The Sound of Vultures' Wings

The Tibetan Buddhist Chöd Ritual Practice of the Female Buddha Machik Labdrön

By Jeffrey W. Cupchik
Foreword by Ven. Phuntsok Rabgey

Subjects: Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Music, Asian Religion And Philosophy, Asian Studies
Series: SUNY series in Religious Studies
Hardcover : 9781438464411, 352 pages, December 2023
Expected to ship: 2023-12-01

Explores the music of the Tibetan Chöd tradition.


The Sound of Vultures' Wings offers the first in-depth exploration of the music of the Tibetan Chöd tradition, which is based on the liturgical song-poems of the twelfth-century Tibetan female ascetic Machik Labdrön (1055–1153). Chöd is a musical/meditative Vajrayāna method for cutting off the root of suffering, namely, egoic identification with the body, or the belief that the "I" is the locus of the "self." Chöd is regarded by many Tibetan Lamas as one of the most effective Buddhist practices for spiritual and social transformation. Jeffrey W. Cupchik details the significance of the complex, interwoven performative aspects of this meditative ritual and explains how its practice can bring about experiences of insight and inner transformation. In doing so, he undoes the notion of meditation as exclusively an experience of silence and stillness.

Jeffrey W. Cupchik is a Buddhist studies scholar and ethnomusicologist who has spent more than twenty years studying Tibetan language, identity, music, culture, and religion in Tibetan communities in India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Canada, and the United States.


"The melodies and meditation exercises that accompany the Chöd ritual texts were passed down by oral tradition, from master to disciple, to the present day and have reached this author through long and arduous training as an insider. Thus, this work is one of a kind, and with its technical analysis of rhythm and melody in Chöd, will enhance and inspire the work of future historians of religion and music." — Guy L. Beck, author of Sonic Liturgy: Ritual and Music in Hindu Tradition

"The growing population of Western Buddhist practitioners will benefit tremendously from the perspectives detailed in this fascinating book. It makes a substantial contribution to religious studies, Asian studies, and ethnomusicology." — Sarah Morelli, University of Denver