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Alphonso Lingis

Janus Head 3.2 / Alphonso Lingis - Dreadful Mystic Banquet:

"Alexandra David-Neel tells of a rite practiced in old Tibet called chöd, which she had witnessed and into which she herself had been partially initiated. It is a kind of mystery play with one actor only, the celebrant. It has been so devised to terrify the participants that one hears of men who have suddenly gone mad or died while engaged in its performance.

It is performed in a cemetery, or any wild site whose physical aspect awakens feelings of terror. The place is thought even more suitable if it is associated with a terrible legend or if a tragic event had actually occurred there recently.

The rite is designed to stir up the occult forces or conscious beings which may exist in such places, generated either by actual deeds or by the concentration of many people's thoughts of imagined events. During the performance of chöd, the performer may see himself suddenly surrounded by players from the occult worlds.

The one to perform chöd, the naljorpa, must first learn the ritual dance, his steps forming geometrical figures, and also turnings on one foot, stampings and leapings while keeping time with the liturgic recitation. He must learn to handle, according to rule, the bell, the dorjee, and the magic dagger (phurba), to beat rhythmically a small drum (damaru), and to blow a trumpet made of a human femur (kangling). The dancers are young ascetics emaciated by austerities, clad in ragged robes, their unwashed faces lit by hard, resolute, ecstatic eyes. They are preparing themselves for a perilous undertaking.

The ceremony begins with long mystic preliminaries during which the celebrant tramples down all passions and crucifies his selfishness. Then the celebrant blows his bone trumpet, calling the hungry demons to the feast he intends to lay before them. He envisions a female deity, who esoterically personifies his own will, and who springs from the top of his head and stands before him, sword in hand. With one stroke she cuts off the head of the naljorpa. Then, while troops of ghouls crowd around for the feast, the goddess severs his limbs, skins him, and rips open his belly. The bowels spill, the blood gushes forth, and the hideous guests bite and chew noisily, while the celebrant excites and urges them on with the liturgic words of unreserved surrender:

"For ages, in the course of renewed births I have borrowed from countless living beings--at the cost of their welfare and life-- food, clothing, all kinds of services to sustain my body, to keep it joyful in comfort and to defend it against death. Today, I pay my debt, offering for destruction this body which I have held so dear.

"I give my flesh to the hungry, my blood to the thirsty, my skin to clothe those who are naked, my bones as fuel to those who suffer from cold. I give my happiness to the unhappy ones. I give my breath to bring back the dying to life.

"Shame on me if I shrink from giving my self! Shame on you, wretched and demoniac beings, if you do not dare to prey upon it . . . "

The act of the "Mystery" is called "the red meal." If the initiate is one far advanced, it will be followed by "the black meal." The vision of the demoniacal banquet vanishes, the laughter and cries of the ghouls die away. Utter loneliness in a gloomy landscape succeeds the weird orgy, and the exaltation aroused in the naljorpa by his dramatic sacrifice subsides.

Now he visualizes himself having become a small heap of charred human bones that lie on a lake of black mud-- the mud of misery, of moral defilement, and of harmful deeds to which he has cooperated during the course of numberless lives whose origin is lost in the night of time. He must realize that the very idea of sacrifice is but an illusion, an offshoot of blind, groundless pride. In fact, he has nothing to give away, because he is nothing. These useless bones, symbolizing the destruction of his phantom "I," may sink into the muddy lake; it will not matter.

That silent renunciation of the ascetic who realizes that he holds nothing that can be renounced, and who utterly relinquishes the elation springing from the idea of sacrifice, closes the rite.1

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