To any newcomers, Chod is essentially a form of cutting through attachments, as all forms of Buddhism aim to do. The methods are special and imho very unique, and this precious gift is most commonly associated with Machig Labdrön. Here is some information about this female Buddhist practitioner and teacher: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machig_Labdrön
Some questions we can try to answer in this thread are, what is Chod, and where did it come from? Why do people choose this form of Buddhist practice?
Key elements of the Practice
Chöd literally means "cutting through". It cuts through hindrances and obscuration, sometimes called 'demons' or 'gods'. Examples of demons are ignorance, anger and, in particular, the dualism of perceiving the self as inherently meaningful, contrary to the Buddhist doctrine of no-self. The practitioner is fully immersed in the ritual: "With a stunning array of visualizations, song, music, and prayer, it engages every aspect of one’s being and effects a powerful transformation of the interior landscape."
Dzogchen forms of Chöd enable the practitioner to maintain primordial awareness (rigpa) free from fear. Here, the Chöd ritual essentialises elements of phowa, gaṇacakra, pāramitā and lojong gyulu, kyil khor, brahmavihāra, ösel and tonglen.
Chöd usually commences with phowa in which the practitioner visualises their mindstream as the five pure lights leaving the body through the aperture of the sahasrara at the top of the head. This is said to ensure psychic integrity of, and compassion for the practitioner of the rite (sādhaka). In most versions of the sādhana, the mindstream precipitates into a tulpa simulacrum of the dākinī Vajrayoginī. In the the body of enjoyment attained through visualization, the sādhaka offers the ganacakra of their own physical body, to the 'four' guests: Triratna, ḍākiṇīs, dharmapalas, beings of the bhavachakra, the ever present genius loci and pretas. The rite may be protracted with separate offerings to each maṇḍala of guests, or significantly abridged. Many variations of the sādhana still exist.
Chöd, like all tantric systems, has outer, inner and secret aspects. They are described in an evocation sung to Nyama Paldabum by Milarepa:
External chod is to wander in fearful places where there are deities and demons. Internal chod is to offer one's own body as food to the deities and demons. Ultimate chod is to realize the true nature of the mind and cut through the fine strand of hair of subtle ignorance. I am the yogi who has these three kinds of chod practice.
The Chöd is now a staple of the advanced sādhana of Tibetan Buddhist traditions. It is practiced worldwide following dissemination by the Tibetan diaspora.
Western reports on Chöd practices
Chöd was mostly practised outside the Tibetan monastery system by chödpas, who were yogis, yogiṇīs and ngagpas rather than bhikṣus and bhikṣuṇīs. Because of this, material on Chöd has been less widely available to Western readers than some other tantric Buddhist practices. The first Western reports of Chöd came from a French adventurer who lived in Tibet, Alexandra David-Neel in her travelogue Magic and Mystery in Tibet, published in 1932. Evans-Wentz published the first translation of a Chöd liturgy in his 1935 book Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines. Anila Rinchen Palmo translated several essays about Chöd in the 1987 collection Cutting Through Ego-Clinging. Giacomella Orofino's piece entitled "The Great Wisdom Mother" was included in Tantra in Practice in 2000 and in addition she published articles on Machig Labdrön in Italian.