Chod: A Musical Tibetan Spiritual Practice Part II

Composed by Shunda Wallace Music Therapist

Historical Information
As a spiritual practice, Buddhism is neither monotheistic (belief in one all powerful deities) or polytheism (belief in many deities). There is not one deity that is worshipped Buddhism. Buddhism is more of a spiritual path based on the practices of Buddha to attain “nirvana” “enlightenment” or “awakening”. In Buddhism each individual is culpable for his or her own spiritual awakening achieved through meditation. Meditation generally involves chanting to disseminate the noisy mind or focusing on the breath. There are too many branches of the Buddhism lineage to name all of them. Some of the branches include, Theravada and Mahayana. The Theravada lineage relies on the Sutras recorded in the Pali language. Theravada Tradition emphasizes meditation on the breath to cultivate concentration and meditation on the body, feelings, mind and phenomena to develop wisdom. In Pali, these two types of Meditation are called: Shamatha and Vipassana. ‘Both, the Theravada and Mahayana emphasize loving-kindness and compassion toward all sentient beings’. Mahayana is based on the Scriptures recorded in Sanskrit.

Mahayana has subdivisions that include Pure Land, Zen, Vajrayana, and more. Pure Land Tradition emphasizes chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha in order to be reborn into his Pure Land – a place where all conditions are conducive to Dharma practice. Zen Tradition – emphasizes meditation and chanting to eliminate the noisy conceptual mind. Vajrayana tradition emphasizes meditating on a deity in order to transform the contaminated body and mind into those of a Buddha. All Buddhist traditions emphasize meditation and chanting to lessen the suffering in the world and to cultivate qualities such as compassion, joy, generosity, loving kindness and wisdom.
The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path are also common in All Buddhist practices. Gautama Buddha’s way to truth was through the question of suffering. What is it? How does it arise? Can it be ended? How can we end it? When other spiritual teachers and philosophers asked The Buddha to describe his teaching, he would answer: “I teach one thing and one thing only; suffering and the end of suffering.” After his enlightenment, he formulated The Four Noble Truths/The Noble Eightfold Path.


1) There is Suffering/Dissatisfaction: suffering exists; it has a cause.
2) Suffering is caused by Craving {selfish desires; selfish attachments).
3) Suffering/Dissatisfaction can be eliminated.
4) Suffering can be eliminated by following ‘The Noble Eightfold Path’.

Many sacred ritualistic practices of derived from Vajrayana Buddhism embody spiritual purification, enlightenment and power while simultaneously serving as an offering to Buddha’s and other deities during meditational practices. Some of these ritualistic practices were accepted throughout the Tibetan community while others bore a more marginal and peripheral practice in the mountains and on the streets. One such practice includes Chod, a musical/meditational practice developed by female Tibetan ascetic Machik Labdron (Ma gcig Lab sgron, 1055-1153).

Ms. Wallace joined the faculty at Michigan State University as Guest Lecturer in 2004-2005 while being considered for the Doctorate of Musical Arts in Western Composition Program (later learning there was no Doctoral Program in Jazz Composition).  Ms. Wallace holds a Bachelors of Music in Music Management from William Paterson University a Masters Degree in Jazz Arranging and Orchestration from William Paterson University in addition to an Advanced Level Board Certification in Music Therapy from Montclair State University.