo against knowing who you are. There are so many layers of this that it is confounding. There is a consensus reality, and this consensus, the majority of opinion about what is allowed and our reality and what is taboo. On the most material level, the taboo against true.
The yogi who practices Chod is a dangerous person. He or she is an outcast and an outlaw; Dangerous because he no longer follows the laws of fear. He is not a law-breaker however. Only someone bound by the law could break it. He is outside the law, because he is now outside the lie. The fears that keep us from allowing our Id out of the box, are no longer operant. The superego, the part of our mind that suppresses and civilizes us, is dead The genie is out of the bottle and we have no interest in putting him back again.