It’s a cool winters afternoon set amidst the backdrop of the ancient ruins of Nalanda (acclaimed Buddhist University in modern-day Bihar). As with everything else I have experienced in India, this is a place of polarity where the serenity is in direct contrast to the bustling streets and chaos just outside the walls. The energy of the great masters who studied here is almost tangible as you step through the remains of the small dorms where numerous hours have been spent in mediation.
As we sit on the grass in a semi-circle surrounding the yogi- it’s easy to believe that greatness has been achieved here.
As yogi Dawa pulls out his drum and bell, a wave of amusement washes over me. Here is a man dressed in the requisite maroon robes with a luscious head of dreadlocks piled high atop his head. Sporting bright orange laces on his sneakers and a pair of Ray Bans to top off the look, the thought that flutters through my mind is “this spiritual master is going to navigate the terrains of the underworld and lead me to my salvation?”. But as the drum starts beating and his voice starts chanting I soon forget everything around me, so that all that remains is the beat of that drum and the rhythm of my heart.
The Chod practice is the art of cutting through the ego and ‘slaying the non-existent I’ so that all that remains is the ultimate truth.
It’s a spiritual practice of removing self-delusions and embodying the divine Feminine to purify the body, mind and spirit. As the Chod practitioner steps into the underworld and becomes a bridge between the worlds, we are asked to visualise a series of images that comprise delving into sacred geometry and going deeper into the labyrinth
I can’t remember if I visualised any of these things in all honesty. The Chod; which I was told lasted about a half hour, passed in the blink of an eye for me and all that I can remember is the beat of that drum.
Did I travel through the underworld? Did I ‘cut through my ego?’ Did I conquer my fears? I will probably never know. What I do know is that this experience resonated to the very core of me. There is something primal about the use of the drum and the sound of his voice that has forever been burned into my being.
Illustrations by Anais Bene