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What does “Sha Chung” Mean?

Sha Chung (Tib: བྱ་ཁྱུང; pronounced ʃa t͡ʃʰəŋ) is the Tibetan name for Garuḍa as pronounced in the Amdo dialect of the Tibetan language.  The history and role of Garuḍa(s) is multifaceted and rooted in ancient Indian and Tibetan mytho-religious traditions.  In Indian mythology and religion, Garuḍa is both a class of supernatural birds in conflict with supernatural Nāga serpents, and a deity in his own right serving as the mount for one of the principal Indian deities, Viṣṇu.

In Buddhism Garuḍa appears as a protector of the Buddha’s teaching, a meditational method associated with healing, and a symbol of our natural state.   In his role as a protector, Garuḍa is often depicted above the Buddha in visual arts, particularly those of Tibet and East Asia.  Owing to the myths surrounding his conflict with and hunting of Nāga serpents, in Tantric Vajrayāna Buddhism meditational practices surrounding Garuḍa are considered especially beneficial in healing and controlling diseases that were traditionally associated with nāgas such as skin diseases and cancers.  Based on the belief that Garuḍas hatch from their eggs already capable of flight, the Garuḍa also serves as a symbol, especially in the Dzogchen teachings, of our natural condition which although unrecognized in sentient beings, is perfect beyond cause, effect, and striving.

It is because of Garuḍa’s traditional association with healing that we named our healing practice Sha Chung.   The choice of the particular Amdo pronunciation, Sha Chung, which contrasts with the more commonly heard Lhasa Tibetan, Cha Khyung, and Kham Tibetan, Cha Chung, is a small symbol of gratitude to our wonderful physician and scholar teachers for the wonderful teachings we received from them in the Tibetan region of Amdo during our clinical internship there.

 

Tibetan amulet artwork associated with the healing function of Garuḍa.