This article was part of a series published in Mandala
Magazine (July-August 2000) about Ven. Choden Rinpoche.
To learn more about Rinpoche's visit to Kurukulla Center,
or to read more articles from this series, please go
The Chinese said that religion is poison. However, in
the beginning they said that if you can practice Dharma
without having to rely on other people for food or clothing,
then you can practice. They said you’re a parasite
if you have to live off the food of others, so many people
decided that the practice called Taking the Essence – Chulen – (which
didn’t require any food) was the best option and
aimed to live in retreat in mountain hermitages.
To do chulen you need to get instructions, proper instructions.
At the beginning I didn’t get the instruction, but at last, after requesting so many times,
some of us received the instruction and I did the retreat for three months.
I wanted to continue this practice for my whole life.
The practice went well and I felt a lot of energy
and mindfulness. But after three months the Chinese
came and said that doing this retreat was actually a criticism of the Chinese
government. They said that doing this meditation was a disgrace to the nation
and that we were giving the message that the government couldn’t provide
for us – in essence that we were putting the Chinese down, that it was
a subtle form of revolution. So we had to stop doing the chulen practice.
There are three kinds of chulen: flower chulen, stone
chulen and water chulen. With flower chulen, there
is a pill composed of many different kinds of flowers;
you take three pills: one in the morning, one at lunch, and one at night.
That is all you eat, and it is sufficient. Then, when you get used to it,
is enough. And when you’re totally used to that, you don’t need to
eat at all – you just use the visualization and absorb the elements directly
into yourself. The energy itself is sufficient to sustain you.
When you do chulen you generate yourself as the deity,
then you take the pill and you visualize taking the
essence of the five elements – earth, air,
fire, water and space. You absorb the essence of them into yourself. By doing
this you don’t have to rely on any raw food at all.
For Dharma practitioners, doing a chulen retreat helps
you not waste time. You don’t waste time gathering the food together and cooking it, which means
you have more free time to practice Dharma, especially when you go do retreat
in a cave. You don’t need to rely on a benefactor to sponsor the food.
And moreover it makes your mind extremely clear. It helps the energy in the meditation.
The secondary benefit is that it prolongs your lifespan and it reduces your gray
hair and wrinkles. It also makes your face and body more beautiful.
The best benefit is that these days we are accumulating
so many negative actions with regards to food – attachment, killing, so many negative actions – and
with chulen, all of this stops.
This article first appeared